Sunday, April 20, 2014

On Top of the World

After 4 months of training I am 1 week away from the NJ Marathon and my first attempt to achieve a qualifying time for the Boston Marathon. I still pinch myself at the thought. I can't believe that my running journey, which started as a way to cope after the loss of my husband, has brought me to this place of incredible personal fulfillment and challenge.

Since I started training for my first half marathon in December 2012 I've run more than 1,360 miles and I've completed six half marathons, one full marathon and many other shorter races. I've raised more than $6,000 for the American Cancer Society and the Colon Cancer Alliance in  memory of Joe. I've met amazing people who share in my life beyond the roads and trails and watched as friends and acquaintances have taken up running and told me that I was part of the inspiration.

I've had some big ups and some frustrating downs over the last 4 months, but I'm ready to make a go at it and see where my training has gotten me. I have been following a more aggressive training plan this time than when I trained for the NYC Marathon last year - incorporating more speedwork, regular core exercises, as well as higher mileage runs and more of them. I've been working on my mental game too, training my brain to push on when I think I can't and to keep moving no matter what. I've trudged through the snow, the freezing cold, plodded out long runs on the treadmill, and most recently eaten bugs for 12 miles (ah, spring!)

I also decided not to race at all in the month leading up to the marathon because one thing that I have learned about myself as a runner is that it is not in me to treat a race as just a "training run". If I'm in a race, I run hard no matter what and I've learned that is a bad formula for the weeks leading up to a big race. For me, the not racing has been the hardest part of this training cycle. I have grown used to starting my race year sometime in February and not letting up. This year, my calendar has looked quite different - just two races in March and then nothing until the marathon on April 27 - so right about now I am more than a little antsy to toe a starting line. Hopefully, that's a good thing.

During my two races in March a song floated to the surface that has come to take on so much meaning for me during this training cycle and I have a feeling it will be central to carrying me through the race next week. I'll put it in my shuffle more than once for sure. On Top of the World by Imagine Dragons always seems to keep popping up at big moments. It played just as I was entering the Battery Park underpass during the NYC Half Marathon on March 16 - the last mile of the course. It came on during training just as I was running up the big hill in Thompson Park. It was the song playing as I ran along Lake Michigan two weeks ago with the sun shining and my heart positively overflowing as the bridge came through my earbuds. More times than I can count I've had it on repeat after a particularly rough day or to get me going in the morning.

I really do feel like this song is the story of me right now.

On Top of the World by Imagine Dragons

If you love somebody
Better tell them while they're here 'cause
They just may run away from you

You'll never know quite when, well
Then again it just depends on
How long of time is left for you

I've had the highest mountains
I've had the deepest rivers
You can have it all but life keeps moving

I take it in but don't look down

'Cause I'm on top of the world, 'ay
I'm on top of the world, 'ay
Waiting on this for awhile now
Paying my dues to the dirt
I've been waiting to smile, 'ay
Been holding it in for awhile, 'ay
Take you with me if I can
Been dreaming of this since a child
I'm on top of the world.

I've tried to cut these corners
Tried to take the easy way out
I kept on falling short of something

I coulda gave up then but
Then again I couldn't have 'cause
I've traveled all this way for something

I take it in but don't look down

'Cause I'm on top of the world, 'ay
I'm on top of the world, 'ay
Waiting on this for awhile now
Paying my dues to the dirt
I've been waiting to smile, 'ay
Been holding it in for awhile, 'ay
Take you with me if I can
Been dreaming of this since a child
I'm on top of the world.

And I know it's hard when you're falling down
And it's a long way up when you hit the ground
Get up now, get up, get up now.

And I know it's hard when you're falling down
And it's a long way up when you hit the ground
Get up now, get up, get up now.

'Cause I'm on top of the world, 'ay
I'm on top of the world, 'ay
Waiting on this for awhile now
Paying my dues to the dirt
I've been waiting to smile, 'ay
Been holding it in for awhile, 'ay
Take you with me if I can
Been dreaming of this since a child

I'm on top of the world.

My March Races

My first half marathon was in Miami on March 9, 2013 and I ran it in 2:11:39. I loved the race so much that when the time came to sign up for the same one this year I did it right away. It's turning into quite the birthday weekend for me - I bring my little guy, we catch a Mets Spring Training game, and I get to run a race.

