Monster Dash (and how much I missed running with a crew!)

While BRG was an amazing, life-changing experience, it was a commitment that required the support of my family.  For those fourteen weeks, Mike, Liam, and I were on auto-pilot.  On Mondays, Mike relieved me at Liam’s ninja skills class so I could make it to Providence for 6:00.  Thursdays were a little less challenging, but we just exchanged a kiss as he walked in the house and I rushed out the door.  I was also doing my usual Tuesday yoga class and taking a course at Bryant.  It was a busy spring!  When people ask how I have time to work out, I give Mike a lot of credit for being fine with his wife being out of the house a few nights a week.  Being a fantastic team, we made it work.

Since finishing BRG, most of my runs have been solo.  I was heading to Rhode Runner for their Wednesday evening runs but fell out of the habit.  (Mental note: get your butt back to Rhode Runner on Wednesdays.) Each Sunday, I look at the weather forecast and map out the afternoons best for running.  The night before, I pack my running clothes in what has become my running bag and place it next to my school bag.  After school, I change my clothes and head for the Boulevard.  I am able to beat the worst of downtown traffic, pick Liam up from school, and still make it home before Mike. These runs are peaceful but sometimes lonely.

After a few months of mostly solo runs, I’ve been fortunate to participate in two races in two weeks.  I forgot how encouraging it was to run with a group!  I enjoyed chatting with others and the energy of races.  I loved running with a thousand other people.  Because I wore my Rhode Runner shirt, others in the community cheered for me as we passed.  Being part of the group is such a supportive motivator!

This weekend’s Monster Dash was a lot of fun!  The course was set in beautiful downtown Providence. People were very much in the Halloween spirit and dressed up.  It’s amazing to think that people run in elaborate costumes and face makeup, but they manage to make it look easy.   The highlight of the course is getting to run through the tunnel usually only used by city buses.  It was a dark and spooky with people dressed as zombies trying to scare you.

I should have slowed down to capture a clearer picture of the tunnel


Because I wasn’t feeling great that morning, my hopes weren’t high that I would even beat my last 5K time.  Maybe it was the clean, rainy weather, but I managed to PR!  I’ve shaved five and a half minutes off of my 5K time since April!

Liam and I signed up for many races this fall.  While they’re not overly expensive, the cost adds up.  After Monster Dash, I decided not to sign up for any races until next spring.  After going a few months without running with a group, I forgot how important it is to give and receive support.  My BRG companions, who only a few months ago could not run for four minutes without feeling like their lungs and legs would give out, are getting stronger and faster.  Although I am happy that I am continuing to run and make progress during solo runs, it is nice to have a supportive group to cheer you on at a race!

How Writing is Helping Me Deal With Anxiety

Like many others, I struggle to balance anxiety and worry.  One of my favorite insomnia and Shavasana activities is worrying.  I worry like a champ!  When I have nothing to worry about, I dig into my worrying archives.  Nothing completes an hour of productive yoga practice quite like replaying an incident that happened ten years ago instead of emptying my mind and relaxing.

I’ve managed to learn my triggers and adapt.  I no longer find issue politely declining social invitations that don’t interest me.  I find that I feel better when I work out and eat a healthy(ish) diet.  I feel calmer when my world around me is neat and organized.  Mike understands this and helps so much with housekeeping and household maintenance.  I need to make time for Mike and Liam.  This is not a chore; rather it is something I need to be conscious of when planning our week.  When something happens that might cause an anxious reaction, I’ve learned to breathe and rationalize as best I can.  These tricks make being me much easier.

I’ve managed to find friends who get me.  We all have our own pasts and issues and understand each other.  That being said, we also push each other.  During the past few years, I’ve done so many things I would never do without a gentle push: traveling solo to California for a week to facilitate for Summit, jumping into the ocean during winter, cutting my hair shorter than it’s been in years, joining the Beginner Runners Group, signing up for BoldRDash, running over the Newport Bridge.  I’m thankful to people who challenge me to try new things. Many of these events have helped my anxiety and confidence.

The first time I jumped into a perfectly cold ocean in the winter!


