Sunday, December 15, 2013

Getting into the Christmas Spirit and 5-week Transition Plan

It feels like it’s been forever since I have had a morning like today to enjoy my coffee on our own couch while writing our grocery list for the week.  For the past month we have been  traveling to Ohio, San Francisco and Tucson all while trying to complete a 5-week triathlon transition plan.  While all of the traveling and visiting family and friends was SO MUCH FUN, it is so nice to sit on the couch with my coffee and plan groceries for a normal week!  But this stress free morning will soon turn into a day filled with training and holiday chores….

All of the traveling and busy weeks has made getting into the Christmas spirit a lot harder for me this year.  Brain storming gift ideas and shopping has felt like a chore, not to mention addressing Christmas cards and wrapping said presents.  Usually, I have shopping done and presents wrapped under the tree the first week of December which gives me 3 more weeks to just enjoy the season and get in the spirit…. Not this year.  I know this all will change as soon as we are in Ohio with family, but having all of these “chores” to do and with such a short timeline, it’s easy to lose sight of what the season is really all about.  (Hint: not gifts or holiday cards!)

What it's all about:

Meanwhile, as I struggle to get into the holiday spirit this year, we are having no trouble transitioning into training for a big year of races!  As I type this, Anthony is down at the gym about  2.5hours into a 3 hour ride on the trainer and after I grocery shop, we will be switching places!  Perhaps some Christmas music for the hour warm-up portion of the ride will help me to get into the spirit!  Today’s three hour ride will end week four of our coaches five week transition plan.  (Highly recommend the plan which can be found on here:

Replacing some interval runs with some family trail runs in Tucson - SO FUN!

One of the many BEAUTIFUL views from our ride to the top of Mt. Tam in San Fran

We will take the week of Christmas to enjoy the time with our family and head to the gym (hopefully with family!) whenever we find time, who knows maybe I’ll finally get my mom to join me for spin class ;)!! The start of 2014 will kick off IM training with our coach.  I have a funny feeling that the first half of 2014 is going to fly by and that Lake Placid finish line is much closer than it seems!  Knowing just how much training we have ahead of us, I am definitely excited to spend some QT with family over the holidays as we won’t be seeing them nearly as much this year as we have in the past couple of years.

         And so I will try to stop stressing about gifts and wrapping and sending cards out “on time” and I will shift my focus to what the season is all about: family, love, giving, gratitude, laughter…. Not holiday cards, wish lists, or pretty wrapping (although these things do make the season a little bit better, they are not what it’s all about!)

“He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree.” –Roy L Smith

“The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree: the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other.” –Burton Hillis

Saturday, November 9, 2013

When the race season is over…

It’s an odd feeling when you’ve been training for SO long and all of a sudden everything you’ve been training for is over and there is no more set workout schedule.  The next couple of weeks will have no structure in terms of working out which is a really good feeling after sticking to a plan for so long.   Since the marathon, workouts have and continue to consist of circuit/cardio lifting sessions, short easy runs with Brutus, easy swims, easy rides, elliptical sessions, and lots of long family walks enjoying the fall weather with my guys!  One or two more weeks of keeping my body moving and working on strength before we start an “off-season” strength plan from our coach!  And then come January, we will each be working one on one with our amazing coach, who I am so pumped to work with!  I suppose January is the real start of our journey to Lake Placid, and I can’t wait!

No weekend alarm clocks for awhile!!

After the Nation’s tri, I was focused on marathon training (which paid off!) and I neglected the pool for a good 2 months and my poor bike just sat inside lonely.  Getting back in the pool this past week felt surprisingly good!  I definitely didn’t feel as strong in the water as I did in September, but it felt really good to be back at the pool.  Unfortunately, this weather doesn’t make for very good outdoor dates with my bike, but that’s what the trainer is for!  I’ve definitely missed being in the saddle, but I know that I will have LOTS of quality time with my bike in 2014!

Time for some more dates with the pool!

These past two weekends have been so nice.  Today, we ate breakfast, made a grocery list & meal plan for the week, walked Brutus, grocery shopped and were back home before 9am…and now we have NO plans other than folding laundry and watching football!  No workouts that we HAVE to do and certainly no LONG workouts.  We will both hit the gym or hop on the bike trainer, but there is no rush and if we choose to take Brutus hiking instead, that’s ok!  I am really excited to get on a more structured workout schedule again, but I am really enjoying these few off weeks. 

