My Dream To Run – Well, First Qualify – For The Boston Marathon

“Dream big and dare to fail”

Dare to fail. What a concept. How often do we avoid trying things, not because we’re afraid of the challenge but because we’re afraid to fail? This could have been true of my dream to run the Boston Marathon – well, not so much running the race, qualifying for it.

For those who don’t know, the Boston Marathon isn’t one of those races a person just signs up for and gets to run. Everyone who wants to run this prestigious marathon (unless you’re a celebrity, wealthy or have some inside info I don’t know about) has to first qualify to earn a spot. I’m not sure when I decided I really wanted to run the Boston Marathon but about three years ago is when I remember starting my quest to qualify.

Two years ago, I made my first attempt to qualify at the 2013 Fargo Marathon. I didn’t change up my training or nutrition from years past and it was hot and humid on race day.
The outcome: I failed.

Last year, I attempted again at the 2014 Fargo Marathon. I focused more on speed work but didn’t change much else with my training, nor did I change my nutrition. I ran the best and hardest marathon of my life, enjoyed it and improved my previous PR by several minutes.
The outcome: I still failed.

That moment you realize you just qualified for the Boston Marathon.

That moment you realize you just qualified for the Boston Marathon.

This year, I attempted a third time at last Saturday’s Fargo Marathon. I pushed my speed work runs and my long run schedule, and made overall tweaks to my training plan. I committed to leg workouts every week – heavy leg workouts. I cleaned up my nutrition and focused on quality foods and supplements that would support my training and properly fuel my body. I sought out more outside advice from reliable sources and did more research on my own. I practiced my running strategy for marathon day with every longer run throughout my training.
The outcome: I succeeded.

On Saturday, I achieved my goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon in a time of 3:30:39 (a sub-3:35 race is what my age group needs to qualify). I’ve struggled to sum up the feelings and emotion in a blog entry. I always assumed, if I ever did qualify, I’d know exactly how to describe it. Easiest blog I’d ever write! Not so much. Sure, words like ecstatic, proud, relieved and happy came to mind but I could go on with words forever.

I decided, rather than talk about how I feel now that I’ve achieved my goal, I’d use my journey to a BQ as an example. An example of how you can’t let fear get in the way of trying to achieve something big. I don’t mean that to sound like a really lame After-School-Special and I know it does. But I’m being serious!

Was it a dream to think I could ever qualify for this race? Absolutely. If you had asked me seven years ago, after I finished my first full marathon in something like 4:18 and change, I would have laughed and said that was never something I could do – but I’d still love to run another marathon.

This guy - he always believed I'd succeed. #lucky

This guy – he always believed I’d succeed. #lucky

When I decided to go for the BQ, for the third year in a row, was I afraid I would fail a third time in a row? I was terrified. I’ve never been so nervous for a run. But I wanted it so bad and, when I thought about not doing it at the start of my training this year, something inside me told me I had to. That it was worth it to try again. When I failed the first time, I learned. And I got better. When I failed the second time, I learned. And I got better. Even if I failed a third time, chances are I would learn something. And I would get better. Part of it came down to my determined attitude. The other half, a simple cost/benefit analysis. The outcome of succeeding would be the best thing and the outcome of failing? Well, it wouldn’t be the worst thing!

What dream have you gone after, knowing you could fail? Or (and you can be honest!), what dream have you held back from chasing because you were afraid to fail? Post a comment or tweet me @runlikeagirl311. Then, face your fears and try! After all, what’s the worst thing that could happen?

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Countdown to Race Day – What To Do Before The Marathon

“The waiting is the hardest part”

…or a half marathon, 10k, 5k, 1 mile, relay…(this applies to any race of any size so, all runners, read on!). To my fellow runner friends in, near and coming to Fargo, the countdown is on – only one week until the Fargo Marathon! I don’t know about y’all but I can’t wait. I’m mentally psyched and physically primed, neurotic and emotionally unstable. So, yep, sounds like a typical week before a marathon.

The week before a race, whether a first or fifth, full marathon or 10k, is always tough. All the weeks, months, even years of hard training, come down to one day. Actually, one morning. Actually, just a few hours or less. It’s a lot of pressure mixed with anticipation and nerves, capped off with adrenaline – oh it’s so great! I can’t wait for next Saturday.

