Sunday, December 10, 2017

My Experience With Bambino Sitters

I can't believe it's been one week since The California International Marathon and the memories are still so fresh in my mind. As an athlete and a Mom, sometimes I need to leave my kiddos at home while I travel for a race. Jerold and I don't have a lot of family nearby, so there are times when we need to turn to a babysitter to help care for our kids.  One of the highlights of my weekend away was the knowledge that my kids were happy, safe, engaged and well cared for when I was away. 






We used Bambino Sitters for the weekend and it was such a great experience. One detail that first stood out for me, was the fact that Bambino has a thorough, easy to navigate app that allows you to sort through qualified babysitters right from your phone. The babysitters are all in or close to your neighborhood, and you are able to read reviews about each sitter - many of them from your very own neighbors. The app also allows you to search through parents that you know in your area who have used sitters that they love and you can request the same sitters for your own family.







Another feature that I loved was the fact that I could message my babysitter right from the app - no searching for phone numbers. Simply click on your sitters name and you can easily exchange texts with them before, during and after the babysitting session.
I had never had a service take care of my kids for an entire weekend (My Mom took care of them over night and early mornings  - thanks Mom!) before and it was important for me to introduce myself and get to know the sitter before she arrived. Each sitter was super responsive, friendly and I really felt at ease that I could communicate with them while they were with my kids. For instance, Josh had a major ear surgery right before Thanksgiving and I wanted to make sure that he followed his surgeon's orders and not play rough or jump around. I left a detailed one sheet for each sitter, but we also texted and they gave informative feedback on how the kids were doing. One sitter even took beautiful photos of my kids that I've included here - such a personal touch and I really was able to focus on my race and not worry about my kids.








Check out these additional great features that Bambino offers its clients:

1. Various levels of babysitters at different price points. Some parents may desire a junior babysitter (13 - 15 year old) to come over as a Mother's Helper or a sitter to play with the kids while you go and run a few errands, or take some 'Me' time. I have a good friend who hires a sitter just so she can go on a run when her husband is traveling.

You can also choose:

- Standard Sitter (15-18 years old)
- Advanced Sitter (18 years plus)
- Elite Sitter (18 + and background checked)

2. Paying your babysitter is SO EASY. Personally, I can say I have been there - you hire a babysitter that only takes cash... which means we usually have to make an ATM stop on the way home from our date. Yeah, you really don't want to have to worry about that detail. Let's face it, time is precious, we don't go out a lot and I want to soak in every moment. With Bambino, you pay solely through the app. Click the button at the end of the session while you're sitting on the couch and it's done. Easy peasy.


Give yourself the gift and necessity of a little time - hire a great babysitter and off you GO - no worries included.

Check out Bambino! Use the code NATRUNSFAR to get $10 off your babysitting (new parents only).


Do Awesome Things.

xo,
Natalie



** This is a sponsored post, but as always - all opinions are my own.

Friday, December 8, 2017

CIM 2017: The Race Recap

It's taken me all week to process and absorb last weekend. Every time I started to write down my thoughts this week, there was a little person around to distract the flow, I fell asleep in front of my computer at night or I was focused on my city/state literally burning down around us.



I'm going to try and keep this recap as simple as possible, so here's what it boils down to: 

1. I'm so proud of the direction I'm going as a runner.
2. I've made some really good gains in this training cycle and I was happy to stay healthy the whole time.
3. I made some key mistakes in the race last Sunday, which ultimately led to leaving a good amount of precious time on the road. Although that is the glaring reality, I'm really proud of myself for fighting the whole way (despite pain, and the lingering disappointment that I desperately tried to shove out of my psyche), never giving up and finishing with somewhat of a kick the last 800 meters. You gotta make lemonade and add a good amount of sugar to those lemons. 
4. I earned a pretty signifcant PR (in April of this year I ran Boston in 3:23 and a little less than 8 months later ran CIM - which I have been wanting to run for so many years - in 3:13.)
5. I have a great coach who truly believes in me, and believes in my potential as an aspiring fast marathoner.
6. I've learned so much about myself as a person and a runner, and I'm super excited for the future.
7. This is just the beginning of my path as a marathoner. I'm stubborn, bull headed and a work horse - so putting in the work doesn't deter me, it fuels the passion.
8. Through ups and downs, good and bad, I love running so much.
9. My family loves and supports me above all and that is all that matters.
10. I want to take a moment before I get going on the race to thank all the people who have helped me get to this point: First ----> Jerold (the best husband and friend ever. I'm so lucky.), My amazing kiddos, My Mom, my whole family, friends, Brooks Running and Brooks Women for all the shoes, outfits and gear which is what every runner needs, Lululemon for the awesome race outfit, Bambino Sitters for taking care of my kids, Garmin for the sleek watch (the new Forerunner 925), Roka Sports for the ridiculously cool sunglasses that protected my eyes during training, Jay Bird Sports for the bomb wireless ear buds, CIM for having me, Women's Running Magazine for letting me take over their Instagram account for the day, and last but in no way least - my coach, Mark Hadley for his guidance, support, positivity and safely pushing me into new territory.

