Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Breaking Through the Wall

We've all been there. You're out on a run. Things are going okay. And then everything falls apart. Sometimes it's gradual, like pieces falling off an old rusty car until it no longer runs. Other times it hits you like a Mac truck. Regardless of how it happens you have "hit the wall", the point at which you can run no further. Or can you? 

Science defines hitting the wall, or "bonking", like this

A condition caused by the depletion of glycogen stores in the liver and muscles, which manifests itself by sudden fatigue and loss of energy. 

It is also generally accepted that these stores are completely depleted at or around 20 miles of running. But runners know that you can hit the wall at any distance. So, are runners who bonk at 3 or 6 or 15 miles just imagining it? I have read that the reason some runners hit the wall earlier is that they simply had not done a good job making sure they had eaten right and started with full reserves but I think there is more to bonking than Glycogen. Accomplished marathoner and Runner's World writer Jeff Galloway tweeted that, "Your wall is normally the length of your longest endurance session within the last two to three weeks." In my experience, regardless of the distance you are used to running if you are training to go further, runner faster or any combination of that, you will hit the wall.

So, here is how I define hitting the wall:

When you reach the point at which your body says "I can run no further" and your mind agrees you have hit the wall.
Let me explain. We see on a fairly regular basis that if your mind tells your body it can do something, there is virtually no limit to what the body can do. A few weeks ago Max King ran the JFK 50 Miler in a record setting 5:35.25. That means he ran 50 miles at a blazing fast 6:42min/mi pace. In his race report he states that he felt confident because in training he had had "some good 20-25-milers on the road at below race pace" but on race day he was able to maintain a consistently fast pace well beyond even his furthest training run. So while hitting the wall may be unavoidable breaking through it is certainly possible.

So what does it take to break through the wall?

When it comes to breaking through the wall I think there is no better resource than the ultra-running community. Ultra-running (completing any distance further than 26.2 miles) is a sport built around hitting the wall and breaking through it. But while these tactics are used by runners seeking to reach 50K, 50mile or even 100+ mile race goals many are also applicable to the runner pushing toward 5K, 10K or half marathon finish line.

Recruit Some Friendly Faces
There is no doubt that having some friendly faces strategically placed around the course can give you the little boost in motivation you need to keep running. Nobody wants to be seen walking especially by their friends and family! Seek out people who will yell and cheer for you and then ask them to be waiting at or around the mile markers you normally find yourself walking. Sometimes that little encouragement is all you need.

Me being paced at mile 26 of the Buckeye Woods 50K
Get a Pacer 
A pacer has a two fold job. First, to run alongside the runner offering support and encouragement. And Second, to give the runner someone to follow so that they aren't burdened with the mental task of considering route or pace and can simply focus on moving forward. Often, a pacer does not run the entire route or course with a runner but accompanies them during the most difficult portions of the run. So while you may not be able to find a runner willing to go the whole distance, if you plot an "out-and-back" route they may be willing to run the "back" with you and get a ride back to their car.

If you are considering recruiting a pacer for a race it is important that you check your specific race's rules about pacers (sometimes referred to as "rabbits") Some races require your pacer to be registered as a designated pacer. Others have rules prohibiting "rabbits" (Which are generally only enforced for runners winning cash prizes). And still others have no rules whatsoever. If you are running a race that has no rules regarding a pacer then you should assume that your pacer needs to be registered as a racer and run the whole distance, from start to finish. Needless to say, if that is the case then you should seek out a runner who is both more experienced and faster at your desired race distance than you are.

Experiment with "Bonk Runs"
The concept behind a bonk run is simple. Deliberately underfuel before a long run (with food and/or sleep) so that your body gets tired early and then push through. This is often used by ultra-runners to help them learn to deal, mentally and physically, with breaking through the wall. I really don't feel this tactic is useful to runners training for any distance less than a half marathon. Also, I would not recommend doing this alone. Running on empty, obviously increases the likelihood that something will go wrong. (After all, that is the point here) so it is even more important to have someone running with you in case something went horribly wrong. 

Draw Strength From Other Runs
During a race or hard workout, try to search your mind for a time when a run was harder, the weather was colder, the conditions were worse, or you hurt more than you do in that moment. Being able to say, "If I survived that I can survive this!" can be a tremendous asset when you are struggling.

These are just a few of the tactics out there for breaking through the wall. This is certainly not a complete guide but I hope that they prove useful to you the next time you find yourself bonking on a run.

So, until next time, train hard, eat right and live life to the fullest!       

Monday, November 26, 2012

Buckeye Woods 50K Race Report

There's a bit of a story behind my entering this race.

