Monday, January 16, 2017


This morning started out like any other weekend or holiday - it's MLK day and everyone in our house is off, so we all stayed in a bed a little longer. Chris brought me my coffee to sip leisurely while I scrolled through social media on my phone. K had settled under the covers next to me with his iPad, and we snuggled and tickled, two of his favorite things.

But there were chores to be done, so when Chris went downstairs to get a workout in, I started stripping the sheets from everyone's bed. K went into the kitchen, presumably to make himself a sandwich, his breakfast of choice. I heard unusual sounds from the kitchen, so I went to check things out.

In the kitchen, I found my ceramic Starbucks travel mug had broken, and the pieces were all over the counter. I was sad for about a second - it was my favorite travel mug, a gift from a patient. But when you are the parent of a child with autism, especially one who is destructive, both intentionally or unintentionally, you learn not to get too attached to objects. My more immediate thought was K's safety. He'd obviously broken the mug, but had he cut himself in the process? I called his name and found him in the living room. I wasn't yelling or even upset - more concerned to see if he was hurt and bleeding.

But K was upset. As I walked in, he flipped our coffee table on it's side angrily and yelled. Surprised, I scolded him and told him to pick it up, at which point, he lunged at me - hitting and pinching HARD. K is about 5'7'' and at least 185 pounds. He is taller than me, outweighs me by over 50 pounds, and is VERY strong. I tried to stay calm and get in a position of control - attempting to move him towards his room, where he could calm down privately - but given our difference in size, this was difficult. He managed to head butt me, shove me, and kick me into a wall by the time I got him into his room.

Chris unfortunately did not hear any of this, as the elliptical trainer muffles the sounds of activity upstairs. I ran downstairs to tell him, shaken and shaking, and he came up to offer his assistance.
K calmed down in his room, and apologized when he came out with the sign and a verbalization of I'm sorry.

This is not the first time K has come after me. He has gone after both Chris and I, and at times his teachers at school. Today was maybe the worst incident thus far for me because I actually feared for my safety.

I've never been in a physical altercation in my life. I've never been hit by another person, so it is somewhat shocking how the flight or fight reaction takes over so quickly. In these situations it is my, and presumably everyone's, first thought to fight back. But I will not hit my child. I know it won't do any good, I know I don't want to hurt him, even though he is doing everything he can to hurt me. My first thought is everyone's safety - his, mine, my other son's, and my husband's.

But the most painful part of this is not my physical wounds. I will surely have some visible bruises from this episode tomorrow. The worst part is not understanding why my child, my usually "gentle giant" 13 year old, can, without tangible provocation,  so viciously come after the people he loves most in this world. The helplessness I feel after these incidents take my breath away.

This is by far the most difficult thing we've faced as autism parents - and believe me when I say there are so many difficult things we face daily. It is not knowing what to do about it. It is the unpredictable nature of these outburst. It's wanting to protect everyone else from seeing or experiencing something like this. Even in the face of being physically attacked, my first thought is "What does this mean for K and his future?"

Is this just a puberty thing? Sure, we'll call the neurologist and talk about adjusting medications. But it beyond daunting to think about this happening on a regular basis.

So why write about it? First of all, it helps me process. Also, I need those who might experience the same thing to know they are not alone. I need to know that we are not alone, because when things like this happen, it is more isolating than I can describe. What I don't want is pity. Pity is useless. But I like to keep things real, - good, bad, and ugly...and this is it - this is our reality - part of our everyday life. And it's okay to admit that real life is sometimes pretty daunting.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Race Report from Ironman Princeton 70.3

My Journey to 70.3

A Brief Background...

I’ve only been “tri-ing” for a little over two years. I did my first sprint distance triathlon in July of 2012 and my first Olympic distance tri in July 2013. When I finished the Olympic distance triathlon last summer, I told a friend that I wasn’t yet ready for the 70.3 distance that she was training for. I really didn’t think I was at that point.

