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Estes Park Half Marathon Race Recap

Estes-Park-Half-Marathon-Finish

I clocked my slowest road time on Sunday at the Estes Park Half Marathon and I couldn’t be more pleased with how it went. No sarcasm there. I probably could’ve run faster if I were 5 pounds lighter or 5 years younger or had 5 more months to train. But I am who I am and I left it all on the course. I ran the best race I had in me.

There was a lot that could’ve gone wrong.

Lately, I’ve been struggling with… ahem… digestion during and after long runs. I didn’t used to have a problem at all. It got a little trickier after Big Girl was born and trickier still now, after Baby Girl. This is a big part of what’s motivating me to clean up my diet. I tried to play it safe by consuming no more than a reasonable amount of fiber, fat, dairy and sugar the day before the race, which is to say I skipped the pizza and had a shake instead. The good kind. Wups.

I thought a lot about what to eat before the race and decided on a Clif Bar and a cup of coffee so I could take care of business before the race started. That’s right. I’m just going to talk about poop here. I accidentally ordered a box of GU with caffeine last week and had to hunt down a caffeine-free variety in Estes Park on Saturday. So as to avoid any, er, diuretic effects during the race.

By “hunt down” I mean we went to one store after lunch and packet pick-up, and that was about all I could muster the energy for. After several hours of half-napping at the hotel it occurred to me that, perhaps, I had underestimated the altitude: 7400 – 7900 ft.

Oh, and my allergies were out of control.

At dinner I told my husband, “Maybe I’ll just take it easy tomorrow.”

“That’s probably a good idea,” he said. “You don’t want to injure yourself if you haven’t trained enough for it.”

Well, geez. I was only really thinking about the altitude and my allergies before he went and brought up training. To be fair- I have ran half marathons with less training. I wasn’t untrained. But I have also ran half marathons with more and better training under my belt. And there was the matter of the ~1000 ft of elevation gain. Let’s just say I wasn’t prepared to break any records. Except for my slowest time.

It’s possible I have my jitters to thank for my race.

The most challenging part of the course – 3.5 miles at a 2.5% grade – hits just after the first mile marker. I was extra conservative with my pace and let a dozen or so people pass me at the base of the hill without flinching. And I’m giving myself major kudos for this. If there’s one thing I’ve learned how to do over the years it’s how to avoid starting out too fast. I used to think, “I’ll be passing these people at mile 10.” But the magnitude of the fast start is typically far more impressive than that. The passing actually starts around mile 2 or 3. In this case, I hoped to catch a few of them on the downhill. Instead, I ended up passing everyone that had passed me, while still running uphill, chugging along at my slothfully consistent pace.

The peak of that hill was definitely the high point of the race, both figuratively and literally. It was early enough in the race that I didn’t feel run down, the views were great and I had a big downhill ahead of me. I even saw a handful of moose running across a neighboring field.

Estes-Park-Half-Marathon

The much shorter hill at mile 6 felt much harder and so began the progression of things just feeling harder and harder. I made a choice to power walk the hill at mile 11. I also made a choice to run all of mile 12, a doesn’t-really-qualify-as-a-hill <1% grade ramp that felt like death. 

But my body defied me and slowed to a walk at mile almost 13. And I felt pretty wrecked afterwards. My knees stopped aching yesterday, but my calves are still super tight. 

Overall I’m really happy with how I ran. I don’t think I could’ve paced it any better. I ran the second half about 7 minutes faster than the first, despite feeling like I had slowed to a crawl. I didn’t really bonk. It just got hard.

With a bit more training I think I’ll be able to subdue the hard in the second half. We’ll see. This was the first race in the Colorado Mountain Half Marathon Series. Next up is Georgetown to Idaho Springs in August.

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Running 100 Miles is Totally Reasonable

Grand-Trail-Book

I just devoured this book: Grand Trail by Alexis and Frederic Berg. It’s a combination of articles on ultra trail running, profiles of ultra trail runners and races and tons of phenomenal pictures.

One article talks about how we are born to run. That we as a species survived and thrived largely because our bodies are built for long distance running. Our ancestors out ran their prey. It was our evolutionary advantage. To put this in perspective the following example is used:

“Over a distance of 100 meters, Usain Bolt, the king of sprint races, would come a poor second to a rat or even a squirrel. Conversely, on terra firma, no mammal and no primate can keep up with a man or a woman after several hours of effort, not even the horse, dog or the camel.”

