We three kings of Orient are Bearing gifts we traverse afar: A Runner’s Christmas Wish List

Matthew 2:9-12

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

The shepherds might have been the first ones to the Christmas party, but the wise men started the tradition of giving gifts. My Christmas gift list isn’t on the caliber of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, but then, none of us are the Son of God. 🙂  I’ve made a list of some of my favorite running items and things that may help you (or your running buddies) with running and gift giving.

  1. Devoted Training Journal: I am biased here, but I love my Devoted Training Journal, and I think it would make a great gift for your running friends. The journal covers 4 months, which is perfect for a training cycle or the start of a new year goal.
  2. Milestone Pod: This little pod is such a fun running tool, and it really does help me with running. It’s extremely reasonable in price ($29.95), and you can use the code PodTeamMeridith33 for 33% off of your entire order until December 5th.
  3. Beauty Counter lip gloss: I have always liked running with something on my lips, and for longer runs, you really need a gloss that will last for a while. I found this Beauty Counter lip gloss, and I love that it is also safe for Cadence, who always wants to share. 🙂  There is a great special right now for 3 for $48. You can order from my friend here.
  4. Beachbody on Demand: I was really surprised by how much I like this subscription. I really haven’t used many of the strength programs (although they are great), but I do love the yoga programs! I do not have the time or the money to go to a yoga studio, but for $99 a year, this is a great option.  I signed up for my Beach Body subscription through Heather here.
  5. Shoes: If you are looking for a pair of shoes under the tree, I have had great success with Saucony. My favorite shoes are the Kinvara for racing and the Freedom for training. I always have more than one pair of shoes to rotate during the week. (And the Milestone Pod looks really good on a pair of shiny Sauconys. 🙂
  6. Books: I love to read and run on the treadmill, and I find that I can go through a lot of books that way. One of my all time favorite running books is Once a Runner (followed by the sequel Again to Carthage). It’s fiction, and it will make you love running and feel super motivated. I love everything by Matt Fitzgerald. He adds a lot of research to his writing, and everything is relatable.  I read 80/20 Running for the second time this year, and I used a lot of the training strategy for my San Francisco Marathon. If you like science and biology (for females), you will love ROAR. Finally, not running specific, but getting the heart and head in the right place makes everything better: Nothing to Prove.  And my favorite cookbook of the year is Wellness Mama Cookbook.
  7. Clothes: I ran the Gorge Waterfalls 100k in April, and it was supposed to be chilly and rainy. I bought the Patagonia Houdini at the recommendation of a friend, and it was the PERFECT jacket for the weather. Super light and perfect breathability. For general running clothes, I love Rabbit clothes.  Get 10% off with this code.
  8. Nutrition: I started using the Juice Plus protein powder this year, and it is the best tasting protein powder I’ve ever tried. Plus, it is all plant-based, and I feel confident letting Cadence eat it. You can order yours here. If you just want a stocking stuffer, I love Honey Stinger waffles and Nuun.
  9. Recovery: I carry a Lacrosse ball in my purse and I keep them throughout the house. This is such a great way to recover! For my birthday this year, my husband surprised me with a Boom stick. It’s the kind of recovery that hurts so good and gets so deep!
  10. For your training buddy: If you have followed me for more than a minute, you know that I love the Thule Urban Glide for stroller running. I also love our Kelty hiking pack for cross training hikes with Cadence. We got our pack off of Craigslist, but you can find a new one here.

It’s easy to lose focus at Christmas time with all of the lights, presents, and parties.  At the end of the day, God gave us the best gift when he sent his Son to this earth. Merry Christmas everyone!

What’s on your Christmas wishlist?

Race Report: Silver Comet Marathon

The whole week leading up to the Silver Comet Marathon and for many of the miles DURING the marathon, I was thinking that I never wanted to sign up for another race. Haha. So much stress anticipating race day when you have worked so hard for a goal! But I’m so glad that I keep racing and pursuing big goals. It’s so satisfying and we grow so much from the journey.

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Leading up to the race. Weather reports leading up to race day were not very promising, with thunderstorms predicted through race morning. I even searched alternative races for the following weekend just in case my race was canceled. Because of the predicted foul weather, Jon and I decided that it would be best for him to stay home with Cadence and join us for the finish. The course didn’t offer many places for fans to hang out, and with the rain, it would be pretty miserable for a toddler. Rain came through on Friday night to get everything wet, but it was not raining when I woke up. Just super humid.

