Sunday, April 26, 2015

Finding my Wings

Most of us have a handful of events that we recognize as pivotal moments in our lives… days that changed us, or changed the course of our lives.

One of those days for me happened six years ago yesterday. On April 25, 2009, I went for my first run ever. I attempted a two mile loop around the block, and it was so much harder than I expected it to be. Despite the fact that I was completely humbled by that first run, I was also completely hooked. Something deep down inside of me said, "Yes. This is something you are supposed to do."

I never could have imagined the journey I was starting on that day or how it would change my life.

I have written recently about how running has helped me by best, and how it helps my strive to be my best in all aspects of my life. Running has also blessed me with many incredible experiences and opportunities,  and introduced me to countless amazing people, including my best friend, my coach, the runners I coach, other runners, etc. Being a part of the running community is so much fun and such a blessing to me.

On a recent post of mine, Coach Dion commented and asked, "Do you think you might have been a very different person if you had started running 10-15 years earlier in life?"

I actually have thought about that question quite a bit, especially with my "runniversary" being this week. My answer is no, I don't think that I would be a very different person if I started running 10 years earlier. But I DO think that I would have handled a lot of things better and would have been a lot happier sooner.  Running has helped me let go of trying to be a perfectionist in a lot of other areas, it has helped me be a lot more patient and relaxed, and it has helped me get over a lot of insecurities that I struggled with for years. Running helped me find strength, confidence, determination and dreams that were buried deep inside.

I grew up with an abusive and neglectful mother. While I have always had the love and support of my incredible father and other family members, I still had a lot of insecurities and a need for love and approval from the people in my life. When I found the strength, power, and confidence in myself through running, it helped me to get to a place where I could accept and be grateful for the unconditional love that I do have in my life, and to stop looking for it from the places it was not going to come from. I am still a people-pleaser and probably always will be, but now the love and support I have from Josh, the kids, my parents, Jennifer, Ray, and other wonderful people in my life, and the confidence I have inside of myself, is more than enough. I found a lot of peace.

Running also helped me find myself. That may sound silly, but I got pregnant at 18. I was married and a mom at 19. I went from being a star student on a college scholarship involved in all sorts of activities, to having my whole identity being wrapped up in being a mom and a wife. Do not misunderstand me… I would not change a thing about the life Josh and I have built and there is nothing more important and wonderful to me than being mom to my kids and to being Josh's wife. But I lost myself for a while. I was so busy taking care of everyone else I forgot to take care of myself.

Running helped me realize that I can be a loving, dedicated mom and wife and still have my own personal dreams and goals. And in fact I truly believe I am a better mom and wife for it. You can't fill up the cup of others if your own cup is empty, and running fills my cup. And I like knowing that I am showing my kids that moms can take care of their families AND have big dreams and goals, and that the only way to get the things you really want in life is through hard work and dedication. I hope it inspires them to go after their own dreams in life.


Running helped me discover my wings and learn how to use them, and for that I will always be grateful.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Ripples of Change Virtual Marathon

There are some things that you go through with another person that creates bonds that last a lifetime. My friend Andrea is one of those friends. We helped and supported each other through several adoptions, including my son, Solomon and her son, Ermias, who were best buddies in their orphanage in Ethiopia.  Solomon and Ermi even were able to go on their Make A Wish trips to Disney World during the same week, and our families spent an incredible week together in Florida. Seeing those two boys running around Disney together, after having seen them super sick in an orphanage in Africa, was beyond incredible.

Andrea and I have both stayed connected to Ethiopia and have found various ways to give back to the country that gave us 8 kids (between our two families!) Andrea started Habesha Momma Inc. about five years ago,  a charity whose mission is "to connect with communities, inspiring hope and contributing to the health, education, vocation and spiritual care of individuals to achieve lasting change."

We put our heads together and as a fundraiser to continue Habesha Momma's work of funding wells to provide clean drinking water and building a school in Ethiopia, we have created the Ripples of Change First Annual Virtual Marathon.



What is it? - A marathon that EVERYONE can do. Participants will have the month of May to complete 26.2 miles (less than one mile a day!). Run, jog or walk whenever and wherever you want to during the month of May to get your miles in. Run by yourself or with your family or group. Then all participants of the "Ripples of Change Virtual Marathon" will plan to run their final marathon mile at 12pm EST on May 30 (again, wherever you wish. That is the beauty of a virtual marathon). 