My body is also appreciating this down time.  The same amount of sleep goes a lot longer when you aren’t putting in 50+ miles per week!  I am starting to feel so refreshed and I’m sure that I’m going to be SO ready to start working on speed for IMLP come January!  Until then, I will continue to work on strength and low impact workouts to prep my body for the upcoming journey! I plan to start incorporating more swims, weights, yoga, and easy rides as well as less running.  It’s going to be hard for me to run less, but I know that my body will appreciate the lower impact workouts and it will be ready to hit the pavement feeling strong when the time in the training schedule is right!! Although, I’m sure I will be incorporating a few 2-3 miles “yogs” (realllyyy easy & slow jogs) with Brutus each week…can’t let him get out of shape!! 

Gotta keep this guy in shape! :)

This is our first true “off-season” where we have to really focus on strength and maintaining fitness without burning ourselves out.  We have some BIG races next year and we’ve got to prepare our bodies for what’s to come.  We will continue to fuel our bodies with good real foods and keep our eyes on the prize, but we will also enjoy this “down time” that we have before training picks up and our focus shifts.  I know triathlons and marathons are not for everyone, but I am SO glad that we jumped in and went after our dreams.  I have found a true passion in triathlon and distance running this year and I could not be more excited to conquer my dream of becoming an Iron(wo)man!  The best part is that I get to share this passion and journey with my amazing husband!!  

Beyond just enjoying the off season for the reasons I’ve listed above, I am SO excited for the holidays with family.  I don’t get to see my brother and his beautiful family nearly enough.  We are busy, they are busy, and we don’t live particularly close so unfortunately that doesn’t add up to us seeing each other very often.  The good news is that we will get to see them over Thanksgiving AND over Christmas…I can’t wait!!! We will also get to see my amazing sister-in-law, Heather, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and I can’t forget the family dogs!!  We are so blessed with such an amazing family (I think I’ve said it before, but when we got married we joined two of the coolest & most loving families on the face of this earth!)

SO exicted to see these guys!!

It may only be November, but 2014 better get ready for the Nelsons!! We’ve got some serious goals to accomplish and we are going after them with everything we’ve got! 

How are you spending your holidays?

What are your goals for 2014?

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Marine Corps Marathon Weekend!

First of all…AHHHH!!! I am STILL on a runner’s high two days after MCM!  I really surprised myself on Sunday.  Quite honestly, I’m not sure I’ve ever been so proud of myself.  I had no doubt that I would cross that finish line and I was not too nervous about my primary time goal which was to break four hours, but I wasn’t happy that four hours was my primary goal.  As race day got closer, I couldn’t stop thinking about a potential BQ, but I brushed off those thoughts for the most part.  Why did I brush off the thought of a BQ? Well, it was my FIRST marathon and my current best half marathon time is 01:49 which is a slower pace than I would need for a BQ.  Even when I told myself to stop thinking about a BQ, the thoughts were still there.  My tempo runs were on track for a BQ and I was feeling STRONG!

I was so torn.  Part of me wanted to tell the world that I was ready to BQ and another part of me was thinking that a BQ was a five year goal and not a reality right now.  Well, I guess the part of me that believed in myself was right! 

Still early in the race - feeling FABULOUS!

We picked up our race bibs on Thursday which was great that we got it out of the way, but it made Friday at work go by SO slow.  I was ready for the weekend and even more ready for Sunday!  After work on Friday, I went out for an easy and Garmin free 4.5 miles.  I had to really tell my legs to take it easy… they were itching to take off which made me even more excited for Sunday!  We relaxed for most of the night, I picked out my race day outfit (Anthony thinks this kind of “girly” stuff is super funny and ridiculous, but I tried my outfit on for him anyways….and then ended up wearing something different!), and we watched (fell asleep to) a movie.

Anthony at Haines point...feeling good!

Saturday was an early morning of grocery shopping and an easy 3 mile family run with Anthony and Brutus.  We ran some more errands in the afternoon, including a trip to Panera to pick up some bagels for the morning, and I couldn’t help myself…I had an apple pie bagel (gotta love having carb loading as an excuse to eat an afternoon treat!)  Anthony and I were both extremely calm and ready to go on Saturday night.  We got to bed by ~9:30 and had a great night of sleep.

Sunday morning could not have been more perfect.  We woke up at 4 which gave us plenty of time to eat a big breakfast, have some H2O and coffee, listen to some jams, and give Brutus some lovin’.  We took off for the metro around 6:00 and had just enough time to go to the bathroom, chat and head to the start.  We got into the start corral with very little time to spare, but Anthony surprised me and started the race with me!! We hardly ever start races together, so this made me really happy.  The race started and we shuffled with the crowd toward the start line.  Anthony high fived me and said something like “we’re doing it!”  I lost it, I was fighting back tears…at the start of the race…a couple of years ago I swore I would never run 26.2 and here I was SO EXCITED to conquer this race.  I was an emotional mess.   

