“No Limits” — revisited

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a few days now — but only now am finding the right words, and the right time, to write it.
…remember back at the start of this year — when I proclaimed 2012 to be my year of ‘no limits’?

Let’s revisit that, shall we?

An excerpt from that post…

In looking forward to 2012, rather than listing out 3 or 4 resolutions or goals for 2012, I have made just one promise to myself.

To leap before looking.

Breaking free of any preconceived limitations or boundaries that maybe existed in my mind before.
26.2? Sure, let’s do it. 
…a new job? Lemme at it (a post for another day, promise). 
…seeing just how refined this body can becomebarre n9ne-style — All.Over.It. 
…harnessing my inner sponteneity, letting go of that pre-planned/go-go-go mentality…finding that Type B?I want it.

So this is me – staring down 2012 with a sparkle in my eye: I’m ready to leap without looking. I’m ready to have no limits today...everyday.

And now, it’s mid-October….10 months later — and I’m firmly entrenched in what I can only describe is the year where I crushed boundaries and harnessed that ‘no limits’ mantra in everything I’ve done.

 – 26.2? Done. Trained with all my heart, and ran my butt off with Scott, #teamsutera style all the way. Goal: crushed.

New job? Hi, let’s try two new jobs.

 – Barre n9ne and seeing how much more refinement I could eek out, post-60 day challenge? Refined…sure, but more than that? I’ve proudly transformed into an instructor this year. An instructor who *loves* this job more than ever (hmm…make that three new jobs this year…)

– Embracing sponteneity, tossing aside that Type A mentality a little bit this year? I’ve had no choice but to let go of structure and pre-conceived boundaries this year, like whoa. (Learning to roll with it as best as this Type A-er can ‘roll’ with anything)

On the one hand? I’m damn proud of what this year has evolved into for me.
…yet on the other? I’m damn tired.

Everyone keeps asking me what’s next, what’s next, what’s next for me, for us, for #teamsutera. Are we signing up for another 26.2? Are we tackling some new, as yet undefined challenge next? What are we gonna DO now that this marathon is behind us and this year of ‘no limits’ is quickly drawing to a close.

Honestly? I just want to be.
present.
…focused.
…centered.
me. 

(“just be…Jess” as Melissa told me in a note last night…boy did she hit the nail on the head or what?)

So what this means I’m not quite sure. I just know that I need to simplify my life. Somehow. Some way. I have no idea what this means yet. But you bet your ass it’s the only thing on my mind right now.

Simple.

Smarter not harder.

Striving for excellence not perfection. 

These are the phrases rolling around in my head.
…I’m not longer so focused on ‘no limits.’

…honestly, it’s time to just be. In whatever shape or form that takes. 

(almost) Wordless Wednesday — remembering every (long) mile.

Today, just days away from the Chicago Marathon and I’m sitting here remembering every single mile of our long runs. Runs I made sure to capture in pictures to help me firmly sear those moments, those miles, into my memory for good.

13, 14, 15, 10

16, 18, 20, 12

20, 22, 16, 10…

176 miles worth of long, long, (LONG) runs.

176 miles worth of proud moments.

176 miles, together — Team Sutera 4lyf <3

The last (long) run

Saturday marked our last long run before the Chicago Marathon. 

Back when I created our training plan, scrutinizing every week, every mile, every detail, I remember looking at that date: September 29.
…and thinking, damn — I can’t even fathom what *that* will feel like. 

Knowing that all of our long runs were done.
…including two 20 milers and a 22 miler.

Knowing that we left nothing behind but hard work, dedication, and more than a few laughs along the way.
for 18 weeks. 

Knowing that in less than one week, we’d be toeing the starting line *in* Chicago.
…thisclose to becoming a marathoner.

At that time, 18 weeks ago, I had a hard time fathoming any of it. I just couldn’t visualize it. I couldn’t quite grasp that our bodies would get “there” — to that point where running longer and farther and harder would somehow, over time, feel shorter and shorter, ‘easier’ and ‘easier’ (‘easy’ being a relative term, of course). 

But yet, September 29th arrived: 
…we stepped outside at 7am.
…it was raw and chilly and a little bit rainy.
…but off we went.
…chugging through those miles.
…10 miles that felt effortless.
…our legs were so happy, so rested, so joyful out there.
…it hardly mattered by the end that it wasn’t exactly a beautiful fall day.
…it was a beautiful day to be running. For no other reason than we’d hit our stride. Made our way through every single one of our long runs. Every single training run. Every single week of our schedule.

