Week Seven of Ironman Training: Courage

Late last December my family and I shared a fabulous evening with our dear friends, the Reeder-Riechels. As we were leaving, I noticed a colorful flyer taped to their kitchen wall. The message at the top simply said, “Take what you need in the new year,” and at the bottom it had strips of paper to rip off, like you’d normally see for a lost cat or an item for sale. Instead of a phone number to call, however, it had words like Patience, Determination, Creativity, and Compassion.

I chose Courage.

I knew courage is what I would need most as I took on my Ironman journey this year.

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This word has been taped to my mirror since I started training, and I look at it every morning when I wake up.

I snapped this picture on a particularly tough morning to remind myself what it was going to take to get my long run completed when every ounce of my tired being wanted to go back to bed. I just have to laugh at what a train wreck I look like. That’s life, baby!

 

Before I even launched my official Ironman training I had to dig for some courage to believe that I could, and should, chase after this dream; then even more to take the next step and hit the registration button for Arizona. In fact, I hovered over that button for a good long time before I finally took a deep breath and hit SUBMIT. You’ve all been there too, I’m sure, so you’ll understand the tingles of excitement that flooded my body while simultaneous waves of disbelief washed over me: “Holy #&%! did I really just do that? Ok, I guess I’m really doing this. Here we go!”

“What you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, magic and power in it.” ~Goethe

I also had to build up my courage to ask Mike Swan if he’d coach me. He coaches many top-notch athletes in our town so I had visions of him telling me I wasn’t ready for an Ironman. Instead, he was more than positive and said, “I think Ironman is absolutely doable for you.”

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The other thing I knew would take courage is to ask people to donate to my Smile Train fundraising, as asking people for moolah is one of my least favorite things. Even though it has gotten off to a good start, I still find this challenging. Knowing that I’m helping vulnerable kiddos who have very few resources though, gives me the courage to keep asking, even if it’s uncomfortable. I can’t even begin to tell you how grateful I am to those of you who have already donated! You are making a big difference!

Of course, every person has his or her own idea of what courage means, as it comes in all shapes and forms. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of believing in yourself. Sometimes it’s being open to possibility and making the decision to say yes to new things when the easier thing is to say no. Other times it’s believing in the work and the process so there’s no room for fear or “what ifs.” And of course, it’s being afraid and taking the plunge anyway.

“Courage is more exhilarating than fear and in the long run it is easier. We do not have to become heroes overnight. Just a step at a time, meeting each thing that comes up, seeing it is not as dreadful as it appeared, discovering we have the strength to stare it down.”  ~Eleanor Roosevelt

That’s what I’m going to keep in mind as I shake off last week’s fatigue and start afresh with this week’s schedule. Here’s what’s on tap:
Continue reading

Week Six of Ironman Training: Baking a Cake

I recently read somewhere that when training for an Ironman, “Intervals are icing on the cake.” This really hit home as I’ve been missing doing track workouts with Coach Nash and my friends on the B Team. They’re so fit and fast, strong and HILARIOUS.

Coach Nash recently took 2nd Place in the USA Cross-Country Championships in Bend, OR and also coached a women’s masters team (Cindy, Desa and Lynelle) to a 1st Place finish. Jen just won 1st Place overall female in the Super Bowl 4-miler here in Santa Barbara and Ashlee won her age group. Then there’s Vanessa who just completed Ironman Panama 70.3. That’s some serious awesomeness floating around this group! I’m so proud of each of them!

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Before I pulled a hamstring about ten months ago, I used to love (and dread) the crazy sufferfests Coach Nash orchestrated with these speedy chiquitas on Thursday mornings. This crew always made me laugh, and they always made me a better runner. Since then, I’ve only popped in and out of practices with them a handful of times, thinking it would be fine, but leaving feeling down and frustrated after running like a turtle and realizing I still had a long way to go to get back to 100%. Nope, still not ready for intervals. Damn.

