The BEST Takeaways From my Running Journey… So Far!

I started running about 7 years ago, and I still remember the very first time that I ran five miles in a row. No stops. It was magical. It was also REALLY hard. I look back on all the time that has passed since then, and all the races, and I realize that running has given me so much more than I thought a physical activity could do. As I was becoming an adult, figuring out who I was then and who I wanted to be, my running journey discreetly helped to guide me here. How awesome is that?!

Here are a few key takeaways that I’ve dug into in the last few years:

  •  Controlling The Controllable – I’ve learned to only compete against myself, so that I become the best ME. 

When I was participating in trampoline and high school sports, I was always competing to WIN, and always landed near the top of the pack. Not winning did happen but it wasn’t something I was thrilled to stand on the podium for. In fact, sometimes I would get 2nd (or…worse!) and tell my Mom that I didn’t even want that award, and we could just go home! She always made me stay, stand up there, smile and be a good sport, because she’s a smart, wonderful mother. However, that outrageous competitive-ness spilled over into a lot of other aspects of my life, and when I look back now, that characteristic was probably annoying!

When I started running, it was humbling. I knew I wasn’t the best. I knew winning was not going to happen. It taught me to set personal goals, time goals, distance goals, etc… instead of relying on a subjective judge to tell me how I stacked up against others. Control the controllable – You can’t do anything about anyone else’s training, speed, nutrition, etc…! Now, I value my successes and accomplished goals as my own personal victories, without feeling compared to the masses of runners, of all shapes, ages, sizes, and experience levels. Even better, once I learned to appreciate that this is a personal journey, I started to get so much enjoyment out of other runner’s successes – faster, slower, longer, or farther than mine – without that bitterness of them “beating” me!

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  •   I Only Have One Body – Running taught me so much about health!

I started running because I was so afraid of the “Freshman 15.” Even though I was still doing trampoline, it was less often, I was eating out with friends, just buying cheap snacks to get me through the next pay check and, you know, making typical college student food (yes, and beverage) choices.

Because I was just doing it to avoid gaining weight, running sucked at first. I wasn’t paying attention to hydration, getting any nutrients, etc… It wasn’t until someone talked me into running races that I looked up training plans and started reading about all the best foods for people who run. It didn’t stop there, though. Although I have a huge sweet tooth (ask anyone) and you will not see me turn down a bowl of ice cream, I began to focus on making my meals as wholesome as I can. The runs stopped sucking, my paces got faster, the fatigue went away, and I became so much more educated about the types of things we should be putting into our bodies… But, I digress. We all can read about what we should be eating instead of what we currently do eat. 😉

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  • I Genuinely Love The Human Race – However, runners might just be my favorite group of humans.

Many people believe that humans just aren’t good at heart. The news tells us that we kill, torture, and steal from each other. Media also tells us that bad things are happening all over, and we have to prepare for it to happen here. What it never tells us about, though, are the people who cheer complete strangers across a finish line, or those who would literally pick someone’s sweaty body up if it were about to pass out. Runners motivate, help, save, give their all to other runners even when it might cost them a PR. So do people outside of running.

Anyway, I just think the running community reminded me that there are always more good guys than bad. There will always be more people there to push you to be your best, than who want to bring you down. They’ve inspired me to be that kind of smiling, inspiring, motivating individual who leaves other people feeling better than when I found them, and who always believes the best in them. Thank you, runners everywhere, seriously!

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I feel as though there may be a list of 20 million fantastic things, that have made me better, within that list of three but you get it. I think runners honestly feel like they’re one big team. And, I’m so thrilled to be on it. I hope and pray that I am healthy enough to run through all the seasons of my life, but I’m remembering to be thankful that I get to run now, even if it doesn’t end up being forever. 😉

This week was another great week. The sun is out, the temperatures are up and it looks like Spring is here today. I told you it was going to arrive on time. :p

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Final Thought: I can’t think of one other non-person “thing” in my life that gives me so much, without taking even more from me in return. Your job, daily tasks, never-ending bills, and your acquaintances can all take more from you than you get back sometimes. Running is definitely that joy that gives me a much bigger ROI (I worked in sales). The fatigue and sore muscles – those are all GOOD things that it gives us – building strength for future trials (runs)!