About two weeks after surviving Run With Scissors, my first marathon, I made a trip to the shoe store to replace the trail shoes I had worn and destroyed in that race. While at the shoe store I ran into American 24 hour record holder, Connie Gardner. I mentioned that was replacing the shoes I destroyed at Run with Scissors and she said she had also run it and that it was one of the most brutal race experiences of her life. Then she said something I was not expecting.

"The Medina County Road Runners are putting on a 50K the 25th. You should come run it. If you finished Run With Scissors you be able to finish this. You might even have a faster time."

My Running Log from Marathon to 50K
I said I would consider it but had already dismissed it in my mind. An ultra less than a month after my first marathon? That's crazy talk! But with the encouragement of Chanda and a close family friend I had soon decided that, while a little crazy, it was achievable.

So, with only one 18 miler under my belt since the marathon I began to taper again.

Learning from the marathon I decided to go out and invest in a hat. While at the running store I looked at some real cold weather running gear but decided that it simply was not within my miniscule running budget. I checked the weather. 45 degrees and mostly sunny. Only a 10% chance of rain. At the very least I would be dry!

When I went online to get registered the site described the course like this:

"Runners will traverse a 5-mile circuit around lakes and through woods six times, followed by a 1-mile loop to make 31 miles. The route is 95% dirt trails, and it's flat as a pancake."

Waiting In the Cold
The morning of the race it was 28 degrees and snowing. Not a glimmer of sunshine to be found. I put on my KinvaraTR's but decided to take my Kinvara2's in case the trail consisted of hard packed dirt road rather than the soft cushy dirt of a technical trail. I gathered with the other runners, about 60 of them, and listened to the final pre-race instructions. "We will be running the mile loop first rather than last. We're going to follow that sidewalk right there..." 

"Good" I thought, "We'll get the pavement out of the way first. Then it's all trails!" 

Boy was I wrong! We ran the mile loop and then headed into the woods. The whole first mile of the 5-mile loop was paved. The next mile vacillated between patches of clean pavement, gravel covered pavement and crushed lime road. When we finally rounded a corner and dropped down into the woods my watch read 3.1 miles. The dirt trail was about 2.5 miles and then there was about a half mile of pavement taking you back to the beginning of the loop where you were required to check in before heading out on the next loop. 

Still Feeling Strong at the End of Lap 3
I decided that I would try to tough it out in my trail shoes through my third lap and then switch to my road shoes for the final three loops. The first three loops I held a pace of slightly under 10 minute miles. I felt great! I could tell that being under dressed was taking a toll, causing me to expend more energy than normal but I wasn't worried. At the end of the third loop I stopped to change my shoes, told Rebecca who was crewing for me to be ready to pace me the next loop and headed back out. 

About 2 miles into my fourth loop I began to fall apart. My hips were beginning to ache from the pounding of so much pavement. My legs suddenly felt heavy and stiff and I was beginning to become board with the course. I started making deals with myself, "Run the next half mile and then you can walk again". I watched the average time gradually fall from a 9:55 pace to a 10:20 pace. I turned off the watch. 

I finished my fourth loop, checked in, filled my water bottle for the first time and headed back out with Rebecca. Rebecca was great! She encouraged me to correct my form and pushed me to keep moving. About a half mile out I realized that I should have used the restroom before we headed out. No big deal. There was a trail head with a toilette at mile 1.5. 

When we got to the trail head we made the slight detour to use the restroom. My urine was dark. Almost brown. Not good. It was at that point that it hit me. I had only filled my water bottle once. What was I thinking!?! I should have been monitoring my hydration more carefully! I knew better than to only drink 20oz over the course of 21 miles. Things had been going so well and I never felt thirsty so I just let it slide. What a huge mistake!

I left the toilette and reported to Rebecca that I was dehydrated. She decided that it was best to take it easy this time around and focus on getting rehydrated. We walked as much as we ran that fifth loop. Talking, laughing, and making sure I got down every drop of the 22oz my water bottle held. We came back in to the aid station having completed the loop in about 1:14. 

When I checked in I asked if I was the last one. "Yes" was the timekeeper's response. "About half quite early but you are the last one going back out." I filled my water bottle again and started to run.

I decided that I would try to make up some time but after running about a mile had given up on the idea and started walking again. Then I crossed paths with another runner, the race director for Run With Scissors. "What are you doing walking?" He said. "At this point it hurts no matter what you do. Might as well run!" 

