My brother recently wrote a really good post about conquering fears.  Even though he was relating it to running, it really could apply to so much in life. Please read it here on the blog: Coaching, Training and Motivation.

One of the things I love about my brother is his willingness to help others, and even though he has an amazing running ability, (one that most of us would pretty much die for), he always seems very low-key about it. When I told him that one of my very fast runner friends thought my brother was ridiculously fast in comparison to him, I could tell I made him blush over the phone.  He said, “you know I spend so much time talking to people about speed, I just seem to take myself out of the equation.”

I love people like that – people who could be all “big about themselves” for a variety of reasons, but they choose not to. People who dig down deep and face their fears. People who follow their heart.  (FYI, clicking on this picture of the elevation chart will blow it up for you.)

Elevation Chart for Leadville 100 course, which is an out-and-back, so what goes up must come down, and vice versa.

My brother has come a long way in a few years. He made a career change that took him from one of constant stress and anxiety attacks (literally) to one that he’s so devoted to that when he comes to visit, he always has his laptop out so he can communicate with his running clients. When he was on a bus enroute to come see me last fall, he asked if I could give a client of his a call, to let them know he’d be sending an email as soon as he got to me, telling them final strategy tips for their marathon race the following morning.  When I contacted his client, he said that my brother was an awesome coach, and so dedicated.  It was no surprise to me, but I think it might have been to my brother.  That’s just how he is.

A few years ago, he barely seemed to have the energy to train for marathons. Now he’s training for the Leadville 100, and signs his emails about it, by using the phrase “Crazy Train.” [At least he knows he’s nuts. :-)]   I like the fact that he’s pushing himself to another level (figuratively and literally, as the Leadville Race has some mileage that will be run above the tree line.)

In case you are wondering, yes, a longtime friend of his and I have already volunteered to pilot the Medivac Helicopter for him when the race is over.  We’ve watched him run the marathon at Philadelphia a few times, and always wonder “Why do we drive all this way [from D.C. and Boston] to see him fly by us for just a few seconds during the course of 2-3 hours??” LOL

Brooks ST Racers, image from Amazon.com

I’ll never have my brother’s speed (6 repeat 800s at 2:45, anyone?) but I’ve been thinking of ways to challenge myself too, running and otherwise.  On my brother’s advice, I’ve just bought a pair of racing flats to try out this year: the Brooks ST Racers. (This link takes you to the new model, 5, but I think mine will be the 4, pictured at right.)

I never thought that they were for people like me, before.  By that, I mean  people who tend to run in the middle of the pack. However, Ive seen my times improve over the past few years.  So, now I want to see if having less physical weight on my feet, and the added mental boost of knowing my feet are lighter, will help speed up my times. (Even though they will clash with all of my running clothes, color-wise…)

I’ve been meeting new people and reaching out to others more than I used to. I’ve tended to move away from people or situations that are not right with me, and doing so lifts a heavy load off of me, mentally.  Sticking with them just tends to make you look backward, and I don’t want to do that anymore. (I’m not saying it’s bad to remember everything, I think you need to learn and grow from past experiences, and not always dwell on the past.  It won’t change it.)

I’m also toying with the idea of learning how to rock climb. People who have known me my entire life know how terrified I am of heights.  So, I’m thinking more of learning what they call bouldering, because with that type of climbing, it’s more about the challenge of forging a route to the top of a, say, 30-foot high piece of rock that others might not see.  Or, it’s the challenge of finding handholds or footholds that work, while others might find them impossible. (At least, this is what I have read about it.)  You don’t have to be 100 feet off of the ground, or trying to scale the flat faces of Yosemite or Zion out west.  I’ve always liked reading about people who challenge themselves physically and mentally, such as the mountaineers who climb Everest, or any of the other 8Kers (mountains taller than 8,000 meters).  I’m thinking that maybe I should experience some of it rather than just reading about it! (Although, don’t get me wrong, I have no desire to actually climb an 8,000 meter peak!)