This year's race fell on March 2, 2014 - smack in the middle of my training for the NJ Marathon - and it became the race that made me feel like I really can qualify for Boston. After the harshest winter I can remember my body and soul both desperately needed a break so this long planned escape to Miami could not have come at a more perfect time.

My friend Juanita, my son and I boarded a plane early that Friday morning bound for sunny Fort Lauderdale. We took off from 10 degree overcast skies and landed in 77 degree sunny perfection. It didn't matter that my checked baggage was misplaced for an hour in the airport or that the line at the car rental counter took almost 45 minutes. We had a weekend of sun and warmth to help us forget about the more than 50" of snow and record cold temperatures that had plagued us all winter in NJ.

The weekend in Miami was just what I needed and by the time I toed the start line Sunday morning I had a feeling that I was ready for something big. My goal was to beat my previous best half marathon time - the 1:51:30 that I ran in the Rock n Roll Half on September 15, 2013. I was hoping to run a sub-1:50 half marathon.

When I got my results I almost couldn't believe what I had accomplished...not just sub 1:50, but WAY sub 1:50.

Running past the cruise ships along MacArthur Causeway
It felt amazing to start the year off with such a great race and although I knew conditions in NYC would not be quite as friendly (many more hills and a whole lot colder!) I also knew from that race that my fitness had improved greatly even since the fall.

Two weeks after I ran the half in Miami I was running 13.1 through the streets of Manhattan. I didn't originally make it in to the lottery for the NYC Half Marathon, but I'm so glad I made it in when they did the second draw. There really was nothing like running through Times Square even if I had to wait around in the 20 degree cold at the start line and run all the hills of Central Park to get there. This was an incredible race for me.

Towards the beginning of the race I had "I Run for Life" playing on my shuffle and kept seeing Team Determination runners and Fred's Team runners one after another. I freely admit getting choked up by that. As we ran through Times Square and then out 42nd street towards the West Side Highway I was overcome by the combination of the latest Afghan Whigs song playing in my ears and the memory of driving Joe along that route to his chemo treatments.

The crowd support was a blast. It was fun to end the race around the block from CWA's NYC office and to once again be part of a large race in the greatest city in the world. It was cold. It was windy. There were hills. But it was fun and I managed to finish in 1:48:10 - not too shabby considering the cold, windy and hilly parts.

At the finish line!

Ready to Run

Running NYC & Miami built my confidence and taking this past month off have rested my body and cleared my mind. I'm hoping the combination has put me in the best place possible for Sunday. No matter what happens, I'm sure my first marathon in New Jersey will be unforgettable. I've been thinking a lot about this quote that my friend Malinda posted during her training and just being thankful that I haven't been afraid to name my goal and go for it, even though it is awfully big.

Here's to ATTEMPT #1!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Waiting on Easter Joy

I'm anxious for the sunrise.

This has been a particularly meaningful Lent for me. I have participated (to the best of my ability) in the 40 bags in 40 days challenge and have cleaned out huge areas of my home (and consequently my life). I have kept the words of William Arthur Word in Fasting and Feasting close to my heart and tried to let them shape my attitudes and actions. And, as a result of both of these things I have found myself in deeper relationships, in moments of profound spiritual meaning, and renewed in my passion for the work that I do every day.

But I long for the joy that comes in the morning.

In my work, I am constantly in the midst of struggles for justice in all its forms and there has been no shortage of stories where the fight continues against immense odds. In my own personal life and in the lives of those around me there have been dark times and overwhelming grief. Domani is feeling Joe's loss in new ways as he grows, now wishing almost every day that he could "have his Daddy back". We are indeed Easter people living in a Good Friday world.

And I am ready to celebrate the end of Good Friday. And Holy Saturday. I am ready for our Risen Lord - especially after the last three days.

Thursday was a doozy. Work was stressful. I got myself into a car accident on the way to my office. Then, came the news that there was fraud on my credit card and a new one would have to be issued. Later that day it was a migraine and unbearable traffic on the Turnpike. By the time I arrived to my church's Maundy Thursday service I was feeling everything but holy.

And then my Lenten journey - the struggle between darkness and light - was caught in this beautiful prayer we said and I just could not hold back the tears.

