NaBloPoMo Is Here!

For those of you new to this spot on the interwebs, November is National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo) where participants try to challenge themselves to write a blog post every day. Some years I’ve succeeded gloriously, other years I’ve failed before the first week was done.


So today is the first day! And I’m going to do a short wrap-up about my training in October. I completed 250 miles this month! THAT IS INSANE. I did two 60+ mile weeks! I’m tired and sore but I feel GREAT mentally. I’ve had my eating and my exercise on track and those two things help my mood enough that I can control my anxieties and my depression with my own resources. Training has given me the focus I wasn’t expecting and this month has just been great all around.

Of course, I can’t really walk right now because one knee gave me problems yesterday so I weighed heavier on the other leg causing me a shin splint but…BUT…MENTALLY I’M KILLING IT.

I’m hoping November will kick JUST AS MUCH ASS. Both with my training, and with my blogging.

Here’s to NaBloPoMo 2016!


Sometimes the First Mile Isn’t The Hardest.

I’ve said many times that the first mile of any run is the hardest. I mean this in two ways: 1) Because you have to convince yourself to start the run to begin with…you have to get dressed and get out the door. and 2) The older you get the stiffer you are so it takes mile or two (or four in my case) to even loosen up or warm up to settle into a run.

But this weekend? It wasn’t the first mile.

I really love trail running and since I am always meeting friends for the trail runs (there’s always someone needing trail miles this time of year) it’s no problem getting out the door to start the run. It’s easy! Trail running is fun! I get to see my friends and spend time in the woods and for X amount of hours the only thing I can think of is: Where Do I Put My Foot To Keep From Tripping? So the first mile of a trail run is EASY!

But as soon as you’re around 75% in on your desired distance? It gets much harder. Whatever distance that is! If you’re going for a 5-mile run? Everything after 3 starts to be daunting. 10-mile run? Mile 7 starts to get ugly. If you’re going for 20? It’s mile 14. You find that your legs are getting tired and maybe you’re stumbling more because you’re not picking them up as high and sometimes you’re cold and wet and you just want to be DONE.

The course my friend and I had planned for Saturday was 23 miles and when we got to the bottom of our last climb of the day we stopped to stretch and I said, “Okay. I have to be honest now that we’re finally to the bottom of this climb. I spent several miles trying to stop myself from suggesting another climb out so we could cut the run short.”

And do you know what she said? “Me too.”

Turns out we both spent a few miles after that 75% was done, considering a quicker way out and back to our cars. But we both kinda knew that if we suggested it OUT LOUD, we’d both end up cutting the run short so we were trying to convince ourselves to not even pose it as a possibility. It wouldn’t have cut too much off the run and it would have had us doing another terrible climb out, so it wasn’t too hard to resist the urge to take that “shortcut” – but either way. WE WERE BOTH DOING IT. We were both fighting that internal struggle to bail out earlier than we had intended.

Miles 1-17 were easy. It was those last miles where it took all sorts of mental gymnastics to keep from cutting the run short.

Sunday I had a similar issue. I wanted at least 13 miles for the day, but would have loved 16. This was going to mean I’d have to take on some miles after the big group was done and that’s always tough to do. But then I got a panicked text from Donnie that Nikki’s slumber party had run out of donuts, so I had to just leave when everyone else did. This meant I still needed 3-6 miles even AFTER I got home. So, I decided I’d do it on the treadmill where I could at least zone out to a podcast to make it through. I kept moving at home so as not to get too stiff, I got all of the girls fed and then sent home and then I headed to the YMCA where all 6 miles took mental push to crank out.


featuredTwo days where getting out the door was easy. The first 75% of the miles needed were easy. But both days I had to really dig deep to stick with the plan and get the full day’s miles in. I did 40 miles in 2 days and while I’m hurting and sore today in ways I’ve never been sore before (I did 64 miles for the whole week) – I’m super proud because I pushed past those VERY STRONG urges to bail and got all of the miles in that I needed.

But it’s hard. Every part of me was giving me every excuse to cut the miles back…and good excuses too! We had slumber parties and family dinners this weekend. I already had a good high-mile week but was exhausted from wedding and travel stuff from the last week. I NEEDED A NAP. But I stuck it out. I pushed through. And I’m more proud of the last few miles of both days than I am of a lot of running accomplishments.

