Debbie Downer

Written by Ann Brennan

245610B5-F064-4080-9F3F-AE35891882B5When I describe Ann’s Running Commentary to people I tell them it is an inspirational and motivational blog for runners. Unfortunately, I have been neither inspirational or motivational for a few weeks now. I have not even sat in front of the computer for fear of creating a post of pure negativity. In a nutshell, I have been a complete Debbie Downer for quite some time now.

My thoughts and even my vocabulary have been full of can’t, will never, and too’s.

I am too fat, too slow, too hardheaded, too lazy and too busy.

I will never qualify for Boston, lose this weight or feel like myself again.

I can’t get today’s run in and I am sure I won’t be able to get tomorrow’s run in.

And as you would expect my actions have followed my words. I haven’t lost the weight because I haven’t gotten my runs in. I haven’t gotten faster. I haven’t enjoyed the runs that I have gotten in and to be honest I have taken this negativity to such a degree that I can’t even stand to look at myself in the mirror anymore.

How the hell did I get here? Well, clearly, we have had a lot going on in our lives and the healthy, confident Ironman of two years ago is just a distant memory.

Or is she? Today, I received my morning update from Coach Jeff and I refused to look at it. Not because I wanted to avoid working out but because I was afraid he would suggest a weights workout or a swim or a bike and I was absolutely chomping at the bit to run. I did beat myself up for the first few miles of my five mile run but then, right in the middle of the run I noticed these beautiful flowers and I stopped to take a photo and suddenly I realized, I love running in the Spring. Suddenly, I had a positive thought and with that one positive thought, I found myself running faster and more confidently. I stood taller and had a smile on my face.

I don’t know if this is the push I needed back to the lighter side of running, but I am hopeful. I cannot wait to run tomorrow. I am excited about the plan Coach Jeff has laid out for me and although I am still nervous about the plan to qualify for Boston this fall, I am more confident than I was yesterday or the day before or the day before that. And that is a step in the right direction.

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My Oatmeal Review – Custom Oatmeal

Written by Ann Brennan

Custom OatmealWhen Sweat Pink asked for bloggers who wanted to review My Oatmeal, I jumped at the opportunity. With two runners, two soccer players, one seven-year-old and five midshipmen in our house, we go through more oatmeal than you can imagine and the idea of custom oatmeal was just too good to pass up.

The creative process is super easy, even from my iPhone. For each new package, the site walks you through the steps seamlessly. Although in this day and age I tend to expect websites to be seamless, more often than not, I find sites that crash, send you to the wrong page or are just plain glitchy. This site was very user-friendly and worked without a single glitch.

You are given the choice of oats, including smash blend, steel cut and instant, the choice of sweeteners and how sweet your specific blend will be, the choice of flavorings and the choice of several fruits and nuts. I was able to order packages for specific people in the house as well as packages that were going to be used for specific recipes, including the oatmeal cookie recipe below.

The only downside I found in the process was the pricing. The customization and addition of sweeteners, fruits and nuts, caused a package to be almost three times as expensive as the equivalent sized package of store bought oats. For baking I found that the store bought oats were a much better deal, but for health purposes (lack of corn syrup, less sugar, healthier ingredients) the customization was well worth the cost.

Recipe provided by MyOatmeal.com

Crisp and Chewy Oatmeal Cookie

Crisp and Chewy Oatmeal Cookies Recipe

Whether you’re a fan of crispy or chewy cookies, this recipe for oatmeal cookies will sure to please everyone. It’s not like you’re traditional oatmeal cookies. These are thin and delicate, almost like a lace cookie. The outside is crispy while the center is chewy. You can make any flavor cookie by using custom-blended oatmeal from Myoatmeal.com.

Ingredients:

3 tbsp. butter, room temperature

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

3 tbsp. honey

1 tbsp. water

1 egg

1/2 cup flour

1/2 tsp. sea salt

1/2 tsp. baking soda

2 cups flavored rolled oats

Direction:

- Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.

- Cream butter and sugar in a large bowl. Add honey, water and egg and mix thoroughly.

- Combine dry ingredients. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture.

- Drop teaspoonfuls onto cookie sheet.

- Bake in 350 F pre-heated oven for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden.

- Cool on wire racks.

Makes 24 cookies.

83 calories, 15.6g Carbs, 1.7g protein, 2.3g fat

Disclaimer: Sweat Pink and My Oatmeal provided my first package of oats for this review.

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Taking My Own Advice

Written by Ann Brennan

My Own AdviceI am great at giving advice and for a little while, in short spurts, I am good at taking my own advice. Unfortunately, when it really counts, when it is time to go to the mattresses, I often lose the plot and forget any advice I have ever received or given. But with a new goal in place it is time to take my own advice.

