Rest and Re-Inspiration

After two full weeks of absolutely no running (save for a certain brush with Ryan Hall’s f-ing fast marathon pace), I’ve spent this week slowly coaxing my legs back into running. Winter decided to arrive during my hiatus, and despite a few “niggles,” it feels wonderful to breathe in that cool, fresh air, break a sweat, and laugh with the guys again.

I decided to commit to 14 days of rest because Marine Corps left me feeling a bit banged up. I’ve been marathon training for the better part of the year, so the lingering aches gave me a good excuse NOT to run to let my body heal. Besides, MCM fell smack dab in the middle of the madness that is “working” at the RW Half, MCM, and NYCM on back-to-back-to-back weekends. All of it was incredibly exhilarating and inspiring–heck, I LOVE everything about races–but it’s also exhausting. My brain and body needed some downtime. Badly.

So while I’m here dusting the cobwebs off this blog, I have to say that even though I wasn’t out on the roads, running still managed to find ways remind me why our sport is so tremendously incredible. For instance…

I’m officially “in real life” friends with Iron(wo)man and mother-runner Michele Gonzalez (right), who raised over $10,000 for Superstorm Sandy relief efforts last year; Pam Rickard, an ultrarunner whose comeback story is best summed up by this Facebook post; and Summer Sanders (left), an Olympic swimmer, one of my childhood idols (thanks to a certain TV show), and now an incredible, speedy! runner. Words can’t really express how impressed, amazed, inspired [insert more similar words] by these women. They are the embodiment of why runners are awesome.Summer-Michele

I got a dose of the November Project, the highlight being a high-five with co-founder Brogan Graham, who’s gracing the December cover of RW. The bear-hugging, no-excuses, potty-mouthed “tribe” that began in Boston has injected a whole new level of badass-ness that’s shaking up what it means to be a running group. Get a better sense of who they are here and why they’re the shining light in an otherwise rough year for the running community here.

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And finally, I spent a weekend witnessing, for the first time, the magic of the New York City Marathon. It’s truly eye-opening to see runners from around the world literally take over the city, to see them streaming into Central Park from dawn until dusk, and to watch the elites cover 26.2 miles with precision, strength, and in Meb’s case, courage, from the gun to the tape. I bumped into Shalane and Julie, who again reminded me that the pros are just (blazing fast) regular runners. The list goes on… I left the city with my mind made up: I need to run New York next year.

Screen Shot 2013-11-14 at 6.05.18 PMBasically, I can’t help but smile at all that went down over the past month or so. And trust me, this post touches on a fraction of it all. I couldn’t be more thankful. Thanks everyone.

QUOTE OF THE POST: “Running is not, as it so often seems, only about what you did in your last race or about how many miles you ran last week. It is, in a much more important way, about community, about appreciating all the miles run by other runners, too.” – Richard O’Brien

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Race Report | 2013 Marine Corps Marathon

photo 1I learned a valuable lesson during my fifth marathon:

Take every single negative thought and turn it on its head.

Constantly refocusing on the positive from start to finish led me to a 2 minute 51 second PR and what was probably my first negative split in any race ever. The defining moment came at Mile 14, but let me rewind a bit.

Back in April when I was halfway between Hopkinton and that famous right turn on Hereford Street, I was hurting. I’d realized early on that it just wasn’t my day, and the thought of running another 13 miles was daunting. Rather than easing my pace so I could soak up and enjoy the incredible atmosphere, I wallowed in the fact that I wouldn’t be setting a PR that day. I spent the rest of the race feeling frustrated and sad that I wasn’t having an amazing race at the fabled Boston Marathon.

On Sunday in Washington, D.C. when I reached the half-marathon mark, however, I thought: I only have 13 miles left. I can run 13 miles in my sleep. That’s nothing! New legs baby girl!

I remember consciously noticing at that moment how drastically different my perspective was between the two races. The realization that I felt good and wanted to run the next 13 miles literally set a fire under my butt.

I’d averaged around 8-minute pace for the first half, coming through 13.1 at 1:45:08…and then I ran Mile 14 in 7:36, holding my pace in the 7:30s (and one 7:25!) for eight miles. I dropped to low 7:40s for the next two miles before I ran out of steam for the last three. Even then I hovered just above 8-minute pace.

