Motivation – what works for me


The key to my motivational strategy

About three years ago I was in a workout lull. The previous couple of years had been spent in a stress-haze related to job issues. I knew my lack of regular activity wasn’t helping, but I just didn’t want to take the time for it. I wanted to want to take the time for it though.

Around this time I heard Gretchen Rubin making the rounds on some podcasts talking about her perspective on personal motivation. Her idea is that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all motivational strategy. You can’t just will yourself into making changes. Before you tackle any goal, you need to understand how you naturally react to expectations and then develop an action plan that takes advantage of those reactions.

In other words, first know yourself, and then you can more easily set yourself up for success.

She divides people up into four categories – tendencies – based on how people deal with internal and external expectations. I’m an Obliger, meaning I can be counted on to meet benchmarks that others set for me but I’m not so good at following through on goals I set for myself. It sounds like an Obliger would be doomed as far as setting any personal goals, but that’s not the case at all.

Recognizing that I needed some kind of external push, I got some family members to join me in a Run the Year 2016 challenge where we all logged our mileage for a year with the goal of getting to 2016 miles total as a team. I sent out monthly email updates to everyone. The challenge had mixed results for other family members, but for me it was key to getting me back into the gym. I personally logged 830.66 miles for 2016.

In the fall of 2016, my youngest sister asked me to try to BQ with her in 2017. This was something I’d had in the back of my mind for some time, but it wasn’t something I’d ever have tackled if I was only accountable to myself. I needed it to be someone else’s goal first.

Now that I’m training to hopefully PR at Boston I’ve started this blog. It’s been two years since I rebooted my running habit and I feel pretty solid in it, but this blog will hopefully give me that perception of external accountability that I know I need.

The point of Rubin’s system isn’t that everyone should start a blog or get someone else to set goals for them. For some people, having other people expect them to do things is the #1 way to ensure they won’t get done. Other people are great at single-mindedly pursuing their goals regardless of what anyone else expects. The point is to understand what motivates you and then arrange your environment so that you’re set up for success.

Here’s a link to a quiz for figuring out your tendency.

I highly recommend searching for Gretchen Rubin in your podcast app to hear her interviews about the four tendencies. I was able to get her book from the library, but I found her interviews to hit all the major insights that I needed. Good luck!



Boston Marathon Training – Week 2


Hitting the trail

37 total miles for week 2 of Boston training.

I took the week off work to hang out with my kids and do as little as possible. Mission accomplished. The week flew by and I am not ready to start waking up with an alarm clock again on Tuesday or organizing runs around a normal work schedule.

Monday – Rest or XT

I did 20 sad pushups on my knees.

Tuesday – 8 miles with 10x100m strides

I plan my runs a week in advance, taking into consideration the family schedule. The only things I had to plan around this week were Christmas Eve shenanigans with Josh’s family (meaning longer runs had to be on Saturday, Thursday and Tuesday). We got some free tickets to Star Wars so that took up Tuesday morning, and band practice was planned for Tuesday evening so that meant I’d have just enough time for my run and cooking dinner in between those two things.

On Monday, Josh let me know he’d asked our bass player and his wife to come over early and potentially stay for dinner. Maybe it’s because I had literally nothing to think about all week, but this sent me into an out-of-perspective tailspin. It was the right thing to invite them over early to avoid traffic, but when was I going to run? In the dark after dinner? It was raining and super cold! If I skipped, I’d have to do two hard runs in a row later in the week at some point. And I hadn’t planned my grocery shopping around 6 people for dinner so when would I go to the grocery store to get more? And when was I going to cook it? Usually I think I’m pretty cool about adjusting my expectations, but for some reason I just wasn’t on this day.

As always, everything turned out fine. Our friends had other dinner plans, and practice was over by 5pm. We ate leftovers. My teenager wanted to go to the YMCA with his friends to lift weights in the evening, so I got to use one of his guest passes to hop on the treadmill for free. I’d been looking forward to doing this workout outside, but I don’t hate the treadmill and I got to finish The Good Place on Netflix.

I warmed up for 4 miles at 6.5 and then alternated .15 miles on at 9.0 and .15 miles off at 6.5 and then finished up my 8 miles and finished a .25 mile walking cool down right as the teens were ready to leave.

I felt much better.

Wednesday – Rest or XT

Two sets of 20 sad pushups on my knees.

