For My Role Mama

This week, Oiselle is celebrating moms and which inspired me to go a little bit beyond the “best mom ever” Instagram post to honor mine.

On this day, an undisclosed number of years ago, superwoman was born. I call her mom. You can call her Cathy.

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Growing up, my mom was always active. I swear, the woman never stopped moving (still hasn’t stopped). By day she’d chase the children she provided daycare for around our back yard and by night she’d instruct countless aerobics classes out of the studio she owned. I’d watch (and try to keep up), as she jumped around the room shouting motivating anecdotes into a microphone without ever stopping to take a breath. Richard Simmons can’t hold a candle to her. From a very young age, my mom has shown me what it looks like to be an active woman, confident in her own skin and in control of her health.

Around the time I was nine or ten, she decided to seek out self-defense training to better teach women how to be confident in the skills necessary to protect oneself from an attack. A year later, I no longer watched her from the back of an aerobics studio, instead, I watched her from the outside of the karate floor. Soon, I joined her. Before too long, my mom had climbed her way through the ranks and I sat in awe as she had a black belt tied around her waist for the first time. For years I trained and competed, side by side with my mother, a unique experience I will always cherish. Now, she’s a master of Tang Soo Do and the owner of her own school. She teaches children and adults of all ages self-defense skills, respect, self-confidence, discipline, and a slew of other hard to come by characteristics. My mom has shown me what it looks like to take risks, be in charge, lead with grace, and exude strength.  

I don’t believe my mom got serious about running until I got serious about running in ninth or tenth grade, but when she puts her mind to something she’s all in. By my freshman year of college, I was standing at mile twenty-five of the Corning Wineglass Marathon cheering her to the finish. Four years later, I was standing at the starting line of the very same marathon next to her. Running my first marathon alongside my mom is something I feel incredibly privileged to have shared. Despite five knee surgeries, she keeps going, winning her division in a 5k just a few weeks ago. She makes the Energizer Bunny look pathetic. Through running my mom has shown me what resilience, pride, and humility look like.

From college track meets to Boston Marathon’s, she’s been my cheerleader for it all. She’s brought me champagne after a marathon PR and tissues after a marathon disaster. No matter what, she always tells me she’s proud. She reassures me when I call her crying stressed about work, school, money, friends, or running and she threatens any guy who ever makes me feel worthless. I cannot think of a time when I turned to my mom and she wasn’t there ready to support me unconditionally. My mom has shown me what it looks like to be a dedicated, loving, and selfless mother.

Through it all, she has never put herself first. I wish she would take the time to treat herself as number one but her heart is just too big. Not only is she my number one fan but she’s the number one fan of my sister, my niece, her karate student’s, and students she works with at school. She gives a little piece of herself to everyone she meets and it’s hard not to feel inspired when you’re around her. I’ve seen her hurt and it kills me, but I can only hope to live my life in a way that makes her proud and brings her joy. I am so honored to have the privilege of being her daughter.
Mom, thank you for dedicating the past 25 years of your life to inspiring me and others. You will never understand how much you have taught me or the way you influence my daily life. I am in constant awe of all you do and I could not ask for a better role mama. I’ll come home soon so we can drink wine and watch Lifetime movies. Happy birthday, I love you.

Love For the Run

On this morning’s long run I was overwhelmed with an intense sense of gratitude. Gratitude for my health, my sport, my people, and my life in general.

I had twenty miles on the schedule today, my last long run before Boston, and although I know I’m capable there’s always some anxiety about running farther than you have in months. Initially, I was bummed and weary because I’d be flying solo today and the idea of being on the roads alone for over two and a half hours felt daunting. Fortunately, I quickly reframed my thinking. I realized today’s run was my first solo long run since my ‘official’ (I use that term very loosely) Boston training kicked off. I’ve been lucky enough to have company for every single long run I’ve embarked on over the past ten(ish) weeks. I’ve had a badass lady gang by my side for the most relaxed eighteen miler I’ve ever experienced, as well as the worst twelve miler of my life (which included two miles of run-walking just to make it back to my car), and for everything in between. I’ve made many new friends on those runs and deepened friendships that were still pretty new a few months ago. Running alone this morning allowed me to appreciate how privileged I am to be surrounded by the ridiculously supportive running community that I have.