If you follow me on Instagram, you pretty much know the progression of my weekend, but I'll refresh it here.

Friday December 1st:
Up at crack of dawn (literally), kids up and we enjoyed a beautiful sunrise birthday walk together. Then we got them off to school and we were on our way to Sacramento. It was a big deal for us to leave the kids at home for the weekend, but I knew there wouldn't be a lot for them to do. They would be cold standing around waiting for me during the race and I thought they would have more fun at home. Turns out they had a blast - between their fun array of babysitters during the day and my Mom in the evening, they never had a dull moment.
We arrived, checked into our hotel - The Sheraton Grand Sacramento - if you ever run CIM, definitely stay at this hotel. It's the official hotel for the race, I booked it in June and it is literally right next to everything. Two steps away from the convention center to pick up your bib, walking distance to tons of restaurants and right near the state capitol building which is where the race finishes.
Jerold and I had a nice pasta dinner that evening and I went to bed shortly afterwards - a very relaxing night, which is what you want two nights before a marathon.

Saturday December 2nd:
Slept in till about 7:30 am, which was a dream. No little people coming to wake me up in the wee hours of the morning, it was quiet and so wonderful.
Jerold and I hit the road (along with what seemed like thousands of ultra fit, super fast looking runners) for a three mile shake out jog. Again, very relaxing, a slow pace and we got to laugh, chat and sight see along the way. I also was taking over the Brooks Womens Running Instgram and story, so it was fun to record my day for that too.



Breakfast, leisure lunch, stopped by the expo very quickly and then I went back to the hotel to rest for the remainder of the day (epsom salt bath and legs up the wall + just rest) and Jerold was out and about enjoying the city and free time.
Dinner in my hotel, and an early night as the alarm was set to go off at 3:15 am!

Sunday December 3rd:
It's race day. Up at 3:15 am, and I love to take a hot shower before a marathon - it's kind of a ritual I've gotten into over time and I wasn't going to stop now.
Quickly dressed, breakfast at 4 am (bagel with almond butter, banana and a Picky Bar + water and Gatorade).
We walked just a few steps out of the hotel to the buses that would deliver all the runners to the starting line. I said goodbye to Jerold, he had a quick pep talk and a huge hug and I was off.
Talked to a nice guy that I sat next to on the bus, and then took a nap until we arrived. I knew the weather was going to be perfect. It was crisp and cold, but not freezing, zero wind and the sky looked clear.
Quick porta potty line, dynamic warm up stretches, a short jog warm up, a quick meet up with the We Run Social crew for a pic, dropped my gear bag at the drop off point (By the way, CIM is very organized with the gear check - I was impressed) another quick pee and then headed to the starting line. I positioned myself as close to the front as I could, and there were already tons of runners. Everyone was friendly and chill - really great atmosphere. The National Anthem was sung and just like that, we were off.

Coach had laid out a simple plan and I had read it over a hundred few times. It was a solid plan well within my wheelhouse ( = 3:03 - 3:07 finish time at least) and I felt excited about the possibilities. I knew in my heart I was going to PR, at that point it was just a matter of by how many minutes.

