Meet My Friends: Michele the NYC Running Mama!

Good morning friends! Today’s featured blogger is my friend, Michele. Michele is not only an amazing runner, coach and mother but she served in Iraq with the United States Army where she met her husband while running around base. I mean, what’s more romantic than running circles in the desert with your future husband? I plan on stealing all of her training-while-pregnant secrets in approximately two years.

And congratulations to Michele and her family who are moving into their brand new home this weekend! I’m proud to introduce my friend to you. She’s pretty badass. 

Name: Michele Gonzalez

Age: 30

Occupation: Stay-at-home mom, running coach

Blog: nycrunningmama.com

How many years you’ve been running: Most of my life as a way to stay in shape for basketball (played in college).

How you got into running: When I stopped playing basketball, I wanted to stay in shape. I knew if I had something to train for, I would be more motivated to run and go to the gym, so I signed up for my first race – a marathon.

What is your most favorite race you’ve run?

I ran the NYC Marathon for the first time in 2007. It was 3 weeks before I deployed to Iraq for 15 months. My godmother and aunt had recently passed away from cancer and although I had automatic entry, I decided to run for Fred’s Team (a charity that raises money for Memorial Sloan Kettering – the hospital she received treatment). I had been training for the Army 10 miler as a member of Fort Hood’s military team. I had not put in the long runs that I wanted to in preparation for the marathon and therefore was unsure of how I would do. But, I enjoyed every mile, every minute of it. I felt like I was running in my backyard because I had friends and family along the entire course (including my husband who was waiting for me in Central Park). The best part was that I PR’d by almost 32 minutes (I ran a 3:22:54)!!

What is your proudest running moment?

My proudest moment is definitely winning the Foot Locker 5 Borough Challenge (FL5BC) during the 2011 NYC Marathon. The FL5BC is a race between representatives from each of the five boroughs of New York City. It was the first marathon I was running since my son was born (he was 10 mo old) and I was nervous, anxious, and excited. My whole family was there – son, husband, sisters, and parents and they got to see me break the tape at the finish line!

Who/what inspires you to run?

My son, and soon, baby #2, is/are my biggest inspirations. I want them to have a strong, healthy, active mother. I want them to want to live the same kind of active life (doesn’t have to be running).

What training plan have you followed and had success with?

I have always created my own training plans – from my very first marathon. I did some research and found that there were things about some plans I liked and some things I didn’t like, so I took what I liked and created a training plan. My first marathon was a 3:54. For the most part when I am in a training cycle, I run six days a week – three of them are “quality” workouts (long run and then either speed, tempo, or hill workouts) and the other three are easy/recovery runs.

What is the one thing you’ve done that has made the most difference in your running?

I’ve learned how to make every run, every mile, every minute count. Prior to my son being born, I had no real commitments (other than work, army, etc). Most of my runs had no real purpose – they were mostly high mileage, easy runs – I would run however far I wanted or felt up to. Now that time is of the essence, each run run has to have a purpose – if it’s a recovery run, it’s slow and easy…if it’s speed day, I push hard. So although I’m running considerably fewer miles than I was years ago, I’m faster and in better shape.

If you could run any race in the future, which one would it be?

BadWater UltraMarathon. I ran my first ultra (Knickerbocker 60k) this past November (two weeks after NYC Marathon) and loved it. It was the toughest race, mentally, that I have ever run. The course is nine loops around Central Park and by the sixth loop, I was ready to quit. It took everything I had to keep going. As much as I love running marathons, there is something about ultras that I am drawn to. And BadWater has always intrigued me. It is one of the toughest races on the planet and I feel it is one of the best tests of physical and mental strength.

Do you run in the morning or at night? Why?

I am definitely a morning runner. I find that I am much more productive with my whole day if I run first thing in the morning. If I put off the run, I will likely spend the day lounging around and not doing much! It’s even more so now that I am pregnant – I find that my energy levels decrease as the day goes on, so if I don’t run by 9 or 10 in the morning, it’s likely not going to happen (I prefer 5am runs but it’s still too dark out).

What keeps you going when you’re having a crappy run?