"You know what?" I thought. "He's right!" And I began to run again. And I ran hard! As fast as my legs would carry me, I ran. (Which wasn't really that fast) I decided that I was going to run back "fast" or get injured trying! About mile 29 I passed another runner. I wasn't last anymore! This also prompted me to keep running. I knew that at this point in the race, if I were him, I would be trying to regain my position of not last place. And so now I was also running away from him. 

I finished my final loop in about 45 minutes. The fastest loop of the race. My time was 5:49, 7 minutes faster than my marathon. I had done it. In a race where over half the runners had quit early I persevered. I overcame some pretty big physical and mental obstacles. I became an Ultramarathoner!  

Monday, November 12, 2012

Saucony KinvaraTR Review


Like many runners I walk the fence on the whole "minimalist" movement that has been growing over the last few years, revolutionizing the shoe industry and leading a lot of runners to make foolish shoe choices, leading to injury. After much deliberation my official stance is this:

Runners should wear as little shoe as their biomechanics will allow for the distance and type of terrain they are running. 

What does that mean? Basically this; when you are out on a run you should be relatively unaware of your shoes because you have found the right balance of weight, support and cushioning. Too little shoe may not offer enough support, cushioning or protection while too much shoe could feel heavy, clunky or unstable.

That being said, my review is written through the filter of that perspective. I see no need to give the specs for the shoe as you can easily find everything you need to know at Saucony's website. Instead, I will focus on my initial impressions of fit, comfort and ride on various terrains. I hope you find my perspective helpful.


Initial Impressions

They are lightweight and low to the ground. They do not feel nearly as cushioned as the street version of the Kinvara however, the  rock plate is surprisingly flexible. The upper locks your foot in well! I found it to be soft and snug but not overly tight. My overall impression was that these shoes would be a good fit for me but I was a little concerned that they may not offer enough protection from rocks and roots on the trails.

On the Run

I chose a route for my first run that would offer pretty varied terrain. It started with about 4 miles of technical trail, followed by a half mile of pavement and rounded out with a mile on a crushed limestone jogging path.

Technical Trail - This section of the route consisted of soft dirt, covered in leaves, with plenty of roots & rocks and a lot of elevation change.   

These shoes gave me exactly what I want out of a trail shoe! They all but disappeared! They are so light that you barely feel them on your feet. The low sleek design allowed me to feel excessively sure footed even though many of the rocks and roots were covered with leaves and could not be seen. The rock plate provided enough protection that I never worried about bruising or injury but still allowed me to feel the nuances of the trail. The tread design grabbed well on the ascents and descents and provided descent traction in the mud. I was pleased to realize that the design also quickly sheds the mud once you are back on dry ground. Altogether, I couldn't have been happier with my first experience running technical trails in them.


As with many trail shoes, the ride on pavement is less than desirable. The stiff tread leaves the shoe feeling very firm and a little unforgiving. Running half a mile wasn't bad however these are not a road to trail shoe. They are perfectly adequate for crossing the street or taking a short jog down the road to the next trail head but they would probably not be my first choice for a route that had a high percentage or long stretches of pavement. 

Limestone Jogging Path

On the crushed limestone I felt like I was wearing racing flats. The low profile and firm ride felt good for the mile I was on the path. These shoes might be a great alternative to a road shoe on this surface when the weather turns cold and the ice and snow create a need for better traction. Until that time, I'll stick with the road Kinvara's as my first choice for those runs.

Overall Opninion

At this point I absolutely love this shoe! They have the low, fast feel I was looking for in a trail shoe. That being said, I have only run 5.5 miles in them! I have no idea how durable these shoes will be nor whether or not they will provide enough cushioning and support for a 16, 18, or 20 mile run. I will continue to use the KinvaraTR's as my primary trail shoe and report back to you in a month or two! 

Until then, train hard, eat right and live life to the fullest!   

After only 205 miles the upper began to disintegrate. I am rather disappointed with the lack of durability I experienced & am unlikely to purchase another pair until I see an update advertising a more durable upper.  


Saturday, November 3, 2012

Find Your Strong

I am going to make a brutally honest statement. Almost a confession of sorts. But I feel like I'm not alone in this. Here it goes...

I don't understand anyone who doesn't love running.

It's true! In my mind, the only reason someone wouldn't love to run is that they are not fit enough to do so comfortably for an extended period of time. In my eyes, as Marc Parent wrote, ""Every run is a form of celebration, even if it is a griping, painful celebration." I feel that, given enough time & training, everyone will learn to love running. After all, it's so natural! Kids everywhere struggle to not run in the store, by the pool, in church, down the halls at school, etc. From an early age everyone loves to run! It is the easiest and most efficient way to get fit! Clearly, as the book title says, we were "Born to Run!"

