Chasing Mental Strength: Post Race Recovery and the Beginning of a New Training Cycle

“No human is limited. It’s not about the legs. It’s about the heart and mind. With a strong heart and good mind you can do it. If you don’t rule your mind it can rule you.”

~Eliud Kipchoge

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There’s no doubt racing JAX Marine Corps half marathon under 2 hours demanded a great deal of energy – pre, during and post-race. I was running on runner’s high for a week and excited to turn down a notch with training because I had a valid justification to do little and simple recovery work such as PT workouts, stretching, rolling and spinning. The only issue I had to address were my sore calves which after 4 days of no running I was good to go. It felt good to run 5 miles on the treadmill with no pressure or discomfort. It was also nice to run 8 miles on Saturday as my LR and feeling that I was well-recovered.

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Great run with my friend Krista

One week recovery was enough, so that meant that I was easing right back into training for another 13.1, the OUC half marathon on December 2 in my neighborhood downtown Orlando.  Coach Victoria didn’t waste time planning my training calendar, and there it was, WEEK 1 Training OUC starting with 3 easy miles on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, and 8 mile on Saturday.

Physically I did very well completing all my weekday runs. But then when Saturday hit, I wanted nothing to do with running. I was tired of getting up early and getting runs done. All of the sudden, I felt my mind and body wanting to shut it down. I could sense my mind sending signals to my body that all the hard work I had done for JAX Marine Corps would have to restart all over again and harder!

I got up at 5:00 a.m. and it was a no go. Got up at 7:00 a.m. and nope! Finally decided to get up whatever the time I wanted and run whatever miles my body felt okay running. Thankfully, the weather was somewhat fresh that I was able to get out the door at 10:20 a.m., which for me is as if I were running at 3:00 p.m.. My mind thought about getting 3 miles in, then it turned to 4 miles, but I was happy and peaceful with just 5 miles out of the 8 scheduled.

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WEEK 2 Training OUC arrived fast like a laser, but I was not ready for a Monday run. To that end, I wasn’t ready for a tempo run scheduled on Tuesday either. So I decided on 4 easy on Tuesday and pushed my tempo for Wednesday. The sad thing is, I wasn’t ready for a tempo period. Feeling anxious and overwhelmed, I reached out to Coach Victoria and asked for a pass on that tempo run so that I could regroup and move on forward with week. I am glad I did because my LR+tempo on Saturday was a great run which I exceeded the recommended paces.

5 mi up = 9:26 pace 
20 minutes @ HMP (8:45-9:05) = 8:28 pace
5 minute recovery jog
20 minutes @ HMP (8:40 – 9:00) = 8:19 pace
Cool down to mileage 1 mi @ 9:06  – 11 miles total
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WEEK 3 Training OUC came along and the fact that I was now going on my second week without Newton (my treadmill) was simply miserable and mentally hard to keep going. During a software update, the treadmill iFit software froze. There was nothing to be done but to wait for Pro Form’s slow process of sending me a SD card with the software update. It took them 6 days to process my claim and another 6 days to receive the SD card via UPS. I was going crazy!

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But eventually it arrived, my husband fixed the treadmill and I was back in business – just in time for my fartleks and more tempo runs. At this point, I was more mentally ready to keep moving forward but I still felt that I needed to be fed with lots of inspirational methods such as TB12 Method audiobook, watching Kenyan runners’ documentaries and marathons while I got my run on Newton.

My breakthrough workout came in a few days later in Week 4, and it was worth the wait! I had a 7-miler strength run on the plan. I wanted to get it done early in the morning, but I really lacked energy and decided to get it done after work.

2 mi easy warm up
3 x 1 miles @ 7:55 – 8:10 pace
With .25 jog recovery in between
Cool Down to mileage – 7 miles total

And here’s what I got:

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2 mi up @ 10:14
3 x 1 mile = 8:04 / 7:56 / 7:49
1.27 mi cd @ 9:04

Seriously! This was the best feeling so far! I could not believe I was able to reach 7:49 pace and still feel wonderful while running it and not grasping for air as much. This was such a confidence boost – just what I needed it. Next, I had another tempo run for Week 5 which was taper week. I was very happy with this run – a 1 mile warm up with a 4-mile tempo @ 8:10-8:30 which I managed an 8:28 avg. run for a total of 7 miles and an 8:54 avg pace.