Why? - Your miles will be big steps towards changing lives in Ethiopia by helping to raise money to provide education and clean water for those in need and to help raise awareness through Habesha Momma. Along with helping to make positive changes in the lives of others, you will be getting active and accomplishing something to be proud of. If you are already a runner or walker, this is a wonderful opportunity to put your miles towards a good cause. If not, this is a great reason to get yourself moving and make a positive change in your life while helping change the lives of others.

Details - Price is $45 for singles participants, $80 for couples and $15 per child.
All participants that complete the 26.2 miles during the month of May will receive a t-shirt and a medal! You will have the opportunity to raise additional donations by having others sponsor you per mile and there will be prizes for our top three fundraisers, as well as prizes given by drawing out of all participants.

Registrationhttps://www.raceit.com/Register/?event=32658

Other information - You will check in weekly to report your miles completed. If you need guidance in how to complete your marathon over the month of May a training schedule will be provided for you by a certified running coach, as well as any support or help you may need along the way. 


This is an AWESOME opportunity to get yourself motivated and moving if you currently are not running or walking (or to get your spouse or kids moving… less than a mile a day would be something fun to commit to as a family!!!). AND, if you already are running more than 26.2 miles a month, it is a great way to make those miles count towards something meaningful.  And the bling is fun! (I will post pics when I get them but the medal and t-shirt will have the awesome logo above on them). 

If you have any questions let me know, and if you could please help spread the word I would really, really appreciate it!!!!

"Just as ripples spread out when a single pebble is dropped into water, the actions of individuals can have far-reaching effects." - Dalai Lama


"I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples." - Mother Theresa

Here are two pics of Shorty (Solomon) and Ermi on their wish trip. :)




 Please take a minute to share the link to this post. :) Thanks!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Best

One of the things I love the most about running is that it inspires me and helps me to be the best version of myself. As I have become a dedicated athlete and as I work to become the best runner I can be, I have found positive impacts in all areas of my life. Of course running has helped me become a better physical version of myself, but becoming a runner also helped me discover a part of myself… a part that is athletic, strong, tough, brave, determined, daring, and confident… a part of me that I did not know existed. And discovering that part of myself has helped me as a mother, a wife, a friend, and as a person. I believe that my body, mind and spirit are bettered daily with my running.

The definition of best is "that which is the most excellent, outstanding, or desirable". That is what I am trying to accomplish. I want to be the most excellent and outstanding runner (and person) that I can be. Obviously I won't ever be THE best, but I can be the best that I can possibly be, and to me that is well worth striving for. Being able to truly and honestly say, "I did my best" at something you are passionate about is a very rewarding thing.

This desire to be my best, and to find what my best is, is what keeps me getting up every morning at 4am. It is what keeps me pushing through 80+ mile weeks. It is what motivates me on a dark track early in the morning, or a lonely highway in the snow (yes, it is still snowing in April here). It helps me be disciplined with my diet, strength and core work, and sleep. That desire is what keeps me motivated after setbacks, and determined and committed in adversity. It is what helps me not let the nay-sayers bring me down. It is what keeps me excited and believing.

I think that this idea of being your own personal best is one of the things that is most beautiful in the running community too. In a race, whether it is an ultra, marathon, half, 5k, track race, etc., everyone out there is doing their best. Yes, it's a race and yes there is some competition, but I think that runners are unique in the support and encouragement they give to their "competitors". Runners have great admiration and respect for the professionals in our sport, and yet we also have great admiration and respect for the beginners crossing the finish line of their first 5k.  Our sport celebrates all who go out, push themselves, work hard, take risks, and are brave enough to find their own personal best on a given day, no matter what the time on the clock may say. Every time I have spectated a race, the very last finishers have gotten applause and cheers every bit as enthusiastic as the winners. It's a wonderful thing. :)

On Saturday I had my best long run so far. It was a 23 miler, with the first 15 miles at "easy" pace and the last 8 miles uptempo. It was one of those runs where I just felt amazing from the first mile. I got tired towards the end of course, but felt strong the whole way. I finished with an average pace of 7:28 for the 23 miles, with a 6:45 average for the last 8 miles. It was a big confidence booster, five weeks out from Ogden. The reward of training hard is seeing your "best" improve. I have definitely been seeing big improvements in my training and am excited to finally see it on race day.

I love, love, love this quote from Earl Nightingale on being your best -

"We are at our very best, and we are happiest, when we are fully engaged in work we enjoy on the journey toward the goal we've established for ourselves. It gives meaning to our time off and comfort to our sleep. It makes everything else in life so wonderful, so worthwhile.
That is what running does for me.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Second overall, Spring break trip, turning and turning

We had quite the weekend!

