Tag Archives: run

What Running Gave Me in 2018

I’m not an emotional person.  However, as my husband broke off from me for the last two miles of the Charlotte half marathon, I found myself starting to tear up.  As I crossed the finish line, I cried.  I have run a few half marathons.  I have even run a marathon.  What made this race different?  A lot of things.  Mostly being the impact my children have had on my life.  Being a good mom, a mom my kids are proud of, ensures a different level of love that will always be in my life.

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When I saw the Charlotte Marathon was looking for ambassadors to represent the city’s race, I felt a calling.  This was something I wanted to be a part of.  I have preached that I am someone who keeps a very diverse training plan.  I am ready to do all types of things during any given week – ride an indoor bike, do an obstacle course race, crush a 5k or finish the competitive wave of beers and burpees.  How could I challenge those who considered themselves “non-runners” to get off a bike, treadmill or out of a crossfit studio to support this event?  I kept my same training regimen and showed up week in and week out at several local running races.

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I ran some of the fastest races of my life.  Will I remember that? Sure.  However, what  I will remember most about running all these races, rather participating in all of these fitness events, is the community. It gave me inclusion.  Access to a new group of inspiring friends that showed me a whole new side of Charlotte.

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Let’s talk race day.  I had been sick for several days leading up to the Saturday race.  I spent most of Thursday and Friday laying on the couch with a low grade fever.  I didn’t intend to dwell on it, which is why most people didn’t even know I was feeling under the weather as race day approached.  I woke up Saturday with the intention that I would run my half marathon without music, without expectation and with the intention of seeing my city.

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I parked in a parking deck that I didn’t plan to park in due to road closures.  I wore shorts based on advice from my husband and other ambassadors and I did less than a half mile warm up.  Nothing went as planned.  I met fellow Flywheel instructor, Abbie Cooper, and the Charlotte Marathon ambassadors at the finish line to take some pre-race pictures.

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Whatever nerves I may have had were released through the ambassador’s version of a 90’s boy band photo op and a short jog over to the start line where I met fellow FiA (Females in Action) friends for a group picture.  I had every intention of starting with the 8:00 min/mile pacer, until I couldn’t find him.  That’s where I was supposed to meet Abbie too.  Couldn’t find her either.

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I did find Katie Gregory (another Charlotte Marathon Ambassador).  We had already talked about trying to run a majority of the race together, so I felt good about having someone who I knew wanted to run an 8:00 min/mile pace near me.  As quick as the national anthem was played, the race started.  We walked across the start line.  There were a TON of people.  The first mile was slow.  Over the course of the mile, Katie and I picked up Alejandro (another Charlotte Marathon Ambassador).  He was running the full marathon, with a goal of sub 3:30.  GREAT.  Someone else who would pace with us.

The energy at the start of the race was fire.  Katie, Alejandro and I chatted, said hello to friends and before we knew it we were done with the first mile (8:10 pace).  Shoutout to all my FiAs we touched that first mile (Lindsey, Natalie, Katharine).  Katie and I joked about giving and getting high fives.  I ran past a group of police officers running down fourth and high fived each one of them.  It was after the first mile that we also passed a man who eventually completed the half with crutches.  SO inspiring.  There truly are no excuses.

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Somewhere in between the transition from mile 2-3, we lost Katie.  Alejandro and I chatted as we rolled down Randolph at the Colville intersection where I saw Shane.  Shane.  His smile so big, his arms extended up in the air, his voice echoing from 100m away.  He jumped in with us.  He documented on Instagram.  He entertained us.  These are the moments you will never know unless you run without music and technology.  Shane followed my pace as we ran with a man wearing American flag running shorts and a camelback.  He typically doesn’t do races on the road, but rather on the trails. We made the turn on to Providence in the midst of a huge crowd of runners (the first relay exchange zone).

We talked about how I was now in my home.  My neighborhood.  The roads that I knew and had trained well on.  We crushed the hills.  I took my first water.  I ran into so many people on this stretch.  Mary Merlin and her jogging stroller, a former co-worker Danny Weiland (I know his wife, Allison, was out there running) and the Lululemon crew! (Lynn and Allyson).

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Before we knew it, we were on to mile 6.  A steady downhill in which I saw my husband all geared up on the side of the road.  I yelled, “HUBS” and the man beside me looked over and said “huh?”.  I said again, “HUBS”.  He jumped in with Shane and I.  It was at that point that we made one of the most important turns of the day.  Queen Road West.  I knew I would see my kids. The most important people out on the course that day.

