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Surf City Half Marathon – Take-Aways and Happy Places

shirt medal

Last Sunday I had the thrill of running my third half marathon – The Surf City half marathon in Huntington Beach, CA.  It was a thrill for a couple of reasons:  1) I traded in the 2 degree temperature of Eastern WA for the 68 degree temperature of the beach: before after

2) I ran the race with my sister, Andrea.  We are both loner runners but we made an exception this time and ran together.  We even came up with little hand signals to communicate with each other so we didn’t have to take out our ear buds.

Andrea was really sweet and ran at my slow pace which, at times, ended up being a fast walk.  She was a great running partner and terrific cheerleader…which I really needed toward the end (as usual).

READY FOR HALF1BEFORE AT SUNSET  Beautiful pre-race sunrise

After a race, I like to think about what I did well and what I would do differently.  Here are my take-aways from the Surf City half marathon:


  1. I finished – I savored each moment of the race, enjoyed the scenery, took my time, then crossed the finish line.  OK, that’s crap.  I did finish but I sucked air the whole time, I whined about my toes hurting, I took lots of short walk breaks toward the end, then I did that thing I do at mile 11 – I feel like I can’t do it.  Thankfully, Andrea was there doing the countdown for me, “We only have 2 more miles.  We only have 1 more mile.   Now only 5 more minutes. We’re almost done.”  That extra encouragement really helped!FOLLOWING ANDREA1
  2. I learned about the importance of stretching – I always stretch after a run.  Short run, long run, whatever…I stretch.  What I didn’t realize is that my body needs additional stretching so I have incorporated daily stretching into my hard core workout routine.
  3. New hard core workout routine – OK, it’s not really hard core but I did participate in a 12 week training program twice a week called Strong Runner.  It focused on running drills, TRX and core strengthening.  It was a great class and I learned so much about speed, form, strength (and I met some great people to boot).   Unfortunately, I was a little over zealous with the speed training and hurt my foot, which was actually the result of my hips being super tight, hence the significance of item #2 above….stretching.  Even though my program is over, I plan to incorporate the things I learned into my regular exercise routine.
  4. I can’t think of a 4th thing I did well.  Oh, wait.  I really enjoyed my post race beer.  I think beer should be the new recovery drink.  So long chocolate milk, hello brewski.


  1. Stick to a training plan – I’m usually pretty strict about sticking with a training plan.  This time, however, I was all over the place.  I started with Jeff Galloway’s Run/Walk program (which is what I always use).  Then I got into Chi running and threw a bit of that in there.  Then I made up my own schedule.  Then I changed my schedule because I didn’t like it.  Then I just did what I wanted when I wanted.  Then 4 weeks before the race I hurt my foot and stopped running all together.  Then I went to physical therapy for some help with my foot.  Then I did some indoor cycling training since I couldn’t run.  Then it was race time and I felt ultra unprepared.  Next time I’m sticking to a plan (and not getting injured).
  2. Do not run 13 miles 2 months before the race – Why?  Because deep down inside I became a little over confident of my abilities since I knew I could run the distance.  The result…I did not stick to my semi-non-existent training plan.   What usually works for me is to schedule my longest run at 12 miles so that there is a sense of excitement when I cross the finish line at 13.1.  Running 13 miles before the half was anti-climatic for me.
  3. Improve my mental preparedness – I do not know how to overcome that feeling of “I can’t” toward the end of a race.  It should be the time when I get excited that the end is near but my brain does not go to that happy place.  When I looked over at Andrea I could tell she was a happy runner.  She was running effortlessly, good form, energized, smiling.  Smiling?? What the what?  I have all kinds of things I say to motivate myself (“run the mile you’re in,” “if you feel pain,  that means you’re alive,” “smile…look like you’re having fun.”).  None of those things worked.  The one thing that did work was whenever we saw a photographer, we would pick up the pace and smile so there was evidence that we were running and having a blast!


It was a great day and I really did have a blast!  After we crossed the finish line, Andrea was chanting, “I feel so great,” and I was chanting, “I need to stretch.”  Then we made our way to the VIP lounge, enjoyed our recovery beer, recounted the race with other runners, and BOOM, my brain found it’s happy place.  I guess my endorphins kick in a little later than most (or I need a beer at mile 11).  I was proud of finishing this race and proud of my sister for sticking with me.  She could have left my sorry ass behind but she didn’t.  What a good little sister!


So tell me, toward the end of a race, how does your brain find its happy place?

I Finished My Second 1/2 Marathon!

Last weekend I successfully completed my second 1/2 marathon and I had a blast!    Everything about this half marathon was different from my first half (well, the distance was the same).  The training methods I used, the actual race course, my goals, how I felt after…all different…and I think that’s a good thing!  So here’s a little recap about the differences between my first and second half marathons:


  • Half marathon #1 (HM1) was an unforgiving, hilly, exhausting, “why am I doing this to myself” kind of course.  It was all hills and yes, I am exaggerating but I spent a great deal of time walking up hills.
  • Half marathon #2 (HM2) was as flat as a delicious pancake dripping in syrupy yumminess.  Sounds appealing, huh?!  The course was new to me, which was a great distraction, the surroundings were beautiful, and did I mention it was flat…?


