Yesterday morning, I ran around our condo trying to remember what one wears for a December 5k in New England. I haven’t run much at all since starting physical therapy in September, and haven’t run in the cold since last November. Totally off my game. I couldn’t find a hat nor gloves, but did locate pants and shoes– and those seem like the critical elements. Fortunately, Grace was better prepared and better trained (she’s been sitting for, like, months).
We got to my brother and sister-in-law’s house five minutes before we needed to head to the starting line, and we reached the starting line two minutes before the race started. Just typing that sentence made me anxious. Yesterday, though, there was nothing to be anxious about. My expectations for any sort of quality athletic performance were nil. I hoped to run as much as I could (and pain-free, at that) but ultimately, girls just wanna have fun I just wanted to enjoy my first 5k with Grace and our family.
Smiling is my favorite.
My parents took that photo of me about half-way through the race and as you can see, I’m all smiles. I took a short walking break after Mile 1 and again at each hill, but was able to run most of the course. Being able to skip the water stop because I had a bottle in my handy stroller console thing sort of offset the challenge of actually, you know, pushing the stroller. Sort of. Being able to see Grace and how much she was enjoying herself made up for the rest.
By the time the finish line was in sight, Grace was sound asleep (strollin’ ain’t easy), but I was still smiling from ear to ear. As I ran from the finish line back to meet my family I couldn’t help but think, I’m baaaaaaaaack.
This has been an incredible and wonderful year, but it hasn’t been an easy year. From sheer exhaustion and an overflowing of emotion, to broken toes and back pain, to managing work life and home life… there have been stretches during this first year of motherhood where I’ve felt like I’m doing the best I can, but simultaneously waiting for the next mini-crisis to crop up. It’s easy to get a little lost in all of that.
And so something like finishing a race– something that used to seem so easy and insignificant– feels like a huge win. One that I really needed. One that I really appreciate.
We haven’t seen the end of sleepless nights or foggy brains. There will likely be more broken toes (if there is a toy on the floor, I will trip over it — I think there is a reason my parents did not name me Grace), lost keys, forgotten appointments and wonky back pain. There is no such thing as work/life balance (sorry, but there’s just not), but it’s still worth trying. And I may never be as thin or fast or fit as I used to be. And that’s okay.
It took me nearly 40 minutes to reach the finish line, but I felt like I had won the whole thing (for the record, I am fairly certain Grace did come in first in her age group). Having our beautiful girl with me made this victory all the more worth celebrating.
We’re in this together, baby. You’re stuck with me.
As I shared shortly after the Dirty Girl Mud Run and approximately fifteen showers, I started following the Couch to 5k program in an effort to get back in the running groove in a smart, sustainable, strategic way (i.e. not in a “Hmm, I wonder how far and fast I can run today?” way).
Going from marathoner to beginner is both exciting and humbling. Humility: that’s sort of my life’s keyword these days.
I’ve run two marathons (Disney and New York: click through for the world’s longest, most emotional race recaps of all time), and yet here I am, proud to be able to string together a few minutes of running at a time.
For the past four weeks, I’ve followed the Couch to 5k plan to a T. I’ve walked when I am supposed to walk, even when that meant passing by a group of bros playing KanJam at the M Street Beach, who took notice of my walk break and started chanting “Don’t give up now!”
I’ve run when I’m supposed to run, and continued to keep my pace right around 8:30/9:00 (solid for a lady who thought she’d always be a 10 minute miler). I’ve resisted the temptation to quit approximately 56 times over the span of each 30 minute workout. I’ve tried to talk myself into quitting, and then talked myself into sticking with it.
Being a beginner is different the second time around. And in many ways it’s more challenging than when I first started running and training with any real purpose seven or eight years ago.
Many of those differences hinge on being a new mother. My hips don’t lie, nor do they move the way they used to move. I have sports bras in three different sizes and yet, on any given day, none of them fit. I often feel a pang of guilt as I head out the door, wondering if I should stay with Nick and Grace rather than being out on the road alone, trying to ignore the KanJammers. The closer I get to home, the more desperate I am to be home. I’m exhausted. I haven’t slept through the night since… maybe, last September? I’m hungry. I can’t find any of my old workout gear. I’m always a bit out of sorts.
