Category Archives: Gear

Marathon Training Week 2- The Will To Prepare

Will to Prepare

Week 2 called for 25 miles, with the longest run 9 miles.

Last week I discovered on my long, hot, run, that I hadn’t prepared for that run. Mentally or physically

I believe in using visualizations, to help achieve results.

I used hypnobirthing with my second child, to have a successful VBAC, even though I was told, if I didn’t have the baby in 30 minutes, I’d have to have another C-section.  Well, I “had failed to progress” for hours, but once I used hypnobirthing, methods, in 20 minutes, I was ready to have him.

When I was faced with a 12 hour surgery to remove cancerous lymph nodes in my neck, when I had cancer, I listened to a hypnotherapy health recording that taught how to relax and visualize a successful, easy, and peaceful surgery.  Much of it talked about the body and mind healing.  I listened to this every day, a month before my surgery.  When my surgeon said he started operating, he discovered much of the cancer on the right side of my neck, which had shown on a few ultrasounds, was gone.

Since he didn’t have to operate on that side, my surgery was 8 hours, and my surgeon said he couldn’t remember a surgery in almost 20-years, that had gone as well as mine, and also where there was no cancerous lymph nodes, even though the labs and ultrasounds before showed there were.

When I entered my first and only competitive/elite division race, I listened to a hypnotherapy sports performance mediation for about a month before.  I placed 2nd in my age group. It was the only time I’ve ever placed in a race, and the only time I’ve ever listened to a hypnotherapy mediation with the goal of optimum performance.

I believe the mind is so powerful, and can really achieve anything. But just like with going out and physically running, you have to mentally prepare too.

I had a very mentally trying week for week 2.  Monday after work, my car wouldn’t start. I have never had that happen before.  I was actually on my way to run. I called my dad, who came and helped me jump the battery.  I also had my 7-year post cancer check up- I hadn’t had one in 2 years, an it was weighing on my mind, if everything would be OK.  It was, thankfully!  🙂

Like anyone else, I have my share of challenges that arise every week, that take a mental toll.  I have two kids, I’m a single mom, a full-time, and sometimes stressful job, I’m responsible for a lot of details, with numerous clients’ finances. I have personal things that arise too, that divide my attention.  I try to be a good mom, friend, and sister, daughter, co-parent, and sometimes it’s just a lot going on.  Sometimes the last thing I feel like doing, is expending more energy mentally and physically to run.

I decided to just try to take a few moments this week, before I set out to run, to just put all these other things behind me, and focus on the run for that day, and how I was going to do it.

Before my long run of 9 miles, later in the week, I  took some time and visualized what I was going to do, and how I was going to do it. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, as it was hot outside, and I was tired- mentally and physically.

I even took a water bottle with me, as I was heading out in sunny, upper 80 degree weather.  I HATE running with anything- it gets bothersome for me, and I feel like I spend more time focusing on what I’m doing with the object, than running. The runners who run holding their phones, have my admiration- I would have dropped about 50 phones by now, if I ran holding it.

The first 3 miles were really hard.  It was one thing after another.   My calves would not loosen up. In my mental preparation, I had forgotten to stretch them.  I knew I was just going for the distance, not speed, so I relaxed and just found a comfortable pacing to see if my calves would loosen.  When my calves felt better, the water bottle was really annoying me.  I tried putting in my waistband of my skort, but that annoyed me more. I finally spotted a good spot to stash it on the trail. I knew I could run about 5 miles on this trail, and then pick it up on the way back.

As soon as I stashed my water bottle, I felt so much lighter, but then something broke in my sunglasses, and they kept sliding down my face. The sun was blazing and I was running into the sun- I didn’t want to take them off. It was almost funny, because if I hadn’t stashed my water bottle, I would have had one had on that and one hand on my glasses. Not exactly ideal running form.

