Thursday, July 21, 2011

Training for Marathon #2

I've read somewhere that you're not supposed to sign up for another marathon until you've forgotten your first. Well that's impossible. I try to take in the memories of Grandma's Marathon whenever I can because it was such a great experience.

I waited about three weeks to sign up for the Des Moines Marathon on October 16th. I've heard great things about it and I'm excited to be able to train with so many people. There's a whole slew of Freaky Fast Runners and the running crew back in Northeast Nebraska that signed up for either the full or half marathon - mom included.

If I'm intimidated by anything it's the thought of training in this heat. I've slugged through some runs in hot weather and it's been brutal. How I miss those snow covered February mornings!

I know signing up for a fall marathon was the right move for me though. Mostly because the word I use to describe my first marathon is "home". It just felt like home to me. Before/during/after the race I knew that this was where I belonged. Despite the fact that I was doing something I'd never done before I felt comfort. I was with an extended family of sorts and consumed by happiness and camaraderie.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

My First Date With 26.2

My first date with 26.2 was a success! The entire weekend up in Duluth, Minnesota for Grandma's Marathon was memorable. For starters, Minnesota holds such a special place in my heart. Vacationing in Hackensack all those years growing up and recently great training runs in Rochester and Osakis on the Paul Bunyan Trail have made me fall in the love with the state. That's why I wanted to run my first one up north. To make it 10x better, my mom decided to run and three other friends joined in too.

Everybody finished and was relatively pleased with their times. I came across at 4:25:43.

People told me you learn a lot about yourself during a marathon - they are right. Here we go (in no particular order)

  1. Nobody ever told me the moment you stop running is the most painful. It was a mix of legs locking up and near hypothermia.
  2. The main advice I was given was to run the first half slower than I want to. I would agree. I felt pretty comfortable the first half but I think running a little slower at the beginning would have helped my overall time.
  3. The PEOPLE are what makes the marathon such a great experience. The people I roadtripped to the race with - mom, Laura, Chris & Krista...the ultra girls we met on the bus ride to the starting line...the random conversations with people during the race...hearing wild marathon stories from the Rubber Ducky Man and his posse -- all of those people added to the incredible experience.
  4. Krista, Mom, Me, Laura, Chris
  5. I am capable of much more than I think.
  6. Talking to your legs and telling them to move out loud at mile 24 does help.
  7. Race volunteers are some of the most amazing people. Who willingly stands outside in cold wet conditions, cheering on random strangers while they spill the water cups you're handing them? Time to get out my thank you notes...
  8. Even as I sit sore and stiff legged while typing this, I have a wild urge to google more marathons.
  9. What are your thoughts on the Des Moines Marathon? It's one I'm mulling over...
  10. I've never felt so alive than during the marathon. Just the steady forward movement, watching the lake to my left, work stress behind me, all the like-minded people flooding around me, my mother in my heart, and my thoughts with Him.
  11. There will be definitely be a second date. In fact, I think this has the makings of a long-term relationship.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Let the Games Begin!

Time for the road trip to begin! We're headed to Duluth, Minnesota today to run Grandma's Marathon on Saturday. I'm fortunate that I'll get to share my first marathon experience with 4 other amazing women.

#1 My mom: caravan driver, leader of the crazies
#2 Mom's friend Krista Heineman from Pender: ran with her at several local races, the woman is silently fierce!
#3 Laura Carmona Ceraolo: lives in Lincoln and we've ran enough Saturday looong runs together for me to learn she's a woman who can persevere through anything - especially some injuries she's been fighting
#4 Chris Hamill-Tewes: Laura's friend who lives in Omaha. Got to party with her once. I don't know if she can run but she can sure dance!
#5 - ME!

So here it is - goal time.
My overall goal is for everyone to finish and have an amazing experience. I want to celebrate the training I've put in and the good lifestyle changes I've made. I'm setting out to run with the 4:15 pacer and hope to have the courage to run smart - especially the first half of the race. The constant advice I've been told is to not go out too fast. I also pray for the strength to fight through the pain. I wish for my friends and especially my mother to run their own race and be proud of whatever time they cross the finish line.