Who/ What in your life gives you the best return on how much you put into it? They should probably get a hug today! 

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Quantity Over Quality? Yes, really.

This isn’t what you think. I’m not going to say that it’s my opinion that runners should finish 75 miles a week and they should all be miles that feel like poop – as long as you get them in! But, during my long run today, it really did become necessary for me to understand that quantity was more important to me than quality. Anyone training for a half marathon or marathon distance will probably understand what I mean by the end of this particular rant.

This morning, it was a rough run. I didn’t sleep well and wasn’t “feeling it.” A mile into the run, we had a dog chasing us, the big kind that growl and show their teeth at you. So, we changed our route to avoid the meanie and ended up on hills and slippery roads. About 7.5 miles in, I looked at my friend as were both feeling really tired and said, “How about we just do 10 and try to finish it faster than our last 10-miler?” She said, “I know this isn’t how the saying normally goes but it’s about quantity over quality in this run, so I think we should finish 12.”

And we did.

The last two miles were slow and painful. I also forgot (probs TMI, sorry!) to put body glide on, so the same final two miles put some other issues a little over the edge, too. We finished them, though.

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I’ve heard people say that it’s about getting time on your feet (Megan’s coach tells her that A LOT). My running pals and I discuss that sometimes when we feel like we have to take more walk breaks than scheduled, or it’s just not the best run we’ve had and it’s kinda slow. I just don’t always listen. I’m pretty flawed and one of those flaws is my belief that I am invincible and need to as fast as I can be ALL. THE. TIME. It leads me to try to do every run at race pace or at least close to it. It also led me to try to squat 75 extra pounds without a spotter this week and nearly get crushed by the bar. But…. That’s another story. These things could lead to injury one day and that’s the last thing anyone wants, right? So, at the end of all this, the lesson is: Get the miles in sometimes without worrying about how fast the miles are.

Please notice that I said we pushed through because we just felt TIRED. We were not ill or injured or coming off a hard race and pushing for more mileage than recommended. I would never advocate for that. Actually, a girl I have never actually met, but feel like I know, wrote a great post about stopping when you need to – The Long Walk Home – and we can all agree that she did the right thing. Should you push through when you ran 26.2 miles a few days prior and it might be too much, too soon? NO. Should you push through when you’re just feeling blah? Absolutely. You will be thankful for the mental toughness and endurance when you do.

Not every run is easy, but the hard makes you better and training correctly (including the correct amount of REST) makes you the best runner that you can be. Humans can do REALLY hard things and that’s pretty awesome.

After the run, this cute niece of mine insisted that I sit down and play playdough with her. I was instructed to make yellow ducks, blue dolphins and brown butterflies.

How can anyone say no to that face?

I tried to teach math to a 3.5 year old? Do you think she understood? 😉

I tried to tell her no because I didn’t think sitting down wasn’t a good idea just yet. I was right. I’ll probably be sitting/ laying down the rest of the day now. I hope someone else is productive in my place. 🙂

Happy Weekend!

How do you make the call if you need to stop or push through a challenging run?

Are you running Gazelle Girl? Please let me know!

T’was a Great Week for Running.

I really didn’t think I was going to have awesome training runs this week. Sunday, to start out, was just an easy four. By the second mile, I could tell I was coming down with the flu that had been going around. I was out of commission the rest of Sunday, all day Monday and although I was at work on Tuesday, I definitely was not myself. So, when I got back into a run on Wednesday, I took it easy. It felt surprisingly good and I was back into my training schedule Thursday for speed work. Peak 8, leg day and the Saturday long run never felt so good. The 1:45 for Gazelle Girl is in sight!