Race check-in was uneventful (just how you want it on race day!), and I porta-pottied and jogged for a few minutes. I should have warmed up better, but it was either go to the bathroom or warm up. In line for the porta potties, I met one of my Instagram friends who had been messaging me about the race. She helped calm my nerves so much since Jon wasn’t there. So nice to see a familiar face!

Race Start. The start of the race was incredibly anticlimactic. We followed the race director out into the street and then the guy at the mic way far away yelled “Go!”. We all just stood there like, “What, go?!” Go! So off we went down the street!

Starting out didn’t feel difficult, but it didn’t feel super easy either. I don’t know that I’ve perfected the taper, and I surely know that I didn’t have a good adrenaline push at the start with that kind of send off. Thankfully it was not raining, but the temps were in the low 60s and humid. Also, the ground was very wet. We started out in the 6:30s paces. There were a few guys up front, and I found stride with a guy named Mike who was running the half marathon. I was so thankful for him because the morning was hazy and everything was so quiet. It was easy to get lulled into a slower pace. The RD made it clear that music was not allowed on the course, but I would have loved to have had a fast beat to keep me alert and moving fast on the course.

The half marathoners split off at mile 8, and I was sad to see Mike head on to his finish (where he PRd!). There were very few volunteers on the course, and many of them were not ready when I ran through. Water was placed on tables, but the volunteers did not stand up to hand it out, so I had to run under the tent on the side of the trail for water. I am thankful for the volunteers, but this was not ideal for hydrating. My nutrition was fine with a Honeystinger gel at ~mile 8 and ~mile 15, plus Honeystinger chews a bite at a time here and there. We had a few little rain showers throughout the morning, which helped cool me down, but they also made the ground slick again. There were also leaves and pine needles on the course, which weren’t ideal for fast running.

There was a little split off at mile 8.5 that I did not expect. I knew that our turnaround was at 15, so I was confused when we reached that point, and I waited for the guy behind me to catch up and confirm the direction. I didn’t lose much time, but it did make me lose momentum. Soon enough we were back on the course and headed to the mile 15 turnaround.

Halfway there! By mile 13, my paces started to consistently be in the 6:40s. My goal was to run in the 6:30s to 6:40s, so I didn’t mind the pace but I did not like it that I was declining so early in a race. My calves were pretty tight from the extra energy of running on a slick surface, and I was running completely alone, passing a few police officers, volunteers, and people out for a stroll. It was pretty challenging to stay focused and fast in the conditions, especially as my body started hurting. I really just wanted the race to be over, which is disappointing because I always want to enjoy my races. They are so short compared to the training leading up to them, and it’s fun (usually) to run fast!

I am thankful to the race participants and volunteers who cheered for me. It helped make a difficult race so much better! I started to REALLY slow down by mile 20. From 23-26.2, all of my paces were in the 7s and I couldn’t even pull out a fast finish at the end. My legs were so shot from the distance and slick surface. I am sure that part of the tiredness that I felt is just indicative of some of the areas that my training was lacking, but I do believe that the extra energy to run on a slick surface, as well as the warm and humid conditions, just made everything harder. I really could have used a cheer squad or music!

And the finish. I ended up finishing first female with a time of 2:57:40.  Seeing Jon and Cadence at the finish line was the best sight in the world! I love my family and the way that they support me. I did get a PR, but barely.  I am grateful to have at least PR’d, but I’m disappointed that I didn’t move the needle a little more.  I do think that on a different day (and potentially a different course) I can absolutely run faster. But when you race, you race in the conditions presented on race day. And we learn so much in the process!

The course itself was pretty decent. As described in the course description, the course was rolling hills. My Garmin tracked 756 ft of gain, which isn’t pancake flat, but it’s not San Francisco either. I like a little hill, and it was the only thing on the course to break up the monotony.

After I finished the race, we waited for my friend to finish 2nd female (which she later found out that she had pneumonia while racing and still getting 2nd!).  Then we grabbed pizza while we waited for the awards ceremony. I received a neat trophy, and chatted with the RD and her daughter.

