Sunday, December 7, 2014

Personal Best

I'm a better person when I'm running. I'm a better person when I'm writing. I know this, and so it would seem that I would then make sure to keep doing those things once I had gotten into a good routine with both. And yet . . . the Manchester Half was over a month ago. I promised to blog that week. I promised to blog two weeks later. And so on.

But hope springs eternal, and here we are. The Manchester Half was great. The day before the race Dan took the girls to the expo, and they completed a challenge where they earned a cinch sack, a t-shirt, a water bottle, and a medal. They were super cute, and I love how they are encouraged to be active at a young age.

The night before the race we went and had dinner with my cousin at her parents' house. The best part of the race was definitely being able to do it with both my cousins, though Caitlin claims she won't ever do another. Jen and I have plans to do one in North Carolina next.

Race day morning I picked Jen and Caitlin up. It was cold, but the real issue was the wind. I was stressed about what to wear, like I always am, so I ditched some clothes at the starting line that were donated to charity. I had been nervous about the hills, but I ended up loving the course. I loved seeing my family throughout the course. Anytime I started to get bored or started dragging a bit I thought about how I would see them in a mile or two.

With three miles left, I realized that I could make my ultimate goal of breaking 2:30. There was one last hill between mile 11 and 12, but after that it was a downhill finish. The only problem was the winds picked up coming down Hanover Street and it was a virtual wind tunnel. I felt like I was running in place. As I approached the finish line, I could see that I would be very close to the 2:30 mark. I crossed the first mat just as they announced that the first marathon finisher was coming in. Talk about humbling! He ran twice as far as I did in about the same time! I turned to applaud and cheer his finish, but then I heard Dan yell, "Julia, keep going!" I didn't realize there was a second mat, and my time was still running! Those few seconds cost me my sub 2:30 finish -- final time of 2:30:04, but if you ask Dan, he says I finished in under 2:30. I learned my lesson -- I'll always run until I'm sure I've crossed the official finish line.

Post race we went to the massage tent, and though there were heaters there, I was freezing. I was shivering and couldn't get warm until I had some soup after. We headed back to our houses for showers and rest and met up later at the Puritan Backroom Restaurant. My brother was there before us, and he called to tell us he thought some pretty important political people were showing up. We got there in time to see Hilary Clinton, Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan as they were leaving. We even got some pictures. Clare got one with her favorite -- Chris Pappas.

I took the next week off from running. I actually felt pretty good and wanted to run, but I thought it would be best to recover fully. I expected to be unbelievably sore the next day as I had been after my first half, but I actually felt better than I do after a boot camp session with Tamara Solomon. All that strength training, hill running, and general butt-kicking definitely paid off. Thanks, Tamara!

I'm already thinking about what I will do differently for my next half. As soon as I finished I was thinking about how I could have run it faster, another sign I am, in fact, a runner. I am starting to see that I definitely underestimate myself. It turned out 2:30 was a more comfortable goal than I had imagined. I never felt I had to walk or that I couldn't maintain my pace. I took 27 minutes off my first half -- more than two minutes a mile faster this time. I would love to shave another ten off my next one.

So, this is my recommitment. I have been running, though I'd like to increase my mileage a bit. And I commit to blogging twice a month. I hope it will be more, but I know I can do that. The new year and its resolutions are right around the corner, but I commit to being a better me right now. I'm a better person when I run and when I write. Stay tuned.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

One Week!

One week to go!

I cannot believe the race is a week away. Last week I bought new shoes - thanks to the great people at Runner's Alley. I love my Mizunos, but their shoelaces are too short in the last few models. Annoying. Still love their shoes.

My cousin and I also bought cute running skirts for the big race. I am really glad to support a fellow running mom. You can check her out at Chasethisskirt on Etsy.

My training this week is just two days of 2-3 miles. I am holding onto hope that my training is solid enough to survive the hilly course and earn a time that I am secretly hoping for.

I have my three goals set - I kind of look at it like applying for colleges. I have a "safety" goal I am confident I will reach barring unforeseen circumstances - to finish the race. My "comfortable" goal - one I really should be able to meet - is to beat my Disney time. And my "reach" goal - well, I will just let you know I make it. Some things I need to keep to myself.

I am honestly really excited for next week - I am looking forward to hanging with my family and seeing how well I can do. I am also looking forward to going back to just running and not training.

So, one week! Stay tuned.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Two and a Half Weeks to Go!

