Are you Mommy Strong?

I’m really excited to share with everyone that I’ve started an online community on Facebook called Mommy Strong Fitness. The premise behind the community is to join together like-minded women for support and encouragement on their journey to develop stronger bodies, stronger minds and strong relationships with their families.

Of course, the success of such a community relies on the members of that community to actively participate and share. I hope that you’ll join me on Facebook and help me encourage moms to get Mommy Strong for themselves and their families. And while you’re there, you’ll be uplifted and encouraged too! Sounds like a win-win in my book.

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Pink Sparkly Headbands

“Mommy, can you help me with my pink sparkly headband?” asked my four-year-old daughter Addison.

“Sure, sweetie. Here, put it around your neck like a necklace first. Good. Now, we need to pull it up over your forehead,” I said as I helped her put on her glittery hot pink headband.

“When I’m a mommy and I’m all grown up, I’m going to wear pink sparkly headbands all the time when I run races like you, mommy,” she said as she smiled up at me.

And that’s why I head out for a run after working eight-plus hours at my desk job and not seeing the kids since 7:30 that morning. Those 45 minutes when I’m out running–and not home with them–isn’t taking anything away from them. It’s actually giving them additional years with me as a healthy mom and hopefully giving them extra years to their lives because they’ll continue in a healthy lifestyle as adults.

Why I Run (An Ode to National Running Day)

Check out www.runningday.org for inspiration, local running meet ups and to share in the fun that is Running Day. You can also create your custom I Run badge and share with your Facebook and Twitter friends. And if you tweet, follow @runningday and check out the #runningday tweets.

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I run…

to redefine my limits

to prove to myself that I can

to feel strong

to feel alive

to be healthy

to lose weight

to wear cute running clothes

to wear un-cute running clothes (hydration pack, anyone?)

to give my pasty skin a little sun-kissed color

outside in the rain and snow

outside when it’s 90 degrees or 20 degrees

to escape the chaos of twins

as a stress-buster

to be an example for my kids

to inspire others to improve their health

for the camaraderie

to keep my sanity

because I can.

Book Review: “Run Like a Mother”

Run Like a Mother: How to Get Moving–and Not Lose Your Family, Job, or Sanity

by Dimity McDowell, Sarah Bowen Shea, McDowell, Dimity, Shea, Sarah Bowen

In Run Like a Mother, authors Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea offer both inspirational advice and practical strategies to help multitasking women make running part of their busy lives.McDowell and Shea understand the various external and internal forces in everyday life that can unintentionally keep a wife–mother–working woman from lacing up her shoes and going for a run. Because the authors are multihyphenates themselves, Run Like a Mother is driven by their own running expertise and real-world experience in ensuring that running is part of their lives.More than a book, Run Like a Mother is essentially a down-to-earth, encouraging conversation with the reader on all things running, with the overall goal of strengthening a woman’s inner athlete.Of course, real achievement is a healthy mix of inspiration and perspiration, which is why the authors have grounded Run Like a Mother in a host of practical tips on shoes, training, racing, nutrition, and injuries, all designed to help women balance running with their professional and personal lives. (Goodreads.com summary)

I saw this book listed on a friend’s Goodreads page last year, and decided I had to read it. Hello…it is about mothers who run. That’s totally me! 😉

On a scale of 1 to 5, I give this book a solid 3. As a writer, I notice the quality of writing in what I read. And this book just didn’t bring it on that front. I’d describe the writing as lackluster at best. The authors sprinkled the text with mothering metaphors, but I felt they were forced rather than authentic. Lastly, I didn’t find that the book actually delivered what the summary promised. I didn’t find any really great wisdom or advice on how to balance training with my career, mothering and wife-ing gigs.

However, I kept reading the book because the content was inspiring. While it didn’t help me find ways to easily incorporate running into my daily schedule, it motivated me to find the time and make it happen. Which, I suppose, is better anyway since every mom’s life is a little different and will require a customized approach.

I appreciated the quotes from marathon moms sprinkled throughout the book, and the last chapter, “Why I Run,” was particularly awesome.

If you’re a running geek, I recommend this book. If you’re just someone who runs a few times a week to stay in shape, it’s probably not for you.

Why Training for a Distance Race is Like Pregnancy

Stick with me for a little bit on this one. I mean, think about it. Training for a half or full marathon and having a baby really aren’t all that different. 

ImageRunning a distance race and having a child both involve months of planning, preparation and waiting for the big day.

In pregnancy, you’ve got hormones galore coursing through your body. After long runs, you’ve got endorphins and cortisol going on.

Pregnancy involves massive changes to your body, not to mention the aches, pains, swelling and constantly having going to the bathroom. Eventually you get to a point when even getting out of bed is difficult.

Training also produces changes in your body; muscles become tighter, you might lean out or you might get a bit of a belly from carbo loading before long runs. Not to mention the achy knees, blisters and difficulty walking the day after a long run. Plus, you’re constantly in the bathroom too, from all the water you’re downing throughout the day to keep hydrated and the tricky stomach issues during and post long runs.

Pregnancy changes your relationship with food. You might need ready access to food 24/7 to keep morning sickness at bay or to feed your rumbling belly in the middle of the night. You might get crazy cravings or throw calorie concerns out the window.

Running long distances and upping your weekly mileage can make you hungry 24/7 too. You bring Gu or energy gels with you during long runs because you need fuel, right now. The day of your long run, you might feel the need to eat 24/7 and forget about calories. 

