Sunday, June 29, 2014

Why I Run: To Enjoy Nature

Yet another reason I love running: it gives me a chance to be outside and experience nature.  I love the smell of fresh air, the sound of birds, and the sight of trees, grass, and my neighbors' landscaping.  Running gives me a chance to appreciate all that nature has to offer - or at least as much nature as this urban gal has at her disposal.  I feel more alive when I am outside, and running is my excuse to get out and be part of the world.

Sure, I spend plenty of time playing out in the backyard with my kids or going on neighborhood walks with them, both of which I enjoy immensely.  But running provides a perfect marriage of my love of nature and my need for a small window of personal time.

Innsbrook: beautiful views, killer hills, and a happy mama.

I incorporate parks and shady neighborhoods as much as possible into my daily runs, but my heart is happiest when I run out at Innsbrook.  The heavily wooded area provides home to wildlife well outside of my usual squirrel and bunny variety.  I often find wild turkeys, deer, and turtles, not to mention beetles, dragonflies, and many other flying insects.  When I'm not marveling at the wildlife, I enjoy the deep peacefulness of the woods and the coolness of the deeply shaded paths.  Innsbrook runs make my heart and head happy, and they challenge my quads and glutes with their relentless hills.  Happy heart and strong quads?  Life is good :)

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Training Plan Indecision

Emily and I have registered to run the Rock 'n Roll St. Louis half marathon on Sunday, October 19th.  Ever the planner, I'm agonizing over training plan options for the race.  Should we do a 12-week plan or opt for 10- or 16-week versions?  How much speedwork should we include?  Do we need to run 13 miles in training or is 11 miles enough?  Are we best off following a beginning plan or can we move up to intermediate?  I've run one half and Emily has run five, so we're not exactly novices, but the leap from the beginning plans to the intermediate ones looks monumental.  In short, I've spent far too much time perusing options and far too little time tackling my summer organization projects.  (That bathroom closet will just organize itself, right?!)

Shall I admit how long I contemplated options for an image of indecision?

The plan I followed for my first half was put together by Coach Christine Hinton, a mother runner who has created many training plans for the Another Mother Runner tribe.  I liked the variety of the plan and its flexibility.  Each week included speedwork, varying between hills, intervals, and tempo runs, and the long runs often gave a range, which made them feel more achievable from a mental standpoint.  On that plan, I ran four days per week, cross-trained two, and took one day completely off.  This seemed like a good balance for me and one that I'd like to repeat this training cycle.

So if I liked that plan so much, why am I wasting time hemming and hawing over other options?  In part because I just did it and would like to try something new.  But none of the "something new's" are standing out as good options.  I've been surprised to find many plans that don't include step-back weeks.  I'm certainly no expert, but from my research I believe that a sound training principle is to increase mileage by 10% for three weeks and then step back a notch before increasing again.  Surprisingly, many of the plans I've come across don't follow this rule of thumb.

Because I'm being ridiculously picky with the plans that are readily available, I'm considering collecting bits and pieces from multiple plans and Frankenstein-ing my own plan together.  If I follow the structure and mileage increase rules described above, I think I can put a reasonably coherent plan together.  I'll certainly give it a try, and if all else fails, I know I have Coach Christine's brilliant plan as a back-up.  Assuming a 12-week training cycle, we'll plan to get the party started on July 28th.  I'll update with our training plans then.  In the meantime, if you have any suggestions for specific training plans or advice on creating my own plan, I'm all ears!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Hungry Runner: CSA and green smoothies

I am fortunate to belong to a CSA with my parents and sisters, which means that my fridge is full of fresh vegetables from May through October.  If you're not familiar with the concept, a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) connects local farmers to consumers.  Consumers purchase a share or a half-share and receive weekly produce directly from a farmer in their area.

We've belonged to Shared Bounty, a CSA based in Troy, MO, for the last five years.  During that time, I've learned that fresh produce tastes infinitely better than almost anything at the supermarket, and I've discovered many new vegetables (Japanese turnip, anyone?).  I've also learned more about the seasonality of different crops.  Born and raised a city gal, I had never before given much thought to the time of year at which different crops were harvested.  Now that I'm better informed, I've come to expect many greens, like kale, bok choy, and swiss chard, in the spring, and I look forward to enjoying squash and sweet potatoes in the fall.

