Real Unicorns....They Have Curves!
I was recently inspired by professional runner Lauren Fleshman's #keepitreal campaign. It made me think about how poorly women view themselves and what kind of example we are setting for our children.
As someone who has done gymnastics, dance and cheer...Ive always been fully aware of the reflection in the mirror. My life was centered around scales, counting calories and looking acceptable in a sports bra. Weigh ins at Sunday practice were the worst or that stupid body fat caliper telling me I had too much junk in the trunk (cut a bitch a break, its all my latinaness). Everyone drinking and eating their pizza, while judging how we looked in our uniforms. There I was barely graduated from high school, sweating about whether my fat roll would show on ESPN. What kind of thinking is that for a young adult? I wasn't even sure what to major in, but I knew which way to stand to avoid "breaking the internet." At 17 yrs old and barely 95lbs, I was told more than once to skip out on a water break.
Eighteen years later and I still find myself spending time in the mirror...JUDGING! Not only at the reflection, but at pictures too! Holy shit, what a complete waste of time....minutes that will add up year after year...minutes I will never ever get back. It was during a run last week, where I realized how much I've demanded from my body over the years and I never once thanked it. How rude of me. Instead of thanking it that week for getting me through another 70+ mile week of running and basically just staying alive, I critiqued my quads in my race photos. Completely asinine!!!! My body grew two beautiful babies, fed both my babies for a total of 30 months, ran 50 miles, ran 6 marathons, ran crazy miles to train for all that and 3 Boston qualifications and counting.
Its not what you see, as I'm sure you will wonder what the f*ck I'm talking about. Its what Ive been taught to see from very young. So, be careful with your words because they sting. Be careful what you say about yourself and what you do as you take one last glance in the mirror, little eyes and ears are always there to mimic you. Teach those little ones to respect their body....ALWAYS!
Those legs may jiggle, but hot damn they carried me for some time now and not to mention took me on a little jaunt thru the streets of Boston. Take that supermodels of the world! I'll race ya!
Its that time of year again where we decide to give thanks for the special people and things in our lives. We spend the last 11 months wishing we had more of something or whatever our list of "wants" include. Dont you worry, Im no different. Its the American way, we are molded in a way to not stop and smell the roses and appreciate the little things that can change everything. Ive worked hard this year at embracing the negative as much as the positive.
As always, Im incredibly blessed to have two mini-mes at my side. Two crazy lil angels that are growing entirely too fast and I find myself each night looking at their newborn pics and missing the nights they kept me up. The nights we shared just us on the couch, while they slept on my chest and I was covered in baby drool. Those little girls who fill my life with excitement. The girls who proudly held a giant sign over their heads at my birthday race. "Go, Mommy Go!!!! Happy Birthday" In races where I zone out completely and see nothing, that day I saw two perfect reflections of myself standing there cheering their momma on. I surely will sign my oldest as a coach one day though. After hugs, kisses and proud of yous, she was quick to ask why I couldnt pull off the win. Ya cant win em all kid!!
So as I wrap my mind around what other things im grateful for this year, I find myself being grateful for my injury last year. Whattttt????!!!!!!! Perhaps the most miserable 6 months in my life (not really) , but you know how dramatic an injured runner can be. All around this injury, pieced a lot of my life together. At that time, it was the other stuff that needing mending and not necessarily just my leg.
I began treating at Vital Chiropractic Wellness Center last year and was introduced to Active Release Techniques (ART) and pretty much its one of my saving graces in keeping me running and running well. At this point, I wonder how I managed without it. Everyday im so incredibly grateful for all the work they do to keep me out there running. They go above and beyond for me and 100s others, but when Im being treated its like Im the only one that matters. You cant get attention like that anywhere else. Dr. Dan and Dr. Kurt, thank you for being the best pit crew a gal could ask for!!
While treating consistently in hopes to get to Boston as pain free as possible, I met some incredibly amazing people sitting there with me on the same boat. People I wouldnt have met otherwise, since I tend to be a loner runner. People I needed in my life for many reasons.
I did get to run the race of my life at Boston and with my leg healed, my heart healed too.
Coming off a high at Boston, I started my new job and joined the Vital Wellness family. Im always surrounded by greatness....inspiring athletes coming in for tune ups, hurting athletes who heal as I did, everyday people who hurt in general and find quality of life again.
The days I hate running, I remember last year and Im grateful Im taking pain free steps. The days I do hurt, I know they wont last long. The days I need motivation, an Ironman walks thru the door. The days that are overwhelming, I got two little ones that tell me ridiculous stories and wont lay down for bed unless they have had their hugs and kisses...nothing else matters.
