How to turn anxiety into adrenaline on race day

I think I need to declare this my summer to work on mental toughness.

It’s been clear to me in my past 3 (!!) races that I have some work to do in this area.  In a local 5k, the NJ Half and the Newport 10k, I struggled in the final mile, and then managed to pull out a fast finish somehow.

The struggle feels very physical in the moment, but then it turns out my body does have more to give when I see the finish line, and I’m realizing how mental that piece is for me.

I shared a few weeks ago some of my favorite mental toughness takeaways from a few books and podcasts I’ve listened to.

Recently, I added another one to the mix.  I highly recommend the podcast Tina Muir did with Bhrett McCabe.  As she says, there is so much gold in there!

I took lots of notes and will probably need to go back and listen to it a few more times before it all sinks in, but this was one of my favorite quotes:

Adrenaline and anxiety feel the exact same in the body.  The only difference is in how we interpret it.


When we interpret it as fear, it becomes anxiety.  When we interpret it as excitement, it’s adrenaline.  – Bhrett McCabe


Powerful, right? I know I often line up on the race line with a little (or a lot) of anxiety.  The thought that the only difference is in how we interpret it gives me a lot of hope.  I don’t have to force myself to feel differently- I can feel what I feel and tell myself how excited I am to have the chance to race!

Smiling, staying positive about how much fun it is to race and removing pace expectations can go a long way to make a more enjoyable racing experience.  I’m working on that.

The next step is to better embrace the discomfort in that last mile and stick it out, rather than fading and giving up!

What is your weak spot in a race?

Are you nervous or excited at the start? Have you considered the relationship between anxiety and adrenaline before?

My journey back to the marathon

Well, it’s official.  I’m registered for a fall marathon!

Thanks for all the great suggestions.  I decided to go with the Richmond marathon for a number of reasons.  I’ve had several friends recommend it, my sister lives in the area, and I like that it’s in November so I can limit the summer 20 milers.

My husband and I had a long conversation flushing out what the deal is with the marathon. Immediately after pretty much every marathon, I’ve told him that I’m good- no need to do another one.  The poor guy is so confused every time when I’m suddenly back on the marathon train!

I think it’s kind of like giving birth- something that is a big enough challenge in the moment that you don’t think you need to go through it again.  Months later, your memory softens the tough parts and you know you are capable of it.

I think there is a second reason, too.  I’m only a few years away from 40, and I feel like the inevitable slow down is coming.  I know I’ll continue to run, but I can see myself sticking to shorter races and doing more trail running and becoming a little less competitive with myself.

Maybe it’s some sort of mid life crisis, but I feel like these are the last few years I have to really see what I can do, and then I’ll move on with the marathon phase of life.  I don’t want to miss this chance to push while I still can.  Does that make sense?

There’s still plenty of time to join me- I hear Richmond is an amazing race!

What drives your running?

Do you have age-related goals?

Switch to 5k training recap + Meal planning

Happy Mother’s day to all the moms! And a special hug to any women who are yearning to be a mom and are not yet there.  I remember how hard this day was when I was in your place.

Yesterday, my 7 year old pulled off a Mother’s Day tea with the help of my husband, and sent invitations, created the menu, set the table and she and a few friends served the moms tea, fruit salad and cookies.  Plus dark chocolate, at my request!

I admit, I wasn’t thrilled when she came up with the idea as Mother’s day is supposed to be about less work for the moms… but they did it without my help and it was a sweet morning, and really nice to have an hour or two to sit and catch up with friends.

Training picked up this week, with the shift now to a 5k in mid-June and possibly a one mile race as well.  Here’s the rundown:

Sunday:  5 recovery miles (9:15 ave) after Saturday’s 10k, with two of my favorite running friends

Monday:  6 easy (9:00 ave) + Barre class

Tuesday: 50 minutes easy cycling

Wednesday: Interval run (2 mile warm up, 8 x 200m with 200m recovery, 1/2 mile jog and repeat, 2 mile cool down)

My warm up paces were 9:00, 7:56, then I kept the 200s between 5:40 and 5:55 pace.  I had to rush back so my cool down mile was 7:20, but then I did a proper cool down with the stroller after dropping my older daughter off at school, 2 more miles at 9:40 ave for 10 total.  I haven’t done 200s in a long time, and this was a really fun workout!