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Until then, it was all about banking the mileage, staying healthy and enjoying Thanksgiving weekend. But for Week 6 I had a 4-mile pace work just to tune up for race. Although I didn’t like the 94% humidity that morning, I was glad to exceed the recommended pace.

1 mi up = 9:56
1 mi @ 9:00 = 8:56
1 mi @ 8:45 = 8:32
1 mi cd = 9:14
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There’s no doubt that this short training cycle of just 6 weeks was tough as well. JAX Marine Corps cycle was different in a sense that I was dealing with summer temperatures and still getting acclimated to speed work. OUC on the other hand, my brain already had an idea of what was coming which required a lot more of mental strength and discipline to get me moving forward. I must say that a cooler weather in Florida lately has helped a great deal. For that reason, I don’t feel so intimated for a speed workout like I used to. And I know that I’m capable of pushing the pace.

I’m grateful to close this training cycle with 141 miles and to go into another race 100% healthy.  I am ready for OUC and I’m confident that I will reach another big PR. With that, I close November strong for a total of 118 miles.

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With gratitude, let’s do this!

“Passion is a choice. You need to choose to be great. It’s not a chance, it’s a choice.”

~Eliud Kipchoge

 

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It Takes Guts to Build Mental Strength

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“It’s hard to beat a person who never GIVES UP.”

~Babe Ruth

September was another hectic month; add Hurricane Irma’s stress to the occasion and you’ve got some real stress and some tight muscles as a result of it. Since surpassing 100 miles for the month, I started to get hooked and excited to find out how many more miles I can accumulate in a month. However, I kept in mind that a healthy month was and is more important than the accumulation of miles, especially in the final stretch of training cycle.

My awareness towards my body’s well-being was in higher frequency this month. I paid attention to every detail and unusual discomfort my body was feeling. This time my left calf and shin area was more than I wanted to. However, it is was not a surprise as I was exiting August with 120 miles for the month.

Two days after Labor Day weekend, the news were blasting us with updates on the fast approaching arrival of Hurricane Irma and its deadly force of a Category 5 hurricane. Seeing the catastrophe caused by Hurricane Matthew in Texas, Florida wasn’t going to be the one state to play with its strength, and a state of emergency was then effective. The prediction of the storm’s arrival in Central Florida was for Sunday evening, so up to Thursday, I was able to log in my miles. But my right calf wasn’t too happy.

After my husband examined my left calf, he found a dense knot and it hurt. I took a rest day from running on Friday, rolled, iced and stretched, but I was not 100% sure if it was in the best interest to run my 11-miler on Saturday. I knew it was due to stress and I know that when I run on a tight muscle, nothing good happens. The entire week was about Hurricane Irma prep – going to the store to stock up on water and food, maneuvering through hectic traffic frenzy, arranging for a tree company to come over and cut tree branches hanging on top of our roof, helping my father-in-law remove flying debris from his backyard, removing our patio and yard furniture out of harm way, and really doing the best we could given the situation and time we had was exhausting.

All of that added up and my body felt unrested. It was no brainer that I’d be better off sacrificing 11 miles out of training than to run the risk of losing the entire cycle and possibly missing another race. My Coach could not had agreed with me more!

Going through the storm on Sunday evening was one of the scariest experience I’ve ever had. The storm started around 8:00 p.m. and it lasted for a good 12 hours. The rain and wind intensified around midnight as the eye of the hurricane passed through. For most part,  it was a steady rain fall with an occasional 10-minute break between gusty winds. At 2:30 a.m. I could not take it anymore and had to go to bed, not that I really feel sleep. Kurt came to bed around 4:00 a.m. when the storm appeared to be lessen. When we got up around 8:00 a.m., the rain was gone but the wind gust and tree branches were all over the place. We were very grateful that all we had to do was clean up. Many people lost electricity, we did too, but we only lost for 16 hours whereas many people in Central Florida didn’t have electricity as much as two weeks.

The before, during and after Hurricane Irma left me drained for days. It was exhausting, bust I used the non-running time to rehab my tight calf with icing, tens-unit sesh, rolling and lots of stretching. By the time I got back into the running routine again was on Tuesday after the hurricane. It felt good, but I was still lacking on energy. After that, the rest was history as I kept moving along with training and tackling one speed workout after another. The mental strength training this time was even tougher, especially preparing and executing what I’d say was one of the toughest run yet.

