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A gardener walked into a running store…

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Nearly three years ago a bubbly blonde woman waltzed her way into the running store to get herself properly fit for a new pair of shoes. “I’ve always been a 4-5x a week solid runner and I stopped running last year! It’s high time I start up again.” She seamlessly added in jest, “Man did I get FAT! Running actually keeps you in shape! Who knew!! ”

I couldn’t help but take interest in her journey. “Oh no,” I replied, “Did you get injured? Why d’you stop?”

Sans hesitation she affably erupted, “I REALLY WANTED TO GARDEN!! But seriously- for so long my life revolved around my running. Running took up so much time and I loved it- but I wanted to do other things too!” She briefly paused. Once her lungs were chock full of playful sarcasm and moderately self-deprecating remarks her tirade effortlessly rolled off her tongue, “I was sick of planning my weekend around my runs and being tired and sore ALL THE TIME!! Last summer I REALLY wanted to have a beautiful garden so gosh-darnit I did it! I gave up running and I planted myself the prettiest flipping flowers on the block. SO THERE!! Take THAT running!! Buuuut I’m kinda fat now, so I’m back.”

I couldn’t help but chuckle aloud at her monologue- a little because I love the uninhibited nature of so many retail customers and a lot because she clearly wasn’t overweight. I suppose it’s possible that she had gained a few pounds, but in my eyes this woman looked fantastic and had an even better personality. Energetic personality, hilarious, open and on the hunt for achieving balance in her life. I didn’t even know her, but I liked her- a lot!

Balance. How do people do it? DO people actually do it? What does it even look like? Is is possible to work a full time job, run 40-50 miles a week, be home for homework time, cook dinner for the family, watch an hour of tv before bed, be well-read and have well groomed flower-beds in the summer? Furthermore this includes that you make it through the day free from toddler tears, spilling coffee on yourself and wearing running tights around town as if they are an acceptable form of dress.

Is it possible to balance it all? Is the balancing act simply an integral part of the journey of life? Yes, I think so.

Over the past three years I have spent a lot of time digesting Ms. Gardener’s words of wisdom. Running does take up a substantial part of my day and my life. Is it worth it? In a lifetime that is made of only so many minutes what is the right way to spend them? The most personally fulfilling? One day I do want my very own flower and vegetable gardens (I know, I know I’m aiming high! Big goals ahead!) and to be home in time for homework and make it to Lillian’s ballet recital or track meet (or whatever she chooses to do). I do have interests outside of running.

Then again running is a huge part of who I am. It gives me the confidence to know that I am strong and capable of anything if I’m willing to put in the work. Running is where I can be quiet and at peace or rowdy and simply enraged. It simultaneously settles me down and revs me up. It’s my go-to stress release. It’s my work. It’s my play. It’s who I am. I can’t escape it and I don’t really want to. I am The Lone Runner.

At times I too experience the same emotional tug of war that Mrs. Gardener experienced so many years ago. Why? Because even though I say Never Stop Running with fervor, this is in fact a life and a world outside of running and it’s worth being explored. Is this the part where I tell you that I’m going to stop running to garden? BAHAHAHAHA, NOPE! That’s NOT where this story is heading in the least. :) I’m still running- quite a bit actually- but I’m not training. There is a HUGE difference!

 

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So I started reading a book…

 

I’m in the middle of taking a six week break from official training to relax, repair and recharge. What is the difference? When you run you have the independence to make it up as you go along; you just hit the pavement and go whatever distance and whatever pace you feel like going. And the next day you can do the same thing. When you train each run has a specific purpose and with heart rate training each run is designed to tax a specific energy system. Beyond the individual training run, each successive week builds on the accomplishments of the previous week. Mileage and intensity grows throughout the training plan so that the athlete training potential will peak for a specific race.

 

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Homemade thin mint cookies- yes, please! (Recipe from Annie-eats.com)

During the past four weeks I have enjoyed the simple act of running if/when I please.  No only has it been a physical refresh, but a mental reboot too. Somehow even though I work at the store, provide online coaching and run 30+ miles a week my life really hasn’t felt overloaded with running. How is that possible? Well for one, I started reading a book. I have baked A LOT cookies, muffins and banana bread! I love baking!! And lastly- I have had some REALLY good quality time with Lillian. I needed this. We needed this.  The future marathon-training version of me really needed this. I desperately needed time away from mental focus and physical rigors involved with training.

In my own way I understand what Ms. Gardener meant so many years ago. A life is made up of only so many minutes. So how do you really want to spend them.

I love every minute I spend running, but I don’t need to spend every free minute I have running.

Taking a temporary back from training has made me realize how full my life outside of running: my amazing family, awesome athletes and LILLY!! She is turning into such an amazing little person who makes me smile and laugh every chance she gets. We spend our afternoons snuggling on the couch, baking cookies, doing puzzles and just goofing around the apartment. Last night I challenged her to a burpee contest- mostly because she said she wanted to ‘learn how to be strong like you mama,” and a little because I wanted her to be passed out and drooling on her pillow come bedtime. :) I have never laughed so hard at her bunny hop of a jump follow by her laying down and wiggling her legs on the ground. Close enough, right? The contest ended with her jumping on my back and flattening me mid-push up. She’s completely insane and I love it :) .

