How to Become a Better Runner in 30 days Series

#3 Women Runners


I am ABSOLUTELY convinced that Women’s Training should be different than Men’s Training.



In my close observations of the coaches of with both the Shenendehowa Girls High School Team (Nike National Cross Country Qualifiers) coached by Rob Cloutier and College of St. Benedict Women’s Cross Country Team (Two National Cross Country Division 3 Qualifers) coached by Robin Balder-Lanoue, I witnessed the unique differences in training a female versus male body. Not only were these successful coaches training their female athletes’ bodies differently but also their minds.

I took my observations and compared them to the coaching training I have received over the years through the governing body of the running sport in America, USA Track and Field, in their coaching certification classes, Level One and Two, and the countless coaching, running, and training books, articles and seminars. Perhaps 95 % off training literature is based off of training the male body, leaving female training unknown or forgotten within literature. When observing coaches of female teams, a stark contrast appeared between the approach of training the general athlete and female athlete. Both of the coaches that I listed above developed successful methods of training females, less from the available training literature and more through their experiences as coaches. There are nuances to training the female body that once known can unlock success.

I do agree that there are the basic similarities in energy systems and adaptations between the male and female body. However, the difference in hormone level changes and body composition of a female make training different than a male’s training.

In my research I have found one book in which these differences are extensively discussed. Roar by Stacy T. Sims, PhD presents research on the different aspects of a women’s body and her training. “The menstrual cycle not only has a profound effect on your fertility and moods (and chocolate cravings), it also can significantly affect your training and performance. Yet, very few coaches and trainers take it into consideration with their athletes - even those in the most elite competitive spheres.” Obviously there are hormonal level difference in females versus males. Estrogen and testosterone levels impact the bones, muscles, blood cells, body size and amount of fat tissue. Sims continues on throughout her book to outline the effects of female’s different levels of progesterone and estrogen within strength and recovery. She discusses the differences of fat and carbohydrates as a fuel sources for female versus male athletes. Included on her list of differences between the different body types is the origination of strength. “As a woman, you generate the lion’s share of your strength and stability from your hips. And though women do have powerful legs, we tend to have relatively poor core strength by comparison.”


My LIST on HOW to Train

Female Athletes

  • Use cross-training. Women are prone to overtraining and creating a balance of training and recovery can lead to consistent improvement. This is especially useful for young females or those within their first five years of running.

  • EAT- Don’t use running as a weight loss tool. Consume the same amount of energy you use.

  • Aim for a toned body not a lower number on the weight scale.

  • Females can be very competitive. Don’t underestimate a female on a mission.

  • Get your long runs in, as females have a greater proportion of type I (slow twitch) endurance muscle fibers and development of those fibers can increase your fitness.

  • Drop the fasting protocol, it can make you fatter by elevating your cortisol levels and promoting fat storage.

  • Plan your strength training challenges during the first two weeks of your cycle (cycle starts the first day of bleeding) when your hormones levels are lower. You can get more bang for your buck when preforming strengthening exercises during this time of your cycle.

  • Strength train your glutes and core for better stability and balance. (core = everything but your limbs) Think about the exact muscle you are using while you are preforming the strengthening exercise.

  • Stress Fractures can be linked to low calorie intake and indicate an imbalance in the hormone levels.

  • During the PMS part of the cycle it can be harder to preform high intensities and recover from hard workouts. Plan accordingly.

  • Menopause age and beyond training should include high-intensity power training, helping to prevent muscle loss and weakness.

  • Muscle loss is more of a concern than muscle bulk. Use high weights with low numbers of repetitions after knowledgable instructions on correct movements.

  • See Sims’s book for how to use protein intake to get more out of your training.

  • 30 minute rule: Eat 25-30 grams of protein within 30 minutes of finishing your run for increased muscle adaptation and repair.

  • Reduce GI stress by avoiding maltodextrin and fructose during exercise. Drop the coffee habit before exercise.

  • Be serious about your cooling strategies while training and racing, since you start sweating later and less than men.

  • Prepare to hydrate more when flying during the later part of your cycle.

  • Cool-downs are more important for women. Compression socks and arm sleeves can help to encourage blood flow and muscle repair.

  • Be relational. It will improve your training and racing. Make connections with your family and friends. Listen and share your thoughts with others.