Our bodies told us one thing on Saturday: “we’re ready.” 

Both of us lamented at the end of our 10-miler that we SO could’ve kept going. Kept chugging along, happy as ever. We smartly did not, don’t worry. But to know that our bodies could go farther and longer and actually *wanted* to go farther and longer? Amazing.

…guess this whole taper ‘thing’ works, hmm? Legs that are itchy to run more? I’ll take it. If I could just bottle up this feeling and re-release it again next Sunday around 8am? That would be fab. Let’s see if we can make that happen, mmk? 

#26point2in6days
(omg)

Of peaks and tapers

As I said the other day, it’s settling in
…this marathon thing. It’s *so* close. 

And my body is more than telling me that these days. Last week marked our peak week of training — topping out at 40 miles for the week.
…for me, that’s a big number. For some runners, notsomuch. But for me – huge. I’m proud. 

I’m proud, sure, but I’m also starting to really feel the effects of training. I am utterly worn out. All of my joints are talking to me lately — don’t worry, not in the ‘hi, I’m injured’ kind of way but in the what-the-heck-are-you-putting-me-through kind of way. I’ve never taken so many naps in my life! Out of sheer necessity too.

What is really interesting though, at least to me, is that my hunger levels haven’t really been all that impacted by training. Not even during our peak week of training last week — a week that I always gazed at on our training schedule as *the* week when I’d be battling hungry horrors, like whoa. But nope, we were totally fine this past week.  As I’ve said before, I crave protein after a particularly rough, pounding of  a week. Which is why on Friday night we wound up with a giant salad and filet mignon for date night in. Totally hit the spot. Other than that, and our go-to homemade pizza pre-long run meal (which has saved us on more than one occasion lemme tell ya), our eating hasn’t really changed a heck of a lot. I’m still eating the same amount of calories I was eating before. Just different types of food, depending on what my body tells me it wants (side note: isn’t it crazy how your body really *will* tell you what it needs?? the protein craving was a sure sign of my muscles doing some serious recovery work, for example. SO interesting. Anyway…).

Another kind of neat side effect of training? How your perspective on distance changes. I never thought I’d say, ok yup, we can totally bang out that ten miler on Saturday, no big deal. Yet six months ago, ten miles was a helluva lot more daunting than it was this past Saturday. Even WITH windswept rain for half of that run, we got through all ten miles relatively easily (the last mile hurt, I’ll say that, my glutes were on fire…I blame that on the extra glute work I taught in class twice on Friday though…woops.). Who knew?!

So anyway, as we’re now into our  three-week taper, I’m starting to take a step back. Looking at how far we’ve come, all that we’ve learned, how much we’ve bonded together in the past few months. It’s been such a crazy, wild, amazing, incredible ride. Yet again, a ride I never saw coming. At least not in the form it’s taken. I’m totally struck by how much we’ve both loved the process (but side note: don’t get any wild ideas…I still contend that Chicago is our ‘one and done’ marathon experience!).

…so I’ll say it again: 26.2, we’re coming for you. Brace yourself for Team Sutera. ;-)

(side note: today is my first day at the new gig — send me lots of good vibes please! I’m the ‘new kid’ on the block yet again…but I’m ready for it, I promise you that!)

No limits, new molds

By now you all have probably sensed that change is underfoot for me here. Or maybe you haven’t necessarily sensed it but it sure has been on my mind these past few weeks. (y’know, aside from marathon training…the only other thing that seems to be on my mind all.the.time lately haha)

Lately, I’ve been:
…drawing on my faith while making some difficult decisions, and facing some uncertain new territory.
breaking the mold, or trying to.
…and fully embracing the mantra I set out for myself at the start of the year: 

Have No Limits Today.”

Without going into too much detail, here’s what’s been going on up in the Sutera household:

  • The hubs — who I adore more than life itself — is unemployed again. After finally chasing his own dream, returning to his teaching roots last year and having the most amazing and fun time of it, too (all while the proudest wifey  watched him with such glee as he’d come home from work everyday with a sparkle in his eye…oh how I love that sparkle…). Long story short — times are tough in the teaching profession…hell, in most any profession these days. It’s ridiculously sad that unemployment rates seem to never change…truly sad.  So faithoh FAITH — is coming into play in a huge huge way over here. It’s so hard not to question the ‘why’ behind the path he and I are on right now, and to blindly trust that there is a reason for this temporary setback — but here we are: trusting, believing, dreaming, supporting. It’s what we do.