This isn’t the first time I’ve read this. I was introduced to the concept through Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run. (A must read whether you’re interested in running or not.) And I’ve been reminded of it periodically, through articles like this one, published in Smithsonian Magazine, about a family that lived in Siberia for 40 years, cut off from all human contact.

“Lacking guns and even bows, they could hunt only by digging traps or pursuing prey across the mountains until the animals collapsed from exhaustion. Dmitry built up astonishing endurance, and could hunt barefoot in winter, sometimes returning to the hut after several days, having slept in the open in 40 degrees of frost, a young elk across his shoulders.”

You read enough of this stuff and running 100 miles, with over 33,000 ft of elevation gain, at an average altitude of 11,000 ft (as is the case for the Hardrock 100) starts to seem like a perfectly reasonable idea.

Okay, that’s a lie.

But a 50K or even a 50 miler on trails, with the unavoidable ups and downs in elevation, is beginning to feel more “doable” than “crazy”. So much so that I’ve set a goal. I’ve alluded to it a couple times and now here I am just putting it out there.

I don’t have a race picked out and I wouldn’t say I’m training for one yet. It’s still that far out there. I don’t even know with certainty that my body will be up for it. But I’m optimistic, and I’m more than headed down the path. I’m running.

I went for a 12 mile trail run this past weekend. Within minutes a herd of tall and lean young men darted past me, almost flying over a small stream crossing our path. I very cautiously found a route across the same stream while they disappeared between the trees. Soon thereafter I almost ran into another man while he tried to pass me. I hadn’t even covered 2 miles and was already walking an uphill stretch. He snuck up on me so fast I didn’t even hear him coming.

I’m choosing not to feel discouraged. I have to start somewhere, right? And I haven’t had to poop in the woods yet. What more can I really ask for at this point?

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Today We Run

Green-Mountain-Trail

The sky is overcast. That seems to be the afternoon norm these days. Big Girl and Baby Girl are fighting over a blow up bat decorated in superheroes. Or with the bat. I can’t be sure. Probably both.

Yesterday, I happened to notice that the bottom corner of our shower curtain is covered in mold. Perhaps I would’ve noticed it sooner if I ever showered. I should probably wash it. Which reminds me. I’m down to my last pair of clean underwear.

My husband just informed me that Baby Girl threw up. Wonderful. And shocking because robots don’t throw up. That would actually make sense if you had heard her chanting, “I am a robot,” all weekend ad nauseam.

I feel a little sick to my stomach too. Not because I’m sick. I hope. But because I ate a little too much pizza and ice cream this afternoon. All I really want to do right now is take a nap and divert all my energy to my digestive tract.

But I need to go for a run.

This is where progress is made. This is the meaning of training. Runners don’t become runners by accident. We don’t just happen to get faster or run farther. We get there through one seemingly small decision after another. Not to take a nap. Not to do the laundry. Today we run.

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I Was a Bad Mom on Mother’s Day

Colorado-Women's-Classic-Finish

I ran the Colorado Women’s Classic 10 miler on Mother’s Day. Big Girl ran the kid’s fun run. She did well and ran the whole 100 yards or so. And then she got a cupcake. So she should’ve been set, right?

Turns out she didn’t get her fix with the 100 yards or so. When Big Girl saw me near the finish she jumped into action and came charging after me down the finish chute yelling, “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!” A good mother would’ve slowed down and ran with her. That would’ve been the motherly thing to do on Mother’s Day.

But that’s not what I did. Nope. I just kept right on going, fully aware that she would not be able to keep up with me. I didn’t even turn around until I stopped my watch. I prioritized my finish time over my daughter. I was a bad mom.

Oh well.

The race went pretty well. I felt strong throughout the first half. And then it got hard.

I blame my husband.

I voice texted him so he’d know when-ish to look for me at the finish line. But it took like 7 tries and happened to take place on a downhill. So I ended up with a side cramp. Fortunately it didn’t last too long. It went away as soon as I stopped swearing at my phone and focused on my breath. The course veered to the left right around that time, and I turned straight into a headwind.