That time I went to California by myself for a week but ran by myself every night

This summer, I began writing again for the first time in years.  I wasn’t sure if I was going to share my thoughts.  If I decided to share, I wasn’t sure how to begin that process.  Once I had some vulnerabilities on the internet, I wasn’t ready to just share the blog link on my Facebook page.  While running last week, I mentioned that I had been writing about my process of becoming a runner and agreed to share my blog with my friend.  The feedback was so positive, I shared it with a few more friends.


What started as a document of my journal to become a “real runner” has become one of my most powerful tools for managing my mind and quelling anxiety.  Writing helps me sort out my thoughts to find positivity and growth.  Writing adjusts my perspective of the world.  I find myself looking at the world differently, examining daily aspects of my life for inspiration.



Newport Bridge Run, Reaching Goals, and Setting New Ones

The Newport Bridge Run always intrigued me.  It looked like such a unique experience, even though it began at sunrise and required shuttles to get to the starting line. Every year, I would see updates about the race and social media posts from friends who completed it or went in support of another runner.  While I longed to be part of it, I never really thought it would be something I’d achieve. At a Blackstone Boulevard 5k over the summer, we decided to sign up for the Bridge Run.  While it seemed like a great idea at the time, each time I drove over the bridge after signing up, I questioned that decision.

Of all the races I’ve run, this is the one that made me the most nervous.  I could barely get myself to sleep the night before.  That morning, I could not bring myself to eat, forcing down a breakfast bar on the drive to Newport.  Being a self-proclaimed “precrastonator,” I planned to get there twenty minutes early.  When I arrived, the parking situation was a nightmare.  After wasting ten minutes roaming a full parking lot, I managed to find a spot up the street.  Now, I was worried because I was late.

I managed to sit next to the most delightful lady on the bus ride over the bridge.  She was a kind British lady who lived in Newport and walked this race several times.  “My friends and I walk it.  They give you an hour on the bridge.  If we need an escort off, then that’s what we do.” We made small talk.  Usually, I am not a chit-chat with strangers on transportation kind of person.  On this occasion, it calmed my nerves.


In case you’ve ever wondered what Newport looks like at 6:30 on a Sunday morning

3,000 other runners were waiting for the race to begin. As soon as I met up with my BRG friends,  I knew I would be okay.  As the sun rose over the ocean, I felt better an better about this experience.  We made our way to the twelve-minute mile group, doubtful that we would stay at that pace up the steep incline of the bridge.


The race was definitely one of the high points on my running journey! (Yes, that pun was intended!)  The energy of the crowd was supportive.  The smiles from volunteers and support personnel helped me through.  I loved some of the quirky smiles from bridge workers, seeming amazed that we would get to Newport at 6am with the intention of running over this tall, long bridge.

While running, I chatted with one of my favorite BRGers, Meghan.  We instantly clicked and spent most sessions chatting.  During BRG training, we ran twice a week, filling the time with silly stories and laughter.  My friendship with Meghan is one of my favorite rewards of joining BRG.  Early on in training, we made a few running goals:

  1. To look like we are enjoying ourselves while running
  2. become BRG pacers and pay it forward (Our pacers got us through some tough nights.)
  3. Run a 10K
  4. Run a half-marathon

We reflected on our goals while running the bridge, making a point to smile whenever we saw photographers.  We easily laughed our way through this run.

Proof that we can smile while running!

One of my favorite takeaways of BRG is the friendships.  In fourteen weeks, we transformed from a group of strangers with individual goals, to friends who cared about each other, pushing and supporting through goals.  We managed to stay in touch through running.  It’s great to be able to pick up right where we left off.  Since we chat through our runs, we got to know each other fairly well.  I’m thankful to have a running buddy to share progress and vulnerabilities.  We remind each other how far we’ve come and that we can achieve whatever goals we set for ourselves.  Now that we’ve successfully completed a four-mile race, I know we can work our way up to a 10K and a half-marathon!

Crushing Goals and Technology Problems

For the past few weeks, I have been trying to run four miles, a seemingly easy goal that has somehow eluded me.  Each run would end just after three miles for various reasons: exhaustion, blisters, chubb rub.  A new run would begin, full of promise and hope, only to have to stop before reaching the goal.