The injury at the time, I thought killed my spirit...what it really did was just open new doors and put things in perspective.
Disclaimer to my body: this is not an invitation for a new injury so keep your shit together
Dennis Kimetto shattered the world marathon record with a time of 2:02:57. The previous record was set just a year ago at the same Marathon. The two hour barrier is within reach. Kimetto actually dropped out during this year's Boston Marathon, where he was a favorite. He DNFd due to a hamstring issue and comes back 5 months later to push the envelope on the capabilities of the mind and body. Meb also plagued with ongoing injury, came back to take Boston with a graceful finish.
I ran along those same steps placed by the greats in April and I can tell you what an honor it is to trail behind greatness. I'm mindblow to watch the ease they seem to run with, although I know inside those athletes is everything but ease. They are finely tuned and trained to not show weakness, to not allow their competitor see them break or even think. The true definition of a machine. What you see at the finish is what they probably felt along the course, but hours of training taught them to soldier on differently than we ever could.
Today I woke up inspired. Inspired not to run faster because a record was broken but to change my attitude. The summer has been brutal and my body has not been cooperative, but my attitude makes those two factors a recipe for disaster. These elites push beyond temps, body aches, stressors, competitors...etc and they come back fighting even if it means they pulled from a major race. Meb and I, even on two very different playing fields both had a comeback. I need to find that eye of the tiger again...he never lost it. Sometimes Tigers need to know when to rest too, the beast always comes back more ferocious.
Today while I battle the heat and my beaten calves, I will change my mindset. This run does NOT suck!! This run was built for me today and I must face it. I will embrace the greatness of my long run last weekend and charge through it. Its been many surface of the sun runs, that molded me into the runner I was last weekend.
I will stop reaching for perfection and realize that I am my own perfect runner.
Gazelle I Am Not
Perhaps the most annoying thing I hear from others is how NATURALLY talented I am. I feel like it discounts any work I have done to get where I am now. The thing is, I dont even consider myself as talented. Shalane, Meb, Rita, Geoffrey...that right there is talent. Shalane came from talented marathoning parents, where she grew up with the Sunday Church of the Long Run. While they may have 26.2 running in their veins, they work hard every day. They didnt just wake up one day with the ability to hold a 5min mile pace. They could have very easily taken natural ability and turned it into Sundays at the Golden Corral.
I grew up with old fashioned parents. They didnt care for me to do any sports because it was too boyish. Instead of soccer or t-ball, I took ballet and played with my barbie dolls. Secretly, I longed for tree climbing, lincoln logs and a train set. I taught myself to swim at the age of ten and they never pushed me to stick with anything. They were supportive of my quitting always. Their little girl shouldnt have to push that hard. When I started cheering in highschool, my mom hated how muscular my quads were getting (too masculine in her opinion). I was actually a terrible dancer, a chicken shit gymnast and I never was good enough for the nationals team when I cheered. I quit all three.
When I began running, it was always followed by concern for my knees and whether or not I was doing too much. I always enjoyed the running part during conditioning at practice, everyone else hated it. I did a few races in my early 20s, but I never quite took it too seriously. I ran when I felt the need and easily would go months without it.
Girls should wear heels and dresses not Newtons, tech tees and dri fit shorts. I think my mother still shakes her head at her 34 year old daughter in sweats, tank top and the long curly hair up in a bun.
Standing at 4'9" and previously being very over weight, I couldnt be further from natural running ability. I think one of my strides equals 4 of a tall runner. Gazelle I am not.
Looking at my race times over the last two years, people automatically think I train at some impressive paces and live a life of negative splits. That couldn't be further from the truth. I train slow, but I do train a lot. I dont wake up bright eyed and bushy tailed and ready to run. I get in massive funks too. Right now I'm battling a 3 month funk. I procrastinate about getting out the door, but the funk never wins. I don't gallop down the street like a runner in a Nike commercial, Im actually struggling with aches both mental and physical. Im out there everyday though, cause I know what I love will come back again eventually...it always does.
Gazelle I am not.
I wasnt molded as a kid to be self motivating or shown what hard work would get me. I wasnt blessed with long beautiful runner legs or sporty parents. I don't wake up at 4am ready to take on the day (coffee is amazing FYI). I did it all on my own. Even when I hate it, I go back to that place in my head that holds amazing memories of running adventures. I remember that this rough training run will get me yet another amazing memory. Ive worked my way up to where I am now as a runner and I continue to do so every single day. Too many people assume its been so easy for me cause I was born with it. The only thing I was born with was heart....but so were you.
Gazelle I am not!