Y’all Queens Road West was MAGIC.  There were people lining both sides of the street.  Cow bells. Posters.  Cheers.  I saw my girls and ran by giving high fives and smiles.  I was proud of them as I hoped they were proud of me.  Thank you to all my friends and neighbors that we passed through this stretch.   Kelsey, Shelby, Cody.  The FiA station at the bottom of the hill.  If I didn’t say something or wave, it’s because I didn’t see you.  For that I apologize.  I am truly grateful for the warm showing of people out to support the every day runner.  Shane dropped us at this point, and the hubs (Jeff) took the task of leading me to the 10 mile marker.

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I took my first Gu pack as we cruised down Queens. I actually stopped to walk to make sure I got everything in and drank enough water too.  We picked things back up at a quicker pace as such I wouldn’t lose time.  That’s when we got in a fight.  As we cruised down Kings Drive, I told my husband I wanted to slow down to conserve energy for the big hill coming (Morehead).  He offered his advice, which I did not agree with and we stopped talking.  Sometimes big mama needs a time out.

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So I took one.  As I ran straight up Morehead with a chip on my shoulder, I saw one person standing at the top of the hill out cheering people on.  Allison.  She has been riding with me for over four years at Flywheel.  Allison has been through so much in the past year.  I can’t begin to explain to you how special it was for me to hear her yell, “Let’s go Jen” as I pushed to the top.  Just months ago this girl was admitted to the ER for blood clots in her lungs (from birth control, nonetheless).  She and her doctors attribute her ability to survive at her state to her level of fitness.  Read that again.  Her ability to survive.  Allison, thank you for being my inspiration.

We hit Latta park and found the people.  Charlotte Running Company had a set up.  We ran by the Fillnows.  As we passed the Charlotte Hornets painted basketball court in the park, we ran by Jeff’s friend, Scott Williams and his two boys.  He was as surprised to see us as we were to see him.  I walked through yet another water station before I headed to the home stretch.

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As we approached the point of the race that I knew Jeff would drop me to meet me at the finish line, he said to me “Jennifer, your girls were so excited to come cheer for you this morning.  They are proud of you.”  Mind you, we hadn’t said much since I got mad at him on Kings.  I didn’t say much, but I heard him.  I told him that.  I was listening.  So he kept talking to me.  This is why I love this man so much.

We split as I headed to SouthEnd and he headed uptown. By myself.  I had run the entire race with someone else.  I was finally alone.  Fatigue was setting in.  I was no longer distracted by someone  or something else.  I got sad.  Ha. Weird.  I felt like I was going to cry.  People say running is mental.  I kept trying to figure out why I was getting sad.  I was so close to the finish line.  I saw Scott Williams and his two boys again and I was reminded to embrace the experience and just have fun.

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I cruised by the turn into Panthers stadium fulfilled and slow moving, also alone.  I felt emotional again.  This whole season.  This whole experience.  It was almost over.  I wasn’t ready for it.  It was in these last moments that everything came full circle.  Abbie pulled up beside me and said, “Let’s go girl.  WE got this.” WE.  She didn’t say you.  She said we.  We, two moms, would finish together.  Not out to beat each other.  Not worried about time.  Just there to support each other as we finished.  This amazing feeling swept over me.  The end.  End of an incredible season.  End of this race I had been training for for what seemed like forever.  Regardless of time, I felt so loved as I crossed the finish line.  No matter how fast or slow I ran, I felt loved.  What a feeling.  Running gave me that.

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Don’t get me wrong, I feel loved by the ones who love me, but being a mom is hard.  There are a lot of days that go by unappreciated (especially with kids my age).  At my job in corporate America it was often that I was rewarded and recognized for my hard work.  The days are few and far between in my line of work these days.  My kids (and most people) don’t see me working during the hours they are sleeping.  Moving my whole day around to spend a little bit of extra time doing something for someone else.  Working out on a full stomach, when I’m run down or when I really just don’t feel like it.

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To Abbie.  To my moms and dads that work day in and day out.  To my friends and family who made me feel loved on this day.  I’m proud.  Proud of you.  Aim High.  Dream Big. Never settle.

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Labor Day Workouts + Good Eats in Downtown Roanoke

While a big chunk of our Labor Day weekend plans revolved around football, we did find time to work out and take advantage of some of the good local food downtown Roanoke has to offer. I mean let’s face it; you need to try to squeeze in a little workout on days that you know you will be eating more than usual (which was pretty much every day of this vacation). Lucky for us there is a beautiful greenway that runs around the city. Our first morning there, I squeezed in a relaxed 5k run, at a decent pace, while my husband ran up Mill Mountain.

photo 1-13 What was the reason for our separation? He is running the Blue Ridge Relay this weekend. As part of this race, relay teams are formed to run from a remote location in Virginia to Asheville, NC. The teams cover the mountainous terrain over several hundred miles ultimately to enjoy each other’s company. It is a grueling race that I hope to do at some point in the future. For now, I will stick to my thirty minute runs! I have to admit though; I didn’t see views like this on my run.

