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.

Family Zoo Day

Now that we’re finally having awesome spring weather, and now that baby J can manage to survive if we skip her nap here and there, we’re taking advantage of more family day outings…. hiking, picnics in the park, and this past weekend- the zoo.

We had an extra push to go from Stonyfield, who is sponsoring the AZA SAFE (Saving Animals From Extinction) program, and is encouraging families to go check out conservation programs at their local AZA participating zoo.

I think this is a cool idea…families who buy two specially marked Yokids multi-packs will get a free kid ticket (with the purchase of an adult ticket)…. so keep an eye out for these!

Speaking of Yokids, did you know that Stonyfield has recently reduced the sugar content across all it’s yogurts, including Yokids? Stonyfield’s has up to 40% less sugar than other brands… crazy! I know my kids don’t notice the difference.  Why overdose the sugar in healthy foods when they certainly don’t see yogurt as a dessert?

Did you know that today is World Penguin Day? These cute little guys were hands down one of our favorite exhibits.  The African Penguin is one of the endangered species in the AZA program, so on Stonyfield’s Facebook page today at 12pm EST they’ll be going live at Mystic Aquarium with a penguin trainer and answering questions live.

We wrapped up our afternoon with the train – another highlight of this zoo.  It’s adorable to watch your kids get that excited about a little train ride!

Thanks again to Stonyfield for the free tickets, and for taking leadership in sustainability conservation.  I recently learned that they keep over 185,000 pounds of toxic pesticides out of the environment each year! That has a huge ripple effect on the eco-system and it’s species.

What are some of your family’s favorite weekend activities or day outings?

Do you have a zoo near by?

This post is sponsored by Stonyfield in partnership with the AZA SAFE program.


Beginning my taper + Meal planning

The NJ half marathon is one week from today! Of course, it’s cool and low 50’s this weekend and supposed to be in the 70s and sunny next weekend… yikes!

This was less tapering than I’ve ever done before two weeks out from a race but I think I often over-taper so I’m curious to see how it feels with a 12 miler a week before.  My training recap:

Sunday:  5 recovery run (no watch)

Monday:  3 mile walk + short strength circuit

Tuesday: 6 easy (8:40 ave)

Wednesday: 9.25 with 5 x 1 mile repeats at the track

2 mile warm up (9:00, 8:02), 5 x 1 mile with 400m jogs (6:27, 6:34, 6:31, 6:38, 6:27) and cool down (7:58)

These felt strong and smooth.   There were several older men doing sprints at the track, and as I left, one said, “Nice work out there today, young lady!” Aww, thanks, sir! It’s so nice when the running community supports and acknowledges one another.  Most days I feel very anonymous at the track!

Thursday: off

Friday: 6.5 easy, treadmill run due to the rain (9ish ave) + Barre class

Saturday:  12 miles (first half easy with a client, second 6 progression 9:05, 8:34, 8:33, 8:04, 7:57, 7:56)


Meal planning:

Sunday: Split Pea soup (I’m craving it this weekend for some reason!)

Monday: Fajitas with leftover chicken from the one we roasted over the weekend

Tuesday:  Mexican Avocado Egg Salad Collard Green Wraps

Wednesday: Eggs, bacon and pancakes (kid’s vote!)

Thursday: Leftovers

Friday: Homemade pizza (froze extra dough from last week)

Saturday: Out or Bean and cheese tortillas


How far do you run the weekend before a race?

Do you typically over taper or under taper?

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

Which fall marathon to run?

Okay, the bug has officially bit me hard.  I want to run a marathon this fall!

I’ve been having some confidence boosting workouts lately and am ready to tackle the sub 3:20 marathon goal again.

I’ve been looking at races in the northeast and would love your input.  Here’s what I’ve come up with:

Richmond Marathon (November): I don’t know much about this race or the course, but my sister recently moved near Richmond so it would be a great excuse to visit!

Philadelphia Marathon (November): The Philly half was my first ever race.  I would love to go back and do the full!

Mohawk Hudson Valley Marathon (October): This race is only a couple hours from me.  I had some friends who ran it this fall, and it’s a flat and fast course… ideal for a pr.  But an October race means lots of hot long runs this summer!

