Sunday, November 9, 2014

Isabody Challenge: The Beginning

This week I signed up for the IsaBody Challenge.  It is 16 weeks long and I'm excited to see what the next four months bring.  I chose to focus on Energy and Performance.  I know that overall I want to gain more strength and build lean muscle.

My overall goals are nothing new.  I have been working on gaining lean muscle mass and strength for the past few months.  For this challenge, I have a very specific purpose.  I also want to maintain my health through the holidays and, more importantly, the first part of the New Year.  My life is undergoing some significant changes and change naturally bring on stress and anxiety.  That is how life goes.  I know that one of my automatic responses during these types of situations is to not take care of myself.  I push my focus outward and will neglect and ignore simple things like eating.  I push myself too hard, turn all my attention to my kids and find myself sick and injured.  I joined this challenge because it will force me to stay aware of my body, my needs and take care of myself on a daily basis.  This is my commitment to being good to me.

My goal for the challenge:  maintain my weight and health.  It is isn't specifically measurable, but it is truly invaluable. 

Let's do this!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Chicago Marathon 2014 Recap

October 12, 2014

Walking up North Columbus toward the starting line the cold wind took my breath away.  I was still in a state of disbelief that I was making my way to the beginning of THE Chicago Marathon.  I had started my training hoping to achieve a sub-4 hour marathon.  A lofty goal for anyone that isn't naturally gifted with endurance running speed.  Looking at some recent data, approximately 25% of marathon runners (in major races) are able to finish in under 4 hours.

My training had fallen off course so that goal was no longer realistic.  After struggling to complete my long runs and trying to get my nutrition on track I decided to talk to my Triathlon Coach, Mari, and get her take on how to approach the race.  Her advice, and one I had already been toying with, was to go 100% by feel race day.  To collect data, I could use my Garmin, but I shouldn't use that as a way to pace myself.  Instead, I was to use my perceived exertion and a flexible game plan of how hard I wanted to push at certain mile points.

My goal was simple.  Beat my current PR of 4:19:58.  I had a secondary goal of beating 4:10:00, but that was only if I was feeling good during the race.

My game plan looked like this:

  • Start with the Corral behind my assigned corral of F.  I know I start slow and in order for me to be true to my natural running form, I need to start with a group that has a slower pace.
  • Miles 1 - 3: It should feel a little bit uncomfortable, but allow my legs to get warm and loosen up.  No pushing hard, no matter what.
  • Miles 4 - 16: Every run interval should feel challenging, but maintainable.  It should feel FUN.  I should be able to high-five kids, look around at the buildings and neighborhood and enjoy the race.  Fuel using Gu at miles 5, 10 and 16.
The rest of the plan was purely dependent on how I was feeling during the race.  If I was feeling good and ready to try to push, then I was going to use this strategy

  • Miles 16 - 20: Every run interval should be HARD.  I should be ready for each walk break.  Keep arms swinging during the walk intervals.  Remember Mirinda Carfrae's form as she ran the marathon portion of her IronMan Championship win.  Try to keep that form.  Start drinking the Nuun Water I had on my hydration belt in addition to using the water stations.
  • Miles 20 - 26: Change playlist to the fast BPM (Last 6 Miles on my Spotify Playlist) and just keep the tempo with my feet.  No matter what, keep the turnover quick and steady.  Take in a Gu at mile 21.
  • Mile 26 - Finish:  All out.  Don't stop.  Pick it up and finish strong.

At the beginning of the race I felt really strong and confident that the race would be fun.  The atmosphere was electric, excited and pulsing with adrenaline.

I met another runner, Anna, who had traveled from Hamburg, Germany to experience this race.  She and I connected immediately and we started talking about our goals for the race and our previous races.  She had run one marathon and I told her this was my fifth.  She snapped this picture for me as we started moving en masse toward the start line.  As we crossed the start line we high-fived and promised to talk in the Hospitality Tent after the race was done.