I'm not going to go mile by mile on this recap, I'll just give you the splits up close and personal in one lump:

7:05, 7:02, 6:49, 6:50, 6:51, 6:55, 6:47, 6:59, 7:01, 6:53, 6:51, 7:02, 7:04, 7:06, 7:17, 7:12, 7:15, 7:28, 7:39, 7:46, 7:59, 8:00, 8:07, 8:25, 8:12, 8:13 

= 3:13:21 (and somehow I ran an extra .1 so total distance was 26.3)

At about mile 18, my legs were starting to feel the effects of the rolling hills - another note, this is an awesome course, but PLEASE NOTE there are rolling hills (it is not flat as some people think and I knew that) from miles one through twenty. It is flat after mile twenty, but you actually have to feel good to be able to fly that last 10k. If you decide to run CIM, practice on rolling hills (I did), and make sure you don't go too fast for you in the first half (guilty).

The last five miles felt horrible. My calves and quads were on fire with cramping and I wanted to stop and cry on the side of the road. By that point, the GU didn't help, the electrolye didn't help - the only thing to do was to put everything I had into getting to that finish line. My heart sank as hundreds of runners sailed past me. Hundreds. Of. Runners. I hadn't looked at my watch much and I glanced down just to peek. I knew I had to do something to pull it together. I gave myself a tough love pep talk (get it freakin together Nat) and I used my arms so much to get me through (Thank you every night push ups!!!).

I finished in a stream of hiccupping tears. I couldn't help it - that's what it was. Jerold was right there waiting for me and I hugged him so hard. 






Bummed that I didn't get a Shalane manicure! ;0





Look, this isn't a pity party - as so many people remind us, it's amazing to finish a marathon. I totally agree with that, I really do. I think it's definitely hard to have a tough finish and to hurt, but you learn from it. You pick yourself up, lick your wounds, dry your tears and keep marching forward.

After all, it's just running.


Do awesome things.

xo,
Natalie






Thursday, November 30, 2017

Three Days Till CIM!

Well, this is it. Three days before the big day. I'm definitely starting to get a little nervous, then I push aside the feeling for a while, then it comes back again. I know it's normal to feel nervous about race day - after all the time, energy and commitment I've put into this training cycle. I think it would feel weird to cruise along without my heart beating a little faster. This race means a lot to me and I'm excited to see what I can do on Sunday.




I've been getting a good amount of sleep - the beginning of the week was hard and I was worried a lot about Josh (you can read about it HERE), but he is recovering so well and I think the hard part is truly behind us. Tuesday night's sleep was so solid (9.5 hours!), Wednesday was just under 8 hours and I'm determined to get a great night of sleep tonight as we are traveling tomorrow to Sacramento. It's going to be an earlier morning than usual and I don't want to feel that I'm lacking on sleep. I have found that when I get solid sleep and fit in a nap (if possible) before a big race or workout, I feel so much more confident and happy. On the other hand, it's really hard to let everything go in the evening and jump into bed... right? Moms reading this - you know what I mean. When the kids are in bed, it's my time to get so much done and yet I know I have to let it go after a certain time.

Thanksgiving food coma snuggle with one lovebug


The weather looks like it's going to awesome on Sunday. I was worried about rain 10 days out, but that has since gone away and looks like low 40's to high 50's, which is perfect weather! 

Here's what my training has looked like lately leading up to the race (48 miles last week and will be 23 miles this week before 26.2 on Sunday!):

Monday November 20th - REST DAY

Tuesday November 21st - Josh's big surgery. 6 miles from the hospital with my phone strapped to me, ringer on high in case Jerold should call. I had to make myself slow down... so glad I had my watch, cause I would think about him and then pace would go up.

Wednesday November 22nd - 10 total miles = 1 mile warm up, 8 mile progression from 7:11 - 6:39, 1 mile cool down

Thursday November 23rd - Happy Thanksgiving! 6 easy miles. I decided not to run our local turkey trot which I love. I knew I wouldn't be able to resist racing it and I wanted to follow the plan with easy miles today. We had such a wonderful day full of family, food and fun. So much to be thankful for.





Friday November 24th - 8 easy miles with 8 x :20 second pick ups. Oops, I was only supposed to do 6 pick ups... I read it wrong.

Saturday November 25th - 6 easy miles

Sunday November 26th - 12 miles at 7:40. I was happy to get this done. I pulled back on the pace and wanted to do a happy dance when I finished.

Monday November 27th - REST

Tuesday November 28th - 7 miles. 4 miles easy and then three miles at 7:03 pace. Last speed workout!

