Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A PR and Wine!

  I ran the Napa Valley Marathon, which I ran in March 2012. It was a very fun race with prizes we rarely have here in the midwest. There wasn't any prize money but there was wine. Yup, the winners received their weights in wine and since I was second woman overall and won the masters division, I won a very large bottle of wine.
     Now, instead of drinking it I decided to keep it and open it when I accomplished a marathon PR. When I returned from California I set the bottle in the front room of the house so every time I walked by it I thought about being able to celebrate the PR and what a good feeling it would be to open that great bottle of wine. The more I thought about drinking the wine the more motivated I was to PR. It got me excited.
      In October 2012 I ran the Chicago marathon. My goal was to run a sub 2:50. The last few miles I had a few things running through my mind. They were "I can do this and show my coach what I am made of. I did this in training all I have to do now is hold the pace. I want to do this for my support crew and finally the celebration of the WINE!!!!" I did not want to have to walk past that bottle again. I wanted it to be mine.
    I ran through the finish at 2:49:02. I exceeded my goal and that night I was out celebrating with my friends, coach and family. We drank wine and I enjoyed my victory.
      A few weeks after the Chicago race I went to Door County, Wisconsin to visit my aunt. Because the weather was so rainey, we decided to go to a winery. As I was enjoying the glass of wine I decided there and then to keep the wine/PR tradition going. So, I bought two bottles (since they were smaller than the bottle I received in California.) Now, when I PR I will send one bottle to my coach, who does not live in the area, and I will enjoy the other bottle myself.
      I feel this "Reward yourself" way of thinking also works when training. I have heard many runners proclaim," When we finish this workout we can get a Starbucks!"or "After I run the 20 miles I can enjoy a big dinner.".Have you ever said this to yourself? I know that warm cup of coffee tastes very good after running when it is below zero. A little motivator can really help along the way.
     I saw this also true with the winter program we had at the running store. For every five times a person came for a run they earned winter gear. We had an average of 30-40 runners every week when it was 5 degrees out. They were dedicated and motivated.
      My motivator is in place.
      I have set my PR, goals and bought the wine.
      Now all I have to do is keep working hard so I can enjoy my wine celebration. I will walk past the two bottles of wine everyday. They will be off the shelf in the fall. That is the plan :) A can taste the victory!!!

Monday, May 13, 2013

A New Beginning

         It is very exciting to start a new training cycle and set new goals. I will be working with my new coach Brett Schumacher. Before I look ahead into the future it is important to reflect upon my experiences of the past and what I have learned.  
       I improved myself as a runner by understanding what I need.  I use to obsess about missing a key workout. You may know the feeling, if I did not do or hit all the times and paces in the training plan then I felt I would not reach my goal. I thought I would be missing a very important piece and therefore the training would be ruined and I would not reach my goal. I now understand that even if you do every workout and hit your times it may not matter if you disregard or try to “train though” an injury that keeps you from toeing the start line of your goal race. After all, if you do not make it to the starting line then training will not matter. My former coach taught me that I could run fewer miles over an abbreviated training period and still hit my marathon goal time. 
       I have also learned that treating my warm up and cool down exercises as optional is very counter-productive. I now know that these exercises/drills that are specific to physical imbalances and weaknesses are very important. They will help keep you injury free and running stronger and faster. Pre- and post-workout drills help keep your form in check and body strong.    
       Finally, body awareness during workouts and races can help you improve both!  Yep, being aware of what is happening with your body during a race can improve your efficiency and your time. Is your chin down? Are your glutes engaged? Are your shoulders up or down, are your arms up around your chest or swinging freely?  Is your jaw relaxed and breathing controlled? All of these things help your body move together and flow more efficiently, which saves energy.    
      After all that I've learned, you might wonder why I have decided change coaches? Communication and coaching experience are the two main reasons. Since I was the first person he has ever coached I felt I needed a person with experience coaching.  He has helped me out more with his chiropractic knowledge than as a coach. The second issue was his growing lack of communication with me.  He was just not explaining what he needed in order to coach me and rather than speaking up he decided to spend less effort on my training plans. So, I decided to move in another direction.
      Now, after a little time off to reflect on my situation, I have solidified my new goals – running a sub-2:43:00 marathon and participating in the Olympic Trials – and  I have turned to Brett to help me achieve them. With my eyes on these big goals I know I must take my training to a new level. I am excited to be working with Brett and for him to help me make my weaknesses my strengths.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The surprising ways of kids…