The Race

I stuck to my plan.  My first few miles were about getting warmed up and comfortable.  I only pushed a little bit so that I wouldn't completely tank my overall pace.  By mile 3 I was in a good rhythm and felt strong.  I was giving high-fives to all the  kids (and some adults) and smiling ear-to-ear.  It stayed that way all the way through mile 15.

The Decision

As I approached the half-way mark I knew it was time to decide what I wanted to do for this race.  I was feeling good, my hamstrings were tight, but I knew that was going to happen.  I wasn't in pain and I felt like I had plenty of reserves left.  I gauged my mental state and knew that if I went for a good over all time, it was going to hurt.  It wasn't going to feel "good" - but I had listened to an interview with one of the Kenyan elite athletes and he did a wonderful job talking about how he is able to finish as well as he does, he said something along the lines of this:

It hurts.  Of course it does.  But, everyone else is hurting, too.  If you want to do well, you just keep pushing forward.

I decided that I could go for the best time possible - whatever that might be.  I wasn't using my watch to check my pace and I wasn't using the elapsed time displays at each mile to track my individual mile paces.  I was running 100% by feel and I loved the freedom.

I picked up my pace around mile 16.  I focused on good form.  I had the mental image of Mirinda Carfrae running in my mind to emulate.  Mile 19 came up and I switched my playlist to my Last Six Miles playlist on Spotify.  I dug in and just kept my feet moving with the beat of every song.  I wasn't smiling and I was very intense.  I had a single purpose and I was there to make it happen.  I didn't look around, I turned my vision inward.  Miles 23 and 24 felt like the longest miles of my life.  When I saw Mile 25, I knew I could keep going strong and steady.  I was SO tempted to check my watch and see my time.  I didn't.  I didn't want to be disappointed.  I knew I had run a solid race and I didn't want anything to take that away from me.  Towards the end, there were more frequent distance markers.  Now they said 1500 meters to go!  1000 meters to go!  At this point I had run out of my playlist.  No more music.  Just me, the cheers of thousands of spectators and my sole desire to finish as fast as possible.  I focused on making my feet move faster.  Quicker turn-over.  I let the joy from the people lining the streets fuel my momentum.  I ran next to one guy for a few seconds.  He was struggling.  He had another friend next to him cheering him on, too.  I looked at him and said, "We are almost there.  Don't stop.  You can't stop.  You are SO CLOSE."  He smiled at me and then I kept going.

The finish line was up ahead.  I saw it and my heart just started leaping.  I ran faster.  As I approached the line I threw my hands into the air.  I did it.  I ran MY RACE.  Start to Finish, I did what I wanted to do and what I had hoped to do.  Then I stopped my watch and I started to cry.  I had no idea what my time was before that moment.  I looked down and saw:


That is 17 minutes and 25 seconds faster than my previous best time.  I had not only made a new PR, I had crushed my goal of 4:10:00.

I couldn't resist taking a picture of myself in that moment:

I think my smile says it all.


For the first time since I started running races, I have zero regrets about how my performance.  I wouldn't change a single thing about how I ran my race.  I was able to get a massage immediately after the race was done and went through a great yoga sequence on Monday morning.  Between those two activities and lots of water and refueling, I was able to come back to Atlanta and jump right back into teaching my BodyPump, CXWORX and BodyCombat classes - along with teaching a bonus Spin class Tuesday morning.

Here is what I've learned from this entire experience:

  • It's okay to start slow.  I am runner that naturally achieves negative splits.  I am going to stop fighting that gift by trying to push too hard too fast.
  • With serious training and a running coach, I could qualify for Boston.  I was able to knock 17 minutes off of my time in spite of the fact my training hadn't been optimal.  I need to knock at least another 17 minutes off to qualify, but with the proper help, motivation and accountability, that can definitely happen.
  • I love Chicago.  I'd move there in a second.  I know the winters are cold, but they were cold in Massachusetts, too.
Anna and I caught up after the race was over.  She had a phenomenal race as well.  As we walked back towards our hotel/condos we stopped at a bridge and she snapped a few pictures.