Wednesday November 29th - 5 easy miles

Thursday November 30th - 4 easy miles


Coach has sent the plan to me, I know what I have to do, what I want to do. I know that I willl pour everything I have into Sunday morning. I feel so lucky that I get to run in our state's capitol. That I'm healthly, strong and fearless. It really is a privilege to run and I'm embracing that fully. 





What I'm doing to prepare this week:

1. Sleep
2. Easy running and then stretching every day. I stopped strength work 10 days prior to race and stopped core work 4 days out (yesterday).
3. Hydration (water and Nuun, since Nuun will be on the course)
4. Starting today, I'm slowly adding in a bit more carbs - an extra piece of bread, a big bun on our homemade turkey burgers tonight, sweet potatoes, bananas.
5. Asking for more help and trying to put my feet up when I can. It's not easy with three kids, but Jerold made dinner tonight (yay!), he's been helping more with lunches and clean up this week. I'll have him drive the kids to school tomorrow...
6. Remember the many miles I have put in when I start to get nervous. I know I'm prepared to stand on the starting line.

Alright, off to check and make sure I have everything for the trip and then jump into bed. 

Oh, I almost forgot - Total miles for November = 249.46


Do awesome things.

xo,
Natalie




Monday, November 20, 2017

Less Than Two Weeks Till CIM!

The simple fact is that I've run 34.2 miles over the weekend (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) and I'm not tired...I'm pumped up and excited. I know it won't last and I'll soon come crashing down off the runner's high, but for now - let's dance...



Celebrating a great training cycle!


The kids are off from school for nearly ten days over Thanksgiving break - a first! Usually they would have school Monday and Tuesday of Thanksgiving week, but I think everyone realized that so many people travel and take the days anyway, so why not make it official?
The beauty of this is that it falls during the beginning of the marathon taper - so guess whhhhat? I don't have to get up at crack of dawn to do the school grind. This is like a dream come true...
I need as much rest as I can get to let my body absorb all of this intense training. It feels a little like taking vitamins - you keep taking them every day and then one day... boom - you can really feel the difference. I'm betting on the fact that since all the intense hard work is practically finished I'll be prepped to perfom just right on race day.


Foam roll every.single.day


This week's total mileage was 59.81 - down a bit from last week's 70.65.
Here's a detailed look at the weekend:

Friday November 17th - 10 miles

Saturday November 18th  - 7 trail miles





Sunday November 19th - 17 miles:
10 miles at 7:40 and 7 miles at 6:57


If you want to check out the rest of the week, you can read about it HERE.

I didn't talk about this too much on the last post, but strength training has definitely been firmly cemented into my training. A glimpse (I know I'm forgetting something...):

Donkey Kicks
Push ups
Bicycle crunches
Single Dead Lifts
Russian Twists with a 10 pound medicine ball
Lat pull downs
Dynamic planks
Single leg bridges
Running in place with 10 or 15 pound weights
Bear crawls
Kettle bell carries
Rowing push up with weights (15 pound)

Definitely a highlight of the week was going to Elle's preschool Thanksgiving celebration. She decorated her own placemat as well as a pumpkin. On the pumpkin she had to name three things she was thankful for. She chose: God, the ocean and love. Isn't that incredible? She amazes me every day...






I'm in the midst of Thanksgiving planning and we are going to have so much fun! 


What is your favorite Thanksgiving dish?

Do you stay home or travel to family?


Do awesome things.

xo,
Natalie

Friday, November 17, 2017

A Glimpse Into A 70 Mile Week, 16 days Till CIM + It's Not Time To Taper Yet...

I know exactly how I got here and yet I find myself thinking: "How did I get here, who is this girl?" 
It's safe to say that I have entered unchartered territory in the private universe of marathon training. During this cycle I'm stretched myself more than I ever have, challenged my mind and body and pushed myself into a whole new realm of running. I've waited for a long time for this phase to happen and it's totally exhilarating.





I really think you have to trust the process and trust your coach to enter into this phase. This week, specifically yesterday, was the first time ever that I thought: "I don't know how much more I can do." The exhaustion was at the brink, the kids have had every project under the freakin sun due THIS WEEK (book reports! English quizzes! States and Capitals - we're now up to 42! Thanksgiving feasts! read to my daughter's class! parents teacher conferences!... PLEASE STOP already.). This along with the absolute peak of training had me feeling like I needed someone to loan me a turbo engine to get though it all. 

