Training Tuesday | March 17

Friends. It is with a heavy heart that I share with you that the 2020 Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon has been canceled due to COVID-19 and the precautions being taken. I stand with this decision, but I won’t lie that I am sad. I totally bawled while listening to this announcement earlier today. That being said, I am still serving as a P3Runner and will be bringing you news about future events that P3R puts on (hopefully) in 2020.

And as for training…I plan to stick with it. Solo miles have been my thing for years, no reason to not run 13.1 on my own on May 3, right? And Evan and I will do a 5k on May 2 so he gets his first 5K checked off his running list, too. Pittsburgh is offering a virtual option so I’ll still be getting that medal!

March Training

This month has been tough, and not just COVID-19 related. This is my space, so I am going to take a moment and do some venting about life in general because it has impacted my training both positively and negatively.

As of last week, I had ONE March run. Then last week I had time for a whole 4 miles. Last week brought some tough church business on top of a heavy workload at work. Then COVID-19 hit and it meant trying to keep up with changes to websites & groups I manage and social media that I had scheduled. I didn’t do my best at it and it showed. I was tired. I didn’t run after Wednesday. I feel it. My family feels it. And I promise I am going to do better, friends.

With COVID-19, so many people are stocking up on groceries in case we are on mandatory lockdown. Greg and I both are Instacart shoppers as a side gig. He has been working really hard on our parking spot (which is DONE!) and an issue with our gas meter, so since we didn’t know if we’d have the side income from Instacart in the coming weeks, I spent most of Saturday and Sunday shopping out in the craziness of COVID-19 prep. He kept the fort down and worked more on the gas meter issue (which involved digging a 30-foot long hole in our front yard). That meant I skipped my weekend long run of ten miles.

So after working all day Monday + being homeschool teacher + getting told by Isla that I was a slow runner (GIRL), I hit the trail and logged my ten at 4:00 in the afternoon. Slow and solo. I did it. I fought serious mental battles – I forgot why I didn’t run EQT in November and it all came flooding back. All of it. The things you know and the things you don’t know. And it hurt. When I was done, my feet hurt and I just wanted dinner and bed. But I did it and smiled at the end.

I’ll keep running. I’ll keep smiling. And I hope that you will, too. Let’s keep moving, Pittsburgh!

Follow me on Instagram, sharing my selfies and glimpses into what life as a #fitmomintheremaking #strongnotskinny runner is like.

To Date Mileage

So far, here is how the miles training for 2o20 Pittsburgh look:

February: 45.96 miles, 14:51 per mile average

March: 19 miles, 15:16 per mile average

Training Tuesday | March 10

Join me as I chronicle my training for my sixth half marathon on May 3, 2020 through “Training Tuesday” posts. This year I am serving as a P3Runner and will be bringing you all the news about the 2020 Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon and other events put on by P3REvents this year. Watch my blog and Instagram for exclusive deals, too!

March Training

Have I told you that switching from “full out running” to running the Gallloway Method (30 seconds run, 30 seconds walk) has been tough? Physically, it is amazing but mentally I am breaking down. I feel so slow. I feel like I am not a runner. And then I go through this cycle of man do I have a crazy amount of endurance!

All that I have conquered this month is one run. We are ten days in and I’ve ran once. When I ran my eight miles on February 29, it was frigid – 18 degrees – and my lungs were not happy. I still don’t feel amazing, but I got out in the nearly 60 degree weather on Sunday and ran five (or a wee bit less if Strava is right).

I gave running with a hydration vest a try and I have decided I absolutely LOVE it! This is the one I found for myself on Amazon. Do you run with a hydration vest?

I have goals to run today, but life is kind of muddy right now. Okay, more than muddy. Let’s hope I get out there and run because I have really big goals for my running in the next year. I’m not ready to share because I’m waiting for a date for a certain goal race of mine but I have spoken it to a friend and Greg. Stay tuned!

Follow me on Instagram, sharing my selfies and glimpses into what life as a #fitmomintheremaking #strongnotskinny runner is like.

To Date Mileage

So far, here is how the miles training for 2o20 Pittsburgh look:

February: 45.96 miles, 14:51 per mile average

March: 4.99 miles, 15:15 per mile average

Keep following to see how things improve for me as I work toward May 3! Are you signed up to race? What race(s) and how is training going for you?

Did you hear? Save 15% on your race registrations for ANY P3R Pittsburgh running event during Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon weekend of events…you race it, you save it…just use WILLIS15 when you check out. Registration for the Pet Walk, Toddler Trot, 5K, Relay, Half, and Full Marathon is open now here.

Training Tuesday | February

Join me as I chronicle my training for my sixth half marathon on May 3, 2020. This year I am serving as a P3Runner and will be bringing you all the news about the 2020 Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon and other events put on by P3REvents this year. Watch my blog and Instagram for exclusive deals, too!

February Training

In what was probably the warmest February I can remember, I am happy to say that I have (so far) logged every mile I was supposed to. This year I am following the Galloway Training Program which has me running 30 seconds and then walking 30 seconds. I have not logged every cross-training “officially” because life has been incredibly busy and if I need to skip something, it’s going to be cross-training, sadly.

I’m still over on Instagram, sharing my selfies and glimpses into what life as a #fitmomintheremaking #strongnotskinny runner is like. Reviewing my feed, there are lots of two mile runs that I’d love to get increased to three miles but I just need the time in my life. Don’t we all need that?