Yesterday I asked your advice on whether to train for a Boston Qualifying time or to run a marathon in the fall just for fun. After reading replies from Facebook, Reddit, Twitter and through my blog, I have decided to do both. I have signed up for the Lehigh Valley Marathon in September as a Boston Qualifier and I will be running the Marine Corps Marathon for the fun of it almost six weeks later.

I would like to say that the advice I am following is my own advice or that I remembered it all on my own, but no. My readers and of course, Coach Jeff reminded me of bits of advice I have offered in the past.

1. Put on your own oxygen mask first – For the past year I have told myself this over and over again and yet I still say I am too busy to really train. My excuse has been that I was too busy supporting my daughter to worry about training. But yesterday I received a great piece of advice from a young lady who also struggled with depression.

“Your daughter is going through a hard fight right now, but ultimately only she can fight it. You can be supportive and help in any way you can, but you cannot stop tending to your own needs and desires. It will just make it harder for both of you.”

I know she is right. I know that my daughter worries about me as much as I worry about her and if I stop putting her in that position, then it is one less thing on her plate and I am still supporting her.

2. You eat an elephant one bite at a time – Even though I am in an older age group now and my qualifying time is only 3:55, I am still quite nervous about this goal. But yesterday, Coach Jeff reminded me of how I trained for the Beach to Battleship Ironman. He reminded me that I looked at one workout at a time. I did not think about the week that lay ahead, instead I looked at the next workout and focused only on that until the job was done.

3. Yesterday does not equal tomorrow – This is an important one to keep in mind, especially since I have been struggling with my own depression for the past several months. Last week I spent three days barely moving. It took everything I had to get out of the bed and move to the shower or the couch. But then Saturday morning I woke up and decided that yesterday does not define what today will be. I spent the day playing with my youngest son at the Maryland Science Center. This is a lesson I will need to remember throughout this training cycle because it is so easy to think because I skipped a workout today I have ruined everything. Instead I need to remember yesterday was yesterday and today is a new day.

This morning I went to the gym. I got my 45-minute run strength workout in and I feel good. Now that it is done, I have peeked ahead to tomorrow, a bike workout. Now I focus on that one. And one bite at a time I will get through this. One bite at a time I will prove to myself that I am an athlete. But most importantly, one bite at a time, I will show my daughter that I am taking care of myself and I am doing that for both of us.

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Decisions Decisions

Written by Ann Brennan

Decisions DecisionsWhen the New Year was approaching and everyone kept saying how ready they were for 2013 to end and 2014 to begin, I cringed because I knew that nothing would be changing in our crazy lives for quite some time. Three months in and I know how right I was. Worse yet, I do not see things easing up for us for quite some time. But I am trying to take over some aspects of my life. I am trying to remind myself that I am a runner, a marathoner and an Ironman and that those things make me happy. In that vein, I have decided to run a marathon in the fall. But there are decisions to be made. Yes which marathon to run, but it is more than which marathon. It is what kind of marathon am I looking for.

I am currently stuck between two marathons but would take suggestions for others.

My husband really believes I can qualify for Boston in the fall and would like me to do that so that we can run Boston at the same time next year. Aiming for this would mean running Steamtown, a great BQ race. But I am not sure. It will take a lot of focus to qualify for Boston and right now I do not have that focus. Right now I am distracted by my daughter and her fight against depression. I am not sure I can keep my focus on a Boston Qualifying time when I worry about her so often.

Which makes me lean toward the Marine Corps Marathon. My happy race. I can run that marathon with the bare minimum of training and finishing it will still prove to me that I am a marathoner.

On the other hand, maybe focusing on something bigger, like a Boston Qualifying time would be good for me. Maybe it would force me to let go of some of the worry that does me no good anyway. Maybe it would allow me to let go and trust the doctors, my daughter and God.

If you were me, if you were struggling with a long term crisis that seems to have no end, what would you do? Which race would you run, Steamtown, Marine Corps or something else (maybe earlier so I am guaranteed a spot)?

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Getting Out The Door

Written by Ann Brennan

Getting out the doorThis morning I am having a hard time getting out the door. It is cold and dreary and the piles of snow just outside of my office window are just another reminder of why running is hard. I know I have to push past this but boy of geez, if I am completely honest, all I really want right now is to curl up under my warmest blanket and hibernate for the day.

So, how will I force myself out that door?

It is all about fooling my brain, tricking myself into believing that running is the only thing I really want to do. After years and years of finding myself in this exact same position I have developed an almost foolproof plan.

I have already taken the first step this morning. I have put on my running clothes. Having prepared myself for the run definitely makes it easier to get out of this chair and head towards the door. Except, I am still sitting here. Which means I have to move to step two.

