MDA Team Momentum – Running for those who can’t Chicago 2017

MDA Team Momentum – Running for those who can’t Chicago 2017

If you follow me on Instagram, you probably saw the above photo, showing my staging of my race-day outfit for Seawheeze 2017.  What you may not know is the meaning behind the singlet that I chose to wear for the race. 

As you might be aware (if you’ve talked to me in person at all over the past few months), I’m currently in full training mode for the upcoming Chicago Marathon. 

For this marathon, I’ve decided to register as a part of Team Momentum, which raises money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. 

As a member of MDA Team Momentum, I’m dedicating my miles, muscles and personal finish line to helping kids and adults living with muscular dystrophy, ALS and related muscle-debilitating diseases live longer and grow stronger.

This organization is personally meaningful for me, since I have been dealing with a still undiagnosed neuro-muscular disorder for most of my life. I am one of the lucky ones – my disorder doesn’t limit me the way that these disorders do for many others. I am so fortunate to be able to be as active as I am, and want to be able to help those who aren’t as lucky as I am. 

I want to live in a world where everyone who wants to be active can do so and live their best life possible – the MDA is helping make that happen. 

Every dollar I raise while training and racing in the 2017 Bank of America Chicago Marathon will help the MDA fund groundbreaking research to accelerate treatments (and cures) and provide support for the families impacted by these debilitating conditions. 

This is where you come in. Donations as a part of this campaign will help save and improve the lives of individuals with muscular dystrophy and the families who love them. Thanks in part to MDA Team Momentum participants and donors, MDA anticipates more new treatments in development during the next five years than in the previous five decades combined.

I know that we all frequently get asked to support various charitable causes. But, if you’re willing/able, any support you can give towards my mission of raising money for this great organization, I would appreciate more than words can express. 

Help me help the MDA continue its momentum!

Here’s the link to my fundraising page if you’d like to make a donation or find out more: http://www2.mda.org/site/TR/EnduranceEvent/NationalEnduranceCenter?px=4400951&pg=personal&fr_id=23378

Mountains to Beach Marathon Race Recap

Mountains to Beach Marathon Race Recap

If you follow me on Instagram (or let’s be real, know me in the not square life), you know that I’ve been training for the Mountains to Beach marathon for FOREVER. Ok, not actually forever, but 18 weeks sure feels like a long time. 

The race was Memorial Day weekend, and I’ve been spending the last week (or so) trying to figure out how I feel about the whole thing. I don’t think I’ll ever really know how to feel about it, so, here’s what I’ve sorted out so far.

For the race, I opted to wear a bright pink tank top, black Oiselle shorts, and my trusty patterned Stance compression socks (all designed to make me easier to spot). My outfit was tried and true, I knew that nothing should go awry, because nothing is worse than being uncomfortable for 26.2 miles (and the cute patterns with bright colors didn’t hurt either). 


The morning of the race, I had to wake up at the ungodly hour of 3am in order to make sure that I was at the 4am shuttle on time. Marathon excitement had me waking up every hour or two, just in case, you know, my alarm decided not to go off. Fortunately, I got enough sleep to feel pretty well rested (or just had enough adrenaline coursing through me to make me feel that way). Big thanks to my amazing Mom who braved the pitch dark with me to find the shuttle!


After a half-hour bus ride up the mountain, we made it to the adorable town of Ojai to wait for the start of the race (which wasn’t for an hour and a half). Waiting wasn’t that bad, though, considering there were lots of other people waiting around, too, and runners are probably some of the friendliest people out there (at least on race mornings). While I waited, I finished off a bagel and did some light stretching/warmups. 


The start: my goal was to finish in about 4:30, so I put myself at the back of the 4:21 pace group, figuring that if I kept at the back of the group, I’d be well on my way towards my goal. 

Miles 1-2: realized that the 4:21 pacer was banking time early in the race to make it easier for people to meet their goals. The 9:30 pace she was running was comfortable, but I knew it was way too fast for me to maintain. So, I dropped back to the 10:30-11:00 pace I’d planned on starting with. 


Miles 3-6: met an awesome fellow runner gal (Karen) who had the same goal 4:30 goal as me, so we started running together. We passed the time chatting away – I actually forgot for a minute that we had over 20 miles to go. Karen, wherever you are, thank you for making those miles so much fun! 