I just couldn’t find a consistent rhythm until mile 4.  The trail took me by the bank of a creek, and it was so hot- I was wishing I had kept my water bottle, but knew I was just a mile away from it.  I dunked my visor in the creek and put it on, and the cool water was great.  Then I crammed my sunglasses into my hair (I have really thick hair) and then put the visor around them, and they were finally secure.

Now, I was finally off and running, almost 5 miles into it.  I found my water bottle, drank a bit while running, and then I was able to secure it to my waistband without it flopping all around as it was lighter, and then the part happened that makes me love running.

My body just took over. It knew what to do.  I had no tight muscles, nothing in my hands, no annoyances.  I don’t even remember thinking about anything- I just ran and it felt easy.  My mind felt like it shouldn’t be this easy, but I mentally made myself not think that.  I hadn’t seen another person yet on the trail- it was just me and I felt like I was free to just run.

Mile 7, it was almost time to turn around, as at that part, I was 2 miles from home.  But I knew- there was a hill- a big hill- if I wanted to push it, that hill was about .10 of a mile away. I didn’t have to do the hill though.  I was feeling so good, and I was actually getting energized- not tired.  I’ve visualized running up many hills before, and do, they are the best training.  So I went for it.  I saw at the steepest part it was 11% grade, but it didn’t feel that hard on this run.

The final 2 miles went as the previous 4 had.  It was all just clicking. I finished the run, with mile 8 being my fastest mile.

I don’t pay attention to the overall time until I’m done.  I was surprise to see I ran the 9 miles in 1:33.  I knew I was much slower in the first half, and time wasn’t the goal, but I was really happy to have that time, for a longer, hot, run with all the little issues I had, and even throwing in a decent hill at the end.

I am definitely using mental preparation from here on out.  Preparing mentally is a huge part of all of this. It always has, and I believe it will make the difference for me for the rest of my training and on race day.

49 miles ran, 16 weeks to go…

Marathon Training Week 1- The Will To Succeed


Last week, was week 1 of my 18 week marathon training program.  I selected an intermediate plan, because I felt the 18 weeks of training would allow me to build up my mileage at a consistent pace, with keeping my injury risks low.

Week 1 called for a total of 24 miles and the longest run was 8 miles.

It was a dose of reality for me.  I have gotten used to not running on a schedule. For the last few years, I’ve not trained for anything specific. I ran when I wanted to.  Whatever mileage I felt like doing.  I averaged anywhere from 5 to 15 miles a week- give or take.  Planning out an intermediate schedule, a few months ago, was quite different on paper, and seeing the mileage thinking, “I can do that,” to actually running it with exactly 18 weeks for training.

I dawned on me I have very little wiggle room.  I can skip a short run here or there, if I’m extra tired, or sick, but the only way to really be able to run a marathon, is to get out there and run, on the days my plan calls for a run, and to run the distances.  If I want to meet my goal, it doesn’t matter if it’s hot outside, or raining, or colder, or early, or later, or if there is a party I want to go to, or friends to see- I have to run the miles.

I had several doubts this week, and questioned if I really want to do this. Can I really do this? Am I committed to it? What am I willing to do, sacrifice, give up, in the next 18 weeks, to meet this goal?  I had all these questions and not a lot of answers.  But I decided to do my best to stick to the training plan for week 1.

I ran the 8 mile run on Saturday. It was about 93 degrees outside when I started my run.  I actually like running somewhat in the heat. It’s a great endurance builder. I headed out to a lake, which I thought had some shade.  Three miles in to the run (2 miles to get there, 1 mile of running around the lake), I discovered there was no shade, and it was HOT.  I was running the slowest I’ve ran in a long time, with 5 miles still to go. I brought no water with me either.  I do that too- I’m good up to 10 miles with no water in normal conditions. I didn’t really think this run through too well.  I was able to stick my feet in the lake, with my Vibram minimalist shoes on, to cool off my feet, and that seemed to cool my body a little too.

But mile 4, 5, and 7, were probably three of the hardest miles I’ve EVER ran.  The water in my shoes were now rubbing on my toes, and I could feel blisters forming on my toe, and bottom of my foot.  The next 3 miles felt like 300.  I thought, “I don’t need to do this. I can walk home, and be done.  I’ll make up the mileage later.” 