What’s this about not having time? My work client has increased demand to 50-55 hours a week which paired with family, my small businesses and church volunteer work leaves little time to get my exercise in. If I’ve learned anything in the past year, it is that I need to make my health and exercise a priority!

February Mileage Update

In addition to changing up my running strategy, I also changed where I am logging my miles. Because Strava links with my FitBit Versa 2, I’ve switched. I want to know – those of you who have Strava, are you using Summit and what do you think about it? I’m tempted to add this to my metrics because I’m a total metrics girl and want to know all the ways I can improve.

So far, here is how the miles training for 2o20 Pittsburgh look:

February: 35.8 miles, 14:55 per mile average

Keep following to see how things improve for me as I work toward May 3! Are you signed up to race? What race(s) and how is training going for you?

Did you hear? Save 15% on your race registrations for ANY P3R Pittsburgh running event during Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon weekend of events…you race it, you save it…just use WILLIS15 when you check out. Registration for the Pet Walk, Toddler Trot, 5K, Relay, Half, and Full Marathon is open now here.

January 2020 Ready.Set.MOVE. Box

The post below is part of my experience as a P3Runner – an ambassador for P3REvents. I’ve received the January 2020 Ready.Set.MOVE. Box in exchange for sharing the details with you. All opinions are 100% my own.  This post also contains affiliate links – meaning if you decide to make a purchase based on this post, I might receive a small compensation in exchange for telling you about the product. 

Do you remember when I first announced my excitement over the Ready.Set.MOVE. Box last January? Well, my subscription is BACK and this time I’ll be getting all four boxes in 2020 and sharing the details with you…starting with the fresh off the USPS van January 2020 Ready.Set.MOVE. Box!

January 2020 Ready.Set.MOVE Box

January 2020 Ready.Set.MOVE. Box | The Goods

What I love about the Ready. Set. MOVE. subscription box is that it is affordable, gets me a sampling of some of that awesome expo gear, and surprises me four times a year. At $49.99 a quarter, you get gear from the P3R Gear store and a sampling of some of the products offered by official Pittsburgh Marathon race partners. I cannot guarantee that you won’t get even further addicted to the fun gear and not buy more, but isn’t this a great option?!?! 

SAVE $10 off your first subscription when you use code WILLIS10 at checkout!

Included in the January 2020 Ready.Set.MOVE. Box:

  • Brooks Lunch Tote – to store your healthy foods – key if you’re working outside the home while training!
  • Run Fast. Eat Slow. A Runner’s Meal Planner. Written by Elyse Kopecky + Shalene Flanagan, this food journal gives recipe ideas and a place to track food for 52 weeks (starting when you’re ready, not when the calendar says it is time).
  • KT Tape – a whole variety pack with samples to support muscles, ligaments, and tendons
  • NuGo’s Perfect Cookie – as a Keto Runner I’m so excited to try this protein cookie with <1-2g of sugar!
  • Nuun Hydration Rest for Recovery – this is a new to me flavor with lemon chamomile and will help the body relax after those long training days. I have yet to find one of their hydration tabs that I don’t like!
  • 4Run2 Exclusive Beanie
  • Honey Stinger Protein & Gel – I’m not a big carb fan these days but I can’t deny the power I get from Honey Stinger Gel on long run days.
  • NATHAN LightBender LED Armband – excited to try this out on my next early morning or late evening run!
  • Ready.Set.MOVE. Resistance Bands
  • Vaseline – I’ll be fighting my kids to keep this cute little tub of our favorite way to moisturize lips in winter.
  • Goal Card – I’m still trying to figure out what I’m putting on mine!
  • $$ off the P3RStore – I’ve had my eyes on some of the cute 2020 shirts like “Run All the Miles. Eat all the Pierogies” – even if I rarely eat those amazing ‘Burgh bites.

What am I most excited about in the January 2020 Ready.Set.MOVE. Box? “Run Fast. Eat Slow.”, NuGo’s keto cookie, and the 4Run2 Beanie!

If you’re ready to buy, head on over to the P3R Gear store and start subscribing…and make sure you use code WILLIS10 to save $10 off your first box! Note – you’ll be getting the April 2020 box, arriving around April 25, 2020.

How will this help my training?

Speaking of “Run Fast. Eat Slow.”, I’m working on figuring out my nutrition this training round. Keto (low carb, I have to lower my cheese intake) running has helped the past few years, but I’m not sure it is 100% what my body needs this year. Writing my food intake and pairing it with my training might just help with figuring out the right things to eat to fuel my body.

Did you pick up the January 2020 Ready.Set.MOVE. Box and are ready to start using your planner but don’t know what to cook? Pick up the cookbook that the planner is a companion to here with free shipping.

As an arthritic runner, I rely on tape to hold my knee in a place it feels just right. The sample pack of KT Tape is going to come in handy! The resistance bands will be so easy to use to help stretch and strengthen in my home or anywhere that my training months take me.

Everything in this box has me excited – what do you think your favorite item is/would be?

Ready. Set. MOVE. Box – the Details

You can find the following information about the Ready. Set. MOVE. Subscription Box on the P3R Gear website, too:

Ready.Set.MOVE. is a quarterly subscription box filled with health and fitness goodies that you can use throughout the year as you workout and train. Boxes are distributed on the 30th of January, April, July and October and are charged automatically on the 25th of each of these months.

Subscribe to Ready.Set.MOVE for just $49.99 a quarter! You will be charged on the 25th of each month the box is distributed (January, April, July, October), and it will be shipped out on the 25th of that month.