     I have three children, a daughter and two sons. The sports in which they participate have always been their decisions with the only requirement being that they finish what they begin.  Between all three they have been involved in soccer, swimming, dance, golf, baseball, karate and basketball. Running has never been brought up by any of them as a sport of interest. My daughter would say, "Running is your thing mom, I like swimming." I was cool with that and respected her view. (The only 5K races my kids were ever in was when my husband and I would push them in the baby joggers. I guess they do not remember that!) 
     As my children went back to school last fall my daughter, an 8th grader, announced that she would like to be on the cross-country team. I tried to stay calm as the excitement inside me wanted to burst out. I asked her if she was sure she wanted to do this. She said, “Yes.” Later that day my son, a 6th grader, said that he, too, wanted to give cross-country a try! (Heart be still!) I guess my free choice and not pushing my kids into the sports I like paid off. 
     Cross-country was so much fun to watch. I never ran cross-country so this was a new experience for me. When I watched the meets I would sometimes hide behind a tree so I could cheer quietly as I watched the competition. I would watch my kids running form and would try to figure out if they went out too fast. I would wait and watch to see if they were going to make their big move and pass the person in front of them. I was more nervous and excited than as if I was going to race. I LOVED it.
     The hardest part was after the races. I wanted to support them but not act like their coach. I knew I had hated it when my dad would correct me after my tennis matches. I was just happy they were interested and running. I did not want to ruin a fun thing. I was able to share with them how to keep track of their times and see how each of them can feel a sense of accomplishment when you improved. 
      The last meet of the season will always be a special to me. It was hot and my son had finished his race. He was happy and he ran his last race the fastest of the season. As I was talking with the other parents, I looked and I saw my son running across the field. I was wondering what he was doing. He was running toward his friend who was walking and limping a little.  He friend was last and his head was down and he was walking. It looked like Tyler was giving him a talk. He had his hand on his friend’s shoulder. The next time I looked up he was running with Tyler and smiling as they ran around the corner. Tyler stopped at the final stretch and told his friend to sprint it in and he did. I saw my son jumping up and down as he yelled RUN FAST!!! I was in tears. I could not believe it. Was this really my son? That was one of the proudest moments I have of my son. That night he received a call from the parent of the boy my son ran in. She called to thank him for being a good friend. 
     The season ended and my son said he does not want to run cross-country again next year. He wants to try volleyball!
     My daughter joined the track team this spring and has really enjoyed it. She has asked me if she can do a running camp this summer. Now, as she starts high school, she wants to do swimming in the fall and track in the spring. When I was watching a track meet a few weeks ago I was cheering for the girls in a 400-meter race. One of the parents asked me if that was my daughter running. I said. “No, I just really enjoy watching runners compete.” (They must think I am nuts!)
    I am so happy my kids gave running a try. I did not start long distance running till 5 years ago. I have learned that you can start running at any point in your life. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013



Sorry for taking so long to get the new post written. Writing this post has been difficult. Since returning from Boston, I’ve been busy processing our experience there. Suffice to say my family and I are fine.

     When I look at the picture above so many emotions are happening in my head. Happy thoughts of the day of going to the expo and watching my husband buy his Boston jacket and my kids being able to walk over the finish line. 

      Of course, I also have dark thoughts of "what if" we were standing waiting for my husband to cross the finish line and it was our family that was injured or killed from the blast. This is what I have been going through the last few days. People are encouraging runners and others to wear their Boston gear and be proud but I cannot cover up how I am really feeling and the emotions inside of me.

     I went out to Boston with my three children and husband. My husband qualified for Boston last year and I was so excited for him because it was going to be his first Boston Marathon. We were both signed up and we had plane tickets for the whole family. We were staying in the town of Quincy 10 miles south of Boston at a friend’s house near the beach. As planned, it was going to be a great family vacation.

       Because of some communication glitches with my coach over the past several months (I’ll be covering that situation in a future post) my training wasn’t where I wanted plus, I’ve been suffering from some hip and foot issues.  Consequently, I had developed several alternate plans for my own race and I decided I would just wait and see how I felt and make my decision when the date got closer.

     Traveling to Boston went very smoothly. When we arrived at the house it was so beautiful and just half a block from the ocean. Friday, the day we arrived, it rained all day, which was OK because we got a lot of errands done. On Saturday we went to the expo and my husband got his official Boston Marathon jacket. I really enjoyed seeing him experience the Boston hoopla for the first time. The picture above was right after we left the expo and were heading out to Salty Dog restaurant for lunch which has New England seafood. We walked around and saw Boston. When we were back in Quincy I really enjoyed running along the ocean with my daughter and husband in the afternoon.

     Sunday was nice in the morning but the weather changed a little and it got very cold so we decided to go back to the city and visit the USS Constitution Museum and go on the tour of the boats, which my 9-year-old son really enjoyed. The museum was very interactive and great for all ages. We decided to eat dinner at home and relax that evening.
     This whole time I kept trying to decide what to do. I decided a few months ago not to run with the woman's elite start, which has a start time of 9:30. I was going to do this so I could finish first and then have the opportunity to go back and get the kids so we could go to the finish line and see my husband finish the race. I did not want to run alone so I decided against it. Another option was to not run at all and just go down and watch the runners at the finish line with the kids. Third option was to run the marathon and if at the halfway point I felt my hip I would stop and take the train back to Boston. Finally I decided for the last option. I was excited to experience the morning at the athlete village with Chris (my husband) and to run with my friend (running partner) Paul.