So, who knows? I may go to a class or two and find that “yep, I really do not like heights” or I’m so clutzy as to find the endeavor totally laughable, and feel like a complete and total jackass.  I may end up in a class with a bunch of under-10-year-olds.   But I will never know until I try it.

p.s. A friend suggested I find a half marathon to run this spring, after having run 10.2 miles (walked about .2 of it) on the treadmill yesterday. I am considering it. Some days, you just feel like running long and zoning out, and I’m just trying to go with the flow these days, in so many ways. I’m trying to make a concerted effort of keeping my workouts fun, and even think I’ve found a new good friend to run with now.

Things are coming together, slowly but surely.

Reservoir at night, loved the colors and way the clouds looked on Saturday

My friend Sarah came over on Saturday to hang out, and help me put things together. (Seriously, I have a problem with reading directions and putting things together. It’s like my brain doesn’t know how to make sense of the pictures unless someone reads them out loud to, or with, me.) THANK YOU SARAH! We went for a walk that night to check out the neighborhood and walk around the reservoir, which is when I took the picture to the left.

My younger brother, the crazy long-distance runner, and running coach, was in town this weekend for a very quick overnight visit. With everything that’s been going on, he’s wanted to come up and visit so we could have a good talk, and we definitely did have several while he was here.  He’s 15 months younger than me, and growing up we fought like “cats and dogs.”  Mom always said that we’d fight each other to the death, but let someone else pick on one of us, and we’d turn on that other person with an equal vengeance to protect each other. So if your kids are like that now, take heart, they can grow up to be pretty close, as we are.

Whenever my brother comes for a visit, it’s always short. Sometimes he arrives on a Wednesday night, and then we run the Feaster Five on Thanksgiving morning, getting into a car a few hours later to drive to my mom in upstate NY.  Sometimes it’s at Christmas, again, a short visit.  Sometimes I’m able to go to NYC for work and I stay with him for a weekend.

View of large pond in Blue Hills. Someone said today it was Houghton's Pond, but I don't think that's the right shape. Think it might be Ponkapog (sp?) Pond.

He’s never been able to really see Boston on his visits, so this morning, I took him down to the Blue Hills area which is located south of the city. It’s where they hold the 13.1 Marathon Boston (yes, it was a running joke that the Boston race was not really  in Boston but a decent drive south of the city.) Definitely not a race whose course had you running around downtown’s skyscrapers, like my first half marathon of the year, which was the Run to Remember on Memorial Day. 

Tiny buildings way off in the distance is skyline of Boston, from the Blue Hills observation tower (looks like a "castle.")

While I was training down there this summer, I found out that there are some pretty easy trails that lead to the top of the largest blue hill, and you can look out over Boston from an observation tower. My friend Lis calls it Great Blue Hill. So, that’s where I took my brother today. I apologize for the quality of this photo and how small the city looks in the distance (everyone, get out your magnifying glasses) but just take it from me, the view is amazing.

By the way, this photo is of Great Bue Hill  but I took the photo at 5 a.m. on the morning of the half-marathon. You can’t see the “castle” from where we took the other pictures posted here, but it gives you an idea of its size anyway. It only took us about 15 minutes to hike to the top. Lots of kids were doing it too, albeit at a slower pace.

the large hill that we climbed today, which I learned while training was called Big Blue, by hikers

 I then drove my brother over most of the course that I had run in June. He said that a few of the folks he coaches in NYC also ran it, and complained a lot about the lack of cups, as well as the mile+ long hill that basically killed everyone. I said now he could go back home and tell them he really understood. He couldn’t believe we had run such a hill and then still had about 1-2 miles to go!   We also hiked up the first “summit” hill that we ran in the race.

Well, maybe walked is a better word than “hiked” since our walk was up a road, not a trail (they close it off on Sundays during the summer.) He thought that hill was pretty steep, about a 10% grade. I said “yeah, that wasn’t the hard one for me, once I did it once in training.” Felt damn good to say that! I believe the road is called Chicktawbut, but I always pronounced it as chick-too-a-butt. I know, I’m an idiot. Once it got into my brain that way, it got stuck.

Last but not least, I just had to show my brother the hill in Newton that I’ve been running up and down to confirm that it really is Heartbreak Hill. I’d say the involuntarily twitching of his fingers confirmed it.  He was like “OH NO, OH NO” when we drove down it. “This hill comes at the absolute worst spot in a marathon,” I believe were his exact words.