 

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In constant awe of the cherry blossoms literring my run with petals

 

This morning’s running offered me a unique opportunity to reflect on the training I’ve completed over the past few months and truly appreciate how far I’ve come since being sidelined for three months with an injury. A year ago I was doing the same thing, running twenty miles in preparation for Marathon Monday but it was a completely different experience. A year ago, I ran every run fast, it didn’t matter how short or long the run was, in my mind, I had to hit a certain pace or I wasn’t working hard enough. This constant need to meet the expectation I set for myself led to overtraining. I vividly remember the pain I felt in my hamstring during those last couple of long runs leading up to Patriot’s Day in 2016. I told myself it was nothing because if I was injured I wouldn’t be able to manage twenty miles. But despite successful (albeit painful) training runs, I was injured. Today I learned what twenty miles on a training run should really feel like and it feels pretty damn good. 

A year ago I may have been training harder but now I’m training smarter and my body is saying “thank you”.

This time last year I had no interest in fueling or hydrating during my long runs. I let myself believe that if I could survive a twenty mile training run with no water and no fuel, that meant I was pretty badass. Now I think it meant I was pretty stupid. Thankfully, I took a nutrition class in the fall and learning the science behind what’s happening to my body during a long run motivated me to take hydration and fuel seriously. To my surprise, I made it to mile twenty today without spasming calves or an intense craving for gallons of fruit punch.

It’s amazing what happens when you give your body what it needs.

Finally, I felt gratitude for the strength I felt in my legs and my lungs. I was intensely appreciative of the ability my legs have to carry me around my city for 20 miles. I never once thought about how many calories I was burning and whether or not my stomach looked flat in the new tank top I was wearing. I was thankful for the Lane 9 Project and the fierce women I’m working with who have encouraged me to be stronger and more appreciative of my body everyday.

Today I felt more appreciation for my sport than I’ve felt in a long time. I finished my run proud, exhausted, strong, and smiling. I was overcome with self-love as I took those last few steps and I cannot think of anything better to gain from marathon training.

November Project DC, Thank You.

November 26th, 2014, 6:29 a.m. (Err, like 6:35 probably)

It was raining. That cold, miserable, one degree away from being snow, kind of rain. Fingers and toes numb as I ran along Constitution Avenue in the direction of the Lincoln Memorial. A few weeks earlier I’d been told about ‘November Project’ and was now headed to my first workout. I thought it sounded fun, but I was hesitant, wary the workout would be too easy (good one, past self).  

I guess we showed up late because I don’t remember a bounce (missed my chance to yell “Fuck Yeah” before I’d even had my morning coffee). I soon learned it was ‘PR Day’ and we’d be running 17 Lincoln Logs (up and down the steps of the Lincoln Memorial), as fast as possible. I was awful at running down the stairs (still am), paranoid of tripping over my own feet (again, still am), but my determination prevailed and I was among the first finishers. I stood with the others contemplating whether I’d miscounted, while cheering on those still running, until the very last runner finished. I felt like I was back with my college team, sending my teammates to the finish line, despite the fact I didn’t know a damn soul. When the final runner descended the bottom steps, we posed for a picture before I shiver-jogged my way to the shower and headed to New York for Thanksgiving. Wednesday, earned.

After that first workout I didn’t make it again until a snow day sometime in January, at the time I left for work by 6:30, so even the 5:30 workout was out of the question. I came sporadically when I could but definitely did not consider myself part of the tribe. I felt like a bit of an outsider when I managed to make it, but something kept pulling my back.

 

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Not my 1st workout, but a workout. Photo Credit: November Project DC

 

Fast forward to January 2016. I was in training for the Boston Marathon and no longer leaving for work at 6:30 a.m. I decided I wanted to become an NP regular, rather than the sporadic visitor I’d been for over a year. I wanted  NPDC to be my tribe, I wanted these members to be my friends. So, Wednesday after Wednesday, I set my alarm for 4:45, got my butt outta bed and joined the 5:30 crew. Slowly, I started to learn people’s names and to my surprise, people remembered me too. As the weeks went by, 4:45 became more routine, the workouts became more fun, and I felt an inch closer to being part of the tribe. After Boston, I got injured and was sidelined from June until September, but found myself on the steps as soon as I was back in commission. I finally deemed myself a (Wednesday) regular.