  • My goal for HM1 was to finish.  Plain and simple.  Finish it.  And I did.  My time was 2:49:28 but it didn’t matter and I didn’t care because my goal was to finish and I accomplished my goal!
  • My goal for HM2 was to finish it with a time of 2:30 or less.  Keep in mind, this was a lofty goal for me since I’m a slow runner.  That would mean I needed to run at an average pace of 11:27 per mile.  I was pretty sure I could do that.  At mile 1, my watch read 11 minutes.  Mile 2 = 22 minutes, mile 3 = 33 minutes, and it was like that until mile 7.  I was impressed with myself for being so consistent.  In mile 7, two things happened – the math got harder (77 minutes minus 60 = 17 minutes, carry the 1…and so goes my brain).  The other thing that happened is I had to pee.  I have a pretty strong bladder unless I’m bouncing up and down on it for 77 minutes (minus 60, carry the one = 1 hour 17 minutes).  So I waited in line at the porta-potty and used up 2 minutes and 12 seconds of precious time (yes, I actually timed it).  These minutes ended up mattering because my finish time was 2:32:58.  If I could have skipped the bathroom break, my time would have been 2:30:46…which is basically making my goal as far as I’m concerned…who cares about the pesky seconds anyway?!?
  • My other goal for HM2 was to have fun and enjoy the experience.  I accomplished that goal as well!


  • HM1 training consisted of Jeff Galloway’s run/walk method.  I trained alone, mostly on my treadmill, and I stuck to my plan like nobody’s business.  Ultimately, I ended up doing 3 minutes running then 1 minute walking and that was my race  plan…except when there were  hills.  When I approached a hill, I walked up the hill then ran as fast as I could down the hill.
  • HM2 training consisted of joining a training group.  You can read about this bold decision here.  It turns out, this was a very wise decision.  I learned a great deal, like how to breathe, running form, speed work, all that good running stuff.  There were mentors who helped me along the way.  In fact, at around mile 12.75, I was SO hurting and wanted to walk even though the finish line was right there.  I started to walk and one of the mentors (who had already crossed the finish line) came up to me and said (encouragingly), “You can NOT stop running now.  Is your family at the finish line?”  I replied, “Yes.”  She said, “Then start running, you want them to see you finish strong!  Just follow me!”  So, I followed her and kept running.  That kind of encouragement and motivation is priceless and she really helped me finish strong.  Thank you Staci!
  • With HM2, I had a training plan but I didn’t stick with it as much as I did for HM1.  I did the weekly planned group runs (except for the 11 mile run) but didn’t do so well with cross-training.  This half marathon plan was not a ‘run/walk’ plan.  It was a ‘run/run’ plan so I ran the majority of the entire 13.1 miles…toward the end, I needed to take a few walk breaks because of my hips and knees, but other than that, I ran.



  • HM1 was kind of intimidating because it was my first half, I didn’t know what I was in for, I saw a couple familiar faces before the race but not one familiar face was to be seen for the duration of the run.  I felt excited on one hand, but as mentioned above, the course was hilly which really took a toll on me toward the end.  I think in my focus shifted from, ‘Wow, look what I’m doing’ to ‘I’m so uncomfortable, why am I doing this?’  When it was over, I was sore but recovered rapidly and felt great the next day.
  • HM2 I had a mission to “Run the mile I was in”.  I read a great post by Wise Running that talked about just enjoying the mile you are in…don’t focus on what you’ve done or need to do, just focus on the present mile.  I thought of that over and over, I focused on breathing and counting (it relaxed me), and I thought of how fortunate I am to be able to run.  Keeping my mind focused on those things kept me moving.  I felt super throughout the run.  Well, except  when my hips and knees started hurting.  At that point I needed some walk breaks.  After the run, my knee was really hurting and it took a couple of days before I was able to wake up and not feel like my legs took a beating.


  • HM1’s best moment was finishing the half marathon.  I was very proud to finish, to remain uninjured and to walk away knowing I wanted to do another half marathon…just not THAT particular half marathon!
  • HM2’s best moments were:   Finishing, of course, and doing so in a time I was proud of (and setting a personal record, to boot).  I loved the fact that I saw familiar faces all throughout the run.  I saw runners from my training group, I saw the coaches cheering us on, I saw my BFF and her family on the course since they were race volunteers.  And best of all, I saw my family at the finish line.  My son was in the crowd running along with me for the last couple hundred feet.  I yelled out to him, “Keep running with me, you’re keeping me motivated!!”  When I crossed the finish line and met my husband and son there, I said to my son, “Thank you so much for running with me!”  He said in his matter of fact tone, “Mom, I was just walking.”  Oh, ok…so if he was walking, and I felt like I was sprinting, I guess reality lies somewhere in the middle 🙂

Thank you to my family and friends for all your support during my training and my second half marathon!  Sometimes it takes a village 😉

postracedogkisses My family provided me with post-race Krispy Kreme donuts, an ice pack and some ibuprofen.  Finn provided me with dog kisses.

halfmarathon post pic

Has running taught you any great lessons?

Sometimes You Gotta Ditch the Plan

GASP!  You read correctly.  Slow Girl (the control freak, the planner to a fault, the one who should take a chill pill already), says, “Sometimes, you gotta ditch the plan.”  I never ditch the plan.  I make the plan, baby.  But a couple of weekends ago, I ditched the plan like one bad-ass plan ditcher.

