Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Make It Work

The strength I felt on Thanksgiving morning has definitely carried me through the weekend and today. I haven't felt this strong in so long, I'm so excited.

After Saturday's 10-miler, I ran a 4-mile trail run with my good friend Lynne and her nephew Ian in a new place I had never run before. It was awesome discovering the terrain and feeling it in my legs and hips. It was awesome traversing the creek, hopping on rocks and hoping I didn't fall in.

Yesterday was a rest day and today was a killer. Short run followed by a kettleball workout. My legs are shaking a little as I type. I think I did 800 squats and lunges. I'm pretty impressed that I didn't crack my skull open, flinging that kettleball around.

I also registered for 3 races in the last 12 hours. I registered for the bike ride the day after Myrtle Beach Marathon, the new half marathon in New York City (the 13.1 series) and I entered the lottery for the Cherry Blossom. I am a bit peeved that Cherry Blossom is a lottery this year. I hope I get in. It's my absolute favorite DC race.

While I still have my moments of sadness (I cried a lot last night), I feel stronger than I have in months. I finally feel like I'm recovering and finding myself again. It's such an awesome feeling. Anyone that has ever been in a deep depression knows, when you find yourself and you can peek out of the hole you're in, it's a great thing.

Happy running!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Giving Thanks

When I went running Thanksgiving morning, I felt strong. I felt stronger than I have in a long time. One of the hardest things for me since we lost the baby has been finding strength, physical and emotional. It's been hard for me to believe in my body when it had broken down so badly.

But running those 5 miles Thursday morning was an example that my body can be strong again. It can guide me through pain and times of weakness. It can propel me forward and help me move on with my life.

I don't like to run with music because it isn't safe. So I think. I listen to the sound of my breath and the sound of my feet hitting the ground. I love that sound. But this Thursday, in addition to listening to the sound of my feet, I thought about how thankful I was that I felt the way I did. I felt thankful for myself.

This Thanksgiving was difficult in that I felt happy and sad at the same time. I was happy to be with wonderful friends and family. But sad at what we've lost. It's hard to manage such opposing feelings. But that run Thursday morning helped so much. It showed me how far I've come since that awful day in July. How I can be thankful for what I have and mourn what I've lost. That it's all right to do both. I'm strong enough to do both.

I ran again this morning. 10 miles. The longest run since I started running again. It felt good. It was cold and windy to start but we warmed up quickly. The trail was really quiet and beautiful. We saw a bunch of deer. It turned out to be a great run.

The next time I feel low or overwhelmed, I'll try to remember how I felt this weekend. My Thanksgiving began with feeling grateful for what I have, sad for what I've lost, but ultimately thankful for me. In all the hoopla we forget to be thankful for ourselves and what we can do. I was reminded of that on that run and I'll never forget it.

Happy running.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Goals Are Good

I always tell my clients that it's important to have a goal in mind for your training. Whether it's a race or a specific time goal or something else, it's helpful to have your sights set on something. It helps with motivation, it can give your training direction and it's fun to dream of things we'd like to do.

So, I'm taking my own advice and setting a few goals for my own running. I decided that setting some goals for myself was the only way I knew how to really help myself deal with the loss of our baby. I have to recover, I have to get back on my feet. And the only real way I know how to do that is to lace up my shoes.

I know I've talked about how emotional it's been for me to hit the roads again. It has been difficult coming to terms with running again. That's another reason why I decided to set some race goals because if I didn't have something to work for I didn't know if I would be able to overcome this difficulty. I tell you, it's working.

I registered for my very first ultramarathon. What's an ultra, you may ask. An ultra is any distance longer than a marathon. I'm doing the Seneca Creek 50K March 6, 2010. That's just over 31 miles. It's here in Montgomery County Maryland, so I don't have to travel and I can train on the trail. I figured it was a good introduction into ultrarunning.

I also registered for the Myrtle Beach Marathon in February. I'll be using it as a training run, as it will be the last real long run before the 50K. I've heard good things about the race so that's something to look forward to. More importantly though, I've never been to Myrtle Beach before and I figured this would be a good way to see the place :) While I know it will be February and it will be cold and windy, it's still someplace other than home and I know it will be fun. My husband and I are looking forward to getting away already.

