Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Resolutions vs. Goals

It's that time of year again! Time to look ahead to the new year. Everyone resolves to be a better version of themselves. It's important to start the new year off on the right foot.

Do you make resolutions? Or do you set goals?

Resolutions? They're usually pretty loose. This time of year so many people make resolutions like: "I want to lose weight" or "I want to get in shape". The thing with resolutions...there's never an end point. I read somewhere that only 10% of people who make resolutions actually keep them.

I'm a goal setter. If you're a regular reader, you probably already know that. The thing I like about goals is that they are objective and measurable. Goals are achievable. You do it, it's done.

I set 5 big goals at the beginning of 2015. Let's see how I did. 

-Stay injury free. This was a huge, open goal. But totally measurable. Was I injured? Or not? I can honestly say that I ran 99% of this year injury free. Now I'm dealing with plantar fasciitis. I'd consider it a minor injury. I worked really hard with my coach Becky to strengthen my muscles and prevent any major injuries from happening. I don't know that I could have prevented PF. I consider this goal a win. I'm still running, after all...

-Run a sub-4 hour marathon. I did not achieve this goal. As hard as I trained for my 3rd Chicago marathon, prior to running the race, I revised my goal to finish under 4:30. During marathon training, I did not have one confidence building long run the entire summer. Instead of disappointing myself and letting all that hard work go to waste, I finished Chicago strong at 4:25:53. This in spite of struggling with a migraine and some shortness of breath. I paced myself well. Am I disappointed? Well, 4:00 is my BQ. But in light of how my training went and how I felt during the race? I was really happy about my finish time. But I won't lie. I still would love to BQ. This just wasn't my time.

Chicago Marathon 2015
-Run a sub-2 hour half marathon. Done. In fact, I ran 4 of them this year! In March, I was supposed to run the Sarasota Half Marathon, but ongoing mama drama forced me to defer that race and stay home. Instead, I found a local half, the Get Lucky 21k on the same day and signed up. Not only did I hit my goal of a sub 2 half, I PR'd that race and got 2d in my AG with a time of 1:52:08. The heat training I did for Sarasota clearly paid off.

Get Lucky half marathon Chicago 2015
There were a few more halfs.

There was the Great Western Half, where I finished at 1:55:37 and got 2d in my AG again!

Great Western Half Marathon 2015
In September, I ran the very hilly Alpine Runners Half marathon as a warm up to the Chicago marathon and finished 1:55:58. No AG award here, but not vomiting was a win for me.

My partner in crime this year, Sara with me at the Alpine Runners Half Marathon in September
And in November, I summoned up that post marathon fitness and ran a last minute Schaumburg Half Marathon, finishing strong with a 1:52:32. Clearly there are some fast old ladies out there because I came in 6th in my AG. No matter. I was thrilled with my finish! Training? What's that?
Schaumburg Half Marathon
-Manage the mama drama. How do you measure this goal? This seems like more of a resolution, now that I look at it. 2015 was rough for my husband and me, from the parenting perspective. Parenting teens is not for the wimpy. After some really, really bad months last winter with my oldest, we seem to be heading in a positive direction. He graduated from high school (early!) in December and is starting at the local community college in January. He's kept a steady job for most of the year. And we're talking again. A lot. My youngest son is staying the course, with a few bumps in the road, but nothing that we can't handle. I'm hoping for a much smoother 2016 in the mama department. I'm booking my plane ticket to Sarasota if that means anything. I've got some unfinished business to attend to.

-Grow my blog. Oh, my. 2015 was a great year for my blog. I've connected with some amazing master bloggers who have readily shared advice and guidance. I've had fun watching my readership grow. I'm still all about writing quality content and interacting with my readers. That has been really fun for me, and I've been able to meet more bloggers this year! I've met Susie from SuzLyfe!

The Suz and me at the Chicago Marathon expo
I also got to meet Zenaida Arroyo and Emily from Out and About.

At the CARA Lakefront 10 miler: Erin, Marcia, Sara, Me, Zenaida, and Emily

Also Kim from Running on the Fly who I am hoping to run a race with in the summer of 2016. Iowa, anyone?

Serving up the donuts for the ultra runners at Christmas in July: Kim, Michelle, Penny, Maggie, Teri, and Karen
There have been more giveaways and relationships with product vendors. The book club hasn't gone crazy with readership but I've really enjoyed the author interviews, and some of them have been my most popular posts! I was thrilled to have a response from almost every author I've reached out to.  Oh yeah, and I got my own domain name! 

