Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Minus 50

So less than 48 hours after it was too hot for me to finish a marathon, I woke up to this:


I mean....I....what the...

There are no words.

Except, of course, that clearly that was NOT meant to be my day. 

Have a rotten cold at the moment--might be the 50 degree temperature swing in the past two days--but I'm trying to regroup and psych myself up to do this again--for real this time.

I'm very excited that Spring Break starts on Friday and I get to head to TN next week for some much needed fun and training with my Evotri teammates.  Oh, and a long run, too, I guess.  I'm gonna need to con them into that somehow.  Maybe I can break it up a bit and they can each take an hour?  Maybe I can promise them lots of beer?

Trying to keep the chin up over here.  Been a rough week, and not just with this race.  But I know that all this work wasn't wasted.  There's still a good engine in here.  I just need to get the chance to let it work.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Today, I can cry

Okay, so first of all, I'm a bad blogger and just saw the comments from Robyn and Jo in my moderation folder and promptly cried again.  You both rock.  Thank you. 

There is so much irony in today, that somehow this has to be funny.  It will be, someday.  But not today.

I'm allowed to cry today.  Just today. Then I'm done.

That whole weather/heat thing I was worried about?  And I tried really hard to ignore it but checked a few more times and watched the low and high temperatures creep up, up, and up some more?

It did me in.

The thing that just kills me, and Robyn sort of hit this on the head, is that I did SO many things right this training cycle.  I ate clean, got up so early and nailed EVERY. SINGLE. RUN. that I did. I am leaner and without a doubt, much stronger than I was in October.  I knew I had this. I just knew it. 

I told my friends about 11 days before the race (aka the night before the first time I could check the weather report) that "I am ready for anything that might throw at me--except heat, of course! LOL" 

LOL. LOL, indeed.

In the past 4 months, I have not done one run outside in a temperature warmer than 36 degrees.

Not one.

I did two treadmill runs of 14 miles when the ice and wind chills were so bad.  They sucked, but I did them.  All of my morning runs were inside.  Every single one.

Today, the low was 61 and the high was 81 in Athens.  It was, quite literally, the warmest day of 2014.  And probably the warmest of the past 6 months.  35+ degrees warmer than any outside run I have done since September.

And I really wanted to believe it wouldn't be that bad, because how could it? I have nailed every single run I have done this session and then some.  My buddies have been surprised at me, because I'm not usually the one setting the pace--I'm usually the one frantically trying to keep up. 

I did everything right.

It didn't matter. 

See, I have this thing that I don't like to admit or talk about, but it's this irregular heart thing involving extra beats.  And I've been aware of it for over 20 years, and it almost never ever causes me problems.  The only time I EVER notice is when it's hot.  Temperatures that to many don't seem too warm can really mess me up, big time: crazy high heart rates that defy all logic. 

I realized at mile 9 today that I felt like it was mile 22.  And mile 9 is entirely too early to feel like it's mile 22. 

I kept going, but I knew that it was only going to get hotter, and my heart was doing that racing in the heat thing again, and it was just too early for that.

So I did what was really, really difficult: I decided I was done at 13.1.  I decided I was going to stop and try again at Cleveland, even though Cleveland is usually too hot for me to succeed. 

It was hard.  I said the F word and cried a lot.  I wanted to keep going.

But it wasn't going to work, and I knew it.  So I cried some more, and I'm crying a bit here while I type and then I'm done because I have to go to work tomorrow and I can't be sniffling while teaching World History and doing practice DBQs. 

To quote the great Forrest Gump, that's about all I have to say about that. 

What kind of kills me the most is that I know I can do this.  That, and Tuesday is supposed to be 36 degrees and snowing both in Athens and Cleveland.

You're soooo FUNNY, Mother Nature! $(#)%&!

So much irony in the ONE SINGLE DAY I would have loved it to be 40 degrees and cloudy, it was in the mid 70s and not a cloud was in the sky.  So much irony in that I am in the best shape of my life and I have to stop--no, I made the decision to stop, which I think is even harder--trying to reach a goal that I know that I absolutely can achieve.

