Thursday, February 2, 2017

January Yoga Challenge Recap

For those of you that follow me on instagram, you know that I have been faithfully hitting the mat for every day of January. I am not going to lie- it has not always been easy. During the week it was generally easy to get done because I would practice at my lunch break. The weekends got tricky with long runs and other obligations. Most importantly, even when it got hard to, I showed up for myself.

With the exception of Day 1, I completed each day on the assigned day and I am so proud of that. Last year I doubled up quite a few times. January 1st I worked all day then we went to visit family and we actually got home after midnight so I decided I would just get a good night's rest then hit it the next day.

Each week day I would anxiously await my lunch break from work so that I could hit the mat. I loved that this series had practices that were generally 30 minutes or less. It made it so much easier for me to make the time for it and my brain and body were so grateful. Practicing on my lunch break allowed me to recenter and focus before I had to face the second half of my day. I get a bit anxious and stressed some mornings depending on what is going on, so being in the routine of yoga-ing was perfect!

Each day came with a new theme, and I swear Adriene knew exactly what I needed that day even before I did. Most days the practices flew by. I looked forward to the daily practice and the changes going on in my body and brain.

There were a few days that my arms were sore and achy from all the down dogs and chatarangas. Don't forget the days I would have to shake my arms out while running because they were more tired than my legs!! Can you imagine?

Some days, my balance was challenged and I fell on my face. Adriene has taught me to laugh it off, brush it off, whatever.. and just keep going. No judgments. She is a great advocate for doing what you can where you are and using that to grow. In fact, her slogan "find what feels good" is so powerful that I often think about it during life off that mat. Something doesn't feel right? Find what does and go from there. 

Other days it was more about stretching, meditating or just remaining present. It is such a challenge for me, sometimes, to remain present. With all of the pushes and pulls of life, it is so easy to get distracted. Taking daily time to do yoga really just helped me stay present even if just for that 30 minutes. I don't mean to say that my mind never wandered. It did. A lot. But sometimes the whole point of yoga, for me, is to let myself be a little scattered and refocus so that I can return to being present. 

By the end of the 31 days, I felt stronger and had the courage to try things that I definitely couldn't do before. It has been very empowering. I felt like my mind was calmer, my body got stronger, and I was more at ease. Of course now that it is over, I need to return to a schedule of at least doing yoga once per week. For the larger part of 2016 I was able to stick to this goal and I hope to do the same for 2017. This yoga revolution challenge has been a great way to start the year off on a good note. 

I did also do the #newyearmoreyoga challenge which was just that. A challenge. Some of the poses were way out of my league. If I had to choose which I liked best, I would say the full practices. The poses are great for a challenge, but I feel like these types of challenges miss the point of yoga. The practice and flow that provide me time to relax, unwind and process things is missing from these challenges. That's not to say I won't do others, I just prefer the whole practice. 

Thanks to Yoga with Adriene for yet another amazing January of yoga. 

Have you ever done a yoga challenge? What did you learn? Would you consider it?

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Beer Runners and a trail run

This past weekend I got to experience a really fun event hosted by Christopher McDougall, author of Born to Run.

We met at a park in Lancaster County about 45 minutes away and there were various distances available. We did a goofy warm up/ice breaker where we had to crawl on our hands and feet towards the middle of the circle, high five someone then go backwards to our starting point. Unlucky for us, we had to go backwards up hill.. SO HARD!!

From there, we split up into 3, 5 and 7 mile run groups and were off on our merry way. There were some spots that were definitely very challenging, but overall I loved this trail run. They wove us in and out of a few different trails and we had minimal time on the road. Our group somewhat stuck together and I think everyone enjoyed themselves.

Some highlights were:
1.  The crazy deer stampede that had us all (almost) peeing our pants and fearing for our lives.
2.  Passing through a covered bridge. This may not be too exciting for some of us in my area since it is somewhat common here, but still a treasure and fun to see!

3.  No hands hill. Exactly what it sounds like. Steep as heck and the challenge is not to use your hands. I was pretty successful until we got closer to the top where there were a couple of times I reach out. So badass.

4. The AMAZING view at the top of said no hands hill.

shout out to Ana @ Mother, Run, Hike, Repeat who was also there and for this picture! 

5. Getting to meet and run with some really awesome people. Does it get any better than that?

After the run, we came back to the car and headed over to Tellus360, the bar where we would get to watch Beer Runners, the movie all about how the movement got started. It was already PACKED when we got there and service took forever. In all fairness, I get that it was busy but it took forever to get food.. and man we WERE RUNGRY!!!