Lucky for him, I didn’t make him run it….:-)

Anyway, I’ve mapped out a new route that has me running down and up it, and I can’t wait to make that a part of my normal training.  “Oh yeah, Heartbreak Hill? I run that all the time…” LOL

How can you not love this face?

Wow, it has been a while since I posted on here. And it’s been a while since I’ve been in the mood to be on Twitter a lot. I go in spurts. Sometimes I’m just about addicted to Twitter, other days I don’t want to really get on there, especially during lunch because 20 minutes later, there I still am, typing along with  my thumb and pointer finger (I know, I’m weird, I can’t really type with two thumbs.)

Anyway, what have I been up to since the Claddagh 4-mile race? Well, I was supposed to run a 5-mile race the following week, on March 14th.  Unfortunately that also fell on Day 2 of a 3 day deluge of rain, during which our area got 10 INCHES  of rain.  We are now in the middle of getting somewhere between 4-6 inches again.  Mind you, some folks have not stopped pumping water out of their basements during that time because we’ve had a few normal rain storms in between.  Lovely.

I feel like a wimp, but I just didn’t feel like running that race in a downpour, with 25-30 mph wind gusts.  I hated to disappoint my friend Meg, and I really did want that 3rd medal, but I guess for me, the third time (next year) will be the charm and I’ll finally get all 3.

Let’s see – I went to a Celtics game on St. Patrick’s Day, thanks to my husband who won seats just 14 rows off of the floor.  Nothing like being in Boston on a day that celebrates the Irish. 🙂  Then I took a few personal days and took it easy.

Penny and Terri at the tweet-up - finally we met!!

During my personal time off, I traveled to NYC.  I am so happy to report that I FINALLY met Penny, aka @southbaygirl on Twitter, of the PlanetYnnepRunning blog (she recently had to protect her blog so you have to request the ability to be read it).  She was in NYC to run the NYC Half Marathon, and asked if I could come down from the Boston area to meet her. I figured it would likely be the closest we could ever get to each other, so I went down and stayed with my brother and met her at a tweetup, and then again on Sunday at, and after, the race. She is, quite honestly, one of the most generous and genuine people I have ever met. And I felt like I’d already known her for quite some time. Because, in a way, we have. We’ve read each other’s blogs now for almost 2 years. Amazing, huh?

While I was in NYC, I had a great run with my brother on Sunday night (in SHORTS, no less.) Oh yeah, did I neglect to say that while I was there, it was also about 70 degrees? I know Penny was aggravated/frustrated by that, but for my part, I was LOVING it. (Especially since it went back to the 30s this past weekend her in MA.)

Penny and I, with @tinyjenna, @followjocelyn, and @katiemiller at the NYC Half Marathon

What’s on my horizon?  Um, a lot.  Work this Sunday, April 4th (volunteered to work without realizing it was Easter. Sigh.)  A big legal research teaching event on April 9th. A  5 mile race on April 10th.  Packet stuffing for the Boston Marathon. Then, the Boston Athletic Association 5K on April 18th, the day before the Boston Marathon.  Oh, and I’ll be meeting Lindsay, of Chasing the Kenyans, or @lindsaydecken on Twitter, the weekend of the Boston Marathon – hopefully she’ll be able to stay with me at least part of the time without having an asthma attack (the animals could do it.)  Yay!  (She’s another person whose blog I’ve been reading for at least 18 months now!)

Oh, and there will be more dog training classes in our future. We broke down and have taken Ruthie twice, to get her more acclimated to being around other dogs. We now realize it’s out of fear that she gets into fights. She even got into a fight at the dog school this past weekend. It was suggested we get her a muzzle – it will still allow her to breathe, of course, but sends a verbal cue to owners and other dogs that she is not one that plays well with others so much.  She loves people, though, and she really wants to be friends with our calico, Callie, so things could clearly be much worse. But doesn’t she look so sad?  (Bill petted her the whole 2 minutes this muzzle was on tonight and then she got a treat right after we removed it, so she wouldn’t feel like she was being punished.)  We’ve been told to put it on her at random times so she doesn’t just associate it with dog school.

