Sunday, February 17, 2019

10 Reasons To Run The Phoenix Marathon

Runners are always on the hunt for a great race - everyone wants a list of the best marathons and what makes them so special. I really loved racing the Phoenix Marathon (9 days ago!) and I think you'll love it too - here are some awesome reasons:

You could legit wear this tank with jeans.

1. The weather in early February in the desert is fantastic for running a marathon.
The temps were in the late 30's when we left the hotel to go to the buses and early 40's at the start with no wind - hello perfect weather. Make sure you bring warm clothes to the start and you can donate old clothes or check your stuff at gear check (the gear check is easy and at the end of the race, you get your clothes back quick as a flash - great organization).

2. The race begins at 6:30 AM.
Why is this so amazing? Because you get to see an incredible desert sunrise (the views at the beginning of the race are beautiful) as you are running. A pretty perfect way to start your Saturday. Also, I love that the race is on Saturday - you can take advantage of Sunday to recover before the week begins.

3. They serve Gatorade Endurance along the course.
On course fuel is so important and Gatorade Endurance is the real deal. 

4. Plenty of aid stations.
You will not be stuck in the middle of the desert parched in the middle of a marathon! :)
The Phoenix Marathon had plentiful aid stations and friendly course support. All the volunteers had huge smiles on their faces and were so happy to help. During the later miles they handed out GU, which was crucial for runners. Also, I loved that they were very clear about which cups were for water vs. Gatorade.

5. Fast course.
Want to run fast and yet achieve the speed on an honest course? This is a great place to do it. No gimmick race straight down a mountain that will make you question your PR. The race begins slightly downhill, then levels out and a small hill at miles 5 and 6 and then it flattens out from there. You need to race smart and save something for the second half, but this is great course with almost no turns (turns in a marathon is not fun).

6. They provide heaters AND bonfires at the start + plenty of porta potties.
We stepped off the buses and right into the lines for the porta potties. There even an official to manage the traffic and it moved smooth as glass.
Afterwards, you can stay warm in the desert cold, with warm fires everywhere - this made a huge difference in the whole experience.

7. Fireworks at the start.
Every runner feels like a rock star as they had a mini fireworks show after the National Anthem. I loved this so much - it really felt like a celebration.

8. Wide finisher's shoot.
You never felt like you were going to be in anyone's way when you finished the race. Plenty of room for all the runners and it was so easy to navigate though the large area to receive your medal and begin to refuel.

9. FOOD.
They provided french toast and all sorts of fruit + food everywhere. If you wanted to eat, you were not going to be hungry after this race.

10. Free Massages from Massage Envy.
Hello? Yes, they had free massages available for every runner.

BONUS: The race tank is bomb. I love that it doesn't have huge writing all over it, it's black and understated. I will be wearing this shirt all the time (and it won't go in my stash of race shirts that are going to be turned into a quilt!).

Oh, and the medal is pretty sweet too...

Well, there you have it - head to the desert next February for a fun winter marathon weekend my friends and happy running.

Do Awesome Things.


Thursday, February 14, 2019

Happy Valentine's Day + Marathon Recovery Week

I honestly feel like we were just singing Christmas carols and now here we are on Valentine's Day. By the way, I caught Elle singing Joy To The World this morning - she can't seem to get Christmas out of her head...

When I snapped this picture about two hours ago, it inspired me to write a post today. The kids were able to ditch their uniforms and have free dress for Valentine's Day - I just love how they look in this photo. Megan coordinated her own outfit and I love it - I need to copy her and get one just like it. How is it possible to love three people this much? Elle is such a big kid now and I'm having a bit of a hard time with it, I'm sure because she is our last baby. I feel like kindergarten is flying by and I need more time... Nothing else matters right now except enjoying these three.
Elle's kindergarten class had their school musical this morning.