Yesterday was the last chance I will have to run before Sunday’s Newport Bridge Run.  Being a four-mile run, I wanted to know I could run that distance before race day.  I was determined to do this!

I’ve been using a Fitbit for over four years.  It keeps me honest.  When I began running, I loved seeing my distances, intervals, and paces.  Being naturally competitive, the features fueled my desire to improve.  During these last few runs, my focus on my Fitbit interfered with my progress.  Two weeks ago, I forgot to pause it to take pictures of a butterfly on a flower.  The inaccurate time messed with my mojo for the rest of the run.  Yesterday, I didn’t hit pause hard enough when I stopped to tie my shoe.  Thanks to the new IOS update, my phone is eating battery.  When I realized I used 30% of my battery during my first mile, I manually closed a bunch of apps to save battery, accidentally closing out Fitbit and ending my run.  I stopped, reloaded the app, and started another workout, wishing I made a mental note of the time and distance before opening another workout.   All the while, I contemplated whether the Fitbit helps or harms my mojo and workouts.

This made me wonder how much technology not only helps but harms our workouts.   Yes, Fitbit helps me in many ways.  I track workouts, steps, heart rate, and sleep.  But I sometimes rely on it too much during my runs.  If I am slower than usual, I get discouraged.  When I am faster, I push a little harder.  I enjoy seeing progress as I get stronger and faster.

Yesterday, not only did I run 4.6 miles total, I ran my fastest 5K! While I’m sometimes torn about how much to rely on technology during a run, I am pleased that I can use the results to track progress and get new goals!  I’m trying not to look at it so much while running and focusing on how I feel rather than how fast I should be going.  It’s times like these when I need to remember how far I’ve come and have faith that I will reach future goals rather than beating myself up if I go a few weeks without making progress.

Concerts as an Adult

Recently, I wrote about the twenty-fifth anniversary of Automatic for the People, reflecting upon how the experience of enjoying music has changed dramatically since I was in high school.  Last night, Liam attended his first “real” show.  Back in June, it seemed like a fine idea to see  Blind Pilot on a Tuesday night. When the day of the show arrived, we were reminded that we couldn’t hang anymore.  We were some of the first people there, managing to score front row seats at the old theater.  I had the foresight to pack Liam’s Kindle to play while waiting for the opening act and in between sets.

Mike and I used to be able to attend concerts and sporting events on weeknights without thinking twice about it.  This time around, the only reason I was able to convince Mike to attend was because it was at a venue with seats.  When the opening act, Charlie Cunningham, began, Liam was mesmerized that a man with a guitar could make such beautiful music.  We all started to crash while waiting for Blind Pilot to come on stage; we let Liam buy a fountain soda and some candy, hoping the sugar boost would last through a few songs.  Mike and I giggled to ourselves as we eavesdropped on the couple behind us talking about where they were going to dinner after the show.  We are proud of ourselves is we stay through the encore these days.  In a seemingly previous life, we always used to stop for a bite after shows.

Blind Pilot is amazing to see live!  Mike and I saw them last year in Boston; seeing them front row was spectacular! Although Liam loved seeing the entire band and all of their instruments, he was crashing. Two songs in, he curled up in his chair and told me, “We can stay for the whole thing, Mama.  I don’t mind.”  Even though there was no way I’d ever keep him out that late, I was touched that he offered.  We snuck out at the end of that song.

In the foyer, Charlie Cunningham was hanging out.  We talked to him for a few minutes.  He was honored to be Liam’s first show and took a picture together.  Liam told him about his piano lessons.  Charlie and Mike talked about London.  He was incredibly gracious and easy to talk to.  Liam managed to score stickers from the Blind Pilot people.  Even though I said he didn’t need one, I caved and asked him to pick out a t-shirt. He chose one with a boat on it and their hometown, Astoria, OR, the town where the Goonies is set.  It was a great first concert experience, one I hope he doesn’t expect this if we go see Taylor Swift next summer!