Ruthie and her muzzle, looking so sad

Oh, and I have also been writing a lot more lately. Thanks to @ridgeley on Twitter, who was extremely generous with her time and advice, I bought myself a Toshiba netbook a few weeks ago. I absolutely love it.

toshiba nb305-450 - picture from newegg.com

The battery power is great, the screen resolution is wonderful, it weighs almost nothing.  And, I LOVE the keyboard. I feel inspired just looking at it.  I’ve been taking it to work and am able to write on it almost every day at lunchtime.

And, for reasons I cannot go into, I have pulled myself out of, or begun to, anyway, pull myself out of a negative funk at work. I’ve decided to give more of the benefit of the doubt to some people and also to try to not let the stress of others affect me as much. I can try to help them and support them, but I can’t take everyone else’s problems and turn them into mine. It just weighs too much.

All of this, in addition to finishing Stephen King’s 1074 page tome, Under the Dome. And continuing to run in the early a.m.  I’d like to extend a  personal thank you to Turtlepower1 on Twitter for worrying about me. He got me motivated to write on here tonight!

Oh, and I have a few more products I can write about now – so stay tuned! (Nope, I didn’t forget about my cold weather running products, not at all!)  Hey, if you buy them now, they’ll all be on sale. 🙂

Yep, it’s been a pretty busy three weeks.

Jim at the Philly Marathon finish, a Boston Qualifier again!

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, odds are you’ve heard me talk (write) about my brother in the past. If you’re new to my blog, let me tell you a few things. 

First, his name is Jim Saint-Amour (I call him Jamie but I’m one of the only people in the world that calls him that.)  Second, he’s my younger brother. The baby of the family.  According to my husband, he has two moms, me and our real Mom.  I admit it, I will always worry about him but that’s because I’m older and we’re close in age, only 15 months separate us. Mom always said that, growing up, I’d be the first to get in a fight-to-the-death with him, but I’d also be the first one to stick up for and defend him against anyone outside of our family.  Third, he helped me to finish a marathon back in 2007. When he found out I was going to do it, he offered to run it with me, at my pace, which, believe me, was a LOT slower than his!  He also carried a sign during the entire race, which he’d put over my head whenever we saw crowds, which said “Run Happy:My Sister’s First Marathon” to get people to cheer for me.  I think you need to read this post of mine about that experience, to really see what I’m talking about.  Did I mention he also carried an extra camelbak on his back, just for me, the entire 26.2 miles?  He did. 

While he’s younger, I can tell you that in at least one aspect of his life, I’ve always envied him and looked up to him.  That aspect is his positive, just go-with-the-flow attitude. I’ve always been the one that needs to have things planned out. He’s the one that’s been able to go backpacking across Europe and move cross-country, without having a job lined up, only to have a job on an Australian cruise ship land in his lap 4 days later. (Ah, the life.) 

So, over the past two years, while he was pursuing a job as a middle/high school special ed teacher in inner city NY, I could tell something was off. He was usually very stressed, and he sighed. A lot. So much so that when I visited him last year, I commented on how often I heard him sigh.  Without knowing I’d said something, that same weekend, his friends noted the same thing. 

Well, he decided to follow his heart and leave that job, to pursue a job working in the running/coaching industry full time.  He now works for Urban Athletics in NYC. He works in the store and is also part of their coaching program.  He is RRCA certified.  He does one-on-one training, is the speed-and-form coach at their downtown location, online training, and yes, he does also work with beginners!   

If you read his bio,  you’ll hear about his first coaching experience a few years ago, when he worked with individuals who had never run before.  I met a few of the folks from that program at the Philly expo last November.  Three of them were planning on running the half-marathon the following day. It was clear that they still looked up to him, and he’d helped them to nurture a true love of running, as I discovered at dinner that evening. 

Here’s what I am really happy about. Every time I talk to him now, even if he’s tired, there’s a lift in his voice that’s been back. I know it’s because he’s doing something he truly loves.  I can’t tell you how positive and knowledgeable he is, and how generous he is with that knowledge.  He won’t judge you. He’ll work with you, and you will accomplish your goals, and probably a whole lot more than you thought possible.   

If you’d like his contact information, just drop me a note in the comments and I can give you his personal email address.  Or, of course, you can contact him at the store (I’ m not great with knowing where things are in NY, but I believe this is their downtown location.)