I seriously considered doing this, all during mile 4. I was hot, miserable, and not enjoying a minute of running.  I was very close to stopping.  But something wouldn’t let me. I knew if I stopped now, it would be too easy to stop next time it was hard. While I don’t think I have to suffer to run, I do think I build mental strength when I have to push myself, and that is more than half the battle.

The quote for this blog post came in my mind, several times.  The full quote is,

“The body does not want you to do this. As you run, it tells you to stop but the mind must be strong. You always go too far for your body. You must handle the pain with strategy… It is not age; it is not diet. It is the will to succeed.”

My body was screaming at me to stop.  But somehow, I found a way to let my mind take over.  I stopped thinking about the heat, the pain, the blisters, the sweat pouring off of me, the sun, the crazy looks I was getting from people sitting in the shade, and I focused.

I started thinking that I really do want to run a marathon, and not only run it, I want to excel in it.  I have a specific goal for it too.  That wasn’t going to happen if I quit today.  The difference in achieving my goal or not, will be my training and what I do in the next 18 weeks.  That didn’t include me stopping my run because it was hard.

Then I had the thought that if I could finish the next 3 miles, I knew without a doubt, the first 8 miles of the marathon would not be this hard.  I would have achieved a major mental edge.

I started on the return in mile 6, and took a wrong turn, and ended up having to run up an 11% grade hill for 2 blocks in the sun, in mile 7.  It was excruciating and so hard, but I thought this will make me strong.   I’m going to do the hard work now, and come November a marathon will seem easy.

After getting up that hill, the rest of the run, I ran much easier until my Garmin beeped at mile 8.  I have never been so happy to have finished a run.  It was exhausting mentally and physically, but I had done it! I didn’t quit, and I made my 24 miles for week 1!

As I was turning off my Garmin, I saw my time: 1.25 hours.  I thought that had to be wrong. It felt like I had been running for 3 hours.  I checked it later, and it was right.

It made me really excited because that is the slowest I’ve run in a long time, but I realized if I ran that today, in a marathon, I’d be just over 4 hours for 24 miles. Since this was such a challenging run, I felt pretty confident I could run 24 miles at a much faster pace, so I’m in really good shape and feel great about where I am after one week.

Thinking about that run, it made me see how much I do want to succeed at this.  Every hot, sweltering step I ran on Saturday, was bringing me a step closer to my goal.

My training plan calls for 560 miles in the 18 weeks.  I can’t know for sure, but I think I ran the hardest 8 miles out of the 560 on Saturday.  I achieved so much more this past week than logging miles. I found out for myself how much I want this.  What I’m willing to do.  How far I’m willing to go.  I found the answers to my questions in those 8 tough miles.  The answers are, I have 536 training miles left to run, and one way or another, my mind and the will to succeed, will find a way to run all 536 of them.

17 weeks to go…

Gift Ideas For Runners (that are actually affordable)

Happy Holidays!! I am NOT a big shopper.  I dread malls, and shopping, and can barely tolerate Amazon.  I am asked through out the year by various people what do they get a runner for Christmas, birthdays, anniversary’s, or just because?

Over the years, I’ve come up with a few things most runners would like- because I do like them.  🙂  I think this time of year to share my gift ideas, if you have a runner in your life, and are looking for a nice gift they would really like that is also affordable.

One of the reasons I started Running Free Blog was to highlight and encourage anyone to run, if they want to, and it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money.  That applies to gift too.  You can rest easy, I’m not going to be suggesting a $300 running vest, or expensive gear that costs an entire month’s salary. I also want to let my readers know that I’m not being paid  for these gift ideas- this isn’t a “sponsored blog post”  where the vendors are paying me to mention their items. I reference Amazon mainly because that is where I do the majority of my shopping these days, as do many others, so I hope that assures you I’m suggesting the best items as a runner myself, another runner would like.