There you go. I feel like there's something to look forward to. And while it's not what I originally thought I would be doing at this point of my life, it feels good. I feel like I'm finally starting to recover.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Running CAN be fun!

When some people find out I'm a runner, they tell me how much they hate running. Really? You HATE running? I can see how it can be difficult, we all have those runs where everything just feels bad. But hate is a strong word.

When I hear that someone hates running I just know they're not doing it right. Whether it's not wearing the right shoes, clothes, sports bra, or running in a boring area, there are a number of reasons why running can stink. But once you figure out what works for you, running is about as fun as it gets (for me anyway).

Case in point, I have a pretty cool job. I get to run for a living as a coach, I get to plan awesome running events, and I get to market and promote an industry that supports my habit. For instance, last week I got to hang out and run with one of the most well-known runners in the business, Bart Yasso. Bart came by our store for a book signing and fun run. He's a super nice guy and if you ever get the chance to read his book, do it. He's had quite the adventure.

This past Wednesday we had a fashion show at the store. That's right, a running apparel fashion show. We had our hot models showing off the latest and greatest in cool-weather running gear. It was a fun night and we all drooled over the sweet new clothes. See, we runners can have trendy fashion parties too ;)

Last night was our Halloween fun run. I have to say I had a blast with this one. We recruited a bunch of people to dress up as zombies and we planted ourselves along the running route. The runners didn't know we were there and we scared the you-know-what out of some of them. I think it was a close call as to who had more fun, the runners or the zombies.

And today, my Girls on the Run group meets. We'll be running around in our costumes having a ball. It just doesn't get any better than that.

See, running CAN be fun, you just have to do it right ;)

Happy running!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

New Job, New Possibilities

I have a lot of jobs. I have my personal jobs (mom, wife, etc.) and my professional jobs (running coach, writer, etc.). One of those professional jobs is the Director of Marketing at Fleet Feet Sports, Gaithersburg. It's not really a new job, as I've been there for over 3 years in some capacity. But it's been about 6 weeks that I've been there full-time doing their marketing.

It's a sweet job. I am in the running community 100% of the time now. I sleep, eat and breathe running now. It's pretty awesome to be able to make my passion my profession. Not many people can do that. What's even more amazing is that I work primarily from home, so it gives me more time with my family. I'm really very fortunate.

Why am I writing about this? Well, I am very excited about a few new projects in the works at the store. I'm not revealing any of them just yet, but I wanted to plant the seed, so to speak. Those of you in the DC area will be excited about them as well. So, stay tuned!

Happy running!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Men Are From Mars, Women From Venus?

Do men find physical activity emotional at all?

I'm asking this out of pure curiosity. Because for me, and many other women, physical activity can be very emotional.

With all that I've been going through, being physically active has brought on a lot of emotion. Some good, some bad. But emotion all the same. For me, I kind of feel that the crying I do on a run or in yoga class is me leaving a bit of my pain on the road or on the mat. Those tears represent me letting go and I feel a little better when I'm done. Both because I've had a killer workout and because my heart is filled with less pain.

I know from speaking with other women athletes that this is common for women. Even those that aren't going through a traumatic experience. Just the act of completing a physically demanding workout can bring emotion on.

I understand that big moments will bring on emotion such as finishing that first big race. I'm talking about more run-of-the-mill emotion. Emotion you weren't expecting.

Do men feel this? And please don't take my curiosity as an affront. I am genuinely interested in this. With this being the first very emotional time in my life, I've never experienced this before. Physical activity never brought on this type of emotion before. Is that the key? Do you have to go through a traumatic event in order for emotion to be so on the surface? I don't think so.

Please, guys, I really want to know if you ever feel emotional either during or after a workout. And I don't mean just crying and weeping all over the place. Would an especially hard workout make your emotions come to the surface more than something else?

Friday, August 14, 2009

On the Road to Recovery

In my last post I told the world that we were expecting baby number 2. Sadly, we lost our baby on July 24th.

While it is still very painful for us to talk about, I felt it was important to discuss it here. Emotionally it's been excruciating. And physically, it's been horrendous. I was in the second trimester and this loss was very hard on my body. But writing about it is a release of difficult and painful emotions. And the "anonymous" aspect of a blog is very helpful.

To help me deal with this, I returned to running. My body went through a lot with this pregnancy and it will be hard getting back on the road, but running is something that helps me feel normal.

