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Ambitious Goals with Fierce Determination: Marathoning Mom

Ambitious Goals with Fierce Determination: Marathoning Mom

It is time for me to spill the beans about my big running goals. If I post it on the internet then there is no taking it back!

I’ve been open about training for an October 2020 marathon. I want to run faster than my first marathon and finish under 3 hours 30 minutes.  However, this isn’t the finish line that my big goal is focused on.

4 Year Plan

The real finish to my running goal is to go sub 3 hours and PR again to qualify to run in the Canadian Olympic Marathon Trials in fall 2023.  If I work my hardest, wear the fastest shoes, and have perfect conditions then I may have what it takes to qualify. 

I know my own abilities and I’m comfortable admitting that I do not have what it takes in talent or work ethic to run a 2:22 marathon and move on to the Olympics. My goal ends at the Trials.

If you’re like me and just watched the USA Olympic Marathon Trials, I should note Canada follows a different format. Canada typically uses its national marathon championships as its Olympic trials, but full team selection not guaranteed and is time based.

Making this Goal

When I made this goal it was a 4 year plan. I talked to my family about it and made sure I had their support to pursue this goal. A goal this size requires a lot of hard work and has major time commitments. I am grateful that most of my weekday runs occur after my children have gone to bed so I don’t loose time with them.  I also have the benefit of a gym at work where I can focus on strength training and stretching at lunch.  As for weekends, I try to run early in the morning so I arrive home during or soon after breakfast is finished.  

I have spreadsheets that go until October 2023 with races plotted in along the way.

Yearly goals for race distances of 5k, 10k, half, and full marathons will enable me to track my progress and stay motivated. 

Shelby is getting marathon ready
Shelby is getting marathon ready

My Marathoning Mantra


The mantra I created for this goal is ambitious goals with fierce determination.  On days I’m tired or would rather eat ice cream than go run, I think about how strong I want to feel in 4 years when I crush this goal.

Budgeting the Marathon Goal

I have crunched the numbers and this is going to be a costly goal. For this year, I’ll incur approximately $500 in race fees and $1000 in running shoes.  Travel expenses for my 2020 marathon will be modest at $500. I choose a local race to minimize travel time, which can be stressful with kids.  My marathon will only require a ferry and one night in a hotel.  After adding it up, the 2020 expenses are equal to a trip to Disneyland. Still worth it in my opinion!

Next Steps

I hope you’ll join me, a mom of two little girls, as I train, race, and ramble on about running.

Do you have an ambitious goal that you’re working towards with fierce determination? Let me know about it in the comments.

Back to the Start Line

Back to the Start Line

Last month I etched my future running goals in stone [2020 marathon!!]. Now I’m re-thinking how I want to achieve my goals. I had assumed that after two pregnancies, my competitive running days were done. I thought I would never again set a new personal record in any race distance.

What I have learned this past year is that I am stronger than ever. I have finally figured out my nutrition and lost the few extra pounds that had been hanging out around my midsection for most of the 21st century. I am focused and ready to take on a challenge and push my limits.

The Little One that Runs

Did you know that I started a running program in grade 2 in order to enter a single cross country race against grade 4 and 5 kids? I wanted to be a runner since then and from grade 2 to grade 11, I was constantly in training mode. In my grade 6 public speaking competition I spoke about my love for running and said, “I used to run for fun, but now I run competitively.” That line cracks me up since it was written by an 11 year old!

I had a gift for running and I used it. By the time I was 15 I was getting confused as my body was changing and my times were plateauing. It was really difficult physically and mentally to go through intense training schedules without yielding results. The day I sought permission from myself and others to quit competitive running was a life changing day. It was March 2, 2001 and while driving to a friend’s house a big red Dodge truck ran a stop sign and smashed up my vehicle. I was taken to hospital and x-rayed all over and was extremely fortunate that my injuries weren’t more severe. A fractured pelvis was enough to end my high school running days. I limped away from the sport I had devoted most of my life to and found new interests.