When I decided to shift gears, I honestly wasn’t sure how long I’d last. But my legs kept churning along, much longer than I would’ve ever expected. Trying to negative split was uncharted territory for this runner that likes to start guns blazing only to crash and burn at the end. After struggling to keep an even pace with the hills and crowds throughout the first few miles, I’d finally found my rhythm.

Early on in the race, I made the decision to mentally break up the race into 10-mile segments that I divided into shorter distance goals. Why 10 miles? Because my cut-back long run during training was 10 miles. The distance felt easy even though I ran it fast. I remember thinking how crazy it was to say that I had to run only 10 miles. Here was my train of thought:

After the first “short and easy” 10, I focused on 13.1. When I got there (happy halfway!), I wanted to get to 16 so that I’d “only have 10 left” (10 is nothing, right?). When I reached 16, I focused on 20 so that I’d finally be in the twenty-somethings AND the single-digits. From there, I broke it down into one- or two-mile chunks to the point where, at Mile 25, I thought, Only eight minutes left. You can do anything for eight minutes. Keep pushing.

For whatever reason, this thought process worked for me. Chipping away at the distance mentally rather than thinking about it as a whole kept my mind busy and sane. I took comfort in the fact that my breathing stayed relaxed, my stomach wasn’t acting up, and my legs were still (somehow) maintaining a decent clip. Fun fact: I felt good at Mile 18, the point in my first marathon where the wheels started to fall off. In this race, I managed a little over four more miles before I hit that point. I genuinely couldn’t believe it.

So you better believe that I soaked up inch of the 26.2-mile journey. The sights from atop bridges and beside monuments were awe-inspiring and serene in the early morning light; out at Hains Point, the quiet, lonely moments punctuated only by footsteps were sobering; the endless tunnels of spectators and Marines were pitch-perfect and made me laugh when I needed to smile; the drum lines and bands got me pumped up like they have since high school; seeing my coworkers at the hair-pin turns was unexpected and way too much fun; it was all incredible.

I finished in 3:26:32. I couldn’t be happier.

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QUOTE OF THE POST: “That was so far!” – words repeated in a tone of both disbelief and astonishment by my first-time-marathon-crusher/coworker during the car ride home 

To read about my training leading up to the race, click here. To everyone who supported me along the way, THANK YOU!

P.S. I ran the Marine Corps Marathon through the Runner’s World Challenge, an online training program that comes with race weekend perks (think private porta-potties and the epic view (above) at the post-race party) at a few big races around the country. As an RW editor, I love going to these events because it gives me the opportunity to meet more inspiring runners! I couldn’t be more thankful for the opportunity. Check out photos from our event here.

Race Report | Walt Disney World Goofy Challenge

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The back of my Goofy Challenge medal.

1 Marathon

1 Half-Marathon

2 Days, 4 Theme Parks

39.3 Miles

Can’t really believe that I completed that this past weekend at the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend as a Goofy Challenger. What that medal doesn’t include is: two back-to-back 2:15 a.m. wake-up calls, three days of standing at the Runner’s World Challenge booth checking in runners, a late night of bowling with RW coworkers (bowling + runners’ glaring lack of coordination = many, many hysterical gutter balls!), and one epic afternoon appeasing my inner eight-year-old riding Space Mountain and Pirates of the Caribbean at the Magic Kingdom. Busy, busy, busy!

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The RW ladies and Desi Davila. See, I told you she’s so small! I’m a giant compared to her! Ha!

We also stayed at the Yacht Club Resort a.k.a. runner nerd heaven. The place was literally jam-packed with running elites and legends. While I was checking in, 2012 U.S. Olympic marathoner Desi Davila was waiting behind me (!) and yes, I had a small heart attack. What’s new? I saw her again the next day leaving an elevator, and I completely geeked-out at her with word-vomiting excitement. You’d think that I’d be better at handling these brushes with fame, but man, I’m pretty sure I scared her a little. Ooops, sorry Desi! (Thankfully, I ran into her again later that day, and I got the chance to redeem myself and prove that I’m not actually a crazy person.) I have to say, she’s an absolutely awesome (and tiny!) person, and it was incredible getting to hear about her comeback post-Olympic injury. She’s going to dominate once she’s healthy again, I’m sure of it! (Side note: I’ve now officially met the U.S. Olympic Marathon team trio: Desi Davila, Shalane Flanagan, and Kara Goucher. Ahh! I can tell you that they are all such amazing and inspiring women, and I’m so grateful for the opportunities to get to meet them!) I also ran into and spoke with Bill Rodgers for a bit, and I spotted Frank Shorter, too. All in all, it was pretty surreal sharing a roof with these people.