Highlights from this portion of the day:
1. Getting to see BEER RUNNERS and raising our glasses "To the Professor!!!"

2.  Meeting and getting our photo with the creator of beer runners. Oh and we actually ran with him too. Super awesome guy and so down to earth.

3. Also getting a picture with Chris McDougall at the end of the afternoon. Another super awesome, really down to earth guy with a great sense of humor. His wife was there playing ukulele with a neat band.  Such a neat couple.

To say this was a fantastic experience would be an understatement. I am so glad I went, even after running with my training group in the morning. It was nice to do something fun and different and even a little outside of my comfort zone. I wasn't a huge fan of the big crowds at the bar, but would do it again for an experience like this. We decided that the Fishtown beer runners are our heroes and that we will make a trip to visit when "The Professor" is in town. What an honor it would be to meet him.

Have you ever gotten to meet a run celebrity? Who was it? 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Lessons in Crewing

The weekend before Christmas I did something I have never done before, but definitely hope to do again.

I had been asked by a friend to crew and pace her for Devil Dog Ultras as she would conquer the 100k race. There was also a 100 mile option that another member of our group (Fred) would set out to destroy. Initially, I wasn't sure I could or should commit an entire weekend to something that wasn't on my initial schedule for 2016. After discussing and thinking more about it, I knew I had to! Bekah is a good friend and I knew I had to be there with and for her. 

Emily, Bekah and Fred all ready (and maybe a little nervous) for the hours ahead of them.

Displaying received_10103490963632746.jpeg

The early morning crew-ers. Me, Chris and Maegan. 

Here we are right before Bekah was getting ready to leave on her journey. Ice and all. So badass.

After we saw them all off on their running journeys, the 3 crew members headed back to the hotel for some breakfast and to pack up the rooms.  This was an interesting trip because of the worsening ice/rain situation. When we parked at the hotel we actually had to "ice skate" to the front door because it was so slippery. I would love to know how long it actually took us to travel the short distance from the car to the door. I would also love to see a video of it, because it was definitely an interesting time. 

We had requests for beer, so after breakfast we headed to Wegman's to pick up a six pack to be enjoyed later in the day. By the time we left Wegman's, it seemed like the temps were rising a little and maybe things were thawing out a little, too. 

We returned to the race site and waited for our runners to return from their first loops.

We were SO excited when Fred returned from his first loop. We were getting a little worried because he was expected sooner, but because of the ice and cold he was delayed. He looked a little tired and even a little defeated already but we cheered him on, got him dry clothes, shoes, and some food. We chatted a little and then sent him back out for loop 2.

Maegan with Fred as he put on dry shoes- Yes she (and we!) were VERY COLD waiting for everyone. 

About an hour or so later, Emily came back from her first loop and shortly after that so did Bekah.

Bekah was tired, but in good spirits and ready for some dry clothes as well. We got her everything she needed and I told her I couldn't wait to see her next time so we could go out and run together!!  Everyone knew the second loop would be better than the first since it was warming up a bit and gradually everything would thaw out. 

Fred was pretty hungry after his second loop!! Quesadillas, soup and pizza were on the menu. 

When Emily arrived at the aid station the second time, she had some blisters that Jade helped her take care of and got some food and switched out her clothes again. I think we started battery changes for headlights as well, knowing the third loop would be completely dark. Emily looked very tired and seemed pretty stiff heading back out for the third loop, but seemed determined. 

Bekah came back in from loop 2, and I think I cried a little for her. I knew she was concerned about not making it to this point due to a miss last fall at a 50 miler race. I had told her I knew she could and here she was!

One last shot before we headed out into the dark together, for a good long run/hike. I waited ALL day for this. No really, I did. I had spent the day with the other crew members, waiting, eating, waiting, pondering napping, chatting, eating some more and waiting. I was so excited that it was finally my turn to be out on the trails with Bekah.

I think this was one of the first aid stations we hit and they had devil dog treats, so funny. I had to snap a quick picture.  As you can see, we had a guest with us too!! Brian joined us when his girlfriend Adriane had to drop out due to some bad pain and just couldn't continue.

The funny thing?? I knew Brian from YEARS ago as he went to college with a long time friend of mine. It continues to amaze me how the running community works and how you re-meet people from different times in your life. Needless to say, it was fun to experience part of his ultra-running journey with him that day as well.