I need a haircut, mani pedi, massage, more sleep and whatever luxurious form of self care you can think of - I need it, want it, need it. I live in a running hat, some form of running clothes and the most comfortable shoe I can find at all times. It's so not glamarous or exciting, but I love it. I love nailing a workout, feeling on top of the world when the training absorbs into my body and I hit paces like I've never hit before. I look in the mirror (cringing at my unkept eyebrows and yet who has time to get to an appointment?) and think: "Yes. It's worth it."

Heck yes, it's worth it. Cause when I cross that line, there will be such a huge sense of pride and accomplishment - knowing that I did everything I possibly could to make myself ready for the moment. Crap, I know I'm going to be nervous... until the gun goes off and I will then run like I've never run before. It will hurt, I know I will experience pain at some point, but I know that I am prepped to take it to the edge. I will dig so far, so deep into my inner bad ass and she will come out, kicking and screaming, ready to fight for every step.


Hey you. Yes, I'm talking to you reading this. Just know that if you really want something you have to do more than commit - you have to become that goal. Close your eyes and visualize the victory - your own personal joy. Then go back and work for it -  work harder than you ever have and when you think you've worked hard enough - work more (safely of course, be smart, listen to your body and never to the point of physical pain or injury.). 

Want to know what a 70 mile week looks like at this point in my training?


Monday November 6th - REST DAY ( 18 miles on Sunday 11/5 - 67 total miles the previous week)

Tuesday November 7th - 8.7 miles


She's almost too big for it - the days are numbered... but we had so much fun!

Wednesday November 8th- 12.75 miles. A hard workout broken up like this:
1.5 mile warm up, 3 x 3 mile repeats (times for these were: 20:14, 20:15, 20:11), 3 minute jog in between, 1.5 mile cool down.

Thursday November 9th - 8 easy miles

Friday November 10th - 10 miles with 10 x :30 second pick ups at 5:50/6:00 pace

Saturday November 11th - 8.2 easy miles

Sunday November 12th - 23 miles (7:39 pace). GU and Nuun on hand (practicing with Nuun as that will be on the race course). Pumped to have Jerold there for support - our one and only long run together.


Sunday long run to the max.



Total Miles: 70.65

Then everyone was like: "Yay! You are tapering now!"

Um, yeah... NO. Not yet...

Monday November 13th: REST DAY

Tuesday November 14th - 7 easy miles

Wednesday November 15th - 2 mile w/up, 6 x 1 mile repeats at fast (for me) paces and faster than the same workout last month.
6:16, 6:15, 6:15, 6:17, 6:15, 6:15 (with .25 jog in between), 2 mile cool down.
11.5 miles

Thursday November 16th - 7 easy miles. 

Friday November 17th - 10 miles


And now onward to the weekend.

Want to know what I'm doing to stay injury free, sane and ready for the next workout?

1. Core every night including pushups EVERY day. Most of the time I will break them up - some during the day, the rest at night. Usually 6 sets of 15
2. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate = pee, pee, pee
3. Epsom salt bath every single night
4. Roll muscles every day
5. Yoga every day (pigeon, legs up the wall, downward dog, happy baby)
7. All the PT exercises (I'll have to do a post on this)
8. Dynamic stretching before every run and heel raises/stretch the calf 
9. Roll and massage my feet every day
10. Sleep in compression socks.
11. Eat like a champ. (Carbs, protein, organic, fruits, veggies, potatoes... nothing processed - cook my own food.)
12. Run easy on easy days
13. Treat the hard work outs like it's your job - give it your all.
14. SLEEP 

In this season of giving thanks, I have so much to be grateful for. I'm learning so much about how far you can soar, how strong you really are and BELIEVE isn't just a word - it's a lifestyle.