When I started running, the thought of actually running Boston was a pipe dream. I thought my chances of qualifying would perhaps be in my 50s or 60s, when those race times would be more realistic for my actual ability. In 2012 after having both babies and I stopped nursing, I took on marathon #1. I wasnt sure if I would be a one and done or if this would become a life long thing. My goal was solely to finish, but in the back of my mind I wanted to beat Oprah Winfrey's time. One thing about me is I always have a goal in mind, but I never tell anyone...call it superstition if you will. Needless to say, I finished...I beat Oprah's time...Running became a big part of me.
My next marathon was Goofy 39.3, but my goal was just to run a 4hr marathon. I thought that was possible with the amount of training I had done in a years time. There was that 3:35 BQ time that lingered, but I refused to verbalize that thought. Verbalizing it meant I would fail. To my surprise though, I ran a 3:31:24 and qualified for my first Boston.
Nothing going into Boston aligned correctly. I was plagued with injury that would take 6 months to heal and emotionally I felt disconnected. It was rough, but I pushed with all I had to be where I needed to be. I needed to be at that start line at Hopkinton, but my leg, my heart and my head had a lot of healing to do.
The process took a lot of time and quite possibly took a village to keep me put together. My amazing chiropractor who served as more than just the doc, he helped more emotionally than hes quite aware of. My best friends and my RJ family motivated me everyday and believed in me on days I couldnt even walk without limping. The work was on me though and I trained in the most non traditional way possible. The person who followed training plans like bible, now split up long runs, did not an ounce of speedwork, no hillwork, no garmin, no tempos....just me, my shoes, inspirational music and a bag of epsom. I had zero expectations at this point....JUST FINISH!
I landed in Boston with a good friend on a Friday and our agenda was focused on just taking the tourist approach and enjoying everything Boston had to offer. We got lost too many times to count and I spent more time on my feet than I should have. From the moment we landed, the entire experience was just surreal. There really are no words. Runners were royalty there and I did not pass a single person in 5 days that did not say, "Thank you for running!" The atmosphere was celebratory, although at times people cried reading a message left behind or catching a glimpse of a burned up banner that was still flying after surviving the bombings. I took it all in...the history...every moment...every bit of laughter...every tear. I was overwhelmed by all the support from friends and strangers believing in me.
On that Monday, I woke up to choppers flying over head and feeling every bit of nervous. I pinned my bib on and did what I trained my unbroken spirit to do....F**kin Run!!! I do not know what happened nor how I did it, but when you set out with your heart there is no stopping that. I thought my Garmin was broken from the months of neglect, so I even asked some girl what our pace was at around mile 6. I remember passing Team Hoyt at mile 10 and feeling absolutely overwhelmed with emotion. All I remember screaming out was, "You are amazing!" I closed my eyes several times during the race and opened them each time with such amazement. One guy at the top of a hill held a sign that said, "F**ckin Awesome!" Perfect sign for a moment where my legs screamed back at me. So many kids held signs saying, "Punch here for Power!!!" I punched every sign possible and while they jumped for joy that a runner read their sign, they really had no idea the push that gave me. I glanced down frequently at my arm to remind myself who I ran for and the lessons I learned from their struggle. When I turned left onto Boylston, I saw a beautiful finish line waiting for me after a long year. The crowd was 8 deep in some parts and the noise...oh wow that noise. As the runners around me crossed that finish, we all embraced and we cried. Complete strangers celebrating a personal journey and also that WE TOOK BACK THAT FINISH LINE!
"What defines us is how well we rise after falling." I suited up and showed up and running gave it all back and then some!
I get asked a lot if I cross train and what my program consists of. For starters, when I first started running seriously I followed Hal Higdon's program and suggestions as bible. With that being said, as a new runner it isnt suggested you add much extras to your program if you are new to working out in general. Your body is taking on a lot by starting out a new program, so along with mighty Hal, I also say its best to wait until your body is acclimated to all the awesome changes. Although cross training helps prevent injury, aids in recovery and overall makes you stronger...too much too soon can offer the exact opposite.
About a year into my post baby weight loss, I added weight training to my run routine. I began a program called Les Mills Pump. I hate the gym and standing around waiting for a machine or sets, so this program offers me a fast paced full body ass kicker at the convenience of my own home (mind you I work at a gym). I vary the program from shorter to longer sessions 3-4 days a week. Did the weights make me faster?? I think so. My times have consistently improved since putting on some muscle. Although I did endure a stubborn injury this year, the weight training probably had me recover a lot better. The structure and foundation needs to be strong in order to keep moving.
In the last few months, I also added some plyometric workouts. More leg strength just means more explosion. The stronger they have gotten, the easier it is for me to complete a run on tired legs, tackle bridges/hills and work on speed. If you know me, you know I despise speedwork so this is like the compromise I make instead.
