Saturday, December 26, 2015

The past few months

Hello? Can anyone hear me? Does this thing still work? It's been awhile since I've done a blog post. A lot has happened over the past few months and I will try my best to cover it all (mostly with pictures.) The biggest change was my move from Washington to Dallas. I took a new job with Southwest Airlines and have loved every minute of it since I've started. It's an awesome company to be a part of and I work with some really great people. Of course, I miss DC, but I've already been able to get out there a few times to visit. In fact, the last time I was there I was able to sneak in a quick run with friends.

After I moved to Texas and before I started my job, I went on a week long runcation in early September with my friend Cathy. We both signed up for the The Rut 50K, a stupid crazy mountain race in Big Sky, Montana with over 10,000 feet of vert (more on that later.) But, before we headed to Big Sky we spent 4 days camping, trail running, and sightseeing in Grand Teton and Yellowstone. If you have not been to either of these parks, I highly recommend you check them out. The scenery is unreal and the trails are epic!
Running on the Cascasde Canyon Trail in Grand Teton 
Camp in Grand Teton
Grand Teton Range
The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone
After Grand Teton and Yellowstone, we headed to Big Sky for The Rut 50K. The Rut is like no other race I've ever experienced. From the start at the Big Sky ski resort, the course has over 10,000 feet vertical gain with the highlight of summiting Lone Peak, which is over 11,000 feet up! 
Big Sky with Lone Peak lurking in the background
This was my first mountain race and to give myself a better idea of what I was getting into, I also signed up for the Vertical Kilometer (VK) which was two days before the 50K. The VK was a 3 mile "run" that started at the base of Big Sky and went straight to the top of Lone Peak, a total of 3,600 feet of vert. It was brutally awesome. The views once you got above the tree line were incredible.
Hiking up the spine of Lone Peak

At the summit!
After the VK, I had a lot more confidence going into the 50K, but that isn't to say the race was easy. I just wanted to enjoy a beautiful day in the mountains. It was cold at the start (30s) and didn't warm up too much during the day. But, we had blue skies and views that couldn't be beat. I spent 10 painfully long hours on the course, but I couldn't care less about the time. My only goal was to finish.

About two weeks after The Rut,  I ran in my first race in the Dallas area, the Tour des Fleurs 20K. The course started/finished at the Dallas Arboretum and did a loop around White Rock Lake. It was an overcast and humid day, but I ended up having a better run than I expected. 
In October I ran one of my favorite races for the 4th time, the Chicago Marathon. I ran for the Alzheimer's Association in honor of my grandmother, who recently passed from this very sad disease. My sincerest thanks to all that donated. It was a beautiful day for the marathon, but unfortunately I was undertrained for this race and suffered a bit in the second half. Nonetheless, I was so happy to get another Chicago Marathon finish. If you have never run this race, add it to your list.
A sweet sign my sister-in-law and niece made for me
A couple weeks before Thanksgiving I ran in my first trail race in Texas, the Rockledge Rumble 50K. Much like Chicago, I was very undertrained and had no business running it. However, I was signed up for it so I had to go out there and at least give it my best effort. The course was on some pretty sweet mountain bike trails along Grapevine Lake and I enjoyed them for the first 20 miles until I hit a wall. The last 10 miles or so sucked and I was happy to collect my finisher's medal and then drowned myself in pity beer.

Rockledge was the wake up call I needed to get my ass in gear. I was signed up for the Dallas Marathon about month later and I wanted to have a stronger race. So, in the weeks leading up to the marathon, I upped my training and snuck in a little speedwork. On race day I was still unsure where my fitness was so I went out at a pretty conservative pace, about 9 min/mile or so. I maintained that through the halfway point and still felt I had plenty in the tank, so I let it rip. By the end of the race I was running about 8 minute miles. I finished in around 3:48, much faster than I expected. It was a nice surprise and a great confidence boost to take into the new year.
Dallas bling
So, that's what I've been up to for the last few months. I'm definitely looking forward to 2016 and I've already signed up for a few races in the spring that should be a lot of fun. 2015 had its ups and downs, but I learned many valuable lessons that I can hopefully apply to my training in the future. I hope you all had a strong 2015 and I wish you happy runnings in 2016!