If you’re like me and all the emotions make you high strung and edgy in the days leading up to the race, or it’s your first race and you need a little help getting ready, I’ve put together a week’s worth of racing to-dos. Yes, this is partially to distract you and keep you busy but a lot of this stuff is really useful and you’ll be glad you did it. Here’s your race week countdown:

Get it ready today & enjoy all week.

Get it ready today & enjoy all week.

Sunday – Food Prep
Today, do your shopping and food prep for the week. Not only do you want to stock up on all the foods you’re familiar with, you know sit well with you and give you energy, you might want to make selections based on the weather forecast. For example, if it’s going to be hot and humid on race day, buy a few extra salty food options to eat throughout the week. It will help you retain water and ward off race-day dehydration.

Taking care of your shopping and prep on Sunday gives you one less thing to worry about during the busy week, and sets you up to stick to your nutrition plan through race morning.
Monday – Toenails
Today, trim your toenails. Not too short but a good trim. Trust me. Do it

Tuesday – Check And Plan
Today, go online and review all the location details of the race so you have a clear idea of where everything is happening. This includes where to pick up your packet, where the start line and finish line are, and where to park. You’ll also want to figure out the best route to get to the course and alternate routes to account for heavy traffic on major roads. Find out if and where the bathrooms will be on race day. Also, find out if there’s a bag drop or if you need to leave stuff in your car (that will determine what you bring with to the race).

You can also check out the course map – or don’t if you like to be surprised.
Wednesday – Shopping
Today, go buy stuff (if you need it). Band-aids, BodyGlide, sunscreen, gum, anything you might need for race day. By now, you should have a good idea of what the weather is going to be like so, if need be, now is also your last chance to shop for any new clothes you might need. Why today? If you do buy something new, it’s risky to wear anything for the first time on race day. You just never know how things will move with you, where they’ll rub and what could be a major chafing hazard. The upside of shopping today: if you must get something new, you at least have the opportunity try it out tonight or tomorrow during your final low-mileage run.

One thing I wouldn’t recommend buying this close to race day: shoes. But, like I always say, different strokes for different folks. One year, my friend Jason bought a new pair of shoes the day before we ran a half marathon. And he wore them for the race. And – he claims – he had no discomfort at all. So if you’re “that” guy, go ahead and sport those new kicks straight out the box.

Pasta - giving runners an excuse to carb load for years.

Pasta – giving runners an excuse to carb load for years.

Thursday – The Big Meal
Today, eat your biggest dinner. What that dinner is, that’s your call. Everyone’s eating plan is different and I’m not here to tell you that you should be eating certain foods. Some people carb-load. Others believe in fat-loading. Some don’t care what they eat at all. But it’s still usually a good idea to have your biggest meal on Thursday night. That gives your stomach time to settle and fully digest so you don’t feel heavy on race day.
Friday – Stuff And Rest
Today, organize your stuff, then rest. Pick up your race packet. It will have your bib, chip, important info about race day and of course some goodies to enjoy. If packet pickup is at the same location as the race start and/or end, bonus, as you get a chance to navigate the area before the chaos of race morning.

Before you head to bed, lay out everything you need for the next morning. In addition to your bib and chip, your watch, outfit, chapstick – even your shoes. Have it all ready to go so you don’t have to think about anything except getting to the start line.

Also, set three alarms. Yes, three. Set three alarms. I’ve referenced it before and it’s worth repeating – let’s not forget what happened in the Hot Tub episode of Seinfeld: Elaine hosts marathon runner, Jean Paul, before the New York City Marathon. After Jean-Paul overslept at the Olympics and missed the marathon, Jerry is overly concerned it will happen again and takes every precaution he feels necessary. Because Kramer lives next door, you know shenanigans of course ensue, and Jean-Paul oversleeps again. Don’t let that happen to you.

And speaking of don’ts, don’t worry if you can’t sleep. With all the nerves, excitement and anticipation, most runners don’t sleep well the night before a race.

Saturday – Kick Some Ass
‘Nuff said.
Good luck to everyone running in the Fargo Marathon this weekend! It’s a great race with awesome volunteers and the best spectators so enjoy it. And be sure to celebrate after.

