October 5, 2015

Marathon Training Update

It's been a while since I talked about my Marine Corps Marathon training plans and progress. This training cycle has been a little different than most. With everything going on at work, it was a bit of a refuge for me and was some quiet time alone in my head. I treated my training runs simply as another thing on my to do list. I haven't been focused on time goals or paces this time around. Quite frankly, I've been more interested in working towards my Team Fisher House fundraising goals. While this isn't my normal attitude towards racing, I'm ok with it.

Testing out my Team Fisher House jersey a few weeks ago
Over the last 3 weeks, I've conquered my highest mileage, logging two-20 mile runs on the weekend.  It's felt really great to hit the higher mileage. With my intense fatigue from work, I really struggled in July and August to hit my weekday mileage goals, so the long runs have been pretty important for me.

Yesterday, I braved the elements and logged my last long run prior to race day. I felt really strong for the first 12 miles or so and then the wind finally got to me. After that, my pace suffered a lot. While it was raining sideways for a few miles, my only goals were to avoid big puddles and not to lose my hat. And the good news was that my hat made it home with me!  With 3 miles to go, I was feeling pretty trashed. Everything hurt and I was really, really tired. And I was nowhere close to home. I stopped my Garmin and pulled over to a big telephone pole to stretch for a minute. And full disclosure, I cried for a minute as I felt pretty sorry for myself. And then I told myself (out loud, mind you) to keep going and just get it done. Slowly but surely, those last 3 miles ticked off and then I heard my watch beep for that glorious 20 mile indicator. Free at last!

While I knew that this run was significant since its completion ushered in that glorious taper that many marathon runners live for (*raises hand*), this thought was far from my mind during those last few painful miles. When I got home, Adam asked me what else was left on my training plan and I told him that this run was the end of the big mileage. He gave me an enthusiastic high five and told me I was ready. And he's right. I may not be going after an aggressive time goal at Marine Corps, I've set a lofty fundraising goal, which I'm approaching woohoo!

As race day approaches, I promised myself that I would spend some time more thoroughly analyzing my training paces to come up with a race day strategy. I also really need to focus on nutrition. With my Birthday and work departure, I've had my fair share of sweets and I am feeling a bit sluggish. Throughout this training cycle, my knee and hips have been a bit aggravated so I also promised myself that I would continue doing yoga a few times each week, foam roll each evening and remember that bag of frozen peas to ice my knee.

I hope to see some running buddies during the race weekend and I've started thinking through some outfit options depending on the weather. Fall marathon season is definitely here!

If you are interested in supporting my Team Fisher House fundraiser, I would greatly appreciate your support! You can donate here.

October 2, 2015

Bonnet Creek Boo-tacular Family Fun Run

Disclosure:  We were contacted by a representative of the Bonnet Creek properties to ask to promote this upcoming race. No compensation is received for this post and we are happy to support a race that helps children.

On October 31st, the Bonnet Creek property in Orlando Florida will be having a family fun run to benefit Give Kids the World.  If you don't know about this organization, you can read more about it here.

This special event will include many exciting things including the 2.75 fun run and the following:

* Trick or treating
* A haunted house
* Food and fun
* Raffles and prizes

Race day starts with registration from 7-8 am in case you forget to preregister and the race will be at 8:00 am.  Following the race will be 100 yard dash for the tiny kids and then a costume contest at 10 am. With a registration fee of $30 for adults and $15 for children 12 and under, this is quite a bargain for a race and some family fun to kick off your Halloween.

For more information and to connect with other participants here is a link to the Facebook page
And if you plan to register, click here for all the information!  Let us know if you plan to participate.  Unfortunately, we are unable to go but it sure sounds like a fun morning.

October 1, 2015

Crying a little for my "squeaked out" runner friends.

Yesterday was such a big day for so many Boston Marathon registration hopefuls. All serious runners know that reaching a BQ (Boston qualifying standard) only gives you the opportunity to register for the race.  It does not guarantee you a spot for several reasons, but most of all because many spots are held back for charity runners, the corporate sponsors and local organizations that support the race in so many ways.  Unfortunately, that means many runners have a very sad day when they get their  rejection email from the Boston Athletic Association.

