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Monday, August 21, 2017

Why I Run

I was eight miles into a 13-mile run last Sunday, and I literally felt like I had peed my pants 16 times already.  It was that humid, and I normally don't sweat a ton when I run.  However, that day was a dreaming-of-ice cream-and-ice cold-coke suffer fest.  Nothing about it felt awesome, and it was a day that makes you ask, "Why am I doing this?"  Then I was reminded...

At the end of the greenway, I saw a mini-dude riding his Strider bike.  My immediate thought was, "Who is that?!  No one that little rides a bike as well as my Logan!" <-- I'm definitely NOT competitive.  That's when I realized it WAS my Logan (duh!).  My hubby and boys surprised me and met me out on my run, and my entire mindset immediately changed.  When I saw Logan's ear-to-ear smile and heard him say, "Mommy!  You're running!  You're fast, but I'm faster!", it filled me with so much energy and pride.  We took a quick goldfish-snack break before then riding and running alongside each other.  What began as a less-than-stellar run turned into one heckuva great one thanks to my boys.


"Butterfly on my bike!"

After my race last month, all Logan wanted to do the rest of the day was "race".  He stripped down to just his underwear (because he apparently thinks my spandex shorts are underwear?) and ran sprints back and forth across my brother's cool Connecticut front lawn, proclaiming over and over again, "Mommy, I'm fast!  Mommy, I'm sweating!"  ...and just like he was my biggest, curious fan that morning, I was now his, cheering him on all the way.

This past weekend, Mike and Logan went on a camping adventure, so Cooper and I held down the fort.  We went to the park on Sunday morning and ran for an hour together.  About halfway through, Cooper farted.  LOUD.  We were smack in the middle of a crowded Country Park, and I'm sure many passersby thought it was me (who was of course immediately embarrassed).  Even Cooper himself was laughing (<-- lil' booger!).  Then in that moment, I thought to myself, "That's right, Cooper, who gives a shit what anyone thinks!?"  When finally done and stretching back in the parking lot, I looked over to see if Cooper had fallen asleep.  Instead, I was proud to see my smiling, eight-month-old boy mimicking me with his legs stretched straight up into the air.  On that morning, we both taught each other something.


I have moments of guilt in my running, just as I'm sure all parents with individual passions and goals do.  It's typically a fleeting thought though, because then I remember the competitive look in Logan's eyes and the happy smile on Cooper's face when they watch me.  We're hopefully raising our boys to be strong, confident, independent men through our athletics.  The bond I share with them is simply stronger because of my running; not only are they learning from me, but they're teaching and reminding me of so much in the process.  So sure, I have goals, and I train hard to reach them, but my running now has a bigger purpose.  I run for my boys.

 Happy Cooper

Happy Mom

HAPPY RUNNING!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

First Race Back

A blank screen.  That's what I'm looking at right now after almost five months of not writing, and I have no clue where to start because so much has happened.  ...so much has changed.  Actually, I remember this same "lost" feeling on day one back to running after five months off, but hey, look at me now.  Sometimes, a clean slate is just what we need to get us where we want to go...

For the most part, I feel back to myself again, but I believe this to be true:  for every day you're pregnant, you need a day to recover.  It's kind of like Deena Kastor's marathon recovery advice:  for every mile you race, you need a day to recover.  For the first four five six months of Cooper's life, I was basically, well, batshit crazy.  I experienced a lot of physical symptoms (impetigo, wet skin sensations, random sweating, heart palpitations, digestion issues) that ultimately led me into some deep "what if I'm dying and can't take care of my children" anxiety.  After visiting six doctors, ruling out any auto-immune disorders, and adjusting to some new dietary restrictions, I'm finally at a place where I'm enjoying and appreciating the present instead of worrying about the future.  Cooper is now 7.5 months old, and I've officially upgraded myself to just, well, crazy.  One thing is for sure - anxiety is batshit ugly, and I don't wish it on anyone.      