Then in December of 2013, the news came out that an Ironman-branded 70.3 event was coming to Princeton, NJ. It was going to be held in Mercer County Park, the same location as the New Jersey State Triathlon, and a location I love. The water is clean-ish or at least seaweed-free, the roads are fairly flat, and it is an hour drive from home.

The problem was, I had just promised my ever-patient husband that I’d take 2014 off from long distance training. I’ve completed one or two marathons every year since 2011, and that training takes its toll on a family. I told him about this incredible opportunity, and he gave me his blessing. The moment registration opened, I was signed up.


My 16-week training plan officially started in May. I sat down with a calendar and a  training guide and planned my weeks of training. I’d hoped to hire a trainer to help get me safe and strong to the start line, but sadly that wasn’t in the budget. I was on my own.

Anyone who knows me knows I tend to overbook myself with races and other activities, but I made a concerted effort to scale this summer’s activities back. I did a sprint triathlon in June, an Olympic triathlon in July, and took August off completely from racing.

On the whole, I enjoyed 70.3 training much more than marathon training. Every day called for a different activity, which is a nice change from the monotony of day after day of running. As the training distances got longer, I really started to struggle with balance. Being a midwife, I’m often scheduled to work 100+ hours in a week. Work combined with the important needs of my family left me trying to squeeze in my workouts, having to choose which workouts were crucial and which were okay to miss.

In the end, it was swim training that got the short end of the stick. I am a comfortable but not fast swimmer, and knew that I could make it through the 1.2 mile swim easily with little training. (Notice I didn’t say quickly!)

I did almost all of my training solo, as I knew that I’d be on my own on race day, but my friend Jackie was kind enough to come join me on two of my long rides. She is a stronger cyclist than I am, so her tips and advice were invaluable. I was most concerned about the bike portion of the race, since that is my newest sport. I also had four friends who were seriously injured in bicycle accidents this year, which was never far from my mind on every training ride.

At Long Last - Race Week Arrives...

I was scheduled to work 200 hours in the two weeks leading into the race and came down with a cold the Monday before the race. I rested as much as I could and watched my nutrition and hydration. By Friday I was feeling almost 100% better. I was smart enough to make sure I had four days off from work for race weekend so I would be as well rested as possible and have a day to recover after the race.

On Saturday, Chris, my friend Jackie, and I loaded up the car and drove up to Mercer County Park to check our bikes in and pick up our race packets. My used, entry-level road bike was racked next to fancy tri bikes that probably cost well over $5000. I tried not to be intimidated by the level of athletes I saw in the Ironman Village.

Jackie and I did some shopping for official merchandise and then we dropped Jackie off at her hotel and we checked into ours. Chris and I had an early al fresco dinner at one of my favorite places in the Princeton area and then headed back to the hotel so I could get my gear set up and drink my Osmo Pre-Load Hydration. I was settled into bed by 8:30pm, with my alarm set for 4:45am.

Jackie texted me shortly after we got into bed saying she was ill. I was panicked for her but tried to stay calm and encourage her to do the same. I read a few pages of a book and was fast asleep.

Race Day!

Jackie texted me first thing race morning that she was pulling out of the race. She had been sick all night, most likely from food poisoning, and was too weak and dehydrated to even consider competing. This was a difficult but wise choice. I was devastated for her and selfishly for me. I’d been looking forward to seeing her along the course and accomplishing this together.

Our hotel was only about five minutes from Mercer County Park, so we left at 5:50 – after I’d had my mandatory coffee and a few nibbles from a muffin. I did not anticipate the traffic to get into the park. We were still sitting in a long line of cars at 6:32, and I knew transition closed at 6:45. I stayed fairly calm – for me anyway – and hopped out of the car as soon as the transition lights were in sight while Chris went to park.

I made it into transition without difficulty and set everything up. People were freaking out all around me about the traffic and the difficulty getting into the park. I have never seen so many adults having toddler-like meltdowns.  

I ran into a few tri-club friends at the port-a-potty line, which helped calm my nerves. My friend Sherri arrived and she, Chris, and I made our way to the beach for the swim start.