The kids were crayons and the theme was: "What would you do with a world without color?" It was so, so good and the kids rocked all of their lines and music. I was sitting there holding back tears and putting the memory in my heart. I feel like as we get busier and take on more in our life, it's so important to stop and put the important moments deep in our memory bank.
Later the kids had their class parties - Josh was kind of bummed because now that he is in sixth grade, they don't have Valentine's to exhange or class parties. Megan had her third grade party, and Elle had a blast at her party...

She made this beautiful heart card for me and it is one of the best cards I have ever received.

Yesterday, I got the February Stride Box in the mail and as usual it was full of great stuff for runners. Have you guys tried Stride Box yet? I love it, because you get fun mail every single month. Also, they just celebrated their sixth birthday (Elle was very excited that they have almost the same birthday!) - Happy Birthday Stride Box, we love your magical little box!

It is definitely weird not to be running and I feel like a piece of myself is missing. I know taking this recovery time is so important and I am taking it seriously. Technically, today I could have gone for a 3-4 mile easy run (per my coach) or use it as another recovery day. I went back and forth a little bit and decided to take it off as I am still feeling sleepy and tired. I can't believe it's been five days since the marathon!

Here are the five things I am doing to aid in my recovery:

1. Sleep. 
Although I am sleeping, my body wants more, more, more so trying to put myself to bed earlier each night.

2. Hydrate.
I am craving all the water, all the time.

3. Stretch and roll.
Saturday (race day) I didn't stretch. Sunday, very little stretching since we were traveling. By Monday, my body was demanding it, so I've been gently stretching every evening and using my R8 roller to roll my muscles. Also, lots of time with legs up the wall - I can feel the fluid draining from my legs.
We have had the craziest week, which is kind of challenging post marathon, but I haven't taken an epsom salt bath yet! Every night, I fall into bed, but now that I am writing this, I will take one tonight - it makes such a difference.

4. Massage.
It's time for a massage and I will schedule for this week/end.

5. Being Kind To Myself.
Really taking time to thank my body for the work that it did on Saturday. I know for me to move forward, I have to acknowledge this victory and everything I put into the race. In order to get stronger physically and mentally, you have to pause and be grateful for the performance.

6. Relax From a Running Schedule.
I realize that running 75-80 miles a week and juggling everything else, I put my body and mind under stress without even knowing it. It's good to step back from the schedule for a bit - although I have to say I'm already excited for the future! For me, running isn't work, it's fun.

Jerold is the kindest husband ever and gave me a full body massage on Friday before I went to sleep. It loosened my muscles so much and made me feel ready to run hard on Saturday. He really is the best... Sometimes it is mind boggling to me that we have been together for so long and we keep putting together crazy adventures and doing this life together - I feel so grateful for him...

I couldn't do it without you.

Okay, I have to help with teeth brushing, stories and bedtime my friends. I hope you all had a very happy day filled with love (and a fun run!). Love from friends, family - love yourself and give love today and every day. That's what it's all about.

Do Awesome Things.


Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Phoenix Marathon 2019 Race Recap

As I slid out of bed on Saturday morning at 2:35 AM like a thief in the night, I didn't feel tired - only calm excitement. I had been waiting for this moment for nine long weeks and its called redemption with a capitol R. In the months following CIM, all I have felt is the focus of staying on a steady tighrope. Work hard, rest harder, and don't mess up this chance. There is a golden egg hidden at the end of the path and the question is: are you brave enough to grab it?

I've said this before, but I feel fit - like truly the fitness is clicking and I feel it in the depths of my soul. Is there more fitness to gain - heck yes, but in the weeks leading up to Phoenix, my body knew that it was primed and prepped to run hard. After Mountains To Beach last May, I set on a journey to see how much I could improve before the end of the year. The drive was there, the coaching was there, the support was there - no excuses, just do what you love to do... RUN.
I settled on the Ventura Marathon in late October, then decided to race the half and switch to CIM for the marathon. There is definitely something inherently special about CIM - the intense excitment, fast runners, beautiful course and perfect California weather that draws runners in like moths to a flame. I celebrated a birthday, woke up the next morning and as my stomach blew up in those early morning hours and derailed my plans, I knew I needed to make things right. As I staggered to the side of the road at mile 13, I knew I wanted to make things right.

