Monthly Archives: March 2012

the mafia

Today, I ran 15 miles.

15 miles.

That’s huge.  Actually, for me, it’s bigger than huge.  

I know, realistically, that every run from here on out will be the longest run I have ever run.  (except those blissful recovery weeks).

But still, when I finish, it’s amazing.  Amazing to know that I have just done something I have never done before.

But today I am realizing so much more than just my own personal accomplishment.  I’m in awe of the running community.

You see, I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for a lot of people who have helped me on this journey.

It all started back in 2007 after the birth of my second son.  I had always liked to think of myself as a runner but had never run consistently.  Each time I tried to get started I would be sidelined with shin splints, or knee pain, or this weird thing where my toes would go numb when running.  I had tried new shoes.  Orthotics.  Chi Running.  But I had never really been able to stick with it.

After he was born, I took a trip back home to visit my family.  One of those days, I took the baby to the mall and visited a sporting goods store.  There I saw a pair of Saucony running shoes on clearance.  I tried them on and they felt amazing.  I told myself, “If you buy these you have to run in them.”

Then I bought them.

I promptly went home and started looking for running plans, and I found the Couch to 5k plan.  It looked, oddly enough, easy.  Definitely doable.

I had also recently joined an online website called CafeMom.  There I found a group called “Running Moms.”  I was hesitant to join the group, but decided I would try it out.  Little did I know that that one click of a mouse button would change my life.

In the Running Moms group I found women of all ages, of all shapes and sizes, all running.  Some were running 5k’s, or just getting started like me.  Others were racing marathons and half marathons. One “crazy” mom was running a marathon a weekend and training for an ultra.  (By the way, Tara, I finally feel like I just might be able to pace you.  Sign me up!)  But most of all, I found support.  Not one single mother in that group would ever tell me I couldn’t do something.  They’d all been there, in my shoes.  I related to them.  Some of us were working outside the home, some were working at home.  All of us were bound by our mutual interest in running and our full time jobs as moms.

In this group of ladies I have found some of the best friends I could ever have dreamed of.  We share more personal information with each other than with anyone else.  Sometimes I think these women know me better than I know myself.  Many times the insights that they provide are truer that I want to admit, and occasionally they hit home pretty hard.

When I signed up for Team in Training in 2009, it was because of the Running Moms.  Before meeting these women, I would have never even thought it was possible to run a half marathon.  Honestly, I probably wouldn’t have even considered it.  But with their support, it seemed possible.  And when I crossed the finish line of the Rock and Roll Seattle 1/2 marathon, I knew that when I got back to the computer I’d have tons of messages congratulating me on the finish.

They’ve been there for me through the whole journey, from run/walking for 5 minutes at a time, to running my first 1/2 marathon.  They’ve been there while I ran through my third pregnancy – four of us went through the process together, all due within four weeks of each other.  Now as I pursue my first marathon, they’re still there to help me figure out what socks to wear and how to fuel.

I love my Running Moms, and often I find myself talking about them as if they are my best local friends.  People probably wonder how I can really have a friend who runs ultras, one who lives in New Hampshire and has a blog with over 1000 followers, one who is a published magazine author, one who completed a full Ironman, and one who never ceases to give me interesting stories to talk about.  I could go on, and on, and on.  There are a lot of us, and each of us is unique and provides perspective in our conversations.

We joke that we’re the Running Mom Mafia (once you’re in, you’re in for life!).  And it’s true.  Although I’m no longer a member of CafeMom, many of us are still keeping touch on Facebook.  And we plan Running Mom Meet-ups at various races.  I’m hoping to meet a few when I travel to Minneapolis.

If it weren’t for my Running Moms, I know without a doubt that I would not be the runner I am today.  So thanks, RMM.  I love you ladies!


184 feet

I promised an update on this weekend’s running.  So here goes!

First, the CASI St. Patrick’s Day race.  This was the first race for the Live Uncommon REVOLUTION Race Team, so I’ll be honest and admit that I was actually nervous.  Not nervous for the race itself, just for the whole event.  I wasn’t sure whether I should be worried that I’d be in a crowd of amazing runners…which I was.  There were supposedly 30 Race Teamers at this weekend’s event, and many of them are rock stars.  But as it always turns out, runners are runners, and most of the runners I’ve ever met are positive, supportive people.  Regardless of pace, ability, we runners are a pretty awesome group.  Must be all the endorphins.  (Not to say there aren’t jerks who are runners, just that I don’t bother myself with worrying about them).