Throughout these months though, being able to run again lifted these thoughts way more than any doctor could.  Once through that first eight week "sluggish-I'm slow as shit-why don't my shorts fit yet-am I sweating or was that pee?-I'm pretty sure I just farted, but yeah, I can't feel it" post-preggo phase, Coach Hubby Mike and I set up a 12-week plan to get me back to my first race, a five-miler in my hometown in CT.  Training consisted of gradually building miles, a bunch of tempo and fartlek runs, one solid speed workout, and leg strengthening work.  I hit one 60-mile week but had to be careful in dealing with some ankle pain, which was apparently caused by a slightly fallen arch and stretched retinaculum (no idea if I spelled that right) ligament during pregnancy.

Race day.  Since the race distance was not exact (slightly long), my goal was just to get back in the race mindset and do just that - race people.  At the start line, I saw a Kenyan woman and another woman in butt huggers, and I mentally weakened, saying to myself, "well, just go for third place."  Then I remembered what a college coach once said to me on a recruiting trip:  "If you treat yourself like a second-rate runner, that's always what you'll be."  Time to race, Jen.  I passed the woman in butt huggers at mile one, the Kenyan just after mile two, and won the race, averaging somewhere between 6:00-6:10 pace.  I felt strong, am incredibly appreciative for such a strong comeback, and left feeling confident as hell.

Okay, I digress.  ...I've thought a lot about that mental breakdown on the start line.  It brings me back to the day I delivered Cooper, when I took an epidural at 6cm dilated.  Was I in pain?  Of course...  every woman in delivery experiences pain.  Was it excruciating at that point?  No.  Cooper was born less than an hour after that epidural.  Perhaps I could have toughed it out?  Point being, here's what I learned about myself that day that I will carry forward into my races:  I fear the unknown/pain more than I allow myself to experience it.  Don't ever assume someone is better than you, and don't ever assume how bad something will hurt, as both will hold you back from reaching your potential.

Digression over.  So, what's next...  I'm currently nursing that same ankle after stepping on a cobblestone awkwardly last week (a scan luckily showed no bone stress), but other than that, it's time to focus on a fall marathon with either a 10K or half marathon tuneup en route.  We're still trying to navigate some sleep deprivation and general family-work-training balance, but all should only improve moving forward.  I'm excited to get my miles up to an all-time high and focus on some additional strength work too.  Plus, according to the Deena rule, I still have 1.5 months left until I'm completely myself again.  ...maybe then I'll get upgraded to no longer even being crazy, but yeah, probably not. :)

Happy Running!





Coop meeting some good college friends
Trail biker extraordinaire

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Never Give Up

Every day, at some point, I want to give up.

I oftentimes say to myself, "I want to feel normal again."  ...but then I realize, this is my new normal.  For every woman that wants a family, career, and to still fulfill their own individual goals/dreams, this crazy-ass life is normal.  I just haven't found a comfortable routine yet.

Some days, I question why we decided to have a second child.  And yes, I then feel guilty for questioning that.  Then I take one look at Cooper ... beautiful, happy Cooper ... and I can't even imagine or remember life before him.

Some days, I question why I still work.  Then I see one of my athletes conquer a goal they never thought was possible, and I'm so happy.  And they're so happy.  And then I realize - when they reach their goals, I'm happier than when I reach my own.  

Some days, I question why I give a shit about qualifying for the Olympic Trials.  Someone, another coach actually, once said to me, "Why do you care?  It's not like you'll actually go to the Olympics."  He sucks for saying that ...or maybe he doesn't suck, because he certainly fueled my fire.  And then I go for a run, and I feel free.  Happy.  I feel that fire and my deep-rooted desire, and I know that not going for this goal is not an option.

I may not be my happiest-go-luckiest self as of late, but I'll get back there.  Because after all, I'm choosing all of this.  Individually, everything makes me happy; all of it together is just a bit overwhelming right now.  It's kind of like opening a puzzle for the first time, dumping out all of its beautiful, colorful pieces, yet still saying to yourself, "How the fuck will I ever put this all together?"  ...But then eventually, even if it takes a little time, you do.