Here's another confession:

My opinion, no matter how strongly felt, or how many other people support it, is incorrect. 

It's true! And if I dig down deeply enough, I am faced with the reality that the reason I hold this opinion is that, what kept ME from loving running was that I was not fit enough to comfortably do so for an extended period of time. And of course, my perspective is strongly influenced by my own experiences. And for me, running isn't just about fitness, it's a test of fortitude, it's my favorite way to observe the world and it's my "me time". Running does far more than shape my body, it also offers me escape, helps clear my mind, makes me feel strong, teaches me perseverance and helps me feel more connected to God. 

You see, for me running isn't just about physical fitness, it's also about my emotional, spiritual and psychological well being. And it doesn't matter what gives you that. Whether it be martial arts, yoga, soccer, hockey, weightlifting, hiking or Pilates. Find that activity that feeds your soul as well as shapes your body. Because, I believe that fit is the new skinny, and there is more than one beautiful body type.

Find an activity that you love and let your pursuit of excellence be what determines your body type. You'll be better for it.  You'll be happier and stronger. Eating well will be easier because there will be a greater purpose than some arbitrary number on the scale. And you'll be a better spouse, parent, friend and employee because physically and emotionally healthy people have more to give than those who are sick. 

If what you do to stay in shape doesn't make you happy. I want to encourage you to try something new. Don't chase someone else's dream. Don't chase their idea of beautiful or strong. Try new things until you find something you love. Pursue excellence. Find your Strong! 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

What Now? (Thoughts After My First Marathon)

It's been 48 hours since the completion of my first full marathon. I took yesterday and today off of work and aside from my joints & muscles being a little more achy and sluggish than usual, I feel pretty recovered.

Having decompressed from the race I am faced with the question, "What Now?" Do I train for another marathon, working on speed or picking an easier course for an almost certain PR? I do love speed work! Or maybe keep building on the distance base I have & train for a 50K or 50 miler? After all, long runs where I spend hours in the woods have recently become one of my favorite parts of the training week.

Nothing is set in stone quite yet. After all, I won't even start running again for another week or so but there are a few things that are certain.

Some Changes Here at Home

You may have noticed a change in focus in Chanda's posts from running to martial arts. About a year ago our oldest son started taking martial arts. After sitting in the gym watching him for about six months Chanda decided that rather than just sitting there watching she might as well start taking class with him. At the very least it would be good cross training. Turns out that she absolutely LOVES it! Rather than being good cross training martial arts has become her primary training. Together they are working hard and, at this time, they both intend to see it through to their black belts! That being said, the focus of our blog will officially be changing from strictly running-centric to more fitness-centric. I will still approach the blog from a runner's perspective and Chanda will approach the blog from a martial artist's perspective. We feel with this change we will be able to offer a more well rounded perspective and hopefully inspire more people to pursue a healthier more active lifestyle!

Additionally, in August we brought home baby number seven. You read that correctly, baby number SEVEN! She was an unexpected surprise and we are thrilled to have her! Amidst all the chaos of unexpectedly bringing home a seventh child we somehow neglected to announce the good news. So, today we'd like to officially announce the arrival of baby Hope!  

We are looking forward to all the things that are in store for us in the coming weeks, months and years! Running, martial arts, food, fitness, parenting...it's going to be a blast! We hope you will enjoy this new direction as much as we do! Remember, today is simultaneously the oldest you have ever been and the youngest you will ever be again. You will never be as young again as you are today so, until next time, train hard, eat right and live life to the fullest!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Run With Scissors Race Report

Coming into the finish!
Today I became a marathoner. As with every marathon this was a hard fought accomplishment and I am proud to have reached my goal. Thank you to everyone who supported me! Your kind words, prayers and support made a huge difference!

Within minutes of crossing the finish line I said to Chanda, "I've got to do a race report on this race!" This says a lot about the race considering I was soaking wet, covered in mud and shivering like someone on the verge of hypothermia. And though it is tempting to offer a mile by mile report, I will refrain because...well...whenever I've started reading that kind of race report I have gotten bored before mile thirteen. Instead I will highlight the best and worst aspects of the race. I hope you find my report entertaining.

Before the Race

All summer long I said to Chanda, "I just hope that it's not cold & rainy. I'll take snow but I just don't want cold rain." Unfortunately, the forecast this morning was a high of 45 and a 70% chance of rain. Ugh! The rain started about 45 minutes before the start of the race. Before I got out of my car and headed to the start line I checked the weather on my phone. Sever weather warning! Flood warning. Double Ugh! The trails were going to be a sloppy mess! "Oh well" I thought. "At this point there's nothing left to do but tough it out."