It was only then that I realized that the swim start would not be the same as it was for the NJ State Tri. We had to enter at the beach and swim about 100 or so meters to the start, where we treaded water for about 3-4 minutes.

I was in wave number 13 out of 22, which was perfect. Most everyone was wearing a wet suit – not me. I made the choice a while back not to worry about the wet suit. They make me very claustrophobic and the few moments it might gain me in the water would probably not equal the time I spent panicking.

The Swim...

At about 7:40, it was our turn to wade into the water and head out to the start. I was happy to have a few friends out there with me. The water was 70 degrees, chilly at first, but I was used to it in about a minute and was happy with my choice not to wear a wetsuit. I took my time getting to the start buoy as I did not want to be out of breath before I even started the race. A woman near me had a panic attack on the way out, and I stopped to make sure she was okay and helped calm her down and slow her breathing.

At 7:46 we were off. I really do love swimming in this lake. The water feels clean and there is plenty of room. The course was rectangular in shape, so we were just swimming straight, which I also like. My goal was to finish the swim in 50 minutes, and at the halfway point, I was right on target at 25 minutes.

Once we made the first turn, the younger men in the heats behind us started catching up and overtaking me. I was kicked and hit and smacked more than I’ve ever been in a triathlon. I swallowed water a few times, but tried to keep focused. I knew I was slowing down and was worried that Chris would be worried if I didn’t finish in my goal time.

Finally we made the turn to the swim out ramp. As I got out, I saw Sherri snapping photos and checked my watch – 55 minutes – uhg. Oh well, it was over and now it was time to focus on the bike portion, the part I was most nervous about.

As I walked to transition, I heard Chris screaming cheers for me and he stood right outside the fence of transition so I could chat with him while I was getting ready for the bike.  This was really calming and comforting. I whined to him the entire time about the swim, but then was thrilled to glance over and see my cousin Cheryl standing with he and Sherri. I didn’t know she was coming up to cheer!

The Bike...

I grabbed my food and headed out of transition. My mantra for the bike had become “No rain, no wind, no flats,” which is funny since I could control none of those things. But it worked for me.

I rode out of the park and marveled at the perfect weather conditions. The forecast had been an unseasonably warm and humid day with highs in the 80s and sunshine. Happily, it was very overcast at this point and there was no wind to speak of. Once we got out of the park and onto the road it was very bumpy for the first 8 miles. It was nearly impossible to avoid the bumps and maintain good race etiquette. I saw at least 4 people with flat tires in those first miles.

My goal for the entire race was to enjoy it along the way as much as possible. My goal for the bike was not to waste my legs, but to keep my pace steady. After mile 9, the roads got much better. I enjoyed the bike portion immensely.  I kept a fairly fast pace, for me, for the first 25 miles or so and then slowed down a bit as I got a little fatigued. I kept reminding myself to take it easy as I still had to run a half-marathon.

The course was really beautiful, despite at least 25 turns, which didn’t bother me as much as it bothered the faster cyclists. I found the hills to be equal to what I trained on – challenging but do-able. There were two really long and winding hills that I struggled with, but I wasn’t alone. I even considered walking my bike up one of them because I was going so slowly. Thankfully there were enough descents to give the legs a little rest and build up momentum.

People in the homes along the course were out cheering us on, which was so nice. There was a group of volunteers from my tri club at the second bike aid station, and seeing them gave me a huge boost at mile 31. I continued to see many athletes with flat tires and crashes along the course, but thankfully, Nellie Bertha (the name I gave my bike) and I stayed in one piece. My nutrition choice of an almond butter sandwich on a potato roll and some bunny cookies was perfect, along with lemon/lime Scratch in my water bottles.

My bottom began to ache around mile 40. I’ve never spent that long consistently riding – even on long training rides, I’d stop for traffic lights or stretch breaks, but I really didn’t want to stop.