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Last summer with the B Team: Jane (left), Coach Nash, Vanessa (back), and Jen (right). Ashlee was off winning some race in Utah.

As I train for Arizona though, it helps to remind myself that before I can put icing on a cake, I first have to have a cake. That’s what I’m working on right now: baking a big, beautiful cake, focusing on all the important ingredients like strength, endurance, flexibility, stamina, balance, core power, technique, overall fitness, and most of all PATIENCE. Then hopefully I’ll be icing that fabulous, multi-layer cake in the summer with some heart-pumping intervals with the B Team.

In the meantime, here’s what Week Six of Ironman training looks like:

Monday: Swim 1000 y, core & stretching pm

Tuesday: Run 60 minutes, Kate’s strength & stretching class, swim 1400y, core & stretching pm

Wednesday: Swim 2200 y, then 1-hour indoor cycling spin class, core & stretching pm

Thursday: Bike 3.5 hours (probably about 50 miles), then a 20 minute run, core & stretching pm

Friday: Swim 2100 y, core & stretching pm

Saturday: Run 90 minutes, core & stretching pm

Sunday: Rest, core & stretching pm

Favorite Gear this Week: My new Garmin 920xt with a heart rate monitor has been a game-changer for me. Not only am I no longer guessing what heart rate and training zone I’m working in, I’m able to break down the data so I can see what I need to work on (clearly speed on the bike!!)…Also, being able to track my splits in the pool and see my cadence and heart rate on my run is helpful and motivating. This watch also has an activity tracker similar to a FitBit. I was feeling dog tired last night as I tucked my daughter into bed. When I saw that I had gone 21,400 steps yesterday, somehow it validated my fatigue. It’s ridiculous, I know, but sometimes it’s the dumbest stuff that keeps you going!

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My other favorite gear this week is my new kicks. I love this pair of Nike Air Zoom Pegasus. They’re super cushy neutral shoes, which are just right for my high arches and narrow feet. Zoom Zoom Zoom! Thank you Santa Barbara Running once again! Happy Soles = Happy Soul. #shoplocal

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FYI: If anybody ever tells you that being a triathlete is not that expensive, don’t believe them. Obviously, they drank the Kool-Aid.

Friends have been asking: “How’s your training going?” First of all, that’s so nice you care! Thank you. My first response is usually, “It’s going well. I’m having fun and enjoying the process.” When pressed for more details, I explain that I’m simply taking one day and workout at time and somehow that approach is making the volume do-able. Suddenly I’m swimming over a mile each session, my short run is now more than 6 miles and my long run will be a little over 9, and I’m already up to riding about 50 miles with a run afterward. Anybody who has run a marathon or half marathon will know exactly what I mean when I say it’s like when you reach double-digits for the first time. You never thought you could run 10 miles, then suddenly you are, and then it becomes normal, and then you never look back. I feel like I’m still just getting started, but it’s already feeling normal and I’m not looking back.

Gratitude: The other day I was swimming at the Y, trying to work on my stroke technique, and out of the blue, Continue reading

What Do You Do When the World Goes Insane? Run, of Course.

Yesterday, Friday the 13th, felt like a wonderfully lucky day for our family. Lots of great things happened, including the closing on the sale of our house. Woot! We were flying high. That is until we heard the news from Paris. Like all of you, we were horrified, sickened, saddened, furious…you name it. There aren’t enough words to express the depths of our emotions.

News of this tragedy hit right when I was about to drive my daughter to ballet, and I was fuming inside that I would have to explain this unthinkable act to her. How do you explain such insanity, anyway? I tried to keep it simple and age appropriate, but she wanted to know more: the who, what, where, when and why. Especially the WHY. Fortunately, the start of her class let me off the hook from a much deeper conversation. I needed time to process it myself before I could possibly explained it to her.

Because we had such a busy day, I didn’t have time to run in the morning. Instead, I planned to go when Miss O was at ballet, but suddenly I had zero motivation. I just wanted to huddle in a cozy chair, sipping a warm chai vanilla latte at a coffee shop while I obsessed over the news flooding my Facebook and Twitter feeds. Fortunately, because I committed to this damn Chase the Bird Challenge, I dragged myself down to Goleta Beach Park and forced myself to run.