The Manchester Half is just over two weeks away. I am excited and anxious as the day gets closer. I had been feeling good and am a bit more confident going into this last stretch.

I didn't end up running part of the course this past weekend because I postponed my long run to Monday. So glad I did. I did 10 miles in just over two hours and I felt great. Boot camp on Tuesday right after my long run means that I am pretty sore right now, but nothing too bad. Should go get shoes tomorrow afternoon and run in them these next few training runs.

Unfortunately the timing of the race falls at the end of quarter one, which means I will have grading to do as I recover. This could be a bit dicey. Luckily we have a few days to get everything corrected and entered, but still, not the best possible scenario. Ugh.

Dan has been running again, which is awesome. Someday we want to do a half together, but it honestly will be tricky with training. He has been unbelievably supportive of my efforts. He encourages me and reassures me when I have doubts, he plots my routes, and he has been driving by to check on me and bring me water on my long runs. In many ways my crossing the finish line will be an accomplishment for him, too. I cannot say enough about how amazing he is.

I am definitely excited about the race now. I want to see what I am capable of. I really can't wait to see my cousin. Running and blogging along with her has made me feel close to her and miss her at the same time. She's been dealing with some setbacks, but I am sure she will be ready to go on November 2nd.

Moving forward, feeling strong, can't wait!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Positive Thoughts

Thinking Positive Thoughts

A little over a month ago I watched the video of the course for the Manchester Half. It can be a little intimidating hearing the narrator repeatedly say, "This is a tough stretch here," "Steep incline here," "Survive this stretch..." It makes me wish I had chosen a seacoast race - much flatter. But my long runs have been hilly for sure, so my training should be decent. I just have walked parts of the hills recently, and I am psyching myself out a bit. I plan to run my 10 miler this weekend on the meat of the course, so at least I know what's really in store. I am a bit nervous about this because I am afraid a bad run might shake my confidence even more, but my running expert friend says it's always good to run the course ahead of time - shout out to Becka Noe. :)

A head cold this week has crimped my training a little bit. Tuesday I missed boot camp because my equilibrium was a little off, and I didn't want to infect my fellow divas, so I attempted a short treadmill run and did some squats and crunches. Wednesday I helped out at St. Thomas XC practice, so I got a mile in and did another mile and a half that night at Planet Fitness, stretched well, and got some more rest.  I am almost back to feeling 100%, so I am looking forward to a run tomorrow night and a good long run this weekend.

I am starting to freak out about how close the race is. Training has gone way faster than I anticipated. I actually am scheduled to do 9 miles this weekend, but I am trying 10 because I need to see where I am with three weeks to go. I am hoping it's better than I think, but we will see.

Getting over all my doubts isn't easy, but I focus on the positive as much as I can. When I had to walk a chunk of my long run this past weekend because my legs were deadweight, I focused on the fact that my lungs felt great. I also use mantras to keep me trekking. "Just run your race," is my overarching one this time, but I am working on one to get me through the last few weeks.  "You've got this," isn't quite cutting it. I'll let you know what I come up with.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Random Running Ramblings

I have no real focus for my blog this week. With just a month to go to the half, things are starting to get real, so I'll just share some random thoughts from the last few weeks -- in no particular order, a top ten list of sorts.

1.  Things are starting to hurt. I need to get to the chiropractor, but the time that I would go is usually devoted to getting my runs in. I took today off because of pain in my hip flexor and what I think might be a slightly sprained ankle.  Nothing that hurts too much, but a day of rest probably would do more good than harm. I'm hoping that, at least, but I can't help freaking out a bit when I miss training. Chiropractor visit definitely needs to happen . . .

2.  I see some weird things when I run around my house. I saw an upright bottle of wine on the side of the road on a long run that made me think of my friend Heidi who used to leave water bottles on her route. Maybe she left me a bottle of wine? And I didn't stop to see if it was opened or not, so don't ask. I also see a lot of roadkill -- one long run offered two skunks (awesome) a snake, a squirrel, and a bird. Just one run. Pretty crazy.

3. I scared away a cow the other day. A cow. On one of my routes there are some small brown shaggy cows. They seem pretty docile, but how can one really tell? The first time I ran by them I noticed a gap in the fence that I was pretty sure cows could escape from. On my next run by them I heard a rustling. I looked over to see one climbing up out of the pasture and up to the road. Several thoughts go through your head when a cow is approaching you on a run. 1.) Is it a bull? Will it charge me? 2.) These cars need to slow down because they could hit a cow. 3.) Can I outrun a bull? 4.) I should have brought my pepper spray. Would that have helped? 5.) Can I outrun a bull? It could be a bull. . . For whatever reason, though, the cow saw me, stopped in its tracks, and turned and ran the other way. I scared away a cow. I am a beast.