2 World Financial Center
in The Winter Garden
New York, NY 10281
Phone: 212/267-2247

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the photo above is from the 2009 Philly Marathon, where, again, he qualified for Boston in 3:07 and some change.  And he was smiling. 🙂

I decided to take tonight off because after Saturday’s cross-training session on the exercise bike, and the race yesterday, I needed it. For some reason, unknown even to me, when I was at the gym on Saturday with Bill (he was, in his words, “off the D.L., so he could go”), I decided to do as many RPMs for as long as I could handle, which was over 100 for a while. Quite stupid the day before a race, I know, but I blame my iPod and the new music I recently bought.  That’s why I chided myself during the race yesterday when those negative thoughts kicked in and I wanted to stop. As Bill said, my Garmin watch is so big, I could just stop and say “beem me up, Scottie” if I wanted to, and then the pain and suffering would all be over. 🙂

I started my first serious fundraising efforts this past weekend, and all I can say, is that the generosity of people astounds and floors me, and I say this quite seriously. Wow. It makes me feel good about what I am doing. In addition to the donations, I have received such kind words and thoughts from people, that I know I cannot fail. Some people have said that they think I’m inspiring, or that my blog is to them, and while I appreciate that (I really do), I consider myself to be just like everyone else, except that in deciding to run a marathon, I have “fallen off of the sanity tree, and hit every branch on the way down.” 🙂

Rest assured, I WILL finish the marathon, and I WILL be standing up straight when I do it, not crawling. Those are my two main goals. The other is to somehow do it between 4 hours and 4 hours, 20 minutes, if at all possible. That means I have quite a lot of work ahead of me. We’ll see what happens.

I think my brother’s blog will soon be up and running (no pressure there, Jamie. Ha!) Of course he was one of the first calls I made about the race yesterday. As usual, he was supportive. This next comment though will tell you what different leagues he and I are in, though. He ran 17 miles yesterday as part of his training for the ultramarathon (or as I call it, the “ARE YOU INSANE?” race) he plans on running in July. He ran 7 1/2 miles across Brooklyn, met up with his running buddy (think his name is Steve) who is going to run the race with him. Then they ran another 8 miles together or so, around an 8 minute pace, or something like that. Mind you I am lucky to do one 8-minute mile. He would like to do the first 20 miles of the ARE YOU INSANE? race at his usual marathon pace (you all don’t want to know the details, trust me) and then slow down for the next thirty miles.

I find him to be so inspiring and I’m so proud of him, can you tell? He’s my little brother (ok, younger, not smaller, as you can tell from the pics), yet in many ways I look up to him. He says he is not naturally fast, and that he needs to work at it constantly. Yet he’s much faster than I’ll ever be. He’s always had a positive attitude, yet it’s something I have had to work on. I suppose it’s all a matter of perspective.

I saw this quote on the top of Notes of a Non-Runner’s site today, and I think it is quite fitting for my outlook right now, one I know I want to keep. (Thank you to all of you who gave me suggestions on books to strengthen the mental aspect of my training last week!)

“ONE OF THE THINGS THAT HAS BECOME CLEAR TO US THROUGH WORKING WITH PEOPLE TRAINING FOR THE MARATHON IS THAT IN ORDER TO MAINTAIN A POSITIVE ATTITUDE ABOUT TRAINING AND RUNNING, IT IS NECESSARY TO DEVELOP A POSITIVE ATTITUDE ABOUT LIFE IN GENERAL” – The Non-Runner’s Marathon Trainer.

Jamie with hat on the day before the Boston Marathon

Jamie, sans hat, the day before the Boston Marathon

He’ll be in a grey t-shirt, teal shorts (as requested by me, so I could pick him out of the crowd) and his Nike Freeze shoes! Oh, and of course there will be a Brooks running hat on his head (I think a blue one, but can’t be sure.)

And in case you’re confused, this IS my brother Jamie (“Jim” to all of his friends.)  He’s hoping to break 3 hours, if not make his ultimate goal of 2:45.  We kept telling him today that we’ll look for him to be near Lance Armstrong, whose yellow shirt should also be easy to spot.   I think he thought we were kidding, but seriously they could be close together if all goes well.

Oh and by the way the Olympic Trials today were just amazing – Joan Benoit Samuelson and everyone ran so well. Pictures are forthcoming!