We went to Utah for some "end of Spring Break fun" (and we had a LOT of fun!) and I raced a half marathon on Saturday morning. (Spoiler alert -  I placed second overall with a slow time.)

The race was quite the experience. It was the "Lagoon Half Marathon", a first-year race that started and finished in an amusement park. If you were doing this race for fun and not trying to be fast, it could be a lot of fun, but trying to race this course was nuts.

There were no less than 12 million turns (ok… maybe a slight exaggeration, but that's how it felt!) many of which were poorly marked or not marked… especially the last 2+ miles in the park. The race director said afterward that there were over 25 turns just in the last two miles, and they were the kind of turns that were sharp and narrow and completely killed your pace. Sometimes there were volunteers sort of pointing which way to go, and sometimes there weren't. We were told it was important to drive the course, but since almost all of it was on a path/trail or in the amusement park, driving it wasn't possible.

The paved trail was actually pretty nice to run on at times, but we went through a whole bunch of sets of gates… lots and lots of gates. You didn't have to stop, but it killed your momentum to have to zig zag through these over and over.

I found this picture online. This is very similar to what was on the course.
And we ran over a steep overpass/walking trail and there were some decent hills.  Then the last 2+ miles in the park were horrible. Turn, turn, turn, turn, turn, turn, turn, turn… and you had to slow down every few hundred meters to figure out which way to go. Sometimes you had to guess. Some of us guessed wrong. I went off course twice and had to backtrack and get back on course. SO FRUSTRATING.

The second time I guessed wrong at which way to go I hit a dead end, turned around, got back on course and had a girl in front of me!!! ARGH. There was only a quarter mile or so left at that point and there just wasn't enough space to catch her back. At the finish she told me she never would have caught me if I hadn't made the wrong turn.

So I thought I had finished third overall because I knew that a super fast girl had taken off at the start and I had been second to her the whole way until that wrong turn so close to the finish… but then we found out that the super fast girl and another guy (and a few others) were disqualified because they made a wrong turn but instead of running extra, ended up cutting off a quarter mile or so of the course. So even though they finished and would have won if they had run the full course, their times were thrown out. Very frustrating for them for sure. There were a lot of annoyed runners at the finish and back at the hotel, and I talked to quite a few who had made multiple wrong turns and were annoyed about the crazy course.

The good - The medals, awards, and shirts were very nice and I got a ticket into the amusement park for the day with my race entry. (We take the kids here this weekend every year so it worked out really well  and is why I took a chance on a first year race). I definitely would not run this again though unless there were some significant changes made to the course.

My time was horrible for me and way off my goal... 1:38 which is my third slowest half time ever. But with the turns, hills, turns, gates, turns, crazy course, wrong turns and running extra distance, I knew it wasn't going to be anywhere near a good time. All of the finishing times in the half, 10k and 5k (all races had the last 2+ miles on the same course) were very slow.

I am also right in the middle of marathon training and did not really taper for this, so I was not feeling super speedy or fresh. But, it was a good workout and I was happy with how I stayed strong mentally even when it was a frustrating course and unexpected challenges came up.

My stomach behaved really well (no pit stops!), the temps were great, I got in 20 miles for the day with warm up and cool down, and getting on the podium is always fun.


Josh and Belane were at the finish line and award ceremony with me, and then they drove back and I ran back to the hotel. We stayed at a hotel less than a mile from the park so that was super convenient. We then spent a long but super fun day at the amusement park and then swimming in the hotel pool. The younger kids and I crashed in bed around 9:30pm and Josh and the older kids went to a movie.

The night before the race and amusement park we spent at a great place called Boondocks, which has go-carts, miniature golf, arcade, laser tag, food, etc. etc. So, there was much fun had over the weekend and lots of quality family time. On Easter morning we woke up, left the hotel and went to a big brunch, and then drove the three hours back home to Wyoming and enjoyed the rest of the day together.

These long weekends away are wonderful, much needed, and lots of fun, but are a lot of work before and after… packing, organizing, and holy smokes the laundry! It was totally worth it though.

So much cool playing putt-putt :)
Josh and I at the arcade. I love this man. :)
Maggie, Noah, and Marcus
Noah and Ben in the pool, and Shane with the photo bomb :)

Me and my little girls at the pool
And then we came home and Noah lost his first tooth….
And my beautiful Destinee turned 17!!
So, the race did not end up being the fitness test that I wanted it to be, but we had a great (albeit exhausting) weekend. Coach said to turn the page and keep moving forward towards my goal race, the Ogden Marathon on May 16. I have just under six weeks to go. :)

Our spring break is over now and the kids reluctantly went back to school yesterday. 