     Monday morning went very smoothly. Took the Red line to Park Street and the busses we ready and waiting for us. It was 6:05. We got right on the busses. On the way to the start we came up with a plan on where to meet up. We would meet at a restaurant across from the Boston Common. The plan was to wait at that location until 2:30 p.m. at the latest. (Chris was planning on running between 3:30 and 4 hours for the marathon.) If we did not meet up then we decided to take the red line home and meet at the house where the kids were spending their time with our 14-year-old daughter babysitting.

     When the bus dropped us at the athletes’ village in Hopkinton we found a spot in the sun and waited around for the start. I met up with my friend Paul.
    At 9:15 we made our way to the start. I was ready. I was going to see what I could do. I wanted to keep my pace between 6:20 and 6:30. First miles were right on 6:30 then 6:20, 6:10, 6:09, 6:10.  Then at mile 10 I could feel discomfort in my right hip. It was not a sharp pain but I knew it was not 100%. Last year after Boston I injured my knee and was out for 6 weeks. I really did not want to risk that for this marathon because the trials window does not open till Aug and training for that is more important. I decided to run to the halfway point and stop. I pulled off the course and started walking and talking with people in the crowd. I noticed I did not go over the timing mat. I quickly ran back on the course and went over it. I ended up running under 1:23 for the half.

   I quickly went over to the train to get back to Boston. I met a guy named Kevin who is also from Chicago. He really helped me. I was upset about having to only run half of the race. He felt I had done the right thing and avoided injury. I was also mentally not ready for this race because of the situation with my old coach and training.

     I got back to Boston and went back to the busses to retrieve my bag. It was 1:30 p.m. so I knew I had to get back to the restaurant to meet Chris. I waited at our meeting spot. I tried to track Chris using my phone and I saw that he was on track for a 4-hour marathon. I thought, "Maybe I could go to the finish and see him." I saw my friend Paul and he said to stick with the plan. It was now 2:30 so I headed to the train. I got on the red line and proceeded to send a text to the kids to let them know that I was on the train and would be home soon. As I got off the train and started to walk back to the house my husband came to pick me up. It turned out he took the train right before me and did not see me standing at our meeting spot. We walked in the door and Chris noticed his phone was beeping. He picked it up and he was getting text messages "Are you ok? Where are you? Are you safe? " We were so confused. We turned on the television and saw what happened. It was shocking. I started to cry. Then the kids started to cry. We hugged and kept on watching. I did not have a computer or internet at the house so all I could do was to text and ask if my friends were OK.

      After about two hours of watching the news we decided we needed to get something to eat. I was getting worried about the kids and what they were feeling and thinking. We went to a restaurant and had dinner. Dinner with the entire family helped a little bit. A few glasses of wine also helped. We went to bed early that night and knew we would see what was happening in the morning.

   We determined that our 2 p.m. flight was on time and because I just didn’t feel comfortable taking the red line, we took a taxi to the airport. The whole mood at the airport was subdued.  There wasn’t the excitement I’ve experienced my other times in Boston.  While there were plenty of folks wearing marathon shirts and jackets, there were few smiles to be seen. When we arrived at the gate a reporter from Chicago’s CBS-TV station asked us about our experiences but we declined to be interviewed on camera because we just didn’t feel right about it.

Normally, this is where our story would have ended… we would have boarded the plane and flown home to Chicago but that was not to be.  Since we were traveling on American Airlines and their entire fleet was grounded because of a computer system malfunction, we rented a car and headed out on the 16-hour drive home to Chicago. 

     But even pulling into our driveway was not the end of the story.  We arrived home on Wednesday evening to severe rainstorms and to top things off; we awoke on Thursday to a flooded basement!

     While I am very happy to have my family home and safe, I am still recovering from the events in Boston. Sleep and getting back to normal have not come easily to the family and me.  In time, I’m sure that we will all make sense of what we have experienced and be better for it.  In the meantime the kids are back in school, Chris is back at work and I’m back training.  Life goes on.  

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Racing during “That Time Of The Month”


OK ladies; let's get this topic out in the open. You all know, our “monthly friend,” the “unwanted guest”, our periods.
     I hope this post encourages you to share your experiences and share how you deal with this dreaded time of month.
     For some reason, “it” seems to always happen when you have an important race or event. Consequently, before every one of my races I usually have a discussion with myself that goes something like this:  “How many days has it been? 28? 30?”  “Will I get it the day of the race?” “If I get it two days before what am I going to do?”
     Personally, I have had two very embarrassing moments in the marathon. Both of them have to do with my period. In one instance the picture of me finishing the Kiawah marathon not only shows a woman in pain but also a woman in a rush to get to a bathroom. The night before the marathon I was having stomach cramps to the point of having to lie down in bed. I contacted my coach and told him I was not sure I would be able to run in the morning. I was very worried. As the evening continued the cramps got better but not 100%. I woke up in the morning and my period had arrived. “CRAP!!!!!” I was so upset. The good thing was that I was prepared and brought some heavy-duty tampons with me. I knew it was going to be flowing so I just hoped the heavy-duty tampons would last till the end of the marathon. I was OK until about mile 18. As I wrote in an earlier post, mile 18 was when I stopped running and was going to give up. With the heat and sweating I felt like the tampon might not be enough. For us older athletes who have had kids let’s just say things do not always stay in place. As I finished the marathon I looked down and I could see blood between my legs. Since I won the marathon, the media was trying to interview me but I told them I did not feel well. But that wasn’t the end of my travails since the house I was staying at was about 1.5 miles away so I started walking with Liz who I was staying with. I only made it half way back to the house when I knew I could not go any longer. I was so miserable. I just wanted to get to a bathroom and take a shower. Knowing my predicament, Liz went back to the house to get the car while I waited and she drove me back. I was so happy after I got all cleaned up. What a day.
     Over the years I have noticed some patterns with my period and running. I feel I run my best when it is about 5 days before my period begins and I run my worse about 3-5 days after it starts. How I run and how I feel are totally different. Before:  I feel bloated, heavy, tired and have cramps 5 days out. After my period I feel lighter and not as cranky. When I do have to run a marathon during it I have found that the Tampax Super Sport work the best for me. If you have found tampon that is better, please share your thoughts with us.     One of the best articles I have found is the link below that describes how your cycles affect your running and what is happening.  