A view of Jim and Ramona's farm.  I love that I know the names of the people who grow our food.

CSAs require an adventurous approach to cooking since you do not get to select your produce each week.  Instead, you receive whatever is freshest and ready to be picked at that moment.  It's been fun to search through the contents of the cooler on Saturday and make plans for the week based on what we find inside.

Each spring, I'm surprised by the abundance of greens we receive.  I've gathered some great recipes for preparing the greens, like kale chips and grilled bok choy.  This year, however, I tried a new tactic: green smoothies.  I recently got a NutriBullet, and I've gotten hooked on making smoothies.  CSA greens are perfect for making a delicious and nutritionally dense smoothie.  My approach to smoothies is surprisingly relaxed given my Type A approach to nearly everything else in my life.  With smoothies, I look in the fridge and toss in whatever suits my fancy.  My typical green smoothie looks something like this:

  • 2 handfuls of leafy greens
  • half of an apple
  • 1/3 or 1/4 cup of blueberries or strawberries
  • half of a banana
  • 1 Tbsp of chia seeds
  • 1/2 - 1 cup of water, depending on desired thickness
I wash the greens and the fruit and then add them to the large NutriBullet cup in the order listed above.  I turn it on and let it pulse until the ingredients are well combined, usually about 15-30 seconds.  I'm sure this process could be adapted to other blenders, too, but my experience is just with the NutriBullet.  These smoothies are one of my favorite post-run treats.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

New Routes and Silence

When my alarm sounded this morning, it felt a bit like a scene from Groundhog's Day.  Just as I did two weeks ago, I snoozed the alarm and told myself that I could run on the treadmill at naptime instead.  After the snooze, however, I felt a bit more coherent and remembered how dreadful that treadmill run was.  I survived, but I could live without repeating it again for a while.

So I dragged my tush out of bed and fumbled into my running clothes.  As I stepped out the door, the just-rained humid air filled my lungs, and I started wishing I was back in bed.  Setting low expectations for the run, I headed out and decided to cobble together a new-to-me route through St. Louis Hills and Southampton.  Ever since my run commute earlier this month, I've felt braver about trying out new running routes.  Last week, Emily and I created a new route on the fly, and last weekend, I ran to a new park.  All on familiar roads that I know very well, but ones that until recently, I felt unable to run upon.  The new route was a nice change of pace and gave me some extra pep in my step.

In addition to finding new routes, I've also been running without music lately.  It started as an accident rather than as a conscious decision.  With so many of my runs with Emily, I'm out of the habit of taking along headphones.  Now that I've logged a few non-music runs, however, I really kind of like it.  Sometimes it feels challenging to continue moving forward without the distraction of music or a podcast, but I enjoy the peace and quiet and the opportunity to listen to my own thoughts.  Though they are not always pretty, the miles with just me and the open road feel somewhat luxurious.  So much of my life is filled with chatter and noise, I appreciate the chance to unplug and revel in silence.

Such a wise man, that Thomas Merton.
A fragmented existence might be the kindest way to describe my life these days.

Monday, June 23, 2014

My 3rd Runiversary

Last Saturday marked the third anniversary of my first run.  I drafted a post full of reflections on my running career over the past three years and scheduled it to post on my runiversary.  The would-be post was witty, full of excitement over the joys of running and gratitude for the balance running has brought to my life.  But life happened and the planned post no longer reflected the reality of my runiversary.

I logged 6 solo miles on Saturday, but instead of spending them celebrating my development as a runner, I dragged along with a heavy heart as I considered what the rest of my day would hold: playing flute for my friend's funeral, driving 5 hours to visit relatives, corralling kids who are out of their routine and comfort zone, plastering a semi-contented expression on my face when all I'd really want to do is cry.  The run itself was much like the rest of the day.  Where I expected to feel gratitude, I found exhaustion.  When I should have enjoyed the fresh morning air, I wallowed over GI discomfort.  What I planned as a blissful hour of solitude was 60 minutes of internal crabbing.

It wasn't the day I planned or expected, but I was still lucky for the opportunity to run,
to spend time with family and friends, and to live life.