For my first few runs, running has felt foreign. In my mind, I'm not supposed to be running now. I am supposed to be pregnant and not out on the roads. I have been very emotional and cried during most of my runs. But then I had a run this week where it started to click. That old feeling of comfort was there and I was able to get through it without getting emotional. It felt good.

I think it's important for us to not only talk about these difficult times in our lives, but to try to return to places of comfort. For me, I don't usually talk about difficult situations, especially one so personal. But the loss of our child is something I have to talk about. This grief is something I've never felt and at times it's overwhelming. If I don't release some of the emotion and talk about it, I may explode.

In finding a place of comfort for me to go, I return to running. That familiar place of lacing up my running shoes, heading out and letting my mind take over. Listening to my feet hit the ground, feeling the sweat bead on my forehead, listening to my breath. It all reminds me that I'm alive.

I'm writing this to let you know that in times of sorrow and despair, turn to your running. I think when things are hard and we feel distraught emotionally, we turn away from being active because we aren't physically able to handle it. And I did too. Partly because I had to wait to be active again, but also because it was something I had to accept as part of moving on and healing. Being able to run again meant I had to accept that I did in fact lose my baby. Not running is something I associate with being pregnant: I can't run when I'm pregnant. But starting to run again is starting my healing process. I have to let go of my pain and my sadness and running is helping me do that. I can leave my pain out on the street.

I want to thank everyone who has offered words of comfort and support to me and my family. It means a lot to us to know that we're not alone.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Running a new race...sort of

It's been a while since I've posted last. It isn't because I haven't had much to contribute. Truth is, I've had plenty to talk about, I just wasn't ready to discuss...

I'm pregnant with our second child. This is an exciting time and a hard time because I can't run at all. My previous pregnancy with our son was difficult and my doctor doesn't want me running at all during this pregnancy. I actually was running for the first 6 weeks until he told me not to :(

But I know it's only temporary. In fact, I've already started making plans as to what I'll be training for once the baby comes.

My most memorable races are the ones I did right after the birth of my son. They aren't memorable because I PR'd or anything. It was just an opportunity for me to revel in all my body could accomplish. To get philosophical, I was really enamored by the fact that I could carry a baby, be on bed rest for 3 months (I told you it was difficult), give birth, care for an infant, then train and complete a 10-miler and half marathon all within a year's time. I certainly couldn't have done it without my wonderful husband, but it's nice to know my body can do all that.

And now it's getting ready to do it again. I'm not trying to say I'm so great and look at what I can do. I'm just really impressed at the strength of the human body and what it can accomplish when you really work at it. I tell my clients that when they're feeling down about being injured or having a tough time getting through workouts. Your body will do it. You just have to relax and let it.

Anyway, I am officially on the bench for the next few months. But I'm still coaching so there will be plenty of musings about the trials and tribulations of my clients.

Happy running!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Don't like the word "beginner"

Yesterday marked the goal race of my beginners group. They started back in March, trained for a long 10 weeks, and finished their first 5K yesterday. I call the program "beginner" because I've designed it for people who have either never run before or haven't run in a very long time. But I feel that the word "beginner" some how sells these people short.

I just feel that the word "beginner" just has a negative connotation. That beginners essentially don't know what they're doing and are not as important as "real runners" (see my post below for my thoughts on that). That is just wrong. My group was pretty large this go around. And sure there were people that dropped out for various reasons. But for the most part everyone stuck to it and reached their goal. They were eager to learn and try things out. In fact, they are probably more open minded than more expierenced runners.


For me it's not even about them completing the 5K, though that is wonderful. It's watching them come into their own as runners. They become more confident, happier, excited about our runs together. It's really amazing. A number of them have caught the bug and are planning their next races. And I know this newly found confidence is affecting their lives outside of running.

So I told my group yesterday after the race, through tears of joy, that they aren't beginners but rather, they are just beginning their journey. There is so much ahead for them, in life both inside and outside of running. Especially for those of the group that seriously doubted whether they could complete the distance. They now know they can do anything they want to and fear shouldn't hold them back.

Here's to those of us beginning our journies into something new. Don't let fear and self-doubt hold you back. Anything is possible if you just try.

Happy running!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Are you a real runner?