I imagine myself at mile 20 or 21 of my next marathon. That’s usually the part of the race when I’m in pain, tired, and questioning my ability and training. I practice pushing through whatever issues I’m having – whether it’s stomach, tired legs, or just lack of energy. I envision myself fighting through it and finishing strong.

Rapid-Fire Questions

-Run alone or with others: 99% of my runs are alone; my husband and I used to run together more frequently before my son was born

-Favorite piece of running gear: Sparkly Soul Headbands

-Run with or without music: With!

-Treadmill, love it or hate it: I have learned to love it – most of my winter runs are completed on the treadmill when my son is napping

-Race fuel: Powerbar Gels

-Gatorade or water: Water

-Dream PR: Major dream: sub-3; was training for sub-3:10 before I got pregnant with baby #2

-Runner’s World or Running Times: Running Times

-Favorite speed workout: Mile repeats – I have a love/hate relationship with them – hate them during because they hurt so much but love the results

-Favorite running gear store: I love Road Runner Sports because I can order everything from the comfort of my home!!

-Favorite place to run: Central Park; I used to live on the Upper West Side – 2 blocks from Central Park

-NYC Marathon or Boston Marathon: I’m a NYC gal, so definitely NYC Marathon; Boston was great, but NYC has so much more meaning to me

Thanks, Michele! We’re looking forward to hearing all about the BadWater Ultramarathon! By the way, I think that’s bananas but I totally support YOU doing it 🙂

Now go out and run!

Better Than the Alternative Tuesdays: All-Stars

Happy Tuesday, friends! Monday is long gone and we are well into what is proving to be a pretty tough week here in the Land of Abby. Buuuuuuut, I think everything will work out and, you know, life goes on.

And on, and on, and on, and on. And today is Tuesday, so it’s high time I remind myself that being here is always better than not being here. You know who reminds me of that? All-Stars.

Every sport has an All-Star/All-American/All-State/All-Conference team who are the best of the best that year. They are the ones the rest of the team look up to and aspire to be. They are the the All-Stars and, sometimes, Olympians.

My favorite All-Star Olympic Basketball Team...those were the days.

Dara Torres is an All-Star. A super-hot, 40-something year-old ALL STAR and mom! (Image courtesy of TIME Magazine)

These athletes sacrifice a lot for their sport. It takes time, money, dedication and sacrifice to reach the heights attained by professional athletes. Yes, the rewards can be phenomenal, but never forget that they had to give up their lives to get where they are. For most of us, this is unattainable. Olympic speed and strength is out of our reach for whatever reason and these people, All-Stars all around, remain enigmas of the professional sports world.

And then there are the everyday athletes. My friends. My colleagues. The runners who buzz by me like I’m standing still in Central Park. They are All-Stars in their own right and whose ranks I aspire to.

Dorothy Beal is a mom of three who won the B & A Marathon in 3:11 and just yesterday ran her 20th marathon in the sweltering temperatures in Boston. I am more inspired by her All-Star performance yesterday than by any of her super-speedy times (she’s crazy fast!) because she fought hard to finish. Just finish. We all have horrible races but Dorothy is brave enough to share her story with the world, good or bad. Oh, and she’s famous, if you didn’t know.

Jessica Hofheimer is a fellow lululemon Ambassador and a 3:34 marathoner who sometimes runs 20 miles on a treadmill. You gotta do what you gotta do and Jessica does it with a smile and plenty of words of inspiration for others. She is an All-Star who has fought hard to be the amazing athlete she is today and I am in awe of her dedication.

Michele Gonzalez is a 2nd Lieutenant with the US Army, a 3:21 marathoner and has deployed to Iraq three times. What I love the most about Michele is that she is super-candid about running through her first pregnancy (And second! Congrats, Michele!) and what it takes to be healthy about it. In a world where it’s becoming commonplace for pregnant mothers to push themselves harder, Michele is a voice of experience and reason. I plan on copying her All-Star ways when I get pregnant.

These women are amazing to me. They are the All-Stars I look to for inspiration. If they can do it, so can I. They make me realize that I haven’t even come close to reaching my potential as a female athlete and coach. With a little more hard work, focus and creativity, I will reach their ranks one day. And that’s what All-Stars do for us. They inspire us to aspire to more.

They make it better to be here than not. Thank you, All-Stars.

Now go out and run.