I returned home feeling defeated and overwhelmed.  Remember how I was waiting for the other shoe to drop?  I think it just did.  In some ways, I'm glad I had that crappy run.  I knew it was coming, and now I can look over my shoulder, say that it happened, and move on with life.  At the end of the day, I was 6 miles stronger.  In fact, after three years of running, I am hundreds of miles stronger - both mentally and physically.  I am grateful for all my runs, the good and the bad, for they have made me into a strong, confident, and balanced mother runner.  Here's to many, many more runiversaries!

Friday, June 20, 2014

What goes up...

About three weeks before my early-April half marathon, I felt a twinge in my hip.  I had run a 10-mile training run on Sunday (which was an amazing, all-the-stars-aligned sort of run) and then on a stupid, 3-mile Tuesday morning run, something felt off in my right hip.  I ignored it, stretched more than usual, and hoped for the best.  To no great surprise, all my ignoring, stretching, and hoping did nothing to heal my poor hip.  I continued training, though I ran very little in the 10 days before my race.  After I crossed the finish line and hobbled for several days, I knew I needed professional help.

I found an incredible chiropractor, herself a mother runner, who worked hard to put my body back together.  My lowest vertebrae were misaligned, likely from pregnancy more than running, though the constant pounding of the road certainly didn't help matters.  Under her guidance, I took a complete break from running for two weeks and then tentatively returned at the end of April.

Since I've returned, almost all of my runs have been top-notch.  I feel like I'm in the zone: my body is strong, my brain is engaged, my heart is happy.  Every time I lace up, I remind myself that this zone of running nirvana can't last; eventually, I'm going to have a crappy run.  After all, what goes up, must come down.  I leave my house half-expecting to bonk on the run, but each time I've returned grateful, rejuvenated, and full of life.

I'm at this peak, and I fear the inevitable pit.
Could I just skip the pit and settle for the reasonably-priced snacks and drinks?

To make this string of amazing runs all the more unbelievable, the runs have been wrought with opportunity for complaining and agony.  We have launched into a full-on St. Louis summer, complete with palpable humidity and scorching temperatures.  But I haven't minded.  Torrential rain threatened to blight my run commute last week.  But I just felt all the stronger because of it.  Even fighting through last week's treadmill run left me feeling elated rather than defeated.

I know this can't last.  Such zen-like states are fleeting, in both running and life.  So while I am trying to soak up the beauty of each run, I can't help but wonder when the other shoe is going to drop...

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


Last night, I learned that a good friend of our family died suddenly.  She had been battling colon cancer but was doing well, even making an appearance last weekend at her parish's annual carnival.  Her doctors suspect she suffered a blood clot yesterday afternoon, which took her quickly and without warning.

Since hearing the news, I've waffled between denial and sadness.  She has kids around the same ages as my sisters and me, and our families grew up together.  Attending the same schools, participating in sports and orchestras together, and performing in community theater productions, our lives and theirs were interwoven on many planes.  As adults, our paths continued to intersect.  Her grandson attends preschool with my daughter, and we often see them at parish and school functions.

For all of these interactions to end so abruptly and without warning is nothing short of shocking.  I have always thought of Kathy as one of my extra moms, a wise woman who could answer any life question or serve as the voice of reason and experience.  Knowing how achy my heart feels, I cannot even begin to imagine the pain her five biological children are experiencing.

Toting all of these thoughts in the recesses of my brain, I met up with Emily for our usual morning run.  I was so grateful to have her as a listening ear and to be able to spit out some of the torrent of emotions swirling in my head.  To say the words, "my friend died," seemed easier when accompanied by our heavy breathing and light footfalls as the sun began to rise in the sky.  The run felt cathartic, as emotions oozed out of my pores along with sweat.  I used the run to feel grateful for the moment.  To feel my body as a physical being in space, knowing that our physical existence in this world is tenuous at best.

Today I'll be hugging my kids a little tighter and my mom even tighter still.  Life is short; we must be grateful now.