Got home, and got this shirt in the mail finally that I was hoping would come before the race so I could wear it.  It's from this shop, and I kind of love it:

 Elle est forte.  She is strong.  Proverbs 31:25

"She is clothed with strength and dignity and laughs without fear of the future" --Proverbs 31:25

It was just a bit too late--in fact, I missed it by probably just a few minutes as we left yesterday afternoon.  Just missed it.  

But she is strong.  She will try again.

She will also cry for about another hour though.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Fall down seven times, stand up eight

About a month ago, I found out I was selected as a Women's Health Magazine Action Hero!  I was quite surprised, and super excited.  It's been fun connecting with a dynamic and diverse group of women: we are pretty much at all stages of life.  Some in their teens, most in their twenties, and a few like me, too.  Seasoned veterans. (That sounds a lot better than "older.")

I mean, I did start blogging here in 2005.  In the good old days!  When internet was one step above dial-up!  And I was about to start my Ironman journey!  Oh, man.  In some ways, that feels like yesterday, and in other ways, it seems like...well, like almost a decade ago.

So much has happened since then. 

I was assigned to write my post this week for our Action Hero blog, and I smiled.  Perfect timing.  I need to stop and reflect anyway, and think about this marathon I'm going to run next Sunday.  What can I say about where I've been and what I'm about to attempt?

When I think about where I've been and where I'm about to head next Sunday, it's a little surreal.  In 2002, I completed my first marathon in a time of 5:14.  I remember it pouring rain on me as I brought up the back of the pack that year.  I also remember not caring.  I was just so happy to make it to the finish line, even if they were tearing it down.  Even if the balloons at the finish had already blown away.

I set a goal, and I made it.

That was 35 pounds heavier.  That was before I had two children.  Literally--it was almost a lifetime ago.

I was, most assuredly, a different person.

That first marathon made me dream bigger.  I set my sights on the MS150 Pedal to the Point the following summer, and although my buddy Peter and I were too tired to even go to Cedar Point that night and instead watched the E! True Hollywood Story of Anna Nicole Smith in a run-down Howard Johnson's in Sandusky (yeah. that's pretty pathetic), we made it.  I rode 150+ miles in 2 days. 

So then, of course, the next thought that popped in my head was, "hey, I'm just about a 2.4 mile swim away from Ironman." 

Because that's totally logical, right?

Since 2002, I've seen a precedent set of dreaming very big.  Bigger than I had any reason or really any right to do.  I certainly did not look like an Ironman triathlete.  But I decided I'd build up toward that.  In 2005, I took 56 minutes off my marathon time and finished the Flying Pig Marathon in 4:20.

So could I break 4?

But in between, I focused on Ironman.  And what a journey it was.  I made some amazing friends and despite having pretty much the worst weather you could have for an Ironman, it was honestly one of the best and most memorable days of my life. 

Then, I had a day that topped that, and my little Jackson entered my world and stole my heart. 

Training became something different then--it wasn't just about me and my times.  It was about justifying my time away.  I didn't just want to run aimlessly; I wanted to run with purpose.  Every ride, every swim I did had a focus in a way that I didn't quite have before. 

And because of this, I got faster.

Every time I had in every distance started to drop.  In 2008, I set my best bike/run split at Steelhead 70.3.  Then, I broke 4 hours in the marathon at Columbus.  That May, I had a great day at the Cleveland Half Marathon, and then I got pregnant with my little bean, Emery Grace.

The joke some of my friends told me really was true: one kid was pretty managable, but two kids made it feel like you had an army.  (Major props to anyone with more than 2 kids.  You are my heroes, all of you.) Between working full-time and working out, I had to prioritize even more and get even more focused.

And my times dropped again.  When Emery was 6 months old, I PR'd the 70.3 distance by 16 minutes. 

That's when I really felt like Boston might be within grasp.

So I tried. And failed. And tried again. And almost, just almost made it, and missed it again

So here I am.  One week out from another attempt.  I feel stronger than ever and very fit.  I know I have put everything I have into this race: every ounce of my focus outside of being a wife, mother, and teaching, has gone into this race. 

It is still a reach.  There are no guarantees.