A Prayer for Liberation

One: Gracious and Loving God, you make us for life that is full and joyous; you make us for love; you make us for community; you make us to be free. Too often, we turn from your ways and oppression results for us and for our sisters and brothers. God of the Exodus, act anew in your world.
All: Liberate us from the oppression of selfishness for the freedom of sharing. Liberate us from the oppression of anger and hatred for the freedom of peace. Liberate us from the oppression of guilt for the freedom of forgiveness.
One: God of the Exodus, liberate your children. Restore us to freedom.
All: Liberate us from oppression based on skin color or gender or other external characteristics for the freedom of living together as your children. Liberate us from the oppression of closets for the freedom of claiming our identity as your beloved. Liberate us from the oppression of false privilege for the freedom of knowing who we truly are.
One: God of the Exodus, liberate your children. Restore us to freedom.
All: Liberate us from the oppression of ruthless competition for the freedom of cooperation. Liberate us from the oppression of financial poverty for the freedom of sufficiency. Liberate us from the oppression of overconsumption for the freedom of enough in your grace.
One: God of the Exodus, liberate your children. Restore us to freedom.
All: Liberate us from the oppression of fear for the freedom of faith. Liberate us from the oppression of cheap cynicism and false optimism for the freedom of hope. Liberate us from the oppression of isolation and indifference for the freedom of love.
One: God of the Exodus, liberate your children. Restore us to freedom. We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.

I went home Thursday night, put Do to the Beast by the Afghan Whigs on my automatic turntable, mixed up a gin & tonic, and sat with my box of cards, letters, and mementos from the last 2 years. It was just as spiritual as the service at church. Just as I was about to begin my second spin of the album, the little guy woke up and wanted to join the listening party. It seemed right and so the second spin was for the two of us.

On Friday we had the joy of a lunch with my grandmother and the fabulous stories and special love that go with that. Then, once again, a visit to church to observe Good Friday. The church was open from 12pm-7pm, allowing people to stop in whenever they wanted and stay for as long as they wanted. There was a page prepared with readings to use as a guide for your time there, but I also just put my earbuds in and set some songs to play on my iPhone (something amazing about listening to Lost In The Woods in the sanctuary). It was the words of the guided approach that caught me this time.

Today God makes common cause with our human suffering.
We read the scriptures, sit with the hymns and feel the feelings of the day Christ died.
Suffering is not rational. It has no answer. But in the cross God meets us in our suffering. From this day forward we know that there is nowhere we can go where God is not with us. God, into your hands we commend our spirits.

For as dark as these days and months have felt there could have been no words more reassuring. After all, being alone in the dark is so much worse than the dark itself.

Today, Domani and I paid a visit to both the cemetery where my 3 grandparents are buried and the cemetery where Joe is buried. Domani has been asking more questions about death and heaven these days. I guess it comes with the territory of being a 3 year old and having dealt with death so intimately already. He wanted to know if we carried Daddy up to heaven when he died. He wanted to know when he could go to heaven and be with his Dad. And he wanted to know who brought the toys to the grave of the little boy buried next to Joe and what had happened to the train that was there last time.

Tonight, he was sad going to sleep. He looked up at the picture on his wall of the three of us from when he was a baby and said again that he wants his Daddy back. 

Yes, world, I am ready for Easter. I am so ready for Easter.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Black Love & The Thin Veil Between Heaven and Earth

I've been following the UPS tracking all week as my vinyl & CD copies of Do to the Beast by The Afghan Whigs have made their way across the country, inching ever closer to my doorstep. Today, at 12:27pm the package was checked in to a UPS facility in Horsham, PA - wherever that is. Tomorrow, it should arrive and the 16 year wait will be over. 

So tonight, I had the very important task of making sure Joe's turntable was up and running. I wanted to make sure that things went smoothly for my personal listening party tomorrow night so when I got home tonight I tucked the little guy in bed and got right down to business. I pulled out the automatic turntable and the cords that were stuffed in the cabinet with it and made my first best guess at hooking everything up.

I went to Joe's impressive vinyl collection and chose the first thing that grabbed my attention - My World Is Empty Without You as covered by (who else) The Afghan Whigs. I found a spot to put the turntable, plugged it in, pushed "play/cut" and listened to nothing but faint sounds. Ugh. Obviously I needed to pay more attention to all the cords that had been stuffed in the cabinet.