At mile six, my body decided to yell at me because I hadn’t eaten anything yet. Since low blood sugar hit me like a ton of bricks, I decided to slow down and eat some shot blocks. In my crazed, hungry, don’t want to miss my goal state, my body decided to tell me that it would be a great idea to eat the entire tube. 

WRONG. BIG MISTAKE. 

Mile 7-10: I knew that 4:30 wasn’t gonna happen for me,  but I still had a chance to make it in under 5 hours, so I pushed (with some downhill assistance) and came pretty close to where I should have started out the race (oops). Pretty sure you can see how real the struggle was in my mile 8 photo below. 


Mile 11-12: internal thoughts: holy cow. Pretty sure I’m dying. WHY did I eat so many shot blocks?! 

Mile 13: Hello insides, why are you hurting so much? Oh, because you’re about to be sick, that’s why. You know how I said eating all those shot blocks was a bad idea? This was my body’s way of telling me that. Also, that I probably should have started out the race at an easier pace. 

Mile 14-18:  my inner mantra of “YES YOU CAN” going in full force, I managed to run a half mile, then walk a half mile. I managed to keep a smile on my face, because sometimes the best thing about running is that it’s hard. This was totally working until mile 18, when my body decided yet again to tell me how it felt about things (hint: NOT good). 
To the cross country teams manning the water/food stations: THANK YOU. Pretty sure the only way I made it was because someone walked up to me and handed me a cup of pretzels.


Mile 19-23: I probably should have pulled off the course, and taken the DNF. But, I’m stubborn.  Also, at mile 19, the cheering sections started. These were groups from local non profits all competing to win a big prize – all for boosting runner morale the most. My pride wouldn’t let me walk through those cheering sections, so I ran the best that I could. 

Honestly, I’m so glad that I did. The energy boost from those wonderful people was just what I needed (cue dorkiest grin possible). I love running, and pushing through those miles reminded me of why.

Mile 24-25: coming back into downtown Ventura, so many runners who had already finished were out on the course, cheering us later finishers on. I have to admire all the cops and volunteers at this race – they were cheering on ALL of us runners until the very end. Mostly, I spent these miles trying not to die. 

Mile 26-26.2: holy finish-line Batman! I’d made a promise to myself that I would RUN across the finish line – no matter how terrible I was feeling – and I’m so glad that I did. 

On one side of the finish line, there was a giant beer garden for all the finishers. At one point, a woman yelled “GO PINK SHIRT!”, sticking out her hand for a high five. Not one to pass up a high five, I made my way over to give her a high five. After that, everyone else standing along the finishers chute stuck out their hands for high fives! Of course, I maximized the opportunity and high fived EVERYONE! Fellow runners, you’re the best. 


Even though I didn’t come close to my goal, I am still so happy about finishing this race. I pushed through, found the joy, and didn’t give up (even when I could have). 

Here’s the thing about running marathons (at least for me): they build you up, and sometimes tear you down, but they always make you believe that things that feel impossible really can happen. 

Yoga Plus – the good, the bad, and the sweaty

Yoga Plus – the good, the bad, and the sweaty

Hello, my name is Heather, I am a runner, and I have ZERO upper body strength. I run and I run (sometimes adding swimming, yoga, and cycling, just for variety), but admittedly, I haven’t ever truly focused on building my upper body strength.

The first step to moving forward is admitting you have a problem right?

During the Hot Chocolate 15k last weekend, I really noticed that my arms and shoulders were getting tired way sooner than my legs were. While my legs were still tired, by the end of the race, my upper body and core were more fatigued than I’d like them to be.

Enter Yoga Plus. I’d seen signs posted at my yoga studio about it, and after reading the description on their website, I decided to give it a try.

If you, like me, are not familiar with Yoga Plus, it’s a combination of vinyasa yoga, pilates, and HIIT in a one hour class.

Since it was my first time in class, I tried to follow along with what everyone else in the studio was doing before class started – so, I grabbed two different seemingly small dumbells (2lbs and 3lbs) and a yoga block.

The class started out with a flow of different poses to get us warmed up – I was already sweating profusely after the first set of these poses, so I guess you could say I was warmed up 😛

The rest of the class built on these poses, adding weights and additional squats and planks throughout. The high intensity and energy in the studio was definitely different from the relaxing bikram that I’m used to (although I was just as sweaty).