Several of our running friends and in fact several of the runners in my Without Limits coached group did not gain an entry.  A first time qualifier, one of our coaches missed by seconds.  As devastating as these disappointments can be, there is alot to be said to have reached a BQ time as a marathon runner.  I have no idea what the statistics are as to how many marathon runners never achieve a BQ time, but it is probably pretty high.  Having good running genes, a great training plan, a support crew and of course the perfect race day conditions usually are necessary to reach such a goal. One girl in a Boston Marathon Facebook group that I belong to finally got her spot after qualifying 4 times previously and not making the cutoff.  Tears of joy would certainly be appropriate for this hardworking, dedicated runner who never gave up.  There are many more stories to share, but the sad ones are those of runners who thought they would have a spot based on the prior year cutoff times.

Moving on, I hope the "squeakers" missing out this year have a great marathon to give them an entry into the 2017 race.  The B.A.A. has not changed the standards for qualifying times for 2017, so hopefully with an additional push, many of those who did not get a spot this year will gain entry in the future.

If you want to read more about "squeakers, here is more info.

A great post about being "squeaked out" by Jesica at Runladylike

From the B.A.A. website, here are all the statistics for the 2016 race.

Great perspective from a blogging runner, Suzlife who gained entry

Congrats to everyone who earned that coveted spot and for those that did not, good luck as you attempt to qualify again.

September 29, 2015

Where in the world is Christine the blogger?

For several months I've wondered this myself. On some level, the answer is that I was simply enjoying my summer with my new husband, but that's not the end of the story. What happened to the girl who loved to write? The one who found joy in sharing common experiences with other runners? That girl has been a bit lost. And it wasn't just Christine the blogger who was lost. The cook, the baker, the friend, the runner...all of these people were somehow lost for the past 3 months or so. They disappeared, slowly at first but then rapidly, under the weight of an unmanageable workplace stress. And so tomorrow, I will put on a business suit for the last time (at least for the foreseeable future) and turn over the last of my responsibilities as I prepare to leave the consulting world for a few months in favor of an extended personal leave of absence. 

This stress wreaked havoc on my life. You know those New York Times articles that tell you cautionary tales of workplace stress and the impacts on your health? It's all true. The crappy things that happen to you when your body simply cannot process the stress hormones any more? It's real. Sleeplessness. Irritability. Pounding headaches for days. Unexplained muscle aches and tension. Appetite changes. Etc. Etc. Etc. 

It sucked. I never knew you could feel this way without actually being sick with the flu or some other miserable ailment. For 2 months I suffered. I don't use that word lightly. It's exactly how I felt as I was operating on basically no sleep each night and living on caffeine. I was barely making it through the work day; and all the while my mind was racing as I put out fires at work, tried to quell the anxiety of 100 team members as our contract slowly ticked down to its final days without word of renewal, and managed new client challenges each day. Sure it is/was just a job but somewhere I couldn't shake the feeling that I was responsible for all of these people's jobs...and general well-being. I felt anxious and worried most days. No matter how long I worked or how many emails I responded to while I brushed my teeth before bed, it was never enough. Some mornings I would sit on the edge of my bed after getting out of the shower and sob, wondering when I would feel rested and normal again. After a period of time, I simply couldn't do it anymore. I had to pull the ripcord and get out before I lost more of myself. 

Fun with Mom at the Rock 'n' Roll Virginia Beach
Half Marathon expo...also the weekend that I decided
I needed out! 
That probably sounds a bit heavy because it has felt that way. To leave my consulting firm after 8 years (at least for the time being) was a really tough decision. I take deep pride and ownership in my work. I care about my employees, perhaps sometimes too much. I never turned down a mentorship request or an opportunity to council an employee or to brainstorm ideas to solve a tough client challenge. I lived for those discussions...but suddenly it became too much in addition to my own full time client support. I couldn't keep up with the demands on my time. I tried to set boundaries with my personal time but soon enough, a new crisis would surface and early evening phone calls would become hours with my laptop after hours. I started going into work earlier to "get ahead" for the day. Finally I found myself walking into work at 6AM to buy more time in the workday. Crazy? Maybe. Desperate? You betcha. 