One other goal I set was my mileage goal for the year. Tiffany from Thoroughly Thriving started Run This Year a few years ago. This was the first year I participated, and in January, I set a goal to run 1252 miles (2015 kms). Normally, I set a goal to run 100 miles/month, so I knew this would be pushing it for me. But I thought it would be fun. I'm not done yeat but I am really close--as of today, I have 4 miles to go--and even though my foot is not happy about it, I am thrilled to be able to say that this goal is a done deal. This is the last year that Tiffany is hosting Run This Year and I'm glad I was able to participate. The support was amazing.

The best part of 2015 was all the amazing support I received from the running community via my blog and social media! I truly believe that all the success I had on the road was largely in part to all of you. As I've said all year, it takes a village to train a runner...

What's next? I'll share my upcoming goals for 2016 on Friday!

What do you think about goals vs resolutions? Do you set goals? Make resolutions? Did you meet your 2015 goals?

I'm linking up with DebRuns for Wednesday Word! Today's word is resolutions. Of course! Check out what everyone else is saying.

I'm also linking up with Julie at Running in a Skirt for the The Best of the Blogs! This is a good one..

And at Wild Workout Wednesday with Angelina Marie, Annmarie, Nicole, and Michelle!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Running with the devil

I've met the devil and his name is plantar fasciitis. PF, for short.

In the past, I've run with PF until he finally left me alone. This year, PF started to remind me that it's never completely gone. PF started to sneak up on me. Towards the end of marathon training, the arch of my left foot would start to twinge. Very familiar with what that means and what's to come, I furiously rolled and stretched. I kept PF at bay for a while.

But even after taking a week off from running post marathon, PF returned with a vengeance. The ironic thing about PF is that you can run with it. Initially, when I start running, my foot hurts, but that ends after about 2-3 minutes into the run. That is because the plantar fascia, the large thick tissue that runs along the arch, stretches out with movement.


With the exception of that half marathon I ran in November, I've been running pretty conservatively since the Chicago marathon. But PF doesn't care. The pain has continued to worsen, particularly if I don't adhere to my massage and stretching regimen. Because, as you will see in the report card below, that is really about all you can do for PF.

Oh, if I had a dollar for everyone who has recommended that I get a steroid shot in my foot. Everyone knows someone who did this and "was cured". Remember Mr. Loud OM from my yoga class? He's also very convinced that a steroid injection in the foot is the only thing I need. Well, Debbie Downer NP has news for the steroid people:
"The risk of ..plantar fascia rupture... is greatly increased by history of treatment with a corticosteroid injection....Corticosteroid injection into the superficial fat pad can cause fat pad necrosis due to the lack of shock absorption normally provided by the superficial fat pad..." Medscape
Wah wah. Um, no thank you. I'll take a pass.

As a medical provider, I like my treatments proven and tested. I turned to the clinical evidence and found exactly what I was looking for, clinical guidelines for the treatment of plantar fasciitis. Clinical guidelines can be found for almost any entity. The guidelines are research based and interventions are graded, much like a report card, so you can make an educated decision about your treatments. The only exception is the grade F, which as opposed to the failing grade we all associate with the letter F, is the expert opinion of the team evaluating all the studies and is a recommended course of action. No matter what the grade given, keep in mind that with every treatment tested, there are always outliers, and low rated interventions will work for some folks. My advice is if you want to play it safe, stick to the tried and true, highly rated interventions.

Here's what I've been employing to try to control the pain of PF: (some links may be affiliate links)
-I've been massaging my arch with the Rubz ball. You can use a golf ball as well.
-Wearing my homemade Faux Strassberg Sock at night. Although I will admit to tearing the thing off halfway through the night because the stretching of the fascia can be somewhat painful at times. The longer I wear it though, the better my foot feels in the morning.
-Stretching is done via yoga--I find Downward Dog to be very effective as it not only stretches out the bottom of my feet but also my calves and Achilles tendons.
-I'm not taping my foot (but you can and they like KT tape), but I do wear my Feetures PF compression sleeve religiously.