Although Liam is usually well-behaved, he was exceptional during his first concert.  He was fine with waiting (because he could play his X-Wing game) and was polite during the shows.  He talked all morning about getting to meet Charlie and talking to him about piano lessons and music.  He was excited that he had his picture taken in front of the theater marquees, “Just like you and Daddy did at Hamilton!”   Liam asked if we could go see both bands again when he is a little older and can stay up for the entire show.  I love that he and I share a love of music. He has pretty impressive taste in music and enjoys discussing the differences between Guns N Roses and the White Stripes.  I’m looking forward to having a concert buddy as he gets older.

Did She Smoke?

Seven and a half years ago, my mother lost her battle with COPD.  She had been sick all of my adult life, managing to hang on through my wedding and pregnancy.  After refusing my offer to postpone, she passed away on the evening we held Liam’s blessing.

The transition of being someone whose mother was sick, whose mother had just passed, and someone who lost their mother years ago was a difficult one.  Liam doesn’t remember anything about his nana.  I make myself remember the sound of her voice.

In a recent interview, Prince William discussed his mother, stating that he was fairly certain that his late mother would have been a grandmother who drove him nuts, the type who would stop by at bathtime, get the kids wired, and leave.  I love that he admitted that he didn’t always look at his mother with rose-colored glasses; deceased parents aren’t always perfect.  It makes me wonder about the relationship Liam would have had with my mom.  She loved kids.  I know Liam would have loved her.  Being 1,500 miles away, they wouldn’t see each other as often as they’d like, but I know she would’ve talked to him as much as they could.  When she was sick, she used to listen to him take bottles, happy and content just to hear the slurping noise.

Whenever I have to tell someone that my mom passed away when Liam was four months old, I always get a sympathetic, “poor baby” look.  There are always three follow-up questions:

“How old was she?”    (58)

“Was she sick?” (Yes, she had COPD and was on dialysis.)

“Did she smoke?”

When I confirm this, there is always a knowing sigh, almost in relief, as if to say “that explains everything.”

Yes, my mom smoked.  Yes, she knew it was bad for her.  Yes, she tried to quit, once managing to go almost a year without a cigarette.  She struggled with depression, most of which went under-diagnosed and mostly untreated.  After her death, I learned that things about her childhood that she never disclosed, reminding me that she was much stronger than I realized.  She was the person who would do anything for anyone.  She was the mom all of my friends when to when they had issues with their own mothers or boyfriends.  While she was sometimes simple and naive, she found the best in everyone.

There are many debates about healthcare costs and how much the companies should pay for people who do not take care of themselves.  I totally understand the need for that argument.   That being said the fact that my mom smoked doesn’t make losing her any easier for those who knew and loved her.


Last week marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of the release of REM’s Automatic For the People.  I remember my parents giving me permission to go take the public bus to Providence to go buy the album on the day it came out.  We were living in a rural area, so this bus ride took well over an hour.  We walked around the East Side, by Brown University, thinking we were worldly and grown up.


Michael Stipe and I shared a moment at the last show they played locally in 2008

Automatic was a much darker album than their previous Out of Time and the first release since huge breakout success.    I was instantly mesmerized by Michael Stipe’s dark lyrics and deep voice.  We quickly memorized every song, singing them from the back of the room before the start of English class.


For me, REM was an integral part of my childhood.  I fell in love them in ninth grade with Out of Time.  Automatic solidified their place in my heart.  It’s hard to believe how much music appreciation has changed since the invention of the internet.  Back then, we had to rely on MTV News, 120 Minutes, music stores, and magazines to learn about new artists and releases.  Nothing was “Googleable.”  One of us would learn a new bit of information about tracks, release dates, or possible tours and call the rest of our group, feeling powerful with news to share:

“I was at Strawberries today.  Automatic is going to be released October 5.”

“The title name comes from a dinner they used to go to in Georgia.  When we get our licenses, we are totally driving down there for breakfast.”

When I look back on how much harder it was to be a music fan those days, it reminds me how important music was to all of us.  I think about the afternoon I spent sitting at my kitchen table with cassette player, notebook, and pencil, determined to learn the words to “It’s the End of the World as We Know It.”  While music is still important, I wonder if I would ever be able to have that love of music again. Now, I no longer need to do that; I can Google the lyrics to any song.