Wineglass Marathon (October): This race as been on my bucket list since living in Ithaca, NY.  However, I’m already signed up for a 5k and kids race the day before, and this is the very first weekend in October- again, hot, summer training!

These are the top four I’ve narrowed it down to, but I’m open to other suggestions.  I’m going to skip Steamtown this year and try something new.

Have you done any of the above races? Which do you recommend?

Are there other races in the NJ, NY, PA and surrounding area that I should check out?

Racing Mistakes I’ve Made

I’m so inspired by the Boston marathon yesterday.  I wish the weather had been better, but everyone was still exuding the Boston energy and powering through!

Every year, I am re-energized to sign up for a marathon after watching it, but if I added a spring/summer full at this point that would have to be added to my list below of racing mistakes.  I’m definitely not trained for it!

So a few weeks ago, I shared 7 things I do before each race.  Today the Tuesday on the Run link up is discussing racing mistakes we’ve made.  Great topic, right?

Thankfully, I don’t have too many awful ones but a few come to mind:

  1. Under trained: I was pretty clueless when I ran my first marathon.  I trained by myself and wasn’t blogging yet or linked up with any local running groups.  I followed a basic plan and in retrospect was grossly under trained.  I ran one 16 miler, one 18 miler and one 20 miler with my peak week of total mileage hitting 38-40 once. Everything else was high 20s/ low 30s mileage with long runs less than 14 miles.  I felt surprisingly okay until the final 6-7 miles when the wheels came off.
  2. Under fueled: Same race.  That clueless first marathon where I was under trained I also didn’t know what I was doing in terms of fueling.  I made date-nut balls and packed a few in a plastic baggie in my fuel belt.  I think I ate two. I never felt hungry (or thirsty for that matter) but I know that was part of the wheels falling off issue!
  3. Starting too fast:  This is a classic, must-be-learned-the-hard-way running mistake.  And I’ve had my fair share… the Newport Liberty half last fall was a rough one.
  4.  Failing to adapt paces for poor weather: I’ve crashed in warm weather races multiple times.  I am now trying to avoid racing in the heat- but obviously it’s sometimes out of our control, like Boston was yesterday.  The Diva’s half was one of my worst warm weather races… I fell apart in the middle because I insisted on starting at my goal race pace in the heat.

I’ve also tapered too much or not enough, eaten too much the night before or the wrong thing, worn too many layers or the wrong base layer (chafing!!), misjudged my fitness and paced poorly, and I’m sure there’s much more I’m forgetting.

Making the mistake is the best way to learn it,I guess.  Here’s to hoping there aren’t too many more!

What racing mistakes have you made?


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.


Training this week + Meal Planning

Happy Easter!

We spent the last few days catching up with both sides of the family and lots of cousins and are home again today for church and dinner with friends.  The girls had their share of treats so I’m keeping their Easter baskets low on the candy this year, with books and other fun goodies.

My training is focused on the next half marathon, April 30, so here’s how this week looked:

Sunday:  11 miles (up over a big hill, tempo on the flat and back up over the big hill- splits: 9:55, 8:24, then flat 7:13, 7:02, 6:57, 6:59, 7:45, 6:53, back up the hill 10:28, 9:09, 8:16) with 545 ft elevation gain

Monday:  4 or 5 mile walk + short strength circuit

Tuesday: 7 easy (8:40 ave)

Wednesday: 9 with  2×2, 1 @tempo: warm up (8:40, 8:03), set one (6:56, 6:58), set two (7:10, 7:00), last mile (6:56) with 2 minute jogs between, cool down (8:16, 7:50)

This paces felt so hard compared to Sunday, when I felt great at similar paces! It’s funny how each run can be so different.  But I’m glad I stuck it out and finished and for the most part I stayed within the goal range of 6:50-7:00.

Also, at the risk of TMI, I learned I shouldn’t have both sauerkraut and kombucha the day before a hard workout.  Thank goodness the path was relatively empty and there were trees nearby, ha!

Thursday: off and traveling to family

Friday: 6 easy, with hubs joining me for 5 of it! He’s not much of a runner and we rarely get to run together, so that was a treat.