I will put on my favorite running playlist and get out of this chair, empty the dishwasher or transfer the laundry, anything to get myself moving.

But that is not a guarantee either. I could get distracted and use housework as an excuse for not getting out there. After all, there is always something to keep a work at home mom busy.

So I will call my husband and tell him I am heading out for my run. I will tell him the route I am running and what time I will get back. This is a good practice for safety anyway but it motivates me. It gives me that final push out the door. I do not want to make the call again later and I hate admitting to him when we speak later in the afternoon that the run did not get done.

But it does not end there. I will continue to trick myself even as I move to the front porch and feel the cold breeze eating at my very soul. I will tell myself that all I have to do is run a mile, that will warm me up, right? Throughout the 6 mile run I will play these games. I will race to a tree, a light post or a shadow on the road. I will trick myself into moving forward until my only choice is to head home the final half of the run. Then there are no more tricks. It is simply about going a little bit faster to make those last miles fly by so that I can head in the door, pull out that warm blanket and thaw out.

How do you get yourself out the door? What tricks do you play to make sure the workout gets done?

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A Goal Without A Plan

Written by Ann Brennan

A Goal Without A Plan

This weekend I was reminded once again why having a goal will simply not work without a plan. Or maybe I should say I was reminded why having a plan to meet your goal is so effective. This weekend Blaise ran the Shamrock Virginia Beach Marathon and completed it within a one and a half minutes of his goal time. Two days before the race he and Coach Jeff had created a race plan that would get him to that goal on race day. But in reality, their planning really began months ago.

What I love about both Coach Jeff and Blaise goes beyond their initial planning sessions. I love their ability to adjust as the training season goes on. This season was particularly difficult for our family as so many crises kept arising and taking our attention off every other aspect of our lives. Blaise could have decided to drop the marathon all together since his original hope was to run a sub-three-hour marathon and his training time was being significantly altered. Instead he chose to adjust his goal and his plan, allowing him more time with his family but continuing on a path to the finish line.

Once he adjusted his goal he was able to train just a little less, miss some workouts without worrying about that tougher goal and aim for a time that would still qualify him for Boston by almost ten minutes.

Having a plan is far different than working a plan. I have had plenty of plans/training schedules, many times in the past which I treated mostly as a guideline. When I have done this I have had to throw the goal right out the window. Unless you get extremely lucky, there is no way to meet a goal without a plan. But with a plan, with a detailed training schedule, a nutrition plan and a plan that helps you get the rest you need, you can almost guarantee your goal (unless of course you are a five hour marathoner and decide to win Boston. I mean, we have to keep it real, right?) This is exactly what Blaise did this training season.

He started with a goal, worked with Coach Jeff’s plan, adjusted the goal and the plan and crossed the finish line within a minute and a half of his goal even with an unbelievable wind trying to derail him much of the race. And I was there counting my blessings in being lucky enough to live with this man who continues to inspire and motivate me every day. I was there to witness his plan morphing into the goal he had hoped for. I was there to witness exactly why a goal without a plan is just a wish.

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Peer Pressure

Written by Ann Brennan

Peer PressureAfter two weeks of no workouts at all I woke up this morning just chomping at the bit to get something in. Luckily, I seem to have caught up with life, at least for now and I should be able to begin consistently working out again. Today was interesting though because I headed to the gym planning a run and some lifting and ended up taking Clubbin Cardio instead. I blame it on peer pressure really. All my friends were doing it and I just didn’t want to be left out.

But the truth is that I had a great time. I got in a workout with great music and great friends and left the gym with a smile on my face.

My race schedule for this year is super light. Right now I only have one race planned and it is only a 10k. I want to run it well but I also want to start enjoying workouts again. I want to allow myself a little freedom, take a class here and there, walk in the park whenever the opportunity arises and just plain have fun for a change. I need more smiles. I need more happy in my life.

Last year when our world starting spinning our of control, I started listening to comedy on Pandora. I was looking for anything that would take the pressure off and help me feel lighter even if it was just for a little while. Now I am looking for something similar in my workouts. I do not want to stop running but I do want to start adding more fun to the mix. I don’t know how often I will take the Clubbin’ Cardio classes or what other fun activities I might add to my routine but I do know that I need this right now. If you have some ideas for me, please leave a comment and let me know.

What do you do besides running, biking, swimming and lifting? How do you add fun to your routine? And how often do you do it?

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Support Crew

Written by Ann Brennan

Support CrewI received an email yesterday from a new runner. She wrote about the difficulty she is having with her friends and family supporting her goals. Physical support, someone to watch your kids for the 30 minutes you need to run or someone to come out and cheer you on as you complete your first race, is not always easy to come by. But the best support is not necessarily physical support. The best support is having someone believe in you, a support crew that is always there to encourage you, especially when you start doubting yourself.