It's exciting that the Boston Marathon is so soon and I am so excited for all who are running. I wish I was going to be there but I will be watching (on TV) and cheering from here for sure. 

Have you ever run a race you would never run again? What's your favorite race/least favorite race you have done?

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

How to Run, Eat, and Think like a Champion Marathoner

I have always been a reader. And when I am interested in something or passionate about something, I can't read enough. I want to know everything that I can know. If you saw the piles upon piles of running books I have, you would be impressed. Or concerned. :)

Last week I received two running books and I have already read them both and am excited to review them and share them with you. I thoroughly enjoyed them both and both books are super resources for runners at all levels.

The first book I am reviewing is "MEB FOR MORTALS: How to Run, Eat and Think like a Champion Marathoner" by the one and only Meb Keflezighi, and co-written by Runner's World senior content editor Scott Douglas.



Meb became a household name last year when two weeks before his 39th birthday, he won the 2014 Boston Marathon, even though he went into the race after years of injuries and setbacks, and the 15th best time amongst the runners starting the race.

One of my favorite moments in sports EVER.

If you have ever read articles by or about Meb, heard him speak, or have been lucky enough to meet him and spend time with him (as I have on three occasions) you know that he is as impressive as a person as he is as an athlete.

In "Meb for Mortals", Meb shares with all of us his secrets and tips on being the best runner possible. He covers everything from running form, to daily nutrition, to stretching, to strength training, to mental preparation. He gives advice that can be used by any runner looking to get the most out of their running.

There is so much great advice from cover to cover in this book and it is hard to say what I liked the most, but I would have to say that I really was impressed with the section titled "The Key to Racing: Mental Strength and Flexibility".  I loved this -  "Races are inherently challenging. Look at them as opportunities to do the best you're capable of. Not tomorrow, not next week or next month, but today. Make a wise and good decision to maximize your training." I am racing a half marathon this weekend so this is just what I needed to read!

I found "Meb for Mortals" to be a great source of information, but also an enjoyable read at the same time. A lot of books are either "story" or "resource" and the combination of the two makes this book stand out for me. Meb's dedication, commitment and determination shine through every page and his practical and insightful advice could benefit anyone wanting to be the best runner they can be. It is inspiring and encouraging.

Yeah, we had lunch, I wore his medal. No big deal. :)
In Houston. 
"Meb for Mortals" will be available in paperback and on Kindle on April 7 on Amazon (available for pre-order now).

I can't wait to cheer for Meb in the Boston Marathon again on April 20!!!

*RODALE Books provided this book to me at no cost for the purpose of review. No other compensation was given. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

38

Yesterday was my birthday. :)  I am 38 years old/young now! I didn't do anything special, but a quiet day at home is perfect. It was a really nice day and I am so grateful for the people who went out of their way to let me know that I am loved. That is the very best gift.

It is kind of fun to be 38 years old and to be in the best shape of my life. My plan for this year is to continue to try and be the best "me" I can be…mentally, spiritually, emotionally, and physically. It is going to be a great year.


It has been a busy week as usual around here. Here are some of the things that have been going on…

- My poor Noah got SHINGLES. He is only six years old! He had chicken pox as an infant in Ethiopia before he was adopted. The poor kid had an awful (painful and itchy!) rash and was feeling pretty terrible for almost a week. He just finished the anti-viral medication today, his rash is all scabbed over, and he is acting like his normal self. Thank goodness!

This was from before he got sick. He was stealing Shane's hat and thinking it was very funny. :)
- Ryan (17) is going to Europe TONIGHT! He is going with a high school history class. He signed up for the trip over a year ago and worked hard to pay the $3200 almost completely on his own. They will be going to Poland, Germany, France, and Italy and in 10 days will see a huge list of historically significant places. My grandfather came to the U.S. from Poland and fought in WW2 at the beaches of Normandy so it is extra cool that Ryan will visit those places. We are excited for him!

Ryan and me 
- Ben (14) made the high school soccer team and has his first game on Friday! Ben loves soccer. In fact, his first English sentence (when we adopted him at age five) was "Dad kick ball". He has worked super hard for the past few years to be a great player but was still nervous about making the high school team. Last week he found out he had made the team and he has been working even harder ever since. I am excited to get to watch him play and to cheer him on doing what he loves. Lots of pics coming soon.

