Life Lessons Learned From My First Ironman

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Three years ago, today, I became an Ironman. This morning while I drank my coffee in the pre-dawn hours before my run, I spent some time on Facebook and Timehop. All the emotions of that day came roaring back as I looked at friends’ posts on my wall, the comments from friends and family and the amazing photos that my awesome sister uploaded in order to keep everyone updated.

July 28, 2013 was one of the best days of my life – for so many reasons. Obviously being able to call myself an “Ironman” (and have it in my bio ) is a pretty sweet reward. But that day was so much more to me. I know I’m three years removed, but I wanted to share some of the lessons I learned from that experience.

Wait for the fire. There was a marked moment when an Ironman went from being something fun to watch on TV to a fire in my stomach and something I wanted to do. For years, I would watch Kona on TV with my husband and talk about how cool it would be to do one one day. But that was it. A couple of days after the Ironman would air, doing one would be out of sight, out of mind. It was one of those “lifetime goals” that didn’t have any weight to it.

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    My Three-Year Old’s FIRST Race!

    Right before vacation, I shared the details of my oldest son’s first race – the local Father’s Day 5k! The funny thing is that I mentioned in the post (and telling loads others) that the perfect distance for the boys would be anywhere from a 1k to a 1 mile race but that we were hard pressed to find a race of that distance.

    So you can understand my excitement when we found out about a 4th of July Kids Race while we were on vacation. It was only 5 minutes from my in-laws home in Willow, Alaska – and it was a 1K (~.6 miles). My youngest (will be 4 in September) was so disappointed that he was not able to run the Father’s Day 5k. My heart broke for him. He wants to do everything my oldest does – and 99% of the time blows me and my husband away because he is able to. But, I felt that a 5k for him was waaaay too long. I wanted his first race to be something manageable for him. So the 1K was perfect!

    The boys were incredibly excited for the race – and to race with their cousins! We made a stop at Target two days before to get some patriotic shirts for them – and outfits for the girls!

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      Back Home + Alaska Highlights

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      I can’t believe it’s been almost a month since I last updated here! After a crazy couple of months of work, I was beyond ready to have two weeks of vacation in Alaska with my family! With the exception of a day here or there, this was my first real break from work since returning to work full-time in October – and I was oh-so-ready for it.

      To maximize time in Alaska, we chose a late afternoon flight that basically flew through the night and got us in at 1am (Alaska time; 5am – NYC time). To save a vacation day, I worked from home on the day we left – right up until it was time to go to the airport. Remind me never to do this again. The day was beyond crazy. Between getting up at the normal time (4am) to fit in a workout, starting work around 7:30am so I could be finished by 12:30pm and being packed and out the door for the airport by 1:15pm. But in the middle was all the little things I needed to fit in – straightening up, doing one last load of laundry, clearing out the fridge, washing everything in the sink. After two weeks of vacation and a red-eye flight to return home, I knew the last thing I wanted was to walk in to a messy house.

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        My Son’s First 5k + Age and Distance for Kids?

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        On Sunday, my five year old ran his first race – the Staten Island Father’s Day 5k. I honestly had no intention of him or me running this race. Just recently, he has shown an interest in running – and we’ve begun doing some short runs together here and there when he’s up for it or asks me. Most runs are anywhere from 1-2 miles with some short walk breaks in the middle.

        The Father’s Day 5k race has become one of my favorite local races. It’s as local as you can get. We live less than a block from the main road on Staten Island – and the race is an out and back on that main road with the start/finish being one block away from our house (inside an area called Mt. Loretto). It’s that close. It’s well organized, a fun, but challenging route and the logistics make it just too easy to pass up.

        I had casually asked him earlier in the week if he wanted to do the race with me but he said he wanted to next year when he was older. So I left it at that. I won’t push either of my boys into anything that they don’t 100% want to do.

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          Current State of Running + Why I Run Marathons

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          Check out Instagram for a fun summer giveaway by Nathan Sports!——-

          I drafted so many posts the last 4-5 weeks with updates on running, but each time, I was hesitant to share the progress I had been feeling because I didn’t know if it was permanent. I didn’t want to come here and shout that I was feeling great to only feel like garbage two or three days later.

          Even now, I’m cautiously optimistic that I’m finally on the road to recovery. It’s two full months since Boston – 60 days. Almost 9 weeks. I had what I guess you can call my best week of running post-Boston last week. 44 miles with a whooping 13 mile long run. I know it doesn’t sound like much, especially when Timehop reminded me this morning that I ran a 63+ mile week one year ago. BUT, it is a huge improvement for me – given how I have been feeling the last two months.