You see, my half marathon is coming up this Sunday (as in three days from now) and I haven’t been following my training plan like a good obsessive planner would do.  It’s my second half marathon so it’s not like I haven’t run 13.1 miles before.  I’m sure I can do it even if  I’ve missed several mid-week runs, skipped a dozen or so cross-training workouts and missed just one long slow distance run.  Sure, it was the longest run of the training program that I missed but whatever…it was just 11 miles.  Besides, it’s not like I sat around on my butt that weekend and did nothing at all.  I did something just as challenging and strenuous as an 11 mile run.  I had a family dance off, yo!

A couple of weekends ago my youngest sister, Amy, graduated WITH HONORS from college.  Impressive, I know.  I flew to California and met up with my younger sister, Andrea, my mom, my step dad and my niece, Angela.  Since we live in different states, it’s a pretty special occasion when we are all under the same roof.  Throw in a college graduation and a good time is guaranteed!  Spending time with my family always brings me great joy and this trip did not disappoint!

On Saturday night, after all of the graduation festivities, Angela and Amy suggested we play a fun game called, “Just Dance 4.”  What?  You’ve heard of it before?  Well, apparently everyone in the universe has heard of it except for me.  It’s a Wii game and you follow the dance moves of the pretend dancer on the screen.  The better you follow the moves (using the remote thingy) the more points you get.  I’m not a dancer.  I have no rhythm, no groove, no grace, no nothing.  But when challenged to a dance off by my little sister and niece, I said, “Bring it on, you little whippersnappers.”  And so the evening began.  A snap shot of the night:

justdancedontpeepants Amy is on the left, she’s the one actually dancing.  I’m on the right, trying to not pee my pants from laughing so hard.  That was my second dance outfit of the evening.  Lesson:  Don’t ‘Just Dance’ after drinking a ton of water all day….jumping up and down does not mix well with hard-core laughter.

justdance I pulled myself together, put on my game face and danced to this fun song, “Call me Maybe.”  I lost but was given bonus points for best facial expressions.  Yay me.

justdancesister $h!t got real when the song, “Moves Like Jagger” came on.  A little dance off with Andrea was underway…I wanted to win SO bad.  I didn’t.

So you see…sometimes when you ditch the plan, there is a WAAAY better plan out there.  For me, it was dancing like a dork with my family all night long.  Did I deviate from my training plan and miss my 11 mile run?  Yep.   Did it really matter in the grand scheme of things?  Nope.  Was I sorry that my family made me laugh so hard  I peed my pants?  Not really.  Am I going to buy my own Just Dance game so I can secretly practice my moves for the next reunion/Dance Off?  Hell yeah!

As for my half marathon that’s coming up in three days…I’m feeling fine physically and great mentally/emotionally.  My head’s in a good place, I feel like I’m going to kill it.  I’ve completed a 10 mile run during my training so what’s a few more miles?  Honestly, I think spending time dancing with my family was more beneficial to my race preparation than running my scheduled 11 miles all alone.

To Sunday’s Half Marathon:  Ready or not, here I come!

Does emotional/mental preparation play a role in your training?  Do you freak if you deviate from your training plan?

The Good, the Bad & The Ugly

This picture of my dog, Theron, really sums up my feelings about these past several days…Tired, over it, sore, thankful, productive…all rolled into one.


The days have been filled with the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

First, The Good:

  • I ran a 10k race and ended up with my best time ever.   Truth be told, my best time isn’t that impressive but I was pretty darn excited about it.  It was a very chilly day at 35 degrees with brisk, annoying winds.  The best part of the day, besides finishing the run, was getting into my car and blasting the heater!

 post race warmup

  • More good news!  I figured out how to breathe!  Ok, I know how to breathe, but I have learned how to breathe while running.  I’m currently reading “Chi Running” by Danny Dreyer and he reviews some very important information about breathing.  He states, “In running, as in all other types of aerobic exercise, the breath holds the key role of providing oxygen to help fuel active muscles.  If you don’t get enough oxygen to your muscles, they will be starved of the key component needed for burning fuel.  The more efficiently your body can extract oxygen from the air and transfer it to your muscles, the easier your running will feel at any speed.”  I learned that belly breathing is key.  It’s more important to get all of the air OUT of your lungs than it is to get air INTO your lungs.  I found that breathing in sync with my steps works for me… three breaths out, two belly breaths in.   I have been practicing breathing during every run and my thoughts are occupied with the task of counting…1, 2, 3, 1, 2, repeat over and over and over.  It’s mesmerizing and relaxing in a weird way.   Here’s a link to Danny Dreyer’s blog that explains belly breathing (item B – but the whole post is very informative).
  • I’m still running with my running group.  We have been practicing drills, working on cadence, breathing techniques, hill training, speed work, and all that great stuff.  On Saturdays we run on a beautiful paved trail  along the river so it’s just a lovely way to spend the morning.  Longest run so far has been 9 miles…this Saturday will be 10.  The half marathon we are training for takes place May 19th which is right around the corner.  Yikes.

riverview Beautiful vistas!