Once we got close to the finish, we were again on those terrible bumpy roads, which felt so much worse after riding 50 miles. In fact, it felt a little bit like childbirth. I slowed down quite a bit in these last few miles, just trying to navigate the bumps and potholes. Seriously, it was almost like attempting to ride on cobblestones.

Although the bike was officially listed as 56 miles, every athlete I spoke to agreed that it was more like 57-58 miles in total. We turned into the park at about mile 56 and I started to see people I knew along the course. I spotted Jackie and her husband, with Sherri and Cheryl, cheering me on. I choked up when I saw them, especially Jackie. I saw my friend Jennifer and her daughter, and then Chris, right before I hit transition. I couldn’t believe it - I was done with bike portion and faster than I’d predicted too! All I had to do was run now.

I chatted again with Chris in transition as I prepped for the run and headed out. I debated using the potty in transition, but decided against it, as I felt pretty good.

The Run...

My plan for the run was to run/walk and take it easy, particularly at the beginning. I didn’t have a set walk to run interval planned, but I pretty quickly decided on a 2 minute run to 1 minute walk ratio. I obviously headed out way too fast, as my first run split was 8:59. All those brick workouts paid off, because my legs felt great and strong. I forced myself to slow down considerably after the first split. I knew I couldn’t maintain that quick of a pace for the whole 13 miles.

I saw some tri-club girls at mile 2 and then again around mile 3, which was great. The run course was pretty boring. I was not paying much attention to the passing miles as I ran them, I just focused on getting through each 2 minute run.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a soda drinker. But when I saw they had real Coca Cola at the aid stations, I was over the moon. Never has a sip of soda tasted so much like heaven. I had water and Nuun in my hand-held bottle, but those sips of Coke and the occasional orange wedge really got me through.

Just past mile 5, I saw Jennifer and she walked next to me for a few moments and encouraged me. At mile 6, I saw Chris, Sherri, and Cheryl. Chris shouted out, “7 more miles until mimosas!” I thought about that a lot for the next miles!

The second loop of the run was definitely tougher as the sun had come out and it was really hot. I was putting ice cubes down my tri suit to keep cool. At mile 11, I decided I needed to walk longer than a minute and spent a few moments walking and giving myself a pep talk. I was so close I could hear the finish line announcers.

The last two miles were difficult, as much of this part of the course was a gradual incline. I took more than a few walk breaks, and stopped to drench myself with ice-cold sponges.

Sherri was waiting for me around mile 12.5, and she jogged on the grass telling me how close I was and snapping photos. She told me where to sprint once I hit the chute (as if I wanted to sprint!).

We made a turn and there it was at long last, the finishers chute! It was a long one, so I waited to “sprint” until I was about 200 meters out. I saw Chris and Cheryl and Jackie and Tom. I heard the announcer call out my name. And then I was done. I happily took my hat and medal!

It took me a few moments to find my crew, but when I did there were hugs all around, despite me being a sweaty stinky mess. Chris told me how proud he was of me and I got teary. I choked up again when Jackie hugged me. I knew how hard she’d trained for this. Chris poured the promised mimosas and we toasted. I grabbed my finisher food and thanked my supporters who’d spent an entire day waiting around. We packed up and headed home – and I really didn’t feel too bad physically.

My goal finish time was 7:30, I finished in 7:24:24. The time I’d lost on my swim I more than made up for in my quicker-than-planned transition times.


A week later and I’m still on a high. I’m so happy I did this race. It was a near-perfect day with near-perfect conditions. I remained injury-free during training and the race. I’m pleased with my performance and beat my goal time. I learned that you really do get what you put into training, as I let my swim training slide and it showed in my time. But the training time I put into biking and brick workouts absolutely paid off. I felt so strong on those portions.

I don’t think I’ll ever do another 70.3 event. I had a great day that isn’t likely to be repeated again. The training is so time consuming. I can’t remember how many times I lamented, “A full-time working midwife and autism mom DOES NOT mix well with half-Ironman training.”