Happy Birthday to me - my stomach blew up at CIM.

I wasted no time over thinking, called coach and we immediately crafted a new plan. Phoenix hadn't been on my radar before, but I'd heard really great things about the course and race management. The travel was roughly the same distance from home as CIM - suddenly Arizona sounded like the perfect place to test my fitness. I took a couple of days off after CIM (since I basically ran a slow for me half marathon, I didn't need much recovery), and got right back to training. Weaving Christmas plays, caroling, parties, gingerbread houses, playdates and work in between many miles - I just kept going. Don't overthink it, just make it work and don't forget to have a lot of fun along the way.

I had some really amazing training runs in beautiful locations.

I took my usual warm shower to wake up my muscles, dressed and ate a simple breakfast of a banana and a Picky Bar. I have done so much experiementing with my pre race food, but I felt like this was the best fuel for me. I was happy with my carbo loading going into the race - Thursday dinner was grilled salmon, white rice and small veggie. Friday lunch was pasta with red sauce and pre race dinner was white rice and a turkey sandwich. Jerold was sleeping as peacefully as a newborn and I felt pretty bad waking him to drive me to the buses, but that was the plan that we talked about a few times. I triple checked to make sure I had everything I needed and we were on our way. I heard about the bad traffic to get to the buses and that was accurate for sure. Finally, Jerold suggested I get out and walk the rest of the way, which turned out to be the best decision. I met a nice woman along the way and we chatted and sat together on the bus, which really took my mind off the race. The only negative about hydrating, is that you have to go to the bathroom out of the blue and it hits you like a ton of bricks. I stopped drinking two hours before the race, but that bus ride was painfully long and my bladder was not happy. The buses drive runners up into a beautiful mountain area and drop you off in the middle of the cactus filled desert. I made a bee line for the porta potties and then spent the rest of the time relaxing and staying warm. Temps were about 40 degrees, which is amazing weather for a marathon and the race director thought of everything. Bon fires were everywhere for runners to gather around and they also had a huge supply of heaters - this was really a nice touch to stay cozy and warm. I performed my dynamic warm up and soon it was time to take off my clothes and jacket, (they had a very easy and efficient gear check) and get ready to walk to the start. An eleven year old girl sang the National Anthem and ended with a fireworks display. I haven't attended a race with fireworks before the start and it was a very cool touch.

Bonfires everywhere

Just like that it was time to line up and then the gun went off right at 6:30 AM. Coach had carefully laid out a plan for me with the main theme being, don't start too fast. This course is very easy to run too quickly as you start running downhill. That coupled with fresh legs and a crowd of anxious runners can be a recipe for disaster. I immediately told myself to hold back - don't be an idiot and start too quickly, because I knew I would pay dearly in the later miles. I've never raced with music before and made a decision to use music at some point during the race. The playlist was cued up and I started it before the gun went off. Somehow, it skipped my playlist and landed on the Disney playlist that I made for my kids! As the song from Aladdin began to play, I immediately switched it off, annoyed with the disruption and thought I would fix it later, but right now I needed to think.

6:42, 6:43, 6:55. I felt like I was walking and 6:42 is too fast, Nat. What are you doing, slow your roll. I see the 3:00 pacer blow by me like he is racing a half marathon (or even a 10k) and I can't think about that dang pacer, that is too fast for my plan - run your own race.

6:44, 7:06, 7:19. I knew there was one hill in the race and that I would slow down for it, which was fine as I needed to even the pace out from the faster start. 

6:41, 6:50, 6:54. Settling into a good pace, the sun is rising and we are treated to gorgeous desert vistas. Ah, this is why people move to the desert. 

