Monday, February 28, 2011


Lately I have been spending a lot of my thinking time about running mantras. I never used to think that these were an important aspect of a regular running regime, but then I considered how many times in a race when my mind was overcome with the thought of how much discomfort I was feeling, and I realized that mantras can be super helpful to a runner in need of motivation. The power of personal inspiration should never be underestimated.

For me a mantra has become particularly important because I am trying to awake my leg speed and soften the self doubt in my mind. When I hit a mental wall, I hit it hard. Allowing myself to continue running as long as I have without a solid inspirational saying has just been like committing adultery on myself. Getting to the point where I feel the discomfort and begin to tire has always been a defining moment for me where I have a history of throwing in the towel and washing away all my hard work. So it is about time for me to get cracking.

According to Robert J Bell in an interview with Runner's World, he holds a PHD and is a certified consultant of the Association for the Applied Sport Psychology, "an effective mantra addresses what you want to feel, not the adversity you're trying to overcome". He also advises that your mantra should be personalized to your needs and should be short, positive, instructive, and filled with words of action.

I never considered expanding the already existing positive reinforcement that I have turned to in the past into a selection of custom mantras to meet my motivational needs. But this is a brilliant idea that I wish I would have realized sooner that will help me better meet my mental needs at different times in training or racing. At times I have turned to the thought that I need to just "have fun" which has been incredibly helpful, or "run soft", and "relax and breathe". Looking back to past races, the times that I felt the most positive post-run or had the best experience while running I was repeating these simple sayings to myself. However, I never thought to consider these phrases my mantras until recently. These phrases are great and they have worked for me in the past, yet I have felt lately that I need more depth to my motivation to be able to push through in all situations.

Deena Kastor repeated "define yourself" in her mind after her coach spoke these words to her before the 2005 Chicago Marathon where she kicked major booty. While Deena Kastor and I are in two completely different racing worlds, the thought of defining myself gives me goosebumps. Maybe trying to channel my biggest running idol will give me the little extra push I have been looking for. Phrases like "embrace speed", "be fierce", and "run like an animal" may all come in handy in the future as well. The amazing power of mantras is that it can be anything that causes inspiration.

Discovering the influence of mantras and their ability to fuel strength at moments of extreme venerability is something that every runner should consider adding to their routine. Exposure to things that provide a little added potency when necessary can make a mentally weak runners, such as myself, feel that much stronger in the end.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Birthday Countdown

It is officially birthday week in my household. March 1st will be my husbands and March 4th is mine and we will both be celebrating our 27th birthdays. Not only have we spent our lives pining away for one another and experiencing all of our greatest moments in life together, but our birthdays are also in the same week. Some may think its quite sick how perfect we are for one another, we just think that we were given lives greatest blessing to have all of lives experiences with your best friend.

With 27 looming around the corner, and my exciting NYC weekend just days away (I'm a so excited about this I cannot even put it into words), I still feel like a kid. I fall down, I cry and whine, and I often make some really big mistakes about the right path for my life. Age has always felt like just a number to me, and I don't feel old. So gray hairs and wrinkles are slowly creeping their way into my life, but the reality of what age actually feels like to me is still a mystery that I have yet to solve.

My body has always cooperated fairly well with me. Yes I've had minor set backs with stress fractures, planter fasciitis, tendinitis, and lost too many toe nails to count, but at a few days shy from 27 I have never felt as strong and competent in my bodily movements as I do at this stage in my life. Maybe its the yoga or even the resistance training, but I have never been more confident in my physical abilities then I am at this very moment.

About 6 months ago I when I was training for the Chicago Marathon I was a hot mess. I knew that my body was reaping the benefits of my grueling workouts, but my mind was constantly questioning my abilities. I would find myself wasting countless hours a day wondering why I ever thought that I would run a 3:15 marathon. All I could think about was that my body was capable of long distances, but only at a leisurely pace that wouldn't mess with my mind. With all the hours of hard work I put into my training, I had lost the race long before I had even headed to the starting line.

While not much time has passed since that fateful race, I feel like it was eons ago. Since then I have grown exponentially in my ability to believe in myself. Sometimes it takes a terrible failure at something that we had great desires for to realize what a putz we are. And I was a putz for sure. No one in my life doubted my abilities, I was the only one who thought that I wasn't strong enough or capable enough to achieve the dreams that I had set for myself. It was self sabotage, and I was a successful saboteur.

Today I am recovering from yesterdays 15 miler in terrible footing. My legs feel great, and my mind in clear. I managed to run progressively, which has been my main focus lately. There are 10 weeks until my half marathon where I am confident that I WILL break 1:30, I will feel amazing doing it (well that is debatable, I mean running fast doesn't always feel good), and I will have a blast doing it. 13 miles at just under 6:50 would have shattered me mentally this time last year, but today while I know that I still have weeks of hard work ahead of me I will do it and it will be amazing.

Steve Prefontaine said something very profound during his short life, that "you have to wonder sometimes what you are doing out there. Over the years I've given myself a thousand reasons to keep running, but it always comes back to where it started. It comes down to self-satisfaction and a sense of achievement."

My personal successes are untouchable by others. I run for myself, and I will as long as my body allows me to do so.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


Last night I did not sleep well. I spent all night tossing and turning with my mind going a million miles a minute. Overcome with worry and anxiety, I was restless.

My dear father took a tumble on Saturday that left him with increasingly uncomfortable chest pains over the past few days. Yesterday he decided that something wasn't quite right and that he needed to make a trip to the emergency room. The moment I got word of his situation, I felt myself overcome with worry. I am a chronic worrier, and when I hear of distress for my loved ones my mind is overtaken by all of the "what ifs" and I make myself crazy.