I recommend women and coaches of female athletes read Sims book, Roar, and expand their knowledge of the female body and mind. Another helpful article from the USA Track and Field coach’s newsletter details training with female hormone levels in mind.

If you are worried about race day remember:

The great news for females is that “You can stop worrying about having your period on race day. Everyone worries about having their period for a big event, but in reality, your hormones are favorable for performance once your period starts.” (Sims, p 19)


Embrace the greatness of a female body. Women are STRONG.


This 30 day series is a quest for me as a writer, coach, and runner. I promise to write about running for 30 days in a row. In doing so I intend to gain in knowledge and expression of running and daily life. My hope is that we all grow together.

How to Become a Better Runner in 30 Days Series



If a large percentage of your day consists of sitting in a chair, you may find yourself battling pain. Not just running injuries but back, leg, shoulder, and hip pain.


So I often end up late to meetings and I have my excuses, many of which I am thankful for. For instance my child’s hair grooming independence may all of a sudden require a detangling adventure. Or my complicated schedule consisting of 6 active family member’s activities may mean I am planning and packing for church, soccer, ski, and lunch somehow in between.

Well recently these excuses landed me about 8 minutes late for a meeting and in turn put me on the floor without a chair. Sitting on the floor for an hour may ruin your day but for me it is a luxury. On the floor I can stretch my legs, switch my body positioning, and lean up against a straight wall. If I could have taken turns standing and sitting on the floor throughout the meeting that would have been heavenly.

Confined to a chair for an hour is just plan difficult for a body. Sure it is restful at first. However when you elongate and squish your hamstring for an hour and then repeat it hour after hour, you will end up pulling on the glute muscles, causing tightening, and next comes the leg pain, hip pain, back pain, neck pain, and so on.

Dr. Kelly Starrett in his book DESKBOUND; Standing Up in a Sitting World wrote, “When we sit for long periods, the muscles in our lower bodies literally turn-off and become inactive. Simultaneously, we automatically adopt positions that don’t utilize the critical muscles and connective tissues that stabilize and support our truck and spine. The result is compromised body function and it causes a multitude of common and pernicious orthopedic problems like back and neck dysfunction, carpal tunnel syndrome, and pelvic floor dysfunction.”

All too often I see runners who have tight hamstrings, glutes, and lower backs. I suggest sitting less with a mix of stretching throughout the day and finishing the day with a series of massage and stretching exercises that help the body loosen up and achieve.

How to Sit Less







My Real Life Examples

Gymnastics Waiting Room - Stand in the back of the room and listen to a podcast

30 Minute Soccer Practice Drive - When you get there walk and stand throughout the practice, reducing the amount of sitting you must do.

Board Meeting - Take a break every 30 minutes by standing up and walking to the other side of the room to get something. Sneak in small stretches.

Basketball Practice - Most schools now have tall tables in their lounge areas. Set up your computer or stand as you read a book.

Watching TV - Try rolling on your foam roller, laying down, sitting in the lotus position, or relaxing yoga poses.

To ease your body into the quick movement of running, begin with dynamic stretching, a moving stretch. Preform leg swings, trunk rotations, and lunges to increase your joint and muscle mobility. In addition, take short breaks to stretch throughout the day. Even one minute stretches often will make a huge difference. Improve your mobility with a massage and stretching protocol for 5-15 minutes each day. See Dr. Strarrett’s book Deskbound for mobility prescriptions.


The decision to sit or not to sit adds up. Attempt to tip the balance towards less sitting and more moving.

For more about sitting less, read my 2016 blog post on the book Deskbound and sitting.

This 30 day series is a quest for me as a writer, coach, and runner. I promise to write about running for 30 days in a row. In doing so I intend to gain in knowledge and expression of running and daily life. My hope is that we all grow together.

How to Become a Better Runner in 30 Days

Daily Improvements

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Join me on this journey to be a better runner in 30 days.


#1 Daily Improvements

Start each day with the objective to improve your running by giving your body the needed stress (which will cause adaptations) or recovery (which will allow for adaptations to occur). Deciphering the needed stress or recovery will allow you to incrementally and consistently progress forward.