I’m content to work on improving my shorter triathlon times. I’d like to run one more full marathon (NYC) in the next few years and then retire from longer distance events altogether. I don’t ever see myself doing a full Ironman and I am more than okay with that.

 I can’t wait to attend this event again - and volunteer or cheer on other athletes. The course support at this race was fabulous – from the volunteers to my fellow athletes. I can say I really enjoyed almost every moment of 70.3. Similar to completing a marathon, I feel like I really accomplished something big – and as my friend Jill says, “I can do hard things.”

Monday, March 25, 2013

A mile in my shoes

When I close my eyes to go to sleep, all I can see is my baby, trapped in freezing cold mud up to his chest, scared, and crying. And I wonder what he was thinking.

He’s fine now. Back to normal a day later, definitely a little more clingy and snuggly than usual. But he can’t tell me what he is thinking or feeling, because he is autistic and mostly non-verbal. I can’t know what scars are in his head or his heart, but I can imagine, and it leaves me feeling like the wind has been knocked out of me.

Kaden is 9 years old. He’s a determined little dude, and he always has been. When he wants to do something, he will figure out a way to do it. And on Saturday, I guess he wanted to take a trip into the wetlands behind our house.

I had just arrived in New York City by train to spend the night with some college girlfriends when I got the call from my kids’ babysitter. Kaden was missing. They’d been playing in our fenced-in backyard, and our sitter had run inside to check on my older son and use the restroom. She was inside for about 2 minutes. When she returned, Kaden was gone.

Kaden plays in the backyard by himself all the time. It is completely fenced in, with three different exit gates that are usually kept locked. Every now and again, he has managed to escape out of one of the front gates, but he’s never gone far and we’ve found him quickly. He usually just wants to play in the front yard. Sometimes he will even come back into the house through another door.

I will also mention here that he has escaped out the front door and the garage before, usually when we are in the bathroom. He is quick and he is sneaky when he wants to do something that he knows he shouldn’t do. And as I said before, he is determined. But he has never tried to escape out the back gate towards the woods or into the wetlands.

We trust our sitter implicitly. She is a young adult woman who has worked with us for years and accompanied us on vacations. She loves our boys fiercely and is very protective of them. She is attentive, caring, and understands the challenges of caring for an autistic child. My boys love her, and she is amazingly patient and calm.

So when she called me in New York, I didn’t panic at first. I told her to check the house carefully, including closets, as well as the immediate surrounding areas in our neighborhood. I reassured her that he never goes far.

At first, I didn’t think about the back gate. I forgot the landscapers had cleared the area behind the fence earlier in the week. I forgot that I had never checked to see if that gate was locked after the landscapers left. Kaden has never shown any interest in going into those woods behind our house.

When she didn’t find him immediately, panic started to set in. I instructed her to call 911. I felt helpless, sitting 2 hours away, unable to search, unable to do anything but pray and cry and wait with one of my girlfriends, who did her best to keep me calm.

My husband Chris headed home from work to join the police in their search. He is the one who heard Kaden’s yells first, who found his shoes in the mud, who alerted the officers to my baby’s location. He was in touch with me constantly, keeping me posted on what was happening with the rescue. He was the one who sent me the photo of Kaden sitting in the bathtub, covered in mud. He was the one who tried to keep me as calm as possible, not telling me just how scary it was, not sharing the details of the real peril of the situation. Not telling me at first that Kaden was naked when they found him, despite being fully clothed and in a coat when he was in the back yard.

Chris told me to stay put in New York. He told me there was nothing I could do, that Kaden was fine. They took him by ambulance to the ER, where he was treated for mild hypothermia. His temperature rose quickly and he was released without much medical intervention. Chris kept me updated with frequent calls, texts, and photos, telling me each time to stay where I was. So I did, though with some hesitation.

I kick myself now for not coming home right away. Not that I could have done anything, or that my return would have changed the outcome in any way. But it would have made me feel better, maybe? Would I feel less overcome with guilt and worry and sadness today if I’d immediately hopped on the next train home? I can’t say now.