4. I should not tell my mother about the cow. Or about the fact that I run on Hackett Hill Road. That will make her nervous. She'd also be pissed to know I still don't have one of those Runner ID things. But since she's reading this, my Catholic guilt is now assuaged.

5. New shoes are in my future. I am now a devoted Mizuno runner. I'll go to Runner's Alley and just get the latest model. I am such a freak about socks and shoes -- they are probably the most important element of my running gear.

6. I used to love GU, but on my last few runs I had to choke it down. I used to look forward to getting to the time on my run where I needed my GU, but I am concerned I'll have to find another long run fuel. I welcome suggestions from fellow runners.

7. I need to start planning what to wear for the half. My outfit planning is some of my most stressful race day preparation, even for a 5k. I will definitely sport the headband my cousin sent me -- it says "I <3 Running." I think she's trying to convince me. Or trying to help me convince myself. Either way, I will wear it in solidarity with her. I'll also wear my "balance bracelet" that she bought for me at the expo when we ran the Disney Princess 1/2. It's probably snake oil, but I wear it to think of her as I run. It helps me remember there's someone running alongside of me even when I'm running alone and that I have done this before. It helps me remember I am strong enough to do this. I also wear running skirts. Being cute is not the reason I wear them, but it doesn't hurt. The real reason is I get so annoyed with my shorts bunching up between my thighs that I spend the whole time pulling at them and hating my run. Skirts have solved this problem. In cooler weather I do capris or pants.

8. My cousin's blog is so awesome! You can find it at  She's been interviewing some notable runners including Bart Yasso. Check it out!

9. I got a message from a woman in Colombia who found my last blog entry through my cousin. It was tough to write, but from all the feedback and private messages I've gotten from women, it seems we all share elements of the same story. 

10. A few of my friends and I are starting a running group at school for non-athlete girls. We are hoping it helps them have a positive connection to school and a place for them to feel supported. I'm also thinking of submitting my latest blog entry to Dove as part of their #FeelBeautifulFor campaign.We'll see.

One month until the half!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Running Strong

Okay, so I am a bit overdue on this one...warning, I get into some tough stuff in this one.

Five and a half weeks to the Manchester Half, and I am feeling pretty good. My long runs have been good, and I PRed in a 5k I ran a week and a half ago. My lungs are good - my legs are strong, but there are still some days they feel like dead weight. But overall, I am feeling good going into this last stretch.

A good part of the difference for me this time has to be due to the "Boot Camp" workout I am doing once a week at Diamond Fit Diva Studio. I get my butt kicked by Ta'mara for an hour every Tuesday, and I usually feel it the rest of the week.  Well worth it, though, as I have definitely seen the impact on my running. And a huge "thanks" shout out to my girl, Meg.  Knowing she will be there every week helps to keep me going.

So, I am feeling stronger than I ever have, and yet...

Remember when I hinted at a blog about another reason I run? Well, here goes.

Two and a half weeks ago, I had a kind of rough long run. I had eaten too much too close to heading out, and I wanted to throw up. No, really. I wanted to stop running and throw up.

One in five women has struggled with some level of disordered eating according to the latest statistics I could find. One in five is a lot, but if you count people like me, it's probably a lot higher.

I have never been diagnosed with an eating disorder. I have never gone even a day without eating, and I have never made myself vomit. However, I have tried. I have gotten awfully close, and yet, something has always made me stop. Something inside of me says, "This won't work. This won't fix what's bothering you." Somehow in those most desperate moments, something rational in me has jumped in and stopped me. Thank God.

Most of the time I don't feel this way, and I have only gotten to those absolute darkest places maybe five times in my life. But when the feelings come, they always sneak up on me.  I will be going along fine, or so I think, and then I will be in a locked in a mortal struggle with the scale. I will fall into a binge of junk food and have a fleeting thought about making myself throw up. Sometimes the thought won't be fleeting. I am grateful I have been able to overcome it, but I recognize that I am not invincible in this area. Many of my friends have dealt with diagnosed eating disorders, some of whom are probably reading this. What has kept me from being one of them? I am not entirely sure, but their strength in the struggle is commendable.