So long story short is that the next hours were long. Some of the miles felt VERY long and everyone was tired, but I wouldn't trade a moment of it for the world. You see, when you do something that is not for your benefit, how you feel doesn't really matter. I mean, I guess in some way it does, but at that moment, for me, it did not. My legs and feet were tired from all the time spent out there, but I didn't dare say anything. I knew that whatever I was feeling, Brian and Bekah were feeling 3x as much. They endured so much that day and I was merely there to support them on this last stretch. I was there to make sure they got their butts across that finish line and that was exactly what I would do.

We kept each other company as we chatted here and there and ran as much as they were able. Pacing. It is not an easy job. There were tears. There were moments of wanting to sit, give up, scream, and more tears. There were moments of encouragement, hugs, love and happy tears. Every moment was worth it. The course measured long so when I told Bekah that we hit mile 19 and then noticed we were almost to 20, she asked if I had lied to her. I told her I would never do such a thing. I am pretty sure there were more tears shed. I told her that I knew she was tired, hungry and 100% ready to be done with this race.. but that she had to keep moving so we could make that happen. 

We FINALLY made it back to the finish line and Bekah collapsed to the ground right after crossing. Race staff asked if she was okay and I simply replied that she was tired and hungry, but medically okay. We got her off the ground and into the pavilion where she could start to rest and recover.   

Upon entering the pavilion, we saw Emily who had finished not long before us. She soon headed up to the warm building to sleep and rest while she waited for Fred to finish his race.

Bekah and I bundled up and waited for Fred to return from his loop before we headed home. It was cold and we were tired.. can you tell??

It broke my heart a little to see Fred when he returned from his 4th loop. He was very tired and very much unlike that happy go lucky Fred we all know. I have always heard about the dizzy, delirious and exhausted feelings people experience during all the hours it takes to complete a 100 mile race, but to witness them with your own eyes is a totally different story.  Nonetheless, the crewing duties called once again. We tried to get him to eat some food, got him new shoes and helped him out in any way possible. We told him he could and would do it. He wanted to sleep a little, but experienced Jade said "You've got 2 minutes! That's it!"

We sent him off and then a few of us headed home. 

As I got home, I dropped my stuff down and headed for the shower. I headed to bed and checked facebook for updates every time I woke up. Eventually I saw this ...

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing, tree, outdoor and nature

and then this...

Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling, people standing, tree, outdoor and nature

I was so excited to see that Fred made it across that finish line with the help of his amazing crew and pacers. It was great to meet Chris and Jade. I am glad we got along well since, after all, we spent a LARGE chunk of time together Saturday. 

If there is one take home that I can share with you about my crewing/pacing experience it is this. You are not there for you. You are 100% there for the person you are supporting. Every decision you make is for that person. We so often brag on ourselves and what we did, but this is definitely not a time for that. Not at all. It is a humbling experience to be such a support for someone else. 

If you have never volunteered for a race I challenge you to. If you have never crewed/supported a friend or loved one in a new distance/important event, I challenge you to do that as well. 

Related image

Just like a race or event that you complete is life changing for you, doing something for someone else's important race or goal is even more life changing. 

With today being the start of the new year, I challenge each of you to do something new in 2017. It might be a little scary, it might be cold, it might be hot. But I guarantee you will learn a lot about yourself and how amazing it is to serve someone else.

Monday, November 28, 2016

{Not your average} Medal Monday

I can't let this month slip by without sharing an amazing part of this year's running journey with you.

This is not about a personal achievement. Not at all.

Although personal tooting of our own horns is often the subject of our blog and/or social media posts, that is not the purpose of this post.

Instead, it is a celebration of friendship, same pace camaraderie, and the massive amount of miles it takes to cross the finish line of a marathon. Especially a first marathon.

Back in January of this year, the running gods aligned me with three amazing women. We all had similar goals for our spring half marathon races and therefore had similar goals for our workouts at each Fleet Feet Mechanicsburg led running class. We all held each other accountable to our goals and paces... just a little obsessively.

This is a picture of us all bundled up at that first workout. Little did we know...

Long story short we trained together all spring and, in the process gained a group nickname. We always needed to know very specific details regarding paces and exactly what our workouts each week should entail. We asked lots of questions and pushed ourselves at every workout. What was the nickname, you ask? OCD Diamond. We were referred to as the OCD Diamond quite a few times and we eventually gave in and began referring to ourselves as just that.

Next came the summer/fall season and we all signed up again to train together. Katie and I had eyes set on marathon and ultramarathon distance (respectively) while Michele and Michelle were focusing on half marathon goals. Unfortunately Michele became injured early-ish in the season and was out for PT a large part of the summer and fall. We missed her dearly and exchanged TONS of facebook chat group messages back and forth checking in on each other to see how she was progressing.  I had issues of my own and also missed some running. Katie had an Achilles issue and was also out and on reduced running restrictions for over a month. Michelle dealt with some unexplained calf cramping issues at a few races.The injuries and issues sucked, but knowing that we were all always there for each other was unbeatable. 