But this is a feel-good story with a happy ending, so the media is all over it. We had news vans camped out in front of our house all day yesterday. We chose not to speak to reporters immediately, but to first talk to the police and discuss with them how to best publicly express our extreme gratitude for their quick response and heroic efforts.

But in this high tech age, news gets out quickly and everyone has an opinion. In the past 24 hours I’ve read comments from strangers who have called for us to be investigated for negligence and called us “dumbass parents”. One of our neighbors released our child’s name to the press without our permission.

I would ask that anyone who would like to criticize first take a few moments to understand what it is like to parent or care for an autistic child, a child who cannot express his needs, wants, or emotions the way a typical 9 year old can. I would ask that you spend the day with my son, who looks like a typical 9-year old, but functions more like a preschooler and requires near-constant vigilance. I ask that you understand that my son has managed to get past almost every safety measure we’ve employed, and often waits until we are in the bathroom to attempt to escape. I ask you to consider that we are all human, and every one of us makes mistakes, despite our best efforts to be good parents.

If you would first walk a mile in my shoes, you may then criticize all you want. I may not hear you. I’m going to be thanking God, my son’s guardian angels, my husband, and the police and emergency responders for bringing my son home safely to us. 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Five years ago

I couldn't run around the block. It was five years ago that I first tried to run, and failed - sort of. I failed to run as far I thought I could run or as fast as I thought I could run. But what I didn't know was that day when I laced up my sneakers and started jogging up the street, I was starting a whole new chapter in my life.

It was 2008. I was less than 9 months out from losing both parents to cancer in less than a year's time. Our youngest son had just been diagnosed with autism and seizures at 4 years old. We were already dealing with our 7 year-old son's developmental delay, which also placed him on the autism spectrum. I had quit my nursing job and was attending grad school full-time. I'd gained almost 20 pounds and felt like my skin was too tight for my body.

In early February, one of my professors challenged our class to train for and run the Broad Street Run, a 10-mile race through Philadelphia held in early May every year. She was a busy mom like me and had run the race the year before. This sparked my interest, if she could do it, maybe I could too? I needed to get into shape and thought that maybe this would be a fun challenge. I recruited my cousin Cheryl to run the race with me, and she was crazy enough to agree, though she wasn't a runner either.

I'm not sure why I thought I could run, let alone run for 10 miles straight. I'd done yoga regularly for years, but I'd never really stuck with any kind of regular exercise as an adult. I had bad knees, very little motivation, and even less spare time. And my mom always told me that adult women shouldn't run because it would "jiggle their women parts too much."

But I did it. Every day I'd run a little further. I was too afraid to run on the road outside the confines of my neighborhood, so I went to the local track and ran laps. It wasn't fun, but something kept me coming back for more.

As I ran through the cold, rain, and wind, I thought. I worked through some of the grief I was feeling over losing my parents and my sons' diagnoses. I remember doing my first 8 mile run. I wanted to stop after 2 miles - it was hot by then, and 8 miles on a track is extremely boring. I knew I had a paper to write for school once I got home, and I really didn't want to write that paper, so I just kept going round and round the track until I hit the 8-mile mark. I'd written half the paper in my head by that point.

One day on my way home from school, I saw someone running and I was jealous that I was stuck in the car and not running. At that point, I knew I was hooked. This was my addiction. I subscribed to a running magazine and got fitted for shoes at a real running store.

I ran my first race, 10 miles side by side with Cheryl in May of 2008. We ran the whole way - not fast, not with perfect form - but we finished in under 2 hours and we were ecstatic. A week later I heard about a brand new women's half-marathon in Disney World, and I called Cheryl and convinced her that we needed to sign up. We had a new goal ahead of us - the 2009 Princess Half-Marathon. Having a new race goal kept me running and I'd learned that running kept me sane.

In 2012, after two years of encouragement from my husband, I joined the Mullica Hill Women's Tri Club. I joined hesitantly, mostly looking for new training and running opportunities, but swearing that I would never do a triathlon. By the end of the club's orientation night, I was making a plan to train for swimming and biking.