That felt hard. A client of mine recently commented on how she didn’t fully realize how hard the end of a race would be. And you know what? It’s been so long since I really raced that I think I actually sort of forgot. The course was basically flat, but the few “speed bumps” in the second half felt like mountains.

But I gave it my all and got it done. Right up through my solo sprint to the finish.

Colorado-Women's-Classic

Part of me feels embarrassed that a 9:49 min/mile pace felt as hard as it did. I sort of didn’t want to tell you that. Now that I’m coaching I feel like I’m supposed to be really fast. Definitely faster than my clients, right? Well, I’m not. Not even close. But like my old therapist used to say, “I wonder how helpful it is to compare…”

Answer: It’s not.

So I’m reminding myself that running fast and being a good coach require two completely different skill sets. And I’m reminding myself that it wasn’t that long ago that I was sidelined with a knee injury. It will take time to build my base back up. And I’m reminding myself of my goals.

I’m working towards a really big running goal right now. It’s big enough and scary enough and far enough away that I’m hesitant to write it down right now. But I will tell you that it doesn’t include speeding up.

I guess I should have reminded myself of these things while I was running. Maybe I would’ve waited for Big Girl. I hope she doesn’t think I’m a bad mom.

Eh, I gave her a rose and my chocolate milk. She’ll be alright.

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You Know That Thing You Want to Do? What’s Stopping You?

I’m running the Colorado’s Women’s Classic 10 mile race on Mother’s Day. It’s been awhile since I did a race so I’m feeling a mix of nervous and excited. A friend of mine registered months ago. It took me a lot longer. Then one day she asked me, “What’s stopping you?” Those probably weren’t her exact words, but that was the gist.

And I thought to myself, “Ohhhhh, good one. What is stopping me?”

My default answer was, “I don’t know if I’ll be ready.” But if I’m honest with myself I know I can run 10 miles. What I don’t know is how long it will take me. I really don’t know. But it will likely be much slower than I want it to be. I decided that was a silly reason to miss out and signed up.

Within a week of registering for the Colorado Women’s Classic I told my husband I was thinking about signing up for the Georgetown to Idaho Springs Half Marathon in August. I’ve wanted to do it for years but living in California proved too much of a barrier. He responded with something along the lines of, “Do it. What’s stopping you?”

And I thought to myself, “Damn. What is stopping me?”

Fear of commitment. I was registered and about halfway through training for the Napa Valley Marathon when my mom was diagnosed with cancer in November 2015. We decided to move and I knew I couldn’t commit to training in the middle of life. I was finally building my base back up and looking at a handful of races last summer when I hurt my knee. It seems like every time I start to get serious something comes along to derail me. So I’m afraid to commit.

But then the next day we were chatting with our neighbors and one of them asked me if I had any races coming up. “You should try the Georgetown to Idaho Springs Half Marathon,” he said to me.

Holy coincidence! “I was just talking about that one yesterday,” I said.

You know what he said? Of course you do. Some variation of, “What’s stopping you?”

So I sat with that for a couple weeks. What is stopping me? Fear. Fear I’ll have to back out for some unforeseeable reason. Fear my ego won’t be able to handle my pace. Oh fear, you tricky little bastard.

This morning I put fear in timeout and took care of business. I am now financially committed to and looking forward to a fun filled summer running the Colorado Mountain Half Marathon Series. (I’m such a sucker for an extra medal.)

Colorado-Mountain-Half-Marathon-Series

 

You know that thing you want to do? Start running? Try yoga? Change careers? Big or small, we all have a thing. Whatever yours is. What’s stopping you?

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I’m Grumpy! And Don’t Try to Stop Me.

 

Grumpy-Big-Girl

I’ve been feeling stressed, completely maxed out, burnt out and grumpy. Especially grumpy. I’ve been extra impatient with the girls all week and especially with Big Girl who, never a model pottier, seems to have forgotten how to use the toilet all together. She wets her pants at least once a day. At age 5!

We’ve had several serious talks about it this week, during which I have expressed my concern that all the kids will make fun of her when she starts kindergarten in the fall. I felt like I really got through to her. She said she was worried. And then she peed her pants 20 minutes later.

Yesterday morning the doorbell rang and she ran to answer it, naked from the waist down. (Don’t worry. It was only Grandma.) Because I figure it’s time to redo potty training. And, also, I just can’t deal with all that laundry.