But I think about whatever will happen at this finish line and what I'll say to my kids.  They are only 6 and 4; they have no idea what Boston is or means or how hard I've worked to get there, since I've done most of the work while they were sleeping.  But someday, I will tell them.  I'll tell them that Mommy had a dream...a dream that sounded crazy and unreachable, but step by step, finish line by finish line, she inched even closer.

And there were times when she failed, and felt crushed.  She got injured and couldn't compete.  She felt like all her time and effort was wasted.  But then she remembered the words of a teammate, that no race or training cycle is ever "wasted."

I learned quite a bit on this 12-year journey since I crossed that first finish line. 

Regardless of what may happen next weekend, I want them to know that you don't ever have to stop trying. 

I'm going to line up at that start line next Sunday with a nice healthy appreciation of where I've been.  And then, I'm going to take a deep breath, say a little prayer, trust myself, and take that first step.

That's the only way you can get anywhere, anyhow.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


"To be nobody-but-yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody but yourself - means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight- and never stop fighting.” --E.E. Cummings

I had a recovery week this past week, and due to a certain sweet little 4-year-old who felt rotten and slept even rotten-er, I had to do my long run solo on Saturday.  This led me with lots of time to think.  I've had a post brewing about this for a while, but I'm not sure it's going to come out right.  I'm going to give it my best shot.

I just recently finished "The Gifts of Imperfection" by Brene Brown.  For anyone who, like me, is a "recovering perfectionist and aspiring good-enoughist," I highly recommend it.  I found myself nodding pretty much at least once a page, like, yep, yep, I do that, uh-huh, um, are you HERE WATCHING ME?

“Understanding the difference between healthy striving and perfectionism is critical to laying down the shield and picking up your life. Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it's often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life paralysis.” --Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

One thing I struggle with--daily--is how to be the best person I can be but for God's sake, cut myself a little slack.  Slack, but persistence.  Go easy, but push hard.  Is it any wonder why I'm drawn to endurance athletics?  It's basically my brain wearing a race number, going through one big metaphor.

My insistence upon perfection started early.  I felt it during swimming, but seeing as I was rarely the fastest person in the pool, I think it was more of a good lesson for me in how to lose humbly.  I kept pushing, but I knew I couldn’t be the best.  And a little bit of me hated myself for knowing that and surrendering that.  Thus began the internal struggle of Good Enough vs. Best Ever. 

Honestly, how many of us can be the Best Ever? Ever?

And how much stress are we wasting trying?  The Best Dieter. The Best Parent. The Best Worker. 

It’s kind of dangerous, because many of us (read: ME) don’t want to admit or realize that it’s just not healthy to live that way.  And it’s taking its toll in the form of anxiety, stress, and just general un-pleas
antness sometimes. 

I’ve been working on this lots the past few years, because it was getting to the point where something had to change, or I was going to literally make myself sick. 

There has to be a way to push yourself to be the best without pushing yourself to the brink of destruction. 

The thing is, that I don’t remember always being such a worrier or as fearful as I can be now.  Certainly I do remember being a little anxious or worried back in the day, especially when I had a recital coming up, a big solo in the concert, tryouts for a team, pitching in that big rivalry game.  The normal stuff where butterflies are to be expected, right?  But I’ve spoken before about being rewired after I had Bug.  It was like instantly, all at once, I held him and my needs were distant.  His were first.  And making mistakes no longer affected just me.  It affected him, too.  And my love for him made me want to be the best person I could and make no mistakes, which is, of course, impossible.  It’s a good thing for Bug to know I’m not invincible.  I get that, yet it doesn’t make it any easier to let him see my faults and my fears.  

“To love someone fiercely, to believe in something with your whole heart, to celebrate a fleeting moment in time, to fully engage in a life that doesn’t come with guarantees – these are risks that involve vulnerability and often pain. But, I’m learning that recognizing and leaning into the discomfort of vulnerability teaches us how to live with joy, gratitude and grace.” --Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

Has it always been this way?


I have been blessed to have my fair share of successes in my life, but I do remember the times I’ve failed just as much.  Most notably, that day last October.  Where I still find myself asking, how can I call that a failure?  It wasn’t by any stretch of the imagination.  A huge breakthrough with a tiny dash of disappointment is probably the more accurate term.  And it shouldn’t even be that, but it was.  I’m just being honest. 