I am lucky that my support crew lives with me. My husband and my children, especially my 7-year-old who thinks mommy is the bee’s knees, always believe in me. Last year when I decided a week before the Marine Corps Marathon that I would complete the marathon despite having hardly run in months, my family wondered why I would do that to myself but they never doubted that I could. There total belief in me made it easier to head out the door race morning and run for the finish line knowing that it might not be pretty but it would get done.

Having a support crew for my training and racing is important but in a houseful of athletes it almost comes naturally. We understand what it takes to get out there and what we need for ourselves so we are able to give back to each other as well. The harder part of being a support crew comes when one of us is really struggling just to get back out there.

Yesterday, I missed yet another run. The truth is I have not run in almost two weeks and I have beaten myself up about this almost everyday. But when my husband called yesterday afternoon and I confessed that I had missed yet another run, he said the perfect thing. He gave me a break.

“Ann, my jobs are laid out for me. I know what I have to do on any given day. But you do all the rest. You pick up the slack for everybody. You will get back out there but it makes sense you didn’t run today. You will get back out there. Don’t beat yourself up.”

Sometimes a support crew brings a backpack full of all the things you need for a race. Sometimes they sign up for a race to help pace you. But a true support crew does the most important thing of all, they believe in you.

Who is your support crew? What is the best thing they do for you throughout the year?

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Pull It All Together

Written by Ann Brennan

dedication_signNext weekend Blaise and I will be heading to Virginia Beach for Blaise’s next marathon. I have written about how amazed I am at my husband’s dedication in the past but what I find most enviable about his dedication is his ability to pull it all together.

I tend to be best at focusing on one aspect of my running. Sometimes I focus on getting all of the workouts in. Sometimes I focus more on my diet and nutrition needs. And sometimes I put all of my focus into getting enough sleep. But I seldom pull all three areas together at the same time.

Blaise does this every season. His dedication to his goal is so strong that he finds a way to take these three areas of his training season and hold them together throughout the entire season. In Blaise I find this to be impressive. In myself I find it to be selfish.

Although I did manage to pull it all together and focus on nutrition, sleep and training throughout my Ironman training, I cannot think of one other race in which I was able to do this. And even then I wrote Allowing Them To Sacrifice which was about allowing myself to be selfish for that one season.

I have a very difficult time dedicating myself so completely to my training. When I look at my schedule for a marathon or a triathlon, I think about the hours it takes away from my family. The same can be said for focusing on my sleep. If I go to bed early I feel as though I am leaving family time for the comfort of my bed. It feels very selfish. And even with diet and nutrition I find it hard because I buy less food and spend far less time in the kitchen preparing big meals for the family.

Logically I know that all of these areas are also good for my family and sometimes, for short periods I pull it all together. But inevitably I eventually slide back. I feel guilty and I let it fall apart again.

With Blaise’s race looming I can see the benefits of putting all the pieces in place for a race. I know that his race next weekend will be successful because he has planned it that way and truthfully I am jealous. I want to do the same thing. I want to be as dedicated. I want to let go of the feeling that I am taking from my family and remember that by dedicating myself to my health and fitness I am being a better wife and mom.

How do you let go of the guilt? How do you pull it all together?

Losing Our Dog

Written by Ann Brennan

IMG_1772I am typing this with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat. Our sweet little dog Maximus has left for a new family, one without children, one who can take the risk that he is as aggressive as he seems.

When we first noticed his aggression, he lurched for a young boy in our neighborhood. I was able to contain him but only barely. As he is only 50 pounds right now controlling him now is much easier than it will be when he is 180 pounds. He has since made several attempts to attack strangers and has even attempted to bite my husband’s hand when he thought he was taking his food.

We spoke with two different trainers who were adamant that we surrender him to another family and still we were not sure. We went to our veterinarian and were referred to a behaviorist who in no uncertain terms told us we were putting our children’s lives at risk. It was not a matter of if he bit one of them, it was a matter of when.

We are all heartbroken and doubtful about our decision because Maximus stole our heart. He made us love him in so many ways and now we have said goodbye. We know he will readjust. And we know in the long run this is the best solution because if he bites someone we would have to put him down and he does not deserve that.

We went through the Great Dane Rescue and they have found a foster home that will work with him until they feel he is safe to be re-homes in a family who can handle him. All of this is good, yet the tears still roll down my cheeks and my gut feels like its been turned inside out. My youngest can’t stop crying. My daughter is facing yet another loss and the pain spreads throughout the family.

Please think of us today and send positive thoughts as we face even more difficult steps this week with our daughter and big changes for our entire family. It is not going to be an easy week and we could use all the support we can get.