My husband “helped” with the laundry last weekend. He put the clothes in the machines and pushed the buttons, but he didn’t actually put anything away. Thursday morning I could only find one pair of pants for Big Girl in the volcano of clean laundry that erupted and coated the entirety of our bedroom floor.

I figured I’d better throw a load in the wash so we’d have at least 10 pairs on hand for the weekend, but was deterred by a load of my own clothes sitting the machine. Remnants of my husband’s helping hand, a week old, damp and smelling like mold.

He forgot to put them in the dryer. It’s an honest mistake. I can’t blame him. But this week has felt like one unexpected crisis after another.

First there was a miscommunication with my husband that led to a frantic search for last minute childcare. Then the science museum decided summer camp immunization cards were due 2 weeks earlier than originally advertised and added some extra requirements to go with it. Then there was a technical glitch on my website that I didn’t anticipate and sucked up all of Thursday morning. Then there was an issue transferring money from an IRA in my Dad’s name into my Mom’s name that I had to suddenly deal with yesterday morning. Because understanding financial transactions are just not one of my Mom’s talents, and the law office we’re paying to manage this stuff doesn’t appear able to manage it either.

Did you actually read that last paragraph? I don’t blame you if you skimmed over it. It’s not an enjoyable read. Nor was it enjoyable to live.

There was a lot of discussion Wednesday evening at Yoga Teacher Training on the topic of non-attachment. This idea that we let go of expectations and let any unexpected turn of events just sort of roll off our backs.

Well, I’m clearly no good at this. All of this week’s unexpected work made my grumpy! I’m also feeling entitled, like I deserve to be grumpy. I don’t want anyone telling me that I should let go of these unpleasant feelings. I will eventually get over it. But it will be on my own timeline, thank you very much.

I went for a 6 mile run Thursday night. I felt more calm, more patient, more content and at ease with life during the few hours after that run than I did the whole rest of the week. Running makes me feel better. But listen. I’m not going to tell you that this is how you will feel or should feel after a run. You just do your thing and figure out what works for you on your own timeline.

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5 Simple Ways to Improve Running Form

Running-Form

How about a little truth, friends? I usually sort of roll my eyes at running form. I’m a long distance runner, after all. I’m not looking to shave seconds off a race time. And I mostly believe the best way to get better at running is to run. But I’ve been applying a lot of my yoga training off my mat (and in my running shoes) lately, and there’s a few things I’d like to share.

What I like about these tips is they don’t require extra time for an extra workout or any special skills. All you really have to do is bring awareness, or mindfulness, to your body while you’re already running. Even then, I would recommend focusing on your running form only periodically throughout your run. For example, for a few minutes at the beginning and end of a short run or at the beginning of each mile during a long run. During the in between moments, breathe, relax and enjoy!

Relax the elbows and the fists

I often joke that I try to do yoga with my jaw and run with my fists. Whether it’s the jaw or the fist, clenching uses up a lot of energy that can be put to better use somewhere else in the body. So relax those fists! Give them a good shake. And notice if that tension has seeped up to the elbows. Chances are something less than 90 degrees is doing more harm than good.

Roll the shoulders down and back

And while we’re focused on the arms, go ahead and roll them down onto the back a couple times. If this sounds like a yoga cue, that’s because it is. It helps to neutralize the spine, something that’s just as important in running. Do you run with a jogging stroller? Do this 10 more times.

Look up

If you’re running on a technical trail this might not work. But if the ground beneath your feet is fairly predictable, go ahead and look up. Relaxing the arms, rolling the shoulders onto the back and looking up opens the chest up to breathe. Looking up also has a psychological effect. For me anyway. It helps me focus less on the physical challenges of running and begin to appreciate the world around me.

Engage the lower abdominals

My belly likes to flop out in front of me and drag my pelvis with it. I blame my girls and their stay in my uterus, and I don’t think I’m alone in this. Just to be clear – this has nothing to do with how much padding is on top of our abdominal muscles. Gently engaging the lower abdominals helps lift the front/top of the pelvis, remove any overarch in the lower back and reduces the stress on the lumbar spine.

