JMU Hall of Fame speech

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We’re on our way home from a very busy weekend at James Madison University, but I wanted to post my speech from Friday night for my friends and family who weren’t able to attend. More photos and details coming soon! Go Dukes!


A few years ago I was working as a high school science teacher and track coach in Hampton Roads. Inevitably some of the kids found out about my achievements as a student-athlete and wanted to know… so Coach Mollie (DeFrancesco was too long and Coach Turner never stuck for whatever reason) anyway, so Coach Mollie, how do I get a scholarship because I really want to run track in college? Or what’s the deal- how do you become an All American?

So, I would tell them- oh, you have to work hard in practice every day and get good grades, eat right, go to bed early, etc. But… the truth is that you can do all of those things and more and never get to the top level. Because being a student athlete requires A) hard work B) talent and C) a hell of a lot of extremely good luck

And maybe it doesn’t seem like good luck at the time, but looking back now you can see it.

Let me explain…

First- JMU wasn’t my first choice. And before y’all get upset, let me remind you that I was 18 years old and really had no clue about anything as you’ll see from this story. I had it narrowed down to two choices: JMU and… Villanova. My dad took me and my sister on a road trip (I guess- two birds with one stone?) and although I loved both schools for different reasons, I settled on Villanova (I know, gasp). It gets better. My primary reason for selecting that school at the time was… honestly the mall was better. I’m not making this up. And if you know anything about the King of Prussia mall, it really is a NICE mall… I swear.

Luckily for everyone involved, my parents were bums and didn’t turn in my paperwork on time- so instead of attending Villanova I “settled” for JMU. So, thank you mom and dad for being bums and not turning in that paperwork on time. Just kidding, I love you ❤️

Some more examples of good luck and I’m going to attempt some one liners here…
When I say I “walked on” the team… anyone who knew me back then would say that’s pretty accurate because I was basically walking back there.

There was one day in particular when I was a freshman that I remember Coach sent us out on a 5 mile run and I was SO TIRED… so I ran to my dorm and took a nap for 45 minutes, splashed water on my head and ran back to Godwin. That’s a true story.

Getting back to my main point here… YOU NEED A HELL OF A LOT OF GOOD LUCK. After my not so great showing my first year, Coach Henner left and Coach Dave Rinker was hired as the head cross country coach. There are 100 different ways to train a runner, and Coach Rinker’s workouts happened to work well for me. If it weren’t for that change in coaching staff I certainly wouldn’t have had the success that I did.

Now, I’m going to skip over a lot of details here, but after many, many laps around the old Bridgeforth stadium track, eventually we got to here.

I have a lot of people to thank- my high school coach Mark Mindel for getting me started, my coaches at JMU- Coach Henner for my first year and coach Rinker for the majority of my collegiate career. My professors and especially Dr. Mike Goldberger for all of the free counseling sessions and many recommendation letters. My teammates- each and every one of you- you need great teammates to be a great athlete even in an individual sport like running.

I firmly believe that JMU was the right place for me- if I had chosen any other school I would not have flourished the way I did here. That’s also why, if you ask any of my former students or athletes that I coached, I always told them if you want me to write you a recommendation letter FOR JMU no problem! Just don’t ask me to write you a letter for William and Mary.

And last, thanks to my family for traveling so far to be here this evening. My husband and I met while I was in grad school here at JMU but he’s always been supportive of my running and puts up with me in general so he deserves a thank you. And to my two girls, Emmaline and Natalie who will probably be up here giving their own speeches in about 30 years. Love you ❤️

Good night!