A month before Katie's goal race, Harrisburg Marathon, the other three of us were inquiring over what the plan would be for Katie and whether she was still planning to attempt the race. Although she had missed quite a few long training runs and more miles than she would have liked, she continued to be cautiously optimistic. She persevered and continued increasing her mileage gradually to assess whether the race was realistic. 

Katie sent a message the group after each run with a status report. Every time we had a verbal positivity party for her as we neared closer and closer to THE day. With each added mile and each positive report the excitement for her grew. 

We made group shirts and I even got group bracelets made for us by Momentum Jewelry which I gave them and of course we had to get a picture immediately!! We adapted our shirts to say "The Diamonds" so as not to offend anyone who didn't know the story behind the name. 

You might be wondering... why did we need group shirts if we weren't all running the marathon? Well, back in the summer when Katie first set her eyes on the marathon, we all decided we would also form a relay team so that Katie would not be alone in those miles when things got really tough. At that time we were just thinking it would be a nice thing to do given that it was her first and that having company is so helpful, especially in those final miles when you want so badly to throw in the towel. The night  took the photo above we had an an honest conversation with Katie. We all told her that we were not leaving her or letting her quit (barring really awful injury or reason she couldn't continue) because we were not there for us, but for her. There may have been a small tear fest at that moment, but that was the 100% truth. 

I was volunteering earlier in the day to help set up all the water stations so Michele and Michelle ran the 2nd and 3rd legs of the relay, while I ran the 4th. I waited there for Michelle to return and then would take my turn running with Katie. When Michelle arrived, we switched the tracking anklet and off I went. She had to make a pit stop and then (QUICKLY!!) caught back up to us. Katie was hanging in there at mile 21. Recognized soreness but no injury or pain that was going to stop her from making it to the finish line.  The three of us put one foot in front of the other, chatting like usual, until we reached mile 25 where we picked up our 4th member, Michele!!

She even had the honor to carry the pacing stick the last .2 of the race since the Diamonds had become the pace group. Doesn't that sign look good on her?? 

Displaying _O6A1698-(ZF-5765-30830-1-001).jpgo

Getting to cross that finish line as a group and being there to support Katie as she bravely finished her first marathon was by far one of the best moments of the year!! She fought and worked so hard to make this finish happen despite her body trying to punk her and make her give up.

So today's medal Monday isn't about my medal from this race. It is about Katie's and all that it stands for. Strength, perseverance, and true grit. 

(yes I stole this from her facebook)

I am so incredibly proud of you and your accomplishment. Thanks for letting us all be part of your special day and share those miles with you. I hope you never lose the feeling of how it felt to cross the finish line at your first marathon. 

I was also hoping to have a super special photo to end this post with, but I am still on the hunt. After we all crossed the finish line, we instantly went into group hug (and crying) party mode. Someone from the media staff covering could be heard taking many snapshots of us together. Unfortunately, I am still trying to track down that photo. I do think I have a pretty good lead, but bummed I didn't have it in time to share this post. 

That being said, I could say so much more about our little group and our crazy weird bond that we share, but mostly that I am so honored to know each of them and am so proud to call them my friends. Each one of these ladies inspires, uplifts, and encourages me just when I need it the most. 

Is there someone (or more than one someone) in your running circle that you have a similar connection with?? I would love to hear your stories in the comments below!!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Try This Tuesday

All week, I was looking forward to this weekend. I know they say you shouldn't live for the weekends, but sometimes it's hard not to. I didn't go on a trip or some fancy getaway, I just stayed in my home area and enjoyed some great events/outside time.

Friday night after work, I headed over to Absolute Pilates for a special "Runner's Night" event hosted at their Mechanicsburg location. There were two 30 minute classes along with some great tips on remaining injury free from Zang Physical Therapy and running form type advice from the wonderful Fred at Fleet Feet Mechanicsburg,  Funny enough I knew most of the other ladies who showed up from class at Fleet Feet.

When I first walked in, I was pretty intimidated by all the equipment!

Really though, that's only because I have no idea what they do with it!! I set up time to meet with Andrew Zang prior to the event starting to seek out some possible answers on my annoying returning injury in my left leg. He confirmed to me what I though- glute weakness like WOAH. Basically, my injury is pretty typical of long distance runners because we all stink at strength training and making sure our muscles are at our absolute best for running. So lesson learned (again and again) is that I need to focus on continuing my strength training even during marathon and further distance training. I struggle so much with this but I continue to lose time running (and progress) each training cycle because of it. It's time for a change!!