If you have questions – or some good tips of your own – about how to get through pre-race week, please comment below or tweet me @runlikeagirl311.

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Legs & Glutes Workout – No Weights Required

“Sometimes, you just have to pee in the sink”

Before I get too far, I want to clarify that the above quote is a real one, from a German-born novelist, short story writer and poet, not just something I came up with because it’s true (and I know I’m not the only one who has done said act).

Okay, now the meaning of it. Aside from the fact it’s funny and true, it’s really about making do with what you have and finding a solution when the norm isn’t possible.

This past week, my job took me to California. In addition to packing two coolers of my own food, I packed enough gym attire to keep up my workouts for the week. Although it’s never quite as good as at home, I always do what I can to keep up my routine while traveling. Luckily for me, the gentleman at the front desk directed me to a beautiful (and safe!) running path so I wasn’t stuck on the treadmill all week. Unfortunately, there wasn’t anything I could do about the tiny weight room and its lack of a squat rack, equipment and sheer space to do my usual leg workout. Being that I was out of luck there, plus the fact it was my first week of tapering and I knew I should take it easy with my leg workout, I decided to try something new: a bodyweight workout in my room.

Quick workout for your legs & butt you can do anywhere, anytime.

Quick legs & butt workout you can do anywhere, anytime.

I’ve never been good at working out at home. I’m a gym rat, I love all the equipment, space, motivation from fellow athletes, all of it. But I know so many people who swear by at-home workouts, exercises that require no machines or weights. As a lover of all things fitness, I feel like it’s important for me to expand my horizons and “think outside of the gym” so to speak, and this would be the perfect time to challenge myself to come up with and try a weight-free workout.

Though I didn’t get as sweaty and my legs weren’t as sore the next day as with a normal #legday workout, I definitely got my heart rate up and felt it when I got out of bed the following morning. Also, this is a great #noexcuses workout, as it can literally be done in any space – my hotel room, while nice, was small.

Do each pair of exercises 3x through, then move onto the next pair. Take very short rests in between to keep your heart rate up. This main circuit will take you around 25 minutes so I added 5 minutes of abs (do the same, your choice!) at the end to arrive at a complete 30-minute workout.

Plank Leg Raise - squeeze your butt as you lift

Plank Leg Raise – squeeze your butt as you lift

Main Circuit
Squats, Standard – 10
Reverse Lunge w/Knee-Up –                   10 (each leg)

Single-Leg Deadlifts – 10 (each leg)
Single-Leg Bridge – 10 (each leg)

Jumping Lunges –                                      20 (total, alternate legs)
Plank Leg Lifts – 10 (each leg)

Single-Leg Squat – 5 (each leg)
Donkey Kicks – 10 (each leg)

Add about 5 minutes (or 2-3 of your favorite abs exercises)
*Some of my favorites: leg raises, flutter kicks, bird-dogs, planks with toe taps, side plank crunches – and good old standard front and side planks

Your quads, hammys, calves, glues and hip flexors just put in some hard work so don’t neglect them! Just 5 minutes of stretching and you’re done (this older blog includes a couple stretches you can incorporate). You can even do quick stretches as needed during the short rests in between exercises.

Try this no-weight leg and glutes workout and let me know what you think!

If you have other no-weight exercises you love, please share them, either with a comment below or tweet me @runlikeagirl311.

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One Of My Not-So-Favorite Things – The Marathon Taper

“There are many things challenging about marathon training, none of which top the taper.” 

Good luck, runners! Hope to join y'all next year.

Good luck, runners! Hope to join y’all next year.

First, best of luck to all the runners who are just days away from the Boston Marathon! You’ve all earned your place there and should be very proud, no matter how race day turns out. Color me jealous of every single one of you.

Which brings me to today’s entry. I just finished my last big 20+ mile run of my marathon training season and quest for Boston 2016. It was one of my best long runs ever, in terms of my overall pace, how my legs felt and the fact I was able to kick it into high gear and run a solid pace the last few miles. Speaking of good, my weekly runs have been going great as well. And I feel like I’ve got my nutrition and supplement plan down to a science. So naturally, it’s time to fuck it all up with THE TAPER.