I made this decision with the same pride, ownership, and candor that I have carried with me throughout my career. It is unequivocally the right thing for me. There are about a billion reasons that I know this but most of all, I never wavered once I made it and the real "me" is slowly resurfacing. The veil of frustration and fatigue is gone. I feel excitement with the opportunities that each new day bring...a chance to try a new recipe, the opportunity to check off another training run en route to my fall marathon, the dinner table conversations that I eagerly look forward to with my husband...those joys along with a million others are back. I have energy to run (and run well) again. I am more emotionally available as a wife, daughter, and friend. I feel good again. Christine, the blogger, the baker, the devoted friend, the dedicated runner, and many other parts of me are back. 

My hope in sharing a part of my personal life is that others will reflect more on the demands of the workplace and specifically, the corporate world. Not necessarily as women or men, mothers or fathers, early career or late career, but as people. As someone deeply passionate about topics like work-life balance, workplace wellness, and gender equity in the workplace, I believe this is critically important. Some elements of life transcend workplace labels; well-being is one of those things.

On a lighter note, I look forward to reconnecting with my fellow runners. Marine Corps Marathon is less than 4 weeks away so this new outlook couldn't come at a better time! Have a great day!

September 24, 2015

#261 Fearless Ambassador

One of my first stops at the Boston Marathon expo was at the booth manned by Katherine Switzer, #261 Fearless.  Eager to purchase her book and meet her, our group were some of the first people to greet her and have a chat.  She asked what the BQ time was for the age groups of my sister and myself and was so encouraging to both of us as we readied ourselves for our first Boston Marathon. Autographed book in hand we left the booth feeling inspired by the woman who made marathon running possible for women.

Fast forward a few months and a post on Facebook mentioned a new ambassador opportunity to women who wanted to promote the #261 Fearless campaign.  Immediately I knew this was something I would like to do.  Encouraging other women of all ages to run, walk or anything to get moving is something I feel passionate about.  The human body is meant to be active and with so many people in our country overweight and in danger with many medical issues, this is the time to get out and get active.  By doing physical activity, it gives women a sense of empowerment and the confidence in many aspects of their life. So I sent in my application in late August and waited.  On Monday, I received an email saying I had been chosen as a 261 Fearless Ambassador.  This comes at a time when I am starting to plan my goals for 2016 and this will be incorporated into those plans. It will be exciting to represent an organization founded by such an inspiring runner, athlete and most of all woman.

There will be plenty of information in the following months and I look forward to representing the #261Fearless campaign.

September 23, 2015

Boots on the Run 5k - raising funds to help military families

Recently I ran a 5k with a group of neighborhood ladies in support of the USO,  All the profits from the race go the organization which aides active military members and their families.  Our group of participants met at Sarah's house and we carpooled to Jacksonville early Saturday morning for the 9:00 am race start.  As usual for North Carolina, it was a warm mid September morning, but we were all excited to support the cause and have fun either running or walking the 5k race course.

Pre race group shot

The 3rd Annual Boots on the Run 5k had over 200 participants having grown tremendously since it's first year in 2013. This race is run as close to September 11th as possible and Sarah carried a flag bearing all the names of those who died on 9/11.

Some of the highlights included a wonderful pre race military salute and of course the National Anthem sung by a lovely young lady with a beautiful voice. Soon it was time to send off the runners racing with strollers and then the runners were given their start.

The course wound through Jacksonville and past many neighborhoods as well as the main streets of this small town.  With lots of turns, this was not a race to PR, but to enjoy the scenery and honor those who serve our country.  There were quite a few soldiers running in uniforms and a firefighter in full garb.  He looked exhausted by the end from the heat and humidity.

5k races are not my favorite distance and my plan was to run a moderate pace as a training run since I had a 16  mile long run scheduled for Monday morning.  My pace was to be around 9 minute miles and that was pretty close to my results.  My Garmin showed a distance of 3.23 miles, which did not surprise me considering how many turns we made during the race. I completed the race with a final push to the finish that included volunteers handing small flags to the runners about 50 yards from the finish line.  I immediately got a Gatorade and made my way back to the course to cheer on the rest of our group.  Tracey crossed the finish line quickly after and then we walked back together to meet the others.