Wishing peace for Kathy's family and friends.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Buns of Steel

In mid-May, a mother runner friend mentioned that she was embarking on a 30-day squat challenge.  Intrigued, I asked for more details.  She sent me the plan along with the sage advice: "Don't look ahead."  Wise words that I surely couldn't heed as I immediately scanned down to day 30.  175 squats?!  Even broken into sets, that number sounded impossibly huge.

The mother runners and I plunged headlong into the challenge, keeping each other accountable via Twitter.  One of my favorite parts of the challenge was giggling over the funny-only-to-us hashtags we came up with over the course of the month.  Beginning with #bunsofsteel and ranging into #squatarama and #squatamnesia, I would sometimes squat just so I could chat with them about it.  Who knew that witty friends and clever Twitter banter could make even squats seem tolerable?

My sister also joined in the fun, squatting with me at Innsbrook and on the banks of the Black River during our family's annual trip to the lodge.  We were squatting in the boonies, or as she quipped, saSQUATching.  Between my sister and my squatting mother runner friends, the month passed quickly, and I stayed surprisingly well on track.  I missed a day or two, but I was able to make up the missed squats and ultimately finished the challenge.  

As I ran the hills at Innsbrook this past weekend, I noticed the benefits of my regular squatting.  Thanks to my stronger quads, glutes, and low abs, the monstrous hills didn't seem quite so daunting.  I felt powerful as I charged each hill, and I still had energy left in the tank at the end of my 3-mile run.  The new challenge, of course, is to maintain this strength now that the 30 days have expired.  I plan to do 50 squats on my non-running days; let's see if I can stick to this plan as well as I stuck to the challenge...  Any volunteers to keep me accountable?

Friday, June 13, 2014

Seen on the Run: Scoreboard Sunrise

Yesterday, I had the luxury of a late-for-me run.  Heading out at 5:45 on this long summer day meant that my entire run was awash in sunlight.  I slogged through many (many, many) cold and dark 5:00am runs this winter, which make me all the more grateful for this summer's sunshine.

While I made a lap around our neighborhood park, I watched the sun rise through the hills and trees, bathing the entire park in its warmth and golden glow.  The view was remarkable, and I debated stopping to take a picture.  But doing so would involve wrestling my iPhone out of my armband and stopping my GPS, not to mention derail my running groove.  So I took a mental note of the scene and moved on.

Life is good.
About a mile from home, however, I noticed the sun coming up over the football scoreboard at our local high school.  Again, I ran on.  But then I thought about my mantra of 2014: "I am here now."  Wherever here is, whenever now is, I'm trying to be truly present in the moment.  By fixating on my pace rather than appreciating the beauty around me, I was missing a chance to be present.

I stopped and retraced my steps to capture the image.  I'm certainly not a photographer and my sweaty fingers on an iPhone camera can only do so much, but I love the stillness of this image: a peaceful world and a day full of possibilities.  Stopping to capture that moment was worth losing a few seconds on my GPS, and I'm glad I have lasting evidence of this morning's beauty.  And evidence that I can pause my go-go-go brain long enough to soak up a moment.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Hungry Runner: Mom's Pizza

My parents spent the first 20 years of their marriage perfecting their pizza recipe.  Unbeknownst to us, every Saturday night, they would tuck my sisters and me into bed and then make a pizza to share while watching Saturday Night Live.  Learning of this tradition as an adult, I admired their creativity and ability to work in a date without hiring a sitter.  And I've reaped the benefits of their weekly date night: an amazing pizza crust recipe.

Homemade pizza is a weekly tradition at our house, too.  We usually make it for dinner on Friday night, and I've come to love it as a perfect carb-heavy pre-long run fuel.  Even the pickiest eater in our house enjoys this recipe, helping to ensure its place in our weekly menu rotation.  A dinner without crabbing?  Yes, please.