    So, now that I’ve opened the conversation about the special situations we women face running and racing during our periods; what are your experiences and how have you handled the situations?  

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Challenges Of An Amateur Athlete

 BUZZZZZ!  4:30 a.m. My alarm goes off and my day begins. I meet my running group for the morning workout. Workout completed, I am usually back home before 7 a.m. as my husband is walking out the door to work. As I walk in the door my three kids awake and their morning routines have started. I hear all of them talking to me:  “What's for breakfast?”  “I can't find anything to wear!”   I proceed to take the dog out, unload dishwasher, get backpacks ready, and attend to anything else that comes up. At 8 a.m. my two Jr. High kids are out the door walking to school. I now have 40min to take my shower and get ready for the day. At 8:40 a.m. I drive my third grader to school. Returning to the house, I finish another cup of coffee before heading to work at 9:40. From 10 a.m.-3:20 p.m. I manage a local running store. At 3:20 p.m. I drive back to my son's school to pick him up. At 3:45 p.m. I transform into “Bus Driver Mom,” driving to that day’s after school activities; karate, swimming or basketball. Two evenings a week I work at a tutoring agency. At 6 p.m. my husband comes home. Then in the half an hour after the activities have finished we sit down and have dinner as a family. The rest of the evening is usually spent helping my third grader with his homework. We end the day with 25min of reading together.  It is 9 p.m. and all of us usually go to bed at the same time because we are all tired.  Whew!
     Trying to be a competitive runner with big goals almost seems impossible with a husband, three kids and a job. Not only are there time constraints but also the expenses. The costs of race entries, travel, shoes, massages, and nutrition really add up.  
      I do wonder what it would be like if I had all the extras the elites have at the camps they go to. What would it be like to just focus on running? How much would I improve?  They have a team of people that support them financially and overall.  Think of it, to wake up and have your coach at the workouts, someone riding the bike next to you with your fluids and nutrition. Then after the run to have the massages, strength coaches, nutrition advisors and everything you need available.
     Last year when I was training for the Chicago Marathon I was able to get a little hint of what it would be like to have a few extras. Since my coach is also a local chiropractor I was able to have training and workouts not just to make me faster but also injury free. He was able to see me at the track and notice how I felt and observe my running form. It made a world of difference.
     In the back of my mind I always wonder what potential I could reach if I did not have all the other responsibilities of being a mom; if I could train hard and not have to become “Bus Driver Mom” after my workout, and be able to put my feet up and take naps in the middle of the day. 
     Keeping everything in balance is hard. I know everything is not always the way it appears. I know that on the flipside the elite athletes give up a lot. They are not able to spend the time I do with my family and the women elites usually do not have kids and if they do they have to take time off. Their running is their job and maybe if it were to become a job it might not be as enjoyable.
    All of us can play the “what if” game and wonder what things could be like. I try to have the mindset that my daily juggling routine helps to make me a more competitive runner and a more complete person. I love being a mom and I would not trade that for anything. The other day, my son asked me if he could bring the Chicago Athlete magazine to karate to show his teacher and friends. I asked why and he said "Mom you are on the cover of the magazine, you are famous and fast!" The fact that my son is proud of his Mom is the stuff that matters the most.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Are You Coachable?