Each box will contain various products and merchandise from P3R gear and our official race partners valued at $100. Plus, select boxes will feature a golden ticket and include a premium surprise item.

Exciting, right? There is still time to get registered for the April box (arriving in time for the Pittsburgh Marathon weekend!), so what are you waiting for? Did you get the January box? What did you think?


Thinking about signing up for any of the 2020 Pittsburgh Marathon events? Make sure you do and let them know I sent you by using WILLIS15 as your code when you sign up. You’ll save 15% when you do! Register now here!

Pittsburgh Marathon Weekend Races

Save 15% when you use code WILLIS15 to register for ANY Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon VIRTUAL event in 2020!

GAP Relay

Split up 150 or 60 miles with your friends and tackle the 2020 GAP Relay with @runwithP3R in June. Save $50 off team registration with code WILLIS50 for this event on June 19-20, 2020.

Jaybird Vista

VISTA earbuds from Jaybird Sport – Vista is Jaybird’s first true wireless headphone that meets IPX7 and MIL-STD 810G standards. In other words, Vista is waterproof, dustproof, shockproof, sweatproof—#EARTHPROOF.
Ready Set Move

Ready.Set.MOVE Box

Save $10 off your first subscription box with Ready.Set.MOVE when you use code WILLIS10 at checkout. This is a quarterly subscription box for those who love fitness + Pittsburgh. Boxes ship every January, April, July, and October.

2020 P3Runner

The post below is part of a series of posts about the DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon weekend of events. I will be serving as a 2020 P3Runner in 2020 and bringing you exclusive information and discounts about 2020 P3R races. All opinions are 100% my own.

The Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon and P3R Events have introduced a new program to their “official blogger” ambassador role and I am so excited to announce that I will be serving as a 2020 P3Runner! That means I’ll be an ambassador here on the blog + social media + at P3R runs all of 2020. What’s in it for you, readers? Follow along with my stories of training and “racing” and use my exclusive cannot get this deal anywhere else 15% off race registrations all year long.

I’ll get right to the point – save 15% on your race registrations for ANY P3R Pittsburgh running event – Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon weekend of events, FlyBy5k, GAP Relay, Liberty Mile, Great Race, EQT 10-Miler…you race it, you save it…just use WILLIS15 when you check out. Registration for the Pet Walk, Toddler Trot, 5K, Relay, Half, and Full Marathon is open now here.

Runners gonna Run

Even though I’m what most would consider a “back of the packer”, I have a history with running and a huge love for running in Pittsburgh. After six months off (see my post about 2019 taking C O U R A G E to get through), I have been back to the trail and dreadmill running for four weeks. In that time, I’ve already shaved 2 minutes / mile off my time and I’m quite happy with progress. Runners gonna run!

All runners of all body types have a place in Pittsburgh’s running events and I’m here not only to tell you about the options in 2020 but to cheer you on and encourage you that if this girl can do it, you can too.

2019 UPMC Health Plan Half Marathon + FedEx Relay + 5k = Steel Challenge

That was me in 2019. I ran that half marathon with a knee so full of arthritis and on a rainy day. I crossed that finish line with tears in my eyes and a smile on my face even though my fifth half marathon was my slowest yet.

What you probably don’t know from that photo:

  • 2019 was only my 8th year running and I didn’t run all eight of those years. I took time off to have babies and to get back to a healthier weight.
  • I used to weigh about 90 pounds more than I weighed that day. Thanks to running + a healthy relationship with food I lost that weight (plus some) while being a mom of two and working full time. After hitting 130 pounds lost, I had twins + went through two job changes. This mom of four had to work hard to get back to the girl you see there.

As a 2020 P3Runner, I’m looking forward to sharing more of my story with all of you. Be following my blog, Twitter, Facebook, and especially Instagram to keep up with my training and more news about the 2020 P3Runner Ambassador Program and running events in Pittsburgh.

And remember, save 15% with code WILLIS15 for ANY Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon 2020 weekend of events races!

Training Tuesday: The Half-termath

Three weeks have flown by in the time since the 2019 DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon weekend of events and although my duties as an official blogger for them are over, I’m still singing the praises of the event and the time my family had there. Does that mean I’ve been running? Well, that’s why you’re reading, right? This post contains affiliate links – if you click through to Amazon and shop there, as an Amazon Associate I earn a commisison at no extra charge to you. 

Missed my wrap-up? It’s in a three-part series starting here

Training Tuesday: The Half-termath

After we completed all the fun of ‘marathon weekend’, the family and I packed up the van in front of the Omni William Penn (which BTW – thanks to all of you readers and runners, I got to stay in as a prize, THANK YOU!) and hit 279 headed for I-80 and Wisconsin Dells (one of our top vacation spots). We didn’t make it far.

I was wrapped in ice and trying to enjoy my Starbucks when I sniffed the air and smelled something burning. We thought that our oil change on Wednesday had taken care of this issue (oil built up on a gasket), but nope. I asked Greg if he could confirm my thoughts and he said yes…so I brought up a battery light issue Arianna had mentioned over the weekend. Basically, our alternator was shot and we needed to get off the road ASAP or it could have ended badly.

But we had worked so hard to get to this vacation – we both have been working basically non-stop without a real “no stress” vacation – you know, one where both adults love what they do and aren’t job hunting/studying for exams/having to be on call just in case something goes wrong at work. There was NOTHING we had to do but relax and enjoy family time. Nothing.

