Run Like A Child

Being a Mom, as with any job, you often find yourself being both a teacher and a student. Sure there are things that you have to teach your kids, such as, counting, learning the alphabet, how to go pee IN the toilet (not just NEAR it)… I find that most days, I’m learning more from my boys about how to be a better mom, a happier person, and even a “funner” runner!

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So here goes, 3 things I learned about running from my crazy boys:

1. Run, Because We Are Born To

We finally had a day of sun and above freezing temperatures yesterday. We decided to get out of the house and hit up a nearby playground. As soon as my boys saw a stretch of cleared path, they both took off running.

“Boys! Why are you running?!” As soon as the words came out of my mouth, the ridiculousness of my question hit me. They are 4-year and 20-months old. What did I expect?

When I finally caught up to them (those little legs move fast!) I thought I’d ask my 4-year old again, just curious what he would say.

Me: Why do you run?
C: (Giving me a look that confirmed my initial gut reaction and saying in the most dramatic way possible that only a 4-year-old can) Mommy, what are you talking about?!
Me: Why do you like running?
C: I dunno! (Running off to tackle his little brother into a snow bank)

I have written multiple blog posts explaining the different reasons I love running. In fact, the existence of my blog is built around these reasons.! But what I learned from my son is that we don’t need reasons to run. It’s instinctual and it feels awesome. Do I really need another reason?

2. Fartlek, Because It’s Fun

My boys love to play “red light, green light.” I don’t know if it’s an universal game/thing? But my older son will scream “green light” and both boys take off like bats out of hell, yelling (there’s has to be yelling for some reason). Then at a point determined only by the fancy of my 4 yr old, he will scream “red light!” Then both immediate stop in their tracks. They rest a bit. Then it’s “green light!” And off they go again, yelling, laughing.

Speed work is fun! All the times I have dreaded my speed workouts – what was I thinking?!

3. Always, Always Stop to Smell the Roses Because… Why Not?

No matter how crazy they are running. No matter if it’s “red light” or “green light.” If there’s something interesting, such as a big puddle of mud full of worms, my boys will always stop to check it out. Jump in it. Touch it. Figure it out.

I get so focused on my runs..keeping a certain pace, getting it done, that I forget sometimes just how great and fortunate I am to be out in this beautiful world and being a part of it. I forget to see – really see – my surroundings. To smell the smells. I’m not giving up an opportunities to do so on my future runs!

Love the run you’re with ūüôā

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2014 Wrap-up and Racing Resolutions

I know, I know.¬† It’s almost February 2015 and I am just getting around to posting my 2014 wrap-up.¬† If you go by the lunar calendar, then this post is just-in-time.¬† The tardiness of this post pretty much sums up the year — 2014 was insanely busy.

On the home front, my poor boys were constantly sick.  I think my 18-month-old had a fever every other week!  My 4-year-old started pre-school and brought home all kinds of germs.  Also, I think I can sum up pre-school with two words: Birthday Parties.  Holy cow.  For a period there, we had a birthday party EVERY weekend.  I should stock up on pre-schooler birthday gifts just to have it handy!

On the work front, it was a great year.  It took me a couple of years but I stood up an awesome team at work and things were just starting to come together and getting some serious recognition.  Just in time for managers to move me to lead another project!  Now, the move did come with a nice promotion to a senior position and a nice raise, so no complaints.

Running, Racing, Resolutions

On the running front Рthis has been an epic year for me as a runner.  Starting in March 2014 with meeting my goal of running a Marathon within a year of having my second baby.  Not only did I complete the Marathon (prior to the course time limit), I achieved a personal record by shaving off 36 minutes from my previous personal best.  Then again in November 2014, I was able to slim down my marathon time by 12 more minutes when I completed the Richmond Marathon (new PR: 5:26).