Friday, August 21, 2015

Thank you, DC

I went for a run this morning expecting it to feel different. It was one of my last runs in DC before I move to Dallas. Oddly, but also reassuringly, this run felt just like every other run I’d been on through this incredible city.

I’ve been trying to find the words to express how I feel about moving away from Washington. I’m not surprised that going for a run was all it took to make some sense of it. While I won’t be living here anymore, I’ll be carrying a large part of this city with me in Texas. That chunk of DC I'm taking with me will make me feel like I'm still a part of it.

It’s a special feeling when you get to call your nation’s capital home. When I think about my time here, I feel so lucky. Living in DC has changed me in many ways, all for the better. I’ve made so many lasting memories and friendships. I’ve learned valuable lessons that I will be able to use for the rest of my life. I will miss DC, but have endless gratitude for all it has given me.

As I set off for the next chapter of my life, I will never forget the one I just finished writing.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A (brief) message to those running Western States

“Life had been reduced from a highly complex existence, with a thousand petty problems, to one of the barest simplicity in which only one real task remained – the achievement of the goal.”

That is an excerpt from the 1959 novel, Endurance, a book I highly encourage everyone to read. As soon as I read that line, my mind immediately drifted to the feelings I have at the start of a race. I felt it eloquently described a runner’s mindset as they toe the line. The hard work is over. The long months of training are behind them. Race day is finally here! As soon as that gun goes off, the daily scattering of thoughts and worries evaporate and they are left with only one focus, achieving their goal.

Good luck to all those running Western States this weekend!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

My thoughts on nature and John Muir

"I'm glad I'm not great enough to be missed in the busy world." John Muir wrote that in his journal, which later became a collection known as My First Summer in the Sierra. That statement stayed with me long after I read it. How could Muir, now recognized as one of the great trailblazing pioneers, think so little of himself? Certainly, a man of Muir's stature in today's society, would be missed. Yet, in the summer of 1869, long before the very trails he was hiking on were named after him, he felt free; unbounded by the demands that call so many of us back home.

To bring some context to Muir's statement, he was referring to an encounter he had with an old friend, Professor Butler. Muir bumped into the "Professor" (as Muir called him) near the famous North Dome of Yosemite, and spent the rest of the day visiting with him.

That evening, Muir tried to convince the Professor to camp with him in the high Sierra. However, much to Muir's surprise, he learned that the Professor had to return back to civilization due to his obligations. Muir would later write that he pitied "the poor Professor, bound by clocks, almanacs, orders, duties, etc., where Nature is covered and her voice smothered..."

Over the years (and I credit much of this to my discovery of trail running) I've found myself more connected with nature and its peaceful solitude. As I read Muir's words, I often find myself saying, "YES!" It is very easy nowadays to get comfortable in our routines. But, more often than not, if we stay comfortable for too long, we grow uncomfortable. John Muir's journals and essays remind me that while I can't ignore life's everyday demands, I'm not bound to them. His words have shown me that when I'm starting to feel drained by the stresses in my life, a little dose of nature is all I need to restore my energy.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Race Recap: Weekend Double - Fountainhead Half Marathon and Capitol Hill Classic 10K

On Saturday, I ran EX2’s Fountainhead Half Marathon, a race I had run last year. EX2 races are always well managed and the race director is super friendly. Minus the staggering humidity, it was a great day for a trail run. The race was held at Fountainhead Regional Park along the Bull Run/Occoquan Trail (a place I train often). I would classify the Bull Run/Occoquan Trail as a mostly non-technical, well groomed single track with some rollers to keep your quads honest.