Then I got in 1.75 trail miles with my 12-year-old. There’s a beautiful trail behind the library that I haven’t run on for about 2 years. I’ve told my kids the only thing I want for presents ever is to run with them. You get to learn so much about your kids when you’re running with them. They just start blabbing as soon as you start moving. It’s wonderful.

Russell picked this run because it was his favorite during cross country. He says he prefers running trails to running on the roads and I agree, there is something completely unique and soul-enriching about running on dirt surrounded by trees. We chatted about how middle school is different from elementary school and what’s going on in band and I don’t know what all, and it was wonderful.

Thursday – 10.28 miles, General Aerobic, Avg pace: 8:49

I felt good! I’ll never get over how differently paces feel outside vs inside. The goal today was to cruise the whole way. The first 1.5 miles from my house is always uphill so I logged my slowest mile there at 9:41, but after that my cruising speed was on the speedy side. My fastest mile was 8:31 and there were many around 8:40. I worried a bit that I was running my easy day too hard.

Friday – Don’t think I even left the house or changed out of PJs

Saturday – 13 miles, 8 @ Marathon Pace

I’d been dreading/anticipating this workout ever since I bought the Pfitzinger Advanced Marathoning book and decided to tackle this plan. That’s a lot of marathon pace miles. I’m aiming for as close to 8 min miles as I can – intimidating!

Last year I’d do my challenging workouts on a bike trail about 15 miles away because it’s super flat and pretty and has no stop signs. This was my plan for this run.

On Saturday morning I made a game-time decision to keep the run closer to home. I didn’t want the extra hour commute that the bike trail would entail. I drove a no-stop-sign loop nearer to my house, clocking it at 2.6 miles, and decided to go for it.

I parked at the library and did a 4 mile warm-up jog that finished on my new speedwork loop. Then I sped up, aiming for an aggressive, maintainable pace. Finally I cooled down as I jogged back to my car. All of these are Garmin stats.

Warmup splits: 9:10, 9:03, 8:54, 9:23

MP Splits: 7:42, 7:55, 7:45, 7:44, 7:49, 7:48, 7:50, 7:40

Cooldown: 9:06

This run made me feel like a superhero. The first 3 miles I worried about whether or not my pace was too fast. The next couple of miles I realized there was no reason to believe I would run out of steam. I was definitely working hard, but it felt like different muscles than the jogging muscles. I felt like I had settled in to the pace. The 7th mile had the minor “uphill” (it’s like 36 feet over the mile), but I’d blasted through it twice already and knew what to expect so I just kept at it. Then the 8th mile…might as well finish strong.

I don’t have to do another marathon pace long run for several weeks, but I think I’ll use this loop again.

Sunday – Recovery 5 miles

I went out for a run/walk with my fifteen-year-old and we made it around a 4 mile loop. This, plus the extra 1.75 with my younger son earlier in the week adds up just fine to make me feel like I met my 5 mile recovery requirement.

I’ll be heading up to spend time with family in about 30 minutes. I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday and I can’t wait to catch up on all of the wrap-ups in the next week.

Linking up with Tricia and Ho Ho.





2017 Year in Review – That was unexpected



I met very few of these goals – and that’s ok!

2018 will by my 2nd year using an Inkwell Press planner. I picked it last year because there are lots of goal setting tools in it, including this yearly goal page broken up into areas of your life.

Planning a year in advance is both fun and futile. I like taking the time to think about what I’d like to accomplish. On the other hand, I hope I never ever have a clear vision of what an entire year is going to look like. The surprises this year are what made it one of the best ever.

I got married! I spent two weeks in Norway with my sons and aunt and a sister and two of her kids! I got a promotion at work! These were not on my radar last January at all. In fact, the only thing on the list I made last year that really will define 2017 for me is my BQ. My goal was 3:40 and I came in at 3:39:55. I was maniacally focused on this goal to the point of dreaming about it at night and scheduling my waking hours around it.

Things that were partially accomplished:


  • Meditation habit: I did this on my morning commute for about half the year using the headspace app. It was good and then I lost interest.
  • Books vs Facebook: Eh, I decided I like Facebook. I did read more books this year though and I’ll be keeping that up in 2018.