The health of my parents is something that I have taken concern of as I age. My Dad is an extremely hardworking man. He puts in an insane amount of hours for his work, and has always given his all to provide for his large family. He is a self-made man that has created a wonderful world of success for himself, and I couldn't be prouder of his achievements. With all of the efforts he puts into his career, I often worry about him not having enough time to take care of himself. He lost his older brother that was in his late 50's on Christmas Day of 2009 to a heart attack and his mother was also taken prematurely from a heart attack. So naturally I find discomfort in poor news regarding his health, and I fear that poor family health history is a big black cloud that hangs over us all.

Turns out that he is okay for now, and that he has interior swelling and bruising around his heart from his fall. With a little RNR he should be feeling better in a few days. I feel like God has a way of slowing us down when needed. Sometimes stepping back from our hectic lives seems inconvenient and unnecessary, and we may think that we are capable of handling an excessive amount of responsibility. But our bodies are temporary housing for our eternal spirits, and they are not meant to last forever and withstand the grueling wear and tear we put them through. God lets us know when we are too far stretched, and when the desires of our heart far exceed the capabilities of our bodies.

When the possibility of a tragedy striking close to home touches your life, it can make you really want to spend as much time as possible with those you love. Time is precious, and I know that is the silliest cliche, but it is true. Running is amazing, and I love that it is a part of my life. But family is also great, and if I had to chose between the would always win.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A little bit of mud

You know that you had a good workout when you return home with your legs feeling squishy and covered in mud.

Something about speckles of mud all over my body gives me a warm fuzzy feeling. Is it weird that I like to get dirty when I run? My mom used to hate doing my laundry when I was on the cross country team in high school because I would intentionally splash in puddles and run through murky mud piles, but now that I do special loads of laundry just for my running clothes I can get them as messy as I like.

Todays workout was mile repeats. My knee is no longer stiff and is thanking me for giving it a day to heal, but I still am sporting several bruises up and down my legs that are a bit tender to the touch still. The bruises are not limiting my range of motion or causing any discomfort upon impact or otherwise, so I decided to proceed as usual with my planned workout.

Goal for the day was 4x1600's at 6:25 pace with 800 jogging recoveries. I started the workout heading into the wind that provided a little extra challenge for my first two repeats. My legs felt well rested because I took it easy yesterday, and today I discovered that speed work after a cross train day can provide great results for my body. My splits were 6:26, 6:23, 6:15, 6:05.

I have been doing a lot of progressive runs lately with the intention to be able to maintain and negative split in my coming races. While I meant to take the repeats aggressively, I had a crazy urge on the last mile to give it all that I had left in my legs. I like the feeling of speed coming from my legs and had a great workout today.

Tonight I am craving a shamrock shake from Mickey D's. After a great workout, this is the perfect treat for me.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Runner Down

Yesterday I worked in the morning and decided ahead of time that I was going to run home from work. I feel like running is a great workout and also a great form of transportation, so why not mix the two together every now and then to save time and do the environment a favor by reducing my carbon footprint. It was a great idea, and I was looking forward to it all day.

Sometimes I have great ideas, but in the implementation stage I some how lack common sense and make a great idea go wrong. Yesterdays great plan to run home was one of those "full proof" plans of mine that went a rye. I work in a hotel where I am completely sheltered from the outside world. No windows, just hallway after hallway of beige cement blocks that leave me oblivious to the reality of the world. I had no idea yesterday that the weather took a turn for the worse, that it was snowing and icy and that there were large waves taking over my running path.

I could have checked the weather before leaving, or went to Plan B, but I didn't because I thought that I was a savvy woman who was making the best out of my time. Big mistake. The lakefront path turned into a death trap covered in ice throughout the day, and I had no idea until I was already into my run. My solution was to just continue on and make adjustments to my pace if needed to avoid from slipping.


The highlights from my run:

Awesomeness right?

I made a little misjudgement in my footing and crashed into a cement wall. So embarrassing. Right off of LSD where cars were whizzing by and a biker was about 10 feet ahead staring straight at me as I splattered all over the pavement. Mortified, I got up and ran away as fast as i could not even thinking about the damage that I did to my body. Instead my first clear thought after getting up was "did I rip my new spandex?". It took 10 minutes to realize that my glove had a brand new hole in it and was covered in blood, and another 10 minutes to feel the pain in my knee.

So now I know that when it is icy out, I should consider taking my workout indoors. My husband thinks that I am a hazard to myself because I am always being careless and somehow manage to hurt myself with my lack of common sense. I spent yesterday evening R.I.C.Eing and parked on the couch unable to draw myself away from the Amanda Knox Story on Lifetime.

It is better to take caution when nursing and injury no matter how minor it may be. Today it was best for me to take it easy and turn to a low impact activity, I opted for the elliptical. I would rather spend two days laying low then months in pain because I was too much of a dope to let and injury heal properly. I am hoping to get in some mile repeats tomorrow, but that is a tentative plan for now. With a little RNR today, I am hoping to catch the miracle cure tonight for a pain free workout tomorrow.

Fingers crossed.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Happy Birthday Miles & Chase

Today marks Miles and Chase's 4th birthday. These little guys are my best little buds, and have the most character that I have ever seen in an animal. If you couldn't tell from the photo, they are also deep thinkers with a great taste in fashion.

Training wise this week was an easier one for me. Yesterday I was supposed to head out on my long run for the week, but instead decided that I would rather spend my day parked on my couch eating Swedish Fish and Life Saver Gummies while watching way too many hours of tv. It was a wonderfully pleasant way to spend an afternoon. Since I decided to let myself melt into my couch and become one with my snuggie yesterday, that meant that I would have to get up extra early today to get in my last workout of the week before heading out to church.