The physical agents, which were given a D, included electrotherapy (TENS), laser therapy, phonophoresis/NSAID, ultrasound, and shockwave therapy (which was successful for me in the past). Nowhere in this article did I see anything about ice. Icing the foot, rolling on a frozen water bottle...not mentioned. I suppose it's one of those interventions that can't hurt and might help. And I have resorted to an occasional dose of ibuprofen when the pain is unbearable.

Rest as an intervention was given an F, meaning that the team evaluating the evidence likes this recommendation. Makes sense to me. I'm going to follow that advice as well, taking a week or 2 of rest after January 1.

The other intervention I am going to investigate after the first of the year is ART. Active release technique is manual therapy at its most intense. I'm ready to dig in. I've got big plans in 2016, and I'm not going to let this devil in my foot sideline me.

So you're probably wondering why I'm not taking my break now while I'm having so much pain in my foot. I'm in pursuit of my final goal for 2015. My mileage goal for this year was 1251 miles. A strange number, right? But 1251 miles=2015 kilometers. I'm SO close. With the flare of my PF, I was going to give up on the goal. That was until my friend Sue, at This Mama Runs for Cupcakes, challenged me to finish. She's chasing her 2015 goal of 1000 miles. Also very close. So we're doing this together. 

Don't judge. I'm so close. As of today, I have 12 miles to go.

And then some rest and a plan of action to exorcise this devil from my foot.

Have you ever had plantar fasciitis? What treatment modality worked for you? Would you push to get those last 12 miles done?

I'm linking up with Holly and Tricia for their Weekly Wrap! What are you up to?

Monday, December 21, 2015

Ode to Joy

This the time of year when we're told we should be feeling joyful. And in spite of all the stress I feel with my never ending to-do list, there will be joy on Christmas Eve when we sit down to dinner. Ok, maybe not so much joy as a sense of relief that everything has once again fallen into place.

Nonetheless, it's a good time to reflect. What brings you joy?

Running brings me joy. Other things bring me joy too, but running tops my list. I write about this a lot. Something so simple, but so challenging, with running, the rewards are endless. That last half marathon I ran, with no expectations? The joy I felt crossing the finish line after running an amazing race could only be matched by the joy I felt finishing the Chicago marathon strong with my revised goals this past October. But there have been plenty of runs that weren't joyful as well. I tend not to reflect too much on them. There are days when a run feels more like a chore, just one more thing to do. It's all part of the journey.

Last weekend, I went for 5 miler. I knew that I should skip this run and continue my quest to cross items off my Christmas to-do list. But it was a beautiful morning and I hated to pass it up. I decided to run at the preserve with the limestone path since I don't get to run there much during the winter. I drove to the park where football legend Walter Payton used to do his hill work. In fact, the hill is named for him. I had no expectations for this run. I looped around the preserve enjoying the serenity and beauty, and headed back to the hill. My legs felt light. My PF was quiet. Then I started up that hill, and looked at my watch. 9:05 min/mile pace. Ok then. I pushed forward. My breath got heavier. Some people walking down the hill path looked at each other and smiled as I passed them by. I kept on chugging. When I crested the hill, I paused my Garmin and stopped to catch my breath. I couldn't stop smiling. This was the first time I ran up the hill without stopping. I took this selfie as I jumped for joy. And smiled some more as I saw how high I jumped!

Joy. Pure, unbridled joy. 

Very few things in life make us feel like this. It isn't always the big events that bring us joy. Sometimes it is the smallest of things that make our hearts swell. During this stressful, hectic time of year, it felt great to have something so simple, yet so challenging bring me such joy.

Who knew?

We should all have something in life that brings us joy. 

We need to take responsibility for our joy. If we sit back and wait for it, joy won't come to us.

Joy comes to us when we least expect it. 

There have been many events have brought me joy this year. Some running, some not but one thing in common is that they were all unexpected.

-That work holiday party I didn't want to go to. We started dancing and couldn't stop. So fun.
-My oldest son coming to meet me at this year's Chicago marathon. The best part of the whole day.
-My youngest son being named "man of the match" at his second rugby game. 
-My sister running with me in Seattle. 
-My dad getting up and walking with me 4 hours after having back surgery.
-Running my speedwork with 7:40min/mile splits at the retention pond during marathon training. I didn't know I had that in me.
-Lifting ridiculously heavy weights with Becky and seeing that work translate to some speedy splits. 
-My tough CrossFit coach telling me how far I've come, how proud she is of me.
-Kayaking down the Fox River with my high school friends. 
-My huge PR at Get Lucky 21k in March, a race I signed up for at the last minute when my planned trip to Florida was cancelled.
-Being awarded preceptor of the year for mentoring nurse practitioner students.
-Multiple PRs and AG awards this year. 