  • Volunteer: I volunteered with the local Neighborhood Action Coalition for about 4 months. There was a lot of time commitment for very little positive outcome. I hate saying this, but it ended up being a lot of meetings about having other meetings and also discussing whether the local Indivisible group was activist enough. The meetings also conflicted with the nights I had my kids with me and I didn’t like taking the time away. Anyway, I like the idea of volunteering, and I’m still calling my senators (Hi Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray!) but this was not the best way to go about it.
  • Family and Friends: Decided this is a silly goal. I connected just as much as I wanted to with family and friends. Why force more? I’m in a friend group where everyone’s happy to see each other when I organize something but not many other people take the initiative. The result is that I see everyone whenever I want to. I feel balanced in this area.
  • Family reunion: was planning on organizing a Ragnar for the family but it didn’t happen due to the Norway trip.


  • I saw a lawyer last month about getting a will together and will have something to sign by January. This has been a new year’s resolution for me for multiple years. Super excited to almost have it done.
  • I donated to the food bank early on but then set up automatic monthly donations to Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, IRC, and the Sierra Club.


  • Josh and I are about halfway through recording our first album. We also picked up a mandolin player in the last couple of months which is awesome. This will be a big goal area for me in 2018.


  • We replaced the deck
  • Drywall was fixed in the boys’ room
  • Retaining wall and plumbing get moved forward to 2018

Dream Big

  • Yup, done.

Did this change how I approached my goal setting for 2018? Kind of. I’ll share my 2018 goals in another post, but I made them with the expectation that I am capable of having a priority (not multiple priorities), and that the purpose of this whole thing is more about reflecting on my values rather than creating some kind of scorecard that I judge my year against.

Overall, great job, 2017. I’m looking forward to seeing what 2018 has in store.

Anyone want to be Runkeeper friends?


If you don’t track it, does it even count?

When I ran my summer marathon I wore three pieces of tracking tech: A Fitbit Blaze to record my steps, a Garmin (connected to Strava) so I could get a general idea of pace in real time, and a phone with Runkeeper audio cues set for every mile marker so I could get a second opinion on my pace.

Runkeeper was the most accurate, logging 26.35 miles for the race on the mostly straight course. Garmin recorded 27.18 miles. Strava interpreted this as 27.1 miles. My Fitbit log has me at over 48,000 steps for the day although not all of that was during the marathon. I definitely out-stepped everyone in my friends group that day.

All of this tracking is bananas and I’m paring down.

The first to go — Fitbit. More people I know use a Fitbit than any other tracking device and I like the social aspect of it, but none of these people train for races so comparing steps isn’t motivational. Heart rate monitoring and sleep monitoring were interesting for a while. I don’t actually do anything with those stats though. I pretty much know when I need to go to sleep and I don’t train by heart rate. Also, I think the Fitbit device is ugly.

Garmin: I used to only use it for outdoor speedwork, but now I’m using it exclusively for all outdoor runs, meaning I don’t also record simultaneously with Runkeeper. I do upload my data later to Runkeeper. The initial purpose was to preserve battery life on my phone, but there’s an added benefit of making me feel less like a lunatic pressing a bunch of buttons on multiple devices before and after every run. I recently discovered the lap feature which is pretty cool. I still don’t trust Garmin’s judgment about my distance, and I definitely don’t trust it’s judgment about my current speed, but I do think it’s good enough for my goals.

Strava: For now I link my Garmin data to Strava. I’ll probably delete this app soon. I know zero runners in real life who also use Strava so the social aspect is lost on me.

The winner is Runkeeper. A big reason for using this is that I’ve used it the longest so it has most of my data, but also I really like the look of the interface and how it displays my stats. I can easily see this week vs last week, or this month vs last month, or the year overall (1728.5 miles so far). I’ve used it this year to track shoes which has been really handy and surprising – those miles add up fast! So now I’m auto-uploading all my outside/Garmin miles and manually entering my treadmill miles.

Look how pretty it is!

Is anyone else on Runkeeper who wants to link up? I’m not sure how to send a friend request on this thing, but I’d be willing to find out if anyone’s interested. My username is CathJB.


Boston Marathon Training Kick Off Week

Here we go! First week of training for the Boston Marathon! I’m using the Pfitzinger 18/55 plan – 18 weeks, peaking at 55 mile weeks. It’s a more challenging plan than I’ve done before and includes a lot of race pace miles fit in to long runs (next week’s long run is 13 miles with 8 @ marathon pace). My goals are to feel strong in the last six miles of the marathon and to finish in the low 3:30s. This is a stretch for me, but I think it’s doable as long as the weather cooperates on race day. I know that’s a huge if in Boston.