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Sunday – 4 easy miles (8:49 pace) & Shoulder/Bicep/ Core

Monday & Tuesday – OFF

Wednesday – 3.25 easy miles (9:00 pace) & Chest/ Core

Thursday – Peak-8 Workout (3.12 total miles @ 8:02 pace) & Legs/ Core

Friday – OFF

Saturday – 10 miles (8:46 pace)

Weekly Total: 20.47 miles

If you don’t know what Peak-8 is, it’s one of my FAVORITE speed workouts of all time. This is the way that I do it, but your warm up and cool down can adjust to whatever your preference is:

Warm-up mile (6.7 MPH)

1:30 @ 7.0 MPH

0:30 @ 10.0 MPH

Repeat 8x

Cool down 0.5-1.0 mile (6.5 MPH)

This usually is around 3.5-4.0 miles

On the days I feel really, really great, I add a couple extra 2:00 (1:30 + 0:30) intervals at the end, which makes it Peak-9 or 10. Or, I increase the time from 0:30 to 1:00 for some of the fast run portions.

The only thing I regret from this week is that I haven’t started swimming. We are officially 24 weeks, less than six months, away from IronMan Steelhead 70.3! It was -20 degrees here TWICE this week, so I think you can understand my hesitation with getting into a swimsuit, even at an indoor pool.

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I’m going to start having a weekly goal and this week’s goal, consistent with the previous comment, is to begin swimming 1-2 times per week.

The running buddy I got to spend today with (she ran for five years in college and my run was basically a walk in the park for her) sent me this, even though I should be sending her such thankful sayings. This is soooo true about running pals. We are always so gracious to each other, even though the other person usually feels the exact same way we do. We hold each other accountable, push the pace when the other is slacking, know how to encourage each other and, YES, we make hours of running seem enjoyable! Have a great, great day all you running buddies!!

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Does anyone have helpful pool workouts that they’d like to share?

It has been 5 days… I will be winning the bet.

I haven’t had any added sugars in my diet in 5 days. For most of you, that’s not anything to be proud of. HOWEVER, the day prior to taking up this challenge, I had two Starbucks hot chocolates, a large cupcake and several pieces of candy along with my regularly scheduled meals (which weren’t the best in themselves) – and that’s not really above average for my daily chocolate/cookie/cake/candy intake. I KNEW my sugar consumption was way too high, but what really hit me was when I felt like I was just exhausted during a three mile EASY run, then exhausted one day during situps, and doing things that I have been able to do for half my life! I knew it was because I don’t eat as well as I should. Next, I was reading blog posts about their successes with eliminating so much “junk.” I had a conversation with a good friend who had been feeling the same way as me and then…. She and I made a bet. NOBODY wants to lose a bet, right?

To aid in winning the bet, I have eliminated added sugars. To my knowledge, I have done that. I sort of emphasized that because I HAD NO IDEA how much food sugar was added into. So, I am nervous that I slipped up but the friend and I both agreed, the point was to get rid of the excess. I’ve eaten A LOT of fruits to satisfy the sugar craving. I even ate a whole lemon and LIKED it. Is that weird?

I will eat those things again. I am never, ever, ever, ever, ever (name that song) giving up ice cream permanently. I just want my body to stop acting like it NEEDS it. After a couple months of not putting it in my system, I am hoping I can have a Dairy Queen blizzard once a week without craving it again a few hours later, or waking up every morning feeling like I need a Starbucks Peppermint Hot Chocolate and then a dessert after each meal of that day. Wish me luck. I NEED IT! 🙂

The half marathon training has been OKAY. I say that because usually two of my runs per week feel good, and the rest just plain suck. The great news is that I usually feel great while running my HMP runs. It gives me confidence. 🙂 I hope with a better diet, I see improvement in my energy pre and post workout. I have never actually focused on both the training plan and a diet, and strength training all at the same time. Maybe I’ll kill my PR??!! A girl can dream, as they say.

I get to start coaching gymnastics this week, and my niece gets to take the classes!!! I am SO SO SO excited to watch her do something that was such a big part of my life. However, I volunteer at a church nursery, coach these classe, go to grad school, work full time, try to do some photography sessions and train for this half marathon coming up… I should just start being excited about making it to the end of each week! 😉

Here’s a peek at some of the fun I’ve gotten to have behind the camera lately.