8 Mi Speed Workout

 

2 mi easy warm up

6 x .5 mile @ 7:45-8:00 pace with .25 jog between

Cool down to mileage

2 mi up @  10:31

.50 @ 7:38 (death pace for me!)

.50 @ 8:00 (yep, slow down a bit, Celia!)

.50 @ 7:49 (crank up a notch, you can do it!)

.50 @ 7:48 (steady and fast, find a sweet spot)

.50 @ 7:48

.50 @ 7:49

1.50 cool down @ 9:20

 

TOTAL: 8.0 / 1:23:23 / AVG 10:25

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I did it!

The mental strength and toughness I had to dig for this month was no joke! I constantly used watching Breaking 2, Breaking 2 Special edition, the 2016 London Marathon, part of the 2016 Berlin Marathon, the New England Patriots post games press conferences as part of mental training as I logged another massive 57 miles just on the treadmill. In addition, I’ve been listening to Peak Performance audiobook and the fascinating TB12 Method by Tom Brady audiobook.

The heat and humidity in September was still intense. It seems that such weather conditions do play tricks in your head as I started to feel unsettled on whether I could run a slightly faster pace under these conditions. My Coach had a 13-miler on the schedule, and I saw that as a great opportunity for a trial race training; however, its success was possible to my husband’s assistance. On a Saturday, I headed to the trail with the intention of completing 13.1 without stopping. Kurt rode the bike and followed me with water and nutrition. I felt like I was having Kipchoge’s special treatment throughout the run. And that, made a huge difference! That Saturday was a 6-day running streak, so my legs were tired, and unfortunately due to heat, humidity and a late start (6:50 a.m.), I started to feel the crash in the last 5K. Completing this 13.1 training run gave me a huge confidence boost – just what I needed to finish the month strong.

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Thanks to my hubby for helping me 🙂

Even after losing the 11-miler LR, I was still able to close the month with a PR – a PR by just one mile, but nevertheless it’s hard earned miles that I am proud of because I managed to close the last week of September with my highest weekly mileage at 35 miles to bring to a total of 121 miles. Yes, I did it! And I still managed to take a day off from running during this week to respect my body and be cautious as I’d be entering taper week on the following week.

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And as if you already didn’t know, to celebrate the month and to keep my body healthy, I had my monthly chiropractor adjustment, therapy and cryotherapy sesh as the week and month closed. And to my surprise, Saq was there doing cryo too! That was an interesting experience as I met the former Orlando Magic and LA Lakers basketball player in the same place I do cryo.

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Whether you are 5’3” or 7’1”, athletes do cryo! That’s a wrap for September guys!

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3-minute, temps as low as -255F

(P.S. I also hit my cryo sesh PR at 3-minute as temps went as low as -255F = take that to the mental strength bank!

“Excellence is not a singular act but a habit. You are what you do repeatedly.”

~Shaquille O’Neal

It Doesn’t Get Easier, but Let’s Go!

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“With a strong heart and a good mind, you can do it.”

~Eliud Kipchoge

To say that August was a great month, it’s an understatement! A PR month of 120 miles, 58 of these miles were on treadmill, it’s a moment for jumping sky-high! I am so proud of the hard work and time invested to reach this month’s goal. It was very tough to get these miles in, especially when August has been the most mentally challenging month by far.

Considering that I closed the month of July with 107 miles, I gave myself a challenge to cover 120 miles for the month of August. However, I didn’t anticipate that the tempo runs and speed work would be so mentally draining and challenging. The desire to run was less intense and the anticipation of a tempo or speed workout was daunting. I had to switch mental gear quickly to preclude the negativity and fear from running the show. After all, it is my show and I run this thing!

On another note, August was a busy month with other things not related to running. Right off the bat, we had Tom Brady’s 40th b-day on the 3rd, and of course, a 4-miler was on the menu to celebrate the Greatest of All Times,  aka GOAT. Football was right on the face with the conclusion of training camp and start of preseason games – everything feels so much better when football exists! And, we had a one of a kind eclipse!