So, I started playing around and after half an hour still hadn't figured it out. Damn it. Joe and I had listened to this turntable together. Why didn't I pay attention? Why don't we ever pay attention when we think we don't have to? Why am I entertaining existential questions when I should be figuring out how to get the turntable to work? Finally after a few foolhardy attempts at getting the sound to work that are too embarrassing to mention here I heard the still, small Joe voice say, "just google it". So I took the full name of the turntable and chose the highly sophisticated act of typing in "kenwood automatic turntable kd-65f troubleshoot" and found exactly the summary I needed to push my problem solving over the edge.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen (GENTLEMEN!), I wasn't plugging in the phono preamp which if you own one of these automatic turntables probably has you thinking "stupid girl" and if you don't probably has your eyes glazing over and skipping to the next paragraph. 

Oh the joy...oh the rapture....when My World Is Empty Without You started playing through the stereo speakers. I listened in stunned silence, only pausing long enough to text a friend who I knew would instantly understand the enormity of the moment.

And then I knew it was time to raid Joe's vinyl collection and kick back with a drink. Tomorrow night it will be Do to the Beast on repeat, but tonight it was an old favorite heard in a different way. Tonight it was Black Love with a gin and tonic and a thankful heart for the thin veil between heaven and earth that still allows me to remember a rich love and celebrate what it brought to my life and where it has landed me today.

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Fire Department is at Your House...WHAT?

I didn't even get to see if any of the firefighters who responded to my house today were cute. By the time I got home they were long gone and the only evidence they left behind was the air conditioner that had been in my son's window (now perched on my kitchen counter) and a few muddy footprints on my basement carpet. Oh, and the furnace was shut off, some windows were opened to let the smell out, and there was a good measure of soot down in the basement.

I had just picked up the little guy from my sister's house when my cell phone rang. It was the Jamesburg Police calling to tell me that the Fire Department was at my house responding to a report of smoke from the basement. My mind raced.

I've been through a house fire before. Shortly after college I was sharing a 2nd floor apartment with my friend Stacey and one of the apartments on the first floor caught fire and became completely engulfed. It was the middle of the night and we were upstairs sleeping at the time. People tried to yell up to us. They tried to knock on our door. We didn't hear them. We were saved by our functioning smoke detector. The fire was all around the stairwell through which we exited and we had to crawl on the ground to avoid the smoke which had already started to fill the apartment. We watched as the fire from the first floor apartment jumped from the building to my parked car and breathed a sigh of relief as the small town volunteer firefighters showed up and did their thing.

The apartment was uninhabitable after the fire and we had to throw away a lot of our things due to the smoke damage. One thing I remember clearly though about the aftermath - Joe showed up. We weren't dating at the time, but he was there, climbing up and down those stairs helping to pack things up and move them to my Grandmother's place where I would live for the next few months. 

In the 30 second conversation with the Jamesburg Police Department those were the scenes that flashed through my mind. The fire at my old apartment. Escaping down the stairs only to watch the front of my car burn to a crisp. Joe there, strong and patient, just doing the next thing to help me out. I noticed that my mind was no longer racing and neither was my heart.

Be strong. Be patient. Do the next thing.

I called my mom who lives nearby to see if she could head over to the house. She didn't get to see if there were any cute firefighters either. They were gone by the time she got there. While en route to my house, I received two more calls with updates from the Jamesburg PD (very efficient) and made a call to the company that services my furnace (once it was determined that was the problem). The owner of the company came over tonight to check everything out and will be back in the morning to do the cleaning. 

I realized as I was doing my 8 mile training run on the treadmill tonight that I reacted quite differently to the call from the Jamesburg PD than I would have maybe even a few months ago. I think that I am now finding a way to weave Joe's strength and patience into my own life. In that way, he lives on every day as a part of my and my son's lives. That may sound strange but I know I can draw on those parts of him when I need them on my own journey. Today was obviously one of those days.

And it was all confirmed 100% when I walked back into the locker room after my run and heard of all things the familiar croon of Mr. Greg Dulli coming through the speakers. The Twilight Singers playing at Retro Fitness? Yes, on this night at this time, it was none other than the man himself. And I knew in that moment that I was figuring it out and that somewhere Joe is smiling.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Creating Space - 40 Bags in 40 Days

I'm participating in the 40 bags in 40 days challenge found on the White House Black Shutters blog. I decided on this as my Lenten discipline to be paired with a regular focus on this writing by William Arthur Ward:

My goal in doing the 40 bags in 40 days was to create more space in my life - physically in my house, emotionally in my heart, and spiritually in my soul. I'm on Day 3 and I'm shocked to say that it's already happening. I found myself just a little overwhelmed tonight as I filled up the rest of my first garbage bag and took out my 2nd load of recycling. Overwhelmed and accomplished.

