2016 Boston Marathon Training (T-9) + Break from Marathons + Benefit of Long Tempo

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Last week was the second week in a row where I went 5-for-5 with early morning wakeups (before work). I feel like I’m in a good groove with the mom/work/running balance. I know it won’t always feel like this so I’m trying to make the most of it while things are working well.

I’ve begun to look ahead and think about fall racing plans. I am leaning towards skipping a fall marathon this year. There are many reasons for this. Truth is, usually about 6-8 weeks out from a marathon, I start feeling like I will take a break, but the excitement and happiness from race day is usually enough to have me signing up for the next one. So I know part of my current thought process is affected by my current feelings towards long runs and the amount of time I’ve been dedicating to Boston.

But one of the biggest reasons is that I (currently) do not want to dedicate Saturday mornings for long runs. Now that I’m working out of the home during the week, our weekends, especially during the warmer months, will be when we do things – go to beach, go on day-trips and so on. I don’t want my training to infringe on those plans.

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Social Media + Sponsored Posts + Things I’m Loving Lately

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Blogging has obviously taken a back seat lately. I haven’t written about anything except Boston training here. I’m finding that I can share more frequently via Instagram – photos with short blurbs of tips or lessons learned – that I’m able to do while commuting to or from work. It’s taken place of some of the blogging for the time being. (PS. Make sure you are following me – I’m doing an awesome giveaway later today!)

Prior to working out of the home, I was coaching and blogging as a means to help support my family. When my husband left his job at Hess in Dec 2014, we knew it was going to be a tough couple of years financially. We invested all of our savings into the company that he and his partner bought, he took a salary cut and there is no year-end bonus. So, obviously, I did what I could to bring in money for us. Returning to work was not something that made sense immediately since he was working long hours and traveling to Buffalo (where the company is physically located) very frequently (for a week at a time). It would have been hard to return to full-time work at that point.

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2016 Boston Marathon Training (T-10) + How to Do Speedwork on Treadmill

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I hope you all had an amazing Valentine’s Day with the ones you love! My guys and I got to spend the evening out – all dressed up. It was a great way to spend the holiday!

So we are 9 weeks out from race day. After a less-than-ideal couple of weeks of training, last week was a solid and strong week back. 63+ miles over 7 days of running. Coach and I have left one day mid-week as an optional rest day. Last week was the first week in months where I felt that I didn’t need it. I usually take it because I’m tired from not enough sleep. But, everything flowed so effortlessly last week that I didn’t feel exhausted or that I needed a morning to sleep in. So I skipped the rest day and did an easy run. I definitely think that if time or sleep were not an issue, I would be able to run 7 days a week for a stretch of time. My body responded well to that in the summer/fall. But the reality is that not every week will look and feel like last week did.

Here’s how the week broke down:

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2016 Boston Marathon Training (T-12, T-11)

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Well, after a solid week of training (T-12), last week was the training week that wasn’t. My whole family got hit with the Norovirus. It knocked us on our backs for days. And it wasn’t until Friday where I felt ready to run again.

My husband and I started having symptoms at almost the same time on Monday. He was working from home, I was at work in the city when we started texting each other. We both felt off from the early morning (I actually had dressed and intended to run. Ran to the end of my block and realized something wasn’t right, so came home), but attributed it to what we ate the day before. By lunch-time, my husband wasn’t keeping anything down.

By 4pm, I had gotten sick at work and was on my way home. I was hoping that I would be in the clear for a window of time. Unfortunately, that window only lasted about 45 minutes. I got sick on the packed bus, which will likely remain on my list of embarrassing life moments (thankful my coworker handed me a garbage bag as I was heading home). We spent the next 36 hours in bed, with the most intense stomach pains I’ve ever experienced.

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2016 Boston Marathon Training (T-13)

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Some weeks running and training are seamless and each run goes as planned. Other weeks it takes lots of moving of the puzzle pieces to get the runs in. And other weeks, those puzzle pieces may not fit so perfectly and something has to get tossed.

This past week was the 2nd. I got all the runs in that I planned to, but it took a bi t of finagling and shifting of when and where the runs happened.