My ultimate goal is to run for HIM. To praise Him with each step.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

I'd Rather Feel Pain Than Nothing At All...

I'm far from a psychology expert...but one thing from Psychology 101 stood out to me - the Pleasure-Pain Principle. According to Sigmund Freud, it's the concept that early on in life we seek immediate pleasure and avoid suffering in order to satisfy our biological and psychological needs. It seemed to make sense. It wasn't until I realized I'd lived a lot of my life this way and found it to be unsatisfying and needed a different way of life.

Ex - college binge drinking, overeating

When I started to take running seriously I realized enduring pain can lead to deferred gratification that is 10x as sweet as immediate pleasure.

Ex - the endorphins after a run, the feeling of stepping on a scale and seeing a lower number

The road to making dreams come true will hurt initially but as my friends Three Days Grace say, "I'd Rather Feel Pain Than Nothing At All"...take a listen.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Starting to Feel It

I'm starting to feel it - the anxiousness, the excitement, the anticipation, and the nagging twinges and tweaks that go with the mass of miles I'm putting my body through.

I've been fortunate that I've avoided any major injuries and the pangs I've felt have went away within the week with an ice/ibuprofin routine. Occasionally I'll cross train or rest a day to give the legs a break.

With my 2nd 20 miler behind me, I'm starting the process of a slow taper. My plan is to run more during the week knowing I don't have to do a major weekend run. I'm also starting to see the scale budge a little which is exciting!

Mostly what I feel right now is gratitude. Gratitude for the many people who've helped get me ready for this marathon. I rarely run alone and the only thing better than the endorphin rush of a good run is getting to share that feeling with others.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Is there anything better than getting snail mail from your mama? Well, when you're sick and feeling a little sorry for yourself the answer is NO.

My running pneumonia is starting to get the best of me. I stayed home from work today which took a lot because I have tons to do. I've also been icing my foot 3x a day trying to get rid of this inflammation. So just when I'm feeling like I'm falling apart and far from the marathoner I'm trying to become, I check my mail.

A package from mom.

The PERFECT running shorts. Perfect size and perfect fit so my Smith thighs don't rub together and chafe. There's not enough body glide in the world :). And even better - secret slim pockets for ibuprofin and gu.

Best of all, a handwritten note wishing me luck on my second 20 miler. She's doing her 20 this weekend too. I'm so lucky that we're in this together.

Suddenly, I don't feel so bad anymore.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Running Pneumonia

Broke down and went to the doc today. She says I have walking pneumonia. I call it running pneumonia.


(Scaling back)

Monday, May 16, 2011

New Milestone - 20 Miles

Before I started training for Grandma's Marathon, my reasoning was simple. I like to run. I like to run long distance. I've done several half marathons. I suppose it's time to try the full.

I had mentioned running a marathon before but I never fully grasped the totality of it. I was ignorant like many people who sputter out the word and don't really respect the distance or factor in the amount of training needed to run a marathon with integrity.

I never expected to love the training. In fact I expected to hate it. But each new milestone is like setting a new PR. It's the endorphin rush combined with going farther than you've ever gone before.

I ran my first 20 miler on Saturday morning in 3:08 (9:26 pace). I was fortunate to run the last 14 of the 20 miles with my good friend Brian. He made the chilly, windy miles fly by and I was surprised by how painless it was. I can only hope to have just as good of experience on race day. Granted I'll have to tack on another 10K, but I feel like I'm putting in the proper training.

Respect the distance. Don't fear it.

Monday, May 9, 2011


Running fast is hard. Okay seems like a no brainer, but I've never felt so untrained like I did today.

We ran 6 600s at the track tonight - total warm up and cool down it was around 3 miles. Combine sprinting with 90 degree weather and you've got my nemesis. I'd rather crank out 10 miles on a cool morning any day.