Somewhere along this journey I became a runner and a triathlete. I've found new training buddies and forged friendships. I've gotten faster and stronger and braver. Last summer, I conquered swimming in both a lake and the ocean - a paralyzing fear of mine.

If you'd told me five years ago today that in February of 2013 I'd be training for my 5th Princess Half-Marathon, my 44th road race, I'd have asked if you'd hit your head. If you told me I would run 3 full marathons and compete in 2 triathlons, I would have laughed in your face. Five years ago I was not a runner, I was not an athlete, and I would never, ever choose to swim in a lake or ocean for more than a minute.

But running is a big part of of who I am now. It is my time to think and process and grieve and plan. Marathons and triathlons are an important part of my life. My kids know that Mommy is happier after she gets a good run in, and my husband graciously plans trips and vacations around races.

That first "failed" run in February of 2008 was the start of something big, and I'm so happy that I didn't just give up, go home, and eat ice cream.

There is a song from the animated Disney movie "Hercules" that sums up how I feel about running, triathlons, and the MHWTC. I get chills and a little misty every time I hear the words.

"I have often dreamed
Of a far off place
Where a great warm welcome
Will be waiting for me
Where the crowds will cheer
When they see my face
And a voice keeps saying
This is where I'm meant to be

I will find my way
I can go the distance
I'll be there someday
If I can be strong
I know every mile
Will be worth my while
I would go most anywhere
To feel like I belong"

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Looking back, looking ahead

2013. Yup, we are almost a full month into the new year and I'm finally sitting down to write my first blog of the year. This is a big year for me. I will celebrate my 40th birthday in May. I'll become the mother of a teenager in November. I'm looking forward to a fabulous week-long trip to Disney World in February with my family to run my 5th Princess Half Marathon.

Last year I set some simple goals. I wanted to run a race every month. I aimed to beat at least one of my personal best race times. I wanted to worry less about little nagging things like cleaning my house and focus more on the simple pleasures in my life, like spending time snuggling with my sons or talking with my husband. I wanted to spend less time feeling guilty about what I wasn't doing and more time feeling joy and being thankful for my many blessings.

2012 turned out to be a pretty good year. On the fitness front, I ran 20 races in 12 months. I ran personal best times in every distance I raced, except one. I joined the Mullica Hill Women's Triathlon Club. Much to my surprise, I completed two triathlons and fell in love with the sport. I started the year with the worst race experience I've ever had and finished with one of my most enjoyable races. I ran three races side by side with one of my best friends. I was blessed to watch my cousin (my original running buddy) find her stride again after devastating loss, and go on to beat her own personal best in the half-marathon. I made new friends and found new training buddies who pushed me to be better. My older son ran three 5Ks with me, and wants to continue running.

Ignoring chores and turning off guilt proved much more difficult, but I think I did spend more time enjoying my family and less time stressing over dust-bunnies and messy drawers. In September I had wrist surgery that was much more complicated than the surgeon originally thought, and I ended up being out of work for ten weeks. I struggled with the guilt of knowing how much strain my co-workers were under with my absence, but I enjoyed every extra moment I was able to spend with my husband and kids.

I do felt like I took more time to celebrate the everyday joys of life this year and count my blessings, but this will always be a work-in-progress. It is far too easy to get weighed down with life's burdens and stressors. I sometimes feel that every time we conquer one challenge with our kids, a new one emerges. I know this is a standard part of parenthood, but it sometimes seems magnified when dealing with an autistic child.

In 2013, my personal goals are similar. I want to enjoy as much time with loved ones as possible, count my blessings, feel less guilt, find more joy, and stress less about things I just cannot control. I want to shut my computer, put down my phone, and enjoy a conversation or a good book or a quiet moment.

I'm planning on competing in my first Olympic-distance triathlon this summer and improving my overall time in the sprint triathlon. Other than that, my fitness goals for 2013 are less specific than last year. I'd like to run a half-marathon in under 2 hours and a full-marathon in under 5 hours, but more important, I want to fully enjoy every race that I run.