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What I Have Learned In 2014

I don’t know if it is easy for anyone to run a marathon.¬† It is a mental and physical challenge, one that I have fallen in love with.¬† What I want to celebrate as a result of my running in 2014 isn’t the PRs but what I have learned from racing:

1. Do Not Let Others Define Your Limits.¬† People don’t say negative things out of meanness.¬† In fact, the most discouraging comments about my running have been uttered by close family and friends with the best of intentions. You know yourself best.¬† Don’t give away the power to define your own limits.

2. If Your Goals Don’t Scare You Just¬†A Little, Then It Is Not Set High Enough. Do what scares you. Just a little.¬†¬†¬† It is a¬†wonderful feeling to know you conquered your fears.

3. Celebrate Your Achievements. It’s OK.¬† It’s not self indulgent to do it. Now, I’m not talking here just buying new gear (though I am known to do that…).¬† I found myself minimizing my achievements.¬† “You ran a marathon?!¬† That is amazing” “oh, yeah, I did.¬† But I’m so slow…”¬† Can you imagine if your best friend or family just ran a marathon after training for it all winter long and you say to them “yeah, I guess you finished, but man were you slow!”¬†¬† I would never say that or feel that way so why should I tell myself that?

Looking To 2015

I don’t usually set “new year’s” resolutions.¬† I guess I usually set goals all throughout the year. But this year, I decided to do things a little differently.¬† In fact, I am not setting any racing goals… I am setting anti-racing goals.

1. No Marathons for 12 months.  I want to focus on getting faster.  Focus on shorter races, nothing longer than 13.1 miles. Do more speed workouts.  Incorporating strength training and swimming.

2. Incorporate My Family Into More Runs.  The shorter runs will allow me to achieve this goal.  In the fall, my son started riding his bike.  We went on many family runs and it was so much fun, and challenging keeping up with him on his bike, that I resolve to do more of it this year!

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I hope this belated post finds everyone happy and healthy.¬†¬†I wish all of you an awesome New Year ūüôā

Be fearless and run on.

Race Review: 2014 Anthem Richmond Marathon

Overall: Good Race. I probably won’t do it again… but never say never.

Expo:¬† I did not make it in time for the Expo, so can’t comment on that.¬† It is GREAT that the race mails your bib to you ahead of time.¬† Take advantage of that if you won’t make it to the expo.¬† I also heard from my friends that did go the expo that they met Bart Yasso and sat through his pep talk…I was jealous of that!

Race Tips: You will not need to pack your own hydration for this race.¬† This race had the BEST organized support stations that I have ever seen.¬† Water and Powerade ever 2 miles until Mile 20, then EVERY MILE after that.¬† They were well stocked and never ran out of anything.¬† There is dry and wet towel stations at two mile markers toward the end of the race.¬† “Junk Food” stations at Mile 17 and 22.¬† Also Gu along the way.¬† That said, you may want to train with the nutrition they use if you choose to shed the fuel belt.

Course / Elevation:¬† Someone told me that Richmond was relatively flat… I should have asked “relative to WHAT?”¬† It. Was. NOT. Flat!¬† No giant hills but rolling hills.¬† Then of course there’s the infamous “hill” at Mile 19.¬† I think to call it a hill is being generous – it’s nothing but a slight incline onto an overpass but at Mile 19, it might as well have been Mount Everest.¬† I was well prepared for it so I ran up it, no prob… but everyone I passed was walking.¬† I lost my running partner on this hill…¬† Bottom Line: DO HILL WORKOUTS.

One more thing.¬† The finish line is at the bottom of a pretty steep hill.¬† I guess it’s good to finish down hill – but DANG, it was a sharp decline for Mile 26…¬† My knees actually hated that downhill finish.¬† BE CAREFUL if it’s the same course.¬† You will be inclined to spring down that hill but you may risk injury.¬† I had to slow myself down about halfway down the finish stretch.