Do awesome things.

xo,
Natalie

Friday, October 27, 2017

5 Weeks Till CIM + How To Recover From A Half Marathon

Are you guys feeling like fall is cruising right on by? I can't believe it's almost November, which means the marathon is right around the corner! Five weeks from today it'll be time to head on up to Sacramento, sleep, eat, hydrate, relax and get ready to pour my heart into 26.2 miles.
As for now, I've been recovering this week from the Ventura Half Marathon - easy runs all week with some pick ups on one run so far. I have a lonnnng run on tap this weekend - hint: it's over 20 miles - so really focusing on sleep and lots of gentle stretching. I'm still letting the PR soak in and allowing that feeling of accomplishment and euphoria propel me into these final weeks of training. I know the race will be a big bow on top of all the hard work, but it's really the training that is fulfilling me right now. Day after day (after day!) of running on the roads and trails that I love, pushing myself hard and really finding joy in the journey. I run because I truly love it and it never gets old. Yeah, there are days when it's not magical or days when I can't wait to finish because I need to move on to the next thing. Even through the craziness, I can truly say after all these years of running, I still love it and I know I always will.






Want to take a look at what my training has been like lately? I enjoy sharing with you guys and as we all know, it's not easy. There are so many moving parts that go into training for a marathon or any endurance sport. Making the time to train, motivating yourself to stay on top of strength training, nutrition and hydration... it all takes time and energy. We also know that when we toe the starting line, there is an air of confidence and excitment that this is your moment. You worked hard for it and it's time to lay it all out there. Zero regrets.

Monday October 16th - REST DAY. After a 20 mile day yesterday, it was good to completely rest today.

Tuesday October 17th - 8 easy miles

Wednesday October 18th - 10 miles: 5 easy paced and 5 a little quicker at 7:09 pace. Goal was just to get the legs turning a bit, since there was a race on Sunday.

Thursday October 19th - 8 easy miles

Friday October 20th - 6 easy miles

Saturday October 21st - 4 easy miles

Sunday October 22nd - Half Marathon Race = 15.66 total miles for the day with w/up and c/d. Still riding the PR high and big, gigantic thanks to my coach for all of his help, guidance and advice to get me to this point. Onward we go!





Total Miles: 51.66

I also did five days of core work and two days of strength this week.

Now the question is, how to recover after the hard effort you put in for a half marathon race?



How To Recover From A Half Marathon


1. Hydrate and replenish.
Your body has been through a lot and now it's time to give back what you have lost. Water, chocolate milk and an electrolyte drink are good choices for hydration. Nuun had a big booth at the half marathon and I filled up on lots of cups in ALL the flavors.
If you aren't super hungry, try to just nibble in small amounts to not overwhelm your stomach. For instance, I ate strawberries and half of a waffle within twenty minutes of finishing.

2. Stretch ang jog
It's not a good idea to stop and sit down after you cross the finish line. A better idea is to walk around, sip on a drink and stretch your muscles. Soon after, go on a cool down jog of a mile or so to flush out lactic acid and jump start recovery. You'll have plenty of time to sit during the car ride home.

3. Ice bath
When you arrive home or back at the hotel, try and sit in a bathtub of ice - it really does make a difference! 

4. Epsom Salt Bath
Later that night before bed, sit in a warm bath of epsom salt for at least 20 minutes. 

5. Roll Your Muscles
After the bath, roll out your muscles with a foam roller or your device of choice. I use both - a foam roller for the glutes and upper thigh. I also use the Roll Recovery R8 roller for the majority of legs and thighs.





6. Sleep
Sleep, sleep, sleep. Your body has done a lot for you over the course of 13.1 miles, now you need to rest. Put yourself to bed early each night all week and schedule a nap if you can. Sleep is critical to repair damaged muscles.
Don't forget to keep hydrating.



Have an amazing weekend!

What is the first you thing you do after crossing the finish line of a race?

How many days do you take off after a race?

Do Awesome Things.

xo,
Natalie



Thursday, October 26, 2017

Ventura Half Marathon Race Recap - NEW PR: 1:27:43!!!

It's been almost exactly two and half years since the knee surgery. I knew it would be a long and winding road and one that I was willing to take whole heartedly, joyfully, without hesitation. It never felt like a chore or something that I dreaded - only a challenge that I was ready to handle, one in which I relished. I knew it wouldn't be perfect, at times it might be pretty grueling, but that would make the reward so much sweeter.