If engaging the lower abdominals makes it harder to breathe or causes you to tuck the tailbone you’ve probably gone too far. So ease up a bit. All we’re doing here is bringing some awareness to the abdominals and the role they play in proper running form.

Activate the outer hip/butt muscles

I pulled my left outer hip/butt muscle about 10 years ago, and it’s always sort of lurking there in the background. I know my outer hip/butt muscles are weaker than my inner thighs. I also know this is pretty common. Inflexible inner thighs and weak outer hip/butt muscles can cause the thigh bones and knees to turn in while running and can potentially contribute to or aggravate existing Illiotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS).

Even if you’ve never experienced ITBS it can’t hurt to bring extra awareness to the outer hip/butt muscles while running. All you really have to do is think about them. The effect is shocking and feels almost magical, especially when running uphill. I feel like I’m tapping into a hidden reserve of energy. On flat ground I find it’s impossible to NOT speed up. The trick is to then slow back down to an easy pace without losing the activity in the outer hip/butt muscles.

What do you do to improve running form? If the answer is nothing, don’t worry. Getting out for a run is an accomplishment in and of itself.

Photo Credit: Happy running by bradhoc is licensed under CC by 2.0 / Cropped and text added to original

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The Yoga in Running

Red-Maple-Tree

Sometimes I think there’s more yoga in running than in actual yoga.

I have a little bone to pick with yoga.

But before I go there I need to pre-apologize. I love yoga. I really do. It’s healing and transformational and life changing and about so much more than the physical postures. Yeah, yeah, yeah. All those things.

But it’s also a little judgey.

I know what you’re thinking. “No way! You don’t understand yoga at all, Laura! If that’s what you think than you don’t understand yoga at all!”

Because that’s what we talk about in the yoga world. How yoga is misunderstood. How Western culture has turned yoga into a fitness program, a perky butt in a pair of $100 spandex pants. We talk about how so many people practice yoga without realizing that it’s also about how we live our lives off the mat. It’s about the connection between the mind, body and spirit. About our connection to whatever we believe in that sort of feels like what you might call God.

And it’s true. A lot of people really only see yoga as exercise. That’s how they approach their practice. As exercise. But that’s not the only way to do it.

It’s all in the approach really.

*     *     *

Last Thursday night I couldn’t sleep. For no real conscious reason. As I lay in bed I thought about our house back in California. I thought about the Japanese maple tree in our backyard. I remembered standing in our kitchen just after we moved in. Looking out at it through the tall glass panes of our french doors. How remarkably beautiful its bright red leaves looked against the morning fog. I remembered the first spring I noticed a single red rose peeking over our fence from the kitchen window.

Red-Rose-Fence

I laid awake and remembered these things and wondered why I couldn’t sleep.

*     *     *

Saturday morning I went for an 8 mile run, a distance I consider long at this point in my life. It hasn’t always been and it won’t always be. But right now it’s long. So I took it easy. After a couple miles I had settled into a comfortable rhythm, my breath easy, steady. I don’t wear a heart rate monitor or a GPS watch these days, but I’m sure my pace and effort level were consistent.

I don’t remember what I was thinking about. Not much I suspect. When I turned a corner and felt a rush of emotion. I thought of the early morning runs with my running buddy back in California. Chatting about work and husbands and children, all the celebrations and uncertainties of life. I remembered running alongside her in the Benicia Run for Education in April 2014. I was working through a flare-up of an old injury and she was feeling tired so we walked a lot of the race that day.

She was diagnosed with terminal cancer just a few months later and passed away a few months before we moved to Colorado. You could call it her spirit, if you believe in that sort of thing, riding the wind, checking in on her loved ones. Or blame it on the memory, my brain, the right hormonal cocktail. But for a moment I felt like she was running beside me.

Tears came to my eyes and I let them flow as we ran together. I told her about how I missed my tree and that rose bush, her companionship and my old life. Even though I really love my new life. I really do.

She told me there’s been a lot of change. Good or bad. Change is hard. Go easy on yourself.

Then she was gone, as suddenly as she appeared. And I kept running. One foot in front of the other, same as before.

*     *     *

Later that day we learned about the Prana Vayu in Yoga Teacher Training. Different words to describe a concept we’ve already gone over. The idea that the breath is the connection between the body and the mind, the path to meditation and enlightenment.