Notice Stress. Yes, you will have to get uncomfortable in order to cause your body to rebuild and become better. For the marathon runners out there that no matter the distance of your run, 3 miles or 26 miles, you ALWAYS run the same speed. You are not causing improved fitness adaption in your body. Run a little faster at least once a week. For example, instead of running 10 minute miles for 6 miles, slip in 4 miles of 9 minute miles between the first and last mile. By week three you will love those 9 minute miles for the sense of a new accomplishment.


Notice Recovery. Without recovery you can not adapt to become a more fit runner. Recovery can take more than 24 hours depending on the stress load and system that you are stressing.

1 Week to Understanding Recovery

To all the engineers out there, stop logging your running for one week. I know it will ruin your spreadsheet and mess up the yearly mileage records, but please let running be something more than numbers on a document. Now during this week complete this plan.

Day ONE -Run a different course than you have before.

Day TWO - Run but don’t wear a watch.

Day THREE - Don’t run, just walk for the same amount of time as you would have run.

Day FOUR - Run a true fartlek workout by landmarks only, no watch.

Day FIVE - Run your usual run then afterward write on an index card three words that describe how your body or mind feels, flip the card over and write three more words (those are most likely your true feelings, not just what you thought you should write).

Day SIX - Without a watch run until you can’t safely run any longer, don’t use specific courses to figure out the distance (it doesn’t matter this week).

Day SEVEN - Within five minutes total, max out on push ups and squats, no running.

After a week of following this plan you will have a new perspective on recovery. Stop counting and reaching for goals and start listening, feeling, and experiencing. If you think this is hogwash and won’t be of any use in learning to recover, I dare you to try and prove me wrong.

Notice incrementally. That is with small steps going in the right direction. An example of the wrong direction is for you to jump into an advanced strengthening gym class and end up with a strained muscle. Versus recognizing the need for a strong body and receiving instruction on a few body weight exercises that will prepare your body for the next level of training in the future. Be patient and wise, choose to progress step by step. Mastering each step before going onto the next.

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Notice consistently. There are two facets to this suggestion of consistency. There is the never take a day off mentality. Where you have a good habits of raising your heart rate with some type of exercise (usually running or strengthening) every single day. The other is the close monitoring of the body in order to make small adjustments so that you don’t trip, figuratively and literally, yourself up and end up on the injured list.


Reread this sentence below and endeavor to become a better runner in the next 30 days.

Start each day with the objective to improve your running by giving your body the needed stress (which will cause adaptations) or recovery (which will allow for adaptations to occur). Deciphering the needed stress or recovery will allow you to incrementally and consistently progress forward.


This 30 day series is a quest for me as a writer, coach, and runner. I promise to write about running for 30 days in a row. In doing so I intend to gain in knowledge and expression of running and daily life. My hope is that we all grow together.

Rise Again Weary One


Life is hard. Really hard.


Blind hits can throw you backwards, taking the wind out of your lungs. Another hit doubles you over. Not me, you cry. Not now.


Confusion makes it worse.

No quick answer. No reassurance of a quick rebound.

Pain. Holding pain.

These trials come in every part of life. Even if you made all the right choices, took the road less traveled, went up the treacherous hill, sure that your hard work would pay off. Never choosing the easy road.

Yet. This happened. Pain happened.

Cliches swirl about as if they will soften the blow. But they do nothing but point out how cruel life can be.

Pain has to be endured. Escaping it only puts it off, returning with vengeance later on.


These stings. I have felt them over and over as life has happened. Similar to when you cut your finger and the stinging, burning sensation cries out for an end. But you can’t stop the pain. The burning of an injury, a loss, mean words, or an absence fills the body.

And so you try to understand the situation, cry over it, explain it away. Perhaps a friend’s words can soothe the discomfort. But to no avail.

For you must endure, accept, and wait.

Yes wait. Wait for the pain to wean. Wait for the situation to change. Wait for good again.

Over and over throughout life we are subjected to these times of hardship. You simply can’t live life without them happening. However, each time I learn a bit more patience. Because waiting for healing is all you really can do. Sometimes it takes time, sometimes it takes understanding, sometimes it takes a resolution. But none of those will happen as fast as you want. The cut has to have time to heal.

So if this is one of those times when you are an injured athlete, grieving lover, or hurt soul, WAIT. For this too will pass. This is not the end of the road. You will rise again.


Rise again all those who are weary.