But most of the things that feel different this time around hinge on being a regular person who has done what regular people do as seven or eight years lapse: we get older. And the older I get, the more myself I’ve become, for better or worse. For better, I am more confident and self-assured than ever before. I care less who is passing me, or what I’m wearing, or how long it takes me to get where I am going. Mostly because I’m doing my best… just to get where I am going. For worse, well, I somehow managed to both drop and kick my own iPhone during a run last week.
Above all, I am more grateful than ever to be able to run. Running longer and faster each week, especially after months of feeling sort of like an alien in my own body, has been so gratifying. More importantly, I’m learning to make peace with being a perpetual work in progress. I have the deepest appreciation for my body and all that it can do.
I cherish those minutes and miles alone with my thoughts and prayers, especially during a week such as this one, when there is so much going on in our world to be sad, worried and upset about. I am thankful to have an outlet for the stress and anxiety that builds up over the day and follows me home. I am proud to be making time to take care of myself, so I can do a better job taking care of my family.
In life, we get very few chances to begin again. And these days, being a beginner feels just as good as being a marathoner.
Also On Tap for Today:
Fellow fitness enthusiasts in the Boston area: Check out tonight’s episode of Chronicle (7:30PM, WCVB-TV Channel 5) to learn about BMAX, boxing and bootcamp
I’m usually partial to good, clean fun. Mostly because I am lazy and don’t like cleaning up messes. This weekend, however, was a bit of a departure. My sister and I ran our first DirtyGirl 5k on Saturday morning and I swear, I am still smiling. Also: 4 showers later, I am still finding mud in various places. Like way inside my ear.
I’ve participated in one other mud run before, and it happened to be on the same course at the Amesbury Sports Park. Nick and I ran together, and by together, I mean that he blazed ahead and I met him at the finish line six hours 30 minutes after he started his celebration beer. It had rained quite a bit before the event, and the narrow and steep trails felt, welp… super dangerous. People were falling left and right and on one another. The obstacles were fun, but it was hard to run between them due to the thick mud. Basically, I fell from one obstacle to the next. I was happy I participated, but not eager to sign up for another event.
When the folks at DirtyGirl reached out to me, however, I was starting to run again (this was shortly after Grace was born, but before I broke my toe… I think) and was looking for a race to train for. I convinced my sister to join me and figured if nothing else, we’d have fun together. And did we ever.
Before and After (and yes.. that is mud ON MY TEETH.)
I hadn’t run since the whole toe thing, so to say I was undertrained would be an understatement. At the same time, carrying around a 13 lb. baby in a 35 lb. car seat and practicing inversions while she sleeps has paid off, making those climbing obstacles a breeze. I tried my best to keep up with my sister (who actually, you know, works out), but if nothing else, those walking breaks served as great motivation to be thoughtful about future goals and training.
Getting back into shape (whatever that means, seeing as I feel like I am a totally different shape) after having Grace has been humbling, which is both challenging and freeing. The slate is wiped clean, so to speak. After dropping my sister off, I took a ridiculously long shower and then promptly downloaded the Couch to 5k app. Having completed two marathons and countless other races, it bruises my ego a bit to think of myself as a beginner, but hey… that’s where I am right now. I think my new mantra has something to do with meeting myself where I am, not where I was. Also: I’m okay, you’re okay, we’re all okay.
Back to the mud: At one point, I was doubled over with laugher when my sister looked at me and yelled “AAAAH! You have a mustache!” I had nothing clean to wipe my face with, so on we went. I swear, I laughed for the full 5k. Which explains how I got mud on my teeth. Gross. I have never been so eager to see the professional photos from an event.
I kept thinking, I wish every workout could be this fun. While there can’t always be giant inflatable obstacles and tutu-clad competitors alongside me, I bet infusing some of that playfulness into my training or yoga practice would do some good.