The hot and humid days were still intense just like June and July; there was no much of a break. Except for one interesting Saturday morning which I had a 12-miler on the schedule. Krista, my neighbor, and I had one of the most enjoyable LR in a while. The fact that she needed to be done by 7:00 a.m. helped speed up the process a little bit, but none of that would had matter if the weather had not cooperate to the slightest drop in temperature. This run helped me get the positive boost I needed to keep my monthly goal alive.

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Splits: 10:35, 10:09, 10:08, 10:05, 10:08, 10:06, 10:08, 10:11, 10:16, 10:08, 9:49 & 9:19

Much of this month’s credit goes to my husband for showing the support and kindness in giving me a treadmill which I’ve named, “Newton”. I can train hard and cover the miles without beating up my body so much in the heat and humidity. Not only it provides me more flexibility in my training, but it allows my body to properly recover, even though, my mileage keeps increasing on a monthly-basis so far.

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What’s in for September? Another PR month would be great, but I think that my focus is really on keeping a strong mental strength foundation, staying healthy and decompress from the everyday routine by relaxing by the pool or taking a quick trip to the beach. As of September, I will be only 4 week out until Jacksonville Marine Corps Half marathon and I must do everything possible to stay strong and healthy. I haven’t toe line since March 5 at the SwampHouse 5K event which I PR’d by 20 seconds with 25:40 finish time AND got myself a groin injury as I crossed the finish line. No regrets here because I’ve learned a great deal on how to be a proactive runner and focus on my body’s recovery process.

To a strong September and a October PR! Let’s Go!!

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“Run Epically
~unknown

July Miles: Hot Humid and Sweaty

“Every Mile Earned, Never Given.”

~ unknown

Yes to July!!! Independence Day and my birthday month!! As matter of fact, America and I share fireworks. How fun is that!!

If anyone thought that June was hot and humid, one haven’t experienced July in Florida! At one point I simply stopped looking at the weather app to check on how hot and humid the day was predicted to be. What’s the point? If one is to adventure in the outdoor sauna, one better be ready for it.

  • Hydrate every single day
  • Never run without a bottle of water
  • Start your run early and dark
  • If anything longer than 5 miles, consider taking an electrolyte/salt pill
  • Go for shaded areas
  • Sunglasses (and a hand-towel in my case)
  • Lace up and go

 

Going into the second week of July, my body started to feel the impact of the heat, humidity and intensity of the workouts. It was telling me that I needed to rest, amplify my vitamins, minerals and supplements intake; go to my doctor and order a blood test. And while at the doctor’s office, go ahead and take a shot of B12.

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Blood work day, yipe!

It took weeks for my body to start to normalize into a more steady routine. The lack of energy, especially in the morning as I do suffer from the occasional adrenal fatigue attack was at its full force this time. Three unplanned rest days (a Monday, Tuesday and Thursday) were needed until I started to feel somewhat better to do some of the workouts. I listened to my body 100% and I did everything I could to make sure my immune system remained strong and focused on processing my energy level back up instead of fighting some other weakness such as a flu symptom.

To give myself a break from this crazy-hot weather, I started doing a lot of my runs on the treadmill. Outdoor runs were becoming harder and harder on my body and very difficult to maintain the duration of a run. Running a faster pace or some speed work outdoor was getting impossible to hit the suggested paces. Although a treadmill run offers a controlled environment (AC on and turbo fan blowing at me), it still gets freaking hot. It is not easy either, but it is more doable. Going into my longest treadmill run of 12 miles; there were times I wished I had just taken it outside. It was one of the hardest treadmill run to date. The mental and physical drain was nothing I had experienced before, and I believe this was the turning-point of my energy level and adrenal fatigue kick off.

By mid-third week of July, I started to feel and sleep better. I can’t focus enough on how important rest it is for me. In one of the days that my energy was extremely low, I went to bed at 7:30 p.m. On the next day, my body was ready to wake up and get up at 5:00 a.m. and I had one of the best steady run.

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I also decided to schedule a second cryotherapy session before the end of the month. Usually a once a month session is enough, but this time I saw no harm in doing it a second time. To my “luck” at the time of cryo sesh, the nitrogen tank was about to get empty, but Dr. Sabrina Atkins estimated that it would be enough for my 3-minute top sesh. I entered at -111F and I held on for the entire 3-minute; however, the temps only reached to -211F.