I also didn’t know what to expect about the race.  I had never run this race before.  I also didn’t know what to expect regarding my pace or speed.  I hadn’t raced a 5k (or anything, for that matter) since October, when I had PR’ed with a 25:39.  That for me, was amazing.  I can still remember just a few years ago struggling to break 30 minutes for a 5k.  So I went into this race blind, having looked at the course map once.  And, as almost everyone has experienced, looking at a map doesn’t really help you know what things will look like when you arrive.

I also decided to race “Garmin-less.”  Shocking, I know.  As an engineer, it’s really hard for me to give up my precious number generating machine…  But, I wanted to run by feel and just have fun.  My husband and I were going to run together, and so I didn’t want to look down at my watch and feel like something was wrong.  So I left it lonely on the counter at home.

We started the race in a crowd of people.  My husband was tripped three times in the first 20 yards.  Then, less than a block from the start, still crowded with all the runners, the race takes a sharp left hand turn, followed by another left hand turn a block up.  This made for a chaotic, tightly packed group of people stumbling around each other.  It was hard to get a good start this way.  Once the second turn was made it was a straight out and back course – things opened up quite a bit.  At the first mile I heard the timer calling out 7:46, 7:48…and thought “What?  That’s way too fast!” But, the mile was done and I had to keep going…  We turned around at the halfway point, where I tried to get a cup of water, but the lady dumped it over my hand.  Oops!  At 2 miles, the timer called out 16:02.  It was good that my husband was still with me because otherwise I would have slowed down here.  The pace was faster than I would usually be comfortable going, and I had a stitch in my side.  But with his help, I hung on to the end, and when I saw the clock was counting 24:55, 24:56…I sprinted those last 10 yards to the finish, hoping I could make it in under 25 minutes.  And sure enough, when I got my official time, it was 24:49.  A new PR!  Not bad for the first race of the year. 😀

Post race, our group of friends (there were six of us that ran) headed to Bent River Brewery for lunch and beer. Then we headed home and watched NCAA basketball while the boys played.  It was a good day.

This morning, I woke up at a blissful 7:15 am.  Yes, all three boys let us sleep until 7.  This never happens, which is why I don’t bother to set an alarm any more.  So after a quick pancake I headed out to run and got onto the trail about 8:30.  I had 14 miles scheduled for this weekend.  I had considered cutting the run short since we raced yesterday, but I knew I’d feel like a cheater if I did.  Plus, then I would have a really hard time feeling ready for a longer run next weekend.  Since each week builds on the previous week, for me, having that previous week’s mileage done is a confidence boost for the upcoming week’s run.  So out for 14 I headed.

I planned my route to bring me back to the car after 9 miles, so I could get a drink and refuel before heading out to finish the last 5.  This would break the run up into two 4.5 mile segments and two 2.5 mile segments (really a 4.5, 4.5, 5).  During the first 9 I was feeling pretty good, although I was really wishing I had parked the car closer, because I really wanted a drink at mile 8!  But I got to the car, got a drink and an energy gel, and headed back out.  I won’t lie.  The last 5 miles were tough.  I was tired, it was getting hot, and mentally I kept thinking of excuses to turn around.  (The PR on Saturday being one of them).  So when I reached my turnaround point and saw that it was only 2.3 miles instead of 2.5, I said “screw it” and turned around anyway.  I slogged my way through the return, allowing myself a walk/stretch break in the middle (hence a 10:52 mile 13).  I got back to where I’d parked the car, hit “stop” on the Garmin, and pulled out my keys.

I stopped in the middle of the trail.

I looked at my watch.

13.65 miles.

At this point, I didn’t even want to walk to the car.  I was tired, my legs were tired, and I wanted to sit down.

But, I was thinking about that 0.35 miles.

“You’ll feel like a failure if you don’t finish this run.”

“How about you just try.  You’ll feel awesome if you finish the full 14.”

So I put the keys away, pressed “start” on the Garmin, and finished the 14.  And it felt…awesome.  Much better than 13.65.

It’s amazing what running 184 feet can do.


I’ve been negligent in posting.  I know this.  And for the four of you who may read this, I deeply apologize for leaving you hanging.

But what can I say?  I’m a mother, a wife, an engineer, a runner.  I’m busy.  I forget things.  Sometimes I forget to put on deodorant in the morning. (you don’t have to sit by me at work, so shut it!)