The Race

Everyone gathered inside a shelter where there where two fireplaces blazing. The warmth was a comfort in the face of what we all knew was coming. At 7:55 the race director asked everyone to step outside so the race could begin. Slowly people meandered out onto the adjacent shelter and lined up right at the edge, just out of the rain. "Come on!" he yelled. "You're gonna get wet anyway! Get out there in the rain!"

Nobody moved.

Standing on a picnic table he, watched a battery powered kitchen clock until it read 8am and then yelled, "Go!" We all stepped into the rain and started running across the field toward the woods.

For the first 18.7 miles I was having a blast! The aid stations were phenomenal! When they said "fully stocked" they were not kidding! Each station was loaded with coffee, water, Gatorade, Heed, half a dozen flavors of soda, soup, grilled cheese, PB&J, Chicken Roll-ups, Gu and more snacks than you can shake a stick at! And the volunteers running those stations were incredibly helpful and accommodating! I cannot say enough about how hard they worked to make sure every runner had the best possible experience.

At about mile 15 I came to a red skeleton with a couple books. As proof that I had come all the way to the furthest point of the course I was required to remove a page and carry it back to the finish line with me.

As I said, I was having a blast! Unfortunately, the course conditions were deteriorating by the mile. By mile 20 the vast majority of the remaining course was a muddy mess! We're talking about consistent mud ranging from ankle to knee deep. I quickly realized that pursuing a time goal was just going to leave me frustrated. My new focus became avoiding a fall or injury and just covering the distance. This meant less running (which had proven impossible in many places anyway) and more hiking.

As I began to slow my pace, the wind and the rain began to pick up. The stream crossings, of which there were many, were severely flooded. One time after trudging through knee deep mud I came to a stream crossing and thought, "No need to worry about being covered in mud! There are all these streams crossings where your feet & legs will be washed clean!"

I began to get cold and feel frustrated with my lack of progress. I've heard other runners talk about how they felt like quitting or turning back at some point. I never felt that. But I did start to become miserable. The wind and rain were taking their toll and my slower pace was not adequately keeping my body temperature up.

The last two miles were a breath of fresh air! The elevation was higher and the trails were runable once again. As I stepped out of the woods and into the same field we started the race at I could hear Chanda and a close family friend cheering for me. As I turned toward the start line they were right there, jumping up and down, yelling at the top of their lungs.

After the Race

After the race there were people there to direct me into the shelter to get some food and warm up. Inside, both fireplaces were still ablaze. A woman ran up to me to give me a "Run With Scissors" coffee mug. I was then directed to the kitchen where several gentlemen were cooking food for finishers and there where big pots of coffee and hot water for tea or hot chocolate.

The Virdict

Ultimately I had a good time at Run With Scissors! The race is run amazingly well and every runner is treated like an elite! However, "A good chance of really bad weather" is one of the selling points of this race. It is not for the faint of heart! This is a race you should come to expecting to suffer. A lot.

Will I run it next year? At this point I don't think so. I have different goals for next year that may not be conducive to running such a taxing marathon. However, if you are an experience marathoner looking for a new kind of challenge, I definitely recommend considering Run With Scissors!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Countdown to Raceday (1 Day!)


Distance running is basically a solo sport. Most runners train alone the majority of the time. In general, runners join clubs rather than teams. And on race day, a runners performance depends 100% on them. But, while we are all participants in a solo sport, runners enjoy a strong sense of community! Many of us spend a substantial amount of time connecting to, encouraging and seeking encouragement from the words of other runners. Then, on race day, during speedwork or on a long run, when the pain comes, we look to those words to give us the strength and encouragement we need to keep pushing forward.

Some runners quote the bible. Some look to song lyrics or poetry. Some use inspirational quotes from other runners or famous wise men. Today I would like to share with you some of the powerful words I will be using as mantras to help me push through the pain and hopefully have a great race!

"It is God who arms me with strength
and keeps my way secure.
He makes my feet like the feet of a deer;
he causes me to stand on the heights."
           ~2 Samuel 22:33-34

"This is what you came for"  ~Scott Jurek

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us"  ~Hebrews 12:1

"If you can walk you can run"  ~Scott Jurek 

These will be my mantras for tomorrow. One for each quarter of the race. They have carried me through long hard workouts. They have given me the strength, courage and inspiration to carry on when there was nothing left in the tank. Tomorrow, they will help carry me through 27 miles of wet muddy trails in the cold rain. On this last day of race preparation I am thankful for powerful words that can give you  the strength to keep pushing when you feel physically and mentally destroyed!  


Friday, October 26, 2012

Countdown to Raceday (2 Days!)


