See Jen Run

I still find it hard to believe that I am a runner. I have always despised running and even when I was in college and in the best shape of my life, I thought running was the most painful and boring sport in the world. When I was on the dance team at SIU, we use to have to run a mile every practice and I would repeatedly ask my friends, "Who could possibly do this for fun?!!!"

So when I decided to start the Couch to 5K program in the summer of 2010, no one thought I would stick with it. The common reaction from my friends and family was, "I thought you hated running?". And I did. But I was desperate to lose those last 10 post-baby pounds and since I didn't belong to a gym (or have any desire to join one), I thought running might be the perfect fit.

And it was.

I finished the Couch to 5K program on August 21st of that summer!

This whole running thing started as part of my "Operation Get a Hot Mommy Body", which was a goal I set out to reach before my 30th birthday. I can't say I ever gained that Hot Mommy Body, but I did reach an amazing goal just weeks before my birthday.

I ran my very first 5K!

I know this sounds dorky and overly dramatic, but I totally got tears in my eyes when I crossed the finish line that day. I was so proud of myself for setting this HUGE goal and sticking to it. Finishing that race was just validation that I was not just a C25K graduate...I was a runner. And I had my first bib to prove it :-) I ran that first race in 31:16 with a 10:06 pace per mile.

While I was still high from that first race, I decided to register for my second. This time it wasn't just going to be my buddy Joe and I. I managed to recruit my sister-in-law Dana and my friend Chelsi (who flew all the way here from Washington State) and we all had a BLAST!!!

Dana and I crossed the finish line together holding hands that race. We both got tears in our eyes. Again. But it just felt so good!!! And to celebrate, we totally dug into all that free chocolate fondue they were passing out. Best part of the whole race if you ask me. It certainly warmed us up in the 22 degree weather :-) We finished that race in 33:58 with a 10:57 pace.

For my birthday, Eric got me a beautiful treadmill so that I could keep running and training through the winter months. I was some-what on track in November and ran a few times in December, but I spent all of January and February avoiding the basement so I didn't have to feel the guilt of not running. I can blame my lack of motivation on the weather, the craziness of the holidays, etc. but no matter what excuses I came up was still not enough to take away the guilt of "quitting". So I gave myself some new motivation. Dana and Joe and I signed up for the Shamrock Shuffle, which was an 8K!

In the month leading up to this race, I was able to get back my 5K. I could run 3 miles and feel okay at the end of it. But I never pushed myself to go farther, thinking that the adrenaline of race-day would push me through the last 2 miles. Ha!

The Shamrock Shuffle was not a good race for me. It was a hot day (80 degrees in April) and in addition to that, I was not properly trained. When we first started to run, I thought I would be okay. I passed the 1 mile mark and the 2 mile mark and I was doing fine. But as soon as I passed the 3 mile mark I hit a wall. My feet felt like bricks and every hill felt like a mountain. I walked at every water stop and then some. I know that there is nothing wrong with walking during a race but in my eyes, if I have to walk, I failed. Silly I know...but that's how I feel with running. And I walked in this race. A lot. Although, you gotta give props to the camera guy for catching me on a good stride...

I finished this race in 1:05:04. Definitely not my best performance but hey...that gave me the kick in the pants I needed. I decided it was time to get serious again and give my treadmill and running path some serious use.

And that's what I did. I started up again and have been running strong since. In 2011 I saw a ton of improvement. A few weeks after the Shuffle, my girlfriends and I ran a local 5K and kicked butt.
I came in at 33:57, which was my exact time at the Hot Chocolate Race. My confidence was coming back.

In early June, Joe and I signed up for another race and I really had a good feeling about this one.

And sure enough, I beat my Personal Record and came in 30:20 with a 9:46 pace. Awesome!! Now I was determined to come in under 30 the next time.

Living in the Chicago suburbs is the best because you can literally find a race any weekend you want. This one was a small race that a lot of my friends ran and it was so much fun.

I set another New Personal record that day and ran it in 28:51 with a 9:06 pace!! Woohoo! It's still my best 5K race to date.

The rest of the summer and fall of 2011 was dedicated to having fun! I stopped worrying about my time and ran with my friends instead. But, that's not to say that we didn't kick some ass! My buddy Joe and BFF Barb raced with me in 98 degree heat with 100% humidity! It was a hot one, but the cold beer afterwards was amazeballs.

This was another fun race in late August and my buddy Dan actually one first place in his age group! I actually for 4th in my age group...but there were only 6 of us. Haha!

Another great race supporting the Make Your Mark foundation.

In October, I had the privilege of running with 4 of my besties!!! This race was SO much fun!!! I was with my girl Tara and our old work buddy Tommers, as well as my college besties Amy and Mandy (who you ALL know from House of Rose).

And of course, we NEVER miss the Hot Chocolate 5K!!

After a fantastic running season, I swore to work harder over the winter and make more use of my treadmill. Luckily, we had a pretty mild winter that year and I was able to run outside more than I thought I would. I didn't log as many miles as I planned to, but I was still in good shape by the time our first race of the season rolled around.

Joe and I ran the Shamrock Shuffle in March and I came in at 55:16...a whole 10 minutes faster than last year. AWESOME!!! It was a gorgeous day and I even had my Dad and Eric there to cheer us on.