257563_10100321176441693_5687034_o We followed our workouts up with a family breakfast, at local breakfast hot spot, Thelma’s Chicken and Waffles. I pondered over the idea of getting something other than chicken and waffles, but that just seems crazy. If a restaurant is bold enough to include a menu item in their name, then it has to be good. This place never ceases to amaze me. The chicken is fried on the spot, and the sweet and salty combo just works. Every time we go to this restaurant, we run into our favorite waitress, Gigi. We might only see her a few times a year, but she sure remembers us every time we walk in the door. That’s the kind of service that you can’t buy.

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photo 3-107 On a beautiful non-game day, there is nothing better than taking a cruise through downtown Roanoke. I’m not kidding. I will even dare to say that the eclectic area is turning into a mini Greenville, SC. There is always something going on. We swung by a few of our favorite stores, before a set of books in Chocolate Paper caught my eye. Being the indoor cyclist that I am, I loved to see an entire section of cute biking books. I was very tempted to buy the “Heels on Wheels” book. Description: “A lady’s guide to owning and riding a bike.” Let’s face it. We could all use a lesson or two.

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My parents offered to watch my daughter, so my husband and I could have an early date night. Date night for us has turned into sushi night. For whatever reason, my daughter does not do well at sushi restaurants. Too bad for us, because we love it. Hence, every time we get a night out alone, we end up eating sushi. Our go-to spot in Roanoke is Metro.

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This place is a little more modern than most restaurants downtown, but the attire is still pretty casual. We enjoyed drinks on the patio before ordering an amazing, better yet, healthy appetizer: steamed shrimp dumplings. They were served with a side of sweet chili sauce. We typically go for edamame as an appetizer when ordering sushi, so today we went out of our comfort zone. Good call. This stuff was amazing.

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photo 1-121The restaurant recently added some specialty sushi rolls to the menu. Get this; they added rolls to give people more healthy options (i.e. no tempura fried/mayo/cream cheese)! Sign me up. We ordered the spicy vegetarian roll, the newly added salmon avocado roll, the cabo tuna roll, and the dragon roll. They all looked as good as they tasted!

photo 3-106We followed up our date night with one final workout in town the following day. This time we stuck together. Couples that sweat together, stay together, right? This was a FiA/F3 convergence workout all the way. We took advantage of a park less than 1.5 miles from where we were staying, so we could squeeze in some exercises on top of our run. Utilize as much equipment in a park as you can. Benches are incredible resources for the following exercises:

  • Decline/incline pushups
  • Knee to elbow plank abs (hands on ground, feet on bench)
  • Dips
  • Step ups
  • Box Jumps (if you have the space and the bench is not wet)
  • Lunges

If you run into an area where there isn’t any equipment that you can find to use, do body weight exercises:

  • Burpees
  • Squats
  • Lunges
  • Pushups
  • Planks
  • Abs

Key is creativity. You would be surprised what kind of strength workout that you can do with little to no equipment! I have to admit, it took me a long time to realize how easy it was. With that said, we are back in Charlotte, which means we are somewhat back on a routine. I am looking forward to posting some at home workouts this week, as well as, getting back on the bike!

Our Aruba Beach Bootcamp Workout

I am not going to lie; I did a little research prior to leaving for our vacation on possible gyms that we could workout at in Aruba. I am spoiled with my boutique fitness studios in Charlotte. Most of the places that I could find were not worth the investment of me renting a car or taking a taxi to get there. After several failed attempts at finding a place, I finally came to my senses and realized that I didn’t need to go somewhere inside to get in a good workout when I was staying on one of the most beautiful beaches that I have ever been to.

IMG_1093 I am all about efficiency. On vacation, I usually don’t want to spend more than thirty minutes getting a good sweat in. My father in law once told my husband, “Just do enough to keep the furnace burning.” With that in mind, we put together a little thirty minute beach circuit workout. Using some of the exercises that we did, you could totally put together your own beach workout depending on your resources. We did bring the Garmin, so we could track mileage, but we did not utilize any equipment (even though we had a very nice gym onsite at the hotel).