-  I was profiled in a newspaper in New York! I will be running the Suffolk Marathon on Long Island in September and they are doing articles on some of the runners that will be racing. It is a first year race which I usually avoid, but it goes right through my parents' town and it fit into my schedule perfectly, so I had to sign up. :)


- It snowed more. Bleck. I had a block workout scheduled for today (workout in the morning, followed by a second workout later in the day) and the roads were just way too icy and snowy this morning to try and run fast. So, block was rescheduled for tomorrow. The sun came out today, it stopped snowing, and the roads are clear now, so I will be ready to roll in the morning. Big training day ahead!

My street. It's hard to run fast when the roads look like this
Training has been going super well though. I have been taking it one day at a time and "staying in the present" as Coach Ray always reminds me to do. I am a little tired overall, but that is how you feel  during marathon training, and I feel really strong and fast overall. Speaking of fast… I got some fast-looking tights for these fast legs for my birthday. I always stick with plain old black on the bottom when I run, so these are pretty fun! Love me some Oiselle. :)


- Two more days of school until Spring Break! We have a weekend in Utah planned and will do some little fun things here and there and enjoy the time to rest and relax a bit!!

And that covers the highlights from here.  More soon. :)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Three Cheers

Let's talk about some good things!

I love this time of year and especially this week. St. Patrick's Day, first day of Spring and my birthday, all in one week. :)  Is there anything better than running in spring? The temps are still chilly but so much better than last month. ("Warmer" up here in the mountains is temps in the 30's this week in the early mornings). And you have the knowledge that the days are getting longer and temps are going to keep getting warmer. (I love running in the fall temps but hate that feeling that the days are getting shorter and temps are dropping!!) The last week or so I have seen a couple of gorgeous sunrises and heard lots of birds. Yay for spring being almost here!

Dear Treadmill, Thanks for helping me get through the winter, but I hope not to see you for many, many months now. Enjoy the break. :)

I also love St. Patrick's Day! I celebrate it every year (Erin Go Bragh!) and it also marks "one week until my birthday" so I have always gotten excited for this week.

I don't love to cook, but one of the few things I make SUPER well and enjoy making is traditional Irish Soda Bread. I make one loaf the real way, with raisins and caraway seeds, and one loaf plain for the picky kids.


The breakfast I do on St. Patricks' Day for the kids is "slightly" less traditional…. but hey… I figure they enjoy this more than they would blood sausage! One bottle of green food coloring to one gallon of milk makes for some fun but funky looking cereal. One of the teenagers told the little kids that a leprechaun peed in the milk and they thought that was awesome. Haha!


I wore my "Kiss Me I'm an Erin" hoodie and got kisses from my favorite Ethiopian Leprechaun. :)


I actually spent the day on the road taking two kids to the children's hospital in Utah for routine appointments (7 hours of driving and 3 hours at the hospital makes for a LONG day) but we made it as fun as possible.

Two more good things…

- I had a killer, awesome, amazing, break-through run on Sunday. The run was 18 miles and the plan was to run 6 miles slow, 10 miles uptempo, and a 2 mile cool down. I ran the 10 mile uptempo portion at a 6:44 average pace!! I ran it very progressively (first mile was 6:57, last mile was 6:27) and felt really strong. It was such a great run and I really feel like it was a break through. Early on I was worried that I was starting off too fast, but I felt great and kept getting faster as the run went on. It was a blast. :) I have been steady at 85-87 miles the past few weeks and all is going really well. I have a half marathon on April 4 and the Ogden Marathon on May 17. I am really excited to race!!

- I am also excited to announce that I have been added to the Ambassador Team for EnduroPacks!!!



I wrote all about EnduroPacks and how and why I use them here. 

EnduroPacks is a daily system of vitamins and minerals that are designed for endurance athletes to help keep us healthy and to help us recover faster from our training. EnduroPacks include four products which are sold as a set in one month supplies. The four products are a liquid multi-vitamin, a concentrated electrolyte spray, Essential Amino-Acid patches, and L-Glutamine Recovery Complex. All four products are all-natural, gluten-free, and GMO-Free products, manufactures in the U.S. with only Organic and 100% Vegetarian ingredients.

I have been using EnduroPacks daily since November and definitely have seen a difference in how I feel and handle my training. This is a company and products that I am excited about, believe in, and happy to represent. If you want to try EnduroPacks you can use the code "FULLHOUSEMOM" for a 15% discount on your orders.

So three cheers for spring time, a super breakthrough run, and EnduroPacks!

What are you cheering for this week?