Seeing me run this race inspired my Dad to get into shape and run a 5K with me this fall!!! BUT...the deal was that I had to run the Rock & Roll Half Marathon in July. Yikes!!

Training for this race was a little tough. For one thing, I knew NOTHING about training for such a long race. I had never run anything further than an 8K and aside from a random 6 mile run that Dana and I had done last summer...I pretty much stuck to 3-milers.

I went in search of a training plan that I thought was appropriate for our "skill level" and I found Hal Higdon's Novice 2 Half Marathon Training Plan. Joe and I downloaded the app in March and couldn't wait to get started!!

Although we had every intention of following it exactly, it didn't quite work out that way. I can blame our lack of proper training on the HOT summer we had (and it was miserable) or our crazy schedules...but the fact is we did NOT train as much as we should have. But at the time, we were convinced that we were still in great shape. We finished every long run, and in some cases, with a really great pace. We felt as prepared as we could be and when the day finally came...we were PUMPED!!

Okay...pumped and scared shitless. Or at least I was. I had the WORST nervous tummy of my life and I was already feeling anxious about the heat (it was a high of 92 that day). I just tried to remember that I was running with my best friends, my Dad and Eric were there watching me and my kiddies were at home with my mom cheering me on. I NEEDED to finish this race for them.

And that I did.

These pictures tell a very different story than how I actually felt at the end of that race. Although I was THRILLED to be crossing the finish line and SO PROUD of the medal around my neck, deep down I was disappointed. I knew I could have done SO MUCH better and I was sad that Dana had to abandon her great pace to nurse me through the end. And trust me wasn't pretty. Here is the post I wrote after that race.

I tried so hard to bury all my negative emotions that day and just enjoy the moment and be proud of the fact that I FINISHED!!!! Plus, I had the most amazing welcome home party waiting for me.

My mom and my friend Barb put together the most adorable signs for me and I was in tears when I pulled into the driveway and saw my little cheerleaders. How could I be so down on myself?? I set out to run a half marathon and I DID!!!!!!

But a week later...I still couldn't shake this desire to try again. To lace up my shoes, train the RIGHT way and give those 13.1 miles another go. I wanted a second chance.

So on a late-night whim, I signed up for the Monster Dash Half Marathon. It was 3 months away, which was plenty of time to re-train and start fresh.

Dana and I worked our asses off for the next 3 months, getting in all of our long runs and as many weekday runs as our crazy mommy schedules would allow. In addition to that, I changed some of my eating habits, started cross training and going to yoga. The second time around felt SO DIFFERENT and when the big day finally arrived, I was ready. MORE than ready. Here is what I posted on Fitness Friday the weekend of the race.

I was so excited that my Dad was coming to watch me run again. I kept calling his phone the morning of the race trying to find him and then suddenly, I saw Waldo walking towards me. My dad was DECKED OUT in his costume and I thought, "Wow...he totally got into this! I love it!"

And then I noticed the race bib pinned to his pants. 

The Monster Dash is actually a 5K and Half Marathon and wouldn't you know...that crazy Waldo went and signed up for the 5K without telling me!!!!! He wanted it to be a surprise and boy was it ever!!!

Knowing that my Dad was running towards his goal made me run harder towards mine. Dana and I kept great pace with each other and finished in 2 hours and 20 minutes...which was 23 minutes faster  than the Rock-N-Roll half. We were SO EXCITED and I have never been MORE PROUD of my Dad, or myself.

That was such a kickass experience. Running all 13.1 miles and crossing the finish line feeling happy and SATISFIED! I will never forget that day.

The rest of the 2012 running season was all about having FUN!!! I got to run two more races with my Dad, as well as some of my friends and family. First up was the Hot Chocolate 5K.

And then my Dad, Aunt Judy and my cousins Jill and Jarrod all met up for the Santa Hustle 5K in December. My boy Tommers met up with us too and that race was just hilarious. We were all in Santa suits for one thing, and instead of a bunch of water stops on the course, they had candy and cookies. MY KIND OF RACE!!!

My Dad and his sister Judy finished the race hand-in-hand, just like old times :-) It was the perfect way to end the season :-)

I spent the rest of the winter working really hard to stay in shape. Having Health & Fitness Fridays and my L.G.N. group kept me motivated and inspired. I have never been able to run in the cold or snow but this year I did! I bundled up and got out there and it felt so good.

And now that the 2013 race season is upon us, I feel more motivated and excited than ever!! I don't have any huge plans for the year, other than a repeat of the Monster Dash in October when my girl Amanda will fly in to run it with me, and the Hot Chocolate 5K in November with my girl Steph. I also hope to run a lot more with my Dad, who has just started training again after his surgery in February, and my buddies Carol and Tommers. 

The three of us just ROCKED our first race of the season, The Shamrock Shuffle 8K, with a time of 48:17, which is another 7 minutes faster than last year!! WOOHOO!! New PR baby!!

My next race is scheduled for May 2nd and even though it is a smaller 5K at the college I work for, I am really excited for it because I am hoping it will be Daddy-O's big 2013 debut.

Stay tuned for more fun to come...

"The miracle isn't that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start"
~John Bingham