Overall, I’m not super impressed with how things went this week, but coming off a goal race last Saturday I’m not going to beat myself up about it. I did get all the runs in at least.

Total Mileage: 33.46

Here’s that race report in case you’re interested.

Monday – Rest Day

Day 1 of marathon training calls for rest or cross-training. I planned on a noon yoga class, but my boss and boss’s boss asked for some help at 11:40 so I didn’t leave the office. Probably for the best since I’ll be taking some long lunches this week.

Tuesday – 8 miles with 4 at Half Marathon pace

It’s weird how different running feels on race day vs training days. My half marathon pace is supposed to be around 7:45. I went into this run feeling like that should be no problem since I ran faster than that for 6.2 miles on Saturday. HAHAHA! It was so hard!

I warmed up for 3 miles at 6.5 (9:13 pace) and 1% incline. Then 2 miles @ 7.8 (7:41 pace) and 2 miles @ 7.7 (7:47 pace). I had to stop and jog for .25 miles around the 2.5 mile mark so I didn’t really accomplish this workout the way it was written. I jogged the last .75 to finish up my 8 miles at 6.5 again.

Wednesday – Rest Day

Thursday – 9 miles General Aerobic

Treadmill at 1% incline. Average pace 9:07. This was very boring. The first five miles felt like they lasted one million years. Weirdly, the last four miles went by pretty fast. I’m almost all the way finished with The Good Place which is a big problem because now I have to figure out what my next treadmill show will be. Any suggestions? I only got through a couple episodes of Big Little Lies so I’m thinking of starting that up again.

Friday – Rest Day

Saturday – 4.16 miles Recovery

So….Friday was my husband’s company party and by Saturday afternoon I still had a headache and was contemplating skipping this run. I talked myself into it by telling myself it could be just a “bouncy walk” and maybe the fresh air would be good for the headache.

I was kidding myself on both fronts. When I’m running “easy” outside I run pretty much the same pace – average 8:57 per mile. That’s just how my legs move. So that was my pace for this run too. My headache did not go away, but it probably wouldn’t have gone away if I’d just sat around on the couch either. I think I made the right decision to run. I mean, it’s week one. I can’t get in the habit of making excuses already.

Sunday – 12.3 miles Medium Long Run

The Boston course has some famous hills, so I ran down to the lighthouse and back. The round trip is just about a perfect 12 miles. Up top of this post you can see the elevation change and how my pace changed right along with it. I still averaged an 8:53 mile, but my splits varied from 8:13 on that downhill to 9:50 when I turned around to go back up it.

Next week I have the entire week off work and nearly zero plans so I’m hoping to get some good cross-training in on my rest days. I was really good about doing that for the first part of 2017, but it definitely dropped in priority during 10k training. I’m convinced weekly yoga and spinning helped keep the injury fairy away though so I need to figure out how to fit that in.

I’m linking up with HoHo and Tricia for Weekly Wrap-Up again this week.


Show Us Your Books – Dec 2017

I’m linking up with Steph and Jana for the first time this month for Show Us Your Books. The book linkup is supposed to be Tuesday and I’m late, but I thought I’d be able to finish this trilogy in time – still got about 100 pages to go and I don’t want to be left out!

Sometime during my transition to adulthood I lost my taste for fantasy novels. The stories all seem to be about about a bunch of bros wandering around and fighting other bros. And everyone and every place has a name like “Zxsthyrhydth” which makes me want to die. And I just can’t get the hang of the maps.

But I remember loving the feeling of getting engrossed in a magical world and I miss it. So when I heard a recommendation on a podcast for The Broken Earth series by N.K. Jemisin, I immediately put it on my library hold list. It was described as a dystopian end-of-the-world fantasy. I love that stuff.

This is definitely worth taking the time to get used to the weird language and geography. Jemison imagines a world far in the future where environmental damage has caused the earth to go through a series of near-extinction-level “Seasons,” with periods of peace in between where society rebuilds itself and prepares for the next season.

In this future, gender and sexuality are of so little of a concern that it took me a hundred pages or so to realize, hey, most of the active characters (not all) in this book are women. Most are shades of brown/black. There are a variety of sexual expressions (this is not erotic fiction, but sexuality is an acknowledged part of life.) Do you realize how wonderful it is to escape into a world where gender politics aren’t an issue?