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Hold on for the entire 3-minute max down to -245F first sesh of July

This cryotherapy session was a great energy boost to kick off the last week of July with the start of the Jacksonville Marine Corps half marathon training. As a bonus, football training camp was also on tap, which motivates me a great deal, even if the workout calls for a fartlek = 2 mi warm up / 10 min @ 9:10 pace / 4x2min @ 8:45-8:30 w/ 2min recovery in between / easy cool down to 7!

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2 mi up 10:42 / 10 min @ 9:07 / 4×2 min @ 8:37, 8:43, 8:39, 8:38 & extra 8:36 / 2.28 mi cool down  @ 10:01

After all the ups-and-downs, I am learning to manage mental and physical breakdown a lot better. I try to stay calm and let it run its course while not giving it too much power. Negative thoughts will creep in every now and then, but it is so important to not to give them power or they will eat you alive. Simply acknowledge it and put a positive thought and action to nullify them. Also, beating myself up for being on the funk wave is pointless. Do not beat yourself up! It is part of the process of training hard and we are only humans.

I’m also constantly working on mental training just as I work on my physical training everyday. I read motivational/sports quotes, I read books, listen to audiobooks (my favorite so far is The Champion’s Mind: How Great Athletes Think , Train, and Thrive by Jim Afremow), I watch word majors marathons while running on the treadmill, and of course, watching Breaking 2 the Nike Project never gets old! All of this positive intakes adds up. I have noticed that when a mental breakdown happens, its intensity is usually less or tends to linger less time. This time for me, I think it was more of a physical breakdown. Whatever it is, I’m sure it will change as training becomes harder and harder, but I know that I’m more mentally tough that I was yesterday.

So, thank you my dear legs, body and mind for taking me a little further this month for a month PR of 107.39 miles! I love you dearly.

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Cheers to you and Happy August!!

“There is virtue in work and there is virtue in rest. Use both and overlook neither.”

~Alan Cohen

Over 100 miles of Gratitude

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“If running is difficult, run more.”

~Unknown

The month of June started out with a kick to get things moving into the positive direction for half marathon training. It is still part of a build-up phase with cautious-steady increase of mileage, some speed work throughout and long runs, which in this summer feels like double the mileage. I don’t recall last year being this hot and humid like this year. Nevertheless, I’m working with it while being kind to my body.

The month on June also marked the one-year anniversary of my husband’s back surgery. Every single day of this month reminded me how challenging and scary it was for us. Every run, reminded me how precious the gift of running really is, and that, there is so much to be grateful for. It is a relief to know and experience wellness after such difficulty.

I wouldn’t be the runner I am today without his love and support. Kurt is the reason I started running. He was the one with the crazy idea of signing us up for the Disney 2010 marathon back in 2009. However, I have to say that I was the crazier one to go along with the idea. And I am glad that I am that crazy!!! Crazy or not, we are both filled with gratitude for the experience of running Disney 2010 marathon. Kurt has taught me to say “yes” and to go for it when I feel afraid. We are blessed for having that experience. We are so thrilled that we had an opportunity to run (survive) a MARATHON together!

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Recovery walk with my husband and R2-D2 near our home

So yes, a lot of emotions and reflections during the month of June, especially during my runs. This month felt like it went by so fast and so slow at the same time. Some of my miles felt quick while others felt like it was a drag. Running is my meditation time, my sacred time and my “me” time. It is the time I dig deep to find strength, to defy my limits, to stay humble and to focus on gratitude. This month my runs had a stronger drive that I had never experienced before. I felt the desire to run, but I also experienced a crash that lasted me two days which was as much as physical as it was mental. I quickly picked up where I left and never looked back. Whatever it was, I allowed it to run its course.

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Getting back at it after a two-day unplanned rest day

I kept moving forward and forward was about to reach my first 100 miles for the month ever. To say that I am happy it’s an understatement, especially after a setback in March-April. I’m starting to learn and respond better to my body’s need when reaching higher mileage. I’m learning to dig deeper physically and mentally, and I’m finding ways to fortify mental strength. I am ready for more and ready to go beyond my limits. I am ready for more than 102.1 miles for the month.

Dear Universe, thank you for all the blessings. Always!