6:49, 6:59, 6:51. Switching between Gatorade Endurance (another good perk of this race) and water, plus taking a Honey Stinger gel every 35-40 minutes. I feel good.

6:56, 7:06, 6:59. Hit the half marathon in 1:30 and by now I have seen my family twice, which has been amazing! I feel relief on passing the half way mark and get ready to settle in as I know we are embarking on straight, flat road with zero hills. It sounds great, but I know the unchanging terrain is going to be tough through fatigue.

7:08, 7:08, 7:17. Yep - see, this is where the marathon is made or broken. Pull it together, Nat.

7:12, 7:25, 7:32. I see Jerold at mile 20 and you can see the desperation on his face. NAT. You are closing in on the three hour mark - you need to speed it up now. I love you. You can do this - come on!! I hated to hear the beep on my watch - I hate this part of the marathon that I just can't seem to master (for real 7:25, 7:32?). I am getting better though and the fade was not nearly as dramatic as it has been. He yells at me again - fix your form! Straighten up, you can do this! I'm running with a woman who passes me, then I pass her and then she passes me. She heard Jerold yelling and tells me to come on, let's do this together. I want to respond and say thank you, but I can't. Just keep running. I've reached the 2:20 mark and I try in my foggy brain to do the math - I'd have to run like 6:30 pace I think to get the 2:59 that my coach laid out for me. (goal in this race 2:59-3:03). Just keep running.

7:23, 7:34, 7:39. My stomach is not cooporating at all. I'm fighting through it. I dropped the woman who was kind to me. She's not there anymore, she is behind me and I have to keep running. Pick up the pace - fight for it. The 3:05 pacer runs by me like I'm standing still. I fight the defeat that starts to creep in. The evil voice inside my head wants to take over and whisper that I'm not good enough, I'm not fast enough, this isn't my event, I'm not a fast marathoner. I always fade. I'm not strong enough. I won't give in to that feeling, I won't give into my cramping stomach that doesn't freaking like me. I can't stay with the pacer, but I will keep him in my sight. I tell the evil voice to go to hell and I start to run for my life. There is another woman in front of me and I make it my mission to catch her. Go to hell evil voice. Goodness wins and today evil voice - you lose.

7:37. The people on the side of the road are screaming at me. Go girl!! You got this - you are almost there... GO! I keep running. Keep going. Don't stop until you cross the line.

Phil 4:13 #Icandoallthings

3:05:55 and I did it. 

I ran a PR and I'm so happy to be finished. For this moment, I am finished.

Turns out I won 3rd place in the women's masters division. Super surprised because there are a lot of fast women at this race!

We had a great meal to celebrate!

Now, it's back to regular life, lots of rest and recovery + planning out what's next (I have lots of plans!). First, I have to enjoy this...

Thank you to my family who always supports and loves me. Josh, Megan and Elle - my loves. I hope you always fight for what you want. My Mom, who is always up for an adventure and helps and loves on our kids so I can run. Oh, I have to tell you, they had such a fun time while I was resting on Friday - Jerold, my Mom and the kids went to Scottsdale to see the Frank Lloyd Wright house. This made me so happy as the kids missed school, but still got an educational and fun field trip!

Megan wants to be an architect.

To Jerold, my best friend and my love - thank you for driving me all over the place so I can follow my passion. For letting me lean on you and listening to my endless monologues about running. I love you infinity. Thank you to my coach, Mark Hadley for pushing me and believing in me. To Brooks Running for supplying me with an endless amount of shoes and gear so that I can run happy and healthy. To Oofos for my awesome recovery shoes, to Jaybird Sport for the headphones that give me great music along the thousands of miles. Lululemon and Lululemon Los Angeles for the kick ass race outfit that got a much deserved do-over :). To the Phoenix Marathon for having me at the last minute - thank you for your kindness! My friends that always support my crazy running and my neighbors that call out their support when I'm running all over the place - thank you. Thanks you guys for reading this and for all your sweet words of encouragement. It's such a fun ride - let's keep going!