Matthew eleven twenty-eight

Coffee House


Manitowish Waters, WI at Dixie’s Coffee House


While on my sons’ high school nordic ski trip I stole a few hours at a perfect coffee house. The decor is tasteful and thought through, Wisconsin cabin influenced. The conversations drifted around with laugher and interest. Everyone relaxed. Coffee houses bring community and connections.

Lately, I have been consumed by life’s circumstances and my inspiration to write has weaned. However, a knowledge seeking runner sent me a message asking for some advice on her new endeavor of trail running.

My favorite way to communicate is one on one. To take a person’s unique question and tumble it over in my mind and return with a hand full of pebbles for them to contemplate. That is my love. Simple conversation. Simple communication within a community. Just like the waves of voices filling the coffee house.

And so I pass these pebbles of tips onto you. In hopes that it will spark conversation within you and your community.


QUESTION - What are your Trail Running Tips?

Here are a few trail running tips that come to mind from my experiences.

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  • Develop your ankle strength

  • Stretch your calves and feet before and after running

  • If you are following someone on the trail don't run too close to them. Your eye needs to see the terrain that is coming so maybe 20-30 feet behind your running partner is good.  Take turns leading.

  • Don’t avoid hills. Power walk/climb the steep hills, the strength gained from the lifting of your body up the hill is valuable.

  • Use a combination of train running and trail hiking. Both will increase your strength and endurance.

Question - How to keep Healthy and Injury Free in the later years?

Here are my tips for the runners that already have many many miles in their log books

  • Train with the body you have now, not what you had in the past. Your body can accomplish new goals.

  • Value your now body for all the experience it has, putting less focus on the weekly mileage and more on the quality of your miles. 

  • The key is recovery, complete the needed workout just at the point your body is adapted and primed for a new stress. Read through this article for more information.  

  • Seasons, cycles, let yourself have on and off stretches of time where you change focus or allow for extra recovery.

  • Invest in young runners. You have so much to give.


The running community has expanded beyond the coffee house to all over the world. Connect with runners, share with runners, and grow together!


Photography by a Runner, Artist, Me


My early childhood days, the ones you don't remember, were spent alongside my parents in their small photography studio in Columbus, Nebraska. The joy of capturing images was passed down from my father and continues to be a love.

You may have noticed 95% of the photos I use on my website have been shot by me. They are a way of expressing myself not just through words but also through images. The feelings and thoughts gathered by just one photo can sometimes be more meaningful than all the words within a single blog post.

My photography is an art form.  I don't follow all the rules.  I don't create on demand.  I see beauty and have an overwhelming desire to capture it.  Even when I don't have my camera with me, I will stand and stare and pocket every bit of detail worried I will later lose the image in my mind. 

You will not find my photos highly edited.  The only simple editing I do is to bring the light and contrast back to what my eye saw. My aspiration is to catch the allure of the world around me.

Give your visual senses a feast and scroll through my PHOTOGRAPHY WEBSITE. You can even take one or more home for yourself through the shopping feature (new this month). And there is still time to order for a Christmas delivery.

Sail, sail to the ends of the world, to the ends of your neighborhood, the ends of your yard, to the ends of your heart. Sail...

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Happy Runner




Sarah’s thoughts:

Sister and Sarah

Sister and Sarah

“I have been running for a few years after taking a 15+ year hiatus from the sport. About six months ago, I decided that I wanted to run a half marathon but knew that I needed some assistance to keep moving towards that goal.  I found Shelly through an online search and I couldn’t be happier about my decision to contact her.  At first, I was a little apprehensive at contacting Shelly… after all… how effective is online coaching?!  I can tell you from my personal experience that it is absolutely fantastic! 

When we first talked, Shelly and I discussed the training methods I’d used before, what her philosophy on training was, what my goals were and how she thought we could get there.  We hit it off right from the start.  One of the great things I liked about Shelly was that her goal is to get her athletes to the starting line in the best fitness possible, which means making sure you’re giving your body the time it needs to rest after putting in those hard workouts. I knew too many fellow runners who pushed their bodies to the point of injury and ended up missing out on their goal events due to it.

Shelly uses a combination of training tools including the Final Surge platform, which is a great way to share workouts, comments about the workouts, what you’re feeling, etc.  She also can be easily reached via phone, email and text messages to talk about workouts, any issues/injuries, and just about anything else that’s going on.  I think at times she’s part psychologist when it comes to running.