Now for The Bad:

Last week’s 9 mile run felt horrible.  You know how at the end of the run you say to yourself, “That was AWESOME!  I’m so glad I did that!”  Yeah, I wasn’t saying that.   I was so sore I felt like I was falling apart with every step I took past mile 8.  By mile 9 I kept thinking, “Oh my gosh, I will have to run 4 more miles at the half marathon…crap.  I don’t know how I’m going to do this.”  Then I told myself to shut up and run because I was fortunate and blessed that my body was capable of running.  My thoughts turned to the victims of the Boston Marathon tragedy and remembering that there are people out there who are feeling a greater physical and emotional pain than I will ever feel quickly shushed the negative banter and whining going on in my head.  

And finally, The Ugly:

I am a very, very, very organized person…or at least I like to think I am.  I disdain clutter and if my surroundings are cluttered, my head feels cluttered and if my head feels cluttered, I become a bit of a nut job.  However, if you made a surprise visit to my home you would probably not believe my claims because recently some of the rooms in my house were just plain messy and ugly.

Now I am going to show you a few photos, thanks for not judging.  If you are a true organization freak, you will curse me and call me a liar and say there’s no way someone who disdains clutter would let ANY room in her house get so messy.  Well, I did.  Take a look at the before and after pics of my closet and office:

Closet Collage       Office Collage

My closet got so out of hand, it seemed useless to even bother cleaning it.  It was so cluttered I did not want to go in there but all of my clean underwear and running clothes were in there.   Talk about a conundrum.   I also had the office situation to handle.  I stopped blogging for a bit because I could not stand to set foot in the office.  Both areas were horrendous.  After much sorting, tossing, cleaning and organizing, I was able to turn the closet and the office into happy places once again!

Now that the ugly in my house has been eliminated, my head is clearer.  Maybe with a clearer head I will be a better runner.  Or maybe being a better runner will give me a clearer head? 

Either way, some great lessons were learned: 

  • I’ve got to take the good with the bad with the ugly and figure out how to make it all great
  • Spend less time whining and more time being thankful
  • Relax and breathe!

So You’re Going to Run a Half Marathon Part 6 – When the Race is Over

This is the final segment of my “So You’re Going to Run a Half Marathon” blog-a-thon.  If you want to catch up on parts 1 – 5, you can check out my deep thoughts (with a sprinkling of hilarity) here:  Researching Your First Half Marathon, The Training Plan, Acquiring the Gear, The Mental Stuff and The Day of the Race.  I know, it’s a lot of amateur advice to take in.  But like I said, deep and hilarious – if you like it like that.

So here is my not so sage advice on what to expect when the race is over.  Once you finish a half marathon and you’ve let your awesomeness sink in, you will need to come up with 3 (yes, THREE) versions of your race day story:

  • Version 1 – This is what you tell clueless acquaintances.  These are the folks who don’t really know you all that well and don’t even really know what a half marathon is.   You just tell them that you ran a race and it was fun.  So, your conversation might sound something like this:
      • Chuck, the clueless acquaintance:  “Hey, how was your weekend?  Do anything fun?”
      • You, the half marathon finisher:  “Well, it was a pretty busy weekend.  I actually ran a half marathon. “
      • Chuck:  “Dude, seriously?  Did you win?”
      • You:  “Well, no.  It was my first half marathon and it was 13.1 miles so I really wasn’t trying to win, just trying to finish…which I did, by the way.”
      • Chuck:  “So, you didn’t win?  Bummer.  Sorry about your downer weekend.”
  • Version 2 – This will be for people who love to run…People who have finished a half marathon, a marathon or any long distance race.  This is where you can go crazy and describe all your gory race details.  We want to know what miles 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 were like.  Tell us all about miles 5, 6, 7 and 8.  And did you hate miles 10 and 11?  Were you stoked by mile 12?  Were you falling down by mile 13 or were you sprinting to the finish?  We want to know about running hills, hitting walls, temperature, pace, what your medal looked like.  Did you cramp up?  What did you eat?  What was on your playlist?   Were the lines long at the porta-potty?  Did you experience any chafing?  Did you cry?  WE LOVE THE DETAILS!!!  So, please do your non-running family and friends a favor, save Version 2 for the runners in your life and come up with Version 3 for your other friends and family.
  • Version 3 – This is for the people close to you who know how hard you trained and understand all the work you put into finishing the half marathon.  You can tell them the details of your story but don’t do it mile by mile.  Tell your story emotion by emotion…they’ll relate better 🙂  And, by all means, if they ask for details, do not hold back!

Other important “When the Race Is Over” things you should know:

  • You will feel like a bad ass.  Quite honestly, you should feel like one.  And you can even act like one for a few days if you want.  I’m pretty sure it’s in the half marathon policy manual somewhere.
  • You should reward yourself in a meaningful way.  Here’s how I rewarded myself :  1) The day after the race, I took a vacation day.  I honestly wasn’t sure  I would be able to move, so I thought I better play it safe.  I actually felt GREAT the day after the race!  Nice, relaxing day off…Check!  2)  I promised myself a new pair of running shoes.  The weekend after the half, I went to a local running store and had a pro assess my running situation and make a couple of shoe recommendations.  New Shoes…Check!  3)  I got a pedicure.  My poor feet deserved that pedi.   Cute toes…Check!  Those were the things that made me happy.  I’m so easy to please.
  • You should sign up for another race.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a half marathon, a 5k or a 10k.  Just sign up for something so you have a race to look forward to and you keep yourself in the running groove.
  • Lastly, in my experience, I had a lot of bone head moments shortly after the half.  My not-so-scientific explanation is that running a half marathon takes a great deal of focus and I’m pretty sure the week following the race, my brain was taking a breather from the half marathon focus factor.  Maybe it’s just me.  But if it’s not, please let me know your experience so I don’t feel like a weirdo.