This past Sunday was Pike's Peek 10K in Rockville. This is a great local race with a great kids race and post-race festival. It's a mostly downhill, fast race which is always fun!

I coached a group for this race and was super excited about how they would all do. After they did their warm up and got to the start line, I went over to an area where I could see them pass as they got started. When I made my way over to the spot, there was a man and woman also waiting for the start. We smiled and exchanged pleasantries.

That came to an abrupt end when the man leaned over to his wife and said, "The real runners will be at the front." Excuse me? The "real runners?" I could not let this slide and told him that everyone on that start line is a real runner. He sneered at me (yes, sneered) and turned to his wife and said again, "The real runners will be at the front." Okay.

I bit my tongue after that comment because it just wasn't worth getting into an argument with some strange man. But I was irked. This guy was in no shape to be passing judgment on anyone, especially a bunch of runners that were about to race a 10K in already 80 degree heat.

A little time passed and he asked me how many people were running the race. I told him there were over 3000 "real runners" running today. Yes, I know, perhaps it was a little jerky. But it was the truth. He then said, "Well, it looks to me that we're both standing here." Implying that we're certainly not real runners because we're not in front, but we're also not even the loser runners in the rest of the pack because we're not even running the race. I told him that I coached a group for this race and was there to support them. He sneered at me again and turned away.

Attitudes like that really bother me. I just firmly believe that anyone that laces up their running shoes is a real runner. You don't have to run fast to be a real runner, you just have to run. The last runner in a race still has to run the same distance as the winner. How quickly you cover that distance shouldn't determine your overall worth as a runner. And I think it's important to let people know that it's not all right to put down someone else because they don't run as fast as the lead runners. The average runner most likely works full-time, has a family, and other obligations. Yet they still find the time to pound the pavement. They do it for several reasons, but most importantly they do it because they love it. To me, that makes them a real runner.

Happy running!

(P.S. all my real runners kicked some you-know-what!)

Friday, April 24, 2009

To Race or Not Race? Is that the question?

I often tell my clients that the #1 way to motivate yourself to run is to sign up for a race. If you have something to work towards it not only gives you motivation to get out the door, but it gives your training direction. It can help define when and how you should be running.

For the last 4 years or so, I've always been training for a marathon or some other big event (minus the year I took off to have my son). Currently, I am not training for anything. I have nothing on the horizon! I am taking a self-imposed race hiatus. I did the Chicago Marathon last fall and then I broke and dislocated my toe in November. So that put running on hold. I signed up and ultimately ran the Cherry Blossom 10 miler earlier this month, which was fantastic. But I didn't really train for it. I ran, of course, but mostly just with my clients. I didn't really follow any sort of plan, which is very unlike me. I ran the race with a great friend, and while it wasn't my best, it was so much fun. We talked and laughed for 10 miles and while we both kind of felt the lack of training (she is a nursing student and had an especially tough semester and couldn't run as much as she'd liked), we were happy with our performance. In fact, it was a great race.

When I decided not to sign up for anything else, I thought not having a race on the horizon was going to hamper my running. I would feel aimless and lack motivation. But this is not the case. I find myself really looking forward to my runs and not worried about how long I run for and whether or not I do it in the appropriate time, etc. I am actually having fun!

Now, don't get me wrong, training for a race is fun and rewarding. And I do feel a little wistful when my friends tell me all about their upcoming races or watch my clients reach their goals. And yes, I'm sure I'll do a random 5K or 10K just to keep things interesting. But I am really enjoying the freedom to do what I want (as far as my running goes). Training constantly can get to the point where it's just not fun. It seems like work, especially when you have to get up extra early to get a run in. Now that I don't have to hold tight to a training plan, I feel a lot of freedom. I kind of crave the run!

I think it's important for runners to understand that they don't always have to train for something. They can take a break from racing for no reason at all. Use this time to try new things with your running, such as the introduction of a new type of workout, running route, cross training technique (to see how it affects your running), etc. I think we may, as runners, get caught up in always having to train for something and that you're not an actual runner if you're not going to run a race any time soon. Not so!

For those of you training for a race, if or when you feel like it's becoming work, or you feel like you're just not having fun, take a step back. Put your training plan in a drawer for a day or two and just run. Just lace up and go. Don't think about race pace, how long till race day, etc. Just go. And have fun. You'll feel refreshed and I bet a little invigorated, kind of like you cheated on your training plan. That's OK. It will be there to welcome you back with open arms for your next run.