So on that long run where I wanted to throw up, I faced those thoughts head on. I first reminded myself that I absolutely hate puking. Seems obvious, but I had to start small. I kept running. I thought about my friends who had eating disorders; I thought about my students.  I kept running. I thought about my girls; I ran harder. I ran away from those thoughts, that dark place. I ran towards strength.

Right now, what is keeping my issues in check is a shift in my focus. I am thinking about being strong. My quads are like rocks at the moment - thanks, to lots of squats and running - and that helps me get past the fact that my thighs still rub together. (Don't even get me started on the cultural obsession with the thigh gap.) As part of a challenge from T'amara, I have not weighed myself in weeks, and while I haven't felt the change in fit of my clothes, I have noticed a change in my endurance. And isn't that what I want, really? Isn't that what I want my daughters to aim for - a faster 5k, not a smaller dress size?

One in five women, probably far more -- far too many. How can I keep my girls from joining those ranks? When I had Clare, I made a promise that she would never hear me say anything negative about my body. No pinching of my tummy roll, no sucking in my gut, no sighing over jiggly arms. No use, ever, of the word "fat" in relation to a feeling or describing how I look. With two daughters now, it's twice as important. We talk about eating healthy foods and being strong. And I try to remember all the awesome things my body has done and continues to do. It can run, it can dance - it has safely carried and delivered my darling babies.  How dare I think it anything less than amazing? And in a few weeks it will amaze me again as it plods 13.1 hilly miles. It really is one awesome body after all.

Note: I have been very open with my issues with Dan from the beginning, and I have also discussed them with a counselor.  If you are struggling with an eating disorder or know someone who might be, please seek help from a professional.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Time to Find Time

A friend asked me how I find time and energy to run/train and how I stay motivated. Honestly, I have been able to adjust some things in my life that free me in ways that others might not be able to. Still, I hope something here will help.

I read once that when you say you can't do something it almost always means you don't want to badly enough. I remember that pissed me off initially. "There are things I just can't do!" I thought. But the more I considered it, the more this really did seem true. And being honest about it only helped me realize what I really did want badly enough.

After my oldest was born, I finished the school year and then went back in the fall full time. The hope had been that Dan would get a job as an assistant principal that year, and I would go part time. It didn't work out that way, and I spent a year struggling with feelings of inadequacy as a teacher, mother, and wife. Somewhere in there I also decided to try running. I ran one evening after getting home with the baby. Dan made dinner and sent me on my way. I came back sobbing after only going about a block. I wanted to be home with them, not running. It was not that I couldn't run; I just didn't want it badly enough. And that was okay. I focused I surviving the year and let running go.

A year later Dan landed a job as an AP, and I cut down my hours. It was amazing - everything I needed to feel like I was not just surviving but thriving. And I was ready to run again. I could find time without feeling like I was stealing it from someone else. I ran until I got pregnant again, and it was a year and a half after my youngest was born that I felt ready to lace up the sneakers again. So, my first suggestion would be an honest assessment as to whether or not this is something you want right now. No judgment either way - just honesty.

When I decide I am ready, finding time can be tricky. I have gotten very creative with sneaking in runs, and I have let go of completing a perfect training schedule. My midweek runs rarely are the recommended mileage, but I always make sure to complete the long runs. For shorter runs during the week I work with my mom (my childcare) and Dan to see when I can get them in. Sometimes I go right after work, and I am exhausted - those runs can be pretty terrible, so I try to cut myself a little slack. A crappy run is better than no run. Other times Dan gets dinner duty and I run around supper time. This is not my favorite since it can mean I miss eating with them. I have headed out to the gym at 8:00 or 9:00 to pound out some time on the treadmill, and as a last resort, we have a beat up treadmill that gets me by when needed.

Long runs can be trickier, but again, creativity is key. I have brought clothes to church, changed after Mass, and run home. I have run from my in-laws to the hotel we were staying at in a blizzard. Map My Run is awesome for plotting out courses. The biggest piece here is Dan's support. Since I am pretty slow, my long runs can take a chunk out of a weekend day. He gives me this time and never lets me feel bad about it.

Staying motivated is a whole other entry, and if I am brave enough, I will be really honest about some stuff that surrounds my motivation. However, I will say that letting go of perfection and just embracing my humble running offering has really turned it from something I had to do to something I want to. In all the races I ever run, I will very likely never win a prize, but I will finish - if I want to badly enough.