These are the things I won't forget this year. Expect the unexpected. Savor the joy. 

How about you? What brings you joy?

I'm linking up with DebRuns for WednesdayWord. Today's word is Joy.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Motherhood and miles and cookies's been a week. I'm chipping away at my Christmas preparations. On Thursday, which is my day off from work, I had a very well-choreographed plan of attack to get some things off my to-do list. My husband threatened to derail my plans when he announced that I needed to stay home to wait for his deep freeze to be delivered. He's a homebrewer, and he uses the freezer to store his beer. Don't ask--he doesn't freeze it. Anyways, panic ensued. There was no way that was happening. He was not happy, and he ended up rescheduling the delivery to next Saturday.

I'm sure he had no inkling of all the things I had to get done. Here's what he thinks I do on my day off:
But here's what I did. Of course, I went for a run. Then I went to see Becky for CrossFit. I felt much better and I headed to the mall to power shop. Once I got home, I took my youngest son to get a new phone--it was long overdue--and to get a haircut. We spent a nice couple of hours together, and when we got home he helped me with my Christmas cards. As a reward for helping me, I made his favorite dinner.

Then the rug was pulled out from under me.

I was helping him set up his new phone and the texts started coming in from his friends. I saw some things that I'm sure he didn't want me to see. Actually, I didn't want to see them either. He had a panicky look on his face.

Here we go again. Same song, different station. I felt like someone punched me in the stomach. Just when we thought we were done with all that nonsense--my oldest son has put us through the ringer the past couple of years--here we go again, only this time with #2.

He's my athlete, my honor student. And after what we've been through with #1, I didn't think I'd have to worry about this one.

Apparently, I do.

We grounded him. He accepted his punishment without anger or argument. We talked. I told him how much I hate punishing him. He told me how badly he felt.

I hope he remembers this.

In the meantime, I'm back on the Christmas prep. But first things first. Even though it was bitterly cold, I went for an 8 mile run to the retention pond. Reliable as always, the road helped me reflect and gain perspective. Initially, I was feeling pretty badly about my abilities as a parent. What have I done wrong?

But as I ran and reflected, my perspective shifted. I stopped beating myself up and I started to feel badly for my youngest. Because of what we've had to endure with his brother, maybe my youngest has had to live up to an unrealistic standard. He should be allowed to do stupid things, right? Because that's what teenagers do. I know I did my share. The important thing is that he does whatever he needs to do, stays out of trouble, and gets it out of his system. This blip doesn't mean that he's going down a bad path. He's got good grades and he's active in his sports. He assures me that he's on track.

During my run, I stopped to take a picture and captured the sun in my warrior 1 upstretched arms.

Ready to head home from the pond, I ran directly into the brutal wind. I so wanted to bail on this run, to call my husband or one of my sons to pick me up. But that's not what a warrior does. I finished my run and warmed up when I got home.

I felt empowered for finishing that tough run. And for working through my mama drama. The boys will be ok. So will their mama. Thank you, running.

After that run, I felt so much better and ready to tackle my to-do list.

I baked.
I shopped.
I wrapped.
As always, Christmas is going to come together.

I made lots of cookies Saturday. All my cookies are nut-free because we have nut allergies at our house. Christmas+EpiPen=Emergency Room is a holiday buzz kill. Been there, done that....

You won't miss the nuts in any of these, trust me! I make all the favorites of the men in my house but every year I try a new recipe. Sometimes they end up on the keeper list!
Twix Sugar Cookie Cups
This is a new recipe this year and all I can say is make these.

Peppermint Cookie Bars
A nut-free take on the toffee bars my mom used to make when I was kid. My personal favorite.
Cocoa Snowflakes
My youngest son's favorite. I make a double batch.
Raspberry Strippers
The only "healthy" cookies I make. My husband's favorite.

Molasses sugar cookies
These are my oldest son's favorites.

How's your Christmas prep going? Any glitches you want to share? Are you able to keep up with your workouts? Do you like to bake? What cookies do you make? 