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Have a great, speedy week! :):)

Those Hotel Fitness Centers Aren’t Always The Bomb.

Getting to travel around for work is one of my FAVORITE perks. I have been all over the midwest, just in the last 1.5 years at this job! However, when you’re on your very first week of a training plan (with a BIG goal in mind), it’s really unfortunate when things are not how they seem! 😦

Even with trusted hotel brands, you can sometimes run into snags with the fitness centers. This fitness center looked like it was going to be worth every penny! There were pictures of TV screens on each individual treadmill, tons and tons of weight equipment, bikes, ellipticals, you name it – it was in pictured or mentioned on the hotel website. I was very ready to get this week of training in the books…

After night one, I had one of those rare mornings where I was so thrilled to be up before 6AM to workout! Usually, I think of every excuse in the book to workout AFTER work instead! I get to the fitness center and… only ONE treadmill was functioning (it was being used!), the thermostat was set to 85 degrees and there were several people in there making it even warmer, and then the water cooler must have been broken because there was only hot water to drink!

Due to the time crunch, I could only get a mile in by the time the treadmill was free. However, I can’t feel my arms right now (in a good way), so I did something challenging!

All I could do was laugh. I am here until Sunday so I have already thought up supplemental strength training if the same thing happens to me tomorrow. I was bummed at first to ALREADY have to deviate from my schedule, but THAT’S LIFE. And, that’s okay. Strength is so important when you’re trying to get faster. The ever optimist that I am thinks all the treadmills will be magically fixed tomorrow, anyway 😉

Here is my suggestion for some cardio when your fitness area is not exactly what you expect. NOBODY uses those stairs in lieu of that elevator –so work ‘em! Take 5 or so flights and do: hops (skip one stair), 1 legged hops, sprints, deep squat jumps (down), calf raisers, high knew runs, etc… 3 sets of as many as you can think of is a darn good leg workout. Just plain running stairs is good, too!

How do you “make do” when you’re traveling but need to get a sweat session in?

IRONMAN 70.3 STEELHEAD

I just registered for the Ironman 70.3 Steelhead. Here’s to a new journey.

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Yes, this one! 9 Months away!

Yes, this one! 9 Months away!

I went to the website more than three times over the last five days, but just couldn’t hit the submit button. I kept chickening out. Can I Will I really put in the training that’s required to accomplish this?

This morning, I just randomly woke up with a new outlook on it! Hey, ya know, this is just a 1/2 IronMan. I’m not even doing the WHOLE thing. 😉

In all seriousness, I’m aware it will still be tough and that the 70.3 is not something to joke about. But, I really did wake up with the mindset I needed – I can truly accomplish this. I have all of the support I could possibly need and am so blessed to be healthy enough to attempt it!

Of course, the first thing I did was write a blog post on the blog I’ve maintained so well because ya know, if I tell all of you I’m going to do it, then I’m held accountable. At least, that’s the idea behind it. I hope you’ll follow this new journey; the runs, the bikes, the undoubtedly cold swims and all the randomness in between. Better yet, join me! Please?

Feel free to comment any of your triathlon training advice or experiences.

Anyone want to be my virtual training buddy here in a couple months?

Where have you found the best triathlon training plans? 

#IronManSteelhead

My Gazelle Girl 1/2 Marathon Experience and PR!

Ok, first off… I am SORRY that I stunk at blogging for the last 8 weeks. Seriously, it’s been that long since I last posted!!! I have grad school, work and training to get a PR this past weekend, and I just didn’t have time for a quality post. I pinky promise to do better from here on out! 🙂

I had trained so well for this race, from several Peak-8 sprint workouts (I even ran 5 miles at a 7:49 average pace TWICE) to multiple 10+ mile runs at below a 9:00 pace…. Those things may have been interesting to you to hear about on this little journey to a PR, but like I said, I have been SO BUSY! I was definitely ready for this race!

On Saturday, I met up with my friend and we rode down together. We met at the perfect time, because just as we had gotten to Grand Rapids, our area up north got hammered with a freak storm! I’m not kidding, nobody told us this storm was coming! I still didn’t have electricity or internet, obviously, (OH MY WORD) when I got home from the race on Sunday around 4 PM.