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And of course, that’s exactly what I needed.

That’s what runners do. Whether we’re happy, sad, stressed, confused, frustrated, angry, afraid, ____(fill in the blank), running is what we do.

We’re insanely lucky to have the luxury of sorting through our emotions out on the roads and trails. Pace and distance have no place in the conversation. It’s simply about having the gift of health, and time and space to process our lives and the moments that change them.

Yesterday, I knew I needed to get the rage out of me so I could re-center myself and have a meaningful conversation with my daughter.

And so I set out.

It was a lovely late afternoon/early evening…despite the atrocities in Paris. Take that mother fucking terrorists. You can never take this away from us.

Step after step, the f-bomb continually popped into my head, but I was determined to turn it around and focus on all that was still good in the world and not let the mother f’ing terrorists win.

And then if by some “other worldly” design, Continue reading

Conquering the BS Beast at She.Is.Beautiful 5K

In late September I had the joy of running the She.Is.Beautiful 5K here in Santa Barbara. Woohoo! Why it took me six weeks to finally get this blog post written is another story. Ack. This race is one of the best-organized, most fun, and supportive running events around. The pink “Girl Power” vibe alone is enough to lift you five feet off the ground.

Even though this is one of my all-time favorite races, I almost didn’t sign up this year. My running mojo has been in the dumper BIG TIME as I’ve dealt with a hamstring injury that’s lingered for months and months (feels like years now). I knew “racing” this 5K was not in the cards, so I thought, Why bother?

What finally got me to the starting line was multiple friends cajoling me to participate–to take part and “just have fun” like they were.

What a concept!

Somehow over the last couple years my competitive spirit has gotten the best of me so I’ve forgotten that it’s okay to just cruise and have fun during a race without feeling ashamed of how slow I might finish. Anybody else know that feeling? I’ve forgotten that it doesn’t always have to be about chasing after a PR. And furthermore, I’ve forgotten that nobody, I repeat, NOBODY, gives a rip about my finishing time (nor yours), so being embarrassed about our level of fitness is a big fat waste of time and energy, especially when there’s a whole lot of fun to be had just by participating.

Thank you She.Is.Beautiful (and my persistent friends) for reminding me to lose the Bullshit Beast (aka ego). When we do, it always opens up a bounty of beautiful and blissful running moments.

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My 3rd year in a row of running this fabulous race. Not my fastest time, not my slowest time, but my favorite time.

It was fun to celebrate all my super speedy friends too, like these ladies who pretty much swept the race. Desa (third from the right) took 1st Place Overall!

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And my friend Ashlee, rocked her race too, coming in 2nd Overall and running her first sub-20:00! The banner says it all…

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The sun was definitely shining down on all of us and helping light us up. Wearing a feather boa on such a warm morning? Mmmm…not something I’d probably recommend, but it was all part of the silliness. The funny thing is that somehow I managed to land 2nd Place in my age group (even though that wasn’t really the point of this day). It must have been my ridiculous get-up. One of the super speedy ladies in the picture above, DeAnna, took 1st in our age group, and 3rd Overall. Way to go D! You are an animal!

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Over 2,000 runners took part in this year’s event.

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Loved seeing so many young girls running their first 5K! Here, the Queen of Positive, Jenny Schatlze, helps celebrate this awesome athlete’s accomplishment.

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Best local pre and post-race expo EVER.

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Here’s to many more carefree running miles ahead!

xo

A Generous Slice of Humble Pie + A Speedy Running Tribe = A Super Recipe for Getting Stronger and Faster

While sucking air at the track yesterday, and dragging ass far behind my three speedy running buddies, Jane, Jen and Vanessa, I kept chanting to myself, Just…keep…going…this is so flippin’ good for you…Just…keep…going.