So without further ado, let’s get started!

My number one gift for a runner is:

  1. Born To Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen:  by Christopher McDouglall, on Amazon for $10.08, or $11.99 Kindle edition.

born to run

This is by far the BEST running gift I’ve ever received. I received it as gift myself for my birthday. If you have been reading my blog, you know this book completely changed my entire running attitude and the way I run. I’ve even given this book to several NON RUNNERS, who loved the story and the writing.  I’ve given it to a few people who claim they hate to read.  I tell them to read the first chapter, and if they aren’t interested, fair enough.  But if it catches their interest in the least, keep it around, keep it in the car, to read when stuck in traffic, waiting at the doctor, or for a few minutes before going to sleep.  I’ve not had any of these people not finish it and, they tell me they loved it too.  It is a masterful book on running, and the human spirit.  If the runner in your life hasn’t read this book, you just can’t go wrong with giving it. I think it is the best “under $12 gift” you could ever give a runner.  That’s why it is the top gift I give to runners and anyone who is even the slightest interested in fitness or exercise, or just likes a good story!  There is just no way, any runner wouldn’t thoroughly enjoy this book!

2. High Density Foam Roller:  on Amazon ranging from $8 and up (link is example)

foam roller

Sometimes running can hurt.  Even when we are careful and just taking it easy with running, we get sore body parts.  It’s not always practical or affordable to be able to go in to a massage therapist to work out the sore muscles.  When I had terrible shin splints a foam roller really helped eliminate the pain and I still use it when I have those sore and tight muscles.  The denser the foam, the more intense it works the muscles.  I didn’t know this when I bought my first foam roller and it was good to start with, but I like denser rollers because it really works the muscle more.  But if someone can’t tolerate a lot of pressure a lighter density will be good.  I suggest one over 12 inches, usually 18 or 24 inches, so you can work various muscles and spots as you need too.  The runner in your life will thank you- when the time comes to work out some sore spots on the foam roller!

3. The North Face Arnuva Running Quarter Socks: $15 on The North Face linked site

NF socks

I debated putting these in, as I’m not sure they are available right now.  The North Face site says they are sold out.  So it may not work as a Christmas gift, but they deserve the number 3 spot in my list, because these are by FAR the best running socks I’ve ever owned. I bought three pairs on sale for about $7 at the time, back in 2010 when I started running.  I basically only alternate these three pairs when I run, and since I have done the majority of my running with socks, and even now in the winter, these three pairs of socks have logged about 1,000 miles each, and they still look and feel as good as they did back in 2010. That is almost 6 years, and they are still in excellent shape.   I haven’t had to even think about replacing them, because they hold up so well.  I can run in extreme cold, to extreme heat, and my feet feel great in them.  My toes never get too cold, and my feet never get too hot. They never stink or hold odor, and they kind of cushion your feet too, without it being over bearing or “too much.” If North Face has these in stock again, and you can sign up to be notified when they are in stock, grab a few pairs for gifts.  Your runner will never need or want another type of running sock again!

4. YakTrax Pro, or YakTrax Run Traction Cleats for Snow and Ice: $14.99-$39 on Amazon (depending on make, size, and color)


I live in Colorado and it snows.  It is icy at times too, but I don’t want to run inside on a treadmill every time there is snow and ice.  I bought a pair of YakTrax Pro’s, again, back in 2010 and have used them a lot, and have never fallen, or even so much as slipped when running on snow and ice. They have held up well with street running.  Only recently have I had the wiring spring out of place, but I was hiking and had a lot of rocks.  It is an easy fix though with pliers, to put the wires back in place, should this happen.  Had the YakTrax Run Traction Cleats been out when I bought my original pair, I likely would have bought those as I do think they would be great for running.  But the original ones do the job just fine.  Any runner who likes to trail or street run in the winter will thank you many times over for these, and the peace of mind that comes from running with the confidence you aren’t going to fall in the ice and snow, is priceless!