Coming into this race I had an A, B, and C goal. My A goal was to place in my age group. My B goal was to finish under 2 hours and my C goal was to beat my time from last year - 2:05:31. I knew achieving at least one of those goals would be possible, but I secretly wanted to land my A goal. Since The North Face 50K last month, my training has been going really well. My legs have felt good on my hard days and I’ve been recovering quickly. I’ve also been better about incorporating more speedwork and hill training into my runs. But, I mostly blame that on the fear The Rut 50K (11,000 feet of vertical gain) is already instilling in me, and that race isn’t until Labor Day weekend! I digress.

I went out hard at the start with the front runners to avoid the mid-pack congo lines on the single track. The first half mile of the course was on a road, so by the time I reached the trail, things had stretched out nicely at the front. I dialed back my pace, fully expecting to get picked off by some of the runners behind me. But, to my surprise, I was able to maintain my position.

Around the halfway point of the race I noticed I was running all alone. At times I would question whether I was off course, but then I would spot a piece of pink surveyor tape dangling from a tree branch. Those solo middle miles were really enjoyable for me. The morning birds were chirping, the trees around me were lush and full of life, and I was in a good rhythm.

About 3 miles from the finish, I ran past a race volunteer that told me I was 16th overall. That motivated me to keep pushing. Near the end I caught up to and passed 3 runners to finish 13th overall in 1:58:55. According to my Garmin, the course had about 1,500 feet of vert, which made for a nice mix of flat and rolling sections. I wasn’t sure if I finished high enough to place in my age group, but to my delight, I achieved my A goal by placing 3rd!

The following morning I met up with my friends Chad, Kristy, and Carolyn for the Capitol Hill Classic 10K. The humidity was even higher for this race and the skies were full of rain clouds that never came through with some much needed relief. My legs were feeling fresh from my half so I decided to give this race a good go too. I started around a 7:30 min/mile and didn’t stray too far from that throughout the race.

The race started in Stanton Park and after running between the Supreme Court and The Capitol, the course followed East Capitol Street all the way to RFK Stadium. Beautiful trees and homes line East Capitol, which made for a scenic race setting. After looping around RFK, the course returned to East Capitol and then onto the finish back at Stanton Park.

I finished in 46:26, happy to be done. It was so humid! Chad, Kristy and Carolyn all had great races too! Afterwards, we walked back to Kristy’s place and stuffed ourselves full of eggs, blueberry pancakes, doughnuts, coffee and mimosas. All in all, it was a great weekend of running!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Race Recap: The North Face Endurance Challenge Series DC 50K

This past weekend I ran The North Face Endurance Challenge 50K race in DC (well, it’s near DC…the race is actually held just north of DC in Virginia). Once again, I was not disappointed. Seriously, this race series is awesome! With events also in New York, Utah, Wisconsin, California and Canada, you’re bound to find one close to you. If you’re on the fence about running one of these races, just sign up. You’ll have a blast! The courses are beautiful, the race staff is stellar and the volunteers support is top notch. I can’t say enough good things about the Endurance Challenge Series.

This was the fourth time I’ve come out to run the DC race and my second time running the 50K. Being my first trail race since October, I was extra excited to get out and enjoy a day on my backyard trails. The weather couldn’t have been nicer on race day and with spring just starting to open up, the course was absolutely gorgeous!

Photo Credit: Exploring Endurance
The race started just as the sun was rising over the Potomac River. Having run this course before, I used my familiarity of it to my advantage. I set out at a comfortable pace and after a few miles I found a nice rhythm. The course only has about 1,300 feet of vertical gain (according to my Garmin) and when you combine that with fairly non-technical trails, it makes for a very runnable course. The course was a bit muddier than I expected for the first few miles, but I didn’t mind. It’s a trail race; you’re supposed to get dirty.

The first 13 miles seemed to blow right by. Many sections of the course went through lush forests full of spring flowers blossoming. Add to that the powerful Potomac River flowing alongside of you and it had all the ingredients that make for a scenic course.

I felt great heading into the Great Falls section of the course (mile 13ish). However, things went a little south for me after the Great Falls aid. The food I ate at the aid station wasn’t settling well with me and it left me feeling pretty nauseous. For the remainder of the race, it was hard for me to take down fluids and food without feeling like I was gonna barf. As a result, my pace started to suffer a bit and after finishing the Great Falls section – which is about a 5 mile loop – I really had to grind it out the last half of the race.