Endurance is so much mental, and being the nerd that I am, it's my strong suit. There's not enough time to think during a fast run.

I've always had a love/hate relationship with the track but I know it's the key to increasing my speed. And now I'm determined to conquer the hate. I'm going to hit the track more and run some fast segments during my medium length runs. If you have other suggestions, please share!

Sunday, May 8, 2011


Thought I was crazy for wanting to wear my 4-inch pretty blue wedges out after running 18 miles. Then I see my training partner Laura (who ran 20 that morning). She wins.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Lincoln Half Marathon Race Report

It was a great day.

Seldom do I use that phrase to describe a race. Normally it's "I got a PR!" or "Off my mark by a couple minutes". I measure so much of my race success by minutes and seconds. I always thought that people who didn't think like that just weren't that competitive. And while my time does matter to me a lot (I finished in 1:52:49 ) it didn't encompass my entire thoughts about the race.

It was more than a great day. It was a great weekend. My mom wasn't sure if she'd be able to come to Lincoln for the race but made the final decision to come on Friday. Saturday we went to the Expo and caught up with the entire Pender/Thurston/Wayne crew of ladies (Northeast Nebraska represent whoot whoot!). Later we went to the traditional Pastathon where we shared and over-analyzed our strategies with several strangers which is always fun. Slumber party in my bed and then rocked out to some Breaking Benjamin and Cold while we drank our morning coffee and prepared for what was to come.

Mom and I never run together - we just wish each other the best and run our own race. The woman may be in her 50s but I've been beat by her enough times to not feel sorry for her if I beat her. :) I felt fabulous during the entire race. Didn't finish with a PR but much faster than all my other race times this year. Got to hug my teary mother after she pushed through a lot of physical and emotional pain to get under 2 hours. Not a PR for her either but under the circumstances a great victory.

This was also the first year we stayed and watched the marathoners. I was seriously blown away by the courage and pride I felt as I watched my friends Dave, Brian, Tasha and Ali finish the marathon with great times. Even got to see my old track coach break down in tears and hug his wife. The marathon really is a powerful thing. It made me excited for my 26.2 debut next month. It jump-started a fire in my heart.

It was a great day. How about you?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

My Mantra

My high school track coach Todd LaVelle was one of the greatest motivators I've ever known. He knew how to make you reach into your weak adolescent mind and find the will to push through the pain. This was his favorite poem he shared with us before big race days.

Most mantras are shorter but I use the last two bolded lines. Such simple words yet so meaningful. Enjoy!

"Fortunate is the person, Who in this life can find
A purpose that can fill their days, And goals to fill their mind.
The world is filled with little people, Content with where they are;
Not knowing joys success can bring, No will to go that far.
Yet in this world there is a need, For people to lead the rest,
To rise above the "average" life, By giving of their best.
Would you be one, who dares to try when challenged by the task,
To rise to heights you've never seen, Or is that too much to ask?
This is your day - a world to win, Great purpose to achieve.
Accept the challenge of your goals And in yourself believe."

To all those running the Lincoln Half or Full Marathon this weekend:
Dig deep. Make it Hurt. Give Your Best. You'll be Glad You Did.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Glory in a Bad Race

Don't you love the feeling of a new PR? I was lucky enough to get that endorphin rush almost every race weekend in 2010. Then 2011 happened.

My fall predictions for spring races fell short. Not enough speedwork over the winter, a couple extra lbs, and more long slow miles are likely to blame. I'll admit, it's a bit discouraging and it's got me on a mission to change it quick. In the meantime, I've discovered that it's not all doom and gloom. So for my benefit (and hopefully yours) I'm going to list the positive experiences I've had in my not so successful races.