I can appreciate this lesson because I’ve experienced it. Through running of course. Yoga is giving me language to describe what my running body already knows.

You see, it’s nearly impossible to run without breath awareness. And once a certain level of base fitness is established the breath flows easily, synchronized with the rhythm of the legs. Running at an easy, consistent pace is by definition a moving mantra. A meditationRunning at an easy, consistent pace is by definition a moving mantra. A meditation. Click To Tweet

That’s when we get to all the juicy stuff. The wisdom to understand our emotions. The ability to process and clear them from our body. A feeling of connection to something outside of ourselves.

So why is it then? Why do I feel like yoga judges running so harshly?

I suppose it’s all just a misunderstanding. Our culture has turned running into a fitness program. We beat our bodies and joints into the ground in order to get thinner, faster, better. But that’s not the only way to do it.

It’s all in the approach really.

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15 Things That Are Harder Than a Marathon

Airplane-Harder-Than-A-Marathon

The last 2 weeks of my life have been a marathon. Scratch that. Harder than a marathon.

  1. Finding a cupcake in Manhattan.
  2. Vacationing with a vomiting toddler.
  3. Discovering 1/2 hour before you were to leave for a wedding that your husband did not pack the dress you intended to wear (even though you specifically asked him to pack it and only one other item).
  4. Discovering that the Express around the corner from your hotel does not sell dresses because, well, PANDA.
  5. Flying from New York City to Denver with a vomiting toddler.
  6. Flying from New York City to Denver with a vomiting toddler and a vomiting preschooler.
  7. Flying from New York City to Denver with a vomiting toddler and a vomiting preschooler, while vomiting yourself.
  8. Auditioning for Listen to Your Mother via FaceTime because your husband is out of town and everyone is still sick.
  9. Learning that you did not get into Listen to Your Mother.
  10. Dealing with your preschooler’s 1 millionth tantrum.
  11. Dealing with your preschooler’s 1 millionth tantrum alone because your husband is still out of town.
  12. Realizing that the stomach bug didn’t actually go away. It was just silently lurking for a few days, waiting for an opportune time to initiate your next spontaneous cleanse.
  13. Watching 4 kids aged 5 and under for 9 hours.
  14. Watching 4 kids aged 5 and under for 9 hours DURING THE CLEANSE.
  15. Not running at all because your body just can’t handle it.

This is real life friends. It’s harder than a marathon. Shit happens. In my case quite literally, as it turns out. But I got through it and I’m planning on a run this afternoon. Yoga tomorrow, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Shit happens. In my case quite literally, as it turns out. Click To Tweet

What’s your plan? Do you or someone you know need help building one? My bio says I’m not an elite runner. (I’m not.) But I do happen to have a lot of experience figuring out how to make running happen in the middle of real life. And I’m looking for 2 new Personal Run Coaching clients. Check out the FAQ or ask me a question if you’re kind of interested but not yet ready to commit.

Photo Credit: Airplane by Sean MacEntee is licensed under CC BY 2.0 / Cropped and text added to original

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Getting Out There is Hard, Even for a Running Coach

This running coach understands it’s hard to get out there. And I’m accepting new clients.

This past Saturday my Big Girl turned 5! She starts kindergarten this fall. KINDERGARTEN! How did this happen??? Soon she will learn how to read and write. She will no longer be impressed with my ability to add 100 and 100 together quickly and IN MY HEAD. Before I know it she’ll be able to legitimately beat me in a 2K race. I mean, really, look at this girl go.

In the spirit of full disclosure I will share that it was challenging getting up and out Saturday morning for the Race My Toddler Virtual 2K. We all stayed up late Friday night drinking wine, watching Sesame Street and catching up with friends visiting from out of town. So naturally Big Girl tried really hard to sleep in – for the first time in her entire life – Saturday morning.

It was a good reminder that it really can be really hard to get out there, even for a 1.24 mile walk. And even for a running coach. But then, of course, it was great. Getting outside and moving felt great. How was it for you? Do you need more movement in your life? Do you want to break up your week with some walking and maybe even a little bit of running? Do you want to build or grow a running routine safely and effectively? I would love to work with you.

I opened up two Personal Run Coaching slots this morning. You can read more about what a running coach is and why you would want one here. If you still have questions check out the FAQ page or please don’t hesitate to Contact Me.