6 days of running with a weekly mileage of 60 miles – highest since mid-September. The constant hunger has returned and so in case my mileage didn’t indicate the return to marathon training, the endless calories and meals are a good sign.

There was a lot of treadmill running this week. Not ideal or how I hoped to spend my weekend, but as always, I’m just grateful for the opportunity to still run even when the roads are less than ideal – or the child-watching situation makes it impossible.

As many of you, we got hit with a ton of snow Friday evening into Sunday morning. The last report I saw had Staten Island with the most in the tri-state area – at 31.7 inches. It was a lot. But life went back to normal on Monday – school for the boys and roads mostly open. Running outside is day-by-day right now depending on the temps. If it’s sub-freezing, then there’s too much ice on the shoulders for me to run. Here’s how the week broke down:

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Boston Marathon (2016) Training (T-14)

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Happy Tuesday! Another solid week of training is in the bank. It was a bit of a cutdown week, in regards to miles, but the intensity and effort was at or slightly higher than previous weeks.

But most importantly, my sister had a baby boy this week!! I am an aunt to a beautiful, happy, healthy little boy!!

5 total runs (1 planned rest day, 1 unplanned) for 49 miles. I’m two weeks in to long runs on Fridays – and so far, they are working. I’m still trying to figure out the logistics of longer long runs (for instance, this week I have 18-19 miles so I would need to start around 4am). Not sure about where I’m going to run the miles (maybe break up inside/outside), but I’ll have the details ironed out by the end of the week.

This Friday’s run required a 3:40am wakeup – which was tough because it’s at the tail end of a long work week, BUT, knowing that once it’s done, I get the entire weekend to sleep in and relax with my boys in the AM makes me energized to suck it up and get it done. I tell myself that I can deal with being tired one more morning – and the reward makes it worth it.

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Boston Marathon (2016) Training (T-15)

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Running tends to mirror other aspects of my life. If I have a stressful week, running typically doesn’t go well. If I’m having a good week, running usually adds to the happiness. This past week was filled with so much family, happiness and love – and I feel like my running really showed that.

6 total runs for 57 miles with one planned rest day. This was the first week where I made the decision at the start of the week to take a mid-week rest day – and man, did it feel GOOD. Sleeping in felt great but more importantly, I felt energized for Thursday and Friday’s morning runs, not exhausted or dreading them. So, for the time being, I’m sticking with a rest day (planned for Wednesday but staying flexible with the day).

Here’s how the week broke down:

Monday, Thursday, Saturday – easy miles in the bank
6, 8, 6 miles – all easy paced/recovery runs. Monday’s run was garmin-free and the other two were with my garmin (I averaged 8:18 and 8:20 paces for those two).

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Boston Marathon 2016 Training (T-16)

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Now that I’m formally training for Boston, I figured it was time to bring back my weekly training updates. I like typing them out here. It helps keep me accountable and affords me the opportunity to look back on my training – highlighting the good and bad – as a cycle comes to an end and then again, after the race. I take note of what worked so that I can repeat it and what didn’t work so I make some changes.

After about two months of “coaching” myself, I made the decision to return to Coach Mark Hadley. I had great success with his coaching the last 12 months. He helped me lower my marathon PR to 3:12 – and I know that I have a faster time in me – so I’m hopeful that with his guidance, I can get there.

We are 15+ weeks out from Boston Monday – still a load of time. But I also know how fast these weeks can start to fly by. My focus for the next few weeks is to find what is sustainable. I am so appreciative of all the feedback I received from last week’s post. I read every comment and email – and had some really great suggestions and ideas. In the end, I’ve decided to try the Friday long run for the time being. That, coupled with an optional rest day on Wednesdays and I’m hopeful that the plan is feasible.

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Juggling Priorities and Sacrifices

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Priorities and sacrifices often go hand in hand, especially when it comes to marathoning. If one of your priorities is the marathon, it’s likely that at some point during your training cycle you will have to sacrifice something. Whether that is skipping a party because of a long run the next day, passing on your favorite food because it’s race week or giving up lazy Saturday mornings in bed in order to get a run in before the day starts.