Saturday:  15 miles of rolling hills (8:19 ave) with 8 x 30 second pick ups (about 6:10 pace)


Meal planning:

Sunday: Dinner with friends

Monday: Easy Spaghetti Squash Pizza Bake

Tuesday:  Roasted Salmon + Brussel Sprouts + wild rice

Wednesday: Pulled Chicken BBQ + garlic broccoli

Thursday: Leftovers

Friday: Homemade pizza + a cauliflower crust option

Saturday: Out


Have you learned not to eat certain foods before a hard workout?!

Do you find it hard to stick it out when paces feel hard? I have an internal dialogue about quitting and trying again another day but typically make myself finish.

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

Mexico girl trip!

I want to share a bit of Mexico with you but also have to start with a shout out to my mother-in-law who not only came and cared for our girls while my husband worked, but cleaned the floors, my entire refrigerator and all of the stainless steel appliances.  What a treat to come home to a cleaner-than-it-will-ever-be-again-house!

So again this year the nutrition company I work for covered an all expense paid vacation so I took my two oldest friends with me to a resort in Playa del Carmen.

The weather was perfect- sunny and 80’s all week.  Just the sunshine alone made the trip worthwhile! We all felt less stressed immediately and happier.  It’s amazing how the sunshine can do that.

After a delicious breakfast buffet, most of our days were spent reading by the pool or beach with mojitos and fresh guacamole.

We spent one afternoon at the spa where we did hydrotherapy + massages.  Ahh-mazing.

Another morning we traveled to Tulum to see the Mayan ruins and turquoise beaches.

In the evenings, we would dress up and try a different restaurant each night.  When it’s all inclusive, it’s hard not to go a little crazy with food! We had delicious appetizers, wine, entrees and dessert every night.

Of course, there was also aqua zumba, live Latin music and time to catch up with the friends I work with too.

The girl time was therapeutic.  I laughed until I cried on multiple occasions… isn’t that the best?!

By the time Friday rolled around, I was ready to see my girls and husband.  It was exactly what I needed!

Have you been to Mexico or an all inclusive resort? Where is your ideal vacation?


Boston Marathon- looking back and looking forward

In less than a week, tens of thousands of runners will be lining up to run the 121st Boston marathon.  Boston is unique as the world’s oldest marathon and also as one of the most prestigious races, due to it’s prize structure which attracted runners and led to qualifying times for guaranteed entry, as well as it’s status as one of the World Major Marathons.

I admit, when I finally decided to train for a full marathon, Boston was on my mind.  I missed qualifying by four minutes in my first marathon, but qualifying times were also easier then.

My first BQ at the Houston Marathon

I qualified at my second marathon in Houston and ran Boston two years ago.

Boston- My brightest marathon outfit to date!

My Boston experience was unique as I was running for fun and was hoping to pace Angela to her pr and/or BQ before she had to pull out due to the worst-timed-ever injury.

I thought maybe I was done with marathons, but got roped into running another last fall and qualified again at Steamtown, which makes me eligible to race next April 2018.

I keep saying I’m going to pull back and focus on the half distance, yet the marathon is oddly addicting and continues to tug at me.  Right now I’m leaning toward a fall marathon and will likely enter the lottery for my second Boston next spring. How can you not want to repeat that experience?

This year, the weather looks perfect and I’m beyond excited to watch it live on Monday (from home) and cheer on my many friends (real and virtual!) as they run their hearts out through Boston!

Are you cheering for any Boston runners this year?

Is Boston on your bucket list?

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.

Home again! Training recap + Meal Planning

Hi friends!

After a recovery day yesterday from travel and all the unpacking catch up, it’s good to be home.  Mexico was amazing.  I’ll share some photos later this week.  For now, it’s back to the usual training recap and meal plan:

Sunday:  10 miles, 8:04 ave (final two 7:45, 7:30) – this was supposed to be relaxed and easy but I ran faster than my usual easy pace because my legs just wanted to go! I love runs like that.  And since it was the day after the 5k flop, it reassured me that I hadn’t run my best in that race as I felt fully recovered.  The rest of the day was spent traveling to Mexico.