Now, on to the races:

Above all else, the goal for the weekend was have fun and embrace the experience. I wanted to earn all three medals, and it didn’t matter how fast I did it. If I had to give you a time goal, it would be to break two hours in the half and four hours in the full, but that was by no means a serious goal. I’m just a very Type A kind of person, and deep down, I have no ability to just run. I need to work on that – not every race needs to be run for time! Anywho…

The Half-Marathon:

[Pump-up song of the day: “I’ll Make A Man Out Of You” from Mulan]

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The guys wore those hats for the ENTIRE half-marathon.

Despite absolutely dreading waking up at the butt-crack of earliness, thank God I’m the type of person where once I’m up, I’m up. Cait and I (she was doing the Goofy, too) snapped a pre-Goofy photo (left – with coworkers Robert and Jeff), and then we and the other RW Challengers loaded the bus to the start at 3 a.m. I was quickly designated the group’s cheerleader. I blasted Disney songs (and sang along with them!), while I attempted to make my energy infectious and pump everyone up for the race. Heck, we were at Disney World about to run an incredible race, how could you not be ridiculously stoked!?!

Prerace

Cait, Hannah and I trying to look tough before the half-marathon. This was at 4 a.m.

Once we got to the corral, I was flat out giddy with excitement. We got to start within feet of the actual line, and we were spitting distance away from NSYNC’s Joey Fatone and Drew Carey! How cool is that?!? Had I told my 12-year-old self that I’d be this close to a member of NSYNC, I wouldn’t have believed it! Then Mickey Mouse gave us the countdown, a burst of fireworks lit up the sky, and we were off! I ran most of the race with my coworkers Cait and Hannah (who ran a HUGE PR!). (right) Cait and I decided to take it easy and conserve our energy for Sunday’s marathon, running around 8:30 – 8:50 pace the whole way. We made our way toward the Magic Kingdom, passing by loads of costumed characters (my favorite was the Pirates of the Caribbean ship that played music from the movie). Then we turned onto Main Street, and holy wow was it awe-inspiring. The road was packed with screaming spectators as we ran up to Cinderella’s stunning castle. That moment alone made the lonely highways to and from the castle worth it. Hands down. We pushed it to the finish (after nearly running over a crossing armadillo – seriously!), and just like that, we were a third of the way done with the Goofy Challenge. We ran it in 1:54:13. To quote The Big Bang Theory – Bazinga!

The only glitch in the road was that my achilles and heels were totally feeling the last three days of standing. I iced them that afternoon to get ’em ready for day two!

The Marathon:

[Pump-up song of the day: “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King” from The Lion King]

I’ll be honest here – when my alarm went off at 2:15 a.m. again on Sunday morning, the immediate realization that I had to run a marathon (a whole 26.2 miles!) in a couple hours was horrifying. What the heck was I thinking getting myself into this? I turned up the Disney music to shake that feeling away because I’d promised my RW Challengers that I’d be as upbeat and happy on Sunday as I was on Saturday. Oh I just can’t waaaaait….to be kinggggg!

Then come race time, talk about déjà vu. The first eight-ish miles of the race were exactly the same as the half-marathon course, and it was somewhat eery covering the same ground at the same time two mornings in a row. Again, the Magic Kingdom’s stunning views took my breath away, and then… it all came crumbling down…

Around mile 10 (yeah, just 10! 16.2 miles left!), everything below my knees began to ache. My shins, my ankles, my achilles, the bottom of my feet, everything. SO not fun. (My coworkers and I later agreed that this pain might have been caused by the course’s pancake-flatness and subsequently repetitive stride pattern.) It was pretty unsettling to feel that yucky that early in the race, and I wondered, How did I feel so good for the first 18 miles of Steamtown? This was already shaping up to be a very different experience from my first marathon.