It was rainy and windy, which oddly enough are conditions which I enjoy running in. I like the way the rain provides a little extra soothing effect for my mental state, Kenny Chesney says it best that rain "feels like kisses on my skin". And the wind makes for a challenge in one direction, and a little added assistance in the other. Together adding up to one great run where the lakefront path was practically a ghost town.

I got in just over 38 miles this week which was a nice break in mileage for me. Running for 10 days without a rest and working 8 days straight left my legs, and the rest of my body, feeling drained and heavy on Monday. An easy week came at just the right time, and I feel prepared and rested for my 50 mile week ahead.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Fabulously Free Friday

Yesterday was one of the best Fridays that I have had in the longest time. My husband took off work and we spent the whole day hanging out and enjoying life, it was wonderful.

The day started out with him accompanying me to the grocery store, which was practically empty and made for stress-free shopping, and we made a quick stop at Julius Meinl which is one of my favorite local coffee shops. A steaming hot latte is one of the best ways to kick start my day.

I decided to wait until the early afternoon to get in my easy run for the day. To my surprise the hubby made an impulse decision to accompany me for as long as he could. This was an amazing surprise for me due to the fact that while he once was the most amazing runner that I knew and is now plagued with injuries and setbacks that make it extremely difficult to run. We trudged along together at an easy pace for 2 miles before he had to venture back. His company meant more to me then the pace and the afternoon was beautiful, so the ease of those few miles was the last thing on my mind. After we parted ways I picked up the pace quite a bit and got in a 6 miler that left my legs feeling refreshed.

We planned on having a Friday date night all week. Doug has a job that has some amazing perks, and he gets a lot of freebies for various reasons that we tend to use for our dates. There really is no better date then a free one. We bowled 2 free games at 10 Pin Bowling Lounge which is this super touristy "posh" bowling alley that has overly priced cocktails and large crowds located in the heart of the city. This is not a place that we would normally frequent because I have this weird thing about being in massive crowds with intoxicated people, but on a Friday afternoon the place was meant for me with loads of open space and enough fresh air for all patrons.

Doug bowled his highest game ever. I guess all the Wii bowling over the years has been great practice for his real game. What a stud.

He thought that he was the coolest thing since sliced bread. He totally crushed me and did awesome. Since I have the leg speed now in our marriage, he can beat me in bowling for the rest of our lives and I'll call it a fair trade.

I was a wee bit sad however that I can try my hardest and not even break 100. Bowling really isn't my strength. I have no style and usually just walk up to the line, throw the ball, and sit back down with no concern about how many pins I hit. I will never be professional bowler.

After our free bowling we dined at Maggiano's Little Italy where I ate my weight in Lobster Ravioli and totally out ate my hubby as I basically licked my plate clean. We had gift certificates from D's work and dinner for two barely cost us a dime. When food is free it tastes better. He then treated me to the best Mexican hot chocolate in the world at XOCO. The stuff is so thick its basically like a hot milkshake that explodes with flavor in your mouth and creates a warmth in my heart. My mouth is drooling thinking about it right now.

Free dates are the best and carb loading before a long run on pasta and the richest hot chocolate known to man makes for the best Friday night.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Just Deal

Last night I brought myself to tears for a really selfish and stupid reason. Not the good tears that happen when you are so enamored by life that your eyes well up with joy, the other ones that appear in moments of weakness and self doubt.

I woke super happy yesterday, still on a high about jet setting to NYC in 15 days. What made my morning was when I got in the car to head out to the gym and Alicia Keys "New York" song was playing, the perfect way to start my morning. I literally felt like I was floating on a cloud and wanted to skip and whistle down the streets of Chicago on my way to work. I often have down time at work and spend time reading up on my running news online, and yes I know this makes me a totally terrible person. So if you haven't heard by now, the Boston Athletic Association last night announced the new registration details for future Boston Marathons.

They established new qualifying standards that will go in effect for 2013 along with a new policy for registration that prioritizes registration to those who have the fastest qualifying times effective for 2012. Totally fair and reasonable, and the logic of their new system is something that I completely agree with (or at least that is what I am trying to convince myself of today).

But it broke my heart to read this news. I was stupid and didn't believe all the hype last fall about this years race selling out in one day, so I wasn't one of the super prepared persons that waited by their computer the moment registration opened to guarantee my spot. Long story short, I was shut out. Boo for me, but all the people who were smart enough to take care of business in a timely manor are lucky and blessed to have the experience.

I'm a planner and like to always plan 10 steps ahead in life just so that I can always feel prepared. Sometimes this works, and sometimes it doesn't and when it doesn't I often make myself crazy. So I made myself crazy for a few days after the shut out, and then I moved on. Making adjustments to my race plans for 2011 at first seemed overly frustrating and I didn't want to do it. But I did, and it looked like this girl would hopefully get her chance to revisit Boston in 2012.

My crazy spell last night came on because I felt panicked. The new registration bylaws are now prioritizing registration to those who have the best qualifying times first. Last falls Chicago Marathon will be my only valid marathon time when registration opens, and that was a terrible race for me where I barely met the qualifying standard. That means that I would be on the lower end of the prioritized registration and basically am not guaranteed a spot. BIG BUMMER.

I spent the last few days of 2010 getting all my goals and races planned for 2011 and 2012. There are great things that I want to achieve this year, and being shut of from Boston has allowed room for adjusted goals that will make for a better Boston experience. All of my training is centering around a sub 1:30 half and sub 3:10 full marathon this year. I started the year all squared away in my planning, and was excited to see Boston in 2012. But that all changed for me last night. With registration for BM 2012 not even opening for another 7 months, I already begun to stress. I spend time scouring the internet for a local marathon within that 7 month time span so that I could better my chances of my guaranteed entrance for 2012. At one point I even considered throwing all of my plans for this year out the window and trying to fit a marathon in my schedule that was 12 weeks away. Crazy, yes.