Toward the end of pregnancy, many moms go into nesting mode. Massive to-do lists get conquered, meals get made and frozen, and supplies are stocked. This helps them feel in control, and ready for the upcoming birth experience (which is really out of their control in many cases).

The closer you get to race day, the more you do to prep for the big day. Ticking off the last training runs, planning the perfect taper, shopping to stock up on foods to properly carbo load, and testing out your fueling strategy. 

In the last weeks of pregnancy, you pack a bag for the hospital, checking and double-checking to make sure you don’t forget anything. You drool over adorable tiny newborn outfits, and eventually decide on the coming home outfit for your babe. 

The night before the race, you pack your race-day bag, deciding what you might need pre- and post-race, and obsessively checking it to make sure you have all the essentials. You also decide on that ever-important racing outfit. 

And then the big day comes. You go into labor. You begin the race. No matter what you’ve done in the weeks leading up to this time, you can never really be truly prepared for what your body and mind will experience. You may have a birth plan or a race plan all mapped out, but sometimes our bodies just don’t cooperate. Other times, everything happens just as we imagined.

Either way, when you see the face of your newborn baby or cross that finish line, there’s no words to describe the mixture of sheer joy, exhaustion and peace that occupy your heart and soul in that moment. It’s life changing. It’s life giving.  It’s life perfecting. 

2012 Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon Recap

I had an awesome time at this race. If you are in the midwest, I recommend you add it to your race schedule for 2013. It was a big race, the largest I’ve ever done by far. But, it was really well organized and staffed. The pre-race communications were great, so I knew where to park and pick up my packet at the expo, where to park on race day, etc. And the spectators and volunteers rocked! So many funny signs, families cheering us on, and other surprises along the way. I had a huge smile on my face nearly the entire race. (Yes, I am that dork that runs a race with a big grin on her face.)

Expo

The expo was a little smaller than I would have thought for a race of this size. In one gym, participants picked up their bibs and were able to check the imbedded timing chips. They also had a booth set up with Joe’s Pacers. I stopped by and decided I’d run with the 5 hour marathon pacer since my goal time was 2.5 hours for the half. In a separate gym, they had vendors set up and t-shirt pickup. There were a few clothing vendors, and of course, I had to get a couple of cute running shirts and a sweaty band. One of the shirts says Bad Mother Runner on it with a pink skull. 🙂 I also got sucked in and bought some race merchandise clothing. It says Illinois Marathon on it. I hope that doesn’t make me a poser. 😉

Race Day

Race day began at 4:00 am for me. Yawn! I had laid out my clothes and showered the night before, so I quickly made coffee, a PBJ for the road and threw on my clothes. I was on the road around 4:45 am for the hour-plus drive to Champaign. On the ride there, I drove through several downpours. I was really hoping the rain would pass before it was start time. I’ve run in light rain before, but nothing like what was coming down then.

And luck would have it, the rain did stop before it was time to line up at the start line. It was cool and damp, so I was cold while waiting for the race to begin. I lined up in my corral and chatted with the pacer for a bit. Since I’m a slow poke, our corral didn’t start until nearly 15 minutes after the official race start.

The first few miles were crowded and a little weird as everyone tried to set their pace and spread out. I kept the pacer in my sight, and tried to enjoy the sights along the route. After just a few miles, I had warmed up and was wishing I’d have picked a short-sleeve or a tank to wear instead of long sleeves. I fought a bit of a side cramp around miles 4 and 5. I don’t know why it came on, but I was able to run through it. For the most part, I felt good throughout the race. I kept the pacer in sight, but I often felt like I could be running a bit faster.

Finally, around mile 9, I decided to go for it and I passed the pacing group. I was running around a 10 min pace and I felt strong. Around mile 10, I had the pleasant surprise of running into two runner friends who were running the full marathon. I slowed down and we chatted for a bit, but then I surged ahead because I knew that 2:30 goal time was going to be mine. 😉 I continued to feel great until mile 11. At this point, I was starting to feel fatigued. But I kept pushing it, not wanting to slow down. The course had taken us back into campus, so there were a lot of people cheering along the road. I tried to feed off their energy, and I also told myself I was too proud to slow down with that many people watching. Mile 12 came, and I was starting to struggle. My breathing became labored and it was time to rely on my mental toughness to get me through. I wanted to walk, but I settled on slowing down to around a 12 min pace instead. My legs were feeling heavy and tired. I just wanted the race DONE at this point. Mile 12.5 came, and the marathoners broke off from the half-ers. I started to pick up my pace again, knowing I was almost done. The course kind of winds around until you enter into the tunnel to go onto the field at the football stadium. Once I hit the tunnel, I heard the roar of people cheering and I saw the finish line. I tried my best to pick up some speed, but the sudden change from pavement to Astroturf threw me for a loop. It felt like I was running on squishy springy carpet. I crossed the finish line, and was bummed when I saw the race clock was over 2:30. Then I remembered the corral start, and I looked down at my Garmin and stopped it. I wouldn’t know my official time until later than day, but I knew I finished in under 2:30!

Official time was 2:27:42, well below my previous time of 2:40 something.

I had a difficult time finding Nick and the kids because there were so many freaking people! It was crazy. I finally found them, and I swear, seeing the looks on my kids’ faces when I’ve finished a race is one of the best things in the world. They are so excited to see me, and I just love it.