Everyone’s priorities and sacrifices are different. What may be a sacrifice for one runner may be something that means very little to someone else. And another runner may put running at the top of their list while another runner may have a ton of other things that out-prioritize running.

It’s a question of What are you willing to sacrifice in order to reach your goals? But it’s not simple and certainly not black and white. If you were to tell me that I needed to give up wine or chocolate in order to run a certain time, then that would be a major sacrifice for me (and quite honestly, one I’m not willing to give up). It’s also not sustainable for me – I could go maybe a couple of weeks but I enjoy them both too much to go much longer.

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Base Building + 17 Weeks til Boston!

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The period in between training cycles is always a hard time for me. It’s my nature to want to keep moving forward and pushing hard to improve. But, the reality is that although some people can keep up the intensity and mileage each week of the year, neither my body nor my mind can handle it. I need a bit of a break from the routine and following a training plan.

That’s not to say that I am not running or doing speed workouts or even running long. I am. Running makes me happy and it’s the best way for me to start the day and I’ve never been a fan of taking long periods of time off (I find I do much better with easy runs / lower mileage). Right now, it’s very unstructured. I decide what kind of speedwork I feel like doing when it’s time to start. I have a very wide range of miles I hope to hit for my long run (usually 4-6 miles). I allow myself to sleep in if I’m not feeling great, not feeling a run or if the weather is lousy. Rather than trying to get faster or run longer, my focus is more on just maintaining.

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My Army Days

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My army days were some of the most memorable and meaningful in my life.  For those reading that don’t know my background, I attended West Point from 1999-2003 and then served on active duty until July 2009. Ten amazing years, three deployments, countless lifelong friends and finding my husband were all because of serving.

I didn’t even know West Point existed until my sophomore year of high school. No one in my family had gone nor served in the military, so it wasn’t until my older sister started receiving college brochures that it appeared on my radar. I was instantly interested and began researching and looking into the requirements to attend. The summer going into senior year, I was accepted in early admissions, pending a physical fitness test, physical, congressional appointment and successful completion of my senior year.

I almost didn’t attend because I was medically disqualified for two reasons. First, my vision is pretty bad and I was told that it was not able to be corrected to 20/20 vision, even with glasses. Second, I had/have a heart murmur that “could limit” my physical fitness and ability. Thankfully, I went to follow-up doctors and was able to show that I could see 20/20 with glasses and that my heart murmur was benign and would not impact my physical ability.

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2015 NYC Trail Festival 25k

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For weeks, I envisioned myself setting a 5k PR this past weekend. I had found a great, flat 5k course relatively close to my home and with a few 4 and 5 mile tempo runs (during Wineglass training) that were pretty close to my 5k pace (~12 seconds/mile), felt that with the shorter distance, fresh legs and flat course, a 5k PR was well within grasp.

But a couple of weeks ago, the desire to race a 5k started to disappear. The logistics of the race were not as easy as I had anticipated plus I realized it fell on the same weekend as the NYC Trail Festival, a local trail race that I participated in four years ago. I LOVED the race, course and entire experience when I ran it in 2011 – and each year, keep it as a possibility on my race/training calendar. Two years ago, I was making a silly attempt at a marathon PR (in Rehoboth) the same weekend. Last year, my husband and I planned to run the 25k together, but the forecast called for rain the day before and on race day – and since neither of us spend a lot of time on the trails, we were both worried about the slippery leaves and the likely chance of an injury for one or both of us.

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How to Pick a Goal Marathon

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One of the most asked questions I receive via email is what marathon is the best for a first-timer. In my opinion, that is completely up to the individual runner. There are a lot of factors that will go into what makes a race a great race – for you – things like travel, family/friends at event, course, time of year to travel, etc.

Deciding to run a marathon is only a small part of the first step. One of the biggest and most important steps is choosing your goal race – which can be pretty overwhelming since the number of marathons grow each year.

So how do you go about choosing your goal race? There are a ton of factors that have gone into every marathon I have run. I’ve learned that it’s really hard to find a race that satisfies every single criteria I want. So, the order and importance of these factors typically change cycle to cycle. I’ll start with what is the most important to me for my next race and then begin eliminating from there. There have been instances where I want to pick a good course to chase down a PR (Wineglass) and others where I want the experience of the race (Boston) and other times I want a race close to home (NYC).