Leprechaun Chase 10K- excitement that goes with the 1st race of the season, costume theme was so fun, got to see some of the Freaky Fast Crew, Heather, plus my mom and the Northeast Nebraska Roadrunners, i loved the course, it was a beautiful day, green beer

State Farm 10 Mile - felt like a warrior with snow blowing in my face, got to see some old friends from Wisner, got to run under my favorite tunnel on the mopac

Novartis 10K - Saw my friend Bry and ran with her and pushed her to beat her goal of a sub60 minute 10K, Dave sprinted the end with me to support me since I had a tough race, got to see Megan win first in our age group

Eagle 10K & 5K - got to see Dave, Heidi (4 legged and 2 legged), 2 legged Heidi won overall female, beautiful Mopac course, did 8 miles afterwards to get in 17 total for the day, I hurt but I played 'pacman' on the 2nd half of the race and kept passing people.

Only one person can win the race, so we might as well do the best we possibly can and enjoy the experience. What's been the best part of a race you did this year?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

New Milestone - 17 Miles

"No matter how many setbacks you've suffered, God still has a great plan for your life. Keep hope alive in your heart. Never give up on your dreams."

That's the quote I woke up to this morning in my daily devotional that my good friend Tessa got me for my birthday. That little book has helped me in so many ways. And today it made all the difference.

I've been struggling with some things in my life that had me doubting whether or not I could pull off a 16 miler. If anybody knows  how to sabatoge themselves, it's this girl. But seeing that quote - I knew that God was telling me to forget all that and see myself the way he sees me.

Here I am...17 miles later.

Monday, March 21, 2011

40 Mile Week

Finally hit a 40 mile week. I scaled down my weekly miles December and January and increased my strength training to give my legs a break. I noticed my legs were pretty fatigued when I tried to increase them in February but now I finally feel like I'm back. I'm still missing some of my speed but a few pounds that crept on this winter may be the culprit. Gotta attack that - RACE SEASON IS HERE!

Sunday, February 27, 2011


Today's sermon at church was about generosity - a term I commonly associate with giving money. I feel like I'm pretty generous for someone my age. I give to worthy charities throughout the year and throw a little in the offering bag on Sundays. It wasn't until today that I truly understood what the term means...

Living generously doesn't necessarily mean emptying your pockets. Today I realized I'm surrounded by generous people.

My best friend Chad listens to my stories intently. He GENEROUSLY drops whatever he's doing to give me his undivided attention.

Jason runs with me for me. He GENEROUSLY drops his pace to meet my needs. He unselfishly sacrifices a top notch workout to help me reach my goals.

My college friend Jamie remembers all the little details in my life. Not just birthdays - but little things I tell her. She calls me the day after a big meeting I've had, or follows up after a weekend to see how my date went or randomly checks in to see how my family is. We all live busy lives, but Jamie doesn't let that stop her from keeping in touch. She GENEROUSLY takes time to remember what's important to me.

I could go on and on - those are just the first few things that popped in my head. From now on, I want to live generously. I want to give my time, my attention, my compassion and my heart to those who need it. Who's with me?!

Do you have someone in your life that's generous?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Whatever Helps...

It was cold. It was snowing. The trail wasn't cleared. But my snowman hat helped get me through it.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

My Drinking Challenge

This drinking challenge didn't involve beer bongs, shots or kegstands...It was just the opposite.


I've cut back on my drinking two-fold the past couple of years. I haven't had a debilitating hangover since Halloween 2009. However, 2-4 drinks over the course of a night can add up a calorie count that I really don't need. I've always been a bit bothered by the fact that I can run a dozen miles a day yet am about 15 pounds heavier than most of my friends. I've been eating ultra clean since Wednesday and I really didn't want even a tiny setback. So I decided no booze.

It wasn't the thought of not being able to have fun that would be the challenge; I know I can have fun without drinking. I was worried about getting the 3rd degree from my friends. Pretty silly huh? I guess peer pressure still exists when you're 26.

I was pressured a bit by my best friend Chad and roommate Abby. But I know it was just because they both want me to have fun. It didn't take long for them both to support me. I did cop out and order "a water with a lime" that I carried all night just so I didn't have to get 'the business' from my other friends. All in all it was a super fun night and I'm ready to continue on my healthy path.