My Next Chapter

If you met me in university you probably didn’t even know I was once a runner. After I graduated from university and found a job that numbed my brain, I was looking to pursue a hobby. My mom suggested we run a half marathon together and since I’d never run that far I decided to give it a shot. During this training we discovered the Nike Women’s Marathon in San Fran – the one with Tiffany necklaces for finisher’s medals – and we registered. I did my first half in February and another half with a group of friends and a “really nice guy” [aka my future boyfriend/husband] in June. Then 4 months later I ran my first marathon. I finished in exactly 4 hours and not the highly coveted 3:59. I assumed my speed was gone or it didn’t transfer to half marathon and above distances.

My race times didn’t bother me since I was reunited with my love of running. I ran for fun and never pushed myself in my training over the past decade.

ambitious_goals_fierce_determination

Reigniting My Fire

I blame my mother for reigniting my competitive side. She offered to pick me up for a 5k race this summer and I went along according to her plan. Turns out she mixed up the race’s start time. As we walked up to the race we noticed runners already on the course. The timing officials told us to start and our chips would give us our time so we did.

The race had begun 6 minutes earlier and we jumped right in. Starting a race late is ridiculously motivating – you probably won’t get passed by ANYONE. I just pushed hard and started to catch people and then catch some more people. I overheard some women say “she must have been in the washroom at the start” which made me laugh. This was not a gastro-intestinal issue, it was a listening to my mother issue! I ended up finishing the race in 22 minutes according to my watch. I hadn’t run a time like that in years.

This result made me alter my training plan for my half marathon in September. I added 4 new speed workouts to my training. That’s it, just 4 extra workouts over the course of a month. This resulted in me improving my half marathon time by 9 minutes from 4 months earlier! Next up was a 10km race where I was able to squeeze in 2 more speed workouts before race day. I improved my 10km time to 45 minutes. This is only 2 minutes slower than a time I’d run in high school.

In addition to feeling strong, I am encouraged by the fact my average heart rate keeps DROPPING with each race I’ve run this year. I’m excited and I want to train hard and push myself to be my best.

Inspiration and the Runner’s High

If you look at Canada’s top female distance runner’s like Natasha Wodak and Lyndsay Tessier – both of them masters runners and are in their prime.

I never liked how I walked away from the sport of running. I’ve always felt like my legs still had some speed left in them.

Even a couple weeks after my little race victory I’m still coasting on my runner’s high. I’ve got some big goals in the works that I’ll share with you next week.

Thanks for Reading!

Thanks for reading about my running history and how I’m ready to get back to the start line again. I think this will help you understand some of the bigger goals that I’m going to be striving for in the years ahead.

Let me know your thoughts on running in the comments below. Is it fun, torture, or just a warm up at the gym to you?

See ya’,

Mouse House Mom

Am I Ready for a Marathon?

Am I Ready for a Marathon?

I’m one of those crazy plan ahead people. For BIG goals, I like to have details worked out months (ok, it is really years) in advance. For the past month, I’ve been contemplating running a marathon.

A marathon is a huge commitment as a runner and as a parent. I completed my first marathon in 2007 and even though I puked my guts from mile 11 until the finish, I still told anyone who would listen that it was the best day of my life.Life was different in 2007. I was single, living in a trendy downtown neighbourhood, and had landed my career job. Life was good. I could be selfish in my training because nobody was relying on me for anything. Now there are a lot of factors to consider in taking on another marathon.

Are you ready for a marathon? If 42.2 kilometres sounds like fun to you, you should also consider:

  • Family
  • Costs
  • Holiday plans
  • Work demands
  • Personal health and current stamina

A marathon requires an intense 3 month time commitment. More time would be required if you aren’t up to 15km long runs at the start of the 3 months. There is never a perfect time to train for a marathon, but if you make it a priority then you can do it!

Marathon training
First Marathon in 2007 versus training for a half marathon in 2019.

Family

If your family isn’t 100% supportive of your decision to run a marathon, then don’t do it. Aside from the 3 to 4 hour runs that you’ll need to complete, you are also going to be tired, sore, and dare I say more irritable.

I always try and complete my runs before my daughter’s Saturday morning sports. To continue this, I’ll need to find something that doesn’t start at 8am. And now with two kids, this will be more difficult.  Luckily swimming lessons start as late at 11am in the morning. I also check sunrise charts and plan the earliest time possible that I can run. I’ve even calculated a start time that has me run in the dark, but aligns sunrise to the time I hit the trail portion of my run.