Anthony ran with me for about 100 yards and then we parted ways... I had mentally broken the course up into 10 sections.  Rosslyn/courthouse loop, key bridge, Georgetown, rock creek parkway, Arlington bridge to Haines point, Haines point, mall/capital, 14th street bridge, crystal city, and the final push.  At about mile 2, I threw off my long sleeve throw away shirt.  Although I only had it on for 2 miles, I was SO happy that I had it.  The first 3 sections of the race flew by and I was pacing myself just right.  My goal was to start with a 9:00 pace, see how I felt and take it from there.  My first 5k was a 9:02 pace – right on!

On the rock creek park section of the race I talked to a girl for a little while.  It was her 10th marathon and she had been to Boston three times.  She asked what my goal was and I explained that I was trying not to think too much about a BQ, but my legs were feeling really good.  She told me that she thought I could totally BQ based on my current time and feeling.  I did not get her name, but that belief that she had in me really encouraged me.  I started picking it up a little bit in hopes of getting that average pace closer to 8:12 which is what I would need in order to BQ. 


I was able to speed up almost every 5k until the 35k point.  My fastest 5k was the 25-30k which was a 7:34 pace and my average pace was BQ worthy at ~25k!  Now all I had to do was keep that average pace <8:12.  I could do this!  The next few sections of the race felt good, no they felt great!  Then I got to the 14th street bridge and my calves started to cramp.  I made a point to land on my heels and this seemed to prevent the cramps from getting the best of me.  I was eating one Clif shot block every 15 minutes the entire race as well as grabbing H2O and Gatorade at each water station and I was confident that I was not going to hit “the wall” or bonk, I had the energy to finish strong, I just had to concentrate on “mind over muscle.” 


The entire Crystal City section of the race dragged on for me.  I kept telling myself that if I run faster I’ll finish sooner and repeating my mantras– these thoughts sped me up a bit, mile 23 was 7:50 pace, followed by an 8:30 mile 24.  After that 8:30, I was fearful that I was going to lose that BQ, I sped up again and held 8:10s for the next two miles and shuffled up the final hill to a BQ!  I was in shock!! I couldn’t stop smiling.  I got my phone out of my flip belt and saw a text from my dad: “Awesome work!!!  Margaret Nelson, Finish, 3:34:11.”  That was confirmation that I BQ’d in my first marathon!

Miles 22-26.2 didn’t feel good, but really it was only the last mile or mile and a half that really HURT for me.  So, I can officially recommend Hanson’s Marathon Method.  GREAT book & GREAT training plan!  I was able to follow this training plan extremely close aside from a few days when I had to listen to my body and take the day off or replace a run with an elliptical or cardio weight session in order to avoid injury.  Anthony also followed this plan extremely close and ran an impressive 3:18 (machine!) without any issues!  Highly recommend!

MIND OVER MUSCLE...last mile!

Anthony's Finish!

My finish!

Overall, my first marathon experience was more than I could have ever imagined.  I am SO thankful for my body and my mind.  I was not sure how running MCM would change my thoughts on Ironman Lake Placid in July, but it definitely just made me 100000x more excited to become an Iron(wo)man on July 27!!  

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Our family is a circle of strength and love.

Less than 24 hours until Anthony and I take off to conquer our first marathon.  It’s funny how much can change over just a few years.  I remember the emotions I felt before my first half marathon…I thought running 13.1 miles was, well, kind of crazy.  Now, I have this total sense of calm about me knowing that I am running 26.2 miles tomorrow morning.  While I do have a TON of thoughts swirling on what my time might be, I am calm.  I know that I put in the work and I am both mentally and physically ready.  Tomorrow is going to be a fabulous day!!

The rest of the thoughts swirling in my head are centered around our honeymoon in Costa Rica, holidays with family, and how amazing and challenging 2014 is going to be.  Anthony and I have really changed our lifestyle a LOT this year.  We have always been active and loved being outside, running and racing, but this year we introduced ourselves to the world of triathlon.  Little did we know that triathlon would not become just a hobby, but rather a lifestyle and quite frankly, an addiction.  With our last race of the year tomorrow, I am SO excited to relax and enjoy the off season, but I can’t stop thinking about training for Ironman Lake Placid!

