Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Icebreakers - Bringing Awareness to Mental Health and Addiction

Did you know that May is Mental Health Awareness month? Unlike other common illnesses, such as breast cancer, who we all know has the month of October, this cause isn't getting nearly the attention it should, until this project came along.

Mental illness affects one in five of all Americans. Just under half of those people will seek help (National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 2016), namely due to the stigma that has been placed around mental health issues. I would guess the chances are likely, that you as a reader, know someone who has been afflicted with mental health issues, whether it be depression, addiction, anxiety or more serious illnesses. Addiction has touched my family several times, in fact it is not unusual for mental illness to run in families. Both my dear uncle and cousin, who are no longer with us, were both alcoholics at one time. My uncle was able to overcome his addiction and go on to help many others. He beat his illness and went on to live a pretty amazing life until cancer took his life.  My husband's brother lost his life 3 years ago due to health issues related to addiction. Personally, I have struggled with both anxiety and depression, after getting divorced in 2010. Anxiety has reared its ugly head a few times throughout my years of grad school. I feel it's impossible to know that someone who hasn't been touched.

As a health professional, I feel that mental illness is talked about more, but is still a completely underfunded and undertreated issue. I think more individuals are getting a little bit more comfortable talking with their health care providers about it, but don't take about it with the other people in their lives. Other people who could be support systems. Why is there still such a stigma around mental health? Why is it ok to take a sick day at work because of the flu, but not because you have anxiety?

Over the past week and a half, I have been following the journey of a group of runners who are canvasing the U.S. from the West coast to the East, ending in Washington D.C. where a mental health conference will be taking place. When I saw they were coming to Dallas, I really wanted to join in or meet them along the way somewhere, just to show support.  A new friend (and neighbor!) who saw that I had been thinking about meeting up with the group reached out to me to see if I wanted to ride with her Friday morning, but, work. When she text me again Friday evening, I briefly thought about it and again said probably not. Then thought a little bit more and thought, what the hell, I can sleep when I'm dead, I'm in. Emily had already left, but I was shortly behind.

We met the runners just past Sulphur Springs, TX. On my way there I had seen that Catra Corbett, an ultra runner who is pretty much my running hero, was currently running. I was going to get to run with her! I couldn't believe it. At this point I was so happy I had changed my mind and decided to go.

Catra has run over one hundred 100 milers, over 200 ultra marathons, sometimes week after week, she is a machine. She is a record holder on the John Muir Trail. And her dog TruMan? Well, he has a race resume that most runners would envy.

The rest of the group was equally seasoned, book writers, ultrarunners, Badwater finishers, to call them elite seemed like an understatement. I was pretty much a starry eyed teenage fan girl all night. Emily joined me later in the night when we ran with Phil Nimmo, a friend of the group, whom they picked up in Mansfield, TX, because of an injury to one of the original six.

So what does the Icebreaker Run represent?

The inaugural run is supported by Mental Health America, The Herren Project and Break the Stigma Project.

"We are not a group of mental health professionals, but rather a reflection of mental illness. Our personal stories represent addiction, bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety, among others. We know firsthand the barriers that exist between mental illness and mental health. More importantly, we know that taking the first step to overcome these barriers is often the toughest decision one ever makes." (Icebreakerrun.org, 2016)

The run will end on 6.9.16 in Alexandria, VA at Mental Health America's annual conference. Along the way, the team stops at schools and other community centers in an effort to break the stigma of mental illness. The runners will be running for 24 hours a day, for 24 days straight. When they came through the DFW area last week, there were some pretty wicked storms, rain, lightening and then heat and humidity - they still ran. On Monday, it was 103 degrees in Mississippi. The runners still run. 3,100 miles. About a marathon per runner, day after day (Icebreakerrun.org, 2016). 

I ran with Catra from a little after 10pm until around 11:30. We chatted the entire time. Both dog lovers, she told me about how she got TruMan, how they started running together, told me about some of her adventures and even gave me some very helpful advice about running Leadville. At a time when I was having a lot of doubts about the race, she really helped me maintain positivity. She too, has been affected deeply by mental illness, as has her puppy dog, TruMan, who had a great deal of anxiety when she adopted him. I could've listened to her stories all night, but it was time for her to rest.