Mohawk Hudson River Half Marathon recap

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Mile 1: 7:33
Mile 2: 7:18 (14:51)
Mile 3: 7:25 (22:17)
Mile 4: 6:59 (29:16) #ohshit
Mile 5: 7:01 (36:17) #relaxrelaxrelax
Mile 6: 7:22 (43:40)
Mile 7: 7:32 (51:12)
Mile 8: 7:32 (58:45)
Mile 9: 7:55 (1:06:41) *regroup at water stop
Mile 10: 7:38 (1:14:20)
Mile 11: 7:51 (1:22:11) #ouch
Mile 12: 8:14 (1:30:26) (thinks: should I just walk?)
Mile 13: 7:36 (1:38:02) #igotthis
Last 0.1: 0:46 (1:38:48)

I started writing an actual recap, then Emma got up mid-nap to hand me her hair clip and my post disappeared. So you can thank her for sparing us all the boring, overly dramatic details. I went out too fast, then I slowed down, then I got a ton of energy in the last mile and managed to pick it up for the last 1.1 miles.


Thank goodness for Shower Pill- I was able to do a quick wipedown after my race and feed Natalie immediately. She usually eats every 2 hours during the day, so I didn’t want to keep her waiting but also wanted to make sure I was free of any germs I may have picked up in the porta potties or finish line area. I was happy to share the ShowerPill love with some other runners in the awards area after the race as well. Use code WIPEDOWN for 15% off at

Both kids are up now, so that’s all I’ve got! Feeling good!

Training Summary (so far)

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Awhile back I mentioned that I started working with a “new” coach (really, my former high school coach) through a program set up at a local running store. The program is for half and full marathon training, and is set up so that you meet at least two times per week (one speed day and one long run) with the option to tag along on a few other days of the week as well. My coach sends me workouts every week and then I report back.

Reality: I made ONE workout, a speed workout that I did pushing the double stroller. And I didn’t even finish the workout. Natalie was hungry and I wasn’t going to let her cry so I could do one more interval. The rest of the workouts and long runs I have done on my own. No, this isn’t my preference, but running isn’t my #1 priority right now.

At first, I tried to do the tempo runs, but I only successfully completed two of them. After some trial and error, I decided to just focus on this —> get out the door and start running. This has turned out to be a GREAT plan for the weekdays- there is very little stress trying to squeeze in workouts or travel to a place with a flat route so I can safely do a tempo run. I still report back to my coach and love having someone to check up on me and keep me accountable. It is reeeally easy to lose motivation when you have two little ones to take care of all day.

So here’s a little rundown of what I’ve done with my training post-baby. I’ve actually had a LOT of people ask me about this- when did I start running, how much, etc. so I figured I would share what I’ve done. (Keep in mind, I have been running for awhile and ran through most of my pregnancy. Everyone is different, and it’s important to listen to your body and build back gradually. I’ve had two different doctors who both cleared me to run very soon after delivery, but make sure to check with your doc first!)

Week of 7/6- 2 miles walking- a brisk, hilly walk on Friday (1 week post-partum)
Week of 7/13- 4 miles total- one 2 mile walk, one 2 mile run
Week of 7/20- 11 miles total- one 2 mile walk, 9 miles running (3 runs, 3 miles each)
Week of 7/27- 12 miles running (3 miles, 4 miles, 5 miles)
Week of 8/3- 17 miles (2 walking, 15 running w/ 2x2k speed workout, long run 5 miles)
Week of 8/10- 17 miles (4 mile tempo, 4 mile hill workout, 5 mile long run)
Week of 8/17- 23 miles (6 mile long run at 8:18 pace without stroller- felt great!)
Week of 8/24- 9 miles (bad running week, on vacation, 6 mile long run)
Week of 8/31- 21 miles (6.5 mile long run w/ double stroller at 9:38 pace)
Week of 9/7- 22 miles (5k in 21:44, no long run)
Week of 9/14- 23 miles (trail race, 9 mile long run w/ stroller at 9:38 pace)
Week of 9/21- 26 miles (5k in 20:30, no long run)
Week of 9/28- 23 miles (10 mile long run at 7:53 pace without stroller)

And so, by the skin of my teeth, I think I managed to prepare myself to cross the finish line of my half marathon this Sunday. I’m looking at this race as more of a training effort, but I do have a race plan. I haven’t run many half marathons (my last one was in 2011) and have never really been in a place to actually race one, but am hoping that trend will change in the next year. I’m really looking forward to training for Boston this spring, and am planning to share more details of my training along the way!