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Watch started with our first exercise. We found a short wall in the pool area of the hotel that we did decline pushups off of. I did 10, for most exercises that my husband did 15-20. You could also do incline pushups here.  After pushups, we ran down the beach to the next mock station (another wall, this time separating the beach and a pool). Here we did the following:

  • 10 step ups on each leg with a knee drive (this will hit the core a little bit)

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  • 10 dips

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  • 10 jump ups
  • 10 dips

Start your run again. The next mock piece of equipment we ran into was large rocks lining a path down to a pier. Great place for some incline pushups (10).

photo 1-49Beside the rocks, were some benches in a waiting area for a departing tour. Great place for another mini circuit of exercises (complete the following circuit twice):

  • 10 slow mountain climbers (1 each leg, knee to elbow)

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  • 10 squats

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  • 10 abdominal leg pull ins

photo 5-11My husband is such a good sport by letting me take pictures of him. Hoping to change up our exercises, we ran from this mini circuit down the beach until we found a solid railing that we could do some supine pull ups off of. Do 10 overhand, 10 underhand. FLAT BACK.

photo 2-47By now, my arms were tired. We continued to run down the beach until we found an elevated step. Place your left leg on the step, your right leg on the ground. Do 10 squat jumps. Switch sides and do 10 more.

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photo 1-48Your heart rate should be elevated after these. Pick back up on your run. The next station that we came across was a round picnic table. Hold a plank and walk your feet and hands around the picnic table one time. Beside the picnic table do 10 burpees. Keep running.

photo 4-24We ran up on a long breaker, extending out on to the water as we neared thirty minutes. Perfect place to end with some lunges. From the beginning of the sidewalk, we lunged to the end. What an unreal place to do lunges. With what little time we had left, we did as many burpees as we could.

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photo 5-12With a check of the watch, we came in just shy of 1.75 miles. We did happen to squeeze in sets of 10 burpees on some of the random patches of grass that we ran up on (just to keep our heart rate elevated). Even better, after that tough workout, we took a leisurely walk back (took pictures of what we did) and enjoyed the beautiful sunrise. We might be a little crazy, but the point of this post is to give readers an idea of easy ways to get a quick, outdoor workout in on vacation. Believe it or not, we got more compliments from people that we passed than odd looks.

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If you don’t dig the outdoor bootcamp, we did do a mountain bike excursion through the rugged Atlantic coast of the island that I will blog about tomorrow. Let me just warn you, when a tour is described as strenuous, take it seriously. I will blog about how a weak core could have been the reason why one of the members on our trip ended up getting pretty seriously injured.

Overcoming the Fear of the Pull-Up

As a woman who competed in the pole vault for several years in college, I was forced to learn how to do several pull ups in a row. I HATED them. I still have vivid memories of my college teammate holding my feet to provide leverage as I heaved my way up.   When I was done with pole vault, I was done with pull ups. That is until today.

Prior to arriving at the gym this morning, I had a mini track workout made up in my mind. That all changed when I ran into my friend Janis, who is in charge of group exercise at the Childress Klein YMCA. She was fresh off of a CrossFit WOD (Workout of The Day) that she said I HAD to try. Hey, I’m always up for a challenge. She jotted the workout down on a piece of paper for me.

photo 3-31 Let me translate. As fast as you can, do the following:

  • Run 400m
  • Do 30 pull ups
  • Do 30 push press (I used a dumbbell in both hands)
  • Do 30 burpees
  • Run 400m, then repeat the circuit doing 20 of each exercise
  • Run 400m, then repeat the circuit doing 10 of each exercise

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Um, I can’t even remember the last time that I did one pull up, and now you think I can do 60? Janis reassured me that I could do these assisted. Perfect. These bands can be used to provide various degrees of resistance to make pull ups just a little easier for people like me. I was gassed after the first set. The workout took me approximately 15 minutes, followed by abs (for a total time right at 25 minutes). No less than an hour after the workout, I could already tell that I was going to be sore (from the pull ups). With that said, I went to the internet to get some reassurance that I could find a way to get better at this exercise.

photo 4-20It was then that I came across an article on FoxNews.com that addressed the fact that the U.S. Marines have actually delayed a pull-up requirement for women after over half of female recruits failed the challenge. The article offers keys to pull-up training including areas that women need to focus heavily on to do a proper pull-up: upper body, back, and core. Did you see that last item on the list? CORE. Remember my post on the importance of core training? The biggest take back that I got from the article is that doing pull-ups takes commitment (a much bigger commitment for women than men for various reasons). Doing a workout like this is always grounding for me. I like to think that I am in pretty good shape, but it just takes something a little different for me to see my weaknesses.