Great Falls
Photo Credit: 
Exploring Endurance
I definitely didn’t feel as strong as I made my way to the finish, but I was able keep myself from taking walking breaks. I just focused on getting to the next aid station. Breaking the race into chunks instead of thinking of how many miles you have left always helps. As I neared the finished, I tapped into whatever reserves I had remaining and pushed my pace. At this point on the course you have a lot of running traffic. The marathon relay utilizes the last couple miles of the 50K course, so I was receiving a lot of encouragement from the relay runners which was very much appreciated.

I finished strong in 5:37:32 and shattered my old course record of 6:23:22 that I ran back in 2012. After lying out in the shade and resting for a while, I grabbed my free post-race meal and soaked in the energy that was radiating from the finish line. The North Face Endurance Challenge is one huge party that celebrates trail running. It’s a great place to get your feet wet if you’re new to trail running and an awesome proving ground for those looking to better their previous trail efforts. I’ll be back next year for sure!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Book Review: Meb for Mortals

Ever wanted to get inside the head of a world class runner? In Meb Keflezighi latest book, Meb for Mortals, you will get just that! After accomplishing his lifelong goal of winning the Boston Marathon, Meb decided it was time to share all his race and training secrets.

After reading Meb’s first book, Run to Overcome, I was eager to get my hands on Meb for Mortals. Thanks to the awesome folks at Runner’s World, they sent me a copy to read and review before the book’s release on April 7th. At just under 200 pages, it’s a quick read that will certainly be a welcomed addition to your running library.

The book covers a wide range of topics that Meb has found crucial to all his success. Meb for Mortals will show you how to think, run, train, race, eat, strengthen, stretch, cross-train, and recover like Meb. While Meb touches on all distances, I think marathon runners will appreciate this book the most – especially those looking to improve upon their PR performances. One thing I liked in particular was all the visuals in the book. It’s packed full of pictures of Meb demonstrating running drills and strengthening/stretching exercises.

Meb emphasizes the importance of being a “student of the sport.” No matter how experienced of a runner you are, you can always be learning more. Up front he touches on how to set proper running goals. Then, as you read on, you will find that the rest of his book serves as a blueprint on how to achieve those very goals. Meb drives home his “prehab, not rehab” philosophy...take care of your body while training/racing and you will increase the longevity of your running career. If you read this book, it will provide you the all tools you need to ensure you spend less time injured and more time doing what you love, running!

To pre-order a copy of Meb for Mortals, click here. Also, be sure to follow Meb on Twitter and join the discussion using #MebforMortals.

Monday, March 30, 2015

TNFECS Washington DC - Course Preview

The North Face Endurance Challenge Series DC event is just weeks away! For those of you running the 50K and 50 miler, the course goes through a beautiful network of trails in Great Falls Park. This past weekend I ran the Great Falls loop to scope out the trail conditions and take photos to share with you all. The trails are in great shape and should provide excellent conditions on race day.