So, first time half marathon finishers to be, my advice is to enjoy your journey.  From figuring out which race you’re going to run, to tracking all your training progress to crossing that finish line.  It will make you proud and you will inspire people around you…maybe even that dumb ass acquaintance Chuck will be in awe once he figures out what a half marathon is.

Go forth and train, run, finish then be a bad ass!

So You’re Going to Run a Half Marathon Part 4 – The Mental Stuff

Welcome to Part 4 of my posts about prepping for your first half marathon.  My youngest sister, Amy, will be running her first half this year so I’m offering her oodles of advice since I just ran my first half last October and everything is still fresh in my mind!  Over the last few weeks I’ve covered these topics:

  1. Researching your first half marathon
  2. Getting a training plan in place
  3. Acquiring the necessary gear

Thank you to all the runners who have commented with your additional advice.  It is very much appreciated and I learn so much from you!

This week’s post is about the mental stuff.  This is the most intimidating topic for me because I don’t feel like a Mental Rock Star so this post will offer more perspective than advice.  I will save the advice for the pros whose accomplishments make them worthy of giving advice.  I’m just not there yet.  🙂

When you commit to running a half marathon, you have to mentally prepare and, like the physical preparation, it does not happen overnight.  When I decided to run a half marathon, I had a whole 2 weeks of running experience under my belt and I had to ask myself, “What is the longest race I can run that will not kill me?”  I thought that running  26.2 miles would for sure end in death so I decided not to die and went with running a half marathon.  I believed 13.1 miles surely wouldn’t kill me…and it didn’t.   So I made the decision, registered for the race, and committed to this thing called ‘training for a half marathon’. 

Truth be told, there were some things that I was not quite prepared for when it came to the mental components of my training:

  • Training time – I believe it’s very important to stick to your training schedule and sticking to a schedule takes time…A LOT of time.  It also takes a great deal of commitment so other things, like life, can get temporarily pushed aside.  Don’t get me wrong.  It’s not totally all-consuming but it can be if you let it.  Everyone’s priorities are different so before your training gets underway,  figure out how it will fit into your life and communicate that to your friends and family.  The last thing you want is for everyone to think you’re blowing them off.
  • Long runs and The Wall– As you continue to train, your long runs get…well, longer.  When I ran my first 11 mile long run there was a point when I actually wanted to stop and sit down and cry a little.  It was toward the end of the run, around mile 10, and I was ready to call it quits knowing I had only one mile to go.  I was doing okay physically but my mind kept whining, “This is hard.  I want a ride home.  I’m tired.  Why am I doing this?  This is stupid.  I’m dizzy.  My leg hurts.  I want to go home now.”   Maybe this is what ‘hitting the wall’ is about…when you get so tired and your body is so depleted of fuel that you feel like you can’t go on.   Here’s a great article from titled, “Against the Wall – How to avoid hitting the notorious roadblock—and strategies for coping if you do.”  It offers some great advice on how to cope when you ‘hit the wall.’   I wish I had known this stuff before my half.  Keep in mind that there will be days when your runs are fantastic and there will be days when your runs just suck.  It’s ok to have a bad day.  It happens to everyone!  Just don’t get hung up on it.
  • Self-Talk – We all do it.  Talk to ourselves in our head.  Some of us, myself included, talk out loud to ourselves.  That’s ok too, although we may look a little on the crazy side….which is fine with me.  During my half marathon training, I would listen to a lot of music because I found that without any noise in my ears, I would do some self-talk that was counter-productive to accomplishing my running goal.  Some people thrive on visualization, meditation, mantras, etc. and that is what keeps them motivated during their runs.  Sadly, I am not one of those people and  I need distracters – music, audio books, a friend to run and talk with, those kinds of things.  Left alone in my own head, I start to complain to myself (see above example…“This is hard.  I want a ride home.  I’m tired….”).  I find this interesting because I’m not a complainer in “real life” so something about the physical/mental discomfort that comes with a long run makes me a whiner.  I figured out a solution though…I put things into perspective and remind myself that in the grand scheme of things, I should not be complaining about ANYTHING.  Life is good and I CAN run so I should be thankful and run like the wind, not like a whiney baby.  That usually does the trick.  Switch my mental focus to all things positive, not negative.

So, as far as mental stuff goes, be prepared to learn a few things about yourself and once you do, you’ll need to figure out what you’re going to do about it.  Surprisingly, this running thing can be just as mental as it is physical and it shouldn’t be any other way!

Runners, do you have any mental obstacles that you have learned to overcome?

So You’re Going to Run a Half Marathon Part 3 – Acquiring the Gear

I’m really excited about this week’s post because it has to do with shopping for your running gear.  Keep in mind, I am a bargain shopper and love it when I score a great deal so I’ll include some money saving tips too! 

Since I had never run before, I needed EVERYTHING.  And I mean everything…Shoes, socks, clothes, music, apps, bras, a hat, sunglasses, a fanny pack (are they still called fanny packs, or is that totally ‘80’s?), a watch, and so on.  I started with nothing and by the time I ran my first half marathon, I had the perfect selection of gear that helped me cross the finish line.