Do Awesome Things. Always.


Sunday, February 3, 2019

The Work Is Meaningless If You Don't Believe

As I scrolled through my training log in an attempt to ease the out of the blue case of heart flutters, I realized that the work is indeed finished. There is nothing else I can do for this training cycle and really nothing else that I want to do. I'm ready to race and the occasional nervousness that I feel is normal and I have to focus on the big picture. Calmly execute the plan and race when it is time. Coach and I didn't put any races on the calendar for January, which allowed me to completely put my head down and immerse in the work of the cycle. I concentrated on taking one day at a time and emphasized on weights and core like never before. I finished up with a 13 mile easier run yesterday (Saturday) and finished with a sense of deep satisfaction. I know that whatever happens on race day, I believe that my work ethic has been impeccable and I have to carry that confidence with me onto the course. I really dislike when the seeds of doubt try to permeate into your heart and I readily throw all of that out with the garbage and accept the challenge to do what I love. Running truly is fun and it's also fun to test yourself and see just how far you can push the limit.

My body has been tired like never before and I giddly climb into bed each night and chug water like it's my job, yet I've had an insatiable thirst the last week or so, that is pretty intense. I know that my body is repairing itself and preparing for what it knows is coming. I've have really tried to listen to the signals it sends while balancing everything else.

Speaking of January, let's take a look back and get a snapshot of the month with the tail end of December included:

Monday December 24th - December 30th: 80.75 miles

Monday December 31st - January 6th: 67.13 miles

Monday January 7th - January 13th: 81.83 miles

Monday January 14th - January 20th: 76 miles

Monday January 21st - January 27th: 76.32

This last week of training looked like this (taper week):

Monday January 28th: 5 miles

Tuesday January 29th: 6.85 miles

Wednesday January 30th: 6 miles in honor of Elle's 6th birthday! This little girl has my heart... so much joy.

I made a cake for her actual birthday.

Thursday January 31st: 8.66 total miles: 1 mile warm up - 3 x 3 mile repeats. This was a less than successful last workout, but it is what it is: 
First 3 mile set: My shin started off very tight and legs felt pretty swollen. Tried to make it through the three miles, but I had to stop 1.85 into the set and spent 30-45 seconds stretching out my shin. I really had to force myself to finish the set, but I did and that is a huge victory. 20:01 total time for that set.
Second 3 mile set: Felt pretty tired, but finished in 20:14, with my shin feeling fine.
Third 3 mile set: So tired. I got through 1.2 miles and decided to call it. In retrospect, I can't believe I walked away from that last set without finishing, but I was done. D.O.N.E. 
I was so done, that I didn't even run the one mile cooldown. Crazy.

Friday February 1st: 7.52 miles

Saturday February 2nd: 13 easy miles + more birthday celebrations with a princess tea party with eight of Elle's friends - such a fun day!

...and an ice cream cake for the party - lots of treats this week!

Sunday February 3rd: REST DAY!
The kids had friends over, so we had 6 kids in the house and watched the game. Fun day, and next time we'll have to invite grown ups, so we can have our friends too. So much going on these past few weeks, I didn't even think about the Super Bowl...

Lots of food and snuggles on a rainy day - and I didn't run!

And now here we are, going into race week. Easy runs, with a bit of marathon effort on Tuesday and then downhill to Saturday's race. Fun fact - I have never raced a Saturday marathon, always Sunday.

All of the miles, training and prep are important for this race, but are so meaningful to me as a huge building block to where I ultimately want to go. If patience isn't your strong suit, then marathon training will definitely be challenging! It's not about one training block, but the months and years of cumulative work that really pay off in the long run (pun intended :).

We made it through January, my friends! February is here and I'm feeling great about good things in store for us all this month.

Do awesome things.