Oh, how I loathe the taper.

With three weeks until the Fargo Marathon, I’ve reached this dreaded point. Each year, I have hope that the taper isn’t going to affect me. Somehow, each year, it feels worse. Like this year, for example; I want so badly to qualify for the Boston Marathon. After missing the mark by less than five minutes last year and being in way better shape this year, I really feel like it’s a realistic goal I could achieve (weather pending – oh please let it be no more than 50 degrees on May 9!). I’ve been pushing my weekly runs and, for the first time, really pushing my long runs too. I’ve been keeping weekly leg day workouts in the mix to make sure my lower half is as strong as possible. I’ve also been much more focused on nutrition and I feel like I’m carrying around fewer pounds this year.

Everything is going so well – and now I’m hitting the taper and I’m terrified that I’ll lose all that hard work. I’m scared I’ll be tempted to push myself too hard when I know I shouldn’t. The competitive, compulsive over-achiever in me is going to hate the rest of me for the next three weeks. But I’m really trying to stay positive and remind myself why I need this. My feet will thank me for giving the blisters a chance to heal. My legs will thank me on race day. I’ll be so mentally fired up, my brain will be as excited as my body is to destroy those 26.2 miles. Okay, just gotta stay positive, right?!

Any of you have tips for getting through the taper? I need all the positivity and peace of mind I can get, so please comment below or tweet me @runlikeagirl311.

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A Few Of My Favorite Things – My Custom Race Medal Holder

“Always earned. Never given.”

Having good girlfriends is one of the best things in life. Having a super-talented, creative and crafty girlfriend is extra awesome, and came in handy for me (and Chris) last year.

For years, I’ve been searching for a way to do justice to my collection of race medals I’ve earned over the years. From the ones I received simply for finishing the race to the ones I received for crossing the finish line ahead of the pack, each means something to me. Each represents a lot of hard work, and how far I’ve come as an athlete and healthier, happier person.

Although there are plenty of cool ideas and race medal holders all over the Internet, none ever seemed like “me” or caught my eye. Last summer, I was taking in some friend time with my pal, Kasper, and we went to a local craft fair in the park. One of my friends and her husband were exhibiting at it so I stopped by their booth. Her husband owns a woodworking business, Elite Woodwork, and she had recently taken to contributing her own flair to the business, creating various crafts out of his scrap pieces. These ranged from adorable Mason jar toothbrush holders to children’s growth charts to single-hook towel racks (one of which I ended up purchasing for my future mother-in-law).

My one-of-a-kind, Run Like  A Girl race medal holder.

My one-of-a-kind, Run Like A Girl race medal holder.

While browsing all her great designs, I started thinking – maybe she could come up with a display rack for my race medals. Something just for me, that reflected my personality. Later that week, I mentioned this idea to Chris, who gave me a funny smile and said, “I was planning to get you one for Christmas.” After some plotting between the two of them, I received my personalized “Run Like A Girl” race medal holder as a Christmas gift (on Festivus, of course). Finally, a month or so ago, I found the perfect spot for it in our house and loaded it up!

With the Fargo Marathon less than a month away, plenty of locals have running a race, finishing a race and getting that well-deserved race medal on the brain. So, I thought this would be a perfect time to share my story of how I found the perfect race medal holder. Whether you want to check out Elite Woodwork or browse Etsy or even pick up something simple at a local store, every racer really should find his or her own custom race medal display. Those medals are earned and they deserve a better life than sitting in a box in the back of your closet (wow, that was a lot of prepositional phrases).

Fellow racers, do you have a cool race medal holder? Or have you come up with a unique way to display medals or bibs? Comment or tweet me (with a pic if you have one!) @runlikeagirl311.

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A Few Of My Favorite Things – Milk Jug Designs

“Life is too short to wear boring jewelry”

I’m not a jewelry girl. Unless you could the hemp necklaces I used to make as a teenager (I was a little different back then, don’t judge) or my Garmin (I tend to wear it as an everyday watch too), I’ve never been into jewelry or taken the time to build a collection. Just a few weeks ago, when Chris presented me with the most beautiful piece of jewelry a girl could imagine, it came with a gripe of, “I had a hell of time figuring out the size. Why don’t you have any other rings?” That’s a two-fold answer. 1) It’s hard enough dressing myself in an acceptable way, I have no idea how to accessorize on top of that. 2) I’m a move and a shaker; between running, lifting and everything else, don’t have time for big necklaces or bracelets getting in my way.