None of this is life altering and I didn’t think I had a November Project story to tell. I didn’t think I was in deep enough or a significant enough member of the tribe for my story to be valid. But as I realized how bummed I was to miss this Wednesday’s workout due to illness and how much I was looking forward to next week, it registered to me that NP is a bigger part of my life than I was aware.

I have not given November Project DC, its leaders, and the tribe the credit it deserves. When I showed up at that first workout, I was still a former collegiate athlete, struggling with disordered eating and grappling with very little self-worth. I didn’t see myself as a strong, capable woman, who also happens to run pretty well.

At the time, I still believed my value was determined by my PR time or my waist size. Now I realize, November Project undoubtedly contributed to and accelerated, my recovery.

At November Project, people applaud your PR’s and celebrate your successes, but the tribe knows you’re so much more than that. If you told a single member of NP you don’t feel fast enough, or thin enough, or smart enough, or whatever enough, without missing a beat they’ll call bullshit and remind you that you’re FUCKING BEAUTIFUL. And they won’t just say it, they’ll genuinely mean it. I’ve finally figured out, this is what kept pulling me back to the stairs before dawn. I couldn’t see it in the beginning, but the tribe was reframing my way of thinking, giving me back my self-worth, and pushing me down the road to recovery.

November Project is a beautiful place. A place where nobody gives a shit how fast your 5k is. No one cares if you run 70-mile weeks or 7-mile weeks. It doesn’t matter if you’re a size 2 or a size 20. If you show up, you belong. If you show up, 10 or 50 or 200 other people that decided to show up that morning will cheer you on until the very last step. The fastest member of the workout and the slowest member of the workout will high-5 each lap because no one is ever more than half a lap of away. November Project is a place to grow, to make friends, to give hugs and strange ear massages, to lose weight, to gain strength, to get faster, to unwind, to socialize, to explore.

November Project is exactly what you need it to be.

For me, November Project is a place to recover. November Project DC, thank you.

 

Words for Women

We live life like there’s an algorithm to determine our value

A formula; weight times pants size, plot it on a graph and there’s your worth

We praise beautiful women for flawless skin and perfect curves

but silence the same women if they dare to open their mouths and disagree

We call little girls bossy but little boys leaders

and teach girls that if a boy teases her, it’s because he likes you

We harass women who bare skin while shaming those who choose to cover up

We teach boys that disrespecting women is an expectation and their right

But we can break the cycle

Honor and uplift the women that surround you

Listen to their words and feel their strength

Thank your mom, sister, daughter, spouse, teacher, or best friend

You are the revolution

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My mom, one seriously incredible woman

Originally published here.

 

View story at Medium.com

A Lesson in Recovery

A Lesson in Recovery

Again and again, I’ve fallen victim to the trap of training too hard and recovering too little. As a result, I’ve succumbed to multiple injuries over the years. I’ve experienced the consequences of neglecting rest and recovery, but until today, I hadn’t truly experienced the benefits from prioritizing it. 

A couple of weeks ago, my long run was a 16-miler. It was nothing to write home about, but it went well. I came home, stretched, had a bagel and chocolate milk, then hopped in the shower. Up until that point, I’d done the right things, after that, I threw recovery out the window. I headed out of town for the night with nothing but a pair of heeled booties, I didn’t eat again until dinner, and I greatly neglected my hydration. The next day I was tired and sore. That morning, I headed out for my easy run, that wasn’t all that easy and later, some unseasonably warm weather and a Monday off led to a few too many glasses of sangria. On Monday, I repeated Sunday’s mistake and ran even harder. By the time the week’s first real workout rolled around on Tuesday, my body felt like garbage.