Thursday: 7 easy (8:30 ave) + boot camp … in retrospect, boot camp took this from easy day to moderately challenging day so I was ready for my rest day Friday!

Friday: rest!

Saturday:  10 miles total with 10 x 1 minute on, one minute off at 6:00 pace (recovery at 9:45 pace) total average 8:06 for the miles… this was a treadmill run, with 100% rain all day long but I added some short hills in the first half, and the fartlek in the second half made the run fly by.

More recovery miles this morning.

Meal planning:

Sunday: I believe we’re getting sushi tonight?

Monday: Roast tofu + bulghur burgers (I love this bulghur recipe from Moosewood- it’s an interesting combo of tahini, tomato, garlic, soy sauce, mustard and scallion… sounds odd, but it’s so good!)

And let’s be honest, probably eggs or Applegate hot dogs for the girls who won’t eat it

Tuesday:  Salmon, baked potatoes and green salad

Wednesday: Spiced Chickpeas with spinach and eggs (from Meals on the Run)

Thursday: Leftovers, just me and the girls

Friday: Hoping it’s nice enough to grill grass fed burgers and veggies!

Saturday: Out or quick throw together meals

Did I mention my husband has been making sauerkraut? Lunches lately have been some sort of wrap with sauerkraut, hummus, turkey or tempeh, feta cheese and greens… amazingly delicious!

Do you have any Mother’s Day plans?

Are you a sauerkraut fan? I find people either love it or hate it!

I’m linking up with Fitness and Food with Ilka and Angela, and Tricia and HoHo from The Weekly Wrap!


Run Your Fat Off

I was recently asked to review Dr. Jason Karp’s book, Run Your Fat Off. I met Jason at an IDEA conference and attended two of his sessions which were fantastic.  He is a well known author and coach with a PhD in exercise physiology.  I’ve also emailed with him around PhD recommendations as I’m considering taking that next step and he was very helpful.

This book came at an interesting time, because I was simultaneously reading Roar (Stacy Sims) and listening to Runners Connect’s Nutrition Summit with workshops from nutrition and running experts like Tim Noakes, Bob Seebohar and Matt Fitzgerald.

If you’re familiar with any of those names, you know that there is a lot they disagree on in terms of the ideal way to eat as a runner!

What I appreciated about Jason’s book is that he doesn’t make claims unless there is scientific evidence to back it up.

He states many times that there is no one right way to eat for weight loss as a runner, and I agree with him. He largely believes this is true because at the end of the day, “calories in equal calories out.”  So you can eat kale or steak, as long as you aren’t taking in more energy than you are using each day.

I believe it’s true for different reasons- I think some individuals react differently to certain types of foods.  For example, some women thrive on more meat and less grains while others have the opposite experience and start feeling better on a vegetarian diet.  Weight is complicated for women, as we have to consider hormones, insulin resistance and other individualized factors.

Jason tackles many weight loss and nutrition myths, which are particularly helpful. He cites a study that points to the benefits of eating a larger breakfast for weight loss, and a study in Denmark that found the macro nutrient breakdown of the food did not make a significant difference in weight loss.

Note: I do not recommend the above ratios! They are designed for body builders, not runners, and will not achieve the same results in runners.  But it highlights the popular thinking and why runners think carbs will make them gain weight, right?

I was curious to see what kind of eating plan he recommends, and was pleasantly surprised that despite sharing the Denmark study, he feels that moderate carbohydrate intake is beneficial for weight loss (not low, but not too high) and that’s what I’ve found to work best for my clients as well.

Of course, his eating plan is a one size fits all- it does not cater to vegetarians or those on a gluten free or dairy free diet, but it’s easy to tweak to fit specific nutritional needs.

While reading this book, the Runners Connect Nutrition Summit speakers presented alternative views.  Tim Noakes argues for a low carb, high fat diet for runners to prevent insulin issues and diabetes (he is now himself diabetic). Bob Seehobar shares his metabolic efficiency recommendations which I’ve already written quite a bit about, and Matt Fitzgerald had a slightly different approach as well.

Personally, I like conflicting view points because it reminds us that one way of eating will not work for everyone, but there are enough common themes that we can pull together and trust.

I’ve been compiling notes from my own clients, my personal experiments and journey as well as from each of these books and speakers and want to share with you some of what I’m finding.