Lastly, I wanted to share some sad news: One of my Oiselle teammates, Jen Kunze, passed away hiking in Banff (in Calgary) last week. Her husband was injured as well, but he survived. Jen was a passionate and adventurous runner who loved to race with her husband. If they weren’t racing they were off exploring the mountains. Jen’s family has set up a memorial fund that will go towards deserving cross country runners from Jen’s high school to help with their college expenses.

A group of my teammates will be running the RNR Vancouver Half Marathon on October 25th in honor of Jen. You can dedicate your run to Jen using the hashtag ‪#‎milesforJenK‬ on Twitter or Instagram.

You can also find more information here: Jen Kunze Memorial Fund

Crossings 5k recap

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Three weekends, three races, and finally I’m feeling a little more like myself.

This past Sunday I ran a 5k in Colonie. I chose this race because there were kids races and activities and it looked like a fun fall activity for the family. The weather was gorgeous- a little warm for running purposes but perfect for spectators and kiddos to enjoy the day.

My warm up was a jog to the start line plus a little more, maybe a half mile total. So, when the race started I felt sluggish and slow, but I managed to find a pace that felt ok and stuck with it. My first mile was around 6:30, and I came through the two mile point at 13:06 (so a 6:36, yay math). I was struggling at this point but then realized “hey, you’re not sucking!” I knew I only had a mile left, and though part of me really wanted to stop and walk, the other part of me saw a woman up ahead who I could catch and that kept me going. So with about 1/4 mile left I summoned whatever fast twitch muscle fibers I could and was able to catch her and cross the line in 2nd place. My overall time was 20:30, so I did slow a little in the third mile (I didn’t take splits during the race, but guessing the last mile was around 6:42). Still a trend of getting slower each mile, but not nearly as dramatic as the 5k I ran 2 weeks ago.

Afterwards I met up with my family and got Emmaline ready for her race. She was really into it this time and ran almost the entire 1/4 mile by herself.

Running with Emmaline in the beginning of the kids race.

Running with Emmaline in the beginning of the kids race.

The last kids race she participated in was about the same distance around a baseball field and she got scared by the mascot so we had to carry her most of the way. (He scared me too).

All done!

All done!

So, what’s next? We’re doing a “biketoberfest” next weekend to raise money for ALS research, and taking a break from races for the week. Then the following week is the Mohawk Hudson River Half Marathon! I’m feeling a lot better about being able to complete the distance. Althogh my mileage is low, I did finally get in a longer run last weekend and am hoping to get in one more sometime this week. I recently joined Strava- if you want to follow my training as I attempt to come back from baby #2, here’s the link to my workout from today: workout :)

Double Race Recap

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Oh, boy.

I’m back racing.

Start line of Malta 5k during National Anthem. I am all the way on the right, in the neon yellow/green shirt.

Start line of Malta 5k during National Anthem. I am all the way on the right, in the neon yellow/green shirt.

10 weeks after having Natalie I ran a small 5k in Malta, NY. I crossed the line in 21:44 and finished 2nd in my age group. It did not feel great or easy. It was also an exercise in how NOT to run a 5k: Mile 1 6:30, Mile 2 7:00, Mile 3 7:30. Yes, I almost walked up a hill in the 3rd mile but talked myself out of it… mostly because I knew it would be hard to start running again once I stopped.

I was able to run a one mile warm up. Most of my warm up time was taken up by feeding Nat, changing diapers, dashing to the porta potty, etc., but I expected this so it was okay. I didn’t do a cool down because I felt pretty bad, so Pete and I walked around the bike path while Emma did some running of her own.

This past weekend I ran a “4 mile” trail race in Kinderhook, NY. The race was even smaller than the 5k the previous weekend, with maybe 50 people crossing the finish line. It started and finished at the home of former US president Martin Van Buren, a native of Kinderhook. Side note: did you know that some history buffs have credited his campaign for popularizing the term “ok”, an abbreviation for Old Kinderhook?