Monday:  6 easy on the treadmill (9:10 ave)

Tuesday: nada… other than short walks to and from the beach and pools and restaurants

Wednesday: 8.5 with 5 progression tempo, prescribed 2 at 7:20-7:30, 2 between 6:50-7:00 and 1 sub-6:45… actual 2 warm up (9:00, 8:45), 5 progression (7:19, 7:19, 6:58, 6:53, 6:40) and 1.5 cool down

I felt really sluggish at the start of this run so I was really happy to hit those paces, and felt stronger in the last mile than I expected to.  Later, we hit aqua zumba as well!

Thursday: 6.5 easy with 4 x 80m strides (8:45 easy pace, strides at 5:43 pace)

Friday: off and travel day

Saturday:  4 shake out miles before a 10k this morning.  No pressure, though.  I’m planning to use it as a tempo run as I build for the NJ half marathon in 3 weeks!


Meal planning:

Send help! I lost all meal planning mojo… thankfully the second half of the week is covered for us!

Sunday: Um….?? I think I’m signing hubs up for this one.  He likes to pull out some of our grass fed beef from the freezer and will likely do something on the grill.

Monday: Ground turkey tacos (refried beans for the girls) + guacamole

Tuesday:  Baked ziti and lemon kale parmesan salad

Wednesday: Pork tenderloin and baked white and sweet potatoes + roasted broccoli

Thursday: Traveling to my family, dinner at my parents

Friday: Dinner with family

Saturday: Spending the whole day with my husband’s family and all the cousins

Sunday: Easter dinner with friends


Have you ever used a race as a training run?

How does vacation impact your training?

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

The 5k Flop

It’s definitely more fun to write about the races where everything clicked! Saturday’s 5k was not that kind of race, and those days come.  So rather than pretend it didn’t happen, I’ll share the details and hopefully learn from a few mistakes for next time.

This race was two weeks out from the NYC half pr.  I wasn’t feeling all the bounce/pep back in my step yet in my weekday runs but was hopeful that I’d feel good on Saturday.

Based on the half, I knew that a sub-20 was possible if everything went as planned.  My coach also sent me a pacing plan and confirmed that sub 20 should be doable.

On race morning, I had a few stomach issues.  I’m not sure why this seems to happen for the 5k and not my big races… more nerves about hitting those fast paces? I was careful to add extra carbs the day before and woke up at 7 to eat two pieces of toast with pb and a banana.  But by 9am after my warm up, I was feeling hungry and a little light headed.  I had a few Honey Stinger chews in the car and grabbed a few of those but I don’t think it was enough to feel good.

It was also so cold and windy! I warmed up with 2 miles and a few strides and felt okay.  Then I snuck inside the gym with all the other runners until it was time to start.

It was a small race… everyone darted out and I held onto my goal starting pace (6:30).  I almost always start too fast.  This time, when I looked down, I was running 6:45s! I had to work a bit to bring my pace down: Mile one- 6:37

I was discouraged that the pace was feeling so hard but told myself it was still possible to make up that time.  I pushed a little harder for mile two, but didn’t make it under 6:30- coming in at 6:36.  Again, the pace felt much faster than that!

By mile 3, I was tired but determined until we turned a corner and had a hill to climb.  It was probably only 1/4 mile but it felt long and steep and it knocked me down mentally… physically too… I actually considered walking, which is so unlike me! I made it to the top but struggled to regain my pace.  We were also running into the wind for mile 3.

There were two runners directly in front of me the entire second half and I focused on following them in- Mile 3 – 7:04. Yikes! That’s slower than my half marathon average!

We turned another corner and I saw the finish line.  Seeing the end helped me sprint it in (6:04) so I clearly had something left in the tank… so I’m not sure if this race flop was physical, mental or a bit of both. Between the wind, the surprise hill, and my fueling issues, it was my slowest in the past year: 20:50.

But to be honest, I wasn’t too discouraged.  I know I can do better.  It was frustrating that nothing “clicked” but I also feel like I gave it what I had today so that’s all I can do! And I didn’t quit on that hill when I really, really wanted to.  🙂

That elusive sub 20 is still taunting me but I’m confident I’ll get there.  We all need some flop races so we can really appreciate the ones that just click!!

Have you had a flop race? Was it physical, mental or both?