Friday, February 28, 2020

Train, Hike, Race, Repeat: An IllumiNITEd Agenda

IllumiNITE Savannah Shirt
January and February are always my lowest miles months. The cold, short days really zap my enthusiasm, but I figure if there is any time to rest and recover, winter is the perfect excuse to kick off my running shoes and catch up on my shows. Remember, 2020 is all about finding balance.

So far, I'm finding my groove. I've settled into my new 5:00 am writing routine before going into my day job.

I've been working out at the gym with my sister on our lunch hour, adding in strength training and speedwork on the treadmill.

Sera: IllumiNITE Dovetail Tee
and Women's Shortie

And I've officially planned out my hikes and races for the year!

Yes! As part of goals for living a balanced life, I'm incorporating more mountains back into my athletic activities. Why? Two reasons:

1) I promised my life partner that I'd hike more if he ran a marathon (his first) with me (he did! and he signed up for two more!).

2) In 2018, I ran my fastest marathon and was in the greatest shape of my life. I truly believe it's because I incorporated mountain training/races into my running routine that year.

So what's on my IllumiNITEd agenda this year? I thought you'd never ask!


IlumiNITE Eclipse HeadbandVigor Singlet,
and Women's Shortie
First up is Loon Mountain Race in Lincoln, New Hampshire, in July. This race is 6.6 miles straight up a mountain—with the last kilometer on a black diamond ski slope—a 45-degree angle!

Check out the Upper Walking Boss video to see for yourself. Hang onto your'll get vertigo just watching!

It's brutal; it's dizzying; it's So. Much. Fun!

Instead of taking the gondola ride that's included in the race fee, I always run back down the mountain afterwards. And then I cool off in the river!

IlumiNITE Eclipse HeadbandVigor Singlet,
and Women's Shortie
Ahh, best mini-vacation ever! Since we're there, we'll hike up Franconia Ridge a few days before the race as well. That weekend is a 16-miler training weekend for us (for our marathon), so the hike and race will fulfill that requirement. This will be my third year doing this race, and I seriously cannot wait to run it with Mike!

Training for this race will include the Seven Sisters race route and Mt. Tom ski slopes. My quads and glutes are already burning thinking about it!


I ran so fast, I burned holes in my socks! haha
What goes up, must go down! Everyone who knows me knows how much I hate hills! So to reward myself for all this climbing, I've signed back up for the New England Green River Marathon in August. The course is one way, from Vermont to Massachusetts, on a tree-canopied road alongside the cooling Green River. The elevation LOSS is an appreciated 1,450 feet.

I ran this race ONCE, and it was my fastest marathon yet! At the time, I was at the peak of my mountain racing, so I'm hoping I can beat my record now that I'm adding mountains back into my routine!

I chose this marathon again because it's the perfect FIRST marathon, and since Mike's first marathon was the ever-grueling, mostly uphill, jam-packed marathon in Greece, I thought Green River would make for a nice contrast (he's still not convinced he likes marathons, but soon he will LOVE them, haha).

Training for this will include hikes on Mount Greylock and Mount Race (gotta keep up our strength) and speedwork (intervals) on a track.


My son and I costuming it up at
Ghost Train Ultra in 2018 
We'll end the year with Ghost Train Ultra Marathon in October. This was my first ultramarathon (I did 30 miles), and it's 15-mile out and back course makes it perfect for the newbie (or seasoned) ultramarathoner. The course is relatively flat with just one hill (that goes up both ways!), but is hardly boring as it's filled with spooky, Halloweenie decorations, costumes galore, and a tunnel—yes! a tunnel!—to run through!

This year, I'd like to accomplish 45 miles, 30 on Saturday and 15 on Sunday. We'll see how my year goes before I officially commit to that! What I'm most excited for is dressing up in costume for this race! Maybe this year, we can wear capes! I'm already feeling like a superhero as I think about bounding up all these mountains and racing at the speed of IllumiNITE!

IllumiNITE Fishbone Halloween Cape
New England Green River Marathon is perfectly timed 7 weeks before this ultra! I'll just continue on with Hal Higdon's Ultramarathon schedule to stay on track, maybe doing half-distance the day after my long distance runs to get used to running long stretches back-to-back. For example: 26 miles on Saturday and then 10 miles on Sunday. And I'll have to shave off one week, so I'll just skip week 21 and go right to week 22.

I'm crossing my fingers that Mike will feel motivated to "go the distance" and join me with my ultra training. He is thinking of running 15 miles on Saturday and 15 miles on Sunday for a total of 30 miles that weekend...but I'm wondering if all the excitement and magic of race day will get him to do 30 all at once!!! No pressure (yet!)!