As I made my way through the course (it was mostly on highways, punctuated by jaunts through the Magic Kingdom, the Animal Kingdom, the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, Hollywood Studios, and Epcot, all of which were pretty neat to run through), my thoughts shifted toward tweaking my stride to make my legs hurt as little as possible. I also tried so hard to just keep running because I really didn’t want to walk. Let’s just say those middle miles were consumed with thoughts like Why the heck am I doing this? This sucks. Please get me to the next park so I can distract myself. Stop hurting legs! Think positively. There is still soooo much left to go. Can I be done, please? Pretty please? With a cherry on top? Don’t walk, just keep running. Ouch, ouch, ouch. Hey look, there’s Buzz Lightyear! Ouch, ouch, ouch.

Once I reached the Wide World of Sports Complex, I decided I’d walk the water stops from then on. Looking back, I think this was the best decision I could have made, and it was definitely a turning point in my race – not only did it give my legs a break, but the idea of rewarding myself with a walk break and water kept me motivated and moving between stations. I learned that walking is definitely NOT a bad thing in marathons.

finishline

Could not have been happier to finish!

I realized – to my utter relief – that the end was near when I got to Hollywood Studios around mile 23. The crowd support was through the roof, and even though I was still in an epic amount of pain, I started to sense a bit of that “marathon magic.” Pretty fitting that I truly felt that at “the most magical place on Earth,” right? I was overcome with joy at the realization that I and everyone around me were going to finish this thing. I’d compare this feeling to the “runner’s high” – it’s elusive, but it’ll show up just when you need it to! Ahhh it was totally awesome. With renewed energy, I shifted gears and tried to finish as strong as I could. I crossed the line in 3:55:28, and then Bart Yasso snapped this photo of me (right). Despite having a mostly awful race, I don’t think I could’ve been more genuinely happy.

Now that it’s over, I wouldn’t consider this race a bad race at all. First and foremost, I learned to respect the distance. Marathons are not easy. Period. I needed to experience this, and was glad I did. I also learned that you can feel that “marathon magic” even in crappy races, that pace and finishing times are not always the most important thing, and that finishing alone is a huge accomplishment. Lessons (thankfully) learned. Side note #2: How cool is this bling?!? (I spent the rest of the day with these clanging around my neck!)

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The bling – well worth the 39.3-mile effort.

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Now that’s MY kind of racing skirt!

Post-race, I got to celebrate with some of the most incredible runners ever: the Runner’s World Challengers! I mingled with the @TwinsRun twins, Malinda and Leah, who are so passionate about running and Disney it’s contagious. They even raced both days in super-cute costumes! Their outfits rivaled one Challenger’s kilt! (left) I also witnessed a mother and her daughter complete their first marathon together, which was beyond neat as well.

Robert

This guy was responsible for many happy tears from me after the race!

But what managed to bring me to tears was Robert’s race. Robert (right) battled throat cancer last year and came back to break four hours and QUALIFY FOR BOSTON! He was visibly euphoric, and I can tell you that that moment will stick with me forever. We had waited together in the corral before the race, and I can say that words really don’t do justice to describe how kind and wonderful and inspiring this man is. He told us how after treatments last year, he literally started from square one (think only being able to run the length of one side of a block), and then worked his way toward this goal of a Boston qualification. Stories like his remind me of why running is just plain awesome.

Overall, the weekend was an exhausting but exhilarating experience, and I’m pumped to say that marathon numero dos is in the books! Now, time for some rest and then let the Boston training commence!

bib

My bib with our staff trip hashtag #RWGoofTroop. Awesome.

QUOTE OF THE POST: “There are times when you run a marathon and you wonder, Why am I doing this? But you take a drink of water, and around the next bend, you get your wind back, remember the finish line, and keep going.” – Steve Jobs

Disney runners: What was your favorite part of the race?

Read my other Race Reports here

My Dad Is A Runner (And That’s Pretty Freakin’ Cool)

Waaaaay back when I was an elementary school soccer nerd and before I began running seriously, I can remember my Dad and I going for runs together. I can still picture us heading out as the setting Southwestern sun painted our neighborhood a blazing orange hue. We’d tackle the hills together, and I’d race him back down. I doubt we went very far, but I know I loved every second of it. Though my Dad never ran competitively, he’d tell me how he used to take off on impromptu five-mile runs through the snow in Chicago when he was in high school just for the heck of it. I’m sure it wasn’t his intention, but his passion rubbed off on me, and, well, I’ve pretty much been a runner ever since.