I have to admit that life has been feeling just a little bit more balanced lately. Of course there’s always the ebb and flow of things to come… because I mayyyyy have started sketching out my own training plan this morning. The hunger is there and it’s growing. Either way I have given myself two more weeks to decide if I shall train and race a fall half or just run footloose and fancy free through the summer as the rest of my life begins to take shape.

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Last Christmas 2015 I was in the corner of the store restocking the shelves when a woman came in and asked the other sales associate to try on a few pairs of new pair of shoes. It may had been two years but I knew I had heard that voice before. I stood up and found my way to the sales floor to personally greet the customer. After fitting her for shoes I timidly inquired, “Do I know you? Do you perchance have a really nice garden?” We both erupted in laughter as the memories of our talk came rushing back. After our encounter she had taken up running again, but still refused to let go of her gardening. Even though nearly two years had passed  since I had seen this stranger her words continued to ring true. We can’t do everything, but if we try we can do some pretty amazing things. 

Becoming balanced is a tricky feat. Once you achieve it the world around you shifts ever so slightly and you must start your quest all over again. But I stand firmly in my believe that this is what makes life fun: the ebb and flow and the never knowing exactly what is coming next.  I can assure you that I have no idea what is coming next, but I’m learning how to face the unknown and embrace it.

 

To Ms. Gardener: Thank you for facing your unknown so boldly. Sure, it may have been swapping running with gardening, but I think it was more than that. You took control of your life and you made a clear decision to put running on the back burner to satiate a personal hunger to try something new and different. I applaud you. I love your energy and transparency. I wish you the best and can only hope that our paths will cross again soon.
Never Stop Running (or gardening),

Kass
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Your top 5 running shoe questions, ANSWERED.

Published on May 23, 2016, by in Running 101.

 

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I have been working at the running store for nearly three years now and it’s safe to say that I know a lot about feet and running shoes! NO,  I am NOT a physical therapist or a podiatrist but working at the running store has given me the opportunity to be trained in the various products (insoles, shoe technology and construction, etc) and exposure to various types of customers (and feet) that make me a little more knowledgeable than the average consumer.

At the store I field A LOT of questions about running shoes: What is the best brand? What do I do if one of my feet is larger than the other? Why won’t you just measure my feet to figure out the size? I’ve always been a size XYX why/how/when did my feet grow? I decided to share some of this knowledge about running shoes in my most recent article for The Run Formula:

CLICK ME FOR ARTICLE.

Stay tuned because there’s going to be a part two! :)

Enjoy!!

Never stop running,

Kass

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So what have I been doing post-Boston?? Here’s an update!

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After I wrote my Boston Marathon race recap on April 24 I took about a month off from writing. Often I tried sitting down to write but the words just came out all jumbly. It was as if too much was going on in my head at once and I couldn’t think straight let alone write something coherent and purposeful.

I recently noticed that during this quiet time the website had over 1,900 hits with zero new content. Then when I finally posted this past Tuesday 438 readers checked in on the site in a single day. Wow. Just wow. Thank you. Thank you for continuing to check in even when I was shutting you out.

By now the Boston Marathon is a faded month old memory. A valuable distraction from my circumstances and a wonderful carrot hanging in the distance, marathon training served its purpose to get me through the hardest six months of my life. So now what? No marathon to train for. No current coach watching my runs. No training plan to adhere to. No house to tend to or garden to grow. (Ha! Let’s be honest, I’m not much of the gardener anyways.)

So what on God’s green earth have I been doing since Boston??? I’ll tell you what- I’ve been doing going to do whatever I feel like doing. If I want to run, I run. If I want to take a day off, I relax. If I want to swim, I swim. Okay so I haven’t swam yet, but the point is that I could if I wanted to! After Boston I….

 

…took four days fully off then started running every other day (or every third day) for a week. 

In hindsight I should have taken more time off. I felt like I needed  to get out there and run, but the reality is that I should have just gone for a walk. It really stinks to take time off post race and feel like you’re losing so much precious fitness. I caved to the devil on my shoulder and ran- 25 short minutes- but I did run sooner than I intended to. I will admit that I regret this decision to run so soon. My body really needed 1-2 FULL WEEKS OFF to completely heel up and recover. How do I know this? My right hamstring still feels a little tighter than it should and my knees are a little more sore than usual.  Ten to fourteen days off post big marathon is how I’ve always been coached and it’s how I coach my own athletes. Bottom line: I know better. Now, I really do know better!

 

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…stopped training and started running again.

I love coach Beth from The Run Formula.  We have been through so many races and training days together that we’re like a mother-daughter duo. I always want to rebel and push harder and run farther and she really tries to not say, “I TOLD YOU SO!!!” when my mistakes come back to bite me. :) Regardless right now I have so much stress in my life that I just can’t train. I can’t devote the mental energy to training the way I want to train so for now I am on my own!