So I quickly searched for the lowest priced rental vehicle I could find at the Pittsburgh Airport and we turned Waze’s route from Christmas Mountain Village to the Enterprise Rental desk. Our van would sit at the airport until we got back with a tow truck a week later and we loaded all of our luggage (way too much, we pack the kitchen sink) into a rental Suburban (aka my dream vehicle) and finally hit the road.

I wasn’t feeling getting any workouts in over vacation. My knee hurt from the running and travel and I just wanted to relax, so I did. Once we got home and had to deal with getting back to work, I decided to do some old Bob Harper DVD‘s and walk from the parking garage to work (1 mile) on the nice mornings. I just wasn’t ready to run again.

Then last Tuesday I visited the orthopedic surgeon praying with everything I had in me that they’d approve an MRI. Nope. This girl has arthritis. That’s what held me back! But friends – I won’t sugar coat it. It’s A LOT of arthritis and it is painful – I’m not being a wuss or trying to say that being cautious wasn’t smart. I just have had a lot of trauma to my right knee (four skin-breaking falls that I can remember) and am getting older. It’s my new reality!

So, I basked in that and finally cleaned up my Altras and headed out to the trail on Thursday evening. It was HOT, I’d worked and had a long week (windows replaced in the whole house, Marathon Volunteer Appreciation event/Pirate game, worship practice) BUT I FELT SO GOOD. I even pulled off a 30 second negative split from mile 1 to mile 2. I’m totally going the Galloway method for awhile! 

This new reality is paying off. Being back to working out for two weeks and solid keto eating (though I did NOT restrict myself on Sunday) and I see and feel a difference.

What’s Next?

You didn’t think I was giving up, did you? HA! No way. I was waiting to hear the results from my appointment last week, but I think that my summer/fall will include:

What are you looking for as your next (or maybe even first!!!) running event?

2019 Pittsburgh Marathon: Part 3 of 3

The post below is part of a series of posts about the DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon weekend of events for which I have been selected to be a 2019 Pittsburgh Marathon official blogger. I’ve received my race registration fee in exchange for promotion of the event. All opinions are 100% my own.  This post also contains affiliate links. 

There is NO WAY that the DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon weekend was over a week ago, is there? As I walked through the city on my Monday morning commute (a week AFTER the Monday after the Marathon) it still felt like black and gold yinzers should be running those streets. Not sure how I’m going to survive until the next big race, anyone else? (Psst, if this is you, check out the official blog for tips from Karl Gruber on how to survive the post-race blues.)

So I left the city and headed out on vacation, stringing you all along with some teasers about the big official wrap up post. Finally, I’m ready to share my thoughts on the big day, race day! Let’s start with the VIP Experience because a little bit of it will be sprinkled in my recollection. (This is part three of three in my weekend wrap-up. You probably want to start with part one then two if this is the first post you’re reading!)

2019 Pittsburgh Marathon Weekend: The VIP Experience (part three of three)

The day started with me and my VIP’s getting breakfast at the Wyndham Grand, right beside the Gear Check trucks (which BTW you don’t need if you’re VIP because they check gear from you at the breakfast). I’d been doing keto off and on but let my eating slide, so I was okay that our breakfast was primarily carbs – bagels, croissants, butters and jellies, yogurt – but I was cautious to not eat anything too heavy. I’ve had gluten issues, so I did my best with some cream cheese and peanut butter and a big bottle of NUUN Hydration’s Ginger Lemonade (which I have become “addicted” to and you can get at your local running store or on Amazon as I’ve linked above).

But the best part of this experience for me? The indoor bathrooms. Guys, I drink so much water then you add in race day nerves and I visit the porta-potties pre-race many times (5, maybe?). This year, I didn’t have to because I was using the indoor bathroom at the VIP experience (okay, I did use one once I got to corral C just to be sure) and I was able to make it all the back after the race to use it, too! Wins. And just in case you didn’t grab enough safety pins? They had you covered, too.

The morning was rainy, so Greg decided to keep the kids in the VIP room instead of watching me at the starting line. Soon he’d head over to the North Shore and Station Square, but this was a good place to camp out and wait. He snapped a quick picture of me before I headed out, dry and warm (and covered in prayer)!

Now this part is for the VIP Fans – the spectator tent at the Finish Line was full of food (I’m told bacon and breakfast burritos) and a covered area to watch the racers finish. Unfortunately, Greg didn’t snap a selfie of him and the kids, but they LOVED this part and he said it made the cost worth it for future events.

After the race, we all got to come back and be spoiled with a hotel catered lunch (pasta with chicken, sandwiches, cookies) and have a gathering spot that was warm and dry.

We’re so grateful for this part of our experience because it made the day smooth for my biggest fans and made me comfortable all race weekend knowing we had a place to meetup and relax.

2019 Pittsburgh Marathon Weekend: Leg 1 of the Relay

After I left the VIP experience, it was time to head to Corral C to do my duty as Leg 1 (and Captain) of my work’s relay team.

Firstly, let’s address how cool my tank is (scroll up if you missed it). Logistically, I was a bit cranky about having to wear two bibs + the tracker + the bib on the back (this comes into play later in the race) but I figured I’d stick with one shirt because who wants to wear two wet shirts and/or risk not having your half marathon timer track your start?