Each of the poses was focused on balance and maintaining a strong core, while also targeting a specific muscle group. We rotated from lower back, to legs, to upper back, to arms, and back again.

We were moving the entire class, and my jello arms were struggling through every push up. There’s nothing like shaky arms to make you realize just how weak you are, haha.

Those “small” weights that I picked up at the beginning of class? Yeah, they didn’t feel so small by the end of class.

BUT, like a hard run, my tired muscles (and the awesome endorphin rush) made me want to do it all over again. And, you know, not wanting spaghetti arms, haha!

What do you do to help strengthen your core/upper body?

Do you do pilates, yoga or some combination of something else?

 

Learning to Fail (or at least, be ok with it)

Learning to Fail (or at least, be ok with it)

Running is one of the most physically demanding activities that we can do. It takes your entire body, working in perfect harmony, for everything to go as planned on any given run. More often than most runners would like to admit, things don’t go according to plan – nutrition, hydration, muscle/mental fatigue, and sometimes a combination of multiple factors can all throw off your running game.

For a long time, I let the intimidation (ok, fear) of getting everything perfectly right for 26.2 miles push me away from ever wanting to run a marathon. I was completely happy continuing to run halves and other, shorter races. Until I wasn’t.

Two years ago, I had just completed my first Ragnar Relay race – a 200(ish) mile relay, with 11 other awesome people – in which I had run 4 legs, for a grand total of 19.5 miles. I had never run that far before, and I was hooked. So, I thought, what the heck! Why not try for a marathon?

I trained, and trained, and then trained some more for the Portland Marathon that October. Things went really well for the first half of the race – I was on cloud nine. But then, the second half, or more specifically, the last 10k, happened. I won’t go into too many details, but it felt like my race had completely fallen apart. I spent that last 6(ish) miles, feeling like I had failed, because things weren’t going according to my plan.

photo-oct-04-12-51-34-pm

But, then I made it to the finish line, and realized what I had accomplished. The wave of excitement (and endorphins) about actually completing those 26.2 miles was like nothing I’d ever felt before. I fell even more in love with running right then, and knew that I’d be back for more.

Sure, I had “failed”, but running  is more about the journey than the end result. Would I have liked things to go according to plan? Absolutely. But, I’m no less of a marathoner, and no less of a runner, because of it.

Learning to be able to accept things not working out the way I want them to, and learn from it, is one of the most important things I’ve learned from running.

If you’ve read my blog posts from late 2016, you know that I spent the better part of four months studying for a big exam that I took in the beginning of December. It was the first of three exams that I would need to pass in order to get a professional certification that could help me advance my career.

I’ve been bracing myself for nearly two months now, waiting on the results to come out. I knew that I had done everything that I could to be successful on this test, and the results were out of my control, so, honestly, I was trying to not think about it too much.

My blissful ignorance bubble was burst today – the exam results were emailed out.  Unfortunately, things didn’t work out the way that I wanted them to. Despite all of my hard work, I didn’t do well enough to pass this time. I’ve taken this test before, with the same result, and while this wasn’t entirely unexpected, I’m still left feeling disappointed.

I haven’t decided what my next move is going to be, but I know that this result doesn’t invalidate all of the hard work I put in to taking this test. Not passing this test doesn’t make me worse at my job, nor does it make me any less intelligent.

Like my first marathon, I know I’ll be back for more – I just have to decide what that “more” looks like.

Catching up

I haven’t written in a while, I know (sorry!), so I thought it was about time I did. Life has been pretty  busy over the last couple weeks with all the wonderful holiday craziness. 

I love this time of year, mostly because it’s a great reason to get together with my friends and family (and I won’t lie to you, the awesome food associated with this time of year isn’t too bad either, haha!). 


J and I hosted our first ever Christmas Eve dinner for both of our families. I made a prime rib roast for the first time ever, which was probably one of the most intimidating things I’d ever cooked. It turned out well, thank goodness, and both of our families had a great time! 


On top of the typical holiday business, J and I have taken up snowboarding again this year. In the past, when I’ve tried it, I’ve ended up falling most of the way down the mountain (some of my falls being more entertaining than others). This season (so far) has gone a lot better – I’ve managed to make it all the way down the mountain without falling more than once! 

I love being up in the mountains; the scenery is beautiful, and the snow brings a feeling of peacefulness that’s hard to find. 