Right now I don’t follow a training plan! I’m just out there running however far or fast I feel like running. I still schedule out my runs- otherwise they might not get done. Over the past few weeks I have been running 30-33 miles a week and I feel great! I aim to run FOUR DAYS out of the week with two of the days being 6-8 miles, one day being about 4-5 and the last day is my long run day at 10-12 miles. Perfecto! I haven’t been focusing on pace and rather have just been getting out there to enjoy the sun, sky and fresh air :) .

Chances are that I’ll come crawling back to Beth mid-June, but right now I just need time. I just need time for my life to settle down a little bit before I commit to training for my next big race: the Baystate Half Marathon in October. 

 

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Time to focus on the fundamentals: strength training with an emphasis on legs, core and back!! I might run at a decent clip, but my hamstrings and abductors are WEAK! Giddy up! We’ve got work to do!!

…. started strength training AT LEAST twice a week.

One of my primary goals post Boston was to commit to strength training twice a week. Due to the move/child care/etc on days where I was scheduled to both lift and run I often just ran and skipped the lift. Once in a while- not a big deal. Skipping out on lifting altogether for about 3-4 months? No bueno my friends, no bueno. There I’m back at the gym and lifting twice a week. First and foremost with these workouts I want to be consistent because consistency is king when it comes to healthy living. I have been focusing on the following: core, back, leg machines, arms and did I say core?
Hello planks! Evil side plank dips!! And muahahahah super duper evil plank jacks!!! Don’t know what I’m talking about? Look it up. Do it. Thank me later.

 

…. did a HARD tempo run and realized that I’m a bonehead and needed more time to recover post-Boston before dropping the hammer. Come on Kass, practice what you preach! Doh! 

Last week I idiotically thought that it would be a good time to do a tempo workout. Bad Kass, no biscuit! I wasn’t wearing my heart rate monitor, but it’s safe to say that my heart rate during the tempo was a solid 10-15 beats above where it should have been. Why did I do this 2×10 min tempo workout @ 6:55 pace? Because I’m impatient. How did I know it was the wrong thing to do? Because the body needed to focus on running easy for 4-6 weeks post Boston, NOT running random tempo workouts at a zone 3 pace. Doh! Exhibit B why I benefit from a coach (A was running too soon post race).

 

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Laura and Flower at the 2016 Run for Charlotte 5k/10k race in Braintree, MA.

… have gone to several of my athletes races and have watched them PR, kick ass and HAVE FUN!! 

Outside of my person run game I have been having a BLAST working with my 15 one-on-one coaching athletes from near and far to hone their own running skills!!! You guys are the absolute best!! I am incredibly fortunate to have been chosen to take this running journey with athletes as far as San Diego, Delaware, Florida and several in my own Boston backyard!

Within the past month I have helped Molly prepare for her ClifBar Mountain to Beach marathon that is NEXT WEEKEND, watched Flower and Mark conquer their first 10Ks EVER, supported Laura as she took FIVE WHOLE MINUTES off of her 5k time and even cheered on Bree who peeled SIX MINUTES off of her half marathon PR at the OC Half Marathon in SoCal a few weeks back. Whoa! My runners have been busy!! I actually started to cry when I watched Flower, Laura and the man I thought was Mark (whoops, I was cheering for the wrong dude, my bad) cross the finish line at their respective races. What an utterly amazing experience! Whether it’s couch to 5k training or working to improve your marathon time I’m game!

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… have had an AWESOME time just being a mom and playing with Lillian :)

Due to the child care arrangements with Lillian’s father she now spends one full week with me and then one full week with him. It’s incredibly difficult, but anything less than 100% of time with my daughter is difficult. Please keep your opinions of our agreement to yourself as we are trying to figure out what can work for us for now. Regardless of the tough stuff, when I am with Lillian my heart feels alive. We cuddle up on the couch, play dress up, do each other’s hair and make up and bake A LOT of cookies together. I love her so incredibly much and she told me that she loves me 100, cause that’s a lot. I’ll take any morsel of her that I can get even if it comes with what feels like 30+ hours of the same Dora the Explorer episode on repeat. My mini is the absolute best!!

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One more pic for good measure <3 my mini. Baking muffins!

Running. Working. Mommying. Yep, life is good.

 

Oh, and I’m running a 10k tomorrow, the Strawberry Shortcake 10K in Plympton, MA :) . Why? For fun, that’s why! I haven’t specifically trained for it. I have no clue how I’ll do, but you sure as hell know that I’m going to run my heart out!! Fingers crossed the hamstring holds up.

 

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Yea, I’ve done A LOT of baking lately… it’s aweeeeeeeeesome! :) COOKIES!!

 

And on that note I’m going to go bake banana bread, cause why not?

Never stop running,

The Lone Runner

 

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I’ve also been hanging out with Snowball who gets more evil with each passing day. Exhibit A: she hides UNDER the bed covers and double paws with her claws when you get close!!! PURE EVIL! Pretty wild Saturday night I must say so myself.