I guess Dad’s favorite saying applies to race training as well as live: The Journey is the Reward. I know I’ll be proud of myself come race day(s) – but it’s the training days along the way that were hard that are much more of a reward than the race day itself.


Cold Weather Running

I feel like I’ve done a few of these entries before, but every year I change up my arsenal of gear a bit and want to revisit it. So! Here it is…what currently helps me survive running through the winter.

DISCLAIMER: We only get into single digits a handful of times throughout a season, so if you live in a colder climate? This entry will probably just get you through the autumn.

DISCLAIMER #2: I have learned everyone handles cold differently on different parts of their body. I have friends who will be wearing expensive cold-weather running tights and $2 gloves whereas I’ll be wearing capris and $30 gloves because they get cold legs and I get cold hands. All that matters is YOU find what helps YOU stay warm because if you’re not comfortable, you won’t run.

DISCLAIMER #3: I’m not entirely sure that higher cost determines better quality. I’ve spent $40 on expensive running gloves that are only a fraction better than my $2 stretch gloves. Other’s swear differently. My favorite top running layer came from Target. But I spent $60 on my favorite running capris so…it’s hard to tell. Don’t assume higher cost name brands are better, thought. Even if they have 14 tags explaining the tech behind the fabric and why it keeps you warm.

Head to Toe

EARS: One thing I’ve been running with since 2006 (the first and failed time I tried to become a runner) is my Northface Fleece ear wrap. I have a few others I use periodically now, but the Northface one is still my favorite and since it’s old, you can’t buy it anymore. This one is close but fuzzier than the one I have. If you have hair I recommend an earwrap over a hat because it’s insane how hot your head gets when you run.

FACE: Next is something I started using sporadically two winters ago but didn’t leave home without it last year. here is the brand of the original one I bought but Donnie started using them too and we found them in a different brand in multi-packs last year. Those worked fine so don’t feel obligated to use the BUFF brand. You can breathe through them FINE, as a matter of fact, that’s what keeps you warm. A cold face is TERRIBLE. Especially under cold wind. If it was really cold I used two at once. I would get too warm, pull them off my face for awhile and then put them back on. Of course, if it was 20 or below sometimes while they were pulled of my face the moisture in them from my breath would freeze solid, but it only took a few breaths to defrost it and warm my face again. HIGHLY RECOMMEND. Also? You look like a bank robber. A plus.

ARMS/CHEST: I get hot when I run, hence liking the ability to pull down a face buff instead of wearing a balaclava. I feel the same way about my upperbody. If it’s 40 degrees or warmer I’ll wear short sleeves and arm warmers. I tried several pairs but I like the softer fleece-like ones over the spandex-type ones. I do have to grease up my upperarms though because they will chafe me. They’re so easy to deal with if I get hot, which is why I love them. Sometimes I just roll them down around my wrists, other times I cram them in my hydration pack.

Now – if it’s between 30 and 40 degrees I might stick with the arm warmers on the trails where we’re often protected from wind. Also? I hate wearing two layers on my upperbody. HATE. And have yet to find any jackets or pullovers I just love, so keep that in mind.

BUT – if it’s 30 or below I’ll wear a second layer on top. Sometimes it’s a light windbreaker type jacket. They’re not warm but they insulate you pretty well and then pack pretty tight later if you get too hot. But for the teens and single digits? You need warmth. So for those days I wear a pullover that has a half-zip (too help me cool off if I get hot) and then those thumb hole things so you can use your sleeves for your hands to add extra warmth. I even have one that has a thumb hole and then a flip cuff to cover your fingers. (That’s the one I got at Target.) Really nice when it’s REALLY cold.

HANDS: I have yet to find gloves that will keep my hands warm under 35 degrees. Two winters ago my painfully cold hands brought me to tears on occasion, and that was wearing $40 gloves. I think maybe I just get really cold hands. SO! Last winter I invested in a bulk pack of Hot Hands from Amazon it was THE BEST THING EVER. I just wore them inside my gloves and they kept my hands warm for an entire run. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THEM. Some days I used two per hand.