Thanks for stopping in!!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Tears, Fears and Endorphins

It's been one hell of a week.  It has been one of those weeks where time simply seemed to stop and I couldn't get it back on the track it was on before.

Last weekend I was with my youngest, her two best friends and their mothers, who happen to also be two of my closest friends.  The weekend was relaxing, refreshing and exactly what I needed.  We were in Gainesville, FL.  It is a charming town and well worth the drive to get there to be with these wonderful friends.

We came back from that little escape and jumped right back into the school routine.  I had a horrible 20 mile run on Monday.  (not properly carb loading will do that to you)  Then Tuesday happened.

I was driving to my gym and I received a call from the Northside Hospital Imaging Center.  I had my routine mammogram the week before and they had found something that the radiologist wanted to get a better view of.  I immediately pulled over and took down all the information the nurse provided.  I called the hospital and scheduled my follow-up diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound.  Then I called my best friend, a BadAss Breast Cancer Survivor, Melanie, and started sobbing.

I was and am terrified.  My son is the exact same age I was when my mom died from breast cancer. I look at him and I can't imagine not being here for the rest of his growing into adulthood.  Or leaving my two beautiful girls in anyone else's hands to help them navigate being young women and growing up in this crazy world we live in.  These thoughts and fears came crashing in and I couldn't get a grip on the panic and the anxiety that hit me like a ton of bricks.  Melanie calmly walked me through all the crazy emotions and let me vent.  She then talked me through what the mammogram would be like and what to look for on the ultrasound.  I told her my follow-up was scheduled for 6 days and she gently told me I needed to see if I could another appointment sooner.  I hate feeling like I'm being pushy, so I told her, "No.  I'm sure I'll be fine.  I can wait."  Famous last words.

The rest of Tuesday didn't go so well.  My teaching schedule at the gym had changed and I hadn't paid attention to those changes.  I felt completely out of sorts and couldn't get a grip.  I went to teach Tuesday night and just felt...off.  I put on the happy face, taught class and tried to bring my A-game, but I took my anxiety and angst out on another instructor. After class I talked with my friend Monika (the wonderful person who reminded me about facing challenges as journeys) and she put things into perspective again.  On the way home I called the instructor I had been so rude toward and apologized.  I told her about my situation and hoped she would forgive how I had behaved.

As I went to bed Tuesday night I realized that I was going to call Northside first thing in the morning and try to get the diagnostic/ultrasound done as soon as possible.  I needed to know what was happening.  As soon as the office opened I called.  I was then offered two times for THAT day: 9 am or 1 pm.  I jumped on the 9 am appointment.   You see, normally I would have been teaching BodyCombat and not able to make that call or take the appointment.  Because that class was no longer happening, I could take care of me.  Everything happens for a reason.  This became immediately clear.

The diagnostic and ultrasound showed that I do have a mass on my left breast.  It doesn't look cancerous.  It looks like an egg, actually, on the ultrasound.  The radiologist said it is a fibroadenoma and nothing to be concerned over.  That said, a biopsy is needed.  That biopsy is happening on Oct. 7 with an amazing breast cancer doctor, Dr. Quinones, that was recommended to me by my OB-GYN.

It feels like Tuesday was a lifetime ago.  I know that in all likelihood this mass is benign and there is nothing to be concerned about.  Until Dr. Q. delivers that news, though, I will be nervous, scared anxious and sometimes terrified.

Here is where endorphins come in.  My go to coping skills before becoming healthy and fit would have been to drink my terrors away.  I probably would be putting down close to a bottle of wine a night if this had happened 6-7 years ago.  My coping skills now are significantly healthier:  I work out and I talk.  Wednesday night I went to BodyCombat taught my good friend, Bri.  She had put together a mix of songs that were inspiring.  They were about fighting, being a fighter and KNOWING it will be okay.  I was incredibly moved and touched.  Endorphins were firing, for sure.  Then Thursday I taught CXWORX and BodyCombat.  Everyone came up and commented that I was "on fire".  I was focused on feeling powerful and that came through in my instruction.  Then, Friday morning, I took AGX Fusion.  I wanted to push my strength boundaries with heavy weight and test what I could do.  It was the best thing ever.  After class, I walked to my my car and cried like a baby.  Endorphins had kicked in.  I felt strong and able to do anything.  But I also felt the fear.