It seemed like this year was the fastest start of the four years I’ve done the Half, maybe that’s because I was in Corral C? And speaking of fast, I started out a bit fast with the energy of walking past my client to the starting line and then being in a corral of mixed pace runners who were doing the relay (more on that in my “half” section of this post).

This was the first time I was on the “handoff” side of the relay – when I neared Exchange 1 on the North Shore, it felt like FOREVER until I got to the co-worker running the next leg. He was waiting very patiently (bless him!) for me (again, see below) with Greg and the kids. Since I was continuing on, it was a little awkward to get back into the sea of runners, but I managed.

All in all, my relay team did amazing. They took what they were handed from my slow leg 1 and ran with it, bringing our overall pace to 11:05/mile overall. Now bring us the tacos!!!

After I was done with my lunch, our final runner crossed the finish line and we met in the hotel lobby for some conversation and photos. After seeing it, I’ll admit that I have some work to do before our next race together!

2019 Pittsburgh Marathon Weekend: The Half Marathon (Mile by Mile)

If you’ve been following along on my blog(s) for the last few years, you know that I like to try to recall the races by the miles. Let’s see how I do this year! (Note, I am wearing a FitBit Versa which is fine enough, but I didn’t use the running feature – it died by the end of the race with just the timer running sooo – OR my Nike+ to get my laps, but just know they were slow. Maybe next race I’ll have a Garmin Forerunner like this?)

Mile 0-1: This one was fast at first. I’d set out to do a 5-minute run followed by a 3-minute walk which went well in this mile; however, my first run was fast and I got some rocks in my shoes (Altra Escalante Racers in Tokyo, if you’re wondering) and had to work that out. My feet were soaked just a tenth of a mile in, too. I set my eyes on some other run/walkers just in case I needed to find some buddies.

Mile 1-2: This one was a little tough, emotionally. It might have been one of my faster miles because I had the folks from Corral D bearing down on my back (and they start like 8 minutes after C – sigh) and because I just wanted it to be done with. The first water station is right near my previous workplace and I thought I’d lose it, so I wanted to just run and run I did.

Mile 2-3: This was my old running path – Penn Avenue to the 16th Street Bridge. I love to hate this section of town. At one point someone from the 11-ish minute mile pace group yelled to me, “keep it up RELAY, just 2 miles to go”. Heh. What he didn’t know was that I had to keep on keeping on.

Mile 3-4: As I crested the hill from 16th Street Bridge, my knee gave out. It was slipping and popping and I slowed that 5/3 to a 4/2 and walked up the hill to East Ohio Street. There’s this energy on that section of the race (and a few downhills) that helps move things along and I tried desperately to feed off of that; however, I decided I was going to quit once I got to the exchange. Running with an injury isn’t worth it and I was hurting.

Mile 4-5: This mile starts out with the run up the hill to Urban Impact cheering us on. As “Old Church Choir” played from their station, I got the strength to run that hill and high five everyone I could along the way. I don’t honestly remember running past the Children’s Museum (did we?) because there was a section here where we cheered on one of the hand cart racers (and I stopped feeling sorry for myself).

Mile 5-…: I was quitting, don’t you remember? At 5.4 miles, you hit the relay exchange. As I said above, it felt like forever until Rick gave me my medal and I had Greg help me with my bib and tracker. I decided to stay on the course but told Greg it was going to be a LONG TIME until I could get back to him downtown. I ran away and then realized that I still had “RELAY” on my back so I had to turn back and ask Greg to rip that off. I didn’t want to be yelled at for not going through Exchange 2 or having my relay bib on the front! Logistics, you see.

Right after this exchange, medics were waiting with vaseline – the only such station I saw on the course – and I needed it. I was drenched and wearing a new shirt and slightly tighter than usual Fusion C3 Running Shorts. I’ve had three c-sections and a belly that was large > pregnant > larger > even more pregnant > flubby > flat as a board > pregnant with twins > torn open ten days after surgery > flubby fit > swollen (in the past 10 years). It rubs and hurts, so I was grateful.

After that, I heard “MRSGREGWILLIS!!!” yelled out – and it was my favorite pacer (Carla) and Adrian and Abbie. I’d never met Adrian and Abbie in real life, but we all are running fam on Instagram. It was great to see them and run with them for a little bit while they helped Carla tackle (CRUSH!) her first full. Unfortunately, I knew what my knee needed and I had to hang back and go back to my 5/3 run walk pace, letting them go on without me.

Mile 6-7: West End Bridge – you were so nice to me this year. I even took a moment to snap a selfie because why not? Not too much to say about this part of the course but I got ‘er done.

Mile 7-8: West End has always been a favorite of mine and this year is no different. As I coasted down the hill, I noticed incredible back muscles on another runner and told her that she was looking strong as I passed – hopefully it gave her encouragement!

Three years ago, I found out that one of my college friends, “Grab”, was in the crowd there. I’d said “HEY” in the past and kept running, but this year I stopped to grab a drink from her and another college friend (also a Jen) and a selfie. We chatter for a minute or two then on I went – this race was about having FUN!

Mile 8-9: This is the mile with the JROTC lining the hill the goes under the incline. I’ve always made it a point to high-five as many of them as I could going up this hill and this year I decided to live stream it – I think on Instagram stories. After that, everything was oddly quiet and I started to worry about my sugar levels so I popped in my first Cherry Blossom Honey Stinger chew.

Mile 9-10: I had some PTSD on this mile. It’s where in 2017 I had an asthma attack (so I took my inhaler) and in 2018 watched someone fall. This year, for the first time, Greg didn’t make it over the bridge in time to see me (so maybe I was faster than I thought?). We texted a bit in this mile because I was saving energy for the next one.