LEGS and FEET: This is the one part I don’t stress about too much. I’m good in capris until below 35 and then I have full-leg running tights, but they’re not that fancy. I’ve worn them over stuff before, if it’s 20 or below. My legs and my feet just get warmed up eventually. I know people though who suffer from painfully cold toes and who wear full-length tights in 45 degrees, and they have specific brands etc that are warmer, but I can’t help you there!

I mean...what's not to love?

Beauty Is In The Eye Of The Girl Who Gets Her Training On Track And Avoids Donuts

I’ve had a good month. My training is basically on track apart from a few blocks of days due to illness and travel. I’ve been watching my sugar intake (I’ll never do one of those detoxes, but because of the emotional instability I suffered even attempting one, I knew sugar was a strong influencer on my moods) and making sure my calories pack the nutrition I need for my training. I’ve been limiting my nightly beers to the weekend or the periodic week night. Nothing whatsoever has actually changed on the scale, but I look in the mirror and like what I see because I like who I am when I’m NOT looking in the mirror.

But man…when I am struggling to find time to be active and the gray mood sets in and I console myself with donuts and beer…I feel with 100% of my heart, mind and soul that I am the ugliest and grossest person on the planet.

Again…the scale doesn’t have to change AT ALL. I don’t even have to have put on any weight to feel like a fat slob. Although I know the cycle well enough to know the pounds will come, but they don’t have to come before I change the outlook on my body. And sometimes the gray moods sets in first and that mood is what keeps me from being active and then that just spirals the whole system towards the individual servings of cake that Publix sells by the cash registers.

The funny thing is, when I’m falling down one of those unhealthy spirals of hatred and shame, there’s a part of me that KNOWS how connected everything is. How I need to be active and avoid these sugar binges and daily beer and that if I don’t…I suffer terribly emotionally. I know this with every logical part of my brain. BUT…if someone (like my husband) reminds me of that I will DENY THE CONNECTION WITH EVERY BREATH.

NO! It’s because I’m missing Dad. It’s because I haven’t gotten any sleep. It’s because our house isn’t selling. It’s because the kids are misbehaving. GOING FOR A RUN WILL SOLVE NOTHING.

YET! Every time I get it all on track and I feel better…those other things are often still there. I only got 5 hours sleep last night. I’ve been missing Dad a lot lately. Our house didn’t sell and is now off the market. All of those things depress me greatly but I can handle them and stay at a more level emotional existence when I’m also working out regularly and avoiding sugar and nightly beers.

So, if you see me and I’m in my gray period and not running and possible hiding in my van and eating donuts…just know there’s no point it telling me to stop with the sugar and go for a run. I’m going to hate myself and hate you for suggesting the thing. BUT IT IS THE TRUTH.

I think I just want my emotions to be more complex that that. I want my body image to be something that relates to a journey and a system of checks and balances but you know what? It’s just very simple. If I avoid sugar and nightly beer and get my workouts in? I can walk past a mirror and think, “Damn, girl. Looking cute!” But if I’ve been getting too much sugar and not being active and having 2 beers before bed…I don’t even like to go in public with my husband because I feel like the only thing anyone thinks when they see us is: What is the prince doing with that troll?

Some people might say it’s all the sugar and I might not argue with that. I’ve learned how sugar affects my mental stability by trying to give it up. I can’t even do those detoxes because the one time I tried I fell into too deep of a depression. This is obviously a sign of how addicted I was/am, but I just can’t give it up 100%. But, I avoid the bowl of chocolate at work and go for the hard candy. I’ve been grabbing Larabars instead of the cheaper granola bars. So I’m keeping under control, but I’m not giving it up cold turkey.

I feel good. It feels nice to feel good. The numbers on the scale haven’t moved and that dress I want to wear in two weeks still has bulges in unflattering places but I like myself in it because I’m feeling good about myself in general. The trick is being aware of that and avoiding the missteps that lead me down the spiral. Yesterday was one of those almost-misstep days. The pressure in my sinuses was killing me so much my eyes hurt and when I don’t feel good I want to eat to console myself. I had a few beers with Sunday dinner which already had me feeling a little sluggish so I did eat more than usual at lunch…but I tried to at least make it healthy binging. I was already considering skipping my Tuesday morning date with the treadmill. Then a friend needed a running buddy and it was perfect because she’s been going through the same stuff – the I NEED A WORKOUT OR I GO CRAZY stuff – so that run kept me from falling into that pit of despair. I’m up early enough now to get my 6 miles in before work, and I didn’t consult my sugar addiction in a dark parking lot last night.