          To be completely honest, I’m still not 100% sure what caused me to feel the way I did (and still do to a lesser degree). I think it was a combination of a whole lot of things – nutrition, lack of sleep, back-to-back-to-back tough, breakthrough cycles. And so I’ve been working hard to get those things back in check. Vitamins every day. More sleep at night. Naps on the weekend. Lots of rest and recovery.

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            Things I’m Loving (and Not Loving) Lately

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            Hello, hello! Hope you are having a good week so far!

            I received some questions/feedback on InsideTracker, so I wanted to discuss a couple of things here.

            First, I had mentioned that I went to my wellness doctor/nurse (I call her “doctor” but she’s a certified nurse) prior to getting my bloodwork done with InsideTracker. She’s a close family friend who delivered my godson and has a great practice on Staten Island. I visited her the day after Boston because I felt like something was off – I didn’t know if it was nutrition or something else. I didn’t openly talk about it, but the morning of Boston while I was in Athlete’s Village, I started bleeding. This was pretty concerning to me because my period is extremely regular. I get my period every 28 days. I was 11 days early so it made no sense. Jess and I went to the medical tent and I spoke to the doctor – without going to the hospital for tests, there was really no way to tell what it could be. She said it was likely one of three things: an irregular period, pregnancy or a miscarriage – none of which would be affected by my running that morning.

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              Podcasts + Running Mojo is BACK + Upcoming Races!

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              :)

              After feeling “off” for almost three weeks, I was over-the-moon when I started running Saturday morning and realized that I felt GOOD. So good, in fact, that I would have kept running had my sons not had soccer that morning.

              I decided to leave my garmin at home so I could just run and not worry or be distracted by pace. Even though I ran a bit last week, I felt like I was going through the motions. Every step just felt “blah’ and my legs felt heavy.

              I officially jumped on the podcast while running train Saturday. I’ll be the first to admit that I was so hesitant to give this a try. I love listening to music when I run and didn’t know how I would stay motivated to keep moving only hearing an interview or someone speaking.

              But because I didn’t have set mileage or pace on Saturday, I figured it was the perfect time to do it. One of the reasons I was excited to give it a try was because Lindsey was interviewing my good friend, Ashley – and I wanted to listen to the interview anyway – so figured I might as well try it while running! Lindsey started her I’ll have Another podcast a few weeks ago and has had nothing but amazing, fun women on her show. (If you are into the podcast thing, definitely give her a listen!)

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                Can You Really Balance Family, Work and Running?

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                For years, I remember seeing women who juggled successful careers, families and running and thought they had the kind of balance I hoped to one day have.

                I returned to work full-time this past fall after almost five years of being home with my two children. I’ve learned that (for me) there is no balance.

                I don’t know if it can ever be balanced. There will never be enough time in the day. And I believe the phrase “doing it all” is misleading.

                I would love to spend every possible moment with my boys and not miss a school pickup or a soccer practice on Wednesdays.

                I would love to not feel heartache when I am at work late finishing a project for a deadline. Or feel that I should have stayed longer at work rather than rushing home to see my boys.

                I would love to have more time to cross-train, stretch and recover properly from the miles I do run.

                And I would really love to sleep more.

                But I have found a balance in the imbalance. And here’s what I learned:

                I can’t give 100 percent of myself to everything all the time.
                But I can still give 100 percent all the time. It’s just that the 100% is now divided.
                And I can focus 100 percent on what I’m doing THAT moment, whether it’s work, housework, family or running.
                I have to be okay with “good enough” rather than perfection.
                Priorities can shift from one month or week or day to the next. The closer I get to the Boston Marathon, the more important my workouts are. I’ll choose a run over folding laundry or vacuuming the house. Offseason? Running isn’t as high a priority as to other aspects of my life.
                I have to be kind to myself.
                Sleep is always a priority.
                Sometimes, it’s best to do what will make me happiest, even if it may be viewed as selfish.

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                  2016 Boston Marathon Training (T-8, T-7, T-6)

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                  Three week update coming at you today. Life, family and a lot of work got in the way of the last two week’s updates. Work has been nuts. But in a really good, challenging and rewarding way. I’m filling in a good number of the responsibilities of a coworker while she is away on vacation – so the days have been packed and long. By the time I get home at the end of the day, spend some time with my boys, have dinner and put them to sleep, I’m ready for bed. I don’t even open my laptop during the week!