Time injured meant my program revolved around just cross training. I was on complete run restriction, so I relied heavily on other things to keep me fit for an upcoming marathon. What I did...tons of time on the elliptical, every spin class on the gym schedule, lots of les mills and lots of plyo. Even though it was not my best time by any means, the point is that I finished that damn thing.
Start out slowly if you are just getting started, but by no means underestimate the benefits of trying out other things. They surely will compliment your running.
Confident, Stronger, Faster and Injury Free
The Gu That Holds It Together
If you train by yourself, as I do, it can get rather lonely. There is no one to get you through a tough long run, celebrate with you when the stars align for a perfect run or just have one of those runs where you unload on someone after a shitacular day. Don't get me wrong, its my choice to run alone. Alone time is a part of that mental strength I continue to work on. There are days its hard to see through some of that fog of the daily grind and see the support that is in fact getting one foot in front of the other for you. Support for me has been my fuel and inspiration....they are the glue that hold it all together for me. Support to me is like that gu when you start fading during a hard run.
My parents will forever treat me like a 5 yr old. I normally dont tell them about my escapades to run across Florida or do a 50mile race down to Key West, until the night before. Their comments will ALWAYS be, "Isnt that too much for you?" Or "You really need to becareful with your knees." I am not always as confident with my ability to do what I do, so the last thing I need is to question it some more. My parents are the most untech savvy people in the world, but my dad somehow managed to figure out how to track me at my first Boston Marathon. He called me in tears to congratulate me on my new PR and then threw in the fact he was sure a sub 3hr marathon was in my future. Thanks for the added pressure dad! My mom who is undoubtedly the hardest person to please, told me she admired me because she did not know how I managed to do it all. Even though they drive me insane, they make sure they always say they are proud with a side of dont hurt your knees. No body is perfect right?
My kids wore a "My mommy is Boston Strong" shirt to school on Marathon Monday....enough said! They think their mommy is stronger than any Disney Prince and stronger than their daddy (i overheard them telling stories to one another with that exact line). They have held signs for me at finish lines, even when they were too young to understand. They are the best mini-me support ever.
My ex husband tried his best to support me, but at the end of the day I think he resented me for it. As we live separate lives now, we just do our best to instill that hard work into our girls. He makes sure they know what I do, but I guess thats the best support I can ask for. He makes sure the girls respect all that I do. Thats all the words of encouragement that I need from him.
Random people in town! I get stopped almost daily by someone that says, "I always see you running the bridges." Those people might be my favorite secret supporters.
My best friends believe in me more than I do. They send cards of congratulations before I even started the race, they made me my very first medal hanger that I received before I toed my first starting line, they know all my pre race and post race rituals, they dont complain when they have to be up at 3am to drive me to the start, they spend their Christmas bonus to buy a ticket to Boston so I dont go alone and they cry more than I do when I cross the finish. They are my agents, my cheerleaders, my coaches and my heart.
My RunJunkEe and Moonjogger family are amazing. I couldnt ask for a better group of strangers to be my family. The support as been overwhelming and when I think about what they all did while I ran Boston, still brings tears to my eyes. The support was unreal. For the hours I trekked from Hopkinton to Boston, they seemed to stop their worlds for me. All that love...thank you will never be enough.
Just when you think you have no one there, open your eyes...there is always someone watching and in awe of you. Sometimes that little bit is all you need.
Battle Of The Mojo
New runner or old runner, the point is that at some point you will face the age old question of....Dude, Where's My Mojo? You are not alone in this, so take a stand against that dark cloud. As a seasoned runner now, I can feel that bastard come on like a common cold. It tends to happen right after a big race you have trained for (runners blues) or during those blazing summer months.
So, im writing this because I need Dora's stupid map to find where the hell my mojo went. My guess is that its with grumpy old troll living under the bridge. This time, Im well aware of the culprit. The 7 day workweek is taking its toll, but I come armed and ready to fight. Im actually that grumpy old troll kidnapping my own mojo with my bad attitude. It happens, at least Im aware of my mind's shenanigans.
So, what am I doing? Zero pressure days are on my agenda. Im taking a break from the 4am VRC workouts and allowing myself a few more hours of sleep each morning. Im running later in the day and finding I feel way more energized and grateful. I pay zero attention to pace and run however I feel like that day and take lots of deep breaths. Im training someone for their first marathon and find myself rejuvenated after seeing her success after a long run. I also bought the book called Running and Being. Im embracing the importance of attitude toward my running. When running becomes a job, then you lose that joy in it. It doesnt mean that you dont work hard, it just means you have to change your attitude.