Then life kicked in. Between endless soccer tournaments, violin lessons, the arrival of my youngest brother when I was 10, having to deal with my then-insufferable Type A personality, El Paso’s scorching summers, a few extra lbs, stubbornly chronic knee pain, and God knows what else, my dad’s running shoes saw less and less of the roads over the years. And even though he never really expressed it, I’m sure he missed being able to just go for a run.

Around this time last year, his itch to run returned. Taking full advantage of the winter’s cooler temps, my Dad slowly began his build-up. When I was there for break, he could run-walk a five-mile route down the mountain and back. We even went for a 30-minute run together. It was the first time we’d run together in years, and I know I’ll never forget that day. (I actually just teared up thinking about it). Then a few months later in March when I was back at school, I video chatted with my family one night. My mum switched the camera to show my dad, and my jaw literally dropped. Not only did he look fit, but he looked fast. Absolutely incredible. He told me that he’d kept up with his running, and now could run every single step of an eight miler. Witnessing the product of his tenacity as he fought tooth and nail from square one to speedy quick was flat-out awe-inspiring. He even ran a 5-K at my old middle school in 31:36. Not bad for an “old dude.” (Just kidding, Dad!) I physically could not have been any prouder of him.

Come summer, the relentless heat and some yucky medical issues got in the way. Stupid two steps forward, one step back cliche. But when I returned to Texas for this winter break, to my surprise, there was my Dad, eagerly showing me his running log that he’s kept up for the past month. Since I don’t live at home anymore, things tend to slip under my radar on occasion, so I couldn’t have been more thrilled to see that he was right back at it again! And this time around, I can tell you he’s got a fire in his belly to keep up this running streak for good. He’s got his eye on a sub-30-minute 5-K (Ted Spiker, I’ve ordered him to read your blog!), and I secretly hope that he will run the Runner’s World Half-Marathon with me in October. I know for a fact that he can do it. Not an ounce of doubt in my mind at all.

DadTo top it off, he even got to go for a run in the snow again. Mind you, this is a pretty rare occurrence in the desert, so thank you Mother Nature for the spot-on timing of that cold front! (That’s him pre- and post-run with the awesomely goofy grin).

Over the years, I’ve met and read about countless runners with moving and motivational stories. But I can tell you that my Dad’s takes the cake in my world. I’ve run so many tough workouts and races, but I know the effort and perseverance it took for my Dad to get where he is today trumps all of that handily. He’s taught me to never take my fitness for granted and be grateful for every run I have the ability to do. I can only hope that I can be such an incredible influence on my kids one day. And, since no one else in my family runs, that special bond just the two of us share is something I will cherish for the rest of my life. At the end of the day, all that matters is that my dad is a runner, and that’s pretty freakin’ cool. Love ya mucho Dad!

UPDATE: On Saturday, January 26, 2013, my Dad officially broke 30 minutes in a local 5-K race, running 29:41 and placing THIRD in his age group! To top it off, he toughed it out after having the flu just over a week ago! Totally badass. I haven’t been that nervous for a race in a while, and I wasn’t even running, but I audibly squealed and jumped up and down with excitement when I got his text saying he’d done it. AHH! I physically could not have been any prouder of him. When I spoke to him today, I could hear it in his voice that he was still basking in the relief of having accomplished his goal. He also said that he wants to focus on building his endurance so he can run the RW Half-Marathon in October! Sweetness! Do I sense a father/daughter race in our future?!? =) I sure hope so!

Dad sporting his well-deserved age-group bling!

Dad sporting his well-deserved age-group bling! Two thumbs WAY up!

QUOTE OF THE POST: “I have voices inside me that tell me I’ll always feel like a misfit: a tank amid rockets, a redwood among twigs. They remind me I’m caught in a vicious cycle — needing to get faster to get smaller, and needing to get smaller to get faster….With every pound I drop and with every improvement I make, that internal dialogue does get drowned out by the support of others — my wife, my family, my friends, my readers. A pat on the back, a compliment from an unexpected place. And that’s what fuels me to keep pushing.” – Ted Spiker

Who inspires you to run?