DirtyGirl Mud Run 2014: The Highlights
The course was the perfect balance of muddy, yet still run-able. While I had take breaks to walk here and there (those hills are no joke), you really could run this course. It took us just under 40 minutes to complete the 3.1 mile loop, including obstacles… and two laughing induced asthma attacks.
The obstacles were so much fun. They were challenging, but not impossible and unlike similar events, you can opt-out, if you choose.
No offense, dudes, but there’s just something about an all female event…
The event had a really positive, supportive vibe. Fellow runners cheered one another on and staff and volunteers were helpful and friendly.
From the parking and shuttle bus to the post-race showers and everything in between, the event was so well managed.
My sister and I are already looking forward to next year’s event (we’ve started recruiting teammates and designing our outfits… there may be sloths involved muhaha). To save on your registration to an upcoming Dirty Girl 5k, use the code BLOGFRIEND.
It’s snowing. Again. I made it back to Southie early enough this evening to snag one of the good parking spots on our street (if you’re from around here, you know how we treasure our spots), while Clark claimed his own parking spot. On the sofa. We’re planning to stay put for the rest of the evening, practicing our favorite new duet, “What U Want With My Body.” Clark called dibs on the Gaga parts… so I’m stuck being R. Kelly. Rude.
If you’re looking for something more normal to do this evening, I’ve got an idea… provided you have a bag of buffalo snow laying around. I was first introduced to this magical material at #WFMEtsy, a holiday event hosted by Whole Foods River Street in partnership with Etsy, Boston Handmade and local artists.
After perusing local crafts and meeting vendors at the event, I had the chance to make my own snow globe. As soon as I got my hands on that fluffy, sparkly faux snow, I knew I could make some really fun messes with it at home.
Make your own snow globe
All you need to make your own snow globe… or snow bowl… or snow jar:
Some sort of container (I picked up a few latched jars and shallow cyllinders at A.C. Moore)
A bag of buffalo snow
Random figurines (the weirder, the better)
(Super obvious) directions:
Place figurines in container
Add buffalo snow
Sprinkle some on your dog and transform him into an arctic fairy
New Balance celebrates another season of clear paths along the Charles
If the thought of making your own snow globe picking up tiny scraps of glitter for the next six months sends you running… I get it. And if you’re really running, New Balance has you covered for the fifth winter in a row, having renewed a sponsorship agreement with the DCR to ensure area runners and walkers have clear and safe running paths along the Charles River during the 2014 winter season.
Having trained along the Charles through a particularly snowy and cold Boston winter, I know how valuable this partnership is to our city.
Enjoy those clear paths… while Clark and I enjoy the sofa. And the glitter.
This post is sponsored by FitFluential LLC on behalf of Koss.
Growing up, we opened our stockings before tackling our pile of presents. I always loved the fun of reaching into the toe of those giant socks to pull out Lip Smackers, toothbrushes, card games, and other smaller gifts. With Christmas fast approaching, I’m looking forward to putting together stockings for Nick and Clark (obvi), my secret Santa person (who shall remain nameless) and a few fit friends.
Stocking stuffers for fit friends
Koss Fit Series headphones
Koss’ Fit Series headphones were designed by a team of women (including Gold Medalist Dara Torres) specifically for women. The Fit Series features two models: FitBuds, which are great for everyday use (I wore them on a recent flight and found them super comfortable… and effective at blocking out the snorer seated next to me), and FitClips, clip-style buds ideal for workouts. Available at Best Buy, Walgreens and Walmart (as well as online), these headphones come in a range of fun colors (hello, mint green) and sell for less than $30.
Tech-friendly running gloves
While the only marathon I’m training for this winter is labor and delivery, I’ve spent the last few years logging very cold miles in Boston. Comfortable, wicking gloves with iPhone screen-friendly finger tips made those miles more bearable and are also great for commuters. This pair is from New Balance (here’s a similar pair), but you can find great options at Target, too.