Logistics:¬† BOOK THE HOTELS EARLY!¬† I tried to book the hotels 6 to 7 months in advance and the hotels were completely booked.¬† I ended up in a hotel about 7 miles from the start line.¬† It actually worked out well because the parking wasn’t too terrible at the start.¬† A couple of tips:

  • HOTELS: Check a week or two before the race.¬† A running friend did and booked the hotel right at the start line – which was great.¬† We hung out in her room until 10 mins before the start and used the nice, warm restroom in her room instead of porta-potties.
  • PARKING: If you stay a¬†little ways from the race, do not fear.¬†¬†Race day morning, drive in and park in garages about¬†3 blocks NORTH of the starting line.¬† We did that and had no problems but saw the traffic jam of cars completely stuck in the road about 1 block or so from the starting race route.

Anything Else? This Marathon is termed the “Friendliest” Marathon.¬† And it was friendly.¬† But I was told by another runner that had ran previously in Richmond that the spectators weren’t out in full force because it was freakishly cold (read: Polar Vortex) this time around.

They put the runners in “waves” but it’s all one start.¬† Meaning, no separate gun starts for each of the waves – which was great because you didn’t have to wait, standing around in the cold, to start 50 mins after the actual start time.

The stretch along the River… Gorgeous.¬† If you do run this race, enjoy that stretch ūüôā

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Am I A Runner?

I overheard my husband describe me to someone as an “avid runner” last week. My first reaction was – I was flattered. But that reaction was immediately followed by self doubt… “Am I really a runner?”

What a stupid question, right? I describe myself here and on twitter as a “runner.” Why am I questioning it? I don’t know. But I do. I have always thought of running as something I DID, not who I am. A distinction that probably makes no sense to people reading this.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I have ALWAYS wanted to be a runner. I just never thought I would ever be one. I’m not fast enough. I’m not skinny enough. I don’t run far enough. This isn’t all in my head either. I remember when my husband used to make fun of me: you can’t call that running, that’s more like jogging! (Whatever that means)

I got so used to the slow comments that I even came with the phrase, “oh, I don’t run, I just walk in a running motion.” That usually gets an obligatory chuckle from the receiving end.

But now my hubby thinks I’m an “avid runner”?! What changed?

What changed is precisely the distinction I made earlier. Running isn’t just something I do, it defines a part of me. Being a runner isn’t about how fast you run, how far you run, how you look doing it. Runners run with heart. Runners are mentally tough. Runners constantly challenge themselves to be better. And runners are supportive and encourage other runners. These traits belong to all the runners I know.

Today I proudly allow myself to wear that label.

I am a runner.

(This post is a shout out to one of my fav runner and blogger Kimberly Westrich #believeinyourself @KimberWestrich, kimruns.blogspot.com)

Running and Blood Sugar Control – Lessons Learned

“Prediabetes means you have blood glucose, or blood sugar, levels that are higher than normal but not high enough to be called diabetes…¬† If you have prediabetes, you are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.” (Source: NIH)

The week before Boston Marathon¬†2014, I was diagnosed as “prediabetic.”¬† I had failed the 2 hour glucose test and my¬†A1C test results came back elevated.

My doctor: Eat less carbs, lose some weight.  Oh and start an exercise program

Me: Um…Does marathon training count?

I wasn’t surprised at the diagnosis.¬† With both of my pregnancies, I had gestational diabetes and was informed that it raised my risk for type 2 diabetes.¬† Knowing the risks, I started running as soon as I was medically cleared after having my second baby.¬† In the year after my second son was born, I ran a 5K, 10-miler, two half marathons, and a marathon — and even with losing all the baby weight within 4 months of giving birth, I could not escape prediabetes. (I know, I’m whining).

So I did what every normal, rational person would do – I Googled “prediabetes.”¬† There is a lot of information on the Internet for managing blood sugar, preventing type 2 diabetes.¬† However.¬† I was not able to find much information on¬†prediabetes and endurance sports (perhaps I have not found the right key words to search).