I feel a sense of accomplishment being able to have fun without drinking. Last night I just felt comfortable in my skin and enjoyed myself. Lets make this 2 weekends in a row. :)

Special shoutout to Brian for holding me accountable and being a great motivator in my healthy endeavors!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Life Starts Now

Three Days Grace - Life Starts Now

This song has been out for awhile now, but the lyrics really ring true to me...I'll explain in another blog to come. For now, enjoy one of my favorite running tunes.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Today is a New Day

A paragraph in my Daily Devotional really spoke to me and I wanted to share. (It's in a book my friend Tessa bought for me for my birthday)

"No matter what you've gone through in the past, no matter how many setbacks you've suffered or who or what has tried to thwart your proggress, TODAY IS A NEW DAY, and God wants to do a new thing in your life. Don't let your past determine you're future."

I will carry this message throughout my marathon training and my life.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Everybody's Doing It

I feel so lucky to live in such a huge running community. I love being able to text a friend on a moment's notice to go running. I love hitting the Mopac trail and passing the same friendly faces. I love the Freaky Fast running group. I love the Marathon class and how it's changing my life and helping me see what really matters in my life. I love that EVERYBODY is signing up for the Lincoln Marathon or Half. My friends Brandi, Erin, roommate Abby, Maggie and even my boss have signed up to run the Half. I pray that they put in the necessary training (unlike I did for my first Half) so that they get an enjoyable feeling out of it.

I only made it up to 8 miles a couple times before my first Half. I was glad I finished (2:09) but I felt weak for not committing to the training schedule. I took a year off of running after that (and added about 20 lbs on my body.) Fortunately I woke up and realized I didn't want to go through the motions anymore.

Today I ran 10 miles. Today I am happy. I pray for the strength to stay focused and not sabotage myself.

Tomorrow I will run 6.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Ashley Smith Returns to Running - Part 1

My twin sister, Ashley Smith, just announced she's coming out of running retirement.
THIS IS HUGE...allow me to explain.

I'm a runner, but my sister is an athlete. She's one of those people who's good at anything sports related. In high school, she was like the female version of Usain Bolt. She was a fierce competitor and a bit cocky - but you just couldn't take your eyes off her when she competed. In track, she was the girl that would lap the 2nd place finisher in the 2 mile. In basketball she would throw any elbow she could get away with and then look at the ref like they were crazy if they called a fowl. She would be devastated after a loss and estatic after a win. Admit it - you can't help but be drawn to somebody who competes so fiercely and with all their heart.

We had a great track coach in high school, Todd LaVelle, who now coaches softball at Lincoln Northstar. I've never met a better motivator. He made us want to push past the pain. Nobody ever wanted to let him down. Then Ashley went off to run cross country and track at Wayne State College...and nobody knew who "Ashley Smith" was. She had to make a new name for herself, and run for a coach who's idea of motivation was "Go run." While Ashley excelled at the college level, it wasn't the high school success she'd been used to. Third places were hard for her to stomach. After so much running, she said she got burnt out and hasn't ran in the nearly four years we've been out of college.

I'm not exactly sure the reason for the comeback, but I'm elated. I've always been in awe of my sister's athletic ability, and I'm so happy she's not letting it idle any longer. She'll make her racing debut at the Gulf Coast Half Marathon on April 10.

To be continued...

Monday, January 17, 2011

I Love Being a Runner

Do you ever stop to appreciate just being a runner?
I did that Sunday and it was great.
It's easy to get caught up with intense training schedules and PRs on the brain.

A few of my friends have bad knees (or at least claim to because they don't like running.) My dad has Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency and it's a major effort for him to climb stairs.

I need to remember those things when I can't get myself out of bed to workout. There are people who would love to - but can't. I can. And I'm going to make more of an effort to appreciate it.