The Silver Comet marathon is a great small local race. It’s organization is great. The trail is beautiful (although I prefer dryer conditions). For my next goal marathon, I think I’ll stick to more mainstream races that offer a few more of the perks like crowd support and a bigger running field.

 

I wrote a pre-race report here talking a little bit about my training over the last 12 weeks. It was a little uncoordinated, but I learned a lot and I found a better fit with training and family. I am so thankful for all of the support that I’ve received through this journey of running and motherhood and family. I’ve had some incredible friends who have made the journey that much more rewarding. Most of all, my husband is my hero. ❤

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Do you have your own personal cheer squad too? 🙂

Pre-Race Report to calm the nerves: the night before the Silver Comet Marathon

I’ve found that it’s kind of therapeutic for me to write a pre-race report, so here’s my pre-race report for the Silver Comet marathon. Why is it that writing things out always puts things into perspective?!

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Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been refining my goals for something practical given what I *think* is my current fitness level for my upcoming marathon. I think most people go through similar doubts during the taper when we start to visualize the race and realize how much work (and a little pain) are in front of us. In my head I haven’t done nearly enough. This training cycle is the first real training cycle where my goals were a bit more competitive but I didn’t have a coach. My previous training pretty much involved 100% intensity with my old coach, and that worked for me until I started to get injured.

This training cycle started out at a limp as I rotated cross training with running to try to protect my shins. I may not have gotten the speed that I wanted, but I also didn’t get a stress fracture. So I can consider that a little invisible victory. 🙂 I also wasn’t able to complete some of the “extras” that would help me with speed.

As I thought over this past training cycle, I was reminded that there is ALWAYS something that steals from the perfect training cycle, and that’s part of what makes us even more resilient. When it gets tough, we have to learn our bodies and improvise. So I’m going to consider this a successful training cycle, even before race day, because I learned different strategies for training, I learned some good recovery techniques for my shin, and I grew closer to God in the process.

Reading back through my training journal to the first week of training reminds me that I have put in the work with a variety of long running, intensity running, trail running, stroller running, cross training, and strength training. I’ve met new people along the way, and I’ve been able to run with some pretty incredible people.

So my Pre-race report is going to go ahead and call this training cycle a success. Now for my real goals.

  1. My ultimate marathon goal is an Olympic Trials Qualifier of 2:45. This is not my goal for this marathon, and I’m kind of excited for the opportunity to chip away at this goal. I got my sub 3 marathon on the first shot, and I kind of like the idea of working for an OTQ. (Not trying to sound insincere, it took me three shots trying to get a BQ–3:35:01, 3:37, 3:29. I know what it’s like to work for a time goal.)
  2. I would like to PR. My current best marathon time is a 2:58. I ran San Francisco in 3:01, and I think that I can do better on a flat course. You never know what race day will bring though.

And I had two process goals:

  1. Learn more about how I respond to different training strategies.
  2. And understand my body and it’s limits as I increase volume and prevent injuries.

Tomorrow’s weather is looking a bit rough with thunderstorms exactly when the race is supposed to start. My mind can’t help but think of all of the possible scenarios, but at the end of the day, I can’t do anything to help the weather and show up hoping to run.

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Thanks for following along on my training journey and good luck to all of the other racers!

 