And that's why, every day, at some point, I know... I'll never give up.

Happy Running.  :)


 My beautiful boys (Logan, age three, and Cooper, age three months (as of tomorrow!)

I'm excited to finally launch my new coaching website:  
www.runjen.com



Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Comeback Time

Aaaand just as I sit down to start my first post in over 11 weeks, Cooper of course drops the loudest poop ever... hold up.

Mm k, now that Cooper is dry and smiling (don't lie - you smile too after you poop!), let's try this again...

Yeahhhhh, I just pooped!

...Cooper Reid Goff was born happy, healthy, and adorable on November 29th.   I think he looks just like me, although when I tell people this, they laugh.  Whatever.  He's a pretty cool lil' dude when he's not crying, and we're semi-coherently managing all middle-of-the-night feeds solely because of his cuteness factor.  We're excited to move forward as our lil' family of five (Zoe will always be my first baby!), especially now that...

I FEEL HUMAN AGAIN.  I'm not gonna lie, December challenged me, both emotionally and physically, almost to the point that I don't even remember the month anymore.  Between my recovery, learning Cooper's needs, just-turned-three-nager Logan being off school for three weeks, being inactive and indoors, Christmas, not sleeping, and my raging hormonal swings (i.e. lotsa irrational tears), there were moments I thought I belonged in a psych ward.  Oh, and to all the mamas on Facebook that make like everything is so perfect, which therefore makes other mamas question what the heyull they're doing wrong, can you please get real?  Because you know that after you snap 'n' post that two-second photo of your baby/toddler smiling, he/she is not smiling.  Ready, like this:

Facebook "appropriate" photos:
 Logan loves Christmas!

Such a peaceful Christmas elf!

Two seconds later (and not quite making the Facebook cut):
 Logan hates Christmas!

Such an angry Christmas elf!

K, thanks.  So yeah, back to feeling human again.  Now that Cooper is establishing more of a routine and is old enough to go out in public, I don't feel so "coop"ed up anymore.  Furthermore, having gotten a boob infection (better known as mastitis, or as I like to call it, masTITis), I decided to call it quits on pumping, which gives me another level of, call me selfish if you'd like, freeeeedom.  And of course, after awaiting this day for about five months, on January 10th, I went for my first run again.  HALLELUJAH!  

...Day one was a 2.5 mile run.  It was only supposed to be two miles, but my cloudy brain thought that 1.25 miles out + 1.25 miles back = 2 miles.  Oh okay.  Anywho, the run felt amazing.  I mean, my lungs burned like shit, but I knew to expect that.  Having been back at it for a week now, I've gone four miles at the longest and plan to hang at this mileage for another week or so.  The good news is that I feel like I can run A LOT farther; I just don't want to compromise my comeback.  I'm keeping the effort level easy as well and am happy to be hitting under 8's in doing so.  

I have a long road ahead in reaching my 2020 Olympic Trials Marathon qualifying goal, but I'm okay with that.  I'm very confident, and the training for me is the fun part anyway.  While I'm likely to race a marathon again before the end of 2017, this one will just be about being back out there (I mean, don't get me wrong, I will still race).  My focus right now is to heal from pregnancy, get my core and general strength back, and gradually return to the form I was in at the end of 2015.  Not to mention, I still have about, ohhh, 10 pounds of the 3B's (boobs, belly, 'n' butt) to shed, but that will happen in time.  The plan is that come early 2018, I will be fully targeting the OTQ standard. 

Speaking of the OTQ standard, although there has been no official announcement yet from the USATF, an inside source has informed me that it will remain at 2:45:00 for women unless the actual Olympic standard eases again (the USA trials standard cannot be faster than the Olympic standard).  The qualifying window will open on September 1, 2017, and the Olympic Trials race location/date will likely not be determined until the end of 2017.

Happy Happy Happy
comeback running!