Under normal circumstances yesterday’s workout would have been challenging, but not one that left me reeling, and mumbling, “Holy crap, I have a long, long, loooooong way to go.” What took it up a notch was pushing the pace by running with faster chiquitas.

It’s definitely not easy on the ego, but pushing outside your comfort zone and running with speedier people is fabulous for your mind and body—especially if your goal is to get faster. As we all know, most good stuff happens outside our comfort zones.

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Yesterday’s workout consisted of a 1-mile warm-up followed by intervals of:
1 mile
1200m
800m
400m
200m
…cooling down with a half or three-quarter mile jog (at least I think that’s what it was. I can’t remember—I was in a bit of a fog at this point).

What else took it up a notch was Continue reading

The Magic and Mayhem of Numbers

Most runners I know are obsessive, myself included. And the thing we obsess about most? Numbers, of course. After all, that’s how we quantify many of our goals, challenges and accomplishments.

  • NumbersThe number of miles we run per week.
  • The number of races we participate in each year.
  • The numbers we need to hit to qualify for Boston.
  • The numbers on our Garmins or Fitbits.
  • The numbers on our scale.
  • The numbers on the treadmill.
  • The numbers we want to add to our long runs.
  • The numbers we want to chisel away during a race.

Numbers can be just the motivation we need to keep us fired up about reaching our ongoing and ever-changing running goals. If you’re like me, you love them, but maybe sometimes a bit too much.

I began thinking about all of this number business when I saw the “Run 2015 miles in 2015” challenge floating around Facebook. My first instinct was to say, “Hell yeah!” even though I knew this was a bad idea all the way around for me.

As much as I love the idea of a challenge like this, by focusing purely on numbers instead of being smart about recovery days and listening to my body, I know I’d be setting myself up for a litany of injuries.

So instead of zeroing in on mileage this year I have decided I want to focus on celebrating numbers in a different way. I want to say “Booyah!” to things like…

  • JesusitaTrail12515The number of times I try new things—new trails, new groups, new races.
  • The number of times I stay in the moment during a run, listening to my body, knowing I’m pushing myself at exactly the right pace and distance for where I’m at on that particular day.
  • The number of big sweaty hugs I give.
  • The number of times my heart explodes with admiration when I see 80+-year olds still running, always looking happy and always sporting a warm smile.
  • The number of times I get a newbie excited about running or convince her that she soooooo can run that first race.
  • The number of times utter waves of joy wash over me as I coach my kids running teams, seeing that little spark ignite in them.
  • The number of times I laugh so hard I cry with friends who share their lives with me on a run, knowing that what’s shared on the road always stays on the road.
  • The number of times a challenging day becomes an “Abso-freaking-lutely YES” kind of day after a run.
  • The number of times I’m filled with gratitude because I can run.
  • EllwoodTrail_JenM_12715The number of times I push myself outside my comfort zone.
  • The number of times I return home from a run feeling happy, exhausted and invincible.
  • The number of times I say, “Good morning!” to another runner on the road and mean it heart and soul/sole (after all it is a ‘good morning’ when we get to run).
  • The number of times I make a smart food choice because I know it will make me a better runner and a healthier person.
  • The number of times I work on strength, core, and cross-training in order to support my running goals, and more importantly, my running longevity. After all, I want to be one of those 80+-year old runners who inspires all those young farts!

Continue reading

To Amby, With Gratitude

Burfoot_Amby-FifthAveAmby Burfoot is a legend in the running world. Not only did he win the Boston Marathon in 1968 (2:22:17), he remained one of our nation’s top runners for many years, if not decades. Amby was also the Editor-in-Chief of Runner’s World for eons, and was inducted into the National Distance Running Hall of Fame in 2008. Today he continues to run, write, and work as Editor-at Large for the magazine.

Putting all his running and writing accomplishments aside, here’s why Amby Burfoot is legend in my mind: his kindness and generosity.

You see, Amby was the first person to ever “officially” hire me as a writer. I had just run my first marathon and felt compelled to write a story about what it meant to run through the streets of New York City in honor of my dad, who had died of cancer when I was 18.