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Tips for Destination Races

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Last year, my sister and I traveld to Hawaii to run the Honolulu Marathon with the other members of the Saucony 26 Strong team. It was an amazing experience filled with good friends, relaxation, SUN and warmth! Even though it wasn’t a goal race for me, I was anxious and nervous about traveling 11+ hours only a day and a half prior to the start of the race. We flew out on a Friday morning, arrived that afternoon (Hawaii time) and ran the 26.2 miles early Sunday morning.

Between Hawaii, flying out to Los Angeles (~6 hours) for the LA Marathon two years ago and driving (~5 hours) to the Wineglass Marathon last month, I’ve had some experience with destination racing.

Destination races always sound so appealing when you are planning them, but if you are like me, reality sets in as the race approaches about how tough it can be on our bodies. Below are some of the things I did in the days leading up to and during the travel to Hawaii to ensure that I was as fresh and stretched out as possible. Many still apply if you will be traveling by car or other form of transportation.

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Winter Running Necessities: What to Splurge and What to Save

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Running clothes and gear are not cheap. It can be a bit overwhelming if you are newer to the sport, and see all the expensive gear that comes out season after season.

Winter running is no different. Between jackets, vest, hats, gloves, mittens, pants and so on, you can easily go for broke if you jump at every piece of gear that you see advertised.

But dressing for winter running takes some finesse. You need to wear enough layers to stay warm, but not too much where it’s cumbersome or weighs you down. (I shared my clothing tips for winter running ).

The truth is you don’t need to spend a lot of money to run through the winter, but you do need to ensure you have the necessities. So where should you spend your money and where/how should you save?  Below are my recommendations. (Keep in mind that I live/run in NYC so my winter may be different from yours!)

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  • Gloves/Mittens: I started long distance running when I was stationed in Texas and deployed to Iraq. My first winter back in NYC was a huge shock for me. I ran a 15k in Central Park one winter day and can remember actually crying after the race ended because of how cold and numb my fingers were. I had worn the thin gloves that I used while I was in Texas. Lesson learned. I have no qualms these days with spending the money for a thick, insulated pair of gloves and/or a warm pair of running mittens. Protect your extremities!
  • Outer Layer – Jacket: Other than your shoes, this is probably the most expensive piece of running gear you will own. In years past, I assumed a few thin layers would do the trick, but my core always felt cold. I had nothing to protect me from wind, rain or snow. Last year, I bit the bullet and purchased the Saucony Reflex Jacket. At $110, it’s not cheap, but it’s wind and water resistant. So far it has kept me warm on 10+ mile runs in 20 degrees and rain+sleet in 30 degrees.
  • Hat: Again, for years, I assumed that a non-running cheap earwarmer would do the trick and keep my head warm. It didn’t. I was losing so much heat from my head. Once I started sweating, the band got wet and cold. My trick these days (thanks to Jess!) is to wear a running hat with a winter hat on top. It keeps my head and ears toasty warm without being bulky.
  • Good Pair of Tights:  Your legs will only have one layer so ensuring that it’s a good, protective layer is vital!

Ways to Save:

  • Use What You Have: A lot of your summer or fall running gear can be used in the winter. They work just fine as layer pieces. Short and long sleeve shirts, shorts or capris work on the warmer days. Use these as layering pieces to keep your core warm.
  • One good piece: If you run 5 days per week, there is no need for 5 jackets. Purchase one (or two) good ones and use them over and over again. I have one heavy duty jacket, two pairs of tights, gloves, mittens and two hats that are my staples for this winter.
  • End of Season Sales: Amazon and some running sites (such as RunningWarehouse) often carry last year’s line of clothes for a fraction of the cost. Or get in the habit of purchasing ahead. Look to buy next year’s necessities when the brands put them on sale at the end of this season.

(From now until Dec 31, if you use the code “26STRONG”you will get 20% off your entire order of full-priced items from Saucony.com,excluding the EVERUN and Life On The Run products)

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Staying on Track During the Holidays

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This post is sponsored by Wellcoin. All opinions are my own. 