Want to dive deeper?

If you’ve ever struggled with losing weight while running even though you’re not over-eating,  join me for a webinar next week highlighting the pros and cons of various approaches and how to determine what is the best fit for you.


Sustainability and #thewholeyou

This post is sponsored by Stonyfield.  All opinions, as always, are my own.

Stonyfield first introduced me to Prana a few years ago, and this month we’re linking up with them again to celebrate #thewholeyou.

Since connecting with Prana and their sustainability movement, I’ve added their jeans, a dress, shorts, a tee, a swimsuit and jeans for my husband to our wardrobe.  And probably more that I’m forgetting.

And thanks to this month’s partnership, another pair of super cute, comfy shorts!

These are the Tess short, color Koi.

Most of you know sustainability is important to me.  We do what we can, which right now means buying more local foods (CSA) and fair trade coffee and chocolate, composting our food scraps and using them in our soil, growing some of our own food in the little garden space that we have, and making as much as we can from scratch.

I wish we could afford all organic cotton and bamboo clothing, mattresses, and household goods but it gets a little crazy.  Setting aside some of my clothing budget for high quality, sustainable clothing makes me feel like I’m giving back in a small way.

This is why we’ve always used Stonyfield too, as they focus on sustainable farming, organic dairy farming, and surviving against the big name yogurt brands that don’t carry the same values. (And they can now proudly claim to be a B Corp organization, too!)

Of course, #thewholeyou concept for me also includes running, parenting, getting ourdoors when we can, good food, good reads, being my own boss, and always learning.

My go to snack lately is Stonyfield’s whole fat Greek yogurt with muesli… I love to see this switch in the dairy industry back to full fat.  Why mess with what nature produces?

If you haven’t tried any of Prana’s organic cotton, recycled and sustainable clothes, you can get 15% off an entire purchase through May 31st with code WHOLES17MRF.

Find PrAna on social! Facebook: PrAna Instagram: @PrAna Twitter: @PrAna

Have you tried any of Prana’s clothing line?

What’s your go to snack lately?

Newport 10k Race Recap

I really enjoyed racing the Newport 10k on Saturday, and I can’t say that about a lot of races… usually because I’m too focused to look up and appreciate the race, ha! But the course is great, through Jersey City and pretty flat, with a finish mile along the water with great view of the NYC skyline.

I typically don’t race well a week after a half marathon, but I felt my legs bouncing back by Thursday and coach Tia gave me goal ranges which were race pace for me, so I decided to go for it and see how I felt.

I experimented with two new-to-me things for race day: coffee and music.

Coffee: I am not a coffee drinker, and often get to a race feeling sluggish early in the morning, so I thought it was worth a try.  I’m not sure what the verdict is yet.  I did feel more alert and ready to race, but I also felt a bit shaky and was nervous my blood sugar would crash… from only abut 1/4 of a mug! I’m definitely sensitive to caffeine… I need to experiment a little more.

Music: Again, I don’t run with music unless I’m on the treadmill, but I’ve had a sort of mental block with the 10k.  Those are paces I never run in training (other than mile repeats) and I was afraid it was going to hurt.  My goal was to distract myself with music, and I think it helped!


We had nearly perfect weather, around 59 degrees, although there was more wind than I would have liked.  The race started just a minute or two after 8:30 am.

I settled into a good pace and was surprised with how easily the miles ticked off, 6:48 and 6:43 for miles 1 and 2.

Confession: 10k paces intimidate me.  I can hold near 7 minute pace for 13 miles, but going 10-15 seconds faster is mentally a scary place for me.  So this was a good mental boost that yes, I can do these paces and they can feel manageable.

We weaved through downtown Jersey City.  There were many turns, so my Garmin was a bit off from the mile markers by mile 3.  6:48

I was running with a group of 5-6 others who were all very consistent with their pace, so I focused on staying with them and not worrying about the pace. Miles 4 and 5: 6:47, 6:55.

By mile 5, I was beginning to hurt, as expected.  And then as we hit the final mile, we were running largely into the wind along the water.  The views were awesome! But the wind was a challenge for me and I felt my pace slipping away.  7:08… oops.

I don’t know how much of this was physical and how much was mental, because when I knew I was close, I picked it up for the final .3 to a 6:34 pace.  It’s nice to have a little zip at the end of a race!

