what a weekend!

Balancing the craziness of this time of year while kicking off a new marathon training cycle is not easy.  Last week was the first official week of my training and I struggled to get my miles in.  I felt overwhelmed with commitments – volunteering, working, parenting, training … it was all piling up.  To top it off I wasn’t getting very much sleep.  AT. ALL.  It seems all three of my kids forgot how to sleep through the night, for several days in a row.  And by the end of the week I was completely wiped out. 

I wanted to run 6 easy paced miles on Friday but decided to take the day off from running.  I was just too tired to run.  For a moment I cringed at the thought of skipping a planned run, but in my heart of hearts I knew it was the right decision.  I had a busy weekend ahead and wanted to feel ready for it. 

Saturday morning I had a scheduled long run of 12 miles.  It was cold and sunny out – a beautiful morning for a run.  Jodi and I decided to run together (for the first time in a long time) and it was just what the two of us needed.  We hit the trail by about 7:30AM.  It was so wonderful to be running with my sister like this again.  Our training group is meeting at 8:30AM every Saturday, but yesterday we had to get started a little earlier because we had a workshop we were going to that started at noon and if we wanted to get the run in and have time to go home and shower and eat lunch etc before going out again – we had to hit the trail earlier.  When I asked Jodi if she wanted to run with me, at first she was concerned because she didn’t want to slow me down (her words).  We both know how important it is to listen to our own bodies, especially when training for a race like this. But we LOVE running together and we were both in need of some sister time.  So, we decided we would try to hang around a 9:00 mile – a little faster than she normally runs her long runs at and a little slower than I normally do.  It was perfect.

shadows on the trail

We ran three miles east, then turned around and ran three miles west, back to our starting point…

Mile 1 – 8:59
Mile 2 – 8:43
Mile 3 – 8:46
Mile 4 – 8:57
Mile 5 – 9:03
Mile 6 – 9:00

When we arrived back at the start (halfway through our run) we each ate a gel and were psyched to catch a few of our favorite running buddies who were getting ready to start their runs.  It was especially awesome to see our good friend Paul and our sister Megan!  The four of us ran together for a mile or so and then we paired off to finish out our runs.  I loved sharing these miles with four of my favorite people ever!

Jodi is STRENGTH

Mile 7 – 9:15
Mile 8 – 9:00
Mile 9 – 8:51
Mile 10  – 8:41 

Around the 10th mile, our conversation slowed and we were running in silence.  I so love when this happens on a sister run.  So much is understood, yet unspoken.  We listened to the rhythm of our footsteps, the sound of our breathing and entered into a zone.  This is why I love running.  I love being in this moment.

I felt myself letting go of my stresses, my worries and my fears.  All that anxiety and muck that was building up inside of me all week – I shed all of it and left it out there on the trail.  I moved forward.  My sister actually said out loud “you go Jess, go do what you need to do.”  She knows me so well.

Mile 11  – 8:34
Mile 12 – 8:31

Does it get better than this?  Two sisters on a trail, supporting and encouraging one another, believing in one another.  Listening to ourselves and listening to one another.  Finishing strong.  Finishing HAPPY.

sisters on a mission

After our run we zipped back home.  I had to give my husband a break from taking care of three kids all morning because in a little over an hour I would be heading out again for another 4 hours.

I married a really really really really really wonderful man. 

From 12-4:00PM yesterday Jodi and I attended a Chi Running workshop.  It was awesome!  I’ve heard all of this before (and you probably have, too) – all the talk about proper form and landing on your midfoot and engaging your core, etc – I’ve read it and applied it and learned it.  But this workshop was really helpful!  I think it deserves a post all it’s own so I won’t go into it too much here, but suffice it to say that it was worth my while and I’m excited by all that I learned.

Yesterday was a GOOD day.

Today was equally as good!  Today was the second run club!  We met at the sudio at 8:30AM and I was seriously amazed that we had 16 people show up today!!!  I was (and actually as I write this, still am) giddy with excitement over it.