  • Potential Issue: I can’t expect my husband to handle Saturday morning breakfasts,clean up, and activities when I’m out running AND have him do it again on Sunday morning because I’m tired from the day before that I need more sleep.
  • Potential Solution: The compromise that would work best for us is that I’d go to bed a bit earlier on Saturday nights to catch up on sleep.

When my mother wanted to do an Ironman Triathlon she had to consider timing and it was best to wait one year until I was a freshman in university since she wanted to be present for all the activities and events that happened in my final year of high school. Know yourself and how involved you want to be or know how much FOMO you suffer from and plan accordingly.

Costs

If you tell yourself running is a cheap sport then you’re delirious! Running only requires a pair of running shoes… Oh and don’t forget moisture wicking clothing, double layer socks, Bodyglide to prevent chafing, special water bottle belt, another pair of shoes since you’ll wear out the first pair before the race, a sports bra that costs more than dinner for two at the Keg, recovery electrolyte drinks, the grocery bill from that time you’ll go shopping after a long run and accidentally buy the entire store, race entry fee, hotel for the race, the kiddie pool you splurge on out of guilt for not spending enough time with the kids, 8 bags of ice for when you realize you can hijack the kiddie pool for your long run recovery ice bath….etc. 

Holiday Plans

If you are thinking of a fall marathon then you’ll be completing some of your long runs (3+ hours) over summer.  If you’re planing a vacation you also need to consider how you will complete your long run.  I’d say live a little and miss a weekday run, but those long runs are not to be messed with.

  • Potential Issue: Your family trip to Europe occurs during marathon training.
  • Potential Solution: Look for a half marathon to participate in at your holiday destination. Or can you find a run club that will be running similar distance? Maybe travel with your training partner and map a run where you are visiting. Adjust your dates and vacation over a recovery week when miles are shorter and could be run on a hotel treadmill.

Work Demands

Are you going to be able to find the time to run or are you working 12 hour days in the office? I actually find when I’m super busy at work that I need to get my runs in to keep my sanity. However, this could be a vicious cycle if work and running keep you away from your family. Long work hours can mean more fast food meals, which could impact how you feel in your workouts.  This could mean more meal planning in order to eat right, work long hours, and feel good in your runs.

Personal Health and Current Stamina

I personally believe that anyone can run a marathon. However, the journey to that marathon start line will be different for everyone.  I wouldn’t undertake a 3 month training plan until I was happy with my 5km and 10km race times. After all, I want to run the next marathon faster than my last. If you have been running through an injury or hoping a tinge in your knee will go away on its own – then maybe get that checked out before fooling yourself into a marathon.

I include current stamina as well because you should be able to run at least 15km comfortably prior to starting your training plan. I would also suggest having run a half marathon in the last year before taking on a marathon. This will prepare you for a build up in training mileage. I like to eliminate “surprises” during training and you start to learn about your body when you increase mileage for a race above 10km. To read more on half marathon training and how I balance it with work and family check out my previous post Balancing Half Marathon Training.

Marathon Considerations
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What is the Verdict?

Will you sign up for a marathon or run away screaming less than 42.2km in the opposite direction? I’ve considered these factors and I’m leaning towards YES! I’ve got my spreadsheets out and I’m starting to visualize how I can make this work. Tell me in the comments if you have a marathon or multiple marathons on your bucket list.

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Race Week Rituals

Race Week Rituals

With my half marathon on Sunday, my race week rituals are underway. I’m excited to step up to the start line and see what these mom-of-two legs of mine have in them.

My last two half marathons have been RunDisney races, where I run for fun photo ops instead of for time. This Sunday I’ve set a time goal of “under 2 hours”. I’ve had to rethink my time goals since having kids and maybe one day I’ll get back to speedier times, but that’s not my current focus.

The week before the race isn’t when you decide you need to start cross training or overhaul your nutrition. However, I have a few race week rituals you can follow to get to the start line feeling your best.

Below are my three race week rituals:

  • Strategize.
  • Visualize.
  • Eat wise.

By race week you should have already planned out your race day clothing. You ought to have tested it out to make sure it won’t rub you the wrong way (seriously, chafing sucks). Did you forget to do this? Just wear the clothes you normally wear on a long run.