Mom's Pizza Crust
4 cups flour
1 tbs sugar
1 tsp salt
1 1/3 cups warm water
1 tbs yeast
5 tbs olive oil

  • Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer.  Once combined, make a well in the middle.
  • Fill a 2-cup measuring cup with 1 1/3 cups of warm (not hot!) water.  Add yeast and olive oil to the water and whisk until combined.
  • Pour the wet ingredients into the well of the dry ingredients.  Begin to combine the wet and dry ingredients either with a spoon or with the dough hook of a stand mixer.
  • If mixing by hand, use a spoon until the dough holds together and then knead with your hands for several minutes.  If using a stand mixer, allow it to continue kneading the dough for several minutes after the dough holds together.
  • Place dough in greased bowl and cover with a clean towel.  Allow the dough to rise for 1-2 hours.
A heart-shaped variety, as is often requested by my kids.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Run Commute

Yesterday's run is one I won't soon forget.  With one of our cars on the fritz, we were juggling child care drop off plus two jobs (all in very different directions) with one vehicle.  To help alleviate some of the logistics, I told my husband that I'd just run home from the train station, eliminating one stop from his route.  He laughed and teased me saying, "Why don't you just run all the way home?"

"Because I don't want to die trying to cross the interstate," I told him.  I was thinking like a driver, not a runner, and I couldn't picture a way to cross the highway safely.  Then I started thinking like a runner and remembered a pedestrian bridge that crosses the highway.  Maybe running home could work after all...

Aerial view of the Hampton/I-64 interchange.  Who wouldn't want to run through this completely-void-of-sidewalks area during rush hour?
I spent the morning hemming and hawing about my options (and working, too!  I promise!).  If I ran home from the train, it would be an easy 2 miles along routes that I travel all the time.  I could add a few extra miles, but they'd be on the same sidewalks I've traversed for years.  On the other hand, if I ran all the way from work, it would be nearly 7 miles along a route I've never run before.  I've been hesitant to break out of my old, familiar routes, so this was my chance to push myself to try something new.

Did I mention that I'm not an afternoon runner?  That it was 77* when I left?  That I've never run more than 5 miles on a weekday?  Go big or go home.  Or in this case, go big to get home.

I planned to leave at 4:00, and I expected to get home around 5:15, allowing time for stop lights, traffic, and water breaks.  At 3:56, my co-worker pointed out the radar, which showed an enormous storm system in Chesterfield ~ 15 miles away.  Knowing that she's a weather expert, I asked if she thought I had time to make it home before the storm unleashed.  "Run fast," she told me.  "It's going to hit around 5:00."

I scrambled out the door, feeling surprisingly fresh for having worked a full day.  I enjoyed running through Forest Park, a popular running route in St. Louis that I had never tried out before.  I found the pedestrian-friendly bridge across I-64 and happily ran through Dogtown.  The sky was cloudy but not threatening, and though the temperature was hot, I was running joyfully and strong.

Around mile 3.5, my little web of happiness began to unravel.  I was approaching the Hill neighborhood and a passing train forced me to stop.  A welcome break for my legs, but as I stood watching the train, I felt the temperature drop radically and noticed an ominous sky just to the west.  I checked the time: 4:32.  I needed to keep moving if I wanted to get home before the storm broke.

Photo courtesy a viewer on
I was too concerned with getting home before the lightning started to snap my own pic, but this was my view as I waited for the train to pass.

Fortunately, it was a short train, and I was soon clambering up the steep incline that gives this famous neighborhood its name.  However, as a gentle rain began to fall, a precursor to the real storm, I started to regret my decision to go big.  I had come a long way and still had far to go.  I was tired, hungry, and just wanted to be finished.  Rather than descend into a spiral of self-doubt, I reminded myself to focus on my form ("long, tall, strong," I repeated ad nauseum), and I started counting down the neighborhoods until I'd be home: the Hill, Northampton, Southampton, then finally Princeton Heights.

The rain picked up around mile 6, but I had made it to a stretch of road that Emily and I run almost every time we lace up.  I checked the time again: 4:54.  "Keep going, Kate.  One mile to go."  Just half a mile from my house, the sky opened up, and the rain began falling in buckets.  "Earn your finish, lady."  I ran as fast as my legs would move, feeling strangely free as the sheets of rain drenched me.  I dashed up to my house and checked the time as I stopped my GPS: 5:02.

Dripping wet, I stood on my back porch and marveled at what I had done: I broke through my new route phobia, ran at an unusual time of day, and outran the lightning.  Badass doesn't even begin to capture the intensity of my emotions as I wrung the water out of my hat and watched the rain pelt our backyard.  I set out to do something hard, and I did it, excelling far beyond what I imagined I could do.  I'm so grateful that running helps me to push past my imagined boundaries, set and achieve new goals, and become a more balanced wife/mother/friend in the process.