My mind is usually traveling at 100 miles an hour, jumping from topic to topic every 10 seconds.  “When I get to work I have to reply to that email.”  “Oh, I have to remember to ask my parents to watch the boys this weekend.”  “I wonder if we’ve signed up the kids for soccer yet.”  “Crap!  Tonight is the 5k race meeting.”  “Next Tuesday I need to get someone to take the boys home after school…”

It goes on, and on, and on.  About the only time I really find my brain slowing down, ironically, is when I am running.  (And also when I am reading a book, but that wouldn’t be ironic, would it?)  When I am out for a run, my brain slows down.  I get to think about the things that get lost in the day-to-day grind.  I’ve heard people say that they solve their problems on a long run.  I don’t think that’s true for me, but I think I could agree with the folks that say running is like meditating.  It’s my time to just be, with myself, and get away from the pressure, the chaos, the kids yelling “MOM!”

And so it’s ironic (there’s that word again) that the one time that I have which allows me to get away, to relax, and to meditate, is just one more thing that I struggle to squeeze in.  I have this marathon plan that “should” require me to run four days a week.  I’m doing good to get in three, and the miles just aren’t where they should be.  But I am trying to focus on how I feel in my long runs, and as long as they aren’t suffering I think I’m doing all right.  But it’s hard.  Then there is the rest day.

“Rest Day.”

I can honestly say, WTF is a rest day?  I swear when I see runners post on dailymile about their rest days, I want to scream.   I can picture them, sitting reclined, feet up, with a nice cold drink, watching TV and relaxing.  “They must not have kids,” I think.  “Or a job.” “Or 7pm meetings.” “What do they do when they aren’t running?  They rest.”

A rest day, honestly, is a day when I have just one less thing to try and squeeze in.  It’s not like I have more time.  I don’t “get” to rest.  I am not relaxing.  My body (and my brain) are still going full throttle, racing towards that blissful moment when I shut off the light and go to bed, only to get up at 5:15 the next morning and start it all over again.

My rest days?  Those are the days I run.  I’d run every night if I could.  I feel so much better about life in general when I get to run.  This, too, is ironic, because if you ask me any given day, I’d say I wouldn’t change a single thing about my life.  But I just said I want to run more…

But it is not to be, so I will keep on squeezing in the runs when I can, because that’s what we running moms do.  At least it’s what this running mom does.  And as long as it works for me, I guess I won’t change it.

Have you joined the REVOLUTION yet?

Tomorrow is the first race of the 2012 Revolution race team.  I am really excited for this race, I haven’t raced in months.  I promise I’ll post again this weekend, with my race results and the results of the 14-miler I have slated for Sunday.


Have you ever felt the urge to do something bigger than yourself? To go above and beyond what is “required” and make a difference?

I have. And, if you know me at all, you know that this is the core of my personality. Back in 2009 I took on the challenge of running a half marathon with Team in Training in memory of my best friend, Bean. That was one of the best experiences of my life, and truly changed who I am and, in a way, what I think is important in life.

So, now, as I approach middle age (okay, who am I kidding, I’m there!), I have discovered there are a few specific things in life that I am passionate about: Education. Engineering. Youth. Running. And giving back to the community.

Through the last year, I’ve been lucky to have found opportunities to pursue these passions, while not conflicting with what is most important to me: my family and my work. Whenever I can get a chance to combine two or more of these, it becomes a “no brainer.” A few months ago I saw someone wearing a Live Uncommon shirt at a local race. I was curious and wanted to learn more. What I found was the Live Uncommon organization, a group in the Quad Cities area which is doing amazing work. Here’s their mission statement.

The Live Uncommon mission is to inspire individuals to be great, push beyond conceived limits, reach for the stars, dream big, accomplish, achieve, excel while balancing everyday commitments of Family, Work, Fitness & Health, and giving back.

Notice those last seven words? Do they match up with something I may have said already? Believe it or not, this is a coincidence. I actually wrote the words in the above paragraphs before I went to the Live Uncommon website to copy their mission. So you can see why this resonated with me.

Then, in January, I heard about the Live Uncommon REVOLUTION Race Team. The REVOLUTION Race Team is a group of individuals who have joined together to run in seven local races, all benefiting local charities. Through our running, we are fundraising for these charities, which are listed on the back of this letter.

We’re going to do the hard work, the running. What I am asking you to do is to support us. My goal is to raise at least $700, which will be spread across all the charities.

Seven races. Seven charities. Seven hundred dollars.

Can you spare $10 per race? That’s $70.
No? How about $5 per race? That’s only $35.
Every penny helps.

Join the movement with me.
Be uncommon.
Be the one to make a difference.

Click Here to donate.

Thank you.

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