I’m not going to lie.¬†Part of the reason I run is so that I can eat cupcakes, ice cream, all the fun, sugary stuff.¬† And I love carb-loading before a big race.¬† I love pasta, rice.¬†Now with my new diagnosis, I had to find a new balance with the amount of carbs I *think* I need for running.¬† The following is a list of¬†lessons I have¬†learned SO FAR from my research and experiences.¬† I hope to share future lessons¬†with all the prediabetic and diabetic endurance athletes and invite your input!

[DISCLAIMER: I am not a medical or nutritional professional.  Just a fellow prediabetic runner trying to figure out what to eat and when to eat in order to best manage my blood sugar levels.]

1.  Everyone is Different. 

One message¬†I found to be consistent in most of the literature is that different foods’ effect on blood sugar levels can vary drastically in each person.¬† For example, when I eat pineapples, it spikes my blood sugar but when a diabetic friend eats pineapples, the rise in her blood sugar level is not as drastic.¬† Also, the time of day matters as well.¬† I find that my blood sugar is the most sensitive in the morning.¬†¬†Some of articles online recommend¬†people¬†to¬†eat the carbs early on during the day so you can burn off the sugar all day – well, it doesn’t work for me.¬†I can only eat small amount of carbs (less than 25 grams) in the morning, unless I’m going out for a run.

2.  Not JUST About Cutting Carbs.

One mistake that I made initially was just cutting carbs.¬† I didn’t go fully Atkin’s diet, but I significantly reduced the amount of carbs I consumed.¬† This did manage to help me lose weight… initially.¬†¬†After two weeks of carb-cutting, I went out for a 10-mile run.¬† About 8 miles in, I started to feel dizzy, my muscles tightened and cramped.¬† My blood sugar had dropped to such a low-level that it was not only hurting my performance but extremely dangerous!¬† I quickly took 2 Gu’s and sat down.¬† Diabetes is not just about lowering blood sugar, it is about controlling and managing it.

3.  Get a Blood Glucose Meter

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The previous lesson leads me to this: bottom line, I need to carefully monitor blood sugar levels with a meter.¬† But this is tricky.¬† Prediabetes is not a “covered” condition under some health insurances (mine).¬† So the test strips for these devices can be very expensive.¬† Luckily I have some left over from my gestational diabetes days and plan to use that until I run out.¬† This is worth it to me to make sure I stay healthy, I consider it an investment.

4.  Keep a Log

I have decided to meet with a nutritionist and having data helps tremendously.  I JUST started to keep track of my blood glucose level for the following times in a spreadsheet for my weekend long runs (runs that take more than 1 hour).  I try to write down the amount of carbs consumed before, during and after a run and WHAT food was eaten.  Hopefully this will eventually help me determine what works best for me to optimize my performance.

Time/When Carbs (grams) Blood Glucose (mg/dL) Comments
Fasting (wake up) 0 Eat breakfast after taking blood glucose and at least 1 hour before run
Before Run (breakfast carbs amount) Taken just before the long run
1 Hr Into Run (Gu or Sport Bean taken) I have started to try different foods to test how my blood sugar is affected
2 Hr Into Run (Gu or Sport Bean taken)
1 Hr After Run (Food eaten immediately after run) I try to eat within 30 mins of completing a run

5. Plan Ahead

Running and taking blood glucose levels can be challenging.¬† Planning ahead helps.¬† Trial and error helps too.¬†¬†If you’re like me, especially in the summer, I am a sweaty mess when I’m running.¬† If you use a blood glucose meter, you know that sweat on your finger tips will mess with your¬†reading.¬† I try to keep a towel at a convenient point on the trail and I make sure that roughly every hour I run by that point to take my readings.

It is a pain in the butt to have to do this during a run but it is temporary.¬† Hopefully after I have taken quite a few of these readings, I will get to a point where I know exactly what to eat and when to eat it on my run that I don’t need to continue to take my blood glucose levels.