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Price of Sleeping In

After a broken night sleep, thanks to a cranky, teething one-year-old, I could not force myself out of bed when my alarm sounded at 5:03.  I snoozed once, then twice, then decided that an early run was definitely not going to happen.  I promised myself that I would run on the treadmill at naptime instead.  I silenced the cruel dream-crusher and fluffed my pillow for an extra hour of shut eye.

Once I was really awake, I knew that I would regret my decision to sleep late.  The kids started bickering as soon as they stepped out of bed with J-Bug sobbing three times before she made it to the breakfast table.  I sighed, wishing that I had some post-run endorphins to help me ride the tidal wave of emotions erupting in our house.

Somehow, we survived the rocky start and had a surprisingly good morning.  Some fresh air and friends helped to turn all of our moods around.  By the time everyone was down to nap, I really just wanted to crash and regroup, but I knew that I'd be frustrated with myself if I blew off my run for a second time.  I changed into running clothes, knocked the dust off my treadmill, and got down to work.

Best.craigslist purchase.ever.

My brain could tell that I'd been away from the treadmill for quite some time.  The first mile was agonizingly long and painful as I watched each second tick by on the display.  I found something of a groove late in the run, but it never really became easy.  When I finished, however, I felt unexpectedly happy.  Although I battled mental monkeys throughout the run, when it was over, I felt like a million bucks.  I was proud of myself for following through and logging some miles today.  It would have been easy to skip it entirely, but I chose to do the hard thing and run on the treadmill at an awkward time of day.  While the numbers were nothing extraordinary, the feeling of accomplishment was overwhelming.  This treadmill run was surely successful, but I'll think twice before I snooze my early alarm again...

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Negative Splits

Yesterday's run was one that I'd love to bottle up and save forever.  The sky threatened rain as I headed out, but no rain fell until hours after my run, and the cloud cover made for a cooler run.  My legs felt powerful, my core was strong, my heart and lungs clicked along without any protest.  I ran several of the hills in my neighborhood, which have sometimes loomed large in the past.  Yesterday, they were easy as pie.  It was a run where I felt like I could go forever feeling free, energized, and strong.

When I set out, I had no firm plans.  I wanted to run 5 or 6 miles, and I hoped to achieve negative splits.  I felt good about my negative split goal through mile 4.  When I realized I had run that one in 9:24, however, I wasn't sure that I could continue to speed up for 2 more miles.  I thought I'd be lucky to just hang on to that pace.  Mile 5 felt surprisingly easy (another 9:24), and I glanced at my watch as I began mile 6.  It read 8:03AM, or 3 minutes past the hour I'd promised my husband I'd be home.  Not only did I need to beat a 9:24 mile to continue my negative splits, but I also had to book it in order to relieve my husband of kid duties.  I cranked it up, finishing out the run with an 8:41 mile.

A work of art that only a runner would appreciate: perfect negative splits :)
Elated doesn't even begin to describe how I felt at the end of this run.  This was my longest run since I admitted that I was injured in early April.  Running 6 miles, feeling strong and healthy throughout, left me with an incredible sense of accomplishment.  As I stood in my kitchen, stretching my quads as my kids filled me in on their morning, I felt invincible and ready to conquer the world.  It's a feeling I need to commit to memory so I can draw on it in the future when running - or life - feels like too much to handle.  The struggles will always come, but if I can remember this incredible feeling of triumph, I will survive the low points and return to victory.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Skirt Bliss

Though I've always considered myself more of a tomboy than a girly girl, I have fully embraced running in a skirt.  My 14-year-old self is groaning at that statement and rolling her eyes.  And for good reason: my teenage self had a complete aversion to skirts and dresses.  For nearly 6 years, these legs never saw the inside of a skirt or dress, unless it was the plaid variety required by my Catholic schools.