You are marathon training and out for the 12-mile run scheduled by your coach. It is a beautiful day, your friends are running 20 miles and urging you to continue with them. Peer pressure isn’t just for teenagers!  So, do you abandon your coach’s plan and run the 20 miles with them?
    Or, your running group starts out the workout at a faster than prescribed pace.  So instead of running 8:30 pace you see 7:30 on your Garmin! Do you slow down?
    In a magazine, you read a 5K track workout that says will help you run faster. Do you change your weekly coach prescribed track workout and do the one that is in the magazine?
     When working with a coach and deciding to be coached you really need to ask yourself, “Am I coachable?”  Will you follow the plan that you agreed to with your coach? You need to decide in fairness to yourself and your coach.  After all, if you consistently rearrange the coach’s plan, how will you know if the plan is working if you do not follow it? What is the purpose of having a coach if you do not work together to create a plan that you can follow to reach your goal? So trusting and following the plan are big parts of being coachable.
     Another facet of coachability is being open to learning and new ideas. If you think you know it all or only want to do things a certain way you will not learn from your coach. Sure, it is OK to ask questions and try and understand but it is not OK to doubt. You need to have full confidence in your coach and the agreed upon plan. Like I mentioned in an earlier post, your mind is very powerful so if you doubt your workouts your performance will suffer and so will your training. 
     Communicate with your coach and be honest. All of us want to tell our coach we hit our pace or that workout felt good. This cannot happen all the time. You are not a bad runner or failure because you had a sub par workout. If you are feeling sore, feel an injury coming on or if you just did not hit the workout-prescribed times, you need to have a thorough and honest debrief with your coach. All the feedback and information you can provide will only strengthen the plan and relationship you are building. The stronger your athlete/coach relationship is the more likely you will see success in your running and accomplishing your goals. A good coach will use your feedback to adjust your training plan to keep you on track to be successful without overtaxing your body.  
     When it comes to athletic training, patience really is a virtue and good things will come to those who resist looking for a quick fix.  Don’t get annoyed if you don’t think things are happening fast enough.
    I am afraid that patience is not one of my virtues and I am constantly working to remain patient and understand that even minute improvements in my performance take time.  Don’t expect one workout to bring instant results.  Remember, you and your coach are in it together for the long haul.  Trust, respect and communication between athletes and coaches are what lead to successful performances.

"Progress is rarely a straight line. There are always bumps in the road, but you can make the choice to keep looking ahead." 
Kara Goucher 

Sunday, February 24, 2013



      As you plan your 2013 running year, you are probably asking yourself and your training partners a lot of questions, for instance: “What are my goals?”  “Is this a year to get a coach?”  “How do I know if I need a coach?”  “How do I find and choose a coach?”
      Finding a coach is a little like finding the right running shoes.  I know how that sounds but think about it. Just like running shoes, there are lots of different options but the shoes must fit the runner. After all, for the coach/athlete relationship to be successful you must find someone you trust, someone you can easily communicate with, and someone you can work with.  In the end, you must believe in your coach and your coach must believe in you.  
    Five different coaches have coached me and I believe that each one helped me gain more knowledge and improved my running. In addition, I have been coaching other runners for 5 years and have my USATF (USA Track & Field) and RRCA (Road Runners’ Club of America) coaching certifications. So why do I have a coach? Why don't I just coach myself? Some of the reasons I work with a coach are that my coach holds me accountable, my coach keeps me from over training, my coach helps keep me motivated and injury free.
     Whether you are training for the marathon distance or 5K, there are plenty of different coaching philosophies out there:  more training miles, fewer miles, cross train or not, heart rate training, 2-a-day workouts, more or less speed work, long taper, mobility training and on and on. The real key is how the coach puts all the pieces together creating a unique plan specific to you, the athlete. For instance, I may have the same coach as someone else but each of us probably will be coached differently based on our strengths, weakness and abilities.
       A good coach will assess each athlete and figure out what he or she needs. Now, if your coach doesn’t do that it is time to find a new coach! I have experienced this situation firsthand. I had a coach who believed in high mileage for marathoners. I gave it a try even though my body was giving me negative feedback to the mega-mile program.  Guess what? I got injured.
     Because that coach really believed in his training plan and wasn’t taking my feedback into account, I knew I needed to move on. He just didn’t understand the type of training that I needed to improve and stay healthy. 
      Now I have found a coach that has a top priority of keeping me injury free. It helps that he a chiropractor and a runner. In the past I have hired the well-known coaches with impressive resumes that are also top elite athletes. I did on-line coaching with them. What I realized is that they were not able to see who I really was as an athlete, my strengths and how to push me to overcome my weaknesses. My coach right now might not have written a book or currently coach world-class athletes but I feel he has helped me more than the other coaches I have had in the past.
      Do your research, write down what you expect out of a coach and interview them before starting to train with them. Keep your goals in focus and do what is best for you.  Remember, if the shoe fits…!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013