It’s exhausting keeping it in check sometimes. But I have to keep an eye on all of the unhealthy emotional triggers in my life because it kinda all needs to be in balance for me to stay above the gray. I’m glad I’ve been able to do that lately, teeter in the gray direction but shift other parts of my life (maybe get more sleep that night, or eat super healthy) to try to get the whole system back level. I’m not depriving myself of anything, I sometimes have that nightly beer, I sometimes enjoy a donut…but I’m just trying to keep it balanced and continue being active.

Because it feels good to love yourself, you know? That self-hatred thing is exhausting.

I mean...what's not to love?

I mean…what’s not to love?

Running and Gender

I realized something this weekend spectating the Ironman…than this endurance community has really removed a lot of the natural boundaries of gender in my life. Because this community is also my social network, I have just as many male friends as I do female friends…and everyone else in my group could probably say the same. I don’t hang out with my friends and their husbands, I hang out with my friends and their spouses.

This popped into my head as I was eavesdropping on a conversation occurring next to me on Walnut Street bridge on Sunday. A woman and a family member were discussing this hobby of the woman’s husband and she said, “My friends just don’t get how he can leave our family for an entire Saturday to train but I don’t get mad about it. It does frustrate me sometimes, but he’s so good to us when he’s not training I feel like he deserves this Jack Time.”

(I guess his name was Jack. Or maybe his bike’s name was Jack?)

I thought about this for awhile because none of my friends would bring this up since they’re all in the same situation, ditching their families for an entire day for a race, or a training session. We all share stories with each other on how best to train for endurance events and still keep a hold on your role in your family. Men and women. I’ve gone on trail runs and bike rides (although not many of the later) where we discuss this very thing as husbands AND as wives. As Fathers AND as Mothers.

I also have a very equal view of capability. Yes…most race winners are men…but the women aren’t far behind them. And in terms of the people from Huntsville I was spectating on Sunday? The one who finished first was female. She blew my husband’s BEST Ironman time out of the water by almost an hour, and she’s several years older. When I’m thinking about the athletes locally who hold standards to which I could never achieve in terms of endurance or speed…it’s women AND men on the list. My female friends have done 100-milers and Ironman events as often as my male friends. And often they do better than my male friends.

It’s just interesting how I’ve built this network of friends using my running and tri community where my kids go to races and see plenty of women beat their SUPER fast Dad. They see men and women socializing together. They see badasses in both genders digging deep to finish amidst obscene amounts of pain.

There’s still the difference in that most of my female friends are trying to also balance more of the domestic responsibility alongside of training, just like with the rest of the world, but it’s just nice to look around my peer group on any given day and see almost as many men as women and all of us sharing something significant in common. It’s also great to have so many couple friends we see before a race and we honestly don’t know which one is racing the event. It’s conceivable that they both be doing it. It’s happened to us on the receiving end at races before, where our friends ask if we’re doing a race and we respond, “Nope…just here to spectate.”

I guess that’s just an unexpected perk of this social life I’ve built around my running and tri communities…that it’s allowed me to look at situations and be unable to make assumptions based on gender. You look at a couple outside the race world and you might assume the male is the bread winner and the woman is the caregiver. But when you are eating dinner out the night before an Ironman, you’ll see just as many men there to support their wives as you see women supporting their husbands. I saw several men-with-small-kids on the side of the road Sunday cheering for their wives. I saw boyfriends cheering for girlfriends. I saw women flying down the road past a dozen men to dig deep and finish ahead of them all. I saw women weaving around men on bikes and amateur women athletes jumping out of the water ahead of male pros.

Notice this pic from the brilliant Gregg Gelmis of We Run Huntsville…almost as many pink swim caps as green! (They do those because winners are divided by gender so it’s easy to tell in the water if someone might be in your competitive groups. And they all wear bright colored swim caps for safety reasons.)

It’s just an observation, but one I’m glad my kids are making as well, even if it’s in their subconscious. Wesley won’t grow up assuming he’s faster than all girls and Nikki won’t grow up assuming all boys will finish ahead of her, and I like this as a bonus of this life we’re living.