Upgrading from 1 year to 2 years old

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Cadence turned 2 years old on September 29th, and I can still hardly believe that she’s grown so much. It seems like last year I was a newly postpartum momma trying to figure things out. But actually a lot has changed between last year and the year before. Here are the top 10 things that are different between Cadence’s first year and second year.
  1. It gets more fun. I thought that I’d miss my tiny little baby, but I love experiencing every new thing that Cadence learns. We seem to have accelerated as she’s learned to communicate better, and I love every sweet little syllable out of her mouth.
  2. Breastfeeding doesn’t have to stop at one year. In my head I thought we’d be stopping at one year because that’s kind of what society says. But Cadence never got the memo, and she’s kept up nursing like a champ. I stopped pumping at 16 months (I was donating milk to my sister’s adopted son), but Cadence kept up nursing after daycare, before bed, sometimes during the night, and in the morning. It works really well for us, and I love it.
  3. Daycare doesn’t get easier. In fact, I think it gets harder. Back to #1, this phase is more fun than ever, and Cadence is learning so much! It kind of breaks my heart that I am not as big of an influence on her little life as I’d like to be. She comes home singing songs that I don’t know, and she already knows her ABCs and 123s like a star.
  4. Sleep might not happen until Cadence leaves for college. Just kidding. But Cadence still doesn’t sleep through the night most nights. I’m getting waaaaay more sleep than I used to, and I’m really ok with getting up with her. There is nothing better than a sleepy baby in your arms, and she won’t be a baby very much longer. When Cadence was <1 year old, I felt guilty and judged that I couldn’t get my baby to sleep through the night. Now I embrace it and feel really confident in the way that we have chosen to parent.
  5. Training is still possible. So far, Cadence has just rolled with my schedule. She used to play in the pack and play while I ran, but these days, she mostly just sits there and reads. ❤ We sing in the stroller, and she points out all of the puppies. Training definitely looks different with a toddler, but it’s more than possible, and it’s actually a really fun experience (see #1).
  6. Goals can still be big. I chased a few big goals after Cadence turned one year old (sub 3 hour marathon, 100k in Oregon), and it was really good for me to have something outside of mom and office to pursue. It takes support from a wonderful spouse to make these dreams happen with a baby, but that makes it even more rewarding.
  7. Your support system changes. When I had a newborn, I was plugged into a breastfeeding group, and I attended postpartum workout classes. After the first year, there aren’t any types of groups for mommas to plug into, especially for working mommas. I’m so thankful for the support that I had as a new momma because there is surely a lot to learn, but I think it’s kind of interesting that we don’t have more support for mommas of toddlers. Maybe there would be more extended breastfeeding if that were the case?
  8. My friendships are richer now than they were before. Maybe as the support groups have faded away, I’ve started to depend more on my girlfriends, but I have a few key friendships that I depend on daily for support. I hope that every momma has this in their lives.
  9. Discipline is a thing you have to start thinking about. As perfect as Cadence is, she isn’t perfect. Haha. Toddlers start to understand discipline around the age of 18 months. We try to limit our “no” and redirect when possible, but if Cadence blatantly disobeys, we do timeout. This is partly for her protection. We need for her to obey if she’s in a dangerous situation. It’s also a way to set the tone for an easy relationship in our future.
  10. The people in Cadence’s life really matter.  They mattered when she was one, but now she knows them and she interacts with them. She’s a little sponge! I am so thankful that we found a daycare that we love. Cadence’s teachers love on her and teach her so much. Cadence also gets to see her grandparents all the time. It’s so special that she knows them and has a special relationship with them. It’s not lost on me that so many people make an effort to love on our baby, and I am so so thankful!

Anyone else have something they would add? Am I in for even bigger changes in the next year?

Choosing Joy (in running and social media)

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Cadence will say “cheese” just once for the camera and after that, she’s done. 👶😂 Quick family run after work tonight. 🙌. It’s one of my very favorite things to do. ❤️ Love tank full. ✔️ Maggie even got to join because it’s just a tad cooler lately. 🐕

Lately I have seen a few people write posts about how “fake” everyone is on social media and how we only post the good stuff. I don’t know that I think it’s such a bad thing to write about all of the good stuff going on in our lives. Do you? As runners, we know more than anything that the mental side to running and life is more than half the battle. If we look at all of the good in our lives, it’s got to make the dark days look a little brighter, right?

Don’t get me wrong, I think transparency and honesty are great with the right medium and the right audience. But I really think it’s pretty great to post our good days and smiley babies on social media. Sometimes I start to write something about a crummy day, and then I realize as I type it out how incredibly blessed I am. Who am I to complain that I had a bad night of sleep with my baby? I have a friend who just lost her baby. I’m going to enjoy waking up with Cadence until I’m blurry eyed.

I have posted some of my tougher days on Instagram, mostly involving Cadence and being a working mom.  Even then, I feel a little trite because I have an amazing job (I work for my dad) and I have amazing co-workers (who all support my passions).  Don’t get me wrong, I think reaching out when you are struggling is a great way to use our community.  I have gotten SO MUCH support from the community of runners and mommas!!! But I don’t feel like it’s fake to not post about every headache and traffic jam. I’d just rather post about the delicious cake that I’m eating or morning baby snuggles.  🙂

I also think it makes us better runners to focus on the positive things in our lives. Daily stress is just as bad as the cumulative stress of training. I’m sure that I’ll have days when I just want to complain, and I know that this community of runners will be so supportive to lift me up and cheer me on, but in the meantime, I’m choosing joy when I can.