The dystopia in this future (in addition to cataclysmic seismic events) is built around classism. The society is built on a caste system where people are born into their roles in the community. The most powerful people are enslaved, considered non-humans, and forced to use their powers to keep equilibrium and fend of environmental attacks.

This story is not an allegory or a cautionary tale, but it does have a strong point of view about what happens when people suck the earth dry of resources and when people themselves are treated as resources. There are parallels with how we now are polluting the planet without a plan to deal with the consequences. And how our comfortable Western society with cheap conveniences is only possible because people who live far away and who we don’t think about are working in factories.

But this is first and foremost a beautiful and well-crafted story that I’m happy to lose myself in. I’ll be seeking out more of N.K. Jemisin’s work in the future.

Life According to Steph
Life According to Steph

Race Recap: Christmas Rush Fun Run and Walk 10k

This race was so cold. I could see my breath the entire time. The announcer at the beginning said to watch out for icy patches. They’d tried to salt the course where needed but caution was still advised.

We arrived at the parking lot with about 30 minutes to spare, which was great because Josh prefers day of registration. Registering in advance makes him feel bad about not training. We signed him up for the 5k and used the porta-potties. I jogged around a bit to warm up and then gave up and sat in my heated car to warm up until 15 minutes before start time.

10k-ers started 10 minutes before the 5k so Josh and I separated while I made my way toward the front of the pack and tried to not freeze.

5-4-3-2-1 GO!

Mile 1 – 6:56

Dear readers, I thought I was going out at a spry, yet sustainable pace. Oops.

A mile in and I’m way overshooting my pace, running under what I usually aim for as a 5k pace during training. No bueno. I briefly contemplate whether following a 10k training plan for the first time in my life has given me super powers because I feel ok. I quickly decide to slow down and save the heroics for the end of the race if I still feel like a hero.

Mile 2 – 7:24

That’s more like it. It doesn’t feel like that much of a change in effort from mile 1, but in my heart I know I’m making a better choice. There’s a river on my left side that I assume looks really pretty when it isn’t obscured by fog.

Mile 3 – 7:22

I’m getting passed a lot. I’m right behind 2 women. From the back they look like they might be in my age group. How can you even tell? This pace is not comfortable. We run by a really fancy looking house where, inside, a dog is losing it’s damn mind. Poor puppy. It’s not going to get better for a long time.

Mile 4 – 7:24

Hey, look at me being consistent. That’s weird. Thank goodness this is the flattest course I’ve ever run in my life. In the middle of this mile we take a quick turn over a road and it’s the first time I’ve felt a little ice underfoot. Not too bad. Now the river’s on my right side and I can see a bunch of runners on the other side of it. The dog is still having a bad day.

Mile 5 – 7:33

I’m slipping. My goal average for this race was 7:30. I wonder if that first speedy mile will end up helping me or hurting me. Maybe both?

I’m wondering if I really like racing after all. How come this feels so hard but the people around me look like they’re jogging? Is this as hard for them as it is for me? Maybe I’m more of a “training” person than a “racing” person. I followed a pretty aggressive (for me) training plan. I should feel better than this, right?

Mile 6 – 7:36

Epiphany! The purpose of training isn’t to make the race feel easy. Racing is always going to be painful. The purpose is to expand your limits and find out what you’re capable of. Huh. What a cool hobby I have.

I wonder if I’m going to feel this bad for over 3.5 hours in the marathon next April.

I wish I’d taken the time to figure out why my Garmin’s been showing me lap time lately and not overall time. It would be helpful to know how long I’ve been running.

Final .2 – 7:08

Time to kick it out! There’s a final turn and then I see the finish arch. The 10k’ers come into a chute on the left and the 5kers are corralled through a chute on the right.

I see Josh on the side cheering for me. Oh thank god it’s so great to see him.

Then I see the clock. The first two numbers are 45. The next number is 5. I could actually get under 46 minutes! I give it all I have and sprint toward the finish, pretty sure I cross at 46:01.

Official Time – 45:58

Avg pace – 7:22

I’d crossed the start line 3 seconds after the clock started. I squeaked into the 45 minute range. Unbelievable. It was enough to earn me a PR by almost 2 minutes and first place for my age group. I feel like a superstar for about an hour.

Then I start thinking…I bet I could beat 45 next time…