I heard it said that every runner has a support crew. Your family, regardless of how involved they are in your running, is your support crew. I believe this is a true statement. My family are the ones who have to deal with me being gone for 2, 3, or 4 hours on a Saturday so I can run in the woods. They are the ones who listen to me ramble about running. They meet me at the door when I return from a run. My wife makes sure I'm fueling right. Watches me and points out when I am over fatigued or at risk of injury. My family doesn't always get my love for the trails. But they do understand doing what you love, having goals, enjoying a sport and cheering for each other. We are a family who strives to be supportive of each others goals. I support them and they support me and for their support I am eternally grateful!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Countdown to Raceday! (3 Days!)


I'm sure there are people out there who think this is a silly thing to be thankful for. At one time I would have been thinking the same thing. When I first started running, I would go to WalMart, buy a pair of shoes for $20, train for 8 weeks in them, race in them, and then throw them away. I am fortunate to have good biomechanics and can get away with running thirty or so miles a week in junk shoes without really risking injury. But the truth of the matter is that the right pair of running shoes can increase your running enjoyment exponentially! 

What are the right running shoes? Well, that varies from person to person. For me it's a light weight shoe that sits low to the ground and offers little support but plenty of cushioning. For Chanda, it's a shoe that offers plenty of support to help compensate for severe overpronation. Finding the right shoes is a two part process, first you have to understand your biomechanics and what features your shoe needs in order to help prevent injury. Second you need to try on a bunch of shoes that meet those specifications until you find the pair that just feels right. If you're in the market for a new pair your local shoe store should be willing to help you determine what is right for you!

Two years ago, I ran in junk shoes and thought that I enjoyed running. Since buying my first pair of "real" shoes my level of enjoyment has grown dramatically! Shoe companies are always trying to improve their shoes. They are always looking to make a shoe that improves your experience! But people all over the world cannot afford this technology. Even here in the US there are people who cannot afford any shoes let alone the latest technology in running footwear. Today, I am blessed to be able to afford good shoes. They have helped me to train harder and run further with less risk of injury and for that I eternally grateful!

**Want to know how you can help provide shoes for people both domestically and worldwide!?! Check out Soles4Souls**

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Countdown to Raceday! (5 Days)


Growing up, fitness was not a priority in my family. That is not to say that my parents fed us Twinkies for breakfast and Doritos for diner. There was almost always some vegetable at diner but like many from my generation, healthy food choices and the importance of being active were things I learned as an adult. 

Things are much different now. My children have a deep sense of the importance of staying active. When presented with a new food the first question they ask (after "what does it taste like?") is "Is this healthy?" Even my parents have developed a healthier view of fitness. Instead of just chasing skinny my mom has started looking at overall health. They are eating less meat & more plant based meals. My father has taken up running & done some research on what is good fuel and what isn't. These days my family has a healthier view of fit. One that includes a strong body and an overall physical well being and for that I am eternally grateful!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Countdown to Raceday! (6 Days)

I stopped and snapped this on my run this morning.

When I'm out on the trails, my favorite platform for running, I am often awestruck by the majesty of the world around me! I marvel at God's creation, his imagination, the shear unbridled beauty of my surroundings. But such reverence isn't limited to the time I spend in the woods. Even running down city streets I am extra aware of the beauty that surrounds me. I marvel at architecture and large structures as I pass by. I revel in the power of the sun & find myself looking at the sky with amazement as a big storm rolls in.

I took this pic on a 21 miler a few weeks ago. AMAZING!!
I've heard people say that they feel connected with nature when they trail run and I know what they mean. I can think of no better way to see the world than running! But it's not nature I feel more connected to. It's God. When I run I take in the beauty of his creation. I see with my own eyes his infinite creativity! No two trees are quite the same. No two sunrises or sunsets, no two thunderstorms or snowflakes or animals are exactly like each other. Think of that. Imagine the creativity that must go into refusing to replicate anything identically! There is beauty and uniqueness in everything around us! Even our ability to imagine & create is a part of that! Wherever we run, whether in the woods or the mountains, downtown or in the suburbs, along a lake or an ocean pier, we are surrounded by beauty! And for that I am eternally thankful.  

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Countdown to Raceday! (7 Days)

In exactly one week I will run my first marathon. This is a moment, I am told, that is life changing. With that in mind, I feel compelled to prepare myself mentally for such a momentous occasion by reflecting on what it is exactly that I appreciate so much about this sport that I love. So, each day leading up to race day, time permitting, I will be blogging about something running related that I am thankful for. Here it goes!