When I first heard of running skirts, I reverted to my teenage attitude and scoffed at the idea.  A skirt for running?  Give me a break.  Though I no longer rebel against the skirt as a clothing option, I usually save skirts for church or important meetings at work.  To wear one for fun seemed completely out of the question.  Until it didn't...  I saw a woman running in a skirt, and the advantages of the skirt started to add up in my brain:

  1. Bicycle shorts underneath to prevent chafing.
  2. The skirt over said bicycle shorts provides some modesty for the runner who doesn't want the whole world to see every curve of her lower half.
  3. They look good, which makes me feel good and perform better.
The last point is really the biggest selling point for me.  I have no concrete evidence to prove my theory, but my runs feel faster and more effortless when I wear my running skirt.  Something about feeling it swish around my powerful glutes and quads makes the effort seem more manageable.  I'm sure it's all in my head, but since 90% of running is also in my head, I'll take whatever advantage I can get.

Sunshine + running skirt.  Does it get any better?

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

National Running Day

Today marks National Running Day, a day to celebrate runners and running.  I celebrated by logging a few soggy, pre-dawn miles with Emily.  A light drizzle started just as we met outside her house, and we raced through our miles in order to finish before the real rain started.  The slight rain actually felt cool and refreshing on this steamy June morning, though I'm glad we were not caught out in the downpour that ensued shortly after we finished.

In honor of National Running Day, I've thought about why I run, and I could fill a novel with reasons.  I run for my physical and mental health, to set a good example for my family, to feel ownership over something in my life, to feel a sense of accomplishmentto foster friendships, etc.  But the reason that stands above the others today is one that struck me while Emily and I were running our spring half marathon, my first 13.1 and her fifth.

During the race, we saw a woman wearing a shirt that read "I run for those who can't," a message that hit home for both of us.  Her mom and my aunt are diehard runners whose bodies won't allow them to run anymore.  We knew that they would have given anything to be out on the course with us that April morning.  Every time the race felt difficult, I thought of them and forged ahead, tackling a challenge that they long to be able to do.

I am lucky to be able to run, and I must run in honor of all those who can't.

I always try to remain grateful for the opportunity to run, but today I am trying to be especially thankful for the ability to run.  For a strong body, a powerful mind, a supportive family, a safe environment; all these things which I can so easily take for granted.  I run because I can.  I run for those who can't.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Hungry Runner: Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

My quest to find runner-friendly snacks continues.  I am shamefully addicted to desserts, so I am always searching for better-for-me sweet treats.  While Google searching, I was thrilled to find the blog Chocolate Covered Katie.  Not only do we share a common first name, we share an interest in healthy dessert options.  I've spent countless hours scouring the pages of her blog and recently had great success making her chocolate chip cookie bars.

At first glance, the inclusion of garbanzo beans seemed a bit wacky.  But in my (admittedly bizarre) mind, since beans are good fiber, I could eat dessert and regulate my colon at the same time.  Win win!  As I've done before, I substituted ground dates for the brown sugar, and the results were overwhelmingly popular.  These cookie bars are moist, sweet, chewy, and delicious.  I did not share the ingredient list with any of my eaters, and they all asked for seconds!  The pan of cookies lasted approximately 24 hours and could have been gone much quicker if we hadn't all gone to school and work.  If I make these on a Sunday, I can guarantee they won't last until Monday.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Hello, June!

Yesterday, we spent a beautiful day enjoying some of my favorite parts of summer: playing in the sprinkler, eating a picnic lunch, racing up and down the sidewalk, riding bikes and blowing bubbles, grilling dinner, and watching the rain from the comfort of our screened porch. It was a one in a million day, and we enjoyed it to its fullest. The gorgeous weather had me itching for a run, but I knew my body needed to rest. I did yoga instead, which was refreshing and relaxing.

Playing in the sprinkler: quintessential childhood summer fun!
Today, however, I was raring to lace up and kick off the month of June mother runner-style. Emily and I met hours later than usual (7:15 as opposed to our usual 4:55 date), and we were both thrilled to be running in the sunshine. Of course, the sun meant hotter temperatures, so we included a drinking fountain stop along our route. It was a gorgeous morning, and my heart couldn't have been happier.

It was freeing to head out without a prescribed distance or a drop dead return time. Our weekday runs are squeezed into the tiny window before her husband heads to work, so we're always running against the clock. While we needed to be home today in time for church, the specific timing was much more relaxed and unhurried. What a glorious way to begin the month of June!