Anxiety, stress, worry, every feeling in the world begun to over take me. I cracked. It wasn't until speaking with my husband that I begun to consider that there could be other opportunities ahead for me. He is awesome when I am losing my mind and can say something simple that makes so much sense for the situation and bring me back to reality. His acknowledgement that sometimes Plan A doesn't work out and life continues on so we just have to suck it up and move on to Plan B was not what I wanted to hear, but it was what I needed to hear. I wanted to be coddled, but he knew that would provide a temporary bandaid to a situation that I could let get out of control.

I still spent the night restless, tossing and turning with feelings of uncertainty that things were going to work out as I had hoped. When I got up this morning I revisited my husbands words of wisdom and he is right, and I hate when he is right and I am wrong. Grrrr, it sucks being wrong.

I finally came to the logical decision to not changing my plans for this year. Four weeks into my half marathon plan why would I think that I could just jump into a full marathon in 12 weeks and be as prepared as I would like to be? Most likely it would not turn out well for me, and I would have another race like last fall that left me feeling like this...

gross right? This is the worst picture of me ever taken and basically sums up my Chicago Marathon 2010 experience. BLAH.

My solution was to rock out to Katy Perry's "Firework" for about an hour to boost my spirits. I love that song, and I think she wrote it for me. Like she says:

If you only knew what the future holds
After a hurricane comes a rainbow
Maybe the reason why all the doors are closed
So you can open one that leads you to the perfect road
There are so many amazing races in this world, and I want to experience as many of them as I possibly can. So cheers to the door that leads me down my perfect road.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Self revelation

My workouts needed a face lift this year. I am super boring, and have been sticking to the same rotation of speed work and distance runs for years. I hate New Year's Resolutions, but this year I took a secret vow to myself (which I guess is no longer secret) to challenge myself more and dare to step outside my box of boringness. Life is meant to be enjoyed, and I want my life to be filled with achievements and great experiences. Shutting out the opportunity to experience new things, and even workouts, is limiting myself to the greatness that may come out of being brave. Sometimes my smile is even boring at intensely exciting moments.

Last year I stumbled on a quote by Percy Cerutty that says "you only ever grow as a human being if you're outside your comfort zone". The moment I read this, it resonated with me and ignited sparks inside me. A week later I decided to make a drastic change in my life and pursue a dream that I had always had to become a personal trainer, which was HUGE for me. Really really huge because I had been feeling as if I had lost myself for nearly two years while I continued going to a job that left me extremely unfulfilled and miserable and was in this stagnate state where I just could not make any decisions about anything. All in an instant I basically decided to stop feeling sorry for myself and do something with my life.

Self revelations are amazing. I have not had many in my life, so realizing that my dreams can come true if I really want them to was an amazing moment of growth for me. Setting limitations on my abilities to do anything is silly, I have the power to do anything I desire as long as I allow myself to try. This new self awareness has spilled into every aspect of my life, and has left me feeling happier then ever before. As someone who used to look for the negative in things, I now find myself being optimistic about practically everything. Life is much more enjoyable when you want everyday to be better then the last.

My new outlook on life and experiences has brought new experiences to my training. I find myself now wanting to veer from my training plan and try new workouts. My attitude to training plans in the past was basically that it was a contract, and I wouldn't let myself stray from it. But straying from the plan and doing a new workout that activates my muscles in different way in the long run will do me good. In order to improve fitness, the muscles to to be exposed to different stimuli that allows them to strengthen in different ways.

Today was supposed to be an easy 6 miler, but I have been craving incline running lately and did my easy 6 on a treadmill at 2% incline at 7:53 pace. It felt great. Chicago is flat as a pancake, and I generally hate hills...but we only hate the things that make us uncomfortable and feel out of our element. I like a challenge.

Change= goodness.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Start Spreading The News

Start spreading the news, for my birthday in two week my husband is taking me to the concrete jungle where dreams are made of and theres nothing you can't do...NEW YORK!!! I'm am elated about this, and have wanted to spend some quality time in the Big Apple for as long as my memory goes back. When Home Alone 2: Lost in New York came out and I was jealous of Kevin McCalister and wanted to get lost in an airport and the city that never sleeps, I wanted to be him. Well my dreams are coming true in 17 days when I will be exploring the big city with my bff.

Yesterday my Nike watch broke, and I'm sad about it. I've had it for just over three years and it has been with me for many many miles. The watch still works otherwise, and right now I feel too cheap to fix it so I'm sporting my giganto Garmin Forerunner just because I need to always know what time it is because I am super crazy.

Doug had an exciting afternoon yesterday when the Runner's World t-shirt that he has been anxiously awaiting finally arrived. Blue is most definitely his color. Back in January I blogged about how he was super excited when he made a comment to Runner's World regarding one of their articles and they decided to publish him in notes to the editor. He now considers himself a published writer.

Today was an easy run that I was glad to venture outdoors for because the sun was shining and the weather is quite a bit warmer. I have this weird issue with chronic migraines, and felt one coming on last night and woke with one this morning. I really wanted to get my run in so I decided to take it really easy. When my head isn't feel so hot I tend to do my runs while focusing on my breathing and it eases the discomfort and allows my body to return back to normal functioning at a quicker rate. There is something very therapeutic when you become aware of your breath entering and leaving your body, for me this feeling eases a lot of the tensions that exist in me.