Here are the prized possessions I purchased during my half marathon training journey:

  • SHOES – First things first…You need real running shoes.  The step aerobic shoes that are in your closet will not do.  When I bought my first pair of running shoes, I did everything I should not have done.   I went to a big sports outlet type store and picked out a pair of running shoes because they were deeply discounted ($69) and they seemed to feel good.   I didn’t ask for help, didn’t research the shoes, I just bought them and ran a half marathon in them.  Thankfully, it all worked out, but if I had to do it all over again (which I did after the half), I would go to a running store and have the pros assess my situation.   After the half, I rewarded myself with  new pair of running shoes.  This time I did it the right way…I went to a local running store and had the sales rep analyze my feet, my running and what shoe would work best for me.  I ended up paying more money on my second pair of shoes ($110) but it was money well spent.   The pros informed me that I actually needed shoes that were one half size larger than what I had purchased on my own!  Good info to know!  Go with the pros on this purchase.  Here’s a great article from on how to buy the right running shoes.
  • SPORTS BRAS (guys, you can skip this part) –  The sports bra is the other item I would not skimp on.  Keep the girls comfy, ladies.  Like I said, I love a great deal, but some things are worth the extra money.  The running bra that I found to be amazing and worked well for me was by Moving Comfort.  The style I picked was Fiona ($46).  I tried some cheaper brands that I found at T.J. Maxx but they did not do the job like the Moving Comfort bra did.  There were support issues, chafing issues, comfort issues, etc.  Many running stores will carry the Moving Comfort brand and the sales reps should be well educated on the various styles and what will work for you…don’t be afraid to pick their brains!
  • RUNNING SHORTS – OK, here’s where I did some bargain shopping.  I bought my shorts from the aforementioned T.J. Maxx because they have a crazy selection at decent prices.  You’ll need quite a few pairs of shorts so try out different styles to see what works for you.  There’s the underwear-built-into-the-short style, the underwear-not-built-into-the-short style, the lovely spandex short-short, mid-thigh length, capri length and full length.  Experiment during your training until you find what works great for you.  DO NOT (I repeat DO NOT) experiment the day of the half marathon.  On that day, stick with what you know works!!!  Trust me!
  • RUNNING SHIRTS – This is an item  you need to pay close attention to because there is a thing called ‘wicking’.  Moisture wicking material allows moisture to evaporate quickly.  When you run, you sweat (or you should anyway).  When you sweat, your shirt gets wet.  Wet is not good when running, it can cause chafing.  Chafing is bad and causes skin irritation.  Skin irritation is bad because it’s distracting and painful.  Moral of the story:  Buy moisture wicking shirts (and shorts and socks for that matter).  The shirt I found that I LOVE and wore during the half marathon was the Icebreaker GT 150 Ultralite which is made from Merino wool.  It’s a soft, comfortable material that keeps you cool when it’s warm and keeps you warm when it’s cool.  It’s the best!  I bought it from Title Nine but waited for it to go on sale because full price ($78 dollars or so) was out of my price range.  At the end of summer when it was 50% off, I bought two…SCORE!
  • RUNNING SOCKS –  Seems weird but not all socks are created equal.  Buy some socks that are made for runners.  That would be a lovely moisture wicking sock.  I bought an expensive pair of running socks that I ended up hating and then I bought a 12 pack of running socks from Costco that I ended up loving.  So, more expensive is not always the best bet when it comes to socks.  Again, try out different socks and stick with what works for you.  Just don’t go with 100% cotton – there’s no moisture wicking going on with cotton and you don’t want to run with wet socks…yuck.
  • HAT – Buy a hat for running.  Personally, I like to wear a hat to protect my face from the sun.  I grew up on the beaches of California and have had some skin cancer to prove it.  So, I now wear a hat all summer long when outdoors.  I know I sound like a broken record but you don’t want to wear your non-running cap because you will…say it with me…SWEAT.  A specially made running cap/hat (with lots of tiny holes in the cap) will allow your head to breathe.  You want your head to breathe, trust me.
  • OTHER STUFF – Have a pair of light-weight sunglasses that won’t slip down your nose when you SWEAT.  Make sure you have a running belt to hold your water and other essentials like snacks, tissue, chapstick and car key.  My absolute favorite is the iFitness brand which is made of neoprene so there is no slipping around with this bad boy.  I added 2 water bottle holders and I also bought the holder for my iPhone and I was ready to freakin’ rock and roll on half marathon day.   I needed a watch to time myself.  I did Jeff Galloway’s run-walk-run method so I wanted to keep track of my time.   Music is very important to me while I run so I searched my CD collection for some great running songs and also downloaded some songs that I would normally not download (Michael Jackson, Eminem, Kelly Clarkson, FloRida to name a few).  Running is a great way to expand your music collection!

(photos from

BlackBlack iPhone/iPod Window Armband

My best advice when acquiring your gear is to try out different things during your training and when you find something that works, STICK WITH IT  and use/wear it during your half marathon.  Do NOT try something new on your race day.  Only go with what you know!  Don’t buy a super cute, never worn before outfit because you want to look adorable crossing the finish line.  Wear what has proven to work during your training…ESPECIALLY your long runs!