Greatest Hits of 2012: This Year’s Highs (and Lows)

Between graduating from college in May, landing my dream job at Runner’s World soon after, and starting my life in the “real world” over 2,000 miles away from home, I’d say 2012 was a pretty darn pivotal year for me personally. Running-wise, I crossed the finish line of my last collegiate race and my first marathon. I got to meet one of my idols, make friends with some of the best bloggers around, and enter the blogging world myself. I ran about 1,500 miles give or take a few. Looking back, this year had SO many highs (and its fair share of lows), all of which helped me grow and develop as a runner. Here’s a look back at my year of running along with what I learned along the way that I hope to apply this year.

After a disappointing senior cross country season, I was determined to turn things around and snag an indoor 3-K PR. Despite having the slowest seed time in the fastest heat at the Patriot League Championships in February, I managed a three-second PR, running 10:22.08. Don’t know why, but I always seemed to find my groove when I raced indoors. Getting over a crappy season to run a solid indoor season was a definite high-point of my senior year.

> You can always bounce back from a slump, so trust that you will break out of it. Stay positive and don’t get discouraged. Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming!

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Just before the start of my final collegiate race – that’s me second from the left.

As pumped as I was coming off of my indoor season, my body and my brain decided three months too soon to call it quits for my outdoor steeplechase season. I tried so hard to fight past the slump–no one wants to have a crappy final season…go out with a bang right?–but come each race-day I just couldn’t pull it together. I was still hitting my splits and feeling great in workouts, but my time (frustratingly) hovered around 11:52 all season… nearly 35 seconds slower than my PR from the year before. Ooof. My coach still sent me to the league championships, and I was so thankful for the opportunity to don my Lehigh uniform one last time (left). Even though my last collegiate race was one of my worst, I couldn’t help but feel incredibly blessed for the ability to run every single season of my collegiate career. Four years, 12 seasons, countless races. Still can’t believe it’s over…

> Cherish every race that you get the chance to run, even the bad ones. Relish the moment, accepting each barrier you have to hurdle along the way. You’ll come out stronger at the finish line regardless of your time or place.  

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A box of costumes arrived at the office one morning, so naturally we had to do our lunch run in them. 

Now, on to bigger, better things! The summer brought my first runs in my life that I got to do just for me. In other words, in my 10+ years of competitive running, I’d never done a run that wasn’t a training run or workout prescribed to me by my coach. Ahh it felt insanely incredible. Rather than following a training plan, I did what my boss calls “secondhand training” – whatever my coworkers wanted to run each day, be it a tempo run or easy four miles in a tutu (right), I tagged along. Most days I even went without a watch. I was content with whatever distance we ran and didn’t get bogged down by our pace. Along the way, I began to regain my passion for running, and it was invigorating.

> Lacking structure and embracing spontaneity when training can be one of the most refreshing things you can do. Shed the watch and daily expectations and just run.

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This moment still gives me chills and will stick with me forever!

Then came my first marathon in October. (You can read my full, nitty gritty recap here!) For the first time in a long freakin’ time, I had a race that came together perfectly – I felt strong and smooth, the uncontrollables worked in my favor, and I hit my best-case-senario goal. BEST. FEELING. EVER! Not to mention I qualified and got into the 2013 Boston Marathon a couple days after! Pure euphoria.

> Practicing a positive mindset and cementing a reasonable game plan for months in advance can make executing it come race day a cinch. Shedding the negative energy during training makes it that much easier to knock it out mid-race. 

Despite my coworkers warning me about about post-marathon exhaustion, I was struck by how much the race sucked the life out of me. I felt like I was back to square one again, out of shape and slow as ever for over a month. So not fun. It wasn’t until the day of the would-be New York City Marathon in November that I had a run where I felt like I was myself again. After such a high post-marathon, the recovery period was a yucky low. Now I know what to expect, and I fully intend to let my body fully heal before I try to run again. Mental note for next time!

> Rest is a good thing. Yes, you might lose some fitness, and yes, it sucks missing out on lunch runs with friends. But you’ll make your next build-up that much smoother and keep injuries at bay. Patience young grasshopper. It’ll pay off later.