 

Some CRAZY damage…

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I’m just thankful I didn’t hear about any injuries! However, if you get some time, send our little towns your thoughts, prayers and good vibes that the river levels go down because there is some major flooding possiblities as a result of this weekend that the area really doesn’t need!

Back to Gazelle Girl, we got our packets and drove to my friend’s apartment. Got our carbo-loading on and relaxed on the couch watching movies the rest of the night and deciding exactly what we were going to wear! Michigan weather is the best… NOT. You just never know what you’re going to get in the next couple minutes, let alone a whole morning later!! I decided on capris and short-sleeves and hit the hay, although I maybe got 5 hours of sleep from the nerves! I kept having dreams I was buried alive! NO, NOT KIDDING! But that means I was stressed out / nervous right?? That’s what Mr. Google said anyway.

 

All of the gear for the morning!

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In the morning, everything went smoothly. My wonderful friend took us to the race and stayed the entire time to watch! The weather was a perfect temperature with no sun beating down on us, but more humidity than I was used to. Oh well – like I said, it’s Michigan. You couldn’t really have asked for better in mid-April!! I was going to do this thing. My goal time was a 1:50.00 (8:23 pace), which was kind of a reach and I knew that, but I did the first 10 miles at an 8:15 or faster pace, with three miles at sub – 8:00 miles! That would be why the last 3 miles were SO HARD! I ended up finishing with a 1:51.55 and I am INCREDIBLY HAPPY WITH THAT! That was an 8:32 pace and a 4:46 personal best time after nearly three years of not being able to beat my 1:56.41 from 2011!

The best part of the day was seeing everyone else finish and getting their personal bests, too! My friends Sarah, Caryn and Alyson all finished with happy faces and a new “time to beat” for our next races! Megan was so smart and listened to her body – I know it was hard for her, but there’s always another race! Then I got to meet up with my friend…. AND MAN FRIEND CAME! This is the first time he’s ever come to watch me! I can’t really blame him because if you don’t like running, it’s not fun until the end to be spectating!

My amazing friend, Trisha, who let us sleep in her bed and shower at her apartment, and then came and stayed the full 2+ hours to be our support system! Thanks, dude! You are the BOMB!

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MAN FRIEND!

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I was so excited about the PR, and because he really came, that I tried to hug him right away. I don’t think he appreciated how sweaty I was… I know, rude! 😉

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All of the girls from our neck of the woods (minus Caryn)!!!!!! 

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I’m so proud of all of us and can’t wait to do more races with the wonderful ladies in my life!

Oh, let me show you the BEST “medal” ever! Gazelle Girl switched it up and gave us an amazing charm that we can truly wear on a daily basis if we want to! 🙂

#PureMichigan of course!

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You all want to run this race now right?! 🙂 Have a great Easter-week! I am in bed with some sort of crud, probably from Megan!! 😉 However, it gave me time to get this jotted down and shared! Maybe I’ll even get my homework done while I lay here!

 

Did anyone else run Gazelle Girl this weekend?? TELL ME ALL ABOUT IT!!!! 

What’s your favorite part about the running community? 

– I love, love, love the random support from strangers in the crowd – especially when they read your name on your bib, look right at you and tell you that you’re awesome and you can finish the race. I had an older man call out to me individually twice. He has no idea how much he helped, so thank you to him!!!!

#AmericaIsBeautiful. Short and Sweet.

I’m sure someone is going to get angry. You’re entitled to your opinion. However, it really hurt my heart to see the bashing of the Coca-Cola commercial, as it was probably my favorite one. I am absolutely HONORED to be an American and HONORED to have a song about America sung in other languages. It showed compassion, peace, love and UNITY.

The Bible has been translated into nearly every language (Also, ENGLISH wasn’t the bible’s original language) and I’m sure God looks at it as though it’s amazing to have all these different languages praising Him and learning about Him. Isn’t that what Coca-Cola did? They praised America in SEVEN languages! That’s pretty awesome! The song was a tribute to and from all different ethnicities and nationalities that make up the “Greatest Country in The World.”