The marathon itself will test your spirit, but everything surrounding it before and after will test it even more. Its the strength to continue and become self aware. Know the things that tend to kill your mojo and find the weapons to fight back and win. Be the map!
I have continually said running has saved my life. I've spent time running away from struggles, I have run thru struggles and recently ran to new opportunities. Without a doubt, running has been life changing. As a runner, who can really argue that point? It isn't until you are truly tested, that you really understand how badass running can make you.
This goes without saying, but if you know me...I run a whole lot. I usually have an extra bag of clothes in my car, just incase a run opportunity presents itself. Occasionally I run with others and there was one day one of the chiropractors I work for wanted to do a lunch time run. I ran with him to the local college, where he was gonna go for a swim and then run back. I hate swimming, so I agreed to run there with him and then continue back and run alone. The minute we reached the college and he high-fived me goodbye, something told me that maybe I should wait for him to finish his swim (on this particular day we were in a not so great neighborhood). It was in the middle of the day on a busy road, so really what could go wrong?
I headed back at my comfortable pace, since I left the gazelle behind to swim. No more than 1.5miles down the road I begin to hear someone's voice, but Im thinking it must not be directed at me. I continue to hear a voice and its starting to get closer now, so I turn around. What do I see???? Im being chased!!! Some shirtless guy in a pair of black dickies is chasing me down the road. I dont even think twice, except to pick up the pace to race pace. I figured he may catch up, but I would have him distance wise if I could just hold the pace for at least a half mile.
I was right!!!! I held pace long enough only to look behind and see that I lost him. Running has come to the rescue yet again. All those miles on the road paid off, as I was able to outrun some crazy person. Thank you Newtons!!
What a relief as I got to an intersection to realize I lost him and come up on someone on their bike. At least he could save me just in case right??? After a head nod and brief greeting, this guy says, "hey ya need a husband." I said, "umm no I already had one of those." I barely finished my sentence before I took off running....fast!
That there my friends is how you stumble upon an impromptu speed workout! Definitely Flight!
Just Amongst A Sea Of People
This week's theme is about inspiration and getting started. I didnt even have to think about what inspires me on a daily basis and what has pulled me along when my mind and body wanted to slam the brakes. No matter what it is that stuns you into submission, life continues and its way better to be part of it than let it go by. I got in a car wreck tonight and while my car is totalled and my nerves are wrecked, me and the girls are okay. My boss called to see if I was okay and while I cried on the phone, he asked if I had a drink yet to calm down. I said no because I was packing the girls lunches for camp tomorrow and getting them ready for bed. He said, "Oh so what you are saying is you are carrying on with your life and responsibilities." Although I was sobbing, for a moment I smiled and thought hell yeah Im carrying on. Not gonna lie I felt the single mom power surge. Moments I feel my weakest, it turns out Im my strongest.
So, whats inspiring to me and to others? Everyone will remember (maybe) who won a major marathon or at least when the first American surged thru. Unfortunately, after that no one really knows who came in 3rd, 23rd, 1003rd or last. The unsung heroes are those that stopped their race to help the one that nearly passed out and carried them to the finish, the 91yr old that finished a marathon, the amputee that graced the pavement proudly after having their life almost taken from them, the person who kicked cancer and gave the pavement no mercy, the parents that ran their first 5k in the anniversary of their son's passing to brain cancer. Those are the ones that move me and others, not the 6:30 pace. Dont get me wrong its absolutely amazing, but not what keeps me chasing pavement everyday.
For me simply, my awesome friends who ran that first 5k in the one year anniversary of their son keeps me moving forward running and when life shits on me. Zeke Dutcher is and was the most amazing little boy and meeting him changed my life in ways I can not explain. Holding a 3yr old boy fighting the fight of his life and seeing him still smiling and making me laugh...bar none is the most inspired ive been ever. Ive carried Zeke's name on me during all my races and a bracelet with his name has been on me everyday for two years. The very moment I struggle at anything, he pushes me. Seeing his parents lose their baby and still smile and move forward every single day ...now that right there is heroic. While no one would have blamed them for waving the white flag at any moment, they fought till the very end of his beautiful life and they still fight everyday for other families who are struggling. Zeke's mom was hopeful that oneday he would run with me when he got better and although hes at peace now, she must know he runs with me every single day.
Look beyond for inspiration. It might just be right in front of you.
My first steps as a baby according to my parents was actually a run. At 5yrs old my dad took me to the NYC Marathon, but truth be told I had no idea why people were running down the street. All this was foreshadowing for what was to be a life of running almost 30 years later. "If opportunity doesnt knock...build a door."