I'm not sure of the race profit, but with growth each year and hopefully some newspaper publicity next year, it will continue to be well supported.  This race had some wonderful swag including a red tech shirt, drawstring bag, water bottle, and of course the flag at the finish line.  Nice post race food was provided including bananas, Power bars, Gatorade and water.  I know I am forgetting some food, but there was more than plenty for this race distance. There also were age group awards two deep for 0-17, 18-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50 and up, both male and female.  I would definitely recommend this race for the honor of running with so many service men and women. For a $25 registration fee, you get alot of bang for your buck.

Next year we hope to have an even bigger group going from the neighborhood!

September 17, 2015

An open letter to a first time marathoner

One of my dearest friends just shared the news that she'll be running her first marathon in Tokyo (!!!) this spring. I immediately was excited and started making a mental list of all I wanted to share with her. So here goes...

Dear S,

I could not be more excited for you to take on the Tokyo Marathon. While I am no expert in marathons nor do I have any personal insight into running Tokyo, I am eagerly "brain dumping" all of my marathon (and general running) insights for you.

Let's start with the obvious-goals. Since you're somewhat new to running, I will tell you the most important thing I learned from training for my first marathon. Throw all of your time goals out the window. Your only goal should be to finish...and have some fun accomplishing this incredible feat! Sure, a ballpark range for a finish time is ok, but I would strongly recommend against getting wrapped up in time goals. 

And with that, we'll segue to the most important aspect of your preparations, training plans. A solid training plan is a must. I would strongly recommend Hal Higdon or Jeff Galloway plans for a first time marathoner. They break down the weeks into manageable chunks. They focus on mileage build-up while avoiding injury. While I am a devoted follower of Run Less, Run Faster, those plans are incredibly aggressive and might leave you feeling haggard mid-training cycle. Personally, I don't feel they are novice plans. Training for a marathon is really really hard. Brutal tempo runs and blazing speed work paces will likely leave you drained and injury-prone. Get a few races under your belt before you try a pace that makes you feel as though you might fly off the back of the treadmill! 

As you work through your training, most coaches recommend logging your runs. Track your mileage, pace, how you felt, any specific aches (mine are always achy L knee and tight R hip), and other details like shoes you wore (to track the wear) or fuel you used. I use a simple monthly planner for this and scribble my workout info down each day. 

Try out compression sleeves for recovery or muscle support during runs. Some people love 'em, some people hate 'em. I'm a devoted calf sleeve user as I deal with tightness from time to time. They really feel like hugs for your legs. 

If you don't have one, consider investing in a foam roller. They're a wonderful tool for helping work out the kinks and can be used like massage to work out tight muscles. 

During your training, you'll want to experiment with fuel...pre-run fuel, during-run fuel, and post-run fuel. By no means am I an expert in running nutrition but I'll tell you what works for me...
-Before long runs I eat an English muffin or bagel thin with peanut butter and a banana. For shorter runs, a banana, handful of nuts or clif bar are some of my favs.
- During long runs, I carry gels (usually Gu jet blackberry, Gu tri-berry or Gu lemon lime) and gummies like Clif shot bloks (fav flavors are strawberry, tropical punch, mountain berry, and margarita for the salt) or Honey Stinger chews (favorite flavor is fruit smoothie). I also have been known to pack a small bag of pretzels for runs in the 18-20+ mile range for the salt and satisfaction of eating real food. 
- After long runs I've been known to have serious aversions to food. Crazy, I know. I bought a really high quality protein powder and learned to love protein smoothies with frozen or fresh fruit. Your body needs the calories from protein and carbs for recovery. Chocolate milk is also a great recovery drink based on the carb and protein ratio. 
There are people far more knowledgeable about this than me so take this for face value! 

And now for some tough love...at some point during your training and maybe even during the race, you will want to quit. You will want to quit really badly. You will say "this sucks and I hate running." You might even cry. And you might tell yourself you can't do it. All of those voices in your head are wrong! Marathon training is hard, yo! If you have a training buddy, great. They will help you stay accountable and can talk you off the ledge. Or call me. I'll remind you how freaking awesome you are and simply put one foot in front of the other to run one more mile. And then I'll tell you to run another mile, until you meet your training distance or the finish line, whichever applies. To apply one of our favorite jokes, just put the boat in the water! The tough times will be a distant memory when that medal is around your neck. I can promise you that. 

Go get 'em!

So blog readers, what's the most important piece of advice you would share for my buddy as she prepares for her first marathon?