I encourage you to please listen to it again, this time with a little compassion and respect for the melting pot that has always been our country, and also for the sweet voices of the beautiful children singing it. Thank you.

 

This winter is dampening my running spirit, for real.

It’s the coldest and snowiest one I can remember in my lifetime. I’m from Michigan so it’s not like I have never seen a cold day. I thought the bitter cold was over. And I woke up this morning to this…

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I set a goal to run 1,000 miles in 2014. That comes to (approximately) 84 miles per month. That’s totally doable. I failed this month and I blame it on the cold and snow. I also blame it on me for not checking the weather and realizing I wasn’t going to be able to accomplish that many outdoor runs. I got in 52 miles. However, there are positives of less mileage and more strength and speed.

My average pace was over 30 seconds per mile faster on every run.

I have truly loved the runs I was able to do because there was never a day I felt forced to do them.

The emphasis on strength-training has made a noticeable impact on my overall enjoyment of working out. Variety is the spice of life. 😉

Here’s a recap:

Monday – Peak 8 Sprint workout. Then I walked a couple miles while chatting with a cool man I met that works at the same place I do. Such a small world!

Tuesday – 5.04 miles in 43:00 (8:32 pace)

Wednesday/Thursday – no running. Lots of abs/arms and stretching

Friday – 4.02 miles in 33:50 (8:25 pace)

Saturday – Rest

Sunday – 6 easy miles with Megan.

This weekend was a busy one. I had to work, babysit, participate in my graduate conversations all while getting another 6 inches of snow. I’m super thankful my Dad loves me as much as he does.

Then I had bridesmaid’s dress shopping and  a super bowl party – where I ate the best fruit pizza and I tried my hand at making a dish to pass as well – brownie batter dip!!! 🙂

 

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Sock Buns and Creepy Man Pants and Faster Times.

Sorry that I totally failed with the idea of a regular posting schedule. I have no idea if you know this but I speak Spanish so I got a side gig translating some documents. It’s consuming my life! But, it’s fun and nice to know that I am capable of doing large-scale tasks like this one.

For running this week, I didn’t get huge mileage numbers, but boy did I have some interesting workouts!

Sunday: 8.5 miles with a friend. I got us lost, in the arctic tundra that is Michigan lately. She wasn’t pleased. My Garmin died halfway through, because it was too cold, so I don’t even know our pace. It was NOT the best long run I’ve had.

Monday – Peak 8 (2.16 miles) and gymnastics-based conditioning. This week I held my “jog” at 7.0 MPH and my sprint at 10.0 MPH. I’m amazed at how fast I’m already getting (SEE FRIDAY’S RUN), and I have 11 weeks before my half marathon still. I am SO excited. I did, reluctantly, complete 10 chin-ups again. 😉

Tuesday – I did a super easy 2 miles and then stretched really well… Did I mention people point out my tight hamstrings a lot at the gym? It’s sort of embarrassing…

Wednesday – Rest

Thursday – 3.02 easy miles with Megan in the bitter, bitter cold. I love Michigan but c’mon… it’s cold. Please lighten up on us!

Friday – 4.02 mile in 33:00! This is my best run this week and I am so excited about the 8:13 (FAST TIME) pace I averaged.

Considering my goal pace for the ½ marathon (in 11 weeks) is an 8:23 pace, this makes me VERY happy and even more motivated (yes, I know it’s 9.1 more miles, but still).

Although I’ve definitely had my fair share of chocolate and ice cream this week, I’ve also seen a lot more of these types of things in my diet, and I think it’s truly helped with my energy:

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Okay, now for the reason my post is titled the way that it is… THIS is what I have to look at every time I go down to my boyfriend’s basement.

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And EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. I think someone is in those pants and is going to kill me. Why do they have to hang there, right behind the treadmill? Why? Why? Why?

I’m going to enjoy the rest of my night, playing with the new sock bun I got and drinking yummy hot cocoa… away from those creepy man pants.

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