Source: via Jess on Pinterest

  • Meanwhile, I’m facing quite the opposite scenario as the hubs. I’ve been handed a pretty incredible (and totally out of the blue) job opportunity. Yes, *another* new job. Yes, I do realize it’s only been nine months since I started the last ‘new’ job. But you see, sometimes you have to live by your own rules, break the mold, and  yes, put yourself first chasing a job and a dream that fits you so, so well. So this new job? Yeah it starts on Monday, and I am thrilled about it. I’m following the path that He set forth for me…a path that I never saw coming. Ever, ever. But I’m embracing it, I’m letting my path fall before my very eyes…blindly trusting. Something fairly new for the Suteras to embrace, but we’re learning to do it better and better with time.

Source: petiteathleat.blogspot.com via Jess on Pinterest

  • And this week, the height of marathon training for Scott and I — well, it’s quickly becoming a series of moments worth remembering, honoring, tucking away into the back of my mind. Scott and I have never been closer. I think it’s a combination of this crazy idea we had to run a marathon together coupled with the current circumstances we’re both facing — circumstances that test our faith; in eachother, in ourselves, in our paths. Something tells me we needed to be tested this way, to be reminded that faith is never something to let fall to the wayside but always something to continually work on. So this year of no limits, no boundaries and lots of ‘new’ for both of us is turning into the year where our faith was tested and strengthened in a special, beautiful, memorable way. Honestly, I’m honored that we’ve faced these tests — even if it’s scary to not know what’s around the bend for either of us — I’m learning to blindly trust and to truly harness my faith, our faith, together. <3

On breaking the mold…and making it your own

The one thing that marathon training has taught me — make it your own.

Or — as the Dove chocolate wrapper I opened the other night said, break the mold.’ 
…I don’t know why but I totally dig that phrase.

To me it signifies so much more than just where my head is at marathon training-wise…but I’ll get to that in a second.

First – my thoughts on marathon training and why making it my own has become incredibly important, particularly these past few weeks.  I truly believe it’s why this process has been a totally joyful experience for me. And quite possibly why I apparently make training look ‘easy’ to some of you. ;-)

It’s truly because I’ve made it MINE.

I created my training plan from scratch. 
…based on what I know will work for me.
…what my body will respond best to (hi, no injuries here please!)
…and based on what will give me good balance between my ‘working out life’ and the rest of my life (because there’s a LOT going on there right now too…)

I don’t use anything tech-y to get me through my training runs. 
…no garmin to obsess over my pace (afterall, I just want to run 26.2 proud, no real time goal in mind…)
…no ‘rules’ as it relates to when to fuel/hydrate or what to fuel/hydrate with. (when my body says ‘I’m tired’ it’s time for fuel, when my body says ‘man my throat is dry’, drink please!)
…and no incessant daily mile updates to publicly track how many miles I ran week-by-week. (to me, that’s sort of personal and not something I feel the whole world needs to hear about from me.)

I *try* not to compare myself to other runners, particularly those training for a race like me. 
…I don’t need to start putting doubts in my mind about how effective my training plan is compared to theirs.
…or wonder if I’m working hard enough as they are.
…and most importantly, I don’t ever want to steal the joy out of this process for myself by letting comparison games rule my mind.

I feel the need to preface ALL of these thoughts by saying that this is simply what works for me, what I believe in for my own training goals, my own approach to running and fitness — my own.

Because honestly, no matter what you’re training for, no matter what your fitness goals may be, no matter how structured or unstructured your weekly workouts are — you should always, always, always make it your own. It’s so easy to get lost in the cluster of how everyone else ‘does it’ and by default, either confusing the heck out of yourself, or losing a little piece of you in the process.

So my message to all of you today is simple — Break that mold, lose all sense of preconceived boundaries, remove the limits from your days, and make it your own. 

This week, more than ever, I am truly living that ‘no limits’ mantra I set for myself at the beginning of 2012. And I believe it’s in large part to my continued focuse and commitment to breaking the mold, questioning boundaries and just going for it.

…life is simply too short for anything less. 

(take a deep breath, step off that ledge, have some faith and just go for it. Note to self.)

20 miles: fought, and won.

20 miles. 

20 MILES. 

20 FREAKIN’ MILES!

…holy crap, we actually hit super-ridiculous double-digits this morning. 

Sorry — I had to repeat that a few times to literally remind myself that we just nailed our (first) 20 miler. 

Not that I need much reminding — my entire body is legit screaming at me right now, it hates me, I’m convinced. Everything. Hurts.
…but guess how much that pain was worth to me today? Every. Single. Mile — WORTH. IT. 