This has been a crazy week.  Here is what I know now that I hadn't thought about in a long time:

  1. I have the most amazing friends, family and husband a person could ask for.  The amount of love I've felt from so many sources has totally blown my mind.  I know that the amount of positivity and love coming at me will continue to keep me afloat.   
  2. I'm strong.  In every way that matters.
  3. I'm going to be okay.  No matter what.  I'm going to  be just fine.  
I'm going to keep working out.  I'm going to keep telling myself that I'm going to be okay.  It will.  But I'm also going to keep using my endorphins to keep me in the right frame of mind.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Blown Away

Over the past few months, I've been searching for a better nutrition strategy.  I have some specific goals in mind.  I want to primarily build more lean muscle.  I also have a small amount of body fat I want to get rid of.  I know that building the muscle will naturally take care of the fat.

That said, I knew my nutrition and exercise strategy needed to change.  Not that what I was doing was bad, but if you keep doing the same things...well...you get the same results.


You want change?  YOU HAVE TO CHANGE!  Change what you are doing, what you are eating, change the approach.

The first step in this process was changing the workout.  I started taking AGX Fusion.  Okay, okay, I'll admit it - I started taking Fusion so that I could teach it.  But one morning, I looked in the mirror and saw differences.  There was more definition in my arms and my back.  I am now trying to get to 2-3 Fusion classes a week.  I aim to get one upper body workout (Wednesday or Thursday) and one whole body workout (Friday or Saturday).  That is in addition to my regular teaching schedule.  Just adding those two workouts is creating a difference.

But here is where my mind gets blown.

I've been using a different nutrition strategy for ONE week.  7 days.  When I started this strategy I had some serious doubts.  My food intake was already pretty solid.  I had made so many adjustments already and seen some success.  What difference could this possibly make?

I am simply amazed.  Here is what has happened in one week:

I have lost FOUR (4) INCHES in my target areas: waist and chest.  I have gained size in my arms and legs.  I have also lost almost 3 pounds. I lost size where I wanted to lose and gained in the areas I'm trying to build.  I am so excited to see what happens next.

Here is my plan: Isagenix.  Progress.  Success.  It's happening.

Saturday, August 30, 2014


This is my year of journeys.  This is my year of learning to embrace the process of change even when I don't know what the outcome is going to yield.  This is my year of living in the uncomfortable and letting expectations of what "should be" drop away.

I've begun an entirely new adventure since I completed my Personal Training Certification course.  Since I received notification of my passing the Final Assessment, my days are suddenly very different.  I have started shadowing some truly talented personal trainers through AdrenalineGX.  As I expected, the more I watched, listened and questioned Joey and Mike, the more I realized that I have SO MUCH to learn.  Their knowledge and expertise, as well as their patience with my learning curve have taught me more than any course could ever convey.  In addition to the personal training I have begun training to teach the AGX Small Group Training classes as well.  (Fusion, Bolt and Warrior)  For the first time in my teaching/instructor training experience, I didn't expect to walk in and just pick up on the teaching style or format instantly.  Instead, I am taking a more reserved approach.  For once, I'm not all about the instant gratification and getting rewarded with a class asap.  I want to get this right, so I'm taking the time to listen to the feedback I've received and apply it to the next situation.  I'm thinking about the questions I'm being asked to consider and letting the training sink in and take hold.  I'm seeing this as a beginning of a journey and I want the journey to be meaningful and have an impact.