In the six months since contacting Shelly, I’ve gone from run/walking 5ks to running my first 10k and my first half marathon! Throughout the spring and summer, she consistently worked with me in evaluating my fitness, training progress and goals to adapt my training plans to meet my goal of running a half marathon in the fall.  I’m excited to see my results next year after another six months of training with Shelly!”
1st Half Marathon: 2:30:42 E-Race Cancer HM 2018

Sarah put into words so well the way in which I strive to guide runners. In her testimonial for my website she described our partnership these past 6 months. I have really appreciated her honesty, devotion, and desire to learn. We exchanged articles and portions of running literature in order to gain a better understanding of training and the body. Common runner concerns were answered with a thorough phone call or typed out text. We also shared in the delight of a finished half marathon at her desired pace. It has been such a great partnership. I am thankful she gave me a chance to be apart of her journey.

I love running and want others to be impacted by its many virtues. I work with only a handful of runners, cultivating a quality partnership. I make it a priority to be easily accessible. If you or your friend want to take your running experience to a new level, contact me. I am right here.


Sarah works with me through Weekly Training Guidance. It has been a very effective partnership.





Danielle Walker’s cookbooks have provided countless recipes for my kitchen, dinner table, and family. Fortunately, I have been able to test out and share about her 4th cookbook Eat What You Love for the past two weeks. The book will be released on December 4th! Order here.

Now I have permission to share one of her recipes with you. I have included all my personal notes about the ingredients, prep, and baking. Feed your family well this week! Enjoy!


This recipe is GUEST WORTHY and super simple. It took me about 40 minutes from start to end. Plus there are steps that can been done beforehand resulting in only 20 minutes of baking time needed before serving!




Runner's Amazon Book List



Booklover Runner



My Amazon Book List— Those that I have highlighted, referenced, and devoured!

Ok, check it out. See which ones you want as Christmas presents, to find at your library, or to add to your audiobook collection.

My favorite categories of items are BOOKS, BAGS, and BASKETS. Oddly, they all start with the letter B, but they are my candy. I know what I love about books: well written, only as long as they need to be, insightful, and eye appealing.


So I searched though my bookshelves, Audible app, amazon ordered list and picked out my recommendations. These are the books that have survived the test of time or are new favorites.

Podcast interviews, the library bookshelf, and favorite authors are the many ways that a title will first get my attention. Often I request books from my library regional system and preview it to find if it is worth the time and money investment to purchase.

If it passes the test, I choose if audio or print format will be the best way to consume its contents.

Some printed books I highlight like crazy as a form of interactive learning.

Others are more for reference material. A conversation with a friend can cause me to research a deeper reason for my answer or intuition.

The audiobooks are often helpful for busy driving days and to share with my family through the audible app.


You may note that my list does not contain just running books. We are whole people with diversity within our bodies and minds. The interplay of different parts shapes us in unique ways. Growing ourselves as a whole being and not just in one facet will generate good health.


A good book will take you away and return you changed.

Surviving the Holiday Treats


I am saving my holiday treat for the ACTUAL day!


I am going old school with my consumption of holiday treats, by enjoying them on the ACTUAL day of celebration.

It is overwhelming to have so many delectable treats at our fingertips, calling out to us at each party, meeting, lunch room, gifted cookie plates, and in the grocery store. Each time you succumb to the temptation and taste each and every cookie, bar, or pie you take away from Christmas Day.

If you partake in the delicious treats each day or each meal all throughout the holiday season by the time you get to Dec 25th a gingerbread cookie will be less than delightful. It is in the expectation and waiting for the celebration that you gain the thrill of tasting your favorites.

Think of it this way. How excited would children be for Christmas Day presents if they got a present each day of December? Well, gifts on Christmas Day would lose their appeal. For sure every child would sleep in Christmas morning.

Do you think Laura Ingalls Wilder’s childhood dinner table in the month of December was filled with Christmas cookies? No way! They didn’t over indulge all month long and take away from the specialness of the holiday. We could hold back on the pre-holiday sweets and therefore assign more value on the significance of Christmas.

The light bulb turned bright this week when I was running with a friend and she commented that she wanted to be eating Whole 30 recommended foods but didn’t think it would be possible during the holidays. We discussed how it would be totally possible if she saved the holiday treats for December 25th. Freedom! Yes, you can eat healthy and therefore stay happy this December, by saving the holiday treats for the special day only.