Counting down the days until I get to run through Central Park! A vacation is much needed in our household and I am looking forward to eating my way through NYC.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Sugar Cookies

I am not a great gift giver, and Valentine's Day isn't particularly important in our household. This year I decided that I would use my talents and make the hubby something that I knew would be a hit. Doug has a major sweet tooth that I like to indulge every now and then, so today is the perfect day for his favorite cookie.

Sugar cookies are my speciality. I have a crazy collection of cookie cutters, and I look for any excuse to make this divine little treats. Our freezer is always stocked with my special sugar cookie dough just waiting for the proper occasion to come out. Today is Dougs lucky day.

My culinary background has caused me to create a collection of recipes that are a hit with my family and friends. I have a 23 year old brother that loves these things so much that he sends me harassing text messages demanding that I send him a fresh batch. The beloved sugar cookie recipe was top secret until today when I decided to share it with you. Let it be noted that these ARE NOT a calorie friendly treat, and I refuse to alter the recipe in any way. I know that these are loaded with fat and sugar, and that makes me love them even more.

Britts Super Special Sugar Cookies
2 cups AP Flour
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 cup Unsalted Butter
1 cup Sugar
1 Egg
2 tablespoons Brandy (whole milk is can be an option here)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1. Cream the sugar and butter together in a mixer until the mixture becomes light and fluffy.
2. In a separate bowl while butter is creaming add all of the dry ingredients together.
3. Add the beaten egg, the brandy or milk, and the vanilla to the butter and allow it to incorporate fully.
4. Slowly add the dry ingredients. Mix until completely combined.
5. Before rolling dough out to be cut into shapes, flatten dough in a thick pancake and wrap in plastic. Allow the dough to rest for a short while so that the gluten does not become overworked.
6. Preheat the oven to 350.
7. Roll dough out on a floured surface and cut into desired shapes. These bad boys only take about 8 to 10 minutes to cook. They do not need to be browned to be done, if they brown they may be over done.

Yummy Royal Icing
1 pound Powdered Sugar
2 Egg Whites or 5 teaspoons of Meringue Powder
Water until desired consistency

1. Sift the powdered sugar. Place into mixer with the paddle attachment.
2. Add the egg whites and combine.
3. Add a few tablespoons of water at a time until the frosting becomes your desired thickness.
4. When at desired consistency, turn mixer on high and allow to beat for a minute or until the frosting becomes light and fluffy. It will look like meringue, or a fluffy cloud.

Final step, AND THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT STEP, eat and enjoy.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

My Valentine

So today is Valentines Day Eve. Tomorrow Doug and I will both be working our completely opposite schedules as usual and life will continue as normal for us, but we will still be thinking about one another nonetheless.

Doug and I met in 1997 when we were just 13 years old. At that time I did not care too much for him. My first real interaction with him was when one of my girlfriends had a crush on him and wrote him a love note that he let his friends see, which led to no good. His crew made my friend more embarrassed and self-conscious then the average 13 year old needed to be, so I thought that he was mean.

With random interactions through the next few years, I begun to realize why my girlfriend had a crush on this tall and slim handsome guy. He was sweet and caring with a great sense of humor, and had these amazingly beautiful blue eyes that gave me butterflies every time we made eye contact. Oh and I thought he was hot. We started dating at 15 where we fell in love after 8 months of dating, and we both knew that our relationship was different from standard high school relationships. Even at age 15 I wanted to take on all of lives adventures with this man. Fast forwarding to 2005 Doug asked me to marry him when we were seniors in college, after 8 years of dating. We married on August 18, 2007.

All of our greatest milestone in life have been lived together. Doug is my biggest supporter and I am his. It is the greatest blessing to marry your bestest friend who understands why you are who you are and has been present for practically every great and not so great moment that you have ever had in your life. Doug is the only man that I ever desired building a life with, he is the one I want to create a family with, and the one I want to wake up next to everyday for the rest of my life. Doug is awesome, and I am lucky to have a rock star husband that understands why I am so crazy.

In 2006 we ran the Chicago Marathon together which left him with lingering knee pains which he still has to this day. I think that it is endearing that he would endure hours of pain and discomfort for the love of a woman. Yup hes a keeper.

In 2002 he dressed up all kinds of crazy with me for our senior dance that had an 80's theme, which is where I found out that we are amazing retro dancer.

He has let me indulge in my love for all things coastal, when he would much rather be indoors enjoying a comfy couch and an ice cold beverage on a hot day.

Our senior year in high school my dad took some senior photos of us. Doug thought that he was a stud, and was laughing the entire time. He was right, he is a stud.

We started out our marriage making our best attempts to escape terrible weather. Our outdoor wedding had to be changed last minute due to unseasonably cold summer temperatures and we spent the first few days of our honeymoon waiting for a hurricane to pass through Cancun. Most of our first week as husband and wife was not turning out as we hoped, but Doug was a rock star and made me realize that its great to have time together no matter what we are doing.

2008 I had big plans to run the Boston Marathon. Injuries overtook me early on in my training leaving me unable to run. All of my training was done on a stationary bike or an elliptical. We had bought non-refundable tickets to Boston that basically emptied our savings and we left for the race really not knowing if I was going to be able to participate. Beantown got to us, and I fell in love with the city instantly and knew that I had to give everything I had to finish the race. Doug was awesome and made sure I had everything that I needed to be as prepared as possible for the race. Need less to say the race didn't go very well, but Doug believed I would power through it somehow.

The Rock 'N' Roll race series came to Chicago in August 2009. Doug was super excited to get back into racing, but it turned out that his body wasn't as ready as his mind. He gave it his all, and I was proud of his work. It was great to see him so happy for my PR when his time wasn't what he had hoped for. Over the years our finishing times will fade from our minds, but the morning that we shared sipping beer at 9 a.m. on Sunday morning in Grant Park and having Dunkin Donuts Coolatas will stick.