I'm also continuing on my Les Mills journey.  I participated in the CXWORX AIM1 module today.  It was structured differently than the other modules I completed and I loved this format.  My brain is swimming with information and feedback and all the different pieces of the puzzle that come together to make me a better CXWORX instructor.  Susan Laney was the facilitator and she was incredible.  She pushed us to go outside of our comfort zones and to listen to our internal dialog as we went through drill after drill and exercise after exercise.  She offered lots of specific, meaningful feedback and was able to direct what we were doing and sharpen the skills we already have in place. I was nervous coming into this AIM since I haven't done a training like this since my AIM2 in April of 2013.  This time, for this module I didn't walk in with an air of arrogance and an attitude of "I've got this."  I came in to learn.  I came in open and wanting to receive feedback in every area we would address: technique and coaching.  I came in to the training knowing this is part of the journey of becoming a better instructor.  I learned that I'm stronger than I thought and that my coaching is growing in the right direction...I just need to continue working on learning how to be quiet.  Stepping back into an AIM was scary.  Even though there is no graded outcome to this module, being assessed and putting myself out there to be critiqued is not easy or comfortable.  However, THAT is the journey. LIVING truly happens in those uncomfortable, scary, not-so-safe zones.

In this year of journeys, I'm learning that letting it all unfold on its own pace can be a beautifully rewarding experience.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Pain, Panic, Perseverance

A week ago I set out to run 20 miles.  I started out strong and felt capable of anything.  I was going faster than my goal pace but didn't think I needed to pull back.  Around mile 6 or 7 my right knee started to twinge and I slowed down a bit.  Then I hit some crazy, ridiculous hills.  I knew the hills were part of the course,  but I hadn't struggled on them last time so I figured I run them again.  My mistake.

The first hill wasn't too bad, but on the decline of the second hill my knee went from a murmur to a scream.  I knew in that moment I was in trouble.  I started to use all the coaching techniques I had to help ease the stress on my knees.  I focused on using my hamstrings and quads.  I told myself how strong my legs are.  I tried to glide on my stride and keep my stride short.  Nothing helped.  My knee was hurting and it wasn't the "oh, wow, I'm really pushing my body" kind of hurt.  It was the "I'm injured" kind of pain.

I was at the turn around point of my run.  I was the farthest point from home and there was no short-cut to get home.  I had 8 miles to go.  I changed my running intervals to mostly walks with some shuffle/running thrown in.  Then, around mile 14, I stopped running altogether.  It just hurt too much every time I ran.  I walked the rest of the way home.  It was the longest 6 miles.

I called my son, who was waiting on me at home, to let him know that I was going to be later than I expected.  Then I called one of my closest friends.  I cried as I told her what had happened.  I was in a complete panic that I had just totally derailed my training and that I was going to be out of work on top of not running.  She calmly talked me out of my panic and helped me formulate a plan of what to do.  She let me cry and then gently, but firmly reminded me that I needed to pay attention to what my body was saying (shouting).  My last phone call was to my awesome sports massage therapist.  I left her a voice mail detailing what my knee felt like and asked if I could come in the next day.  She called me back within a few minutes and we talked about what I needed to do that day (R-est; I-ce; C-ompression (not so much this one); E-levation).  We also included alternating heat with the ice.

I survived that day.  I taught the rest of my classes for the week by pulling back on my usually all-out efforts.  My knee felt normal by Wednesday, thanks to Karen's excellent massage work and my diligence with using all the therapeutic tools I had on hand.

It was time to think about my next long run.  13 miles was on schedule.  I knew I needed to alter my route to cut out as many hills as possible.  That, alone, was a challenge.  When you live in the land of never ending hills, trying to make as flat a running route as possible is simply not a realistic option.  I did minimize the climbs, though.  The other challenge was going to be my pace.  I was supposed to run 13 miles at +15 sec over my goal marathon pace.  That meant running an average of a 9:15 min/mi.  Right.

I set out yesterday morning once I had seen my kids off to their first day of school.  It was a later start (~9:00 am) and the sun was bright, hot and the day was humid.  I knew straight off that I was not going to hit 13 miles and I was okay with that idea.  I wanted 10 miles and was going to make that happen.  Long story short, my knee held up, but not without some complaint.  My overall pace was faster than I intended at a 9:05 min/mi.  I changed my planned course at the last minute to cover the last few miles that had to walk last week.  I didn't want my memory of that stretch to be of me walking, in pain, crying.  It had been taunting me for the last week, so I wanted to take control and push through the negative thoughts back into feeling strong.