Strategize

I am a planner so one of my race week rituals is to plan out my race strategy. While I’m not racing to win, I think a strategy is still helpful to try and achieve my goal.

Running under 2 hours is my goal and yours may be faster or slower. Either way, you need to understand how you are going to go from start to finish in that time. I get out my calculator and have some math fun to determine my required splits. If splits are new to you, it is basically the time you need to run (or will run) each kilometer. For my goal, I need to run my kilometers in 5 mins 41 seconds. I have known my goal splits for most of my training. I’m confident I’ll be able to blend my weekday speed sessions with my weekend long runs in order to meet my splits. If you realize your abilities, confidence, and goal are not realistic there is no shame in amending it or running without a time goal. I have run some half marathons with the mantra “no expectation, no limitation” and have let that carry me through.

In addition to splits, I always try to run the second half faster than the first (a negative split). If you’re running without a time goal, but want to finish the race having given it your all, then a negative split might be a good fit for you. In order to achieve a negative split I actually write out my first 10km anticipated time and then ponder how I can run the next 11.1km faster. I plan to run a couple seconds faster per kilometer and end the last few kilometers by increasing my speed to ensure I hit the negative split, the time goal, and the feeling of giving my all by the finish line.

Visualize

My second race week ritual is that I like to print the race map off and highlight the route by splitting it up into smaller chunks. I familiarize myself with where the major hills are on the course and other interesting features, such as where two races may collide. This weekend I’ll be finishing my last 5km with the last half of a 10km race. Knowing that I may suddenly start to get passed when I’m trying to kick it into high gear will help mentally prepare me for being among fresher-legged runners.

I like to give each chunk of the race it’s own mantra. When I want to hold back in the first few kilometers I’ll write the mantra “cool and calm”. On race day I can remind myself to stay cool and calm instead of “balls to the wall”, which is reserved for the last 3km chunk.

Preparing for race day is like studying for a test; learn the course, know it’s hard parts, visualize your success, and you won’t be in for a surprise on race day. It also helps me get rid of the negative thoughts about challenging parts of the route. If I know ahead of time that I’m prepared to run slower on the major hills and that won’t stop me from crushing my goal [because I’ve done the math already] then I’m better off for it.

Race Map Ready to Visualize
Race map action plan.

Eat Wise

I’m not a nutritionist, but based on how long foods take me to digest I follow a pre-race meal plan. For me this is more of a ritual than solid health advice. It keeps me focused and gives me a sense of control.

My plan below assumes a Sunday race day. Starting on the Wednesday before the race I give more thought to the foods I eat. You know the foods you love to eat, but might not always agree with your stomach? I try to avoid those in the lead up to the race.

If you follow my Instagram you may think I’m a hypocrite [the ice cream churro sandwhich was heavenly before my race] and I’ll admit that when I’m doing a RunDisney race I eat what I want, when I want. However, if I’m not planning to stop mid-race for a photo with Mickey Mouse then I take my nutrition more seriously.

I’ve only focused on dinners in the lead up to the race. From Wednesday on, I try to always eat balanced meals of meat, starchy-carbs, and vegetables. Below are the meats I choose to eat in this order since I find it works best with my digestion:

  • Wednesday: steak
  • Thursday: chicken
  • Friday: salmon
  • Saturday: pasta in tomato sauce. No meat. No cheese.

My pre-race breakfast is typically eaten at least 1 hour before race start and it is a half banana and oatmeal with extra brown sugar. I also have about half a cup of coffee if it is a late start to the race. If you’re running a half marathon or more then I suggest you eat what you ate before your long runs and don’t mess with it now.

I suggest you find what works for you, but it is nice going into a race knowing that I have a formula that works well for me.

3 Race Week Rituals: Strategize. Visualize. Eat Wise.
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Good Night and Good Racing

I hope this helps you have an amazing race day filled with joy and high-fives. Or maybe you’re more of an introvert and you just want to cross that finish line, breath a sigh of relief, and get out of there. Either way, have fun!

For more on how to balance half marathon training check out my earlier post here. I’m already looking ahead to September where I’ll be running another half marathon.