So the next time you are offered a holiday treat respond with, “Thank you. You are so kind, but I am saving my tastebud extravaganza for Christmas Day, a wonderful moment worth waiting for.” Hint: Holiday treats usually freeze well.


Go old school this December and save the desserts for Christmas Eve and Day.

Cross Country Running Coach Decal Window Clings


After searching online unsuccessfully for a car window cling to thank my son's high school running coaches, I took it into my own hands; designing and ordering my own original decals. Carefully I selecting a decal type that LEAVES NO RESIDUE and can be seen on shaded car windows. Currently, I have ONLY TWO extra up for grabs! Plus considering adding more options in colors, designs, and words. Any feedback or orders welcome!


Give feedback and make custom requests HERE!

Confidence to Taper


Have you ever tried to gain extra credit the two weeks before a race, hoping that one, two, or even three more workouts will give you that hopeful PR?


The difficult workouts had been completed. Long long runs, fast super short sprints, tempos that dragged on and breathless intervals in amongst miles and miles of easy rhythmic running consumed my training season. With my training bank full of deposits I was ready to cash in. The chasm in front of me required belief in myself and that I had done enough training. I had to have confidence to taper before the race.

Confidence is so much harder to gain then discipline or determination. It is not something that you can just decide to do differently or more often. It is a journey you have to walk through. It takes time. Often requiring another trustworthy person to say, “You have done enough. You are good enough. You have worth as you are now.”


I truly can’t think of a time I personally gained confidence without someone speaking into my situation and declaring me worthy of my aspirations.

I certainly know when I am not confident. I weave side to side within my plans. My mood goes up and down depending on my workout results. I search for any clue as to whether my aspirations are crazy or realistic. Please let me have peace, I beg.

Hopefully, the moment comes when one word or phrase is spoken by another and I hear the resounding echo of belief. I pause, recite it, flip it over and under, testing it’s purity. Then it rests on my heart and I am at peace. At peace with myself. At peace with my past work. At peace with my ambitions.


This confidence has to be within me before I can cross that chasm. As the training season comes to within a few weeks of race day, there starts a phase of fine tuning before toeing the start line. It is formally labeled as a taper. Your weekly miles and workout durations reduce, your intensity holds steady as your body makes the final repairs and storage of energy. If you don’t hold the confidence that you have done enough and don’t start your phase of rest and recovery, then you won’t be prepared on race day.

Confidence and successful tapers go hand in hand. If you are worried that you are not good enough or have not done enough, you will search for extra credit opportunities, short cuts, or just fall into the negative realm.

I know this all seems like luck, that is to gain confidence. But it really isn’t luck at all.

First you do have to complete an appropriate training schedule or admit that you didn’t and adjust your goals.

Within your training season you need to develop friendships and mentoring relationships, and take the time to invest in those relationships.

Finally as the time comes for you to taper, begin a dose of open conversations about where you are at with your training and how you will prepare for the race. Talk with your mentors or coach. Discuss what you have done in your training, how your body is feeling, and an estimated race pace.


And now for a story on my last taper ending in an October 10-mile race.

Early September I raced a 10K that felt just awful. I even gave into the pain for half a mile and backed way off the pace I had been struggling at but still could running at. The fact I gave up within the last mile shook me and I strongly questioned how my mental strength had disappeared.

I responded by asking women I admired where I went wrong and why I couldn’t continue to push myself at my breaking point within a race. I listened to their stories and soaked in their advice.

Beth, an incredible triathlete and runner, was frank with me and said, “You have done enough training.”

I paused in relief. I had measured up to the reasonable expectation she had marked. Her words settled in my heart and I gained the confidence to let my body rest and recover and prepare for the 10-mile race.

Over the next three weeks my body felt more light and quick. Gone where the runs with heavy legs. After each run I was more refreshed than tired. The thought of running the race at a given pace became more believable.

And so I bet you are curious how the race went. My body and mind responded well to each mile and hill. I finished the last mile with a strong push crushing my expected finish time.

Now it was not a PR, that was not what I was gunning for, I just wanted to feel like a competitor again. And competitors need confidence.


Confidence is found in the journey.