Mile 10-11: This is the fastest and flatest mile, through the South Side. The gummy worms from UPMC were gone, but there was still a decent amount of Honey Stinger Energy Gel (thank you to the race partners for planning for us back-of-the-pack’ers!) and I drank it up while still running most of this mile. The thing is that the Mile 11 marker on the Birmingham Bridge was way too far away and my knee needed me to walk that bridge. You win some, you lose some.

Mile 11-12: This bridge is tough. Is there really anything else to say? It’s tough then followed by an uphill battle. I walked a bit of this because the knee was painful.

Mile 12-13: Thanks for the bubbles, spectators! This mile seems like the longest until you get to that 20K sign. I ran most of this one but struggled with wet bricks just before mile 13 and had to walk for safety. You can hear the roar of the crowd and this mile is just incredible.

Mile 13.1: The best part of the race – the finish! The crowd was still cheering, my VIP family was screaming their hearts out from the tent. It is just an incredible feeling to know that I’ve done this FIVE times now!

As I went through the Finish Line chute, I heard an ex-Giant Eagle co-worker behind me and we snapped photos, grabbed our goodies, and parted ways when I headed to find my family at the VIP lunch. We didn’t even realize it was pouring rain on us until we had our heat sheets (much needed) wrapped around us.

Although I didn’t need a medic on course, I decided before going to VIP to get ice for my knee. Thank you, medics!

That’s that! I am a FIVE TIME Half Marathoner with goals to 1) get my knee fixed and 2) not stop running. You’re going to have to stick around here to see what I’m up to next. Thank you God for this experience!

2019 Pittsburgh Half Marathon Results: 13.1 Miles, 14:40/mile

(Medals shown above – 5k, Relay, Half, and Steel Challenge)


2019 Pittsburgh Marathon: Part 2 of 3

The post below is part of a series of posts about the DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon weekend of events for which I have been selected to be a 2019 Pittsburgh Marathon official blogger. I’ve received my race registration fee in exchange for promotion of the event. All opinions are 100% my own.  This post also contains affiliate links. 

This past weekend was truly a dream come true – so full of words and memories that I’ve split this post into three posts so I don’t completely bore you. This is part two of three in my weekend wrap-up.

2019 Pittsburgh Marathon Weekend: 5K

Saturday morning started out with the 5k. We were staying in the Omni William Penn (something I will definitely do again is stay downtown on race weekend and OWP is AMAZING), so I caught an early morning T over to the North Shore. Unfortunately, the bum knee made my walk across the street a bit slower than I’d hoped so I missed the T that would have made me make the #WeRunSocial photo opp by a mere minute. Gah!

I sipped on my Propel and ate a protein bar on the ride over – not my typical race day breakfast because we somehow forgot water for me to make my NUUN and I didn’t check to see if the hotel had a microwave for my sausage patties. The family had decided it wasn’t worth watching me get started and that they’d just see me at the finish line – great decision – so it was just me.

Since I’d tried to make the picture, I had a bit of extra time but this 5k crowd doesn’t play. The corrals were filling up and I could see the pacers were decently far ahead of where I was standing to get ready. I decided to jam in and instead of what I probably should have done (find Brandi and enjoy the 5k as a stroll), I found Victor and the 13:00/mile pace group. He was going to be doing a Galloway 30/30 split, so I decided to give it a try. I even met a new friend and ran some of the course with her.

While I’d never done the 30/30 split, I found myself feeling great while doing it. Heck, I was even sweaty in the cool of the morning in my tank top and Happy Puppies running shorts! I was getting a workout and my knee felt fine. There was a point where I thought we were going faster than 13:00/mile, but I was enjoying myself and didn’t want to focus on pace anyways…well, we did kick it up a bit on this course and I ended up “unofficially” setting a course PR because my 2018 time did not record correctly for some reason (I ran right beside the 13:00 pacer last year and my chip reads 58 seconds slower than her’s did) and we pulled off an official 12:45/mile this year! Woot! Take that, knee!

Thanks for getting me to the finish line, Victor!

Now, because I like to be honest with you, I’ll tell you that I don’t love the back of the pack in this particular 5k. There are a lot of people who run this race as their keystone event of the weekend which is great, but I watched three people get pushed to the ground by other runners just not being careful. Runners, we have to be respectful of the others out there on the course! I had two rocks kicked at me (I know it’s by accident, but again, take care) and was shocked at the number of potholes we still had on the streets. But all in all, I finished safely and that’s what matters.

2019 Pittsburgh Marathon Weekend: The Kids Marathon

The family (aka, my biggest fans) was waiting for me at the Finish Line, so after we gathered my medal and banana, it was go time for the kids to make it over to the North Shore for their starting line. We took the T from Gateway and got the kids ready to go in their corral. Since all four kids ran it, we had to split up our runners into heats by age – the twins in Heat 7 and Bigs in Heat 8. We snapped a family photo and loved that our heats were in the middle of the heats this year – way less waiting than other years!

I was a bit nervous about how this was going to go. Ava has loved running and she was SO READY for weeks. Isla is a wild card – her training was one “run” on the trail that wasn’t more than step step rest. I had shown Ava where to go if she got lost at the end, but really wanted to try to keep up with her, even if it meant carrying Isla. Greg would be behind with Arianna and Evan if anything went wrong, so I just had to lean in and trust that God had this in control (as He does all things).