Now that I’ve had time to let the concept of running 20 miles digest a bit (and I’ve eaten my weight in oatmeal, thankyouverymuch), I am completely in awe. Not just of what our bodies are capable of if we trust them enough, but that once again, we did this together.

…and this time we had a TON of beautiful (virtual) sherpas with us. 
Case in point:

(what you can’t see is who commented on Heather’s post in particular – there was lots of love being shared around from fellow blog besties Dorry, Sarena, and my sister.)

I mean really — if that’s not enough to make a girl smile her silliest grin ever as she drifted off to sleep last night, I don’t what is. These ladies are seriously amazing. I sensed every single one of you by our side this morning. And in fact, I know God was working his wonders as usual when I saw not one, not two, not three — but NINE bunnies all in a cluster in one particular neighborhood about five miles into our run. To me it was as clear as day — God was showing me physical proof that my virtual sherpa friends were with us, cheering us on, running ‘beside’ us and giving us the extra strength we needed to push through the pain.

And we REALLY needed that support today. 20 miles hurts. It hurts a LOT. And lucky for me (lol), I totally hit a wall about 10-12 miles in. Not pretty at all. Thank God I had such wonderful virtual sherpa’s pushing us through, and the incredible love and support of Scott beside me pushing me with his words but also just with his sheer presence beside me — so comforting at times, and at other times seeing him struggle and overcome the urge to give up was all that I needed to keep up the good fight. He is so good to me, I just adore him. <3

So yeah — today, I’m feeling all over the place with my emotions, post-20 miler:

Joy — that we continue to learn so much about ourselves, about eachother, each time we set foot out there for our long run

Pride — that we overcame the dreaded wall today and pushed through all the way to the end. No stopping. No walk breaks. No nothing. The Sutera’s? We don’t give up. Ever.

Confidence — that we *will* make it all 26.2 miles on October 7 (though, to say that those last 6.2 miles is going to take sheer willpower to get through? Um yeah, cannot fathom how much *more* that’ll hurt…)

Gratitude — Scott and I are literally surrounded by virtual sherpas both near and far who love us, who support us, who lift us up just when we need it. I am thankful for each one of you. So much more than I could possibly frame with words properly.

Faith — I never, ever, ever expected to have my faith renewed the way it has through this journey. My faith in God is stronger and more apparent than ever. I see and sense Him so much more strongly today. And our faith in eachother? Again — I have no words. Through this journey, I have fallen deeper in love with Scott, more committed and dedicated to him and our relationship than ever, and more proud of how strong we are as a couple. Adoration, through and through. <3

So even though we look rather beat up in this picture of us just after we got home after our 20 miler today? I’d call today’s run a fight worth fighting as hard as ever for. Worth it, worth it, worth it. 

How did we get here?!

As I was laying in bed on Sunday night, visualizing my training schedule for the marathon (yes, I do this often, LOL), I silently wondered to myself:

How did we get here?!

I mean, really – how did we do it? After running 13, 14, 15, 16 and now 18 milers, I am seriously stunned into silence over the whole thing.

I guess it might sound weird that I’m *this* surprised at the sheer fact that we are indeed doing this thing, but I truly am. I can’t say it enough — I had such a different set of expectations going into training. I was anxious, worried that I’d wind up injured somehow and totally up in my head about the whole thing. Quite honestly, the closer it got to marathon training time, the more anxious I got. The more I was started to honestly dread going into such an intense training cycle.

But something changed.

I don’t know when.
I don’t really even know how.
But I am in love with this entire experience.

And now that we’re just 8 weeks (!) out from the big day, I am at the point where if someone told me to go run 26.2 miles tomorrow? My reaction would *not* be to scoff and roll my eyes. Nope. My reaction would be – Bring. It. On.

We can do this. Our training is doing just what it’s supposed to be doing.

Our training is teaching us to quiet our mind and to let our bodies prove that it can do anything we want it to if we just let it be to do the work.

And THAT, my friends, is one huge, ginormous breakthrough for this soon-to-be-marathoning duo.

So yeah, back when I told myself not to fear 26.2, when I wrote that letter to myself, giving myself this very pep talk?

…Get back to basics. Stop looking at your training plan as well, a ‘training plan’ and start looking at each run as just that: a run. Something that up until recently, you adored. Stop letting anxiety and fear steal your joy in these runs. Embrace every single mile, particularly those long runs you’re gearing yourself up for in the next few weeks. The long runs that will push you into new PDR territory. Those very same long runs that will give you the confidence that your body can and will push through all 26.2 miles on October 7.