Yep I love him. He is a keeper. He has perfect teeth. I hope our children have his perfect teeth.

Last summer I poured myself into my training for the Chicago Marathon 2010. Anxiety ridden and a hot mess that morning, I lost my cool and did not perform as well as I should have. Too much craziness goes on in my mind at times and I become my own worst enemy. Doug believed that I was more then capable of my 3:15 goal time. He spent hours the day before the race making these AMAZING signs that I cannot bring myself to get rid of. While I gave up on myself that day, Doug didn't.

Oh and we are also brilliant on the dance floor. Really we are the people that don't know how to dance but think we do so we just keep moving around like idiots until we tire. We think we look awesome flailing around, and Doug is hot when he busts a move.

We are meant to be just like Kermy & Piggy, Doug & Patti, Jim & Pam, peas & carrots, PB&J, or maybe even hot chocolate & marshmallows. Life isn't perfect, nor are we. But we appreciate what we have. Happy pre-Valentines Day.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Running Rendezvous

Today while out for a run I ran into an old friend. Silly how from our running days together years ago I can still pick her out from afar by her running style, and quite possibly her feet.

Its nice to bump into a pal unexpectedly, and it helps the remainder of workout wiz by. Also it makes me miss the days when it was a rarity that I would have to venture out on my own for a run. With my crazy schedule it really is a treat to have some company on a run, especially when it is unexpected and someone I haven't seen in some time.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Just another -10 degree day

Today I was not feeling it.

Ever have those days when you wake up because you have aches in your body? Well today is that day for me. I was abruptly awoken this morning when I felt a sudden stiffness in my legs. This used to happen to me a lot in winters past, but I had yet to experience it this season until this morning. Stiffness and sharp pings in the early a.m. hours have not been a missed feeling.

I have had a lot of injuries in my running career, all of which seem to be on the left side of my body. Maybe it was the tendinitis, stress fracture, or plantar fasciitis that was lingering in my blood today. Most likely it was that I had to rearrange my training schedule last week due to the weather and haven't had an off day in eight days. Either way today would have been the perfect day for a treadmill run. Silly me didn't want to drive to the gym for an easy 6 miler, seemed like a waste of time. Also yesterday I encountered a rather strange man at the gym who struck up a conversation with me that seemed innocent at first. But then the conversation took a strange turn when he started asking me if I thought that he was going to mug me in the parking lot. Weird? Yes. So naturally I decided that I would brave the -10 degree windchill and adventure outdoors and give my creepy new friend a day to collect his thoughts.

When it takes me as long to dress and undress for a run as it does to actually run, I get groggy. Three shirts, two pairs of spandex and gloves, one wind resistance jacket with a hoodie that has those cool little bungees to tighten appropriately, one extra warm pair of socks, a nifty purple scarf, and one extra insulated hat. Totaling up to a lot of laundry to wash for one run.

Got in my easy 6 and worked out the kinks in my legs despite the cold. Five and a half weeks until spring.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A tempo success

Today I took another go at a tempo run on the treadmill. I figured that it couldn't be any worse then last week, and the -10 degree windchill today was not enticing in the least for an outdoor speed session. I am happy to say that my workout today was a success, and I felt great despite the fact that my left eye has been burning all day and is blood shot. Its great going out in public when you have one crazy looking eye.

Today I gave the 5 mile tempo at a goal pace of sub-7 another go. I went into the workout easy at a 7:03 pace and was praying that things wouldn't take a turn for the worse. At the 3 mile mark I felt like the workout was going well and picked it up to 6:58 for the last 2 miles. With goal pace being sub-7, I was nervous to take the first few miles too aggressive today. I finished feeling strong and got in a great resistance session afterwards.

Refueling the body after speed work and strength training is especially important. The body depletes a lot of the nutrients that are stored in our muscles during exercise, and in order for the muscles fibers to strengthen after a grueling session the nutrients need to be restored and replenished. Without the proper post workout meal, the entire purpose of the session can be lost if the muscles are not receiving necessary nutrients to rebuild.

I decided that I would have two slices of gluten free toast with 2 tablespoons of unsalted almond butter, 1 tablespoon of honey, and a sliced banana. It was delish. Protein replacement is essential after strength training and almond butter is great for the body. It has a slightly different taste then peanut butter and comes in options of creamy, chunky, or salted. I prefer the creamy unsalted because it spreads smoothly and has a neutral flavor to accompany most items.

Almond butter is relatively comparable to peanut butter with both being 190 calories per serving. Almond butter has more calories from fat then peanut butter, but it also offers more protein per serving. I love peanut butter quite possibly more then anyone else I know, heck I even once won a peanut butter eating contest in college(which was gross by the way and kept me off the stuff for nearly a year afterwards), but it is CRANKED full of sodium. 2 tablespoons of this stuff has 150 mg. of sodium and Almond butter actually has 0...thats right no sodium whatsoever! Another great perk to the almond goodness is that the fats that it does have are the "good" ones. Monounsaturated fats tend to lower cholesterol levels while saturated fats increase these levels. Peanut butter is mainly saturated fat, but the almond butter is mainly monounsaturated fat.

I love me some peanut butter and I always will, but sometimes its good to step out of the box and let our taste buds have a new experience.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Happy American Heart Month

February is American Heart Month! So it is a perfect time to think about how to celebrate your heart and the choices that you make to benefit your cardiovascular system. According to the American Heart Association cardiovascular disease is the #1 killer among Americans. The AMA was formed to educated Americans on how to take the proper steps to recognize symptoms of cardiovascular diseases and inform them about the health of their heart.