Before I list number 5, it really is in the top 3 for me, but it is definitely women oriented only. So in the spirit of these items being available for men and woman, it is “last” on my list, but far from least.

5. Danskin Classic Wire Free Sports Bra, High Impact: $11.94 on, or Walmart stores

danskin sports bra

As a female runner, a good sports bra is essential.  Believe me, I’ve tried them all for good support.  From very expensive ones, to this.  Danskin is actually the least expensive sports bra I’ve ever tried, but it’s the BEST support with out any pain or binding, or unwanted “bouncing.” It’s the only one I ever buy or use now.  They hold up well, and only after several years of use, rotating between a few, have I noticed it’s time to replace them.  I’ve been amazed this bra isn’t five or six times what it costs, because it is worth it. Even Amazon sells it for $35.  It’s my best kept secret.  Walmart stores always have a version of it in stock, in different sizes, and colors.  Just make sure it’s the High Impact version, if you are looking for incredible support.  I’ve had bra’s from all the fancy sport gear companies- their high impact versions, and they are a joke compared to Danskin’s.  I told a friend about it who played soccer who was complaining about not being able to find a good sports bra, and she had been trying all of them too- very frustrated.  I told her I know it sounded funny to go get this $12 bra at Walmart, but she did and she said she could not believe it- everything I had told her was true for her too, and she got all her teammates to go get this bra- and they all loved it as well.  The woman runner in your life, if she doesn’t care about fancy brands and labels, will never want another bra for running, if she needs high support. She’ll never go on another run without it!

6. BONUS!!  I know I only said my top 5 gift ideas,  but since 2 of these gifts are really geared towards women (#3 & #5), I felt compelled to add in another item I LOVE.

Deep Blue Rub: $39  (4oz) from doTerra.

Deep Blue Rub

This is an amazing muscle rub containing pure essential oils including wintergreen, camphor, peppermint, blue tansy, German chamomile, helichrysum, and osmanthus. This isn’t “Ben Gay,” but it  works fast in most cases to relieve sore muscles naturally.  It’s not greasy, but moisturizes skin, and it smells wonderful.  Deep Blue Rub has been used by top massage therapists and trainers in NCAA programs on their athletes. They’ve reported excellent results, but I’m saying that so you know if college level athlete’s trainers like it, most runners will too.  For me personally, it’s cleared up sore muscles over night.  A little goes a long way, and for the money, it’s a great buy.  Runners would enjoy this to soothe and relieve tired, sore, and fatigued muscles.

As a disclaimer, the link I provided would credit my personal doTerra account. I would get a small credit if you order through this link, but you are free to just order it at the doTerra site. I’m not a doTerra consultant, or work it as a business, but I do like their essential oils, and Deep Blue Rub, and order from them.

So there you have it!  My top 5, make that top 6 gift ideas for runners without spending an arm and a leg!

Running is such an amazing sport, and it really doesn’t have to cost so much to enjoy it.  But some of these items can make it more enjoyable and make great gifts too.

I would love to hear feedback if you get one of my gift items, and what the runner thought of it.

Regardless, thanks for checking out my gift post, and Happy Holidays to all my readers and runners!

First Minimalist Run

And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair~

Kahlil Gibran

I took my first “official” minimalist shoe run last night!

I received my Vibram Five Finger Bikila Evo shoes, the other day and ran a mile in them on the treadmill.  They felt great.  It really is amazing.

Wearing my new Vibram Five Fingers Evo for the first time!

Wearing my new Vibram Five Fingers Bikila Evo’s for the first time!

I’ve been transitioning for months, to the “barefoot/minimalist” method.  The first time I ever ran this way though in my regular running shoes, I ran 3 miles, and I could barely walk- let alone run for over a week.  When your legs and feet are used to running with a “heel strike” in heavily padded shoes, you can’t just make the switch instantly.  So I’ve been running in my less padded shoes, aiming for a forefront strike most of the time.