Katie recently sent me one of her adorable (and very wintry!) BAMR band to review. I am forever on a mission to keep my unruly curls and fly-aways out of my face while at CrossFit, and this band certainly does the trick. Like other non-slip bands, the underside is lined with velvet ribbon, which keeps the band in place and prevents the dreaded hair dent. What I love most about the bands, though? One dollar from each purchase benefits Every Mother Counts, an international organization committed to ending preventable deaths caused by pregnancy and childbirth.
With so many different designs and patterns to choose from, you’re bound to find something you a friend will love.
iTunes gift cards (great for fitness apps and new jams)
Digital magazine subscriptions
Nutrition bars, Gu, and other on-the-go fuel
A DIY “race day kit” – include extra safety pins, Chapstick, a small handheld water bottle, etc.
There have always been running shoes I’ve preferred, ones that fit well, ones that I continued to buy out of habit. I recently came to understand, however, the difference between good enough and does this shoe have a fan club I could become vice president of? A few months ago, the kind folks at Saucony sent me a pair of their newly released Kinvara 4s. While I’ve liked other shoes, the Kinvaras feel like they were made for me. And everyone else who is obsessed with them. I can’t tell you how many people have stopped me to ask, “Are those the 4s?” Yes, my friends. Yes.
Past injuries (namely from the time I switched shoes halfway through training for the ING NYC Marathon and finished the race with a fractured foot and overworked tear ducts) have made me reluctant to break from my standbys, whether they’re shoes, or other routines like pace and routes. I occurred to me recently that over the past year or so, I had fallen into a running rut. And a big one at that.
I had forgotten that running is supposed to be enjoyable, something I want to be doing. I’ve been running less, registering for fewer races, and logging measly miles on the road. Sure, I’ve been CrossFitting (still not sure if that’s a word) more, but running and CrossFit do different things for my brain and body. There are times when I need to be out, on my own, soaking up the city, putting distance between me and whatever’s on my mind. Running away from things, running toward other things. There are times when I want to be tested, and times when I want to take it slow. I love CrossFit because I am the mercy of the clock, the weights, my teammates, my coaches. I love running because I am at no one’s mercy. I’m in the driver’s seat (except for when the MBTA bus drivers are in the driver’s seat and nearly run me over, but… whatever).
I was talking to our friend Billy at the South Boston Running Emporium a while back, after picking up a pair of my usual kicks. He mentioned something about getting me into a pair of Kinvaras after the next race. I didn’t pay much attention, knowing old habits die hard, but I wish I had. Here’s what I love about the recently updated Saucony Kinvara:
PowerGrid in heel area for smooth transitions (an upgrade from the 3’s)
Super lightweight and flexible uppers
Roomy (but not too roomy) toe box
And my usual test: perfectly comfortable without socks (just a personal preference… this lady hates socks)
But what I love the most? These shoes make me want to run. I see them in my closet and I want to be outside, dodging pedestrians on city sidewalks and feeling the wind in my side ponytail. Are these the right brand and model for everyone? No. Our feet and running needs are all different (in a good way). But I would highly recommend not settling for a pair that simply does the trick, especially if you’ve got access to a good running store nearby with associates who can properly fit you for the best shoe. Get out of your rut; get out and run.
As a FitFluential Ambassador, I received these kicks at no cost. I was not compensated for this post; my opinions and thoughts are my own. Obvi (I hope).
Friday (I’ve decided to start weekends a bit early and lead with Fridays) was Pen Pal Day!at the middle school where I volunteer. Highlights included a harp performance, breakfast with my seventh grade pal, and an outdoor sing-a-long.
Saturday morning I awoke to find my little herb garden has come alive. As of last check, we have approximately 5 chive sprouts and 600 basil sprouts (the, um, seed packet sort of exploded when I was putting my little windowsill garden together). No sign of the parsley. Rather than watering with a coffee mug (who has a watering can in the city?), which in the past has led to accidental plant drownings, I did a tiny bit of research and have been gently misting the soil each evening with a spray bottle I found in the Target travel aisle for $1.29. Nothing by the best for the sprouts.