Below is a map of the Great Falls loop from the course guide, which you can download from the race website if you have not done so already. I will use the numbering on this map to describe the various sections of the course. The trails in the Great Falls loop are fairly non-technical with about 500 feet of vertical gain, according to my Garmin. However, it should be noted that I ran the 50K loop, which a slightly shorter than the 50 mile loop. Between sections 7 and 8 on the course map, the 50 mile runners will run an out and back on Matildaville Trail before running along River Trail.
50K Loop
Section 1 to 3
Shortly after heading out of the Great Falls aid station you will join Old Carriage Road, which is a wide fire road. After a good chunk of single track running leading up to Great Falls, this part of the course will give you a nice place to stretch out your stride and break out into song and dance, if you desire.
Old Carriage
Section 3 to 4
At the end of Old Carriage you will turn left onto Ridge Trail. At many points along this trail you will be able to catch some nice views of the Potomac River below you. 
Ridge Trail
Section 4 to the turn around and back
At the end of the Ridge Trail, you will bear right onto Difficult Run. This part of the course is a lot of fun because you are already running downhill as you come off Ridge Trail and then you get to bomb down Difficult Run -- but keep in mind you'll have a moderate climb on the way back up. At the bottom of the decent, you will parallel the Difficult Run Stream all the way to the turn around at the now repaired washout.
Difficult Run
Difficult Run washout repair. Trail crews did a great job!
Section 4 to 6
After running back up Difficult Run, you will turn left onto Ridge Trail and follow it all the way to the next aid station, Old Dominion. Once you're done refueling at Old Dominion, you will turn around and head back down Ridge Trail until you reach the Swamp trailhead.
Leaf-covered Ridge Trail near Old Dominion aid
Swamp Trailhead
Section 6 to 7
From Ridge Trail, you will turn left onto Swamp Trail. Shortly after starting down Swamp there is a fun switchback-esque decent, but watch your footing as there are roots begging to catch your toe. After the decent, you will continue on Swamp until it reconnects with Old Carriage Road. You will turn left onto Old Carriage and stay on it briefly until you reach Matildaville Trail.
Swamp Trail
Section 7 to 8
From Old Carriage you will turn right onto Matildaville Trail. If you're a 50K runner, don't get too cozy on Matildaville because you will soon turn off it and run on along the River Trail.
Matildaville Trail
Section 8 to Great Falls Aid
In my opinion, River Trail is the most technical (and beautiful) section of the Great Falls loop. This section of the course has great views of the Potomac River, but be careful not to look too long or a rock will catch your toe. Best to take a little breather and enjoy the view! The River Trail will lead you back up to the Great Falls aid station to complete your loop. If you're a 50K runner, congrats, you can start making your way back to the finish. However, 50 mile runners will need to complete this loop two more times before you head back. 

I hope you've found this preview to be helpful. Wishing you all a great race!!!

River Trail

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Race Recap: Shamrock Marathon

After a very long off season from racing, I finally completed my first race of the year. The winter season is usually a time for me to log some solid training miles as I prefer to train harder in the winter than in the summer. However, my body had other plans for me. If you read my blog, you know that I was sidelined for 7 weeks (from late November to mid-January) due to a broken arm and a banged up knee. After easing back into running on a treadmill, I was able transition to the more unforgiving road in February. Returning to training didn’t come without its aches and pains, but thankfully my body responded well.

While running the Shamrock Marathon marked my returning to racing, that wasn’t what this race weekend was all about. The Shamrock weekend was more about hanging with friends, trading stories, laughing and relaxing. Back in the fall I proposed to my friends Chad, Kristy and Carolyn that we should go to Virginia Beach and run Shamrock. Shortly thereafter we were booking our beach rental and registering for the race!

Friday evening we all piled into my car and headed for Virginia Beach. Chad's husband Jon joined us for the weekend as well, so it was a packed car! We arrive pretty late that night and after a quick trip to grocery store to gather our weekend rations, we went to bed. After some breakfast and a shakeout run by the beach Saturday morning, we headed to the expo to get our bibs. I swung by the Nuun booth to say hi to my friend Kim. We had a nice catch up and she shared with me some of Nuun’s plans for the Boston Marathon next month. All I can say is that if you’re going to be in Boston, be sure to stop by the Nuun booth!

Beach house
Shakeout run with Kristy and Carolyn
One of the perks of staying at a house over a hotel is that you can cook your meals. So, instead of eating out for our pre-race meal, I whipped up some of my homemade pasta sauce and we had a pasta dinner. Pre-dawn rise times the following morning meant we were in bed pretty early.

At 5AM alarm clocks were going off. Chad, Kristy and Carolyn were all running the half which started at 7. The full didn’t start until 8:30, but I got up with them and had an early breakfast. After Chad, Kristy and Carolyn left I relaxed and started to think about my race. My plan was pretty straightforward, finish. I had an underlying goal of going sub-4, but my main goal was to just go out and see how my body would hold up for 26 miles. My fitness was not exactly where I would have liked it to be for a marathon, but I knew I was healthy enough to give it a crack.