Here's to 2013! More joy, less guilt.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Running for Joy

I've been training for one race or another for the past 16 months. I've always had the next one on the horizon, so as soon as I'd recover from one race, I'd start prepping for the next, oftentimes bleeding one training schedule into a another. This year I added triathlons to the mix and threw some biking and swimming training in there, along with the dreaded "brick" workouts - which are some combination of swimming, biking, and/or running.

Since I completed the Philadelphia Marathon on November 18th, I've been in recovery and rest mode. This is the first time since June of 2011 that I do not have the next race looming. It feels good.

Resting does not mean I'm sitting on the couch eating cookies, but it does mean that I have no set plan or milage goal for each week. I'm running for fun, for the pure joy of running, something I haven't done  much of in a long time. I'm not doing speed work, intervals, or long slow distance runs. I'm just running however long and however fast feels right on that particular day. It also means not feeling guilty if I skip a run.

I've been wearing my Garmin, but enjoy not checking my pace or distance every few minutes, or even at all, until I finish the run. I tend to be competitive with myself, and I know that if I look at the watch and see that I'm dragging a little, I'll try to speed up my pace. This is not the point of running for joy. For me, part of the fun of this type of running is seeing how I did at the end of a run. Was I as slow or as fast as I felt? Can I run just as fast if I don't know my pace every second of the way?

The past 3 four-milers have been particularly fun because the weather has been unseasonably nice lately. Even more thrilling was that I averaged a sub-9:25 minute mile pace for each run. This is fairly fast for me, especially when I'm just running by feel and am not in training mode.

I think this time of rest is even more beneficial for my mind than my body. I'm still getting the miles in, but running doesn't feel like a chore, as it sometimes can during the months and weeks leading up to a big race. I find I'm looking forward to these runs and I feel great when I'm done.

As of now, my next big race is at the end of February, the Princess Half-Marathon in Walt Disney World. But I'm running that one for fun, not a personal best. My next PR goal race probably won't be until April, so I have some time to enjoy this rest period before I really need to sink back into training mode. I also want to spend some of my down time focusing on improving my biking and swimming skills, in preparation for the 2013 triathlon season.

Just before mile 12 of the 2012 Disney Princess Half Marathon, which is my favorite race! 
But for now, everything I do is going to be focused on the fun of it all.

Thursday, November 29, 2012


I did it! I got up and ran 3.1 miles this morning, and believe me when I say that getting out the door today was much more difficult than I had anticipated.

Shortly after I wrote last night's post, Chris announced that he was feeling very sick. He was up most of the night with a tummy bug. It was pretty bad for him. I was also awake for much of last night. I was worried about him, but also selfishly worried how this was going to affect my big plan - the same plan that I'd just posted for all the world to see. I tossed and turned, in and out of sleep, wondering if I should just turn off my alarm and bag the whole plan until next week. I stressed over the fact that these tummy bugs usually spread like wildfire through our household. Who would be the next victim, and when?

When my coffeemaker went off at 5:51am, I checked on Chris. He was feeling a bit better and encouraged me to run, as planned. The boys were still snoring away. I drank my coffee and had a few unexpected to chores to tackle before I hit the road, thanks to my poor sick hubby. But I still managed to get out (just!) before 7:00am, which was my goal.

It was cold, but invigorating. I enjoyed a gorgeous sunrise and some of my neighbors' Christmas lights. I probably even ran a little faster than I normally would have, because I didn't want Chris to have to manage the morning routine alone. Less than 30 minutes later, I was back inside my warm kitchen. It was not even 7:30am, and my workout was done for the day! What a feeling, especially on a busy day.

Today was such a good lesson for me. There will be roadblocks to making these morning runs part of my routine. There will be days when no one will know if I stay in bed and skip the run, except me. I will know, but I need to remember today. Today's run felt so good because I managed to get out despite the obstacles.