 It is that time of year again when the running magazines include a special listing of the races that are happening for the rest of the year. It is always very exciting for me to look at all the races and start planning. How do you decide what race to run and what distance?
     Since I am usually training for a marathon I like to do races every few weeks as a way to see where my conditioning is leading up to my goal race. The races I choose are usually part of a hard workout so I don’t taper for these “training races.” Most of the races I do while training for a marathon are 10K or longer. When I am incorporating the race in a long distance workout, I may start with 10 miles at a moderate pace then the 10K race at HM (Half Marathon) or MP Marathon Pace).
      The most important thing to ask yourself is, “Why am I running this race and what is the purpose?” I feel that racing gives you more experience.  For me, doing races helps keep me fresh.  Each race gives you the opportunity to practice pre- and post-race routines. If the race is part of your training for a longer future race, it is a good time to try out nutrition products and trying to eat them while running at that pace.
     The best way to learn racing skills is to race.  For example, I learned the values of “drafting” during races. I never really thought about it until my friend Dan explained that it is always easier to run as a group and even easier when you are following someone when there is a headwind. That’s why you will see groups of racers running together at the same pace during a race. In many races I have run, some of us have talked before or during the race about taking turns leading the pack however, for the most part it seems to just happen. It is an amazing feeling to be working together as a group. If a race has pacers provided I would highly recommend sticking with that pace group especially when you have a headwind. You will save a lot of energy running at the back of the pack. You can always pick up the pace later in the race and leave the group.
      Running tangents is another aspect racing that I like to practice. Before I started racing I thought about tangents while teaching math problems to students. I never thought I would need to think about them while running. A few years ago I learned that the shortest distance around the course is how each race is measured. So rather than measuring wide around corners they measure the shortest distance around corners. So if you do not run close to the line that was used to measure the course you will add a lot of distance to your race, especially the marathon. This is just another example of what I tell my kids, “Math is everywhere!”
      Sometimes the purpose of doing a race is to just have fun and be with friends. It also might be to try something new like a cross country or trail race. It is good to have these kinds of races planned as a way to keep everything in check. I like to do my fun races with my kids and family. 

    Always keep learning, improving and having fun!!!!!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Recovery Boots


Over the past couple of years I have bought a lot of different devices that have helped me recover faster, get rid of an injury and run faster, or at least that is what I thought when I was purchasing the item. I am sure it has happened to many of us where we have bought something and were disappointed with the results.  

In the five years I have been running I have been injured a few times and when I am desperate and want to get back running is when I sometimes get reeled into buying these items.  That’s why I would like to share with you an item I came across when I was injured with shin splints.

In fall of 2011 my goal was to run the Olympic Marathon Trials qualifying time (2:46). However, shin splints were going to keep me from competing in my goal race! I had been running more training miles on tired legs and my running form broke down causing the injury.  I was very upset, to say the least. After completing all of my training and with only one month to go, I knew I had to find a solution.

Being an older athlete I knew that my recovery generally takes a little longer. I had done the ice baths many times but I needed more. So, I searched the Internet for ways to recover faster.
In my frenzied search, I came across a YouTube video showing a triathlete doing a “brick” workout and in between he would get into a pair of thigh-high compression boots to speed his body’s normal recovery process. I have learned that if you want to know about the latest and greatest on recovery and nutrition look to the triathlon world.
After doing my investigation I found out the boots were made by NormaTech. The company’s website showed many athletes that were promoters of the product. It was also very interesting to read the science and technology of how the boots worked. 
I decided to go for it and order the boots. I knew that if I did not like the product I would be able to return it so that helped justify my purchase. Like a child at Christmastime, I was so excited when they arrived.

It’s hard to explain how bizarre I looked in my new compression boots.  Of course, my kids thought they looked funny but I did not care as long as they worked.
I started out at level 4 out of 10 for compression for about 30min. I felt the boots inflate a chamber at a time with 5 total chambers. It did not hurt but I could feel it squeeze my legs and the pulse of my blood moving through. After a few weeks and running a few harder workouts I knew they really made a difference. My legs felt fresh and the inflammation disappeared. I noticed it the most after the race when I spent every day in them for a week! 
In this instance, I feel my purchase was worth the price. With all the bills from doctors, PT and MRIs I had racked up previously, it makes the boots look like a bargain. This is one purchase I continue to use on a regular basis.

To find out more about the Normatech Recovery products here is the link for you to do your own investigation:  

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Mental Imagery

Have you ever done something and felt like you have done it before? You know, déjà vu but at the same time knowing that you really have not done it before.  What was that experience, was it a dream?

Our minds are very powerful and if we train them through visual images, our bodies can perform at a level beyond previous performances. By using imagery many athletes are able to improve sports performance.  They use imagery to develop a strong “mental game” that leads to success.  So, how can we runners develop and use imagery? 

Take a minute; think back to your best race last season.  Picture the race course, see your competitors, try to experience how you felt standing at the start, recall what you were thinking during the last part of your race, feel your reaction as you crossed the finish line.

As you thought about that race, were you able to make the experience “real?” That exercise of recreating your past success was using mental imagery.

After reading about elite runners having success with mental imagery I decided to give it a try. I downloaded Craig Townsend Mind Training For Runners and a few others he had. (www.mindtraining.net) I went in a quiet room and started the session. Townsend counts down from 5 - 1 as I become more relaxed. I visualize a peaceful place and then think about running strong, smooth and in control. He takes me to the start of the race while he continues to give me strong positive messages. I move through the race and imagine everything around me and how my body should feel. I picture looking at the mile splits as I run through the last part of the race and being right on target. Everything seems calm and relaxed around me as I run. It feels like a training run. Toward the end of the race I imagine a finishing time. Each time I repeat the visual race the finishing time is different. I noticed that time became my goal race time when I was closer to racing.  I used this training tool two months before I ran my Chicago Marathon PR. The finishing time I visualized was 2:49. I ended up running a 2:49:02. During the actual race I was so relaxed when I was running. Everything seemed to flow. I had run this race so many times visually in my mind that I allowed my body to relax and not question the pace I ran. 