These are just some of the lessons I have learned so far.¬† I’m sure there will be many, many more.¬† I hope whom ever reads this post will benefit from this and please do leave me any suggestions if you’re an experienced diabetic, endurance athlete, I would love to learn from you as well.

Stay Healthy.  Stay Strong.  Run.

 

 

Run To Me (Not A Post About Running)

I saw this post¬†on Instagram today (Text with the photo by @yoga_girl: My mothers hand. My grandmothers hands. The foundation of us all. The reason that I am. Mormor. Mom of moms. Today is her birthday and today she took her last breath. I am so sad. So sad. The last thing I told her was I love you. Don’t worry. Everything is ok. We are all so happy and so safe. The last thing she told me was I love you. We are going to Aruba. Where is your mother. I love Dennis. I am wearing an orange dress to your wedding but I can’t find it. Promise you will come back. And I did. I came back. But all the times I saw her after that she didn’t speak. I sat there listening to the space between her breaths. Now there is just space. Jag √§lskar dig Morris.)

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It made me cry.¬† I don’t know yoga girl (Rachel Brathen).¬† I started following her on Instagram because I loved her photos; I think she¬†is vibrant and beautiful.¬†¬†I admire her for her spirit¬†– I see a girl who is not afraid to¬†live, knows what she wants and goes after it. But mostly I saw a girl who knows how to love.¬† I felt her pain through her post.¬† It made me cry.¬† It made me think.

I used to be that girl.¬† Full of love and life.¬† Fearless.¬† But somehow after 7 years of marriage and 2 kids, I lost that girl…¬† I lost me.

I had always been fearless.¬† Even as a little girl, I was the leader of my¬†group of friends¬†– much to the dismay of my friends’ parents.¬† Growing up in Taiwan, I went to an elementary school in the mountains.¬† We didn’t have school buses.¬† To get to school, we had to either walk up a long, paved road or (literally) climb the side of the mountain. I rarely took the paved road.¬† Everyday I made my friends take a different way to and from school… even got lost a few times.¬† But I always managed to find¬†the way home.

There’s not a time that I can remember where I took the easy way.¬† I liked adventures.¬†Moving to a new country and not speaking a word of English. No¬†problem.¬†¬†After graduating college, I wanted to move to Washington, DC.¬† I did it.¬† Got a job, packed up¬†my car, and moved into an apartment by myself. I wanted to audition for American Idol.¬† I drove up and slept in the streets of New York City.¬† I sang my heart out (even made it to the second round – story for another time).¬† I wanted to buy¬†a condo by myself,¬†for my¬†birthday.¬† I did it.¬† I worked hard, saved money for a year and signed the contract¬†on my 24th¬†birthday.¬† I did¬†these things even when¬†I was told constantly,¬†“you can’t do it.”

Not anymore.  Now I live in fear and constant self-doubt.

I don’t know when exactly it happened.¬† Maybe after hearing “you can’t do it” so many times from people who are supposed to believe in me… it sticks with you.¬† Or maybe I forgot how to be brave.¬† Now I just follow other women on Instagram and live vicariously.¬† There are no risks when you live vicariously… except the biggest risk of all – not taking any risks.

My grandmother is getting older.¬† My grandma raised me since I was a baby.¬†She is¬†still living in Taiwan, by herself,¬†in¬†the apartment that I grew up in.¬† We talk on the phone occasionally, mostly small talk about the weather and what’s on TV.¬† When we have the chance to video chat, she doesn’t say much, just¬†stares lovingly at me through the screen of my computer.

I haven’t visited¬†her in almost 10 years.¬† Every year, I so want to see her.¬† I think about going back to Taiwan to see her.¬† And every year I talk myself out of it because i’m afraid. Traveling with a baby, for THAT far, it’s just too much… I don’t know if I can do it.¬† It’s such a long flight.¬† And now, five years later,¬†with two kids…traveling with a preschooler and a baby… the broken record of fear plays over and over in my head.¬† I have dug myself a little hole where I am comfortable and¬†buried my head in it.¬† I’m a coward.