Pre-race selfie... not sure what I was smirking at.

Pre-race selfie… not sure what I was smirking at.

I’ve run a few trail races, and so I expected that the advertised distance was merely a suggestion. Turns out the race was more like 3.5 miles, which was great news to me. I felt a lot better during this race even though the course was much harder, mostly because I ran more evenly. I crossed the line as second woman in 27:00, and my sister finished about 30 seconds ahead of me in first. I wasn’t able to warm up at all- still having to balance my time with Natalie’s need to eat constantly, but of course that’s perfectly fine and something I expected! I felt a lot better after this race, and was able to run a short cool down.

After the Malta 5k I went back and read my race recap from my first race after Emmaline (the 2013 Bertie 5k in North Carolina). It was a lot cooler that day, and the course was much easier (and it was a race I was familiar with) so I guess it’s hard to compare- but I ran a similar time. I remember being so overwhelmed at that race, just trying to figure out how to warm up and get everything else done. I was used to getting to races an hour ahead of time and going through the same routine I had done for years. It pays to have already gone through that, because now I’m much more laid back about sticking to a schedule.

I have another race this weekend, a week off, and then the Mohawk Hudson River half marathon on October 11th. The weather is gorgeous here, and the leaves are starting to turn, which means it’s marathon season for many of my friends and the runners that I coach. Can’t wait to watch some great races this fall!

Racing after baby and a new training program…

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Today I registered for my first race in several months! I actually registered for 3 races, all in September (two 5ks and a 4 mile trail race). The first one is this Saturday (eek)! One reason I decided to jump in a few races so soon after having Natalie is the need to practice a race day routine for my half marathon in October. Plus I really love fall races, whether I’m in shape or not. The only problem is, I used to be able to come home afterwards and lay around watching football (and eating)… that won’t be an option for a few more years I think. Luckily these two are cute, so I don’t mind too much.


I’ve been training with my former high school coach for the past few weeks. Although I haven’t been able to be there in person for most of the workouts, it has been really helpful to finally have a coach again. I mean, logically I know what to do to train for a half marathon (I should hope so… I do this for a living) but having someone to report to makes me feel more accountable. I usually receive my workouts on Sundays and then try to plan out my week from there. The toughest part has been getting in my long run (with a 2 month old who needs to eat constantly and refuses to take a bottle). It’s also pretty challenging to attempt a tempo run with the double stroller, so I have to run those workouts based on effort. I’m happy with my progress so far and feel I’m getting a lot stronger, so I’m looking forward to challenging myself with some races in the next few weeks. Hope everyone had a nice holiday weekend!

Natalie’s Birth Story

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After about a month of writing this in pieces when I had a few moments, finally it’s done! The story of Natalie’s birth…

It’s around 10 am on July 1st and my phone is buzzing on the kitchen counter.

“Hi, I’m calling to confirm your induction of labor for July 9th.”
In case I didn’t go into labor by 41 weeks, my doctor recommended that I schedule an induction. But no… my doctor said the 5th.
“Well we’re backed up because of the holiday weekend so our first opening is the 9th.”

I was pissed. Irrationally so (my pregnancy hormones got me going). I called Pete and explained how upset I was. I brought him coffee at work and actually cried about it. He agreed to leave work early and come with me to my check up that afternoon. So I left, went to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription (and cried there too for some reason). Then I took Emmaline to get some frozen yogurt (not knowing this would be our last “date” before the arrival of her little sister).

Afterwards I drove back to pick up Pete and we got to the doctor’s office around 2:30 pm. Because of the upcoming holiday, this appointment was with a different doctor than I usually see. He had more questions than usual, which was fine. I voiced my concerns. Apparently one of my answers sent up a red flag, though. When they asked if I had felt the baby move today, I said yes… But not nearly as much as usual. I didn’t think that my answer would be the defining moment that it was… but I guess they take those comments seriously. Since I was already past my due date and experiencing decreased fetal movement, there was a good chance I would have to be induced that day.