With fall racing season behind many of us and the arrival of colder, darker mornings, it’s easier to choose to stay in bed rather than get up and run or workout or to choose the couch and covers over a nighttime walk or choose a second serving of cake at the holiday party. For years, I dreaded the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year for these very reasons. They were usually my unhealthiest and by the time the New Year rolled around, I’d often be unhappy with how I felt.

I’ve learned that a realistic and manageable approach to exercise, eating and routine can result in a much happier holiday season (for me, it has very little to do with the number on the scale – especially since we don’t have a scale in our house and more to do with how I feel).

Below are a handful of things I focus on as the holidays approach.

  1. Be Realistic: Instead of completely avoiding my favorite foods during the holiday season (my mom’s cheesecake, seven layer cookies and mozzarella-packed Italian stuffing), I am more realistic when I show up to the holiday gatherings. Nothing is off limits, but I first on healthy food (veggies, turkey, sweet potatoes) and then allow myself a serving of cake, cookies or whatever else I want.
  2. Short, Hard Workouts: If you can’t run or make it to the gym for your workout one day, try adding on a few extra miles/minutes the day before. Or if you know you will be pressed for time, substitute a short, hard run in lieu of your planned longer run. I used to be of the mindset that it was a waste to do a shorter workout than the one I had originally planned, but the reality is a 20 minute run will always be better than no run.
  3. Go Early: It may not be easy to wake up early, but it will be over before you know it and you won’t have it hanging over your head for the rest of the day before you attend the parties, dinners or gatherings.
  4. Be Inspired: Wellcoin is one of the best ways to be inspired – whether it’s from someone’s early wakeups to workout, another person’s healthy and delicious lunch or someone else’s good night sleep. Wellcoin provides insight into various aspects of other user’s lives – and allows you to interact with them.
  5. Planned Rest Days: There are certain days during the holidays where I know a run will be tough to squeeze in – and I’m 100% okay with that. I coordinate my training plan for the week around the days I would prefer to sleep in or spend entirely with my family.
  6. Make it a Family Affair: There are tons of local turkey trots and other holiday races this time of year. You don’t have to be in “racing” shape to sign up. Get some friends and family to make a morning out of it. Push the stroller, run with your kids or just walk as a family.
  7. Track Your Activity: I started wearing an activity tracker (Garmin Vivofit 2) last year and it was the best way for me to learn about my activity tendencies. When I’m running high mileage and training, my step count is secondary – the steps will obviously come when I’m running 60+ mpw. But during the holiday season when I’m often not training or running high mileage and taking more rest days, it’s easy to go from being really active to completely sedentary (especially now that I work at a desk all day!). It makes me mindful of long periods where I haven’t moved while also providing some insight in to how much I am really moving throughout the day.
  8. Walk more: Go for a short walk with your family after dinner. There’s nothing as refreshing as a cold winter walk after a big holiday meal. And not only will the exercise be beneficial, but the fresh air will feel great as well.
  9. Drink Water: Holiday parties and family gatherings typically go hand in hand with alcoholic beverages and salty or high-fat foods. These have the tendency to make me feel bloated for days after. Rather than not allowing myself to enjoy it all, I focus on ways to minimize the effects. The easiest is by drinking more water. Not only does water keep you fuller, but it also will help prevent the bloating from overly salty food and alcohol.
  10. Be Easy On Yourself: It’s okay to indulge a bit during the holidays, sleep in when you didn’t plan on it and skip the workout altogether. Don’t beat yourself up if things don’t go as planned. Just be sure not to let that one missed workout cause a snowball effect for the rest of the holidays.
  11. Accountability and Support: There are tons of ways you can hold yourself accountable – friends/family, social media or “healthy” apps, such as Wellcoin.

I’ve been using Wellcoin since the summer – and love the accountability, support and rewards! it provides.  If you are interested in learning more, you can read about my experience with Wellcoin as well as some of the rewards I received.

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A Break From Training

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Are you following me on Instagram? Make sure you are for some fun news and giveaways soon!

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About two weeks ago I decided to take a break with training. Don’t get me wrong – I’m still running most morning and have every intention to train hard for Boston in the spring. But right now, I just need a mental and physical break from being tied to a training plan.