I felt like crap the whole week; heavy legs and aching joints. When I got to Saturday’s long run of 12.5 miles, far less than the week before, my body was begging for a break, but I pressed on and ran what turned out to be 12 of the most miserable miles of my life. The run was so rough by mile 9 that I walk-ran the last three miles, something I’ve never had to do. At that point, I began to recall the past week and pinpoint why I felt so bad; it quickly became apparent. I didn’t take care of myself in the hours and days after my long run, and I was paying for it. Right then, I vowed to focus the coming week’s energy on rest and recovery, so I’d be ready for today’s 18-miler.

This past week I’ve hydrated and I’ve eaten. I’ve had no more than one alcoholic drink in a sitting and I’ve foam-rolled daily. I ran Friday morning rather than Friday afternoon to increase recovery time before my morning long run. I made little choices every day in hope of maximizing my recovery and waking up with fresh legs.

I didn’t sleep well last night and I crawled out of bed this morning hesitant, worried about how the run would play out. As I began running towards Meridian Hill, where my running buddies would be waiting,  I immediately noticed that my legs felt fresh. I expected to feel this way until mile 8 or 9, but with each mile, I continued to evade the fatigue. Mile by mile flew by and I continued to feel like I’d just started. Finally, at mile 15 I said by to my running partner and headed towards my car. I feared I’d get tired, running alone the last few miles, but I put in my headphones and focused on relaxing. Those last 3 miles flew by and without realizing, my pace dropping significantly. When I was alerted by my phone I’d reached mile 18, I was actually disappointed. I felt great and I wasn’t ready to be done. Runner’s high. 

Last weekend was one of the worst long runs of my life and today, despite running 6 miles further, was one of the best. The difference between the runs was not fitness, motivation, shoes, or running partners, the difference was recovery. Today I was able to experience, for the first time, the tangible benefits of recovery and now, I’m convinced.  I’ve always had an “I’ll believe when I see it attitude” about recovery. Now, I’ve seen it and boy do I believe it. I wish I had this moment sooner, but from this day forward, my perspective on recovery is changed.

It’s Time to Talk About It

It’s National Eating Disorder Awareness Week and It’s Time to Talk About It. It’s time to share our stories and remove the stigma from mental illness and eating disorders. It’s time to talk about our struggles and share our recovery. It’s time to create a sense of community and empower others to embark on the road to recovery.

As I set off for my morning’s extra easy run after a rough week of marathon training, I was filled with inspiration. The Lane 9 project has officially been launched with the goal to educate, inspire, and empower active women about the Female Athlete Triad, amenorrhea, and disordered eating. With the creation of this project, a light has been brought to my life. I am passionate and hopeful about the future for women suffering from body image issues, disordered eating, and overexercising. The badass women I am working with are an inspiration and together we will create a movement that will change the path for so many active ladies. Head over to Lane 9 Project to see what we’re all about, be inspired, and join our community.

You are enough.

Running the Numbers

Running the Numbers

Runners are obsessed with numbers. We count miles, meters, minutes, steps, hills, workouts, and runs. We measure personal records, wind speed, temperature, heart rate, and weight. The sport is inundated with numbers.

Numbers have great value in running. Whether it’s time, distance, or place, numbers are the sole means of measuring our improvement in the sport. Numbers provide a training plan and can even keep us in check when we’re trying to do too much. But many of us become so shackled to the numbers that we never really just run. Dangerous habits develop when we run for the numbers rather than for the run.

In my experience, I’ve shed waterfalls of tears over the time on my watch. It sounds ridiculous saying it, but when you’ve placed your worth in the number on your wrist, you’ve got a lot riding on every run. I’ve deemed myself a failure for setting out to run 8 miles but calling it at 6, even though my body was down right exhausted. I’ve said things to myself I’d never dare say to someone I love just because the number on the scale increased by a pound from the day before.

I know one bad run doesn’t define success and I am aware that even a five-pound fluctuation on the scale is totally normally but when you’re bound to the numbers all logical thought flies out the window. When we chain ourselves to some shallow definition of success we never grant ourselves the chance to excel.

When the numbers start to suffocate you, take off your watch, close out your Strava, step away from the scale and take a breath. If you’re putting one foot in front of the other you are doing enough. There is plenty of time to run the numbers, it is foolish to do so every day.