                Training is not going to be easy and it’s not going to just be about putting in laps in the pool and miles on the bike and on the road.  Nutrition becomes more important, sleep becomes more important, and time becomes harder to come by.  Getting ready for IMLP is not going to be easy… it’s a good thing Anthony and I both love a challenge!  While we don’t get to see our family and close friends all the time, I can’t imagine approaching this journey without their support.  I know most of our family and friends don’t fully grasp what goes into training for and executing an Ironman (and I’m pretty sure they don’t want to!), but they are so supportive, loving, and encouraging.  I already imagine what it’s going to be like to see loved ones along the course in July and how much happier that will make the day! 

                I recently saw a quote that started with: “Our family is a circle of strength and love.”  This could not be more true of our family.  I feel like the luckiest girl in the world when I think of how amazing our family is.  I find strength, encouragement, love, and inspiration in our family.  Without that strength and love, the journey to tomorrow’s marathon would not have been quite as enjoyable and our upcoming journey to Lake Placid would surely not be as happy as I’m sure it will prove to be!  I know that because of the support that our family gives us, the challenges that we have set up for ourselves in 2014, IMLP in particular, will be conquered and we will do it with a smile on our faces and lots of hugs at the finish line!

I would list all of the amazing family members and friends and thank you for all of your support, but there are too many! You all know who you are – we love you and we’ll have bigger smiles as we finish tomorrow because of you all!

Mantras for tomorrow:  “When it hurts, just find a rhythm and pound away,”  “Attitude is everything,” & “You are only as fast as you make up your mind to be.”

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Countdown to MCM - ONE WEEK!

My brain is a MESS right now.

The Marine Corps Marathon, our first marathon, is one week away!  Throughout training I have been calm, confident and ready….until this week.  The week started with the possibility that MCM could be cancelled if the government didn’t get it together.  I had a backup plan in place, but I’m SO glad I didn’t have to execute a backup plan and train for ANOTHER 3-4 weeks.  Good news,  but take the good with the bad…I had to take it much easier than anticipated this week as I could feel the onset of some old injuries, mainly a pain in the outside of my foot.  Instead of the scheduled 49 miles this week (ending today), I completed about 30.  I cut one “SOS” run short and replaced the other with a long cardio lift session due to a sore foot.  Today’s easy 8.5 mile GADGET FREE run felt fabulous! It was such a beautiful day, hard not to just appreciate the fact that I was able to be out there running!  Today really turned around all the negative thoughts from earlier this week – my foot felt good, my body felt good and my mind felt great!

PERFECT fall day - beautiful run!

It’s the down time this coming week that I have to make sure doesn’t get the best of me.  “Am I going to run the time I want? What time do I even want to run anyways? Am I going to get hurt? Is my foot going to bother me on race day? Will I be too hot? Will I be too cold? Will I bonk? No, I won't bonk, I have a nutrition plan...right? It’s unrealistic to think I can break 9’s, but I really want to break 9’s…My tempo runs have been ~8:10-8:20, maybe I’ll BQ, no I won’t BQ I’m crazy to think that’s possible on my first marathon, but maybe… I’ll just be happy to finish right? But what if it’s a ‘bad’ time? Hanson's marathon method prepared me well, right?” Like I said…my brain is a mess and that doesn't even include my "I need to figure out off-season training plan for IMLP" thoughts!!  The list of all the “thoughts” is endless.  What I have to remember is the ultimate goal is to finish strong, whether that is running 9’s or 10’s or 8’s.  

So, the goal of this week will be: “Keep calm and taper on!” Despite my mind trying to psych me out, I am extremely excited to conquer my first marathon, to surprise myself with a good time (fingers crossed!), and to hug my hubby at the finish line because he always beats me there and he's always cheering me into the finish (I think he is going to surprise himself with an AMAZING time!)!  See you at the finish line! :)

Saturday, September 28, 2013

If you rest you rust.

In first grade I started gymnastics and from 3rd grade through middle school, I spent 5 days a week, 3 hours a day at the gym.  At the back of the gym hung a banner that said “IF YOU REST YOU RUST.”  I often think of this banner.  What a great saying for athletes to live by and what an awful saying for athletes to live by.  It is so true and so false.  We need rest for so many reasons, but if you rest too much and don't push yourself you will not improve and make the gains that you might want to. Runners and triathletes tend to have no problem pushing themselves and working hard, it's the whole RESTING thing that we have problems with - working out is always on our mind.