I'm linking up with Holly and Tricia for their Weekly Wrap. Hoping everyone had a good week!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Runfessions for December

I can hardly believe that it's time once again for Runfessions! Marcia's taking some time off at the end of the month, so she's hosting the party a week early. I was worried I wouldn't have enough to runfess, but since living life on the edge is my MO, I had no trouble coming up with things to share. My guardian angel shakes her head once again.

A couple weeks ago, I was running along the path at the retention pond. There were a lot of walkers clogging the path there, but since it was cold, certainly no cyclists. Without giving it a second thought, I moved over to the wheeled path lane that was free of walkers to stop having to weave around them. Coming towards me were 2 ladies bike path vigilantes gesturing and waving. I had my earbuds in, so I couldn't hear them until I got closer to them. They leaned towards me and shouted at me: "You're in the wrong lane! Move over!" I nodded and smiled at them. "Thank you! Have a nice day!" And kept going in the bike lane. It reminded me of that scene from Trains, Planes, and Automobiles.... 

I have to runfess that I am SO glad that Elf on the Shelf wasn't a thing when my boys were younger. Seriously. As if we moms don't have enough stress with Christmas prep--didn't I just write about that a few days ago? The mom games are in full swing as I've been observing all the Elves up to no good posts on FB. Did you know they sell outfits for him now? Because it isn't enough just to set him up pulling pranks. Now you have to change his clothes. Although I will admit that some of the pranks I've seen are pretty funny...maybe a little disturbing...
At my work Christmas party this past weekend, I let my freak flag fly. The party was at a bar near the hospital where I work, and instead of our usual white elephant gift exchange, the planning committee changed it up and hired a DJ. I kind of liked the gift exchange and was disappointed we weren't having it this year, but when I heard the opening riff of the Commodores' song Brickhouse, I couldn't help but move it move it. Maybe it was the beer talking. Does alcohol make you feel like a good dancer? Take a listen and tell me you don't want to get up and dance right now. Uh huh huh....

The medical assistants were all like, "oooh, Wendy!" But they joined me, and we danced the night away. I felt young, dancing with those ladies. The DJ hit all the high points. We were stunned when some of the more conservative medical staff (the doctors) joined in and let loose. Man, that was fun. I do work with some awesome, fun people. This was just the kind of boost our office needed to pull morale out of the toilet.

We whipped and we nae naed. Turned down for what. And we tootsie rolled. 
And speaking of toilets (how's that for a segue?), while out for my runs, I've been seeing a lot of porcelain thrones on the curbs. Mrs. Kravitz knows who's redoing their bathrooms. I don't know about you, but seeing all these toilets on the curb reminds me of that scene in the movie Jackass where the guy relieves himself on one of the display toilets in the hardware store. I didn't and I'm not saying I would. But could you? Would you? This is Runfessions, after all...

And speaking of crap (another great segue), the blog has recently been hit by spammers like you wouldn't believe. The majority of posts under attack are older, with one previous Runfessions post in particular getting almost daily hits. I don't understand how that is happening and I feel helpless to stop it. I've put comment moderation in for posts older than 5 days, and I apologize for having to do that. But I want to prevent comments like this from getting through:

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post 

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loading velocity is incredible. It sort of feels 
that you're doing any distinctive trick. Furthermore, The contents are masterwork.
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They're pretty much all variations on the same theme. I used to be disgusted. Now I try to be amused. They are just so stupid. 

Got anything to runfess? Come on, you know you do...Seen any of the movies I referenced? Danced to any of the tunes?

Besides linking up with Marcia, I'm also linking up my 5 Runfessions with the Friday Five and the DC Trifecta aka Courtney, Mar, and Cynthia

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

'Tis the season to be stressed out...

Fa la la la la, la la la la....

This bitmoji pretty much sums it up.

I'm not a fan of the holidays. Well, let me clarify. I love the holidays--all the celebrations, the joy, the spirit of the season.

What I don't love is the prep for the holidays. All of you moms out there, you get it. The responsibility for holiday joy all falls on us. When I told my husband I wasn't going to send out Christmas cards this year, his response was, "you have to!"

Because why? And why can't he do it?


Guilt ensued and I searched through all my pictures from the past year. I found one, just one, that had both boys smiling from our March trip to Anna Maria Island. It was almost worth it, just to look at all the pictures from the past year. The picture I found was a little dark, so I doctored it up to make it look even better. Thankful for Snapseed, which I use to edit a lot of the photos you see on my Instagram feed.

Man, I love these boys.
Said Christmas cards arrived today. Guess what I should be doing instead of writing this blog post?