I can’t remember the last time I ran outside (except for every, single morning when I sprint across the crosswalk to avoid getting hit by the MBTA bus…. no regard, I tell you!). I decided to skip the treadmill, lace up my Kinvaras and hit the road for a quick and hot run along the Harborwalk early Saturday. I love living right at the intersection of city and sea. Can’t beat those views.
Did I mention it was hot this weekend? Sweating buckets.
I joined Nick to sweat a few more buckets at CrossFit Southie on Sunday morning. As soon as we got back to the condo, we tuned into the Reebok CrossFit Games live feed. Another weekend, another round of incredible Regionals competitors. Between the day’s workout (which I loved) and watching the athletes compete, I took some time to think about what I’d like to accomplish this month. My goal for June is consistency. With work, travel and other good things happening, I felt like a bit of a flake this spring. I didn’t make it to the box as often as I would have liked, and found myself making excuses (namely: I am wiiiiiiped) when I could have been making progress. Even still, I am this much closer to an unassisted pull-up (hello, red band) and have been lifting more weight than ever. Just imagine what I could do if I, welp… showed up more. So that’s the plan: show up more.
Sunday’s workout included bent-over barbell rows, ring rows, ring push-ups (I scaled down to hand release push-ups), double unders and wall climbs. Needless to say, I was feeling the burn. Literally.
First swim of the year!
I got to spend a little quality time with my niece on Saturday night while the grown-ups celebrated my sister-in-law’s birthday. My niece turns one this month, and gets cooler by the minute. It’s just amazing. I love seeing my brother and sister-in-law read to her, and knew this book would be the perfect addition to the baby’s growing collection. It’s called You are my I love you/Tu eres mi te queiro by Maryann Cushman. It is available in English only, too, but I love the bilingual version. Such a beautiful book.
And this is how Clark feels about 91 degrees: complimented, but not interested.
I would love for you to join me in setting a serious goal (no holding back), building community with other women, and getting to the finish line together. This campaign is all about redefining what it means to be beautiful, what it means to be a female athlete, and what it means to support one another.
It’s as easy as setting a goal (for me, it’s finally getting an unassisted pull-up… or six), putting it out there (if it’s on the Internet, it’s got to happen… right?), and working like crazy to achieve it. I’ve heard from other women who are working on improving flexibility, establishing a healthy work/life balance, achieving running-specific goals, and so on. Having a community of like-minded women behind you? Now that’s beautiful.
I encourage you to set up your own profile and join my team (<– follow the link or click the image above), so we can help motivate, inspire, support, and (gently) push one another. Please feel free to share this with friends — the campaign us open to ALL women.
Need a little extra motivation before joining the community? Check out this UA Women video for a little inspiration, or follow the hashtags #whatsbeautiful and #iwill on Twitter and Instagram. I’ll be sure to keep you posted on my progress, and the progress of our team, and hope you’ll join us.
Also On Tap for Today:
Last soccer game of the season
Is it too soon to pack for a (wedding!) weekend away?
I cried at the finish line of the Walt Disney Marathon in early 2011 because it was my first and I didn’t want it to be over. I cried because a smiling stranger was slipping a medal around my neck. I cried because the second I stopped running, everything hurt. I cried because I was exhausted. I cried because I was proud, and happy, and overwhelmed.
I cried at the finish line of the ING New York City Marathon later that same year because I was so grateful it was over. I cried because darkness was setting in, and still New Yorkers stayed in Central Park to cheer us on. I cried because I couldn’t find a taxi, and my foot hurt so badly that I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to walk to my cousin’s apartment. And again, I cried because I was proud, and happy, and overwhelmed.
I never cried at a finish line the way people cried yesterday. What happened– and the resulting devastation, hurt, pain, anger, fear, and mourning– is something that should have never, ever happened. Not at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Not anywhere.
But goodness and healing and hope and love can be found everywhere. You need only to look at the person next to you.
Sending my love and prayers to my city, and to all those affected.