Happy running!

Monday, April 20, 2009

The 113th Boston Marathon

Wow. I was able to catch the last half hour of the Boston Marathon online at Universal Sports. What a race!

Kara Goucher, who is the future of women's marathoning in the US, pushed hard to place third. There was a lot of pressure on Kara to become the first American female winner of Boston since 1985. And she had a great shot at the win. But
Salina Kosgie of Kenya won it in 2:32:16 (!), finishing just one second before Dire Tune of Ethiopia (last year's winner who won by 2 seconds). Kara ran a 2:32:25, which is only 9 seconds off the winning time. These ladies pushed and fought for the last few miles. In fact, I thought Dire and Salina were going to start elbowing each other as they neared the finish line. It was such a great race.

The men had just as an exciting race. Ryan Hall, who I think is the future of men's marathoning in the US, lead the race for some time. I think the hard pace from the start hurt him a bit. Like Kara, he had a lot of pressure on him too. That's got to take a toll both physically and mentally. But he still held on for third. Derbia Merga from Ethiopia won in 2:08:42, Daniel Rono from Kenya was second and Ryan was third. Ryan was pushing so hard at the end there was a slight chance he could get second but just didn't have enough left. Oh, it was so exciting.

I get extremely emotional when I watch races, for many reasons. I am, first and foremost, inspired by the sheer talent of these runners. I also get really emotional when I see the emotions are their faces. I know every emotion going through them. Well, maybe not every one...I've never won a marathon before ;) But I have a pretty good idea of what is fleeting through them. And lastly, I get emotional because I just plain LOVE being a runner. Watching this race, and countless others, makes me thankful that I am a part of this community.

Congratulations to ALL runners taking part in the events of the Boston Marathon.

Happy running!



Saturday, April 18, 2009

Nerves

I just got back from working with one of my clients that has a race next week. This was her last hard workout before the race: hills! My favorite!

This client and I have been working together since December, so I've gotten to know her quite well. She has come so far since then, it's been really awesome to watch. Not only just the progress she's made in her running, but in her confidence. It's been great.

Even with all her confidence, though, she still has some serious anxiety about things. She gets quite nervous before our hard workouts, and even more so before her races. I know this is pretty common among all athletes, but some people have more trouble than others.

I think one of the best ways to deal with nerves is to visualize your steps before race day. Mentally going through the motions of getting up, getting dressed, eating, getting to the race, warming up, etc., can really set your nerves to rest. Because when you actually get to race day and the start line, it's almost like you've already done it. It doesn't feel foreign.

I also recommend checking out the race site and route before the actual race. I know this isn't always possible to do physically in person. But if you can check out a race route, either in person or online, before the actual race, you have a better idea of what to expect come race day. Here's a training tip: do this in the beginning of your training, if possible. That way you can develop your training plan around your route. Have a hilly route? Do some hill training. No tree cover on the route? Be sure you train out in the open of the sun so you can get used to it. You get the idea.

I think that, ultimately, you have to tell yourself that you're ready. You've done the training and put in the work. You have to be confident in that. Tell yourself over and over that you've done the work, you're ready, and this is the prize. Getting through the training, waking up early, eating well, etc., that's the hard part. The race is easy.

How do you deal with nerves before a race? Feel free to comment or email (jenn@coachjenn.com) and I'll share your thoughts.

Happy running!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Welcome!

I created this blog to serve as a forum for the running community. I hope to post many articles about not only the technical aspects of running, but how running fits into life. Sometimes running is something that has to be fit into a person's life; sometimes a person's life and activities have to fit into his or her running. It's a balance, and a delicate one at that. As a runner, a full-time writer and running coach, wife of a triathlete, and the mother of a 3-year old, finding the balance between life and running is often difficult. But it isn't impossible.

I chose "Run Your Victory Lap" as the title of my blog because that's what I feel is the prize for all of our hard work: the victory lap. It could be something that takes weeks, even months, to prepare for such as a race, but it could also be your everyday run. It's the prize we get for lacing up our shoes. I am thankful to be a runner. I feel privileged that I can call myself a runner. And every run, regardless of its importance, is my victory lap.

Happy running!