I pounded out a query email to him outlining my story idea, agonizing over every word, comma and format detail. Eventually, I built up my nerve, took a deep breath, and hit the SEND button. Less than five minutes later I heard the magic ding of an incoming email. The message simply said, Continue reading

December Monday Motivation–Week #4

December is turning into one big, beautiful blur of holiday cheer…something I love, yet also struggle with as I battle to maintain health and fitness in the midst of all this “special-ness.” Special food, special parties, special “secret shopping errands”…the list goes on and the hours in the day never grown any longer. Here’s to making fitness just as special as all the other “special-ness” and carving out time to fit it in…NO.MATTER.WHAT.

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I‘d love to know how you are all managing this time of year! Are you thriving? 

The Simple Gift of Running

Gliding along, an hour away from

sniffles, laundry and an endless To Do List.

MtDriveRunFeet stepping in perfect rhythm to music

inspiring them to move faster and lighter.

December air surging through my lungs,

a view so mesmerizing, it’s pulled right back out.

Endorphins buzzing, bouncing, richocheting,

reminding me once again why I run.

I am whole again and ready to return home and be

all the things I’m meant to be in this amazing life I’ve been given.

A life I wouldn’t trade for anything…because I run.

Fueling Setbacks with Gratitude

NiteMovesJune2514It has been a SERIOUSLY fun year of running for me—pushing myself out my comfort zone, competing, playing, connecting with new people, doing new events.

Each week I’ve gotten stronger, faster and more confident as I’ve worked at getting back into shape.

By late August, I had logged well over a dozen races—many of which I’d run slightly faster than the one before. It was exhilarating.

But then I hit a speed bump.

Ventura Half Marathon MedalAfter running the Ventura Half Marathon in early September and then the She is Beautiful 5K a couple weeks later, with 18 and 20-mile runs in between, along with some tempo runs and track workouts, my body let me know that not only had I taken it too far, I had taken it for granted by ignoring its subtle, yet persistent warning signals.

Becky Aaronson 2014 She is BeautifulThe aches, “which every runner feels,” I told myself, were never “that bad.” But then those aches suddenly turned into ones that were that bad. With just six weeks to go until my target race—the Santa Barbara Veteran’s Day Marathon—I was forced to put on the brakes as I pushed my foot and back beyond their tipping points.

Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn.

Long story short (because I don’t want to bore you with a litany of injury details), the Santa Barbara Marathon did not happen for me. Disappointment doesn’t even begin to describe my frustration.

YOU IDIOT! I scolded myself, YOU KNOW BETTER! WHEN WILL YOU EVER LEARN?

After beating myself up, then administering several generous doses of chocolate and wine, I finally pulled myself together. I was determined to salvage this marathon, no matter what.

Thus began my 6-week “mega taper,” which involved a whole lot of rest, pool running, cryotherapy and compression sessions, nothing but uber healthy food, extra cushy Hoka shoes, then slowly easing back into short, easy runs on grass with Coach Nash’s guidance.

Cryotherapy at The LabNormaTec Compression PantsRun Be Run Green Smoothie
Hoka Huaka shoes

I tried to convince myself that by not stressing about it and embracing this “mega taper,” I’d at least get myself to the starting line. Eventually though, it became painfully obvious that attempting a full marathon would be stupid in my marginally healed state, and my marginally maintained fitness level. I might have been able to do it (ever so slooowwwly), but I didn’t want to just run another marathon; I wanted to race it.

But here’s the good news (the cup is half full, right?): although I didn’t run the full marathon, I did manage to salvage race day by at least participating in the half marathon. It was not fast (about 8-10 minutes off my goal time) or pretty, but I did get through it, on a very hot day no less, and did cross the finish line with a smile on my face.

Becky Aaronson Santa Barbara Half MarathonBecky Aaronson 2014 SB Half Marathon

That was three weeks ago. I know Continue reading