Pacing my oldest daughter at the Tallmadge Labor Day 5K

This is something I think, most runners take for granted. After all, running is the most natural thing in the world! Kids everywhere run miles each day without even thinking about it. But honestly, not everyone CAN run. Some people, do to health or physical limitations find themselves unable to run. Whether these limitations are due to lifestyle choices, injury or simply an issue of genetics is irrelevant. I am not among the that group of people. I have been afforded a body that is able to run twenty plus miles. That my friends is a gift! And it is important that I remind myself that. When I am facing a long run, I don't "have to" run eighteen miles, I "GET TO" run eighteen miles! I am grateful for the ability to run and I want to appreciate every moment I spend doing it! Running, for me, is not a means to reaching an end goal, it is the goal! And for the ability to do it, I am eternally thankful!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Fearlessly Ridiculous

Some of you might know that a few weeks ago I celebrated my 30th birthday.  Two days beforehand, I posted this tweet:
                This is it.  The last 48 hours of my twenties.  Some people spend this time being sad.  
                I'm gonna spend it being awesome.

And I did.  I enjoyed every second of it. I shopped, played with my kids, got my hair done, treated myself to Starbucks, went out of town with girlfriends, and wrapped it up with an awesome martial arts class.  When I woke up that Wednesday morning, I felt no different than when I fell asleep on Tuesday night. 

Of course, I would be lying if I said that I gave absolutely no thought to the passing of my third decade on this planet.  Over the last two weeks a few things have been brought to the forefront of my mind, and whether they are related or not to my being a "smidge" older, I wanted to share them.

The people I love need to hear me say it.  This one is sooooo cliche, I know.  But I just can't help it.  Today, this very day, three different people, who are not related to me, told me that they love me.  Three.  Of course I already knew cognitively that these particular people are fond of me and probably do love me, but they don't usually say it.  And it hit me. My husband, my kids, my parents, they hear me say I Love You all the time, every day.  But what about the other people I love?  They rarely hear me say those three little words. Because well... it's weird.  But weird or not, we aren't guaranteed tomorrow, if you love someone tell them. Go tell them now.  Right now.  I'll wait.....

The people I appreciate need to hear me say it. This is along the same lines and is just as cliche as the above.  Unexpressed gratitude isn't really gratitude at all.  If you appreciate someone, if you are grateful for something they've done or simply who they are, tell them!  Post it on their facebook wall, send a card, call them, text them, hire a skywriter, but make sure they know.

Life is too short to not feel beautiful.  I don't know if there has ever been a time in my life that I've felt more beautiful than I do right now.  And it has very little, if anything to do with what I look like. Life is just too short to despise the body that you live in. You were fearfully and wonderfully made... made to have, in this lifetime, one body and one mind.  Healthy is beautiful.  Strong is beautiful.  Your body was meant to move, find a way to move it that makes you happy.  Fuel your body with food that doesn't fill you with regret.  See the beauty in other people.  Seriously, look around. Chances are that you, like me, are surrounded by some gorgeous people.  Appreciate it.  And no, I don't mean lust after them (get your head out of the gutter!).  I'm not afraid to tell you that the people in my life are stunning, inside and out.  The most beautiful people I know are people who can preach and pray down heaven, people who can sing like angels, people who parent so patiently, people who run like the wind, people who make other people laugh, people who can fight like Jacob fought God.  Honestly there is nothing more beautiful than a person doing exactly what they were put on this planet to do.  Admire the people in your life.  Compliment them liberally and freely.

I will never again be as young as I am right now. Today is simultaneously the oldest I have ever been and the youngest I will ever be again.  This thought crossed my mind as I was stretching on the living room rug, attempting to work toward my center split for my martial arts class.  I looked at my husband and asked if what I was doing was completely ridiculous.  After all, I remember being 13 stretched out on my parent's living room rug attempting to get the same center split for ballet class.  Am I too old to be doing this now?  Ya know what?  Maybe I am.  Maybe it is silly.  Maybe (certainly) I do look ridiculous.  But ya know what else? I won't be any younger or less ridiculous tomorrow.  I love martial arts and consider it a gift, and so what if I found it at 29-30 instead of 9 or 10 years old.  It makes me happy.  If I decide to take up snowboarding at 40 or skydiving at 50 I hope I can be just as fearlessly ridiculous.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Coming Home

So many memories along this trail
For as long as I can remember I have loved the fall. It's a time of year filled with good memories. Five of our seven children were born in the fall. Chanda and I fell in love in the fall. In recent years, when summers have been difficult & stressful, fall signified a turning point in our lives. And some of my best running memories happened on a section of trail very close to our old home in the fall.