I desperately needed to get out of the slump, so I decided to commit to the #RWRunStreak, which means running at least one mile a day between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. I cherish my off days, so taking this on was a big deal for me. But hey, I needed to get back in shape for the Walt Disney World Marathon in January. Not only did I have some of the best runs I’ve had in a while, but it got me back on track, and it was one of the best decisions I made all year. I made it a full 26 days straight, and I couldn’t believe I stuck to it.

> Making a commitment real by telling friends about it on social media or writing it down in your training log can be just the kick in the butt you need to get out the door for a run and stay committed toward reaching a goal. It’s amazing what encouragement you can get from friends.   

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What a year! =) Looking ahead to 2013, I have three marathons on the calendar so far for the spring and, since I’m already a bit top-heavy, I’m only going to run one in the fall. I’m not one to make New Year’s resolutions, but my goal is to get faster and stronger so I can race for time rather than race to finish. I also hope to keep up this blog and start widening my circle of running friends on the web. The online running community is so incredible, and I want to be a part of it! So 2013, bring it on! I’m ready for ya!

What were your running highlights this year?

P.S. This just came up in my Twitter feed. TOTALLY going to try it! Happy New Year’s everyone!

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QUOTE OF THE POST: “When we understand the privilege of what it means to be an athlete, we are in touch with, and rejoice in, our physical, mental, and emotional strengths and our endless possibilities.” – Gloria Averbuch

Putting a Face to a (Social Media) Name

I’m quickly realizing that one of most favorite parts about working at Runner’s World is the opportunity to meet runners from around the country (and world). Between the slew of races and events I’ve attended this fall, I got to meet running blogger extraordinaire Dorothy Beal, and her yogi counterpart Rebecca Pacheco. Between the two of them, I finally got the inspirational kick in the butt to get this blog started. If you’re not already following them on social media (see Twitter handles below), get on it. Stat.

Dorothy first tweeted at me out of the blue to congratulate me after Steamtown. I have to say I honestly didn’t know who she was beforehand, but after “stalking” her blog a bit, I was immediately hooked, especially after watching the motivational video she did for Saucony. Not only is she fast, but she’s fast after having kids! I’m nowhere near ready to have kids of my own, but it’s neat to read about her experiences so I can have an idea of what to expect when I get there. She’s also got one of the most poignant mantra’s I’ve ever heard: I run this body. It speaks to every runner and is powerful on so many levels.

A couple weeks later at the Marine Corps Marathon, we got to meet in person! She was there to interview Shalane Flanagan for her blog, and I was hanging around talking to Shalane’s husband while she was doing a signing for Nissan. I couldn’t believe it when Dorothy recognized me from my Twitter photo. I really didn’t think anyone really followed me on Twitter, so it was awesome when she said she’s enjoyed reading about my transition into the “real world” all summer. We immediately hit it off. We geeked out about Shalane for a bit–Do we seriously get to hang out with her? Ahh!–and then I introduced her to a few RW staffers at our expo booth before she went to interview Shalane. I don’t think I’ve met a more positive person, and it was so cool getting to forge a new running friendship. (The best part? She sent me one of her “I Run This Body” t-shirts that I’d been drooling over for weeks. I love that she gave me the opportunity to be an ambassador for her message!)

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I met Rebecca at a Lucy Activewear event in San Francisco in early November. She’d become friends with one of my (super speedy) coworkers and was recruited by RW to be our yoga expert at the event. Rebecca is so quirky and warm-hearted that it’s contagious. Not to mention the fact that she’s got some seriously mad skills when it comes to yoga. (I’m 100% NOT flexible, so seeing what she’s able to do is even more impressive. I need to be doing more of this.) Plus, she’s a runner, too! Even though we’d just met, Rebecca didn’t hesitate to share insightful words of advice about pretty much everything, from boys to starting this blog. Her words were dose of wisdom I needed to gain some perspective and direction on what I hope to do with my life and career. It’s not every day that you meet someone who can do that over 48 hours. Freakin’ awesome.

Follow Dorothy at @MilePosts and Rebecca at @omgal. Do it now.
QUOTE OF THE POST: “The obsession with running is really an obsession with the potential for more and more life.” – George Sheehan