Race day sunrise
In many ways, Shamrock felt like my first marathon. Butterflies filled my stomach as I slipped into my corral. But, I must say it was a nice homecoming. I missed the racing atmosphere. The blast of a horn filled the air and I was off. I started around an 8:55 pace and didn’t waver from that for the first half of the race. Runners shot past me earlier on and the excitement of racing filled my legs, but I remained committed to my race plan and held my pace. I constantly repeated in my head, “Run your race.”

After working out some little pings of pain here and there during the early miles, I settled into a nice groove. Every mile I soaked in the environment. I was so happy to be running a race again. While injured, you have those days when you fear you’re never going to get better. For me, that was the hardest part. Those dark days weren’t fun but that was now all in the past.

As I neared the halfway point, I allowed my pace to creep down ever so slightly. I felt strong and was ready to push myself in the second half. As each mile passed, I got a little faster. By mile 20, I was running 8:30 miles. My legs were beginning to bark at me, but knowing that my pace was much faster than I thought I’d be able to run gave me all the incentive I needed to keep pushing. Bring on the pain!

The last 6 miles definitely hurt, but it was a hurt I missed. I knew I was right on the edge of my limit, but those are the moments I crave. That feeling of being right on the edge, but not out of control, is such a rush!  About 2 miles from the finish line I passed a group of people partying/spectating in front of their house. They were passing out small cups of beer and I grabbed one and took a little celebratory swig…sorta like what you see during the last stage of the Tour de France when the yellow jersey drinks some champagne with his teammates. I knew I was going to finish this thing!

A couple hundred yards from the finish line I saw all my friends cheering me on and that gave me a little extra boost. I crossed the line nowhere close to my PR time, but it felt every bit like one. I left everything I had in me out on the course. I was exhausted, but so freaking happy.

As I walked through the finisher’s chute, emotions started to flood in. I thought back to those dark days and the path it took to get me back to this point. I thought about my dad and all the strength he has given me. I thought about the race and how stoked I was to run a 3:50:32. I thought about how good it felt to be back doing what I love.

For icing on the cake, after meeting up with Chad, Kristy and Carolyn, I learned that they had all PR’d their half! Massive CONGRATS to all of them! Rockin' our Shamrock finisher hats, we headed to the awesome post-race party and sipped on some well-deserved beer! It was a good weekend to be with friends.

Post race beers on the beach with Jon, Chad, Carolyn, Dan, and Kristy

Thursday, March 19, 2015

For my grandmother, Eleanor

If you know me well, you know that running is a huge part of my life. As I continue to progress through my running career, I’ve learned that running is even more fulfilling when I use it to raise awareness and give back to those around me. That is why I’m excited to be joining the ALZ Stars Chicago Marathon Team to raise awareness about Alzheimer’s.

My beautiful, kindhearted and loving grandmother, Eleanor, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2005. With each passing year, her condition has continued to worsen. Many of the things you and I take so easily for granted have become increasingly difficult for her to do without assistance. It is a truly sad disease to witness and it’s my hope that one day there will be a cure. I’m honored to be running the Chicago Marathon for her.

ALZ Stars is a program to advance the care, support and research efforts of the Alzheimer’s Association. The Association works on a global, national and local level to enhance care and support for all those affected by Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

Your kind donation will help the Alzheimer's Association advance research to discover methods of prevention, treatment and ultimately, a cure for Alzheimer’s. My goal between now and race day in October is to find 100 people willing to donate $26.20, or a dollar for each mile I run, so that I can reach my fundraising goal of $2,620. Please visit my fundraising page to learn more.