Normally they would have recommended that I get a non-stress test in the office, but because of the holiday (AGAIN… see a pattern here?) they didn’t have any appointments available so they sent me over to the hospital. To labor and delivery.

I made a few phone calls and got my sis to agree to watch Emmaline. After they set me up in an antepartum room for some tests, Pete left to take Emma home. There was a lot of waiting around. Probably 3 hours or so until they moved me to a labor and delivery room to deliver the news (I mean, I figured once they moved me that they were going to suggest starting the induction process). The baby looked fine, but my BP (which had been low for the entire pregnancy) had suddenly spiked. I wouldn’t need the dreaded CRB or Foley catheter balloon, just pitocin. So I signed the paperwork and got hooked up and ready to go.

When I wrote Emmaline’s birth story, I left out a lot of the dirty details. I promise not to be graphic here, but I wanted to share some of what I experienced for anyone who is facing an induction with pitocin (because everyone makes it out to be such a terrible thing). Skip this paragraph if you’re not comfortable reading about this. With Emma, my cervix wasn’t “ready” so the doctors used a 12 hour Foley balloon before they started pitocin. This time my cervix was considered “favorable” so I didn’t need the balloon. At around 7 pm they started the drip (pitocin is synthetic oxytocin- a hormone that your body normally produces during labor) at 1 milliunit/min and increased it by 1 every half hour. The goal was to have my contractions coming every 2 minutes or so.

By 10:30 pm my pitocin drip was up to 6 and I was starting to feel extremely uncomfortable. The contractions were about every 2 minutes and getting stronger. I had already talked to anesthesia earlier and signed off on an epidural, so all I needed to do was make a phone call. The procedure itself wasn’t painful at all and soon I was numb and feeling much better. I had to lay on my left side for awhile because the medicine had spread mostly to my right side first.

My parents showed up around midnight for company, but after about an hour I started to get tired. The doctor checked me and I hadn’t made any progress, so anticipating another long labor like Emmaline’s I decided to send my parents home so I could try to get a little sleep. The nurses came in to help roll me on my right side and I asked for an Italian ice.

Just as I finished my snack… I started to feel contractions coming every few minutes but on my left side only. Then they continued to get stronger so I knew I wasn’t imagining it. I called in the nurse, and she rushed to help me; first she rotated me back on my left side and, when that didn’t work, she called the anesthesiologist to give me a bolus of medicine. The doctor checked me again and I had progressed some, to 5cm ( I had been at 3cm since my appt earlier in the day).
But the contractions continued to get stronger… And then I started to involuntarily shake, which I remembered happening when we were getting close to the end last time. The doctor came in to check me again… All of a sudden I was 9cm and my water broke (which explained the shaking). And then she said,
“I want you to concentrate on NOT pushing right now, ok?”

Then she left, and there was a lot of scurrying and putting on scrubs and wheeling carts around. I wasn’t feeling so hot… Like I wasn’t sure about the whole “NOT pushing” comment. I must have looked pretty rough because someone asked if I was ok and I responded something like “not really” and they went to get a doctor again.
“Yes, she’s at 10 and plus 2.” Just like that, suddenly it was go time. Stirrups and all that business. And then a few minutes later, Natalie was born!

Natalie Abigail- 6 lbs 3 oz, 19.5 inches... Born July 2nd at 2:25 am

Natalie Abigail- 6 lbs 3 oz, 19.5 inches… Born July 2nd at 2:25 am

So that’s about it. A much friendlier 7 hours versus 28 last time. I have to say (again) that L&D nurses are incredible. I’ve been feeling good recovery-wise and am looking forward to getting my running game back. I registered for a few races this fall (more on that later). Also [disclaimer], if anything I wrote above is medically inaccurate… I’m not a doctor.