But it has made me a hungrier person.  I’ve attacked this training with a sense of purpose like I’ve never done before, and I think it’s because I know now that, without a doubt, what I thought was impossible a few years ago is going to happen.  And I want it to happen now

One of my most vivid memories of my perfectionism balanced with good-enough-ism comes from Solo and Ensemble Contest during (I think?) my senior year of high school.  I can’t remember the year, but I remember the moment right down to what I was wearing. 

I began playing piano at age 8, and let’s face it, piano is a skill that requires a good amount of perfection.  I mean, no one wants to hear someone slaughter a piece, right?  So it fed into this tendency I had and usually served me well. 


Until the time that I attempted a Brahms
rhapsody that was so hard that virtually no 17-year-old had any business attacking said piece.  I can’t remember which piece it was, only that the entire thing was almost black from the notes and that my teacher told me it was “very difficult.” It was a Class A solo—which meant, Really Freaking Hard.

Of course!  Let’s do it.  Because, yes.

Because, that’s just what I do. 

I wish I could go back and tell 17-year-old me that there’s a better piece out there, there’s one that will allow me to showcase my talent—musicality—without driving me to the point of insanity. Now that I am a parent, I really want to tell her that.

(But I don’t think she’d listen. She’s pretty fearless. WAY more fearless than me.)

I remember lying in bed at night, hearing the melody, moving my fingers on my comforter.

I put so much into that piece.

And I remember the cold, neon-lit room that I played the piece in, and I remember knowing I did not play it perfectly.  But I played it the best that I could, and I threw my heart and soul into it.

A score of “I” was the best.  Every year, and almost every solo I ever did, whether flute or piano, I received a score of “I.”  Because, yes.  Of course I did. 

I walked out, hands still shaking, knowing I would not get a I.  And I was strangely okay with that.  I had attempted Mount Everest, and I had gotten to the top with a few stumbles.  Even 17-year-old me knew enough to respect that.

So when I walked into that gross cafeteria with the nasty carpeting (seriously, who ever thinks carpeting in any high school rooms is okay?) to see the scores published on the wall with everyone’s name and school and everything and saw this:

“Sara Arcaro, Piano, Class A:  IV”

I literally felt my jaw hit the ground.



Four is what they give you when you shouldn’t have even shown up.  Did they even GIVE fours at this thing?  I mean, seriously. 


I remember searching the entire list, thinking there must be a mistake.  I saw one other kid who got a 4…some trumpet solo or something.

And me.

I think I might have cried a little, just because I was shocked.  It was literally impossible to believe, that I could have been that bad.  My piano teacher was livid.  We both knew it was not a one, but neither one of us were prepared for a four on that wall.

The thing was, I had another Class A flute solo coming up in like 23 minutes, and I needed to pull myself together to do it.  But I remember my hands shaking from anger and disappointment and disbelief and I have to go play the flute now? In front of a room full of strangers?

I felt like everyone in that entire room must know I failed, like I had a Scarlet IV on my chest or something.  I thought of all the hours I spent practicing for my…four.  I felt like I had been punched in the gut.

And then, I decided that wasn’t going to be how this story ended.  So I got my flute, went into another room, said a little prayer and then also said, “screw it, I’m going to play my damn heart out,” and did.  And got my final “I.”

What I remember most about that day is how strong I was to say, eff this, I’m writing my own ending here, and I don’t care what anyone who sees that list thinks about me.  I’m not a four.

I don’t think 36 year old me would have that kind of courage.  I wish I did.


So many of my friends (and ME!) seem to struggle with this pursuit of perfection, and who can blame them (us)?  In this Pinterest-worthy world, the pressure is on not just to have a party but to have a PARTY! With EVERYTHING PERFECT! and to have a perfectly coordinated home and well-behaved children with beautiful, handmade clothing and a fulfilling job and meals that are Instagrammable (side note: why is taking pictures of your food a thing? I still don’t really get that).

I’ve made a conscious effort over the past few weeks to shut out anything that might make me feel less true to myself.  I’ve limited social media to just “hopping on to see what that message says” and changed my morning radio routine to a Spotify playlist, instead of hearing the latest horrible news in Syria, Ukraine, and here.  Me. A Social Studies teacher.  This is probably against the Social Studies Teacher Handbook, but I’ve done it.