Those girls were READY, though! We spent a good amount of time high fiving the mascots and TJ Watt (mom fail for not getting photos) and then WE WERE OFF. Ava would run ahead then come back and check on Isla – it was too cute!

We were about halfway down the straight before the last turn when I heard, “Hi Mommy, bye Mommy” and Evan went shooting past us (having started five minutes behind us). Ava took off after him and they finished within seconds of each other. It kicked Isla into gear and we crossed the finish line just over 13:00 (even though the kids’ heats aren’t timed, I had my watch ready). Evan did it in just over 8 minutes – insane! We had our medals and I turned around and saw Ari and Greg – just a minute behind. I was so proud of those kids!

The Finish Line chute for the Kids Marathon is awesome – they get their water, bananas, fruit cups, and a goodie bag in addition to their medals. These little Runner of Steel moments are going to stick with my kids for years to come.

2019 Pittsburgh Marathon Weekend: The VIP Experience (part two of three)

Another perk of the Official Blogger program was getting the VIP experience which included a great way to experience the Expo. When it was time to pick up my packet/bib, everything was ready for me at a table right inside the door of the Expo. I didn’t have to wait in lines to get bibs, circle around the vendors to get my bag, or worry about dropping my shirt or those sacred pins while I was shopping. I opted to just visit the booth last after I took in the Expo. What a great perk!

(In my case, I needed to get bibs for the kids and two of my relay team, so I did have to go through the lines but they really were not awful. It just was a nice way to experience the Expo.)

And speaking of the Expo – I had such a great time there that I had to go twice!

There were plenty of booths to test out the different gels/waffles/gummies/hydration options that the Marathon’s Partners sell and I easily got hooked on Honey Stinger’s Cherry Blossom gummies which made it into my pocket on Sunday. So good and way less sugar than other energy gel cubes I’d been using!

I got to see my friends from Brag Swag who had some amazing Burgh Swag that was unique and could be made right on site – and of course I had to pick up a new shirt which you can see on my Medal Monday Instagram post. Speaking of friends, it was great to bump into Chelsea (both days), Amanda, Carla, and Conrad along the way, too!

I joked about “going broke” via IG story and I did spend some nice cash while there. The best spend, hands down, was on Pro Compression socks – three pairs for just a little more than one normally costs. I’ve tried others and heard that these were the ones to try but I just didn’t have the $ to spend. This was the weekend to do it, and I’m so glad I was able to. I wore my socks on Friday and Saturday evening after logging a lot of steps around the city and then again on Sunday on the car ride to vacation. SO WORTH IT. Greg also picked up a BEDGEAR pillow with our sleep expert from Levin’s (he happened to be the guy who sold us our bed at the home show in 2018) and he’s loved sleeping on it so far (I’m jelly, but there is a nice deal in the virtual goody bag that I might redeem).

So much more to cover, but for now it’s time to get back to the family. I know you’re waiting in suspense to hear how I feel about how things turned out for me on Sunday. Keep your eyes on this page for part three, coming soon!

2019 Pittsburgh Marathon: Part 1 of 3

The post below is part of a series of posts about the DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon weekend of events for which I have been selected to be a 2019 Pittsburgh Marathon official blogger. I’ve received my race registration fee in exchange for promotion of the event. All opinions are 100% my own.  This post also contains affiliate links. 

This past weekend was truly a dream come true and a weekend of setting some goals (anyone else reading/read Girl, Stop Apologizing?) So much so that I needed to split this post into three posts so I don’t completely bore you.

Spoiler alert (because I’m pretty sure that most of you reading are following me on Instagram, you’re an IRL (in real life) friend/family, or we’re pals on Facebook), my “dream” to chase a PR in 2019 did not come true, it was by far my slowest half marathon ever, but I DID IT. Let’s focus on the weekend and why I’m already looking forward to my next race!

2019 Pittsburgh Marathon Weekend: Meeting a Champion

If you want to be in the know, you follow the DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon on Facebook and keep up with their events. That is where you’ll hear about things like the kick-off training runs, kids’ events, and opportunities to meet and greet runners who will make you want to live louder.

On Thursday, Levin’s and BEDGEAR (a Partner of the DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon) hosted an event to show off the amazing products in the BEDGEAR family but also to meet and greet with Stephanie Bruce. Stephanie is an American elite long-distance runner and a BEDGEAR ambassador…and she WON the 2019 USATF Half Marathon Championships here in Pittsburgh over the weekend.

Stephanie Bruce BEDGEAR

At the launch party (which was super chill), I got to chat with her a little bit. Although she is super fit and about the size of my arm (see above), she didn’t judge me for my size but instead urged me to Dream Big and to have a great race. I joked with her “good luck beating me on Sunday”, we talked about staying in hotels with kids (she’s a mom) and sleeping well before race day. It calmed some of the nerves I had about the weekend ahead of meeting new people and sleeping in a hotel room with the kids the night before race day.

(And while I’ll never be an elite runner like Stephanie, it made me realize I need to work on my goals to become an ambassador for running brands I believe in. You guys proved that to me when I was selected as an official blogger and you used my referral code enough times for me to earn that hotel room through the official blogger referral rewards program! I need to DREAM BIG, indeed!)