While Catra and I were running, we were detoured only some back roads off of the frontage roads they had been using. All of a sudden we noticed flashing lights (like a cop car) and I was convinced it was policeman wondering why two young women were out running this late at night.  Instead, it was another group, doing nearly the same thing as the Icebreakers, walking across the country in the opposite direction. The young man we met was carrying an American flag for the cause "Carry the Load", honoring the people who keep us safe; military, firefighters and rescue personnel. It made this experience even more memorable. 
Phil Nimmo ran until 1am with both Emily and I and shared even more stories, had us cracking up and helped us fend off loose dogs running amuck across the East Texas countryside. By the time we were done, we had almost made it to Mt. Vernon. 

This was an incredible experience. To be even just a very small part of something really big doesn't happen everyday. Better yet, there are now more people to help this team spread the word. 

The Icebreaker Run still has a few days of travelling to go. You can continue to follow their journey on 

or visit their website to learn more about the team at icebreakerrun.org.

You can also support their cause by donating or by purchasing some of the cool gear that they have available. I scored an awesome tank from HERE that I can't wait to get!


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Humpday Humblebrag 1.0

So the inspiration for this new, bi-weekly feature came to me when I was running 52 miles through the woods this past April. I had previously written something in the same format for a local running group and thought it might be fun to spotlight some of the runners I coach. They have done some pretty amazing things! Hence, the Humpday Humblebrag was born. I want to brag on these runners, because as I said in a post last week, their victories are little victories for me too!

This week's spotlight is on Jessica Bialowas. I started coaching Jessica last fall in preparation for her first marathon, which she ran in New Orleans, LA this past February. Jessica worked incredibly hard, made some huge gains in her running (she PR'd at a half marathon in the middle of training for a marathon!) and has already registered for marathon #2 in December! One of the things I admire about her is the example she is setting for her kiddos (twins!). Jessica runs 5ks with her daughter quite often and they always look like they are having so much fun. 

Tell me about when/why you started running.

First, let me make this clear, I am a  nerd. I was at a neuroscience conference listening to a presentation on ways to prevent cognitive degeneration. I was already doing all but one of the recommendations. The other one was exercise, but not just any exercise. It has to be exercise that increases the blood flow to the prefrontal cortex. The three best exercises for this are 1. professional soccer (recreational doesn't count) 2. running 3. ballroom dancing, but only if you are the person following. That's why I took up running. That was the Summer of 2013 and it took me weeks to build up to being able to run for one minute. I literally couldn't do the first day of the couch to 5K for almost a month.

What is your next race that you are going to crush?

Dallas Marathon hopefully!

Do you have a favorite distance?

Half - it's long enough to feel impressive, but not as painful as a full

3 words that describe your running...

Slow awkward jog, haha

What is your favorite thing about running?

Confidence. Running is something that has never come easily for me. It is something that has always seemed impossible. Each race or long run I do or new PR I set reminds me that I can do more than I ever thought possible.

What motivates you?

The crazy people around me who run ultras and my kids who run 5Ks.

Jessica with her daughter at this past year's New Year's Double
What has been your favorite race so far?

I like them all for different reasons. Resolution Run for my PR, Rock and Roll New Orleans for the random guy giving out jello shots, Fairview for the llamas

Bucket list race:

Wroclaw half (or full) marathon - which ever has the gnome medal that year. We visit Wroclaw every 2 years to visit family and the kids love to go hunting for the gnome statues that are hidden throughout the city.

I *had* to look this up...how adorable is this?!?!
Which event are you really looking forward to?

Dallas Marathon - I have two good friends who have promised to run it with me. :) They are both crazy ultra runners so if all else fails they can carry me over the finish line, right?

Show me your favorite bling: 

New Year's Double/Double 2014/2015 - 5K and a half marathon each day for 2 consecutive days. Somehow I don't have a picture. 

Don't worry...I do! This thing was H U G E!!
photo cred: New Year's Double/Active Joe
Do you have any pre-run/pre-race rituals?

Is freaking out considered a ritual?

Favorite gear?

Brooks Transcend 2

Outside of running, what are some of your hobbies/interests?

Music - I play trumpet. My kids - they are awesome.

I felt like a badass runner when....

I earned a new PR without trying at the Resolution Run half marathon this year.

What is your favorite post race treat?

Everything. All of it. Bonus if it is alcohol or chocolate.

Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give new runners?

If it seems impossible, you need to try harder. 

(I happen to love this! I'm stealing it as my new mantra - Jojo)

Friday, May 20, 2016

The Friday Five - Five Reasons to Hire a RRCA Coach

I think some runners think a coach is out of their league, that they are just for elite runners or runners who want to win races. Or that they are super expensive. What a lot of runners don't realize is that everyone can benefit from the use of a coach, whether you are a competitive runner or a mid to back of the pack runner.

The Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) hosts running clinics that offer certification around the US a few times of year. They are very popular and usually quite difficult to get into. A couple of years ago, I was fortunate enough to attend one of the clinics in Austin, TX. Initially, it was something I wanted to do to improve my own running, but soon realized that one of my passions was helping other runners. I was already mentoring a couple of my friends and helping them with marathon training plans, so I figured, why not branch out and help others as well? What started as helping a couple of my friends, shortly turned into coaching quite a few! I quickly realized that it was something I loved doing. I was living vicariously through these athletes and their triumphs became mine. When they met their big goals, it was like I was meeting mine too. To say this opportunity has been fulfilling would be an understatement. I saw one of my athletes (in fact, one of the originals!) cross the finish line of her first ultramarathon this past weekend. It. Was. Amazing.

So, for those of you who are on the fence or wondering why you may want to consider a RRCA certified coach, I present to you the Friday Five...

1. Knowledge and Ethics

The main purpose of the RRCA is to "create a national community of knowledgeable and ethical distance running coaches to work with runners at all levels of ability" (RRCA, 2016). 

They focus on lifelong learning of sports science, training methods, coaching fundamentals, as well as professional conduct and ethics. If you were to ask me what the difference is between an RRCA certified coach and someone who calls themselves a coach sans any kind of certification, I would say that this is the difference. 

While the coaching workshop is just two days, it is two days packed full of information and hands on learning,  The RRCA does not teach one specific method of coaching, but teaches their attendees to base their own coaching methods from research, a wide range of well versed coaches and personal experience. 

I wouldn't say that the seminar was life changing, but it did provide an excellent base of knowledge to build on. I am still learning new things from other coaches. It truly is a lifelong journey.

2. You've hit a plateau. 

Hiring a coach is an excellent way to get out of a rut. If you feel like the PRs aren't coming as quickly as you like, it might be that you need to change something up. 

A coach can help you figure out a ways to meet your goals and get you to a new level of running.

3. Speaking of goals...

Working with a coach can help you set both reasonable and stretch goals . I have athletes that want to complete a marathon now, but their stretch goal is to qualify for Boston. Even though they aren't working on their stretch goal specifically now, it's always in the scheme of things and we will continue to chip away at her marathon finish time. 

Basically, a coach can help you keep it real, but at the same time keep your big goals in the grand scheme of things.

4. Your plan will be more personal, fit to meet your needs.

I'm sure you've all seen the canned plans that are available through Runner's World, Hal Higdon and Jeff Galloway. Honestly, there is nothing wrong with those plans and they will help you finish your desired distance. That being said, that's about all they will do. There are no specific challenges within them other than to cover the distance given for that day. They don't allow for "life". When your kiddo gets sick, you have a family emergency or just can't get your runs in, they don't really allow for that and make you feel pressured to increase your miles before you might be ready to. I've used these plans. The first year or two I trained for marathons I used various plans and basically got the same results every year. It wasn't until I started changing things up, doing different things and then hiring a coach myself three years ago, did I make any change in my outcomes. When I did that, the PRs...well they came fast and furious. I think hiring a coach is what inspired me to be a coach. It certainly helped me see their value and purpose! A RRCA coach will push you to go farther, capitalize on your gains and change things up if they aren't working for you on an ongoing basis, canned plans don't do that. If you miss your 14 miler, well, next week you still have your 16 miler. 

5. Support and Motivation

Last and most importantly, you get your own personal cheerleader. While most of the athletes I coach are also good friends, whom I'd support regardless, I feel vested in all of their performances, whether it be a training run or a big race. I want them to do well because that directly reflects on me (and I surely don't want any of them to hate me!). Whether friends or not, this holds true. You can expect another level of support from a coach as well as a frequent source of motivation. 

I think that about sums it up! Hopefully I've given you a good look at why hiring a RRCA coach is a great idea! While I am a certified coach, there are many others, all around the United States. Most of us are available for online multi-distance coaching and some even for local in-person coaching. Here is a list of all of the certified coaches available. If you are interested in coaching, I suggest reaching out to a few, to see who you think will fit your specific needs and would work well with you!

If you'd like more information from me, feel free to hit me up via email: jolene.k.aden@gmail.com

Happy Friday!!

Thanks again to the ladies in DC for the Friday Five Linkup!  Check out more awesome Friday Fives over at Courtney at Eat, Pray, Run DC, Mar at Mar on the Run and Cynthia at You Signed Up For What?!


Road Runners Club of America. (2016). Resources.