I think it’s partially because I’m adjusting to a new normal for me and my family and I’m trying to find that happy balance where I don’t feel like I’m running myself ragged. I think it’s also partially because I am a bit worn out from a long, hard training cycle. I was pumped up after Wineglass and had plans to put my head down and continue working hard through Boston. But my body, heart and mind are not in it right now.

The truth is, for a few weeks, I didn’t have much of a desire to run long on the weekends. Zero desire to run 8 miles every day. Zero desire to run in the freezing cold.

And I was getting annoyed with myself and frustrated that I wasn’t running the mileage outlined in my training plan.

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Winter Running Necessities

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Last year was the first winter where I can say that I truly ran through the entire winter season. In years past, I start out with the goal of running on the roads, but typically end up doing most of the sub-freezing runs on the treadmill. I strongly dislike cold weather – give me an 85 degree day over 0 any day of the week. But after a few spring marathons where I finished not feeling as good as I wanted or running the times I thought I was capable of, I made a promise to myself to try to learn to love (or at least accept) the colder weather. I wanted Boston to be a strong race and I knew that in order for that to happen, I needed to focus on more running on the roads, regardless of wind, cold, rain or snow.

And so, in the Boston trainup, I did just that. With the exception of one tempo long run, every long run was outside.

And virtually all of my easy or recovery days were outside as well. The speed days were a tossup – I chose the treadmill when I was worried about footing or visibility outside (hard to concentrate on not slipping when you are trying to run as fast as you can). With Boston on my race calendar again, I plan to mirror a lot of what I did last year. The 2015 Boston Marathon was my strongest marathon ever. It was one of those perfect racing days where you run strong the whole way through. The weather was less than ideal, but it was a great day of racing for me.

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Feature on ESPNW + Family Priorities

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A couple of weeks ago, I was contacted by Gina, a photographer for ESPN-W. She was interested in my Army story and potentially wanted to include me in a Veteran’s Day piece ESPN-W was putting together.

Everything worked out and I’m incredibly honored to have been included in this story, even more-so after reading about the other seven female Veterans that ESPN-W chose.

The photo shoot was so incredibly fun. We got to shoot in the rain (you can see the rain if you look closely!) on my favorite trail by my home. Then returned home for some still shots and filmed interview. The hardest part was not smiling and trying to keep a straight face – I am a super smiley person so to force a straight, serious face was not easy for me!

Click here for the article.

Also wanted to wish all the veterans out there a Happy Veteran’s Day! Thank you for keeping my family safe!

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I’ve taken it easy the last few days in regards to running and training. I woke up incredibly tired on Monday, chalked it up to a jam-packed weekend which resulted in little sleep and went out and ran. By Monday afternoon, I had the chills and felt like I had been hit on the head. Tuesday was even worse (so much so that I didn’t even go to work) and still wasn’t feeling great on Wednesday or Thursday mornings – so no running or working out of any kind. I find that the more I run, the more in tune I am with my body. I know when something is brewing and when I need some time off to prevent sickness, overtraining or trying to do too much.

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My “normal” day as a working + running mom

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I am five weeks into my new job and finally feel like I have a rhythm and routine that is sustainable and feasible – at least for the time being. I’m sure there will be obstacles or bumps along the way, but no sense worrying about how I’m going to get around them before they are even in my way.

A lot of readers have asked what a typical day is like for me lately. I wanted to wait at least a month until the dust settled and I had a better handle on the day-to-day routine.  So here goes:

3:45-4:10am: Wakeup. This varies based on the day, type of workout and number of miles I am planning to run. I make it as late as possible to squeeze out even an extra 10-15 minutes of sleep! Monday and Wednesday are usually my speed days and/or longer mileage days, so I tend to get up closer to 3:45 on those mornings.

Coffee. My husband or I set it up the night before, so it’s all ready by the time I make it downstairs. I straighten up, empty the dishwasher and do little things around kitchen until coffee is ready. Some mornings my husband joins me. We sit, drink our coffee and enjoy the quiet morning – and then when I run, he goes up to his office and starts working.

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