There's still gifts to buy.
Decorations to put up.
A menu to plan.
Cookies to bake.

Instead, what do I do? I go for a run. Today I put on these Christmas leggings that I originally bought for last weekend's Underground Polar Express run. It was too warm to wear them then. I got to run in them today. It was blustery and drizzly. But I ran with a smile on my face. Really, neon yellow shoes and holiday leggings?

During stressful times, the one thing that doesn't fall by the wayside is the run. If I can get out on the road, everything seems to fall into place.

Why is that? Does running make me more calm and ready to tackle all the tasks at hand?

I think so.

Wouldn't it be easier to just put my workouts aside and deal with all the stuff on my to do list?

Maybe. But I don't want to know.

It will get done.

For me, the holidays are hugely stressful. I'm not complaining. It is what it is. But if I've learned nothing else, I know that I need to put a run at the top of my to do list.  Everything else can wait.

And if throwing on a pair of holiday tights makes my inner scrooge go away, then it's all worth it.

Do you maintain your normal workout regimen during the holidays? How do you deal with all the stresss of the season? Do you send Christmas cards?

I'm linking up with DebRuns for Wednesday Word. Today's word? Stressful. How about you? 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Book Review: The Runner's Brain

For me, running is 90% mental and 10% physical. That should be no secret to anyone who reads my blog. My biggest challenge when training for distance races isn't the physical training. It's the mental training. I'm lucky to have a coach who gets that and has worked hard with me to basically get out of my head. It's a work in progress, as this past week's session with her proved.

We were doing cleans into a front squat, and I apologized for messing up. It just feels so awkward! Becky told me to put the bar down and do 5 burpees. Crap!

"You've got to stop apologizing. You have to just move on, " she told me. I'm a work in progress.

When The Runner's Brain by Dr. Jeff Brown came out this fall, I moved it right to the top of the book club reading list, bumping a few books I had already scheduled. Sorry about that. I couldn't wait to read this one. I have read quite a few reviews on other blogs and was excited by the positive response. I've also read quite a few interviews with Dr. Jeff Brown, which is why I decided not to interview him myself. I'll post links to those at the end of the post.

Anyways, I thought I'd have a unique perspective on this book since for the last couple of years, I've been working really hard on getting out of my head. Because of the work I've done, there wasn't a whole lot of new information for me. Instead, I found everything he said to confirm the work I've been doing with Becky.

Dr. Brown starts off by giving a little anatomy and physiology lesson about the brain, talking about the reticular activating system. The RAS is the area of the brain that takes all the incoming information and decides what you need to pay attention to. The RAS can only hold a finite amount of information, and Dr. Brown says that you need to choose that information wisely.

"Before you build the confidence to respond with a 'heck yeah I'm a runner', your RAS needs to believe. And it needs to send a message to the rest of your brain that it, too, should believe. Your job is to throw the RAS as much and as many different types of information you can about your being a runner. This is how you can strenthen your identity as a runner."

Dr. Brown talks about setting goals, which help you define success and motivate you, and dressing the part, calling it "enclothed cognition". I don't know about you, but I sure feel more confident when I head out for a run in my tights and technical shirts than I would if I put on some baggy old sweatpants and sweatshirt. Not to mention how heavy those would feel. Same goes for life in general. If you are feeling down, doesn't it perk you up to shower and put on an outfit you know looks good on you? In the picture above, it was foggy and drizzly, so I put on my "RunHappy" shirt, just to give myself a boost, and had a great run! Corny? Maybe. But it works.

Goal setting should be realistic, says Dr. Brown, and there should be a backup goal. Kind of like what some people do, setting A, B, C, etc goals for a race. This year's Chicago marathon was the first time I made a backup goal and was I ever glad I did that. There was no disappointment on my part for not achieving my primary goal because I had the backup plan, which was successful.

Dr. Brown also talks about how we train our brains to respond to the run, the elusive runner's high, and the power of magical thinking. I laughed about that last one.

You get the point. 