     I will continue to use the visual imagery technique as I train for my future races. I encourage you to give it a try and to see the results you get. In order for this type of training to be effective you must use the imagery for at least a month. 

 In sport, mental imagery is used primarily to help you get the best out of yourself in training and competition. The developing athletes who make the fastest progress and those who ultimately become their best make extensive use of mental imagery. They use it daily as a means of directing what will happen in training, and as a way of pre-experiencing their best competition performances.   Orlick, Terry

Monday, January 21, 2013

Mental Toughness

      I can see mile marker 18 in the distance. The sun is beating down on me and my legs are feeling heavier with every stride I take. How will I keep going and not quit? If I stop at mile 20 it will be OK because I just ran a PR at the Chicago Marathon 8 weeks ago. It will not matter.
      I started to walk just before mile 20. A woman on the bike who was leading the way said to me
 " You're not going to stop now are you? You are in the lead and will win this marathon. You have at least a four minute lead on the second woman."
      I was in my zone when I was running and I did not even realize I was the first woman. I had been running alone with no one around me for the last ten miles. Then it hit me, " Wow, I could really win this thing... win my first ever marathon. I can do this!"
      After about three minutes of walking I started to run again. The woman on the bike gave me a smile and continued to lead the way. I started to feel better and I saw 6:30 pace on my watch.
     The crowd started to thicken as I approached the finish. People were yelling and cheering for me. As I turned the corner I saw the finish line. I ran through the finishing tape. It was the best feeling ever and I was only a little over a minute off my Chicago PR. I did it!
      I am proud that I have never quit a race or walked off a course. In order to achieve our highest level we all must overcome the negative thoughts that try and take over when we are at our weakest. Preparing mentally before the race will allow you to fight back and achieve your goal.
      There has been a point in every race when I wanted to quit. From the 5k to the marathon I always have that moment when I felt I want to walk off the course or slow down. So how do I get through this rough spot? What works for me is focusing on my goal pace and remembering the times in my training I have successfully run that pace. I tell myself I have done this before and I believe in my training.

Now if you are going to win any battle you have to do one thing. You have to make the mind run the 
body. Never let the body tell the mind what to do. The body will always give up. It is always 
tired morning, noon, and night. But the body is never tired if the mind is not tired. When you were 
younger the mind could make you dance all night, and the body was never tired...You've always 
got to make the mind take over and keep going."

- George S. Patton, U.S. Army General and 1912 Olympian

The body does not want you to do this. As you run, it tells you to stop but the mind must be strong. 
You always go too far for your body. You must handle the pain with strategy...It is not age; it is not diet. 
It is the will to succeed."

- Jacqueline Gareau, 1980 Boston Marathon champ

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Pain. Why We Need It To Improve

       Two years ago I found out I had a blood clot in my right arm caused by a fall off my bike in Colorado, Dehydration and 17 hour car ride home to Chicago. I found out I had to take Lovenox shots in my stomach to help get rid of the clot. I gave myself these shots twice a day for 3 months. When I first started to give myself the Lovenox it really hurt. After about 3 weeks I noticed the shots did not hurt that much anymore. Why was that? Does a person’s body get use to the pain? Does the brain block out the pain? This made me think about running. When we train hard, pain and fatigue sets in. Does our body/brain get used to those feelings of pain and fatigue? In future runs our brain might tell our body that it will be ok because we have felt this pain and fatigue before. The brain allows the muscles to work at a harder level because our training has conditioned it to accept this higher level of stress. I feel this is why it is important to do speed work and to race beyond our limits. The body must be accustomed to this new level of stress and not be shocked by it.

      I always do my races based upon time – a certain pace. I have had a lot of people and  some coaches tell me to race by feel, not time. This approach to racing states that you should not look at your Garmin for your pace (or if you don’t use a Garmin you should not be concerned with each mile split). When I started to research this topic I came across an article that explained why racing by feel might not be the best way to run your fastest time.

"The brain always allows a safety buffer that prevents you from running truly as fast as you could and thus risking self-harm. The size of this buffer is influenced by various factors. Basically, the more motivated you are, the smaller the protective buffer you will, and the faster you will run. Competition is a motivational factor that shrinks the buffer. It is also influenced by goals. If you set an appropriate race time goal, you will be able to run races faster than you could if you ran strictly by feel without a number in mind. A race time goal is like an imaginary competitor to race against.''

     After reading that article I feel I have chosen the method to help me run the fastest.
How do you really know you went all out and ran your hardest during a race?  Maybe if you looked at a GPS watch and saw you needed to run faster to hit your goals you would.  I know I do.