Today we had Jodi teach the mat class while I assisted.  It rocked.

pilates before running = excellent

Then we split up into our three groups again – walkers, run/walkers and runners.  Everyone had someone to keep them company.  The energy was amazing.  We went to the trail and moved for 20 minutes east and then turned around for 20 minutes back.  At the end of the run everyone was all smiles and sweat!!  We did a little post-run stretching…

And then everyone was very sweet to agree to take a group photo for me!

i love run club!!
It was such a great group of people.  Thanks to everyone who came – I hope you will come back again!  I’m really looking forward to all the wonderful times we have ahead of us.  
I can’t believe I almost forgot to mention this! — when I picked up Jodi this morning to head to run club, she hopped in the car and we realized we were both wearing the same shirt with black pants.  Totally unplanned, but so like us to do something like this.  Before we headed home a new friend, who I feel like I have known forever, Jerrell (read her blog HERE, she is awesome!) snapped a photo of us in our matchy matchness:
yepp, that happens sometimes
I’m feeling thankful for so much right now.  For my amazing husband and children.  For my incredible sister who I know I am so blessed to have right down the street from me.  For the sport of running and the wonderful community of people who make it all the more enjoyable.  
Life is a journey and running is a huge part of that for me.  Sometimes we go our own pace, our own direction, but we are never ever, EVER, alone.
Here’s to the week ahead!

Rock My {Running} World – Meet Jodi

I am so proud, honored and thankful to introduce you guys to my incredibly inspiring sister, Jodi!  Jodi definitely rocks my {running} world and I know she will amaze you, too!  She has overcome all odds and her determination and strength are truly incredible.  
I am so lucky to have Jodi as a sister, a friend and of course as the ultimate running buddy!!!
Name: Jodi Rakoff
Age: 39

Location: Reston, VA

What do you do in “real” life?  I am a mother of two teenagers (!) and have been married to my best friend for 15 years.  I teach authentic Pilates at my studio, Reston Pilates.  I am passionate about my work and so grateful to be able to do what I do!

How long have you been running? 
5 years

Why did you start running? 
I started running in 2006.  My bestest sister Jessica inspired me to run!  I had signed up to run the Army 10 Miler.  It was great for me to have a goal.  I had such a blast and I didn’t want the race to be over.  I signed up with Team In Training and trained for and completed the 2007 National Marathon (my first). 
Your story is so inspiring.  Tell us about your weight loss and your back surgery:  I weighed 208 pounds a year and a half after my second child was born.  People say “yeah but you had just had a baby” — but let me tell you the chunk was in the trunk!!  I started going to the gym when my son was about 18 months old.  I remember when I couldn’t even run a mile!  I slowly started to lose the weight, but all of the weight put so much strain and pressure on my lower back.  My back was already weakened because of an injury in high school followed by breaking my tailbone while delivering my first child and all that extra weight only made it worse.  I thought I had slowly healed, but one morning I woke up and was unable to walk.  The MRI results showed that I had herniated a disk in my spine and my doctor recommended surgery.  The surgery helped my pain but, as a result of years of compensation my right leg was weak and I developed Sacroiliac Dysfunction and had nerve damage in my right leg.  My doctor told me I would probably never run again.  I was determined and did not give up.  I discovered Pilates and it changed my life – I was able to regain stability and build strength.  My body is stronger now than ever before and I am not only running – I am running MARATHONS! 
How many marathons have you run? 6

Personal Records:

Marathon: 3:56:23
Half Marathon: 2:03:38
10 Miler: 1:27:22
10K: 53:53
5K: 25:03

What is your proudest running moment:  My proudest running moment was my current Marathon PR – 3:56:23, at MCM 2011!

Pick one of your favorite parts of the lululemon manifesto and tell us why it speaks to you:  Listen, Listen, Listen, and then ask strategic questions!  I chose this one because I believe that listening and asking questions are the single-most important thing one can do for another!  In my work it is important to listen to the unspoken words as well as to the spoken.  Sometimes listening to the language of the body can tell you about how the person is feeling both physically and emotionally.

Do you have a favorite running mantra?  Why does this work for you?:  My mantra is run strong, breathe and believe. The only thing I have to remember to do while I run is to breathe and believe in myself. When I am feeling like giving up I say over and over in my head run strong, breathe and believe.  For my races I always have my sister write “Breathe” on the back of one of my legs and “Believe” on the back of the other leg.  It never fails — in every race I have people tell me how thankful they are to read those words!  It makes me feel good to know that I am reminding others of these simple yet powerful things.
Jodi is always encouraging and inspiring others!
Tell us a little about what you do to strengthen your running and what do you do to protect yourself from injury?  Pilates, cleaning my house and carrying grocery bags!