REM was the soundtrack of my teenage angst.  Their music got me through what are supposed to be the best years of your life but, unless you’re the star in a cheesy high school comedy, rarely are.  I remember what part of my life each new album narrated for me.  The Monster tour was my first grown-up arena tour.  I had to go to Filene’s a few days before the show to obtain a wristband, granting me a place in line but not guaranteeing tickets.   I was the last person there to get tickets to their three-night stay in Mansfield.  I remember hugging a tearful girl behind me in line, thankful to provide comfort but more thankful to have tickets.  These days, I’m upset if I am placed in a virtual waiting room for tickets; how times have changed!

REM continues to be an important part of my life.  I have a playlist of their music set up for my runs.  This is evident by my tattoo of REM lyrics.  I had wanted to get something in my mom’s memory for a while.  The song “Sweetness Follows” discusses the family’s reaction to the loss of a father.  The lyric “live your life filled with joy and thunder” resonates with me.  My mom overcame a lot of challenges, some of which I didn’t learn about until after her death.  In spite of these difficulties, she never got bitter or sour.  My mom could find the best in anyone and the good in any situation.  I remember that when things start to get difficult and I need to remember the positive.

Mike traced the words using one of the last letters my mom sent me.  She had a very distinct backhand, the result of being a left-handed Catholic School survivor of the 1950’s.  While Mike traced the entire line, only the words “Joy and Thunder” fit nicely across my foot.  I found a fantastic tattoo artist who took the time to listen to me and had a steady hand for the work.  Two years later, I have never once regretted this tattoo.  After spending many years listening to REM via her daughter, Mom was not a huge fan.  She also hated tattoos.  Getting an REM tattoo in her memory seems an ironically fitting commemoration to her.

Part of the celebration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of Automatic for the People includes the release of two previously unreleased tracks that didn’t make the album.  The first, Mike’s Demo Track, I immediately downloaded.  A few later, I can’t bring myself to listen to the second track.  It’s weird knowing that this there is a good chance this is the last time I get to hear an REM song for the first time.  (Does that make any sense?)  So for now, I will keep that gem hidden from my Spotify until a time when I really need it.

Enjoy the Sore

Last month, I completed BoldRDash, an obstacle course race.  Having wanted to complete one for some time, it was a nervewracking, yet exciting event.  While people who enter Beast and other extreme races didn’t consider BoldRDash a big deal, it was to me.  This race brought with it a variety of emotions, both high and low.

The first low came at the very beginning.  The owner of the gym where I work out said that he would stay behind with whoever needed support.  That person turned out to be me.  While I knew I wasn’t the strongest, I didn’t expect to be bringing up the rear.  I was able to complete all but one obstacle, climbing a rope; I just don’t have that upper body strength yet.  We wound up staying together as a team.  There were times I waited for people and there were times they waited for me.  I was really proud that I had set a goal, trained for it, and achieved it.

I walked on air for the following days.  One of the oddly fascinating moments came in the following days as various bruises showed up all over my body.  My stomach was covered in deep bruises, most likely from an obstacle called “Over, Under, and Through.”  Participants carried a buoy over, under, and through platforms over various heights.  I was tired by the end and just hurled myself over them rather than trying to climb them.  I was sore in places that usually aren’t sore.

This leads to my love affair with DOMS and soreness in general.  I’ve been doing muscle workouts for years and consider myself at least slightly stronger than average.  When I workout with weights, I love the soreness that follows a day or two later.  It reminds me that I have achieved something that I previously couldn’t do.  While my quads may not love running two days after deadlifting 195 pounds,  I remind myself that soreness equals change.

Itching to Run and Recover From a Less Than Perfect Run

Thursday’s run began with the best of intentions.  I walked a bit further to the very start of the Boulevard to try to make it past my three-mile hurdle.  My phone was fully charged.  I remembered to pack a smoothie so my sugar wouldn’t drop mid-workout.  I was three days out from my last weightlifting session so my muscles weren’t sore.  I was ready!