There’s something to learn from every race, and I’m learning that the last mile is a struggle for me until I see the finish line.  I could work on mental toughness to hold on at that point, but overall I’m really happy with my effort, especially just six days after the half!

And as 10ks are my least favorite distance, I’m glad I made myself do it and honestly, it was a fun distance today! Someone help me remember that for next time.

On to 5k training…and maybe my first one mile race!

Do you race 10ks or do you prefer longer (or shorter) distances?

What’s your least favorite distance?

I am linking up with SuzRachel, Lora, and Debbie for Running Coaches CornerPatty, Erika, and Marcia for Tuesdays on the Run, Nicole, Annmarie, Michelle, and Jen for Wild Workout Wednesday.



Recovery week + Meal planning

Happy Sunday!

How’s your weekend going? Have you been able to get out for anything fun this weekend?

I ran the Newport 10k yesterday (report coming soon!) and spent the afternoon making lasagnas for homeless families that our church takes turns hosting every few months. I had a quiet kitchen to myself which is, for me, heaven!

This was a recovery week.  I realized I hadn’t taken a solid few days off running since after my fall marathon, and asked coach Tia if we could build that in this week before ramping up again.

Of course, it’s hard for me to do nothing, but I kept the effort nice and easy all week.


Sunday:  NJ Half marathon

Monday:  rest

Tuesday: 30 minutes easy cycling + 20 minute walk

Wednesday: 50 minutes easy cycling + 20 minute walk + push ups/ core

Thursday: 4 easy miles (9:00, 8:36, 8:06, 7:50)

After the NYC half, my paces were in the 9/10 minute range for a good ten days as I recovered, so it was nice to see I was bouncing back faster this time.

Friday: 2- 2.5 easy shake out miles

Saturday:  10 miles total with the Newport 10k race …felt better than I expected to!

Meal planning:

Sunday: Lasagna (I made two extra yesterday, one to freeze and one to eat, a meal every person in the family will eat!)

Monday: Roast chicken + potatoes + carrots

Tuesday:  Chicken Fajita bowls with leftover chicken, scallion, feta, roast peppers, guacamole

Wednesday: Veggie Omelets

Thursday: Leftovers or some kind of soup with broth from the chicken (I should do a whole post on this, but homemade broth is one of the healthiest foods for runners!)

Friday: Homemade pizza

Saturday: Out for Mother’s day weekend?


Do you save bones to make your own broth?

Have you done back to back races? Was it successful, or awful?

I’m linking up with Fitness and Food with Ilka and Angela, and Tricia and HoHo from The Weekly Wrap!

What I eat the week before and after a half marathon

Racing a half marathon is very different than running a 13+ mile long run on the weekend. When you are running as hard as you can for 13 miles, you are burning through a lot more carbohydrate as fuel.  On a slow, easy long run your body is also relying on a good amount of fat.

So fueling in the days leading up to a race should be slightly different from normal, everyday fueling.

It has taken me a lot of experimenting to determine what works best for me, and I’m still learning.  But generally speaking, I find I feel my best on an every day diet of closer to 40-50% carbohydrate, 25% protein and 25-30% fat.  I’m talked before about increasing protein and fat in my diet, but I want to be clear that the majority of what I take in is still carbs! The definition of high protein or high fat is much higher, up to 30-40% protein and 50% fat or more! That is not an ideal runner’s diet.

However, in the days leading up to the race, my diet shifts to closer to 60 or 70% carbohydrate.  I start incorporating more sandwiches, potatoes, oatmeal, bagels and even an extra dessert or two.  Some examples of meals I had last week pre-race:

  • Turkey sandwich on sourdough bread with avocado and cucumber
  • Scrambled eggs and a bagel for breakfast
  • Stir fry with extra rice for dinner
  • Banana and nut butter, Clif bars and Picky Bars for snacks

Thanks to StrideBox for the complimentary monthly box! I’ve been finding new-to-me running goodies.  My favorite this month were the Picky Bar’s Chai to Catch me flavor- so good!

Race morning for a half or full marathon, I stick to what works for me: half or full bagel with sunflower seed butter and a banana, plus some sort of electrolyte drink about 2- 2.5 hours before the race.