Next post will be about the mental stuff.  This will be deep folks!

So You’re Going to Run a Half Marathon Part 2 – The Training Plan

Last week I doled out some unsolicited running advice to my sister, Amy, who will be running her first half marathon next year.   Hopefully, she read it.  The post was about researching your first half marathon.  This week’s post is about coming up with your training plan.  The training plan is critical so listen up little sister.

At the start of 2012, I hated running and would laugh at the idea of going for a run.  Run?  Really?  That would make me all sweaty and gross and probably sore.  Besides, a leisurely walk is perfectly fine, thank you.  Then the half marathon idea came up in late January and I was determined to figure out how to get my sorry butt to cross a half marathon finish line in October.

I had heard of training books called, “Couch to 5K” and “Couch to 10K” which sounded really great but I decided NOT to read those because truth be told, I did not consider the ‘couch’ as my starting point.  My book would need to be called something like, “Upstairs, in bed, under the covers with the electric blanket on to 5K.”  That’s a better description of my state of mind (and body) prior to training for a half.

My sister, Andrea, who has run a couple of half marathons, recommended I look into Jeff Galloway’s run-walk-run method.  Well, geez, when you put the word ‘walk’ in a running training plan, count me in, sister!  I went to Jeff’s website and read up on his half marathon training plan.  I knew immediately, this was for me.  I was a new runner, a slow runner, an out of shape runner and I did not want to get injured during the training process.

Jeff, an Olympian and record-setting, world class athlete, incorporates walk breaks into the training plan.   He states that, “Most runners will record significantly faster times when they take walk breaks because they don’t slow down at the end of a long run.”  Personally, I need walk breaks.  By the time I ran my half in October, I was running 2-3 minutes then walking 1 minute.  That was my gig.  That’s what I could handle.

Jeff also breaks down the training program into 2 different categories:  1) For runners and walkers who just want to finish a half marathon and 2) For runners and walkers who are trying for a time-goal.  I fell into category #1.  I just wanted to finish the darn thing.

The schedule Jeff puts together is extremely do-able which is another reason I went with his training.  His minimum recommended training looks something like this (this is category 1):

  • Monday off
  • Tuesday run 30 minutes
  • Wednesday off
  • Thursday run 30 minutes
  • Friday easy walk
  • Saturday off
  • Sunday long run.  These long runs vary week to week and your mileage gradually builds up as the half marathon approaches.
  • During the off days, you can cross-train

You should really check out his website for the nitty gritty details which you will find immensely educational.  I pretty much followed his minimum training plan, because that’s what worked for me.  Remember, I was in this to finish the half…that’s all.  Just finish!

When I did my first timed ‘run’ on the treadmill in January, my pace was 16:08…yes, it took me 16 minutes and 8 seconds to ‘run’ a mile.   I know that’s slow  thankyouverymuch.  Then my averages started to look like this (month, avg. pace, total miles I ran for the month):

  • February – 14:35 (39.35 total miles)
  • March – 14:11 (37.81 total miles)
  • April – 13:06 (52.26 total miles)
  • May – 12:44 (37.24 total miles)
  • June – 12:42 (43.28 total miles)
  • July – 12:12 (46.01 total miles)
  • August – 11:37 (43.04 total miles)
  • September – 11:43 (45.27 total miles)

These numbers will not blow anyone away because they are not that mind-blowing…I don’t call myself  Slow Girl for nothing.   The point is, I got faster as time went on and I didn’t have to run hundreds of miles each month to make improvements.  AND, I completed months of training and a half marathon injury free!!!  AND, I could tell my body was getting stronger and stronger which was an added bonus!

Bottom line is – Training is crucial so it is very important to find a training plan that is a match for you, your running level and your lifestyle.  You might end up trying two or three plans before figuring out which one works for you and that’s ok.  Remember, I’m no expert.  This post is just a recap of my experiences as a novice runner and what has worked for me this past year.  If you have friends or family members who are experienced runners, you should pick their brains…like I picked my sister, Andrea’s, brain…thanks Andrea!

Experienced runners – do you have any advice for newbie runners?  If so, please share!

So You’re Going to Run a Half Marathon–Part 1

My youngest sister, Amy, recently announced she would be running her first half marathon in 2013.  Since I ran my first one this past October, I thought it would only be appropriate for me to offer some sisterly running advice.  After all, I have been running one whole year and I did live through my first half.   Disclaimer:  Seriously, I have only been running one year, so I only know so much.  I’m not a pro, an expert, or a genius in this field and I don’t claim to be.  If I do make that claim, it is dripping with sarcasm.   Read at your own risk.

There are a lot of topics to cover and I don’t want this to be an ultra long post so I will break this up into a little blog posts and the topics will include:

  • Researching your first half marathon
  • Getting a training plan in place
  • Acquiring the necessary gear
  • The mental stuff
  • The day of the race
  • When the race is over

Ok, here we go…………

Step 1 – Research.  Do a little research on running, races in your area, running groups in your area, that kind of thing.


Check out some books from the library about running.  One that I read and enjoyed was “The Nonrunner’s Marathon Guide for Women:  Get Off Your Butt and On With Your Training” by Dawn Dais.  She’s funny, honest and is not a runner so it was very easy for me to relate to what she was saying.  Sure she wrote about her marathon training experiences but I just took half of her advice and applied it to a half marathon. Worked beautifully.  If you’re a guy, skip this book unless you want to learn about running bras and other girly running things.