Free race photos + I promise I'm racing! ;0


Let's look at where I came from for a moment... pre knee surgery, I spent the years having babies with some fun running in between, but zero marathons ( I had run five marathons pre babies), hardly any racing (I can count the races on two hands) and just a complete focus on motherhood. My story is a little different in that I wasn't able to run during pregnancy, and once I got over the shock of it (I did run the first trimester with Josh and raced a shorter race - I think a 5 or 10K), I embraced not running - for the sake of the babies health and my own.
When I stepped foot on the Ventura Marathon course three years ago - I was fit as I could be in that moment. Training consisted of nursing Elle during the base building, weaning her and then diving into a training plan that summer of 2014. There wasn't a coach in the picture, just me, a training plan, three little kids and a dream. The race was an eye opener, it definitely wasn't the best experience I've ever had, and I hit the wall in a very bad way. However, I did it - 3:32 and in that moment I knew it was just the beginning of a long road of dreams and accomplishments.
The knee injury happened right after that and a major set back, but it made me stronger. I needed that time with my PT, I needed a dose of reality and education above and beyond running. Runners think they know oh so much, but in truth you are always learning. I learned a ton about my body and it continues to shape my running to this day.

These two and a half years have been shaping a foundation, bit by bit, little by little, never rushing things - or be prepared to pay the price. A horrible case of plantar fasciitis last summer derailed me again for four months, but it's a risk you take when putting in the miles, you take time to heal and keep going.

So here I am in this moment and it seems slightly surreal. In January of this year, I ran the Carlsbad Half Marathon in 1:37. Yes, you read that right - 1:37 - ten minutes slower than I ran on Sunday. For me to cross the line ten minutes faster than nine months ago, was like a dream...(I did go on to run 1:33 at the Encinitas Half in March as a tune up for Boston). I knew going into Sunday's race that I was fit and ready for this PR, I just needed to believe in myself, reach out and grab it. Sometimes, that is not as easy as it seems... how many times are we ready for a breakthrough and we talk ourselves out of it?

Coach and I talked about planning a race or two before CIM and a half marathon was definitely part of the agenda, but by the time September rolled around, I hadn't given a lot of thought as to which October race I would tackle. Training was going well, but I was in a place where each day I could only focus on the kids, writing, training and LIFE. It kinda doesn't sound like much, but it was a mountain. The kids are all at different stages and each day is like the ultimate juggling act - what craziness is on tap for today? One afternoon I saw something about the Ventura race and it hit me that I needed to go back to where it started for me. I needed to go back and tackle this race with zeal and give it everything I had - I was ready.


I was ready for this moment.


Three years ago, we made it a little bit of a racecation - booked a hotel right on the beach, hung out - the kids raced on Saturday, we cruised around town, had a nice pre race dinner.
This year, I just wanted to go, race and come home - let's just get this done. Josh and Megan are at the age where they want to come to every race - they don't mind the wee hours of the morning, the driving, watching Mommy get ready to race... I realize this is shaping their childhood in a major way. They'll have so many memories of all the races they went to and cheering on their Mom, being part of the racing culture, running kids races themselves. This has been building for years, but gosh, this is our LIFE. Wow.

I guess I could wax poetic for days, but let's get on with the race details, shall we?

Saturday afternoon, I got down to serious business and the kids knew the plan - dinner at 4 PM, bathtime after and hit the hay BEFORE 6 PM - no exceptions. A 3 am wake up had to happen and we all needed to go to bed to make that a happy reality. Mission accomplished - 5:58 PM they were all in bed (Elle would not be going - I'm not completely insane and it would take her a week to recover from that - but she happily went to bed, she's a girl who loves bedtime!).

I really wanted to be in bed by 6:45 PM and had everything organized, but somehow my head didn't hit the pillow until 7:15 and I tried not to stress about it (type A in full effect - but I was afraid of what I would feel like at 3 am). 

Zero hiccups, I had a pre race meal of a Picky Bar, a banana, lots of water and a big glass of water with Nuun. That's it - I don't need a big breakfast for a half marathon and I in no way want to start the race feeling full and heavy. Also, I stop drinking a lot of fluids about two hours before the start of the race - no peeing during the race. We arrived in Ventura at 5:20 am which gave me one hour and ten minutes before the start. I hit the porta potties, picked up my bib and took a look at the starting line. I was also taking over Women's Running Magazine's Instagram and stories, so I took some pics and video too.










I got to meet Nancy IRL!