So far I have tackled the following areas:

1) Two laundry baskets from my bedroom full of odds and ends. Believe it or not one of the laundry baskets included remnants from my son's Easter basket from last year.
2) The top of the small cabinet next to my front door. This included several dishes with candy (from as far back as Halloween) and a catch all container that had gotten way out of control.
3) The top of my bedside table which had grown into a version of the Leaning Tower of Pisa and a magazine rack which somehow ended up holding a Christmas gift I received in 2012 (still in its gift bag).

As I daily reflect on the fasting and feasting poem and do the work of physically making more space in my home I am seeing the results in a powerful way. As the spaces that surround me become less cluttered so does my mind. As I slowly organize the pieces of my life I can see a path toward balance where I was feeling chaos just a week ago.

And I know that Joe is smiling on this because 40 bags in 40 days is a Lenten discipline that he would have been happy to see me act on. Every time I hesitate over something, trying to decide whether I should throw it out or not I hear his voice in the back of my mind and it pushes me towards simplifying.  I'm thankful for that because I know that at the end of 40 days I will be at a place where there is space for so much more of what truly matters in my life.

Tonight after spending a relaxing evening with family to celebrate my birthday and completing my 40 bags in 40 days task for the day, I felt a unique peace. 

For some reason in the midst of that peace I was drawn to the two chocolate teddy bears that have been sitting in my refrigerator since Thanksgiving 2011. For more than 2 years now I have thought about but always avoided finally eating them. For Thanksgiving that year we bought a bear for each of us who came to dinner with our name written on it. Joe and I never got around to eating ours.

Maybe it was the spiritual frame of fasting and feasting. Maybe it was the emotional space created by all the bagging up of stuff. Maybe it was the fact that I was staring down another birthday and I just needed some damn chocolate. Whatever it was, I decided without hesitation that tonight would be the night.

So, with Algiers and then Faded by The Afghan Whigs playing on my iPhone and the movie Mannequin on the TV, I savored every single bite of those still delicious chocolate bears. And I cried. And I celebrated the creation of spiritual, emotional and physical space in my life. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Algiers, Organizing & Feeling the Feelings

I've felt the empty over the last two days. It doesn't happen often anymore, but yesterday when The Afghan Whigs released the first single off their new album Do to the Beast and came out with the trifecta of "B" city east coast tour dates I felt the tug at my heart. And tonight, when the ballots were finally counted and we had won the affiliation vote I had worked so hard on in overwhelming fashion, all I wanted to do was give him a call and shed a few happy tears.

These are the moments when the loss of my husband creeps back in and grabs on to my heart.

I listened to Algiers, the new Afghan Whigs song in the car yesterday morning on my way to take the little guy to my sister's house. It was perfect and before I knew what was happening I was zooming through the EzPass lane crying. Always a glutton for punishment, especially in the form of Greg Dulli's crooning, I listened to it at least 6 times on that car ride and many more times over the past two days. I don't tear up every time, but it always transports me to a place where I feel Joe there with me. I can't describe it, but there is just something about that song - and the fact that Joe isn't here to listen to it.

Along with the release of the single came some tour dates. The three east coast ones so far are mid-May and will move from Brooklyn to Boston to Baltimore - all at smaller venues, perfect for a memorable Afghan Whigs show. I plan to be at all three and I plan to have an amazing time with all the friends I made from the last go round we had in 2012. We are assured there will be more dates and I'm trying to be gentle with my schedule and my bank account so I can take full advantage. It's going to be a fun year.

As if the Afghan Whigs new single and tour dates weren't enough, yesterday and today were huge days at work for me. I've been working on an organizing effort with a group of 1,500 workers who were seeking to affiliate with our union. The voting has been taking place over the last two days and tonight the ballots were counted. After a long day, we won the count overwhelmingly 573-118 and as I walked back to my car I realized that the one thing I really wanted to do was call Joe and share the victory with him. But, I don't get to do that anymore.

Thankfully, the universe had given me a pretty good alternative. So I flipped through my iPhone and turned up the volume on Algiers. I let it repeat until it sunk in that life is indeed good and I have more love surrounding me than I ever could imagine.