                  And the weekends have been filled with lots of family time. My entire family came over last Sunday for an informal dinner and then this past weekend we were in NJ both days – celebrating my mom’s birthday on Saturday at my sister’s home and then taking all the kids to see the Easter Bunny at the Menlo Mall on Sunday.

                  I’m at the point in training where things are clicking, the mileage and intensity feel tough but sustainable (for the short term) and I am experiencing some big fitness gains. My reaction is always to put my head down and keep working. It makes sense, right? But my coach had other plans for me two weeks ago. We skipped a long run in lieu of some extra down time. I think it worked well. I feel energized and rested the last couple of weeks and was ready to run hard for the 1 mile race. Only 4 weeks of hard training left.

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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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                              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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                                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!

                                ———

                                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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                                    Wineglass Marathon Training Update (T-3) + Returning to Work!

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                                    LESS than 3 weeks until it’s time to lay it all out there – getting close!!! I feel like the last 4-6 weeks flew by – just like the end of the summer. School started for my little guys on Monday – Pre-K 4 and Pre-K 3!

                                    I’m also happy to share that I got another job offer this week – and will be accepting! Everything about this job and position feels right to me and I’m over the moon ecstatic to return to work. Most days will be close to 13 hours out of the house (it’s in Midtown East so the commute will be 60+ min in AM and 90+ min in PM) and I know running will have to take a backseat. Not sure what I’m going to do yet in regards with training and racing – I think decisions will be made as we go along and I see how much running I’m able to fit in. But I feel ready to shift around priorities and cut back where I need to.

                                    So, Wineglass is rapidly approaching. We are down to 19 days. 19!!!

                                    Thankfully, I had a pretty solid week of training last week. I felt great, the paces felt comfortable and most importantly, I feel like my motivation and excitement for training has returned. After the last couple of weeks of lackluster running and then my discouraging run/race at RnR VB last weekend, I was beginning to freak out with how poorly I felt. I was worried that those feelings would cause a landslide into the final weeks of training.

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                                      Juggling Family, Work And Life With Long Distance Running

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                                      This post was originally featured on Women’s Running (it can be found here).

                                      Training for long distance races (half marathon, marathon, ultras) is difficult in and of itself. It becomes a whole other challenge when you factor in all the responsibilities many of us have–being a spouse, having children, owning or maintaining a home and/or working a full or part time job.

                                      I had more flexibility with my time before I was married and had kids. It was fairly typical for me to spend a couple of hours each day working out or at the gym. I’d run (with no set training plan–just however far I felt like running that day), cross-train and do some strength or core work.

                                      These days it is a delicate balance to juggle my responsibilities with my training. My “free” time is limited. I no longer have the luxury of running whenever and however far I like. And so, my training has to be adjusted a few ways.

                                      Make each mile count. Gone are the days where I just head out to run with no idea of how long or far I will be out. I’ve been forced to get smarter with my training. I am no longer able to waste my time running “empty” miles. Nowadays, each mile has to matter and every run has to have a purpose. I follow a training plan and ensure that when I leave the house, that run means something to me and my goals.

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                                        Wineglass Marathon Training (T-8, T-7)

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                                        How is it possible that my fall marathon is just over SIX weeks away? That seems so close and between a trip to San Francisco for a good friend’s wedding, school starting, potential start of full-time work for me (more on that later), I know the next few weeks are going to fly by.

                                        Two weeks since my last update. Lots of tough but successful runs that are getting me excited to lay it all out there in six weeks. Here are the highlights:

                                        10 mile steady state miles – Getting comfortable at a moderate pace
                                        First steady state run this cycle. Steady state pace is a tough one for me. It’s slower than tempo but faster than an easy run. You should feel a bit uncomfortable the whole run, but not pushing too hard. You want to get a good workout in but not feel wiped at the end. Goal pace was 7:30-7:40. I tried to stay there but found it was easier to keep pace just under 7:30 (I felt like I was actually fighting my body to keep it above 7:30), so I went with it.

                                        The hardest part for me was jumping into that pace. I typically take a few miles to find my rhythm – my first mile is usually between 8:15-8:30 so to start at 7:30 was challenging – and the hardest mile for me. But, I finally settled in and found a good rhythm. 10 total miles – 7:26 pace. Splits: 7:29, 7:29, 7:26, 7:28, 7:26, 7:23, 7:29, 7:22, 7:26, 7:21.

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