Sera: IllumiNITE Ambition Hoodie
Mike: IllumiNITE Early Riser

So tell me:

What races are you signed up for this year?

What's your training plan? 

I'd love to hear! Leave a comment below!

Friday, February 14, 2020

Hey Valentine: You're the Run For Me

Mike: IllumiNITE Rochester Jacket
Sera: IllumiNITE Tahoe Jacket
I knew he was The One when he agreed to travel to Greece with me to run the Athens Authentic Marathon—his very first marathon—and then followed through by actually buying his plane ticket and training for the race. I fell in love with him while we trained side by side, running long stretches together, sometimes chatting, sometimes enjoying the silence. And I knew he loved me long before he said the words because he followed the new, restrictive nutrition plan I implemented and took our training schedule seriously. He ran every scheduled training run, including a few long distance runs without me because I was traveling for work.

While marathon training, we checked in with each other's physical and mental health on a regular basis. We made sure the other was getting the proper nutrition, getting enough rest, and stretching before and after running. We learned to rely on each other on the road or on a wooded trail. We reminded each other to drink water, eat food, and take walk breaks. We helped each other get through "bad" running days, whether physically or mentally. And we celebrated running milestones.

Sera: IllumiNITE Shortie,
Featherlite Packable Jacket,
Mike: Long Sleeve Warm Up Tee
When we crossed the finish line at the Panathanaic Stadium in Athens, both of us exhausted and sweaty and smelly and famished, I felt our bond strengthen into something bigger than life. Despite being much faster than me, he didn't leave my side during the entire marathon. We spent five-plus hours together, marveling at the beauty of a country neither of us had visited before. Five-plus hours keeping each other motivated, pushing each other to run our best but also slowing down when we saw the other struggling. Trust me, even though it was his first marathon while it was my tenth, I don't know how I would have finished without him. I was nauseous for twenty of those miles and struggled through many uphill stretches. He gave me the strength I needed, and the support, to push through to the end; his patience was unwavering. Five-plus hours of physical and mental exertion and exhaustion, and I still loved him. Hell, I still liked him; I wasn't even the slightest bit annoyed by him, not one bit. That's when I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him.
Sera: IllumiNITE Powerstretch Pant
Mike IllumiNITE Mercury Run Tight

Reflecting on those five months of training together, I realized that the relationship we developed as
runners carried over into the everyday life of our romantic relationship. We're not afraid to try new interests. We support each other through the toughest of times, and we celebrate life successes, even the tiniest milestones. Most importantly, we respect what we each bring to the relationship.

Running with a romantic partner nourished a part of my soul I didn't realize needed nourishing. It taught me that communication is key to meeting each other's needs without comprising our own needs. That it's okay to be vulnerable, and then to actually be vulnerable. That I have a lot more to offer than I realized, and what I have to offer is desired and appreciated. That it's okay to rely on someone else—I've always been independent to a fault!—and that accepting help makes me a stronger person (It also makes life so much easier. Who knew?) It taught me that having a supportive, equal partnership is attainable—something I never thought possible.

IllumiNITE Men's Early Riser
in Hawaiian Blue
Most of all, it taught me that the love I always dreamed of really does exist, and it's worth waiting for. All the years of believing someone like me wasn't worthy of real love—believing that no one out there would ever want to be with a girl like me—believing that the type of romantic partnership I dreamed of didn't exist, was all just a lie that fear fed to me. It took me a long while to open up and be ready for love, truly ready, and then even longer to find someone who was also ready for love. In fact, it took me seven months before I even agreed to let my friend give her family friend my phone number, and another two months before he texted me an invite to coffee. Spoiler alert: he was worth the wait.

The History Channel states that “Valentinus,” the Latin word that “Valentine” was derived from, means “worthy, strong or powerful” (Who was St. Valentine?) And while I know there is much angst about the corporate intentions behind creating Valentine’s Day, I do believe that taking time to celebrate loved ones is a worthy act.

IllumiNITE Love Tee
20% off, February 14 only
15% of entire order always
with code RunBrightly15
So this Valentine’s Day weekend, I will wear my heart on the outside and watch it glow bright as I
celebrate the love I share and cherish with my life partner. I urge you all to find a special someone to go on a run with this weekend. Whether that special someone be your life partner, a new crush you've been dying to ask out, your bestest friend, or a new friend, there is just something magical that happens between people when running together. You become your most truest selves, and your heart opens to endless possibilities.

Hey Valentine, you're the run for me. Today, and always. I love you. 

Weather You Run This Summer

The first time I signed up for the Mike cooling down near the end of our 13-mile run. IllumiNITE's Endeavor Tank and Long Running Shorts...