2019 Pittsburgh Marathon Weekend: The Social Center

As part of my “duties”, I was asked to do something I’ve been wanting to do again since 2014 (but either the timing never worked out or I was not selected to help) – serve in the Social Center. That means that on Friday I was the “voice” of the marathon’s social media – specifically their Facebook messages. While things were quiet, I got to do what I love most (helping people), using the tool I love most (Salesforce), for the weekend I love most (the Pittsburgh Marathon weekend). It was a great way to give back to the organization (P3R Events) that put their faith and trust in me to be a voice in the Pittsburgh running community (and beyond) in my role as an official blogger.

To Jonah, Jordan, and the rest of the P3R Events staff and volunteers – THANK YOU for making me smile in a way I haven’t in a long time. You helped me fill a void I didn’t realize had been missing in my career. And who knows…maybe one day you’ll need a **rockstar** Salesforce Admin? 😉

2019 Pittsburgh Marathon Weekend: The VIP Experience (part one of three)

Another perk of the Official Blogger program was getting the VIP experience – and in my case, I earned enough rewards to gift VIP to two spectators (my husband and oldest daughter) and two runners (the amazing SCRR pacer, Carla, and an inspiring Instagram run/walk/runner, Renee).

Psst – if you’re on the fence about VIP for future events, DO IT. I’ll go into more details, but kids 8 and under get in with their VIP chaperone so my whole family actually got the VIP treatment. You’ll need to read all three of my wrap-up posts to get all the benefits, but it is SO worth it.

For this post, I’m going to focus on what might have been the capstone event of the weekend. I was invited to the VIP Cocktail Reception on Friday night and was excited to get to relax a little and meet others who love this organization like I do. What I didn’t realize is how much I’d cry at the event!

You see, Patrice Matamoros (race director and CEO of P3R Events) not only served her 11th and final race with that title, but she is the reason why I started to run in this event in the first place. As the team was spotlighting her accomplishments over the last 11 years and she handed the “baton” to Troy Schooley (who I’m certain is not going to disappoint, either!), I was in tears because the things her friends, family, staff, and peers were saying about her were the things that made me want to run.

In one of my few tweets from the weekend, I shared how she inspired me in a crowd of Chatham Women Entrepreneurs to run for my kids – to give them the legacy love of a lifelong sport. I knew the next day that my four running buddies would all lace up their sneakers (okay, only one actually did, but more on that next post) and run this city with me because of me.

Me. Their mama who once weighed 300 pounds. Me. Their mama who cheated running the mile in high school. Me. Their mama who definitely doesn’t have the typical runner’s body (and that has fluctuated so much in the past four years – up, down, up again) but keeps lacing her shoes and loving her body healthy. Me. Their mama who inspires their daddy to move (even though it looks like he’d be the one inspiring her). Me. Their mama who can only explain her love of running as a way to show her kiddos that she loves them so much she does this for them.

Phew. Glad to get that out one more time! All the emotions.

After the ceremony portion of the evening, I said goodnight to the amazing Erin Carlin (who wrangled us official bloggers, helped me with silly questions, cheered me on so much, and made me realize my voice matters as a writer in Pittsburgh) and thought I was headed home. That’s when I ran into Brandi (another Official Blogger), her friend Jeff (who from what I can tell is an awesome running coach), and Sue (who I’d been following on Twitter) and her husband Kevin (who love this city probably even more than I do – if that’s possible – and aren’t even Pittsburgh locals).  I stuck around to chat with them and realized I need to find more running friends to “talk shop” with on weekends that don’t start with “Pittsburgh Marathon”.

Pittsburgh Marathon Bloggers

What a great start to the weekend – and there is so much more to share. You’ll just have to be patient with me as I balance writing with spending much needed catch-up time with my family who cheered me on like **rockstars** this weekend, put up with my training schedule, and have dealt with my crazy emotions over the past seven months – we’re taking a much deserved time to focus on US!

Training Tuesday: Pittsburgh Half Marathon Week 9

The post below is part of a series of posts about the DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon weekend of events for which I have been selected to be a 2019 Pittsburgh Marathon official blogger. I’ve received my race registration fee in exchange for promotion of the event. All opinions are 100% my own.  This post also contains affiliate links. 

This was another quiet week, but another trip to the chiropractor plus a week of way too much celebrating of my birthday – all the Halo Top + pizza, oh boy – left me with little time to run and a body that was just not having it. Mentally, I’m okay with this. I know I’m not going into May 5 fully trained and my plan to complete the 13.1 is accomodating that. Life has been different this training cycle and it’s just the season I am in?!?!

Training Update

Well, one run this week is all I’ve got for you. I wanted to do a long run this weekend, but Greg worked and we had plans in the evenings. It just wasn’t going to fit in life and while I know I’ll suffer later, it is reality.

Tuesday 4/9: 4.6 miles, 13:07/mile – My 36th birthday run was pretty incredible, considering that a good chunk of it was a walk. I followed a 7/5 run/walk split and kept things easy in the runs so I had the stamina to make it from home to church where Greg and the kids were waiting with tacos. Win, win.

How are the miles stacking up?

January 2019: 6 runs, 11.57 miles, 12’19″/mile

February 2019: 7 runs, 12.67 miles, 12’38″/mile

March 2019: 10 runs, 24.32 miles, 13’36″/mile

April 2019: 3 runs, 14.11 miles, 13’36″/mile

PSST! If you’ve read this far and are ready to sign up for the Marathon or Half, make sure you do and let them know I sent you by using WILLISDSGPM19 as your code when you sign up. You’ll save $10 when you do! Register here .