We NEED rest.  We need rest in order to replenish glycogen stores and repair damaged tissue.  Lack of rest leads to over-training; over-training leads to decreased performance and injuries.  No rest = no good.  But rest & recovery comes in many forms.  Recovery doesn't always mean taking the day off and sitting on the couch.  Active recovery days are equally important.  An easy run, a walk, an easy bike ride, an easy swim, foam rolling, any low intensity exercise that still allows your body to recover.  There are mixed reviews on the benefits active recovery, but I am definitely on board with it! 

There are also just REST days.  These are so important.  I have found that even more important than respecting the dedicated rest days in my training schedule is the ability to know my body and recognize when it is telling me it needs an extra day off.  This doesn’t mean taking a day off because I’m not in the mood or had a bad day or I’m feeling lazy, but knowing when my body has just been too stressed and needs an extra day to recover a bit. 

I firmly believe, especially in triathlon training, that taking an extra rest day is OK and often necessary if my body is asking for it.  Some weeks our training schedules only have active recovery scheduled, no true rest days… the body can only handle so many days/weeks of constant activity.   I will not "rust" if I have 8 or 10 workouts one week instead of 10 or 12, especially if it is active recovery workouts that get skipped.  No, this does not happen every week or even every two weeks, but if my body is stressed to an extreme, I know it and I have learned to be smart about it.  Respect your body!  If you don’t listen to and respect your body you will likely end up with an injury that will keep you totally out of the game, I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have a couple of extra rest days during training than be injured!

I used to tell myself “If you rest, you rust” on the days when I was feeling lazy to get my butt on the road or in the pool, but then I  also had to remind myself that I will not rust if I need an extra day of true rest and recovery.  The quote contradicts itself.   It is important for me to know the difference between a lazy day and a truly over-fatigued and stressed body and not to question myself when I NEED that extra rest day.   So I have found a better quote to get myself moving on those lazy days:  “Ninety-nine percent of the failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses.”  No excuses.  And a quote to remind myself that rest days are GOOD:  "The most important day in any running program is rest.  Rest days give your muscles time to recover so you can run again.  Your muscles build in strength as you rest."

No rusting here. 

What are your thoughts on active recovery?
What gets you off your butt on lazy days?
How often do you need to throw in an extra rest day?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

That moment when a 10 miler on the treadmill doesn't seem so bad...

I used to DREAD the treadmill.  I was in good company – it seemed like most people I talked to did not enjoy putting miles in on the treadmill and many would rather not run.  I felt extremely accomplished if I managed to squeeze out 5 miles on the treadmill.  In the past few months, I’ve slowly started putting more miles on the treadmill. If it’s crappy out or early and too dark to run outside and I have to get a run in, I make it happen on the treadmill.  On top of that, I’ve started doing some “mini” brick workouts that consist of 8-10 miles on the bike trainer followed by 1-2 miles on the treadmill and repeat 3-4 times.  Needless to say, I have become MUCH more familiar with the treadmill than I ever thought I would be.  

About a month ago, I had to get an easy 10 mile run in and it was CRAPPY out, so without thinking I hit the treadmill…. If you asked me a year ago if I thought I would ever run more than 5 or 6 miles on the treadmill I would have answered “NO.” Well, I ran 10 and came upstairs to the apartment like it was nothing.  I told Anthony “you know, that wasn’t bad at all.” His response: “I knew you were going to say that.”  

I think it all comes back to my post “Mind over muscle!”  Somewhere along the way my mental will got strong enough to endure a long run on the treadmill.  In fact, I have since done multiple 8+ mile runs on the treadmill and if you told me I couldn’t go outside for some reason and I had a 16 miler planned, I’d hit the mill.  By no means do I enjoy the treadmill as much as being outside, but it’s not a dreadful experience anymore.  So, tomorrow morning I will head downstairs to the treadmill to complete 8.5 miles which will include 2x 3 miles @ 10k pace.  Give the mill a chance – it actually makes pacing pretty darn easy! 

 Ok, so maybe I don't LOVE the treadmill, but it's not SO bad afterall..give it a chance!

On an unrelated note – I have been given this AMAZING opportunity to fundraise for Girls on the Run and run the Ragnar Relay with 11 incredible women.  We will be running a total of 200 miles from Cumberland, MD to Washington, DC from October 4-5.  PLEASE help Girls on the Run – it is an amazing organization teaching young girls to be healthy and confident.  The money donated will be used as scholarship money for girls who could not otherwise afford to be a part of GOTR.  Every dollar helps! You can donate at the following link: 

Do you dread the treadmill?
If you couldn’t get outside for your long run would you reschedule? Skip it? Hit the treadmill?