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Heat and Humidity has been tough in FL – averaging at 94 – 100 % humidity during early morning hours.

Bonus quote!

“Nothing is real if you don’t believe in who you are.”

~Rocky

“Prepare for the next round.”

~Rocky

One of a Runner’s Dream

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“The Future is Bright.”

~ Kurt Westbrook, my husband

Nobody said that conditioning and training to one day BQ was going to be easy. The truth is, it doesn’t get easier, you get stronger. I can certainly feel stronger than I was yesterday, but it doesn’t mean that I should make it harder on myself. And what a best way to make training look easier than owning my own treadmill?

I feel like the luckiest girl on earth for having a caring and supportive husband. He loves me, he supports me and he cheers me up. He will go above and beyond to make life easier, accessible and fun to our family. I’ve been talking for quite a while about getting a treadmill, and he told me that we will get one at the right time.

After his back surgery 11 months ago and months of physical therapy, he found out that walking has been a tremendous help to getting his body strong again. It is beyond happiness to know that he is starting to feel much better and stronger, and that perhaps, later this year he will be strong enough to do a 5K walk.

After taking care of our priorities, the time has come. I searched for a treadmill, I did the research and I knew exactly what specifications I needed the machine to have in order to last me for a long time, and yet, not surpass my needs. It needed to have a strong horsepower of at least 4.0 CHP; a complete lower-body workout of 15% incline and -3% decline; an expansive running deck of at least 22”x60” tread beld; iFit Coach Ready; smart touchscreen display; workout apps; digital quick speed; incline and decline; great warranty; and of course, ProShox Cushioning.

After all of that, the Pro Form Pro 2000 seems to be the most fit for our needs and right on affordability. After showing the product to my husband, he was more interested in the Pro Form Pro 5000 – same tread belt, incline/decline, but the motor was better 4.0 CHP instead of 3.5 CHP. Hey, I am not going to argue with that!

And in a blink of an eye, the treadmill was ordered and purchased over the phone. That moment felt so dreamlike. I was feeling a bunch of emotions all at the same time. I felt so happy, so grateful and a sense of “pressure”, but on a good way. It felt like, “this is real as it gets” – you are now really training to qualify for Boston!

Now what was left to do was to prepare the home gym for the treadmill’s arrival. I had two weeks to get it ready, and with my husband’s help, we got the room ready. In less than two weeks, I received the phone call informing on the day and time of delivery. I was thrilled! It was sooner than expected and I could not wait.

Because of its massive size, it was delivered via a freight company and truck. When I saw the truck parking on my street I could not believe its size. But wait, the size of the box in which the treadmill was wrapped was gigantic! To my amaze, the truck driver was doing the moving of the treadmill all by himself, I know right?! My concern was making sure it didn’t get hit and damaged in the process of placing it on a dolly and moving the thing out of the truck to my home.

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Thankfully, everything went well. My husband had a 4×4 handmade dolly which was very helpful in placing the treadmill on it in order to get it inside the house. I was very appreciative of the delivery guy’s assisting us in actually bringing the treadmill inside the house, as opposed to, living it on side curb.

My husband immediately started to dismantle the box and putting the treadmill together piece by piece. The entire process took 3 hours. It was exhausting but so thrilling. After reanalyzing the room, we decided where to best place the treadmill and I’m ready to roll. There’s no doubt I am the luckiest girl and have the most wonderful husband. He’s so kind and attentive.

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My first run on Newton (yes I do name my most valuable running gears – Garmins, shoes, and now my very own treadmill) was on a Saturday for a quick and easy 4-miler. I decided to name my treadmill Newton after the Newtown Hills on the Boston Marathon course. I immediately felt a strong connection to its name and meaning. I mean, how I cannot love hills if all I focus on now is the day I run the Boston Marathon? The fun really starts in Newton Hills, right?!

So yes, my mental game is to love Newton whereas most runners called it “dreadmill” and show some dislike to treadmills. Newton will help me get there and I do show much gratitude and appreciation to my running “things”.

And of course, my husband is loving doing his fast walk every day and even walking on Newton Hills through iFit technology!

Without further ado, lace up, Celia. The chase just got real!

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“Surround yourself with people who know your worth. You don’t need too many people in your life, just the real ones who appreciate you for exactly who you are.”

~Steve Maraboli