And remember: you are strong. You are fit. You are ready. And most of all? You are a joyful runner.

Now that I revisit that letter, those words — especially the part about being a joyful runner —  ring so much truer than I ever imagined they possibly would.
Not gonna lie…I never saw this one coming.
…but I’m SO glad that I ‘see’ it now.

26.2, I think I love you.

Source: google.com via Jess on Pinterest

We did this (18).

We woke up at 4:30.

We packed our fuel (healthy bites FTW!) and water.

We shuffled out the door onto the dark streets of our neighborhood.

We ran. And ran. And ran.

We watched the world wake up around us, the sun slowly rising. Shades of pink and orange. Beautiful.

We hardly spoke, but when we did, it was always words of encouragement, a quick “I love you” or a joke to break the seriousness of it all.

We saw one very beautiful butterfly flit by us (I whispered quietly “Hi Nonna…” and said to Scott “butterflies always remind me of her, she must be watching us…”)

We ran some more.

…until we suddenly were rounding the final turn towards home.

We were both surprised how seemingly quickly we were nearing the end. (Me: “can you believe we’re doing this??” Him: “yup, we’re almost done, too!”)

…and then, we ran (all 18 miles) home.

We did this (18). <3

<<clearly I am one of few words today…I’m still pretty amazed by what we accomplished out there today, in awe really. And very, very proud…of us.>>

On rules: revisions and refinements

The other day, I mentioned that I sort of broke my own self-imposed “rule” — that I don’t run more than two days in a row if I can help it. Yet, last weekend I wound up running Friday, Saturday and Sunday and felt pretty great and very strong when all was said and done.

Heather left me an insightful comment (as she usually does) and it got me thinking:

Heather Iacobacci (@hriacobacci)
Submitted on 2012/06/12 at 8:40 am

Yes – strong IS beautiful. So glad you were feeling strong with your running this weekend. Sometimes I think it’s ok to just go with it even if you don’t normally run 3 or 4 days in a row. You’re listening to your body and that’s smart.

Hmm.

Have I been imposing my own set of rules a little bit too strongly in some cases? 
Is that why I have been sort of “off” feeling about marathon training? 
Why I’ve felt sort of antsy of late and unsure of why? 

I’m kind of thinking that’s been the problem. I’m letting my own rules get in the way. Instead of relying so heavily on my rules, why am I not spending more time listening to my body and recognizing when it’s telling me to “GO” vs. “STOP.”  We know I’ve learned to become great at listening to it when it tells me to stop, but am I losing my knack for “hearing” it when it’s telling me to go for it?

…I think so. 

I mean, I’ve been talking about this being my year of “no limits,” of pushing past boundaries, of breaking through (self-imposed or not) barriers. Yet, I sometimes have a hard time revising or refining my own set of rules or guidelines.

Now that I think about it, I notice this popping up in other areas of life. Of not being able to “go with the flow” more like my husband would like me to. Learning to be more un-planned, more spontaneous, less structured or rigid. Hello Type-A much? I think I need to tone it down juuuuust a wee bit.

And before you all think I’m just trying to justify working out MORE or something silly like that, I promise you this is not the case. I’m a huge fan of working smarter, not harder. HUGE. I’m also a huge fan of rest days. All I’m saying is that I could stand to loosen my grip on my own rules now and then, with workouts — sure, but with other areas of my life too.

This will certainly play into how I approach my marathon training plan as well. For instance — I told you that I had planned on three solid runs per week (one long, two mid-range) to get my endurance up where it needs to be for the marathon. And that is still very much the plan. However, there is that little thing called the run-barre-rundate that I happen to ADORE. I’ve been doing it for the past few Tuesdays with my friend Steph and I LOVE it. I don’t want to give it up just because it doesn’t fit so neatly into my marathon training guidelines. So I’m not going to. At least for now. If I need to cut it out later, I’ll do it. But for now? I LOVE how badass that workout makes me feel. I LOVE how accomplished I feel when all is said and done. And I LOVE the “fit date” time with Steph. We have some of the best chats on Tuesdays because of it. (she’s the best!)

The bottom line here is that the old adage “rules are meant to be broken” is definitely one that I could stand to lean on a little bit now and then. Not all the time, no. But sometimes…it’s ok to revise, refine, or all-out break a rule.

(The sky will not come crashing down around you, I promise (note to self…).)

Source: glossfixation.tumblr.com via Jess on Pinterest

NOTE: I’d revise this to say: First Learn the Rules. Then break them (smartly)