Here is the link to the whole article:

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Crossfit Mobility and Strength = Better running form and faster race times

     A week after running the Boston Marathon last year I developed knee pain and could not run more than 3 miles. While searching the Internet for ways to get rid of my knee pain I came across this site http://www.mobilitywod.com/  This guy, Kelly Starlett, had some very interesting information. I saw that it was also a part of Crossfit. Even though I had never done Crossfit I was not running so I thought it might be a good idea to try it. I have heard people both criticize it and rave about it but I did not feel I could place any judgment without giving it a try. I went to Crossfit Glen Ellyn and I felt like I had my own personal trainer. They modified the moves and made me feel very welcome. I did not feel out of place at all. After the workout I started talking to one of the owners and told him about the amazing website I found. He told me one of his instructors, Dustin Dieter, was trained by Kelly Starlett and is very knowledgeable in mobility/injury prevention. I decided to give it a try and set up a time to meet with Dustin.
     During our session I realized how bad my flexibility really was. Dustin gave me three exercises to do. They were the Couch, Hip Floss and Hamstring Floss. I did those three times that day. The next morning I decided to go out and run and see what happens. I was prepared for my knee to hurt at mile 3. I saw three miles on my watch and no pain. I continued on to mile 4,5 and 6 with no pain. I stopped because I did not want to push my luck. I was so happy I was crying! I continued with the exercise routine Dustin gave me and started running everyday. I was also meeting with Dan Albright who is now my coach for other strength exercises. Dan has also helped me stay injury free and get stronger.
     After doing these three exercises and meeting with Dustin for a few weeks I noticed something felt very different with my running. My stride was longer, smoother and more efficient. Everything seemed to flow. I decided to experiment and did not do the exercises for a few days and I noticed my form did not feel as smooth. It was then that I knew I was on to something new and exciting that would change me as a runner. In the past I was working with a multi-joint strength coach in Arlington Heights. She helped me out a lot and I got stronger but I did not feel my form changed. A component was missing in the training she was giving me: the mobility. I also saw that Crossfit was using the same squat that I was taught.  There are so many more mobility exercises out there that can help your form. I feel a runner will have the same experience I did if they find their mobility weakness.  All of us have certain places that are locked up and tight. If you are able to locate where that is you will open up your new running potential.
     Because of this experience I learned that things happen for a reason. You need to look at everything with an open mind and do not judge based on what others have said. Go experience and try it out for yourself. I would like to challenge you to do these three mobility drills. Before you start the drills run in place and see how your legs feel. Then do the mobility exercises and run in place again. See if you notice a difference. Do these mobility exeercises before and after you run. After a week I would like to know if you notice a difference in your form and how you feel when you run. I am looking forward to hearing from any runners who try this out.


This shows the couch and hip.

This shows the hamstring and hip.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

It Happened

I made it happen yesterday in the 5K. The course was long and I could tell you 5 other things that were not ideal but I will stop. In the end I am happy. I was first woman and 2nd overall. It would have been a PR if the course was correct so I am excited to run my next 5K. After this race I went to do a 2 mile cool down and I saw a guy walking with a half mile to go. I ran up next to him and said "lets run this to the finish, I will stick with you". He started to run and we chatted and he sprinted to the finish. It was an amazing experience to help another runner. He was so happy and so was I. After the race I met this other runner and we talked about Crossfit mobility and how it can make you a faster runner. My next post will be about this topic. I am very excited to post about this because I really feel it changed my running form. It has helped me get to the next level. I am leaving from the Florida Keys to go home to Chicago tomorrow. We are driving so I will be posting in a few days. I hope everyone had a Happy New Year.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

How To make It Happen

Time. Where do you find the time? It is too cold out. It is snowing. I slept in. I have family/work obligations. We can find so many reasons why not to run. We can convince ourselves something else is more important. In the end it is really all about finding balance in your life and having a plan to find time for your running. Not only do you need long term goals you need everyday goals to keep from missing your training. My plan will be different from someone else. What works for me or your friend will be different. It is important to customize your own schedule.
I have found that running in the morning works best for me. I have three children and there is something about waking up before everyone and going out the door for a run. When I walk in the door the kids have usually just woken up and the day begins. I do not have that run in the back of my mind all day that I need to get in. It is a really good feeling. The down side to the early morning run is having to wake up at 4:40 a.m. so I will be at the meeting spot at 5:30 a.m. for the run. It takes a few mornings waking up and going to bed at 9:30 p.m. to get your body use to it. So how do you motivate yourself to go outside and run? You run with a friend or group. That is the key. I do not hit the snooze button because I know I have to meet people on the run. I know I will feel worse if I decide to skip it. I have run in the evenings but usually only in the summer. It gets dark out too soon in the winter and too many activities with my kids after school.  
The next thing I find helpful is to have everything ready to go in a certain spot. I set out my running outfit, Garmin, and shoes the night before I run. I also get the coffee and any food ready. It is very hard for me to eat that early so I usually do Cliff Blocks and drink a little coffee to get me going. All of this makes it very easy when you are tired and do not want to wake up the whole house.
I felt this was a good topic to start with since I am writing this blog post as I am trying to think of a reason why not to run this 5K on New Year’s Day. I really want to run it but now I am thinking about all of the excuses I just told you about. It might be windy, hot and a slow course. Maybe I will want to stay out late and party on New Year’s. My legs are feeling a little tired from running and doing all the activities with the family while on vacation. You are not alone when thinking of excuses not to do things. I still do it. I hope that when this posts to my blog that I am running this 5K. I need to remember that every race is not about the finish time.