The one exception to this rule is earrings. I’ve always loved earrings. They’re an easy accessory to add to any outfit (when in doubt, I can always go with my basic hoops), you can never have too many and plenty of styles can be worn while working out.

When one of my friends started posting photos of her new earrings made by a company called Milk Jug Designs, I took notice. Not only were the earrings simple, there were tons of bright colors and pretty designs. They looked like the kind of earrings you could wear with a fancy outfit, a pair of jeans and a tee, or even sweats. Then I found out they’re made by a local woman. Even better. Gotta support local and small businesses!

Barbell earrings for a girl who loves to lift!

Barbell earrings for a girl who loves to lift!

I received my first two pairs a couple weeks ago and I’m hooked – I mean come on, these beauties are hot pink with barbells. For a girl who loves to lift, how perfect! The other I chose is an aqua blue that’s beautiful and bright, yet simple enough to go with jeans or just about anything (crucial for my casual style). I already have my next order in, and am contemplating some additional and custom designs.

Whether you’re a jewelry aficionado or more like me, you should check out @MilkJugDesigns on Instagram. The owner/designer posts new styles, contests and flash sales on a regular basis, and you can get her contact info to order your own.

If you order from Milk Jug Designs, let me know how you like them! Also, post a pic of yourself wearing them on Instagram with #MilkJugDesigns so the owner can see her designs out there in the world.

Do any of you have a favorite, local business I should know about? I’d love to check it out! Comment below or tweet me @runlikeagirl311.

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Cold Weather Running – Winter Recess for Grown-Ups

“I can’t put my arms down!”

I realized something funny during my run yesterday. Winter running is a lot like winter recess.

See? He can't put his arms down.

See? He can’t put his arms down.

Those of you who grew up in cold-weather areas, remember going out for recess or out to play in your neighborhood, during the winter when you were in grade school? (If not, hopefully you’ve at least seen A Christmas Story – or the pic here isn’t going to make a whole lot of sense.) You had to layer up, put on your boots, sometimes top off the outfit with a hat, scarf and mittens. All of this to go outside and play for about 20 minutes. And, inevitably, someone in class would be fully encased in his/her recess gear then utter those seven words that made the teacher (or your own mother/father) cringe, “I have to go to the bathroom.”

Running in the winter is a lot like being a child about to go out for recess. First, it takes some time to plan out exactly what you’re going to wear. How cold is it? Will it warm up quite a bit during the time I’ll be out there? What’s the wind factor? All of these questions determine the right layering combo.

Once that has been established, it’s time to get dressed. That’s where the real fun comes. In my case yesterday, it was 20 degrees with gusty winds and not much warming predicted throughout the morning.

So began the process:

Base layer: running tights, under armour long sleeve, smart wool socks.

Next layer: fleece quarter-zip.

Crap, I have to pee again. Ugh, backwards we go.

Okay, first two layers back on – let’s continue:

Final layer: wind-resistant pants and jacket.

Accessories: full hat, neck gator, gloves, Garmin.

Do I look like I can't put my arms down?

Do I look a little puffy? Or like I can’t put my arms down?

By the time I reached the point of being fully dressed, I almost felt like I had to pee yet again – nope, I’m fully committed at this point, I’m ten minutes behind schedule of when I wanted to start my run, and it’s probably just in my head. Let’s do this.

It seems like an awful lot of work to go through for a relatively short amount of time (depending on your distance, maybe 20 minutes, maybe three hours) but, in the end, a winter run it’s like recess as a kid – no way in hell you’re missing it, weather be damned!

Luckily, temps in Fargo are looking to be on the upswing starting next week – I sure hope so, looking forward to a few less layers for my upcoming 20-miler next weekend! Anyone else still running in full-on layering weather or have you shelved it all for the season? Comment or tweet me @runlikeagirl311.

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