Most Americans have a family member or someone close to them that has been effected by a heart attack, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, high cholesterol, or other forms of cardiovascular disease. It is common to think that we are not at risk for disease when we are young and that it is not something that we should be worrying about, but heart disease is the #1 cause of death in women over the age of 20. Heart disease surpasses all other causes of premature death, even cancer. That is some scary stuff.

Our bodies are finely tuned machines that need all the right ingredients to make a long lasting survival. The choices we make about our activity levels, the foods we eat, how we deal with stress, are all factors that impact the health of our heart. The heart is the engine that keeps the rest of the machine going.

Americans are busy people. We all fill up our time worrying about our careers and trying to plan for the future that we can neglect our current well being. I know that I have felt this in my life, and for years struggled with the idea of my career always trumping my health. But there are things we can do to take care of ourselves to assure that we will be around many years for our loved ones. The American Heart Association recommends 7 simple steps for better heart health, they are:

1. Get Active. To improve cardiovascular functions it is recommended that people engage themselves in 150 minutes of moderate activity per week. Think about it, that could be five days of 30 minutes on a bike or three days of a 50 minute power walk. If you are feeling really bold you can spend 75 minutes participating in vigorous activity a week. The best part about your activities are that they are your choice.

2. Control Cholesterol. This one can be a bit tricky. We all need some cholesterol in our system, but Americans tend to over due it with most of our nutrient sources coming from highly processed foods and animal sources. So be proactive in what you are consuming. Educate yourself on what the foods you put into your body contain and focus on gaining most of your nutrients from fruits and vegetables.

3. Eat Better. Funny how everything connects. Fruits and veggies are low in calories and rich in the fibers that leave us feeling fuller for longer periods of time. They contain all the proper vitamins and nutrients that our bodies need. We all do like to indulge, but setting a goal for yourself to consume the bulk of your diet from products that grown naturally from the earth and can be consumed as close to their natural state as possible is a great way to repay your heart.

4. Manage Blood Pressure. Blood pressure is effected by the foods we eat and our activity levels. Those that have lower levels of activity and have a high consumption of processed foods will naturally have a higher blood pressure. While this can be managed by medication but it can also be managed by the choices we make in our everyday life.

5. Lose Weight. This is not necessary an option for everyone, but over one third of Americans are not only over weight but are obese. Consulting with your doctor and getting routine check-ups are a good way to keep yourself updated about your weight and current health state. Before anyone makes any attempt to lose weight, seek advise of your doctor about the safest and best way for you to achieve this.

6. Reduce Blood Sugar. Having control over your blood sugar will decrease your chances of being afflicted by diabetes.

7. Stop Smoking. We all know that smoking is bad for us, yet millions of Americans do it anyways. The long term effects that smoking has on the body far outweigh the short term satisfaction. Speaking to your doctor about the best way to kick that habit can be really beneficial.

It is never too late to make changes in your lifestyle. Celebrate American Heart Month with me by thinking about your lifestyle choices and how they will effect your long term heart health. There is only one you, and you are the only one responsible for taking the necessary steps to take care of yourself. Show your heart how much you love it this February!

NOTE: I am not a medical professional. All of my information was taken from the American Heart Association. Consult with your doctor before making any drastic changes in your life.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Super Bowl Sunday

Today is Super Bowl Sunday, and I have the house to myself. I do not enjoy watching football, while I am aware that this makes me less American, I do not find it interesting. So tonight my husband ventured out to one of his friends gatherings to enjoy the game while I decided to stay in an focus on my PT studying.

This afternoon I headed out for an easy recovery run while snow begun to fall again. With the footing being uneven, I felt thankful for my steady ankles. Those down dogs and calf raises have saved my life in the past several years, and I'm thankful that I have learned to modify my workouts for the imbalances in my own body. The bodies kinetic chain will thank you for the introduction of yoga into your exercise routine, and I'm a believer that there is no bad candidate for yoga practice.

Thursday I read an article on the online edition of the WSJ titled "A Workout Ate My Marriage".
The writer followed several athletes that compete in endurance events and spend a large amount of their time training. He interviewed those that are most effected in their lives by their commitment to their sport, and how they deal with their spouse spending so much time involved in other things.

Doug and I have been married for three and a half years. We met in middle school and begun dating in high school. We were both members of the track and cross country teams, and we share a mutual interest in running.

Back then he was the guy who was on the team because he was fast and could win almost any race that he ran. He went to the Illinois state meets several times, and had the most incredible leg speed. Between high school and where we are now, life has gotten in the way for him and he has since made other priorities with his life. Now Doug spends the majority of his time focusing on his career, and has let running become an occasional past time.

I joined the track and cross country teams not because I was fast, but because I wanted to be a part of a team and I really had no athletic abilities to make a team that required a tryout. Throughout the years running has developed into something more significant for me, and has opened my eyes to making healthy lifestyle choices that work best for my own body.

A lot of my free time is spent preparing for athletic greatness. Doug and I have discussed how my athletic aspirations effect our happiness and togetherness, and so I make modifications in my training as often as I can so we can make the most of our time. I am aware that for most of our marriage I have spent every Saturday morning heading out extra early for a long run while he is home in bed. I am also aware that he jumps through hoops to make it to ALL of my races, but he makes sacrifices to be a part of my running life because thats what you do when you love someone. Standing on the sidelines while your spouse participates in things that bring them joy is a part of marriage, and we both try to do this as much for one another as possible. Athletic dreams require a lot of dedication not only from the athlete, but also from those that they are closest to.

I appreciate that my husband supports my desire to constantly be challenged and will always be at my side while I continue to pursue my dreams. We have somehow made it work, and thats probably because my husband is amazing and awesome.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Getting through the winter

Today was a recovery day that held an easy 5 for me. I decided to take my run indoors AGAIN today because the city is still a mess from Blizzard 2011.