I also read some books about extreme runners because I thought their athleticism, drive, dedication and touch of insanity were very inspiring.  I would think to myself, “If these guys can run for hundreds of miles in a bazillion degree heat, I can run 13.1 in 62 degree weather.”

A couple of books I thoroughly enjoyed reading include:  “Run! 26.2 Stories of Blisters and Bliss” by Ultra marathoner Dean Karnazes  and “Born to Run:  A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen” by Christopher McDougall.  If your running or training ever start to get you down, read these books and you will walk away inspired and ready to run!


There are some great websites out there that can help you find races in your area.  I would encourage you to sign up for at least a 5K, or a 10K later in your training, so that you go through the race experience.

Here are some sites that I found helpful: – This site helps you find, register and learn about events in your area. is another good one and lets you narrow your search by region and race type.  Also, Runner’s World Race Finder is a great site and is easy to use and very helpful.

When deciding which half marathon to sign up for, read the description of the race.  If it says “For advanced runners” or something along those lines, maybe skip that race this time around.  If I read the description of my first half, I would have read the words ‘hills’ and ‘hilly’ and ‘challenging’.  But, no, I did not read the description.  I found out a month before the day of the race that I needed to incorporate some hill training in my master training plan.  Rookie move.  My next half marathon is described with these words: “Flat, scenic, fast, ideal for setting personal records.”  Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about!

Pay attention to the date of the half marathon…don’t sign up for a race that is a month from now…give yourself time to train.


I will admit…I am a bit of a running loner.  I did not seek out a running group.  I was (am) so slow that I did not feel like embarrassing myself in front of strangers.  There was also the fact that after 5 minutes of “running” I would be huffing and puffing, sweating profusely and my heart rate was through the roof.  It was so pathetic I actually went to a cardiologist to make sure it was ok for me to run.  He cleared me saying my heart was fine…just a little out of shape.   Side note:  Like the pros say, if you start a new exercise program, get your doctor’s clearance.  The one thing that did for me was eliminate an excuse to not run!

Back to running groups, I think they are a great for staying motivated, being held accountable and providing running companionship.  It’s definitely worth looking into and finding out if it would be beneficial to your overall training.  Turns out, it just wasn’t my cup of tea, that’s all.

So, there is topic one….nothing riveting but still important:  RESEARCH!

Next topic:  Getting a Training Plan in Place

Getting My Run Back On

2012 was the year I decided to take up running, train for a half marathon, finish the half marathon and do it all injury free.  I am proud to say I accomplished all of these goals.  However, a week after completing the half marathon and a day after purchasing my new running shoes, I was walking to my car, fell on the wet pavement and sprained my ankle.  It was one mishap in a series of many that I attributed to post-race focus capacity issues, which you can read about here.  

As it turns out, I was unable to do much of anything while my ankle healed.  I couldn’t run, couldn’t do yoga, Pilates, barre, you name it.  I was, however, able to eat so I did a lot of that.  I’m not talking healthy stuff here, folks.  This was around Halloween and Thanksgiving so the many, many temptations were….well, tempting.  I was not surprised when the few pounds and inches I lost during training found their way back to me…this was not a reunion I was excited about!

Once my ankle felt strong enough to start running again (almost 6 weeks later), I was surprised how conflicted I was about getting back out there.  On one hand I couldn’t wait to run, sweat and get my heart rate up and on the other hand, I had this lazy bones mentality.  I even considered waiting until January 2013 to pick up where I left off this fall (no pun intended). 

I spent time reading the blogs of fellow runners (Athlete in Me, quick as molasses, Confessions of a Caffeinated Mother Runner, Ch’i Journey to name a few), took some quick measurements around my waist  and was quickly inspired to make the right decision.  For the last week or two I have been back on the treadmill taking it slow (slower than my usual slow) and I’m very relieved that my ankle is feeling good.  I have been using KT Tape which is awesome for ankle stability and other types of injuries.  Not only has it helped my ankle when I run, it comes in really cool colors that match my new running shoes AND when I wear it, I look like a freaking hard core athlete! Winking smile

So, with my trusty tape and new running shoes, I’m back at it.  I have signed up for my second half marathon on May 19th, 2013 and will start working on my training plan so I can take that race by storm.  I will once again follow Jeff Galloway’s run-walk method since that was right up my alley and, I believe, the reason I remained uninjured this year (other than the falling incident).   One thing I learned this year is this:  If I have a solid training plan in place, I will stick to it and if I don’t have a plan in place, I’m screwed.  So, with that nugget of information, I will be breaking out the calendars, spreadsheets, highlighters, running apps and getting this training party started!

Other exciting news…I just found out that my youngest sister will be running her first half marathon in 2013 so I will be a good big sister and lead by example by training hard.  In fact, I think I will write my next post just for her.  Being the older, wiser sister and runner of one whole year, I will give her some unsolicited advice about training for and running a half marathon because that’s what big sisters do!  Stay tuned, Amy.  Great advice coming your way!  Actually, I don’t think she reads my blog.  Will one of my other blog-reading family members get Amy on the blog train, please?  I’d do it myself but I want to save my bossiness for my next blog post!