Here's a cool shot posted on their insta @absolutepilates from the barre class. Such a neat (and SUPER challenging) experience. I definitely felt all my muscles working really hard. The burn was REAL. 

During the PT session, we learned some great ways to work the glutes since this is a major problem area for female runners. Apparently glute weakness is a pretty primary reason for most female runner injuries. Explains a lot. Again.. work to do!! 

Fred talked to us about stride, cadence, posture, and other run-nerdy things. I have heard of a lot of the info before through taking their training programs, but it is really always great to hear the info again. Sometimes you learn something in a different way than before or you end up with a good reminder. Either way, its great.

After the two info sessions, we hit the mat and did some more WORK! I definitely felt it all in my legs and abs. I knew I would be feeling all of that hard work the next day (and no worries, I did!!).

In addition to the great workout space, they carry some adorable shirts and tanks as well as leggings. They carry some other fun stuff too, but theses caught my eye. 

I was pretty excited that one of my favorite running ladies hung out the whole night too and we snapped this cute selfie before heading home for the night. 

Have you ever tried Barre or Pilates? 

Monday, November 21, 2016

(some of my) Weekend adventures

Saturday morning I woke up earlier than I do on work days- and happily!!

One of my trail runner partner in crimes, stopped by to pick me up shortly before 7 am to make our way to Boiling Springs to meet up with Appalachian Running Company for their trail run. I have been trying to make it out to more of these runs while my mileage is lower to keep my "trail legs" as they say. Really glad I have been doing this since my 50k since I have added something to my plans for the end of the year (more on that later).

It has been fun to join this group on a few runs and meet some new faces and enjoy a change of pace with the trails and beautiful views.

Here's the crew!!

We were greeted by some really cool fog on the Children's lake in town and I quickly jogged across the road to get some photos (of course!).

Views I don't get to see on my regular day to day. So refreshing and wonderful to soak up the last of the beautiful colors of fall here in south central Pennsylvania.

But wait!! There's more.

Trail partners at the top of the climb!

This picture doesn't even it do it justice.

We got a nice 6 miles in on the trail and we were ready for some breakfast!! We grabbed coffee and carbs at the near by cafe and headed home. 

On to Sunday!!  I got up even earlier- at the bright time of 5am to get myself ready and get to Hershey by 6am for the fall Capital Area Girls on the Run 5k. This is my fourth season on the planning committee and even though it means early mornings on race day, I am always happy to do it!!  We got all the bins unloaded for each of the "Friends and Family" zone areas as well as the registration and other check in areas first and then we all spread out to set up our individual areas before the girls and their families arrived.

The pitch black when we first arrived.

We got all set up and watched everyone start rolling in.

Each school team has their own table where all the girls meet for their race bibs and their running buddies (people they can choose to run the race with them.) They have recently added a middle school program "Heart and Sole," which I think is so awesome and important with all the life changes at that time.

My happy hair station!! Always so fun to add color and spunk to each girl's hair pre-race. For some reason, blue seemed to be the popular choice this season.  Our hands were cold, our hair aprons and spray cans were constantly blowing away, but we definitely had a great crew this time around. 

(both Spirit runner photos borrowed from a friend ;))

This year we changed it up a little and added super cool new tradition called "Spirit Runners." This was a group of runners (most of who I think I recruited from our local River Runners group..LOVE!!) that kind of floated all over the course to cheer on and encourage the girls. I heard great feedback about how fun this responsibility was and I am so glad. Not all of them are pictured here, but I hope they all had a great time.

After the girls headed to the warm-up and announcements pre-race, I relocated to the info booth to relieve another volunteer. It definitely got even colder as the morning went on and the girls and their families did not stick around long like they do sometimes. 

We got cleaned up and that was that. We pretty much ran to our cars since we could not wait to get in the warmth again. Oh, and get home for a hot shower and a nap.

In all seriousness, I love this organization and was so glad that this 5k was on my weekend "to-do" list. To be honest, my to-do list was really not a chore this weekend and I am so glad for things in my life that allow me to step away from all the madness of every day life and the online world to enjoy and appreciate even the smallest things. 

So I ask you--- how did you spend your weekend?? 

I really hope it was filled with lifting people up, being kind, and witnessing some awesome humans doing awesome things. Otherwise, you might be doing it wrong.