I hate when I have to take to the treadmill for a quality workout. I get all sweaty, bored, and I hate when people get on next to me. Tomorrow holds a 14 miler, and it looks like again I will venture to the gym for some quality miles.

When the weather is stinky, I find myself dreaming about the warm weather to come. Chicago summers are great, and I try to take it the great weather as much as I can while it lasts.

Miles, Chase, and I often venture to the dog beach by our house. Chase doesn't enjoy the beach so much. He is easily intimidated by other dogs and spends most of his time sitting on a towel staring me down.

Miles on the other hand loves it. He digs huge holes in the sand and sometimes he gets so excited to be swimming that he goes out to sea and I have to go after him. When we are there he looks like he is the happiest dog on the planet.

Getting through winter takes a lot of inner strength. Thinking about these fun afternoons with my little guys makes me excited that the winter days will soon come to a close, and I will once again be able to enjoy my city the way I like it...warm and snow free.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A bad choice day happens every once in awhile

This morning was filled with a few bad choices on my part.

Yesterday I started to feel extra tired in the evening hours, yet when I returned home from work at 11:30 I decided to have a large bowl of Trader Joes Peppermint Jo-Jo's ice cream and watch some "Office". That was bad choice #1. Then the alarm went off at 7:30 a.m. this morning with the intention to head to the gym early for my workout. Instead I woke feeling even more drained then the evening before, and instead opted to start the day with breakfast for some added energy ahead of the workout. That was bad choice #2.

Todays run was a 5 mile tempo at 6:58 pace, with an obvious warm-up and cool-down of course. Given the blizzard that we had here this week and the frigid temps today, it was necessary for me to hit the treadmill for a quality workout. Getting to the gym was definitely a challenge due to the roads still being covered in snow, but I trusted in my driving abilities and made it safely. As I stepped onto the treadmill for my first ever treadmill tempo, I felt like my legs had somehow overnight gained 20 pounds each. I told myself I'm not a quitter, and that if it hurts that means I'm gaining strength. But that only worked for so long and became bad choice #3 of the day.

At the 3 1/2 mile point, I suddenly had to jump off the treadmill as I felt my breakfast reappearing, which it successfully did. Dairy for breakfast on a speed work day may not be a good choice without the proper amount of time for digestion. Rarely does this ever happen to me, but when it does I can recognize that this is an obvious sign to slow it down a bit. So my tempo went from a 6:58 pace for the first 3 1/2 miles to 7:42 for the remaining 1 1/2 miles with ill feelings still surrounding me.

It can be annoying when a workout fails, but it happens. Acknowledging that we have no control over our bodies response to stimulus is an important lesson for future growth. This is where I made bad choice #4. I decided to head upstairs to the weight room in my gym anyways, and had no strength whatsoever. Today I learned a new feeling, the one where the weight that you are lifting feels so heavy that you feel as if your going to vomit. Never felt that before today.

Yes today will go down in the record books as one of the worst workouts EVER, but thats okay. The challenging days make me really appreciate the great days, and strive to grow in my training to achieve more of them.

Getting back to the blizzard, I saw somethings yesterday that I found rather shocking. The winds were gusting at 70 mph, snow was blowing all over the place and preventing plows from keeping up with the clearing, waves off the lake were almost 20 feet tall, and LSD was closed when people had to abandon about 1000 cars. Yet I saw one man running in the streets early in the day on the news and yet another that was actually running on the lakefront within a few feet of the waves that were causing the lakefront path to deteriorate. These folks were crazy. I value my workouts just as much as any runner, but there comes a point when you have to ask yourself if the conditions are severely hazardous to your safety and make a decision based on logic...not on selfish desires. I would never want any of my family members to have to identify my mangled body after I put my own safety in jeopardy because I was too insane to take a day off.

But just in case I ever do get ran over by a car, a few months ago I picked up a Road Id.

It will be the best $20 spent of your life.

Heres to wishing that a few days off from work will sharpen my mind, and allow me to make decisions more soundly.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Snowmageddon 2011

Today is one of those days when all of the well meaning plans that I had for my day will have to be postponed. Chicago is currently in the mist of a lovely little storm that the weather people are referring to as the worse blizzard to hit the city in 10 years. So I was wrong, and not even a little wrong...I was totally and completely incorrect about this storm.

I woke to this beautiful view outside my window this morning and decided that it may be best to hold off on my tempo run which is scheduled for today. Last night I opted to take the train home from work because I was too afraid of my husband making attempts to pick me up. Lakeshore Drive was closed because of waves, there are 50 mph wind gusts, cars are abandoned all over the city, and it just didn't seem worth it.

I consider myself a fairly in shape person. I eat right and do resistance, cardio, and flexibility training routinely. So when I took on the challenge of getting to the train station on foot last night, I thought to myself "no problem. I run marathons. I am a strong lady". Once I walked out of the building, I decided that it would be quicker and less painful to run to the station. All of the belief that I had in myself and my physical abilities in any situation vanished as I almost had a heart attack after running a half mile in a head-to-toe North Face parka, Emu boots that practically go to my kneecaps, and a backpack. It was madness, but I survived and feel a little humbled today about my ability to overcome the weather.

Going to bed last night and still believing that I would be able to at least get to the gym to do my tempo run and lift weights was being super optimistic. There is no way that this is happening today, even just hoping for the best is insanity at this point. Realistically I don't think that my car would even be able to get down the alley. So instead I plan to catch up on somethings that have needed attention in my home and sip a warm latte all morning. However I still have to make my way into work this afternoon, somehow.

Today I will weight myself down a little better so the wind doesn't grab hold, say a little prayer, and have faith that Jesus will get me there.