And that’s when the best-laid plans fell apart.  I almost immediately regretted my decision to not bring my sunglasses.  I forgot my water in the car.  My new headphones vibrated, making a bumping sound in my ear at every step.  (I tried new ones because my iPhone earbuds fall out when I sweat.)

There were many excuses I could’ve used to quit.  In spite of them, I kept going.  At the turnaround, there was a beautiful butterfly sitting on a flower.  Since summer is dwindling, it seemed important to stop for a picture.  I paused my workout on the Fitbit app and began taking pictures.  A bumble showed up and perched itself on another pedal.  Obviously, this required more pictures!  All I could think of was the “Bunny and Kitten” song from Kimmy Schmidt.  This is unapologetically cheesy, but it made me happy.  It was only when I finished snapping pictures that I realized my Fitbit hadn’t paused, factoring forty-five seconds of idleness into my pace.  I know it shouldn’t matter, but since I’ve been trying to build my pace, it was a big ole’ kick in the pants.

In spite of my phone thinking I’m running slow, I decided to continue my pace and finish.  This is when the blister began.  I received a free pair of expensive running socks when I finished BRG.  They were not supposed to go into the dryer.  I dug them out of the washer for a while, letting them dry on the shelf.  After accidentally going through the dryer a few times and being “fine,” I started putting them there on purpose.  It caught up with my feet.  I made it just over the three-mile mark.  As soon as I took off my sneaker and saw the red marks trying to form a blister, I was thankful I trusted my gut and stopped. All of the little signs I decided to work through led to a clear warning to stop running.

That brings us to today.  This past weekend was rainy and windy, thanks to the remnants of Hurricane Nate.  During the one nicer morning, Liam and I completed the Color Run, which for us was pretty much the Color Walk.  We did it and I love that he and I have something we enjoy doing together.  Sunday and Monday brought hard rain and strong winds, creating less than desirable running conditions.  We managed to get out for a quick walk yesterday morning, wearing our water shoes and raincoats.

Today is supposed to be warm, almost hot with temperatures in the upper 80’s.  Liam will stay at the afterschool program so I can complete my four-mile run.  After I pick him up, I promised a bike ride to our favorite little beach up the street from our house.  I’m thankful that my schedule allows me to create time for my workouts.  I’m thankful for the bits of Indian Summer gifted to New Englanders in the fall.  I’m thankful that I’ve learned that it is okay to have a less than perfect run; the important think is running and making progress.

Can We Get Back to Running, Please?

Kudos to anyone who gets my Hamilton reference!

Last week, I pondered what makes me back off, slow down, or let go.  Do I do these things when I absolutely have to or am I giving up too soon?  When I drop from the monkey bars, could I go reach for one more bar or am I just letting go and dropping to the ground because the task is difficult?  How do I know when to let up? I pushed through the discomfort last week while working on the monkey bars and was able to reach two more bars.  That seemed like evidence that I should push myself in the following day’s 5K.

During Wednesday’s monthly 5K, I pushed myself in the beginning.  I can keep going, I told myself.  This lead to horrible burnout and my slowest time in weeks.  My third mile was over a minute slower than my first.  My plan to challenge myself backfired.

We had a busy weekend with horribly cold, rainy weather.  I didn’t get out to run.  Tuesday and Wedsenday had other afterschool responsibilities, so I did not get to the Boulevard.  My bag is packed and I am ready to head over after school today.

In adapting to the Summit Learning Platform, I’ve worked a lot with my students on perseverance and growth mindset.  This research carried over into parenting.  Now, it carries on to me.  How do I challenge myself?  How do I respond to setbacks?  I see progress in yoga and weightlifting (180-pound deadlift!!!); what is my plan for making progress in running?  I’ve been stuck at 12:30 pace for weeks.  I want to see improvement before the Monster Dash at the end of the month.  The first thing I need to do is up my practice.  Next week’s schedule is free of meetings and obligations.  I can head out twice after school.

I’ve managed to continue running after completing BRG.  I’ve managed to create a schedule adapting to summer and the start of a new school year.  Soon, I will need to manage through cooling temperatures and shorter days.  For now, I need to continue to challenge myself and reach the next round of goals.