This post by @yoga_girl made me cry.¬† It made me think.¬† The spirited, fearless¬†girl that I admire¬†from Instagram lost her¬†grandmother.¬† Yet I am too afraid to travel the distance to see mine.¬† Is there irony in that?¬† I don’t know.

People always ask me “why do you run?”¬†¬†My go-to answer: I run¬†for my health and¬†quality alone time.¬†¬†Truth is, I love running because it is the only time that I catch glimpses of¬†my old fearless self.¬† If¬†that voice in my head says to me “you can’t run another mile,” I prove it wrong by running another mile, faster.

If life is a marathon, I have hit the mental wall at mile 20.¬†¬†It is time for me to refuel and push through.¬†¬†Today, I¬†run to¬†the fearless me.¬† Today, I started planning my trip to Taiwan.¬†¬†¬†I am going¬†to say “I love you” to my grandmother in person, because I can.

Mile 21.4

I love reading race reports by other runners, so I set out to write one for the 3/15/2014 Rock N Roll USA Marathon. As I began to write,¬†I realized that “I started slowly, ran slowly, stopped for the porta-potty, and finished the race slow” wasn’t exactly an exciting read.¬†Instead, I want to share a race moment – Mile 21.4.

I had signed up for this marathon as a part of my post-baby running goal of doing a full marathon before my baby boy turned one. I signed up for a distance training program with Potomac River Running (an awesome local running store) to prepare for the marathon. A few weeks out from the marathon, I completely freaked out… as one can see from my previous post. I needed a mental kick-in-the-butt but instead I got an email from RNRUSA a week before the race with the subject: “Course Time Limit.”

The course time limit, according to the email, was 5.5 hours. It was stated clearly on the registration page and it was stated again in this email but somehow I managed to miss it. My goal time was around 5.5 hours! A week before the marathon, I was just informed that I may be picked up by the sag wagon and not finish the race. The email outlined various cutoff time and locations:

Mile 12.3 (Full/Half Marathon Split) by 10:40 am
Mile 18 (S. Capitol St./Nationals Stadium) by 11:50 am
Mile 21.4 (Anacostia Roller Rink Loop) by 12:35 pm

Panic set in.

I remember having conversations, in person and on twitter with my PR Running coaches Shannon Scalan (@ShannonScalan) and Adam Lesser (@ajlesser, lesserismore.blogspot.com). Shannon helped me strategize: the course limit is 5.5 hours from the time the LAST PERSON crosses the starting line. If I get into an earlier corral, I can start earlier and “beat the roller rink loop”¬†by 12:35pm. Adam’s post on “taper crazies” helped me get into a better mental state.

With the support of my family, friends and coaches, I got to the starting line. I focused on pacing myself and made sure I stayed off to the side and didn’t block any faster runners. I met an awesome mom runner at mile 14 and ran with her for¬†6 miles. I smiled at all the cameras (hoping that all of them were official race photographers). Most of the race was a blur. But there was one vivid moment, captured in the photo below: Mile 21.4.
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I remember looking down¬†and seeing 21.5 on my Garmin and thought, “I did it.¬† I am going to COMPLETE a marathon.”¬† I started to choke up¬† with tears but stopped myself.¬†(Note to self: do not cry while running, it makes it very difficult to breathe.¬†#runningtip).

It is one thing when others doubt your abilities but for me, my biggest enemy has always been myself.  And this is the moment that proved me wrong and will stay with me from now on in every race I run.  I CAN finish a marathon.  In fact, I picked up the pace.

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I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone that helped me achieve this goal.¬† My husband, for staying with the kids every Saturday morning so I can do my long runs.¬† Adam and Shannon – the best running coaches EVER. And all of my friends that encouraged, supported me even when I wanted to quit.¬† I couldn’t have accomplished this goal without you.

What about you?  Have you ever had a memorable, defining moment in a race?