Thank you in advance for your generosity. It is greatly appreciated by me, my family, and the families of those that have a loved one that suffers from Alzheimer’s.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

One of those runs

Last night I had one of those of those runs that somehow helps further solidify something I already know to be true. Running is my passion. Perhaps it was the setting? I was running along the Mt. Vernon Trail and caught the reflection of the sun setting on the Potomac River. It provided that perfect mirror image where the ground meets the water and then effortlessly flips upside down. I looked skyward, smiled and said hey to my dad. In that moment, nothing matter except putting one foot in front of the other. The mess of thoughts and emotions in my head vanished. I was lost in the motion of running. This is a sensation that I can only describe as an out-of-body experience. It only lasted for a few strides, but those are the moments I live for as a runner.

The best part is, I don't know when it will happen again. Maybe I should go for another run and find out...

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Runner's Spotlight: Meet Rachel McPhillips

It has been awhile since I've done a Runner's Spotlight and I couldn't think of a better person to get the ball rolling again. I met Rachel last year when we shared a van for 36 hours during the Hood to Coast Relay. I vividly remember Rachel mentioning to me her desire to run the Mercedes Marathon as her first. I told her if she signed up, I would as well. Flash forward to the present and in just a few days, I'll be heading to Birmingham to run the Mercedes Marathon alongside Rachel. Well...most it. I'm still easing back into running from my recent injury so I'm planning to run about 16 miles with her.

I think the most satisfying thing about being a marathoner is witnessing someone else take on their first. Your first marathon is something you never forget. When I think back to mine, it brings nothing but warm memories. So, my excitement about Rachel's first is that she will soon get to experience all those amazing emotions of running a marathon. She has trained very hard for this and I know she is going to have a great race!

Rachel was kind enough to take some time out of her busy mommy life (she has two little ones) to answer a few of my questions. Runners, meet Rachel!

When did you start running and why?
Rachel McPhillips: I started running in the Fall of 2009 so I could mark "Run a 5K" off my bucket list. A month later, I signed up for my first half. It took a couple of those before I fell in love with running. Once I realized that running is about competing with yourself and not trying to prove anything to anyone else, is when it stopped being a chore and became a priority.

Do you remember what your first road race was?
RM: My first road race was the Jingle Bell 5K in December 2009. It was rainy, and cold and I wasn't sure if I would actually finish.

What was your most memorable race?
RM: I love to soak up the essence of a race. I think every finish line you cross changes who you are from when you crossed the start line. I remember vivid details about all of my races. There are 3 races that stick out in my mind-- one is Nike Women's DC, where I ran it side by side with one of my best friends, Molly. The Tiffany necklace at the end wasn't so bad either. The second race is Hood to Coast with Nuun Hydration. While that was definitely more of an experience vs the actual race, I met some of the most amazing people on that trip that I now get to call friends, plus run for a company that I truly believe in and love.  The third race that sticks out in my mind is the Talladega Half. It was my goal race and I basically had a panic attack in the beginning of it and fell off pace. I wanted to quit in the middle of it, but kept pushing on and ended up running the last half with a friend and we had an absolute blast!

Do you have a weirdest/funniest running moment? 
RM: All the weird moments are gross, so I won't share those with the Internet, but probably one of the funniest moments is when I tripped and fell during a race. I rolled down a hill (Not gracefully, at all, I might add) and actually had a lady turn around and come back for me saying "Are you okay?? I heard you fall!!" I was so embarrassed.

Who is the biggest motivator in your life? 
RM: My biggest motivator in life are the two little redheads that call me Mom. They watch and listen to everything I say and do, so it helps me to try to stay positive and set a good example for them. I want them to understand the importance of taking time out for yourself, hard work, and self motivation.

What is your favorite quote? 
RM: "We cannot be what we want to be by remaining what we are." ~Max Depree

You’re running your first marathon soon. How has your training gone? What are your emotions leading into the big day? 
RM: My training has been different than most, in that it's been grief-stricken and extremely therapeutic. When I lost my mom in October, I wondered if trying to tackle the 26.2 was going to be too much, but I just took it one run at a time, and never looked ahead too far. I thought for a while that training for this would bring me some sort of closure and peace with her death, but I realized a few weeks ago that it isn't going to do that. I know that she was proud of me for doing this, and also thought I was crazy. I had some of the most fun on my long runs with my friend Tanya, and if it wasn't for her, I don't know that I would have made it on some of those runs. While my heart is heavy with the loss of my mom, I am excited and feel ready to tackle this race. It doesn't hurt that I have some amazing Nuun Hood to Coast teammates coming to help me celebrate!