Sunday, I attended the LTC's renewal banquet and it was great listening to the stories of all the people who've volunteered and worked hard to put on the races that I love to run. I made sure to thank them.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

My Guilty Pleasure

I'm not really blogging today...instead I'm sharing one of my favorite guilty pleasure blogs - Luc Carl: The Drunk Diet

If you're not familiar with Luc Carl, you're probably familiar with his girlfriend - Lady Gaga. Luc is from Omaha but currently lives in New York. He's a night club manager and long distance runner. The Drunk Diet is a memoir of his trials and tribulations to get into shape while partying every night. Warning: It's rather crude. He's coming out with a book soon "The Drunk Diet, Memoirs of a Badass". Yes, I will be among the first to get a copy.

Disclaimer: I don't read his blog for workout advice - just for entertainment purposes.

His blog today was pretty funny and I agree with his quote about working out in the morning. "Your alarm clock should be your friend. Hitting the snooze 4 times every morning is no way to start your day. This can most likely be blamed on how you ended the previous day. End that cycle tonight. Don’t eat worms tomorrow morning, eat oatmeal." .

Makes me realize how much I miss working out in the mornings. I've only been doing that about twice a week and it's been a debatable routine every morning.

Alarm clock #$%!!@#!!
Conversations in Amber's brain:
Do I feel like working out now?
I'm a little tired...maybe it's better if I catch up on sleep and workout tonight.
But Amber, you won't feel like working out after a full day of work.
I'll just lay here for 5 more minutes and then get up....

However when I tell myself I'm going to workout every morning, it's more automatic and less of a choice. I signed up for the Lincoln Marathon class and many of the group runs are at night so that may affect the morning routine but I'm definitely switching to mornings on my solo workout days.

I really don't think it's a matter of being a "morning person" or not. If you make yourself go to bed at a decent time, you won't feel as tired and it will be much easier to get up. Pretty scientific formula, I know.

No worms for me tomorrow. I'm eating oatmeal.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Year's Resolutions

Happy New Year!
How did you ring in the New Year?

Was it with
A. Too much champagne?
B. A New Years kiss?
C. A 5 mile run?

If you're like me then you chose D. All of the above. I suppose I partially met my 2010 New Year's Resolution. It was to be more spontaneous. To focus on running but still have fun. To be the girl that could stay out all night partying and still get up and run the next day. A productive party-er. Not your typical resolution, but I'm honestly happy with how the year went. I seriously had one of the craziest and most fun years of my life. It was like being in college all over again. I may be 25, but my best friend Chad taught me that we are still young. This could be my last few years of being single without children - and I'm happy to say I will never look back and say that I didn't live it up.

That being said, here are my goals for 2011
1. Lose the weight for good
2. Train hard for my 1st marathon
3. Be nicer to dumb people at work

Resolution #1 - As much as I freaking run, I should be a pencil. So c'mon Amber, put down the cookie. I have this cycle of doing great for 4 days in a row and then having a bad day or two and undoing all my hard work. So it's time to really buckle down. Gaining and losing 10 pounds all the time isn't good for the heart.

Resolution #2 - I know many people who sign up for a marathon or half marathon and get so intimidated by it that they don't train. Sounds silly but it's fairly common. Well not me. I want to reach the starting line of Grandma's Marathon in June knowing that I trained as hard as I could. I want a feeling of confidence, not dread. If I've trained to the best of my abilities, then I'll be happy whenever I cross the finish line.

Resolution #3 - I have zero tolerance for stupid people. My former dream of becoming a teacher quickly changed when I realized I don't have much patience. (Any tips here?) I really need to work on how I handle those situations. Nobody likes to be talked down to. But on some occasions I find myself being a little mean to people I think are dumb and totally playing favorites with the intelligent reporters. So stop it Amber! Be nice!

Even though I've told zero people about this blog and the chance of anyone responding is slim, I want to know what your resolutions are in 2011. How will you make yourself a better person? How will you make the world a better place?