I’ve tuned out to everyone else, and tuned into me. 

I’m trying to really accept me for me, and realize that regardless of what happens in Athens on April 13th, I am still not a four.  I showed up.  I put my shoes on.  I Dared Greatly.  I set myself up for
leaning over a cliff grasping at a star, and if I fall, I fall hard

Because 17-year old me in that cafeteria knows, that that is how you live.

She was not afraid.

And I need to take a lesson from her.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Checking in: And Killing It

Okay, so yeah, there goes another month and OMG DIDN'T I JUST SAY THAT I WASN'T GOING TO LET THAT HAPPEN.

Yeah.  I'm sorry. Bad blogger! Bad!

Anyway, I am between bathtime and birthday party pickup time and almost-House-Of-Cards time (which is after bedtime) that is also combined with Vegan Chocolate Ice Cream Time and here I am.  Standing in the kitchen, ready to give you an update.

Because this is how I roll lately, people.

School = awesome yet crazy.  Less than 80 days until the AP U.S. History test.  As usual, I am pretty sure I am more worried about it than them, which is saying a lot because they are actually legitimately worried.  But I just want them to DO! SO! WELL! and the weather has definitely set us back a bit--to the tune of almost two weeks.  So playing catch up right about now!

Running has been going amazing.  First, I ran a trail half marathon where I goofed around the first 8 miles and ate lots of grilled cheese and M&Ms at the aid station (standard) and it was a blizzard and I took about 804,402 pictures. 

It was absolutely BEAUTIFUL.  We pretty much ran in a snow globe.
Kim, Lori, Lucia, and I at the start

A motion selfie

Another moving selfie

Lori, the human snowman, eating a delicious grilled cheese
 Then, the last 5 miles I dropped the hammer and kicked it.  And then, the next day, I thought I was injured!  Nooooooooo.  The very beginnings of plantar fasciitis, which sucked because it was my fault.  I wore my trail shoes which, no joke, still had mud on them from last year's race.  So that tells you about how many times I ran trails in the past 12 months, right?  And I bombed all the downhills.  I mean, HAULED.  It was so fun.  But I paid for it/am still kind of paying for it, so I am just trying to be really careful.

Two weeks ago it was actually sunny--yay!--but I was actually almost injured, so I backed off and ran an hour on the local high school track.  Super boring, but whatever.  Got the job done, felt great, and I kicked ass, so that was good.
Just me on the track, for like, a REALLY long time
Katie and Ana are injured--boo--but this has had me running with some newer peeps, who are equally as awesome.  Mandie, Amanda, Shannon, Jackie, and Jen have been crazy enough nice enough to join me for some killer runs the past two weeks.  Last weekend we ran 18 miles and negative split it, and I felt really, really good.

This weekend we met up again and dealt with a TON of black ice/sleet (PLEASE WINTER. GO HOME.) and snow in our faces, but we did this:

12 miles at an average of around 8:55 (pretty awesome considering the sleet and black ice had us literally ice skating in parts)

Then, it went like this:

Mile 13 8:05
Mile 14 7:51
Mile 15 7:45
Mile 16 7:38
Mile 16.01 = felt a little pukey.

That workout was similar to one I did in the buildup for Columbus.  Back then, it literally made me cry.  This time? I SLAUGHTERED IT.  It was amazing.  I felt like I could move mountains.

We finished out miles 16-20.67 (yes, an extra 0.67 DON'T EVEN GET ME STARTED WE WERE ALL SO MAD) at an average of around 8:55 again, which is pretty impressive considering we were basically running like grannies during mile 17.  Average for 20.67 miles = 8:43/mile.

So you know what?  Provided I do not get injured, I'm feeling like I can call my shot here for Athens.
People, I think I just might do this thing.  

So I'm going to hang on for this crazy ride for the next 4 weeks.  I'm sure I'll have a rotten run here soon just to put me in my place, which is a good thing.  All marathoners need to be reminded every once in a while that we are not invincible.

But right now?  It feels good to know that I'm running stronger than I ever have in my entire life.