If you could only give one piece of advice to someone just getting into running, what would it be? 
RM: Don't give up! You will feel awkward and out of place in the beginning, but don't let that stop you! If people offer to run with you, take them up on it. Other runners are the only people who will get your drive for this, but don't get so caught up in what everyone else is doing that you forget why you started.

What’s next after Mercedes? Signed up for any other races this spring? 
RM: I haven't signed up for any races, but I think I want to concentrate on a 5K or 10K PR for the Spring. I also want to take on more trail runs.

Want to know more about Rachel? Check out her blog: Running Backwards in High Heels
Follow her on Twitter: @runinhighheels
Follow her on Instagram: runinhighheels
Rachel is an ambassador for Nuun Hydration and FitFluential.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Injured Thoughts

A little over two months ago I broke my arm during a trail run. A couple weeks later, I messed up my knee (not running related). Long story short, I was sidelined from running for about 7 weeks. I always say running should never be taken for granted. Yet, I didn't realize how true that was until I couldn't run.

Things changed quite a bit during my time off. My attitude was different. My mind went to a place I was uncomfortable with. The mental aspects of running far outweigh the physical and that became quite apparent. I could say it was frustrating, but it went much deeper than that. I was scared. I tried to remain positive, but it was hard.

Being injured feels like a break up. Something that was part of my daily life was missing. All that remained was a void…a void that was damn near impossible to fill. I thought about running, a lot. I missed it. I missed every silly little part of it.

But then, I got better. I was able to start running again. I’m still not 100%, but for the first time in awhile, I feel that I’m heading in the right direction. I’m bringing my legs back to life. I definitely lost quite a bit of my fitness and my sore legs remind me of that after each run. But, it feels so good to be back.

If I wasn't sure before, I am now. I love to run.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

I run because...

Why do I run? It took a contest by Geoff Roes (2010 Western States 100 Champion) to finally get me to sit down and really think about it. He asked us to write a 350 word essay about why we run. In return, the essay he thought best answered that question would win a free entry to one of his week long Alaska Mountain Ultrarunning camps. Spoiler alert: I didn't win.

Even though I didn't win, I wanted to share what I wrote to him in this post. As runners, we are often asked why we run. If you're like me, you feel the answer you give never really delivers the message you're trying to get across. Even if the pressure of having to immediately answer was taken away, it's still hard to do. Don't believe me? Before you read on, take a moment and think about it. Why do you run?

My response to Geoff:

In 2011 I started a blog to answer the very question you asked.  I titled my blog, “I run because…” The title of my blog serves two purposes. 1) There is no one reason why I run and 2) each blog post I write is my best attempt at completing a very difficult sentence. It is difficult for me to finish that sentence because over my years of running, it continues to change. The reason I started to run 8 years ago is completely different for the reasons I run now. Moreover, when someone asks me why I run, I always find myself searching for that profound answer. More times than not, I feel I come up short.

I believe that when you are truly passionate about something, words can never fully express your emotions. It is something internal. It is a feeling you have that needs no words. But, after many years of pondering, this is what I’ve come up with:

I run because I love the way it makes me feel – happy.

I run because it is such a beautifully simple sport.

I run because of the amazing feeling I get when I exceed what I thought was ever possible.

I run because it calms me. It keeps me grounded. It humbles me.

I run because I love to explore and connect with nature.

I run because it helped me reunite with my dad after he passed. His presence is always most noticeable when I'm running. He is my source of strength.

I was apprehensive at first about sharing this because I feel it barely scratches the surface for why I run. Then, I realized something; it doesn’t matter if I’m ever able to fully communicate with a loved one, a friend, or a running mate the reasons for why I run. I know how running makes me feel and in the end, that’s all I need.

I run because it is my passion.