With all these new aventures, I’ve found myself missing running. I’ve had to take breaks from running before, fortunately mostly because of life craziness instead of injury. The longing for a good, consistent running routine always calls me back. 

I find myself missing the freedom, the energy, and the certainty about life that I feel when I’m out on a run – that’s when I make the time to get out, even if only for a couple miles. I feel so much more like myself afterward.  

It’s my goal over the next week to get back into my routine, and begin working on my training plan for my next marathon. There’s something that feel so right about starting out the new year training for my next big race.

How were your holidays? What are your plans for New Year’s Eve? 

The back of the gym…

“If you want something that you’ve never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done” – Thomas Jefferson

Until recently, I never ventured into the back of the gym – the area with the big weights. It has always been pretty intimidating to me with all the crazy looking machines that I didn’t really understand how to use.

I was always just fine using the cardio equipment, pool, and doing my own body weight cross training. 

But, in the spirit of pushing myself out of my comfort zone, I decided to change that. Fortunately for me, my dear boyfriend has offered to show me how to use the machines and guide me through my first weight training workouts. 


Since I’m pretty new to adding weights to my workouts, and have a pretty weak upper body, we’ve started out by incorporating arms, chest, and upper back. We also have added leg presses and calf raises, to help strengthen my running form. 

To finish things off, we also do some core work at the end of each weight session (in the form of flutter kicks and passing a weight ball back and forth while doing sit ups). You know, just to add some variety.


Holy cow, after the first work out my arms were SO SORE. I don’t remember the last time my arms were so sore. Like, had trouble lifting my arms above my head SORE. 

But, after today’s workout, I can already tell that my body is making improvements, and I’m excited to see how my body continues to change.

Do you incorporate weights into your workouts? What are your favorite ways to incorporate them?

A little delay, and December goals

It’s been a while since I’ve had time to do anything substantial, other than study for the CFA Level 1. Fortunately, I got that out of the way yesterday (thank goodness!), so it’s back to relatively normal life for me for the time being (happy dance!). Here’s a little update on what’s been going on. 

Since studying occupied most of my time for the last couple of weeks, I had to cram in workouts wherever (and whenever) I could. 

I had all of last week off, which was great for studying, and also meant that I had more flexibility with my workout schedule.

The ability to get moving makes a huge impact for me when things get stressful. I’m a much calmer, happier person when I’m able to channel my energy into something else (other than what’s causing my stress). I tried to get some kind of physical activity in every day to break up the monotony of studying. 


However, it didn’t always work in my favor. One night when I went out running after studying all day, I narrowly missed getting hit by a car, and ended up getting a flat tire and twisting my ankle while jumping out of the way. The car did eventually see me, thanks to all of my crazy awesome reflective gear, and my ankle ended up being ok after some ice and elevation, so everything ended well (phew!).

Since I didn’t want to push my ankle too hard, I opted for low impact cross training for a couple days. 


On Tuesday, for the first time ever, I was able to go to the gym before everyone gets done with work for the day, meaning that I didn’t have to share a swim lane with someone else (score!). 


Wednesday was a hardcore studying day, meaning that all I could cram in was some circuit training in my living room (just so I didn’t go completely stir crazy). This also had the benefit of giving me an excuse to lay on the awesome rug on the floor, which definitely contributed to my overall happiness level, haha. 

On thursday, I was able to make time for some hot yoga, which was relaxing and totally necessary after sitting while studying all day. 

Friday, it was pouring down rain – not entirely unusual for December (or anytime, really) in Seattle – but, the one thing keeping me going through the last couple hours of studying was the promise that I’d made to myself to go for a run along the water. 

So, after finishing working my brain for the day, I went out and did just that. It was cold, it was wet, and it was muddy, but the feeling of being outside and the feeling of the cool mist from the waves on my face made it totally worth it. I was also one of the only people there, meaning that my short two miles were pretty much entirely uninterrupted. There is something so rejuvenating about a good run like that (no matter how short). 

The test was yesterday, and unlike a marathon, I won’t find out my results until mid-Janurary (ugh). So, to keep it off my mind until then, here’s what I’m hoping to accomplish this month:

  1. Build a base for my marathon training plan that’s starting in January.
  2. Incorporate, and eventually master, rhythmic breathing while I’m running to help avoid injury (there’s a great article here that describes it)
  3. Work on my cadence, specifically trying to avoid overstriding.

What are your goals for December?