For Sunday’s half, I took one gel around mile 6 but was still feeling full and only got about half way through it.

Post race, I immediately get in some carbs and protein if available.  I snacked on dried fruit and tortilla chips that were handed out at the race.  After getting showered, we went out for brunch and I had a roasted pepper avocado omelet, rye toast, berries and some of my daughter’s bagel.

In the first day or two post race, I am careful to focus on protein and carbs to replenish and repair my body.  On Monday, I tracked my food and hit 127 grams of protein which is a bit higher than normal, but was around 30% of my intake for the day.

My foods included:

  • Breakfast green smoothie with protein, banana and berries + scrambled eggs
  • Tuna hummus roll up + string cheese and tortilla chips + piece of dark chocolate
  • Greek yogurt + a few of my daughter’s animal crackers
  •  Ham, roasted potatoes, broccoli + raw veggies + hummus
  • Banana “ice cream” with whipped cream and sprinkles 🙂

I feel really good this week.  I wasn’t sore the way I was after the NYC half, probably because the downhills there left my quads hurting for a few days.  But I’m being conservative and sticking to the bike for a few more days… until Saturday’s Newport 10k in Jersey City!!

Do you change your eating before and after a race?

What pre-race dinner or breakfast work well for you?

I am linking up with SuzRachel, Lora, and Debbie for Running Coaches CornerPatty, Erika, and Marcia for Tuesdays on the Run, Nicole, Annmarie, Michelle, and Jen for Wild Workout Wednesday.


NJ Half Marathon Race Recap

Hi friends!

The NJ Half marathon was yesterday morning.  We lucked out with slightly cooler weather, after hitting the temps in the 80’s both Friday and Saturday!

The race: I have a lot of good things to say about this race: the logistics were really well organized, the corrals were perfect, it started on time, shuttle buses were running efficiently (for my family as spectators and for us afterwards) and every things seemed to go very smoothly.

Personally, I had a decent race.  I was hoping to break 1:33 and that didn’t happen, but I know that I gave what I had in the moment, so I’m happy with that.

Taper: I tapered less for this race than I have in the past, with 6 Friday, 12 last Saturday, 4 recovery on Sunday, 8 Monday and a rest day Tuesday.  Wednesday I did 6 with 10 x 30 second strides and then 4 Friday and another shake out run Saturday.

Overall, I felt ready to run.

The night before: I talked the whole family into joining me, so we stayed with a friend in the area and got dinner and ice cream on the boardwalk Saturday night (I went easy on the ice cream– not an ideal food the night before a race!)

Sleeping was rough as the four of us shared a room, and I think I accidentally gave baby J caffeine (the girls split one of the Bai mango drinks at dinner which contains coffeefruit… oops).  Poor girl was WIDE AWAKE for hours past her bedtime, happily chatting and singing.  L crashed a little later than normal, but was out and not bothered by her sister.  I went in around 9:30 to try to sleep and couldn’t ignore J’s babbling so we finally moved her pack and play to the (very large) bathroom!!  And eventually we all settled down.

Race day: I got dropped off at the start and met up with my friend Nerissa who had my bib and was also running.  We did a brief warm up together… coach Tia had me do a 1.5 warm up with 90 seconds at tempo and some drills.  It wasn’t long before we were off!

The miles ticked by… it was a pretty flat course, with only a few bridges or rolling hills but nothing major.  I got into a good rhythm from the start, miles 1-5: 7:04, 7:02, 7:01, 7:00, 7:01

Mile six had a bridge and I was started to feel a little fatigue but then got back on track.  Miles 6-9: 7:08, 7:04, 6:58, 6:58

I was surprised to see some familiar faces along the course! A coach I know from our local Fleet Feet, Ashley from Running Bun, friends who run with a local Montclair group, and two of my clients cheering. My Instagram friend Martina_NYC screamed my name and sent me a few photos too- although I didn’t see her and was so confused!  I also got to see my husband and girls around mile 10, which helped, as I was getting warm and starting to struggle.

The last 5k was tough.  My race plan called for me to pick it up to whatever I had less, working my way down to 6:50’s and even 6:40’s but I did not have it in me.  I was remembering mental training tips, and reminded myself that when you think you’re done you always have another gear.  I kept saying, ‘find that gear’ and ‘shift gears’ and I think it kept me fighting, but I never actually shifted!