There's a section devoted to racing and the importance of the social aspect of running. Dr. Brown also addresses pre-race jitters and post-race blues. As he says, most trouble for runners occurs before and after the race. The majority of us do well during the race because running is what we do. We just focus on the task at hand. He gives some suggestions on dealing with pre-race anxiety. 
"The moral of the story is that you should attend to the things you can control and minimize the things you can't..."
Easier said than done, right? That's why he suggests visualization.
"Your goals should be to manage your anxiety by thinking confident thoughts. Try coming up with some canned mantras you can easily remember and repeat to yourself....Just come prepared and give the best effort you can give on that day....Stick to your rituals."
 The book finishes up with Dr. Brown's 7-Step Fit Brain Training Plan and some thoughts from elite runners.

This was a great little book with helpful tips that could benefit every runner. I liked that the book didn't contain a lot of superfluous information. For me, this book was confirmation of what I've been working on for the last couple of years. These things he suggests do work, but you need to practice them, just like you do your running. Because this book is more like a handbook, I'd recommend more in depth reading if you want to take your performance to the next level. Dr Brown also wrote The Winner's Brain. There must be a lot of runners struggling with mental toughness because I found a ton of books to recommend. These include Brain Training for Runners by Matt Fitzgerald,  RUN: The Mind-Body Method of Running by Feel by Matt Fitzgerald, How Bad Do You Want it: Mastering the Psychology of Mind over Muscle by Matt Fitzgerald, Mental Training for Runners: How to Stay Motivated by Jeff Galloway (new edition coming out April 2016) and The Champion's Mind: How Great Athletes Think, Train, and Thrive by Jim Afremow.

For more information on Dr. Jeff Brown, Carly Pizzani, who writes the blog Fit Fine Day recently posted an interview with him. You can read this here. There is also a 2 part podcast interview on Marathon Training Academy

Did you read the book? What did you think? Do you use mantras to keep you on track? Any special pre-race rituals that you must do? Do you use visualization to keep focused? Any advice you'd like to share?

I'd love for you to link up your review of The Runner's Brain or any other fitness/running related book. If you don't have a blog, post your review in the comments! And if you do link up, don't forget to link back to this post, using the image below.

Next month we are reading the scandalous autobiography by Suzy Favor Hamilton: Fast Girl: A Life Spent Running from Madness. I'm really interested in reading about how this Olympic athlete fell into a life as an escort before being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Runner's World gives a little background information here. The review and linkup will go live on Friday January 15.

As always, thanks for playing along!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Underground Polar Express Run

Three years ago, my friend Karen started the Underground Polar Express run to benefit a local charity. Last year was my first time running it, and I had a great experience! This year when she posted the registration link, I signed up the first day. The registration fee is $15, which is a bargain! Not only is there the fun run for which runners don holiday costumes, there's pizza and drinks, a raffle, and a cute stocking cap, all included in the price. The registration is capped at 300 runners which keeps the event small and fun.

This year I convinced Marcia and Sara to join me, and we met at my house to make the drive together. It was a balmy 60 degrees, and I had already reworked my costume to accommodate the warm conditions. There was the threat of rain, so we brought plastic bags just in case. The drive to Batavia was easy and it was fun to catch up. We got to the restaurant where the race was held and ran into Karen. She looked amazingly calm!

Karen, Sara, me, and Marcia
After signing in, we walked to the river path where the race would take place. No Garmins, no race bibs, just a 3 mile "jog" along the Fox River. We did pass some people, natch, but it was fun to run without a goal time. It was really warm and humid, and I was starting to seriously sweat after about 1 1/2 miles. Luckily the rain held off during the run. I was glad to see the finish back at the restaurant, where we immediately went inside to get something to drink. I headed to the bar to get a Blue Moon. Sara and Marcia opted for soda. We perused the raffle prizes, which included 4 tickets to a Bulls game! Then we sat down at the table to wait for everyone else to finish.

Michelle, her family, and a friend joined us, as well as Penny. It was fun to catch up while we ate pizza.

front Michelle, Penny, me
back Sara, Marcia
And while I didn't win anything from the raffle, Michelle and her family were really lucky, winning 3 prize baskets, including one which contained this scarf knitted by Kim from Running on the Fly!

As we rode home in the pouring rain, we talked about what a fun event this was. Karen and her elves do an amazing job of planning. I will definitely put this one on my calendar for next year! Besides being for a good cause, there's something about dressing up in a Christmas costume to kindle that holiday spirit! I was amazed at some of the creativity of the participants. One woman was dressed up like the leg lamp from the movie A Christmas Story!

Have you done any holiday themed runs this year? Do you run in costume?

I'm linking up with Holly and Tricia for the Weekly Wrap! How was your week?