If you run with music, tell us a few of your favorite running songs:   I do not typically listen to music but if I do I like music that I can sing to! I ran with music for the 2011 National marathon and I had my 14 year old daughter put together a playlist!

What is your next race?  What is your goal for that race?  My next race is the Richmond Marathon. My goal for every race I run is to make it to the start feeling good.  I don’t discuss a time goal.  I may or may not have one!!

What are your long term running goals?  My long term goals for running are to run at least two marathons a year until I cannot walk anymore!! And maybe Boston!

What advice do you have for other runners out there?  A mile is a mile no matter how long it takes you.  Movement heals!  Some days the hardest part of the run is putting on your shoes! 

sisters celebrating shiny new Marathon PRs ~ MCM 2011

together again

I ran 5 miles yesterday and had company – my sister Jodi!  It was wonderful.  I’m sore, but the kind of sore that lets me know I worked all the right muscles and I will be stronger because of it.  It was SO nice to be out there with my sister.  She has been training hard for National Marathon and is going to ROCK IT on Saturday!!

sisters ready for a run!!

Today I ran 20 minutes on the treadmill – 2 miles.  I felt really great.  I’m taking it easy and finding that the more I run, the better I feel.  Running is HARD.  But the pay off is great.

three good things

It’s been an emotional week for me, filled with ups (sooo many blessings, so much love) and downs (hormones hormones hormones).  Here are my three things for today.

(1) I am not broken.  This is what Dr. Wong told me yesterday morning at my appointment.  I needed to hear that, because I am feeling really scared about and frustrated with the pain I am having and whether or not it is ever going to go away.  I’m afraid running could make it worse and I don’t want to make it any harder for me to heal than it already seems to be.  Dr. Wong is certain I should continue to run.  He does not believe that I am returning to running too soon and thinks it will help, not hinder, my healing.  Easing into my running combined with pelvic floor exercises and work on the Pilates reformer will get me where I need to be with time.  Patience and a positive attitude are necessary here – but I AM NOT BROKEN!

(2) I had reformer sessions at the studio with my sister Jodi both on Tuesday and today. How lucky am I?!  I brought my two boys (Gus is 6 weeks old, Will is almost 4 1/2 years old) and they hung out while Jodi worked me on the equipment.  Will had a snack, ran around like a crazy man and played on my phone.  Gus either laid on the floor or was held by my sister while she worked me through everything.  Seriously…this would not be possible – not any of it – without my sister.  She is there for me in so many ways.  Whether it’s encouraging me, believing in me, supporting me, laughing with me, crying with me…she is always there.  I am so grateful for my sister!!!

My amazing sister Jodi with my two boys.

(3) I have two really sweet boys who hang out with me all day long and I’m so lucky to get to spend so much time with them.  I love you, little buddies…thank you for being you!!

me with my dreamy boys

beautiful sister, beautiful friend

This morning my sister Jodi sent me a quote she received from Runner’s World and I just had to share because it resonated so deeply with me.

There is something beautiful about working so hard that you are reduced to silence next to your friends.  Some friendships never get to the level where silence is comfortable, let alone productive or healing.  Some friends will never understand the unspoken.
-Kristin Armstrong, author and runner

Me and Jodi before a track workout, 2010

My sister Jodi is my running buddy (to put it in the simplest of terms).  We have a connection that runs deep, and is only made stronger when we are out on the trails and roads running or racing together.  Or apart.  The connection is always there, no matter what.  Usually very few words are exchanged between the two of us when we are running.  After a bit of silence one of us might go to say something only to be interrupted by the other laughing and smiling because she was about to say the same exact thing.  When we’re not running though and are just in the midst of our daily lives, we talk a few times a day and chatter non stop with a natural ease and comfortable openness that is completely uncensored.

Jodi and me after a 12 mile training run, 2010

Can you relate to this, too?  Do you have running buddies who you connect with on that level?