I did it.  I didn't strictly adhere to the training plan, but I did what I knew I could do and do well.  I listened to my body and when I got home I took all the necessary steps to take care of the knee and legs.

Perseverance.  That is going to be my mantra for now.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Never Quit

I ran 20 miles yesterday.  Here is what my Garmin looked like when I was done:

What the Garmin doesn't show is how hard this particular run was yesterday.  It also does not show how badly I wanted to stop and go home for almost the entire duration of three hours and twenty-three minutes.

How did I get through twenty miles if all I wanted to do was stop?  My brain was on a loop that sort-of looked like this image:

I started the run with legs that weren't feeling 100% and a brain already in doubt.  My hamstrings were tight and that only fueled the negative thoughts.  Then my knees decided to get in on the party and they started hurting, too.  This was at mile two.  MILE TWO.  Let that sink in for a minute.  I had 18 more miles to go.  90% of the run was still in front of me.  To say I was discouraged would be an incredible understatement.

Two things happened at that point:

1.  I started making deals with myself.  Here are a few of the negotiations I brokered for myself:

  • If I just made it back to the entrance of my neighborhood (approximately a half mile away) I could re-evaluate and go home if I needed.
  • If the light is green for me to run through the intersection at the entrance of my neighborhood, I'll go a little bit further and then turn around if I need to.
  • I can turn around at the next major intersection.
  • I can always call Uber for a taxi ride if I can't finish it and I'm too far away to walk it back.
  • Just make it to the next walk break.

2.  I remembered something Jeff Galloway told me during my running clinic with him back in 2012.  When a run is feeling crappy, change the run/walk intervals.  Drop down to 0:30/0:30 if necessary, but adjust the intervals to find a better pace/rhythm.  AHA!!!

This light bulb moment happened at about mile 3 when I was ready to turn around for home and just push all the training back a week.  My current run/walk intervals are 3:25/0:20.  I started using 1:30/0:10.  The run started feeling better.  Not good, not even close to thinking I could finish all 20 miles, but a definite improvement.  The other piece of this switch is that I didn't change my RunKeeper app timer, so I had to calculate the 1:30 increments in my head.  This was an awesome distraction.  I was so focused on that calculation and not going over the 0:10 walk breaks that the next 5 miles happened before I really thought about what was being done.  I was still negotiating with my  brain about when to turn around and I kept doing that until I reached the furthest part of my run.

When I reached the turn-around point I went into a QT to get water and take a bathroom break.  When I bought the water, the clerk asked how many miles I was doing that day.  I took a deep breath and said I was at mile 11 of 20.  We chatted for a couple more seconds and then I refilled my water bottles and headed back out to go home.  At that point, 20 miles was DEFINITELY happening and my brain shifted into a much more positive place.  My legs still felt tight but I knew I was going to complete the run in its entirety.

Then, something happened.  It all just felt good.  My brain was working and clicking along, my legs finally felt okay and my pace was a little challenging but comfortable.  I looked at my Garmin: 15.72.  I was running at just over a 9 min/mi pace.  I knew then that I wasn't just going to finish, I was going to finish these 20 miles - that at mile 2 I didn't think I could complete - feeling strong.

The upshot?  Don't quit.  Both of my tri coaches told me something that came back to me during the run, it doesn't feel good all the time.  In fact, it will downright suck to push hard and make the improvements happen.  But...YOU DO IT ANYWAY.  I have many coaches in my life and they all had a role in my head yesterday.  Some of them were gently nudging me, telling me that I can accomplish what I set my mind to, others were flat out screaming at me to get my ass in gear and make this all happen if it is what I really want.

I did.  I listened.  Then I thanked those people because they helped me conquer something I wasn't convinced I could overcome.

Don't quit.