As the weather started to turn cool last week I felt that old section of trail calling me back. It had been my favorite training spot for years but with moving and parenting and work and training for a trail marathon I simply had not visited our old trail in almost a year. Several times I have driven by it recently and had to resist the urge to stop just to stand in the middle of it for a minute. But this afternoon I had a little time so I decided to answer the call and visit our old friend once again.

As I started running down the trail I couldn't help but reminisce.

This was the trail that Chanda learned to love running on. Nearly two years later, I fell in love with running on the very same trail. Our three oldest children all ran their first mile on this trail and it was here that at five years old our oldest ran three consecutive miles and asked when she can sign up for a 5K.

Here we have battled injury, nursed wounds and beat our bodies into submission. In times of anger, hurt and frustration we have come here to run as hard and fast and long as we could, taking solace in aching lungs and burning legs. In times of sorrow we have found peace and solitude along this trail. And more than once I have wrestled with God here.

This trail is a place of memories.

I passed places where I had stopped countless times to pick up bottles or refill snacks as I pulled the kids in a wagon or pushed them in a stroller. I ran past the trail head where we would start hiking on warm winter afternoons pulling a wagon through the melting snow with toddlers in their winter coats, under a pile of blankets, sipping hot chocolate. I passed the place where I collapsed on the side of the trail during a hard workout on a hot day, too tired to run any further. I paused for a minute at the trail head where I met Chanda and tried to comfort her as she told me through tears that the pain in her knee was too bad to run. And I jumped over a snake crossing the path in the same place I had dozens of times before.

As I ran the eight miles out and back I must have recounted hundreds of memories. There are more memories on this trail than I could fit into a single post. But as I finished up my run, the thing that hit me the hardest, the thing that I had somehow missed before was that this trail is home. In many ways  my family and I have grown up here. It has been a constant in our ever changing world and we have been through a lot here. I know that it might not make a lot of sense to some, but running this trail today truly was like coming home.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Is Fit the New Skinny?

"The only two pairs of shoes a girl needs are really good running shoes and classic red stilettos".

When I'm not in running shoes, you can often find me in a variety of smokin' hot, high, high heels. I love them.  I feel beautiful in them.  Confident.  Unstoppable.

But you know what makes me feel even more confident? More unstoppable?  And yes, more beautiful? Its not a certain dress. Its not a certain application of makeup. Its not a certain pair of shoes. Its actually the most ridiculous outfit I own.  The top looks like a small bathrobe, the pants would make MC Hammer proud, and the only appropriate footwear is none at all.  Its my martial arts uniform.

It's not sexy.  It's not even flattering.  But when I tie my belt around my waist, pull my hair into a ponytail, and step out onto the mat, I feel all kinds of gorgeous.

Why?  Because this sport makes me feel strong.  The punches, kicks, and blocks make me feel capable and fearless.  The forms make me feel graceful and powerful at the same time.  Fighting another person gives me a deep sense of reverence for my opponent and respect for myself.

And that, my friends, is beautiful.

Nine years ago this week I was scheduled for a surgery that would remove the screws and pins that had been holding my right foot together since a tragic car accident 5 months before.  When I came out of surgery I was told that I would experience pain for the rest of my life.  I went 3 years unable to wear my beloved high heels. But last week, at my Orange Belt test, I smashed that same foot, still bearing the scars from two surgeries through a solid piece of wood.  Afterward, I held the two pieces of the board in my hands and literally trembled in gratitude and amazement.

Too many women spend everyday hating their bodies.  Every outfit, every workout, every social event, hating the body that they live in. Defining their worth by a number on a scale or on the tag of their jeans.  I have spent too many years feeling exactly that way.... unhappy, unsatisfied, unaccepted by the eyes that I had to face in the mirror every morning.  

At the end of the belt test last week, after I had changed out of my uniform and had untied my hair, I was unexpectedly asked to break another board, this time with an open palm strike. When the palm of my hand broke through the board and smashed into the chest of the instructor, and I held in my hands 4 pieces of broken wood, something became very clear to me....

My body is amazing.

Not because of a dress size, not because of a certain number of pounds lost.  Not how I look, but what I can do.

My legs have carried me across the finish lines of two marathons.  My body has grown two human beings.  My arms have rocked six children to sleep. My body has been broken by tragedy and has  healed into something whole.

Do I still want my body to change?  Sure.  But I'm more concerned with a body that is stronger, faster, more powerful, more agile, able to run further, able to throw a stronger punch, than I am with a body that is just.... thinner.

I have heard recently that fit is the new skinny.  I don't know how I feel about that.  But I do know that I have better things to do with my time, with my body, than to chase skinny.