Jerold and the kids were hanging out, so I was free to do everything I needed- back to the bathroom again, and started the dynamic warm up while waiting in line. Next, was a one mile warm up around the race area (and ended with some strides to really warm up my body and get ready to race) as it as too dark to venture off on the road and before I knew it they were telling us to line up. Very, very smart for the organizers to have a 6:30 am race start - the day was promising to be a hot one and the earlier the start, the better. There was a bit of a delay and we actually did not begin until 6:54 am, which gave us 20 minutes of jumping around trying to keep warm. Temp was about 47 degrees and without a jacket, it was chilly, which I loved - finally good racing weather.



National Anthem


Then we were off. Coach had written a plan for me and I was sticking to that for sure, but I knew mentally that I wanted to get out ahead of the 1:30 pace group and stay there. I also wanted to run by feel and test out my body the first couple of miles. Well, my body was ready to rock and roll and I went for it.

Mile one: 6:36. Okay, let's talk about this for a hot second. I have never, ever started a half marathon with 6:36. Never. Let me say that I knew I was going into new territory and yet it felt good.

Mile two: 6:59. I knew there was a hill at mile two and yet I didn't really know what it would look like. I did a bit of research on google maps and Map My Run, but you never know until you're in it. Annnd this is why the pros run the course beforehand. The hill was a nice one, but pretty short and I knew I just needed to get up it as fast I as could and put it behind me. Trail running pays off.

Mile three: 6:26. I mean, when you run a 20:25 5K in the middle of a half... hot dog - I knew it was going to be a good day!

Mile four: 6:39

Mile five: 6:38. Nice, cool weather - no sun beating on me - beautiful course. Bring it.

Mile six: 6:30. Um, 10k time was 40:56. Yeah - this is what I've been working for.

Mile seven: 6:37

Mile eight: 6:44. Okay, don't lose your grip here. Smooth it out...

Mile nine: 6:36

Mile ten: 6:44

Mile eleven: 6:39. Lots of self talk. Coach had told me there was a hill around mile eleven and I would have to fight for it. I was nervous and kept thinking was this the dang hill? Also, the sun was blazing at this point and it was time to wrap this up in a hurry.

Mile twelve: 7:13. Darn. I really want to run this race without a seven something mile, but it is was it is. It was a long gradual hill, my legs were feeling it, but not toast so that's good. I needed to be a bit stronger here, but patience. It will happen. I'm also in the middle of marathon training, so there's that. No excuses, I simply slowed down here. When my watch beeped the mile twelve split time, I had to glance down. 1:20 total time. My mind was racing - crap, crap. 1:20 - how can I finish this race under 1:27? I couldn't think - just RUN.

Mile thirteen: 6:52. I'm freakin proud to finish the last mile in 6:52. YES. It was very rewarding to end on a high note + this is evidence that I'm getting stronger.

Last .1: 5:55 pace - I sprinted down that last stretch and gave it my all - no regrets.

Total time: 1:27:43 (6:41 pace!!) - a shiny, beautiful new PR!!!

11th woman overall, 2nd in my Age group




I kept thinking - I did it, I did it! Look how far I've come and the future is so bright!!! This is so fun!








All the cheese...




Real moments



Soak it in... I tend to not soak it in as much as should - I tend to pick everything apart - NOT TODAY!! #itsawin


Celebrating with the kids and also the fact the it was 80+ degrees at the beach and they were loving it!



Beach life!



Then it was time to refuel, cool down and have fun! 


The race offered fruit, waffles and beer! :)


I love when I meet Internet friends in real life...


Finally got to meet Emily!


I went off for a cool down (total of 15.66 miles for the day) and more streching while the kids played and then it was time to go home.




He is my rock - I couldn't do this without him.


If you are thinking of a great course in a beautiful location and want to come out West to California - this is the race!

It is a great course, scenic and easy to navigate, ends IMMEDIATELY at the beach, FREE race photos, great aid stations, bands afterwards with good food and beer. Very festive atmosphere and a GREAT course to set a PR. Loved the early start time to beat the heat and you can literally go and jump in the ocean afterwards. I highly, recommend the Ventura Half Marathon (and the marathon looks great too - go get that PR and BQ!) and I will be back! 

Nope, there isn't a pause button - just a lot of good recovery, keep training with heart and onward to CIM.


What is the best food you've had after a race?

Best race course you've run so far?


Do awesome things.

xo,
Natalie