Friday, February 07, 2014

Passing You a Note

Alright, so it's no secret I've been a bad blogger lately.  One post a month?!  Sheesh.  I used to post on this thing daily.  Even when Bug was little, I could still make it every few days.  And I know that the world has largely moved on to 140 characters world, but just because that's true doesn't mean I have to abandon the old way.

It can be like when I tell my students about the GOOD OLD DAYS when if you wanted to send a message to a friend during class you had to do it like with ACTUAL PEN AND PAPER and then fold it up and somehow LITERALLY send it across the room before your teacher noticed. OMG the HORROR.

And now? This is what I deal with. DAILY.

But we need them for safety! says every parent in America
So I'm going to try and be better about recording the little steps and the little things here, because I'm reminded of how cool it is to look back at the unfolding story much, much later.

So first of all, I did the Whole30 from December 28-January 28.  Starting before New Year's Eve/Day was a special kind of torture normally reserved for inmates at Guantanamo, but it definitely taught me a LOT about my food habits and how I eat.  For instance, I realized I am addicted to ALL nut butters, and not just peanut butter!  I'm an equal-opportunity nut-butter addict.  But another thing I realized is just how GOOD I feel when I eat cleanly.  And I was eating entirely too many "junk" carbs--stupid crackers, stupid cheerios, stupid things that aren't even good but I'm hungry now so gimme a handful.  That kind of stuff.  I mean, it's NOT even good.  Why am I eating it?

All in all, when it was over, I hit 139.5 pounds for the first time since seriously 7th grade.  I got MUCH leaner and you could definitely tell, especially in my middle.  I have before and after pictures but I'm not going to post them here because, ew, people, do you remember what I do for a living? That's the last thing I need my students and their smartphones to see.  But it's safe to say it was a BIG difference.  Now, my challenge is to continue to eat cleanly (but HELLO SUGAR! Oh how I've missed you) and still be able to fuel my long runs and workouts.  I am trying to stay as dairy/legume free as I can and limit the sugar to GOOD sugar (like, make sure it's tasty enough to actually be worth it). I need to be good about incorporating good, quality carbs.  Not the handfuls of generic wheat thins nonsense.  So I recently got this:

And I will give it a good review and let you know what I think!

So over the past 5 weeks or so, I’ve been stuck in this whole Polar Vortex Nonsense that Mother Nature has decided to throw at the East/Midwest clearly since I said OUT LOUD that I was going to do the Athens Marathon on 4/13.  Thanks a lot, Mother Nature.  So needless to say, training has been a bit tough.  It’s been me, alone, in my basement for WAYYYY more miles than I’d like.  I still have my crew of girls but the ice has made things difficult.  We’re not afraid of cold or snow, but we are hesitant to mess with this ice as I had a running friend slip a few weeks ago and tear her patella tendon.  12 weeks on her back, friends.  I can’t mess with that.  And poor Ana is injured, too, which really blows.  At least she’s not missing great running weather, but I feel for her since I’ve been there and I know how frustrating it is!

Coach Emily has been great about sending me tough treadmill workouts and I do always follow the 1% rule even though the girls at Salty Running have said it’s not necessary.  I dunno, I still feel like it works for me, so I’m going with it for now.  This weekend I have 14 on tap with some speedwork thrown in, and it will be...on the treadmill.  So if you have any good podcast suggestions or Pandora stations, please please PLEASE SEND THEM TO ME AGGGGGHHHH 14milesonatreadmill.  But you gotta do what you gotta do.

At the end of the day, everything I am doing: what I’m putting into my body, what I’m doing on the treadmill, trainer, road, and pool...I’m trying to remember that it will help me get this goal.  It’s within reach now, and missing it by a minute has, if anything, made me even more determined than I was before.  So follow along if you want to see how this all ends.

Besides, everyone loves a good underdog story, right?

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Best Year Ever.

This past year, I somehow managed to have the best races of my life all in one season.

I'm pretty much amazed still.  I know it was a few months ago, but I totally did NOT see this coming in 2013.

Lots and lots of people to thank for this, including my awesome coach, my amazing team, my sponsors,     my running girls, and of course, Matt and my family.  None of these finish lines would have ever happened without them.

I had to document this pretty epic year.  Here's to 2014!

(Music courtesy of Langhorne Slim and the Law.  )