I'm doing what I love and I'm doing it often and the truth is that I can't ask for anything more from this life than that.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Journey to BQ - The 1st Five Weeks

I am now 5 weeks in on my training for the NJ Marathon. With 13 weeks to go I am certainly looking forward to training in warmer weather, but I am proud of how I have stuck to my plan in spite of the seemingly never-ending snow, a hectic work schedule, and nagging head cold. 

I am using the "Own It" Plan from the book Train Like a Mother by Sarah Bowen Shea and Dimity McDowell. This time last year I was using the "Finish It" plan from the same book to train for my first half marathon and during the summer of 2013 I used the marathon version of the "Finish It" plan to train for the NYC Marathon. Now that my goal is to qualify for Boston I have gravitated towards the plan which is designed for improving your time, aka, "owning" the marathon. Oh boy.

Here's the overview from my first 5 weeks of training:

Out of 24 scheduled runs, I completed 23. I skipped the run on New Years Eve day and while now I'm kicking myself a bit for it I hardly think that will be the blockade between me and a BQ, so I'm over it.

I have shuffled some runs on the schedule and once in awhile gone 1 or 2 miles less than the plan called for but I have also occasionally added some get up and go so I think it has all evened out. It's no exaggeration to say that I am already in the best shape of my life and that includes when I played sports in high school.

I live in New Jersey and my training started on December 23rd. The weather has not been my friend. I did 14 of my runs on the good old treadmill (mostly at the gym although occasionally on my rickety old one with a non-working display). Seven of my runs were on the road and 2 on the trail. My most hardcore run? Ten and a half miles on the towpath at sunrise on Sunday, January 19. The temperature at the end of my run was 25 degrees, but the sunrise was beautiful.
January 19, 2014 Sunrise Run along Towpath
I have run 156.34 miles in training at an average pace of 8'41" per mile.

My cross training of choice has been yoga - both at home and whenever possible at a class near my office. I have also been planking for several minutes almost every night to increase core strength.

I got some relief from the rough northeast winter when traveling to Florida for work and took full advantage of my time there by running every day. I was only sent to the treadmill by rain once and had another lovely sunrise reward for an early run.
On a 4-miler near my hotel in Boca Raton
Lest anyone think I am spoiled by my job, I have also spent some of my winter on projects in upstate New York and have made good friends with the treadmills there.

On my long run on January 12th I had my first encounter with a stray dog. I was running downhill at the end of my 2nd time around on a 5 1/2 mile loop and noticed a dog running around in the yard up ahead. I didn't think too much of it until I realized it was a pitbull and then I realized it was not fenced in and not on a leash. The dog started running towards me in the street and so I made a quick beeline to one of the neighbor's houses. I rang the doorbell and after a quick conversation determined that the dog didn't belong to anyone he knew on the street. While we were talking, the dog had turned to go the other way so I decided to return in the direction I had come (back up the hill) and complete my run in reverse. I'm sure the extra hill work didn't hurt, but it definitely left me a little hesitant to return to the route.

On Monday, January 20 I did a 4.85 mile run that put my total mileage run since August 2012 over 1,000. Watching my Nike+ app flip to 1,004 miles after that run was cool. So was thinking about all the places I could have run to with that mileage. Chicago. Nashville. Orlando. Montreal (and back). It's amazing to think that in just over a year I have run more than 1,000 miles, completing 4 half marathons, 1 full marathon and many other races along the way. It makes me that much hungrier for my next goal.

Week 5 was a 35 mile week on my plan. Week 6 will be 39 miles. I am  hoping that I will be able to do some of those miles outside - I'm especially praying that Mother Nature is kind for the 18 miles I have on tap for my long run on Saturday. While the treadmill certainly helps me to keep my pace regulated (read slow) on my long runs, it certainly doesn't help my mood. If I can end February with a 50/50 split between treadmill and outdoors, I will consider that a training victory.

As always it's my parents and my sister Karen who consistently make my running possible. For almost every run they are the ones watching my son and for that I am so thankful. I also have an incredible support network on Twitter and in real life so on those days when I would rather just skip a run I know exactly who to go to for a swift kick in the rear. It works every time. When I cross finish lines, it's with a whole host of people pushing me and I'm so conscious of that fact.

So, 5 down and 13 to go until April 27. So far away, yet so close.