Philippians 4:4-7 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

What do you think? Is it fake to not post the good and the bad?

I mean, how can I complain when I’ve got this cuteness right beside me?!

Happy Days, Marriage, and Running

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My husband just celebrated his 33rd birthday this past weekend, and I couldn’t help but reflect on my life with him. I attribute so much of how easy marriage feels to Jon’s personality and constant pursuit of growth. We’ve been married 7+ years, and while we’ve had seasons where we both grew, it’s always been a team effort and I always trusted that things were going to get better through the trials. We’ve had 7 years to get to this place, and it’s pretty great.

We were talking last night, and Jon said that before he responds to adversity, he always tries to determine if it’s worth getting rattled over. He applies this in his career and personal life, and I think it’s such a good approach. We already have so many demands and stresses on our lives; why add more stress than is needed? If we just stop and think before responding, often we might decide to relax and let a few more things go.

This blog is about running, and there is so much application here.  How many times do we get caught up in our training plan, adding up the miles, and tracking all of the paces?  Injuries pretty quickly put things into perspective, as do lousy races (been there, done that).  Jon is absolutely excellent at what he does, but he is one of the most easy going and fun people to be around. He is most definitely my happy place. It’s a good reminder to me that I can still pursue big things without getting too caught up in rules and the plan (toddlers are also a good reminder of that–ha!). Thankfully I have a husband who supports my pursuit of big things and stands in as cheerleader, pacer, crew member, etc when I need him.

Running, just like marriage, has the moments where you are thrilled to be alive, and the days when you put in the work because you know that the outcome is so incredibly worth it. Cadence somehow learned “happy birthday to you” as “happy day to you” and I think it’s perfect. Every day is a happy day. 🙂

P.S. My parents just celebrated their 40th (FORTIETH) wedding anniversary!  Talk about an example!

Have you learned a lot about yourself through marriage? Does your partner support your running?

Easy Peasy: training with easy days

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Whew! 💦 I never thought I’d say this, but I’m ready for winter.☀️Today was a fartlek workout day that ended up being 13 miles round and round my favorite hilly park.🏃‍♀️By the time I was passing the same (walking) people the 5th and 6th time, they started cheering for me. 😂 And I got home just in time for my husband to hand off a dressed and fed baby so I could rush off to daycare drop off and work. ❤️ Have I mentioned that I have the best husband who shows me love by supporting my crazy running passion?! 😍

If you’ve followed along with my journey this past summer, you know that I’ve changed up my approach to training and I’ve decided to go coach-less for right now. The biggest change in my training approach is that instead of doing practically all of my runs at intensity with my former coach, I now have easy runs in my schedule too. I do about 3 harder effort runs a week and all of the rest are easy. Today was a fartlek run, which is a harder effort, but tomorrow, I’ll be back to easy to let my body recover.

It’s been a bit of a transition for me to embrace and understand what truly feels easy, but it’s starting to feel more normal. And get this, I’m a lot happier. My weeks don’t feel like they drag on from workout to workout (every single day), and I have margin to be flexible and run with the stroller or exchange a run for cross training if I feel like it.

Practically every training book will espouse the value of the easy run.  One of my favorites is Matt Fitzgerald’s 80/20 Running. He backs up all of his reasoning with research, and he gives a really great explanation for how to determine zones based on rate of perceived effort or heart rate.

Here’s a really great article by Runner’s Connect discussing the merits of the easy run.  Check out the table at the end of the article where it discusses the paces where capillary development, mitochondria production, and myoglobin content increase.

For a summary, easy runs:

  • help build up the aerobic system to utilize glycogen for energy more efficiently
  • allow the body to adapt and repair from hard runs
  • give the mind a body a break from stress and high impact
  • increase the number of capillaries surrounding muscles to transport oxygen more easily
  • increase myoglobin and mitochondria, which help provide more oxygen and energy

If you need further convincing or a good reminder (like me sometimes) about keeping easy easy, check out this podcast interview of David Roche on TriSpecific. Roche describes an athlete who wasn’t reaching her potential, and they couldn’t figure out why until they strapped on a HR monitor. As soon as she slowed down her paces and let her heart rate drop, she started seeing results.

What’s your philosophy on easy runs?