The final stretch was down the boardwalk 1.6 miles and straight into the wind.  That was rough! I held on and thought I was increasing my pace, but numbers don’t lie! I was actually slowing down, until I hit mile 13 and tried to “sprint” to the finish.

Miles 10-13: 7:07, 7:03, 7:09, 7:16 and final .3 at 6:56 pace for a 1:33:56 finish.

I saw the girls again at the finish and was so happy to cross that finish line!

L came with me for most of my 1 mile cool down jog.

It’s funny, I originally signed up for this race after I got into the NYC half thinking that would be a tough course to run well on, when I actually ran slower today on a flat course! But I gave it what I had and am proud of that.  I also learned I was first in my age group!

And now spring race season is coming to a close.  I have some 5ks and shorter races this summer, but my shin was a little achy post race so I think my body is telling me this is a good time to step away from running for a couple of weeks and recover well before increasing my intensity again.

Thanks to everyone for the well wishes and the congrats!! It was a fun racing weekend.

Do you race better on flat courses or rolling hills?

Do you tend to have an additional gear at the end of a race?

Racing Mental Strategies

Here we are, 3 days out from another race. This is the point at which I try to pull some sort of mental game plan together.

My approach in the past typically consisted of these things:

  • Review my training log to boost my confidence
  • Try to visualize the course and see myself running strong in the tough spots or hills
  • Choose a mantra to repeat when it gets tough

All of these are helpful  A few months ago, I read Runners World The Brain Train: How to Think Smarter to Run Better  which gives a lot of great practical tips for mental toughness including visualization techniques that I’ve been incorporating.

This week, I’ve been reading Matt Fitzgerald’s How Bad Do You Want It? which takes a slightly different approach by telling stories about mental toughness pulling an athlete to a victory (or with the lack of mental focus, to failure).

Two things stood out to me.

The first is that instead of focusing on the external factors (out of our control), he explores through research and examples that the focus should be more internal.

External factors include the weather, how well our legs are feeling on race day, fuel strategies and hoping we did enough in training. These can even lead to a sense of dread and just wanting to get the race over with.  If you reach that point, you can almost guarantee you will not have your best race!

Internal factors are drawing on a determination to fight and work hard, no matter what the day brings.  This means expecting it to hurt and looking forward to powering through and giving it what you can.

Raise your hand if you’ve been guilty of the external factors.  ME!!!!  I will obsessively check the weather before a race and worry if I did enough.  Mid race, if my legs are not feeling fresh, I use it as an excuse to give up because clearly this is not my day.  According to Fitzgerald and his athlete examples, if you want it badly enough, you can pull out that pr despite tired legs or crappy weather.  Mind over matter – make it happen.

How do you find the motivation for mind over matter when it hurts?

The second key piece from this book (for me) has been the why behind the why.  Many successful athletes have childhood trauma driving them to push and succeed.  Many others faced trails in their training that they had to overcome.  This creates resilience and, sometimes, anger to drive us forward.  Think about how much extra power you have when you are angry!

Find something that really drives you.

Many of you know I’ve been chasing the sub-20 5k since hitting 20:01 about 4 years ago.  At the time, I was extremely frustrated with how long it was taking to get pregnant and often poured that frustration into my races. Clearly it worked!

I’m currently in a more comfortable phase in life, and it’s harder for me to find the extra umph to make it hurt.  In my last 5k (the 5k flop), I was dreading the race as I stood on the start line.  Of course it didn’t go well!

That’s not to say we have to be suffering or angry to run well.  But it helps to have something else pushing us to succeed.

There have been so many helpful points in both books… I highly recommend doing some reading if you struggle with the mental game.

I’m not sure what my plan is for Sunday… it feels good to have gotten the pr I wanted for the spring at the NYC half and have less pressure, but I do want to run well.  I’m trying to shift my thinking a bit so I’m prepared to be more of a fighter on race day.

For additional info on mental training, check out Tina’s podcast with psychologist Cindra Kamphoff.

Have you read any mental strategy books that you would recommend?

How do you typically prepare for a race mentally?


I am linking up with SuzRachel, Lora, and Debbie for Running Coaches CornerPatty, Erika, and Marcia for Tuesdays on the Run, Nicole, Annmarie, Michelle, and Jen for Wild Workout Wednesday.