I think that is why the transition is going so well for me. I’ve been transitioning since last December to running this way, in my padded shoes.  But with the Vibrams,  I felt like I was flying. I ran on a combination of pavement, grass, and little trail.  I was running at almost sunset. I chose a trail with a lot of grass. I ran mainly on the grass.  I started to feel the moisture from the grass under my feet. Like I *was* running barefoot- free, and easy, and not a care in the world- like a child. I realized it has been that long, since I’ve felt the grass under my feet, while running.

I couldn’t help but think- that is sad.  It’s been at least 3 decades since I’ve ran like this. It felt so good- so natural, and yet, it’s been 30 + years.  My kids, don’t run like this anymore, and really who does?  But this is how we were meant to be- free, easy, joyful- feeling through our feet, while running through the grass.

I noticed I was smiling- I wasn’t even trying to smile but I was.  This is what I had been hoping for- that feeling of just not caring if I was running faster, but just having the fun and the looseness with running.  I heard my feet hit the pavement. And it was light-and quick. I’ve improved so much in just a week. I didn’t hear my feet hitting the pavement with heaviness, and I didn’t feel it in me. I felt light- and quick.  I saw my feet leaving impressions in the grass.  When I was running back, and still saw my footprint impressions in the ground- that’s what running is about.  Running past yourself- always improving.  We can always become better than we were- even if it was just 10 minutes ago passing yourself in the dewy grass.

I ran two miles and I had absolutely no pain.  I am not tracking my pace, but when I downloaded my run, the Garmin still records pace. My fastest pace was 6:50.  I did that on a good day in my regular shoes, so while I’m not basing any of this on stats, it felt like it was a little nod that I was on the right track- my first minimalist shoe run, for two miles and it was easy and fun, and I’m still able to hit my “normal” fastest paces.

I absolutely love running this way so far. The day after, I had zero pain- no hip pain, no shin pain, none of the “normal” aches and pains I have after running.   I’m planning a longer run- maybe 3 miles on Saturday with the Vibrams. I’m just going to do what I’ve been doing and run and have fun- taking it easy and light.

I had a moment though- I rarely run into anyone running.  But a woman passed me on my return run home.  She wasn’t running that much faster than me.  I had that few seconds where I thought about trying to catch her- not because I wanted to show her up, but because I wanted to see if I could catch a strong runner- she was about 10 years younger than I , and was running well.  If I had not been on my first run, in minimalist shoes, I might have really tried to catch her.  I think I would have. I would have pushed myself to catch her.

But this night- I let her go.  It’s more important to me now to train smart than trying to push myself to the max, to catch a runner. She may be a sprinter and was doing a fast run. I don’t know.  I like I still have that- there is a place for pushing yourself and making yourself better- that time is coming- but it wasn’t tonight.

I used to think there is always a runner to catch.  But now it’s more important I re-learn running and I know, without a doubt, I’ll be catching runners soon, when it isn’t even my goal. This is a good lesson for me.  The only person I have to “compete” with is me, and I’m not competing with myself. I’m improving myself- as a runner and a person.  I can let that runner go- where as before, I would think I had to catch her no matter what. What I thought I was achieving- speed- came at a cost with injury and a lot of soreness the next day, and the next day after that.

I am building myself up to take the stress of running when it really matters- and it won’t be to pass someone else on a training run or a race- it will be to show me, I can be better than I thought, in that moment I don’t think I can. It will be for me, running at my best- just for me.   And that is running- pushing yourself when you have to- but appreciating that you can.  We don’t run to measure ourselves against others- we run- I run- to show myself I can be better than I was- and better than I thought.

That is the beauty of running- passing your own footprints in the dew soaked grass-passing yourself, feeling the “earth delighting in your bare feet”, better than you were, better than you thought- running for yourself, chasing who you are becoming…

(Note: While I was designing Running Free Blog, I was writing blog posts too as I started this process, but had no place to post them.  So for a while the blog posts will be a few weeks “retro,” until I run out of content and start writing “live” every week. This post was written August 21st.)