Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014. From Zero to My Own Hero.

As you all know - it's been a wild freakin' year for me.

2014 certainly wasn't what I envisioned it to be pre-November 2013.  I had sugar plum dreams of more races, more PRs, and more running success.  Well, I had a last minute change of plan with my stress fx and reaction.  I won't harp on it too much... if you've been reading, then you know the story.

2014 turned into the year of "I will NOT go away quietly" and "I WILL overcome".  In my 2013 wrapup, I stated my 2014 goals included strength and balance training as well as the ultimate comeback: a Fall marathon.

I'm happy to say that I accomplished all I'd hoped to and more.

During the first part of 2014, I completed a modified version of Live Fit.  I could not do the first few weeks of leg days due to the nature of my injuries, but I was able to gradually work them in as my physical therapy and healing progressed.  Gains were had.  I enjoyed heavy lifting so much that I couldn't wait to get back into it after the Spring running season was over.  I did another round of intense strength training in late spring/early summer before starting to train for the Marine Corps Marathon.

I also incorporated a ton of core and flexibility workouts.  If you've ever had a second thought as to whether to add them to your running plan, let me just say this:  DO IT.  You will not regret it.

Strength and balance - check.

Running.  Well, it wasn't a miraculous year of crushing PRs, but thankfully I wasn't really aiming for that.  This year I wanted to get strong and go long.  After having to drop down to the Pittsburgh Half, my goal was to get it done in under 2 hours.  I started run/walking in mid January at PT after getting off the crutches and getting to a point of walking without a limp again.  January's mileage totaled 5 miles.  I gradually lengthened the intervals and by mid-March was straight out running again.  I worked up to 4 days per week and then just a couple of weeks before the race I ran 5 days per week.  My highest mileage week for that "training cycle" (if you can call it that) was 26.5 miles.  That said, I knew I wasn't going to PR, but I hoped to get under 2 hours and at least try to get close to my previous years time.  I was almost 3 minutes slower on this course than last year at 1:51:xx vs 1:48:xx, but I was really happy with that... especially since I knew when to pull back during the race when I started feeling something going on in the previous injury site.  One thing having to come back has taught me is how to respect my body more than a number on a time clock.

What the Pittsburgh Half did for me was give me a starting point to build on for the rest of the year.  While everyone else in the running world was taking off (literally) doing fast races - 5Ks and 10Ks galore all summer - I was out on my own, building easy longer mileage to prepare me for the epic journey that lay ahead of me in training for my first marathon.  I was a bit bummed that I had to refuse my seeded position at the Great Race, but I knew in my heart that it was the best decision.  I had to stay the long/slow/strong course if I wanted to succeed in the marathon.  During these weeks I started to fall in love with heart rate training.  Yes, you heard that right.  In last year's recap I said I had tried it and "wasn't a fan".  Well, I've totally changed my tune since learning to appreciate the benefit of running slow for the purpose of endurance, strength, and recovery.  Let's face it - we all wanna be fast.  But running too fast all the time (even if it feels "good") isn't healthy OR beneficial.  Using my heart rate monitor I was able to build up my mileage safely and efficiently.  I felt great heading into marathon training.  I've also been using the monitor since running MCM for recovery and for building my mileage even further for the next season.  Instead of being annoyed with it, I now rely on it and actually enjoy the easy, slow runs and love knowing when to push myself harder when I'm supposed to. I'm honestly excited to see what happens training for a marathon using it.

Marine Corps Marathon. What an adventure... from the first run to the race itself.  There's seriously something to be said about the overall experience of training for and running a marathon.  It's really hard to even talk about with someone because it's one of those things you just have to be there for to understand.  The physical stuff.. the psychological stuff... the emotional stuff.  It's all encompassing.  Just like when I was contemplating a 5K, I refused to sign up for a race unless I was sure I could do it well (for me - my times are not a reflection of anyone or anything else).  For that first 5K, it was sub 30 mins I was after.  For the marathon, I really wanted to run it in 4 hours or less.  Coming off a training season guided by babying/recovering from injury and not PRing in the half marathon, I wasn't 100% certain I'd be able to achieve this goal at MCM.  I was going to try my hardest, but I kept checking myself mentally so I wouldn't be completely crushed if I didn't.  I figured I'd be ok with anything under 4:15.  I won't recap the whole race for you again, because you can just read the recap (all 2 parts of it), but I will never forget trudging up that damned hill and coming around the corner KNOWING I hit my ultimate goal.  Every time I watch my finish line video I cry because that wave of feeling is still there "omg I fucking did it... holy shit that was hard.. omg I ran a marathon... wow some of these Marines look so young... I'm so hot and thirsty.. I might puke... omg I did it... I want to do another one...where's this photographer telling me to go...damn everything is tired and sore... did I inhale that banana already... wheres the beer".  Haha.

Fall marathon - check.  Under 4 hours?  Bonus check.

Since MCM, I've really been simply reveling in the glory that is being a marathoner and trying to enjoy various avenues of fitness - different strength training, yoga, riding the bike, as well as rebuilding a nice mileage base... I'm thrilled with where I am right now as I close out the year.

I ran 1157 miles this year!  My highest mileage year yet!  That's pretty cool when you figure I went from running a whopping 5 miles in January to my highest month in September with 166 miles.  I was even able to build my mileage back up to 110 miles here in December!

In my personal life, I've had a lot of ups and downs this year too... as we all do.  I've been able to put my personal training certification to work and help some people with their health and fitness goals.  That's been great.  The kids are all happy and healthy and even ran a couple of races (Kids Marathon & Liberty Mile) this year!  They all just got bikes from Santa (upgraded from scooters), and they are just loving them.  On a down side, our move has been stressful, expensive, and not at all what we'd hoped.  We moved out of the city a bit and so far... it's been a huge regret.  We're already looking to move back and that is a big personal life goal for 2015.  I've unfortunately had to come to grips with the reality that some people who call themselves "family" are the most cruel and hurtful people in your life.  :\

Fitness goals for 2015?  Well, I know I mentioned this in my last post, but I'm really looking forward to this Yoga challenge.  Who knows, maybe I'll get into it so much I'll consider a deeper practice when its over.  We'll see.  One thing I really like about Adriene is her sentiment of "Find What Feels Good".  That should be a mantra for the whole year, really.  I mean, if you're doing something that doesn't feel good - physically, mentally, spiritually - why do it?

As for running, I'd love to PR the marathon, but honestly a finish in my hometown is a great reward as well.  I want to stay as injury free as I can as long as I can.  I also want to try out some new distances this year (a 30K is planned - automatic PR, baby!).  I also want to challenge myself by running more hilly courses.  I tend to sway toward the comfort and flatness of the North Shore and the GAP, but in reality I really need to run McKinney hill or that damned lodge hill more than once or twice a year.  My current neighborhood is also hilly as hell and I think more of my easy/recovery days will take place here.  This coming year is about challenging myself to go out of my comfort zone a bit while still honoring my body and finding what feels good.  I just want to enjoy life, all.

Happy New Year everyone!  Thanks for reading along and being my cheer squad and inspiration/motivation.

The #1 song that got me through 2014.  

And #2.

And lastly... if you ever see me running, singing, and crying at the same time I'm probably listening to this.  haha.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Back in Marathon Mode Again!

No more off season.  As of yesterday that is a thing of the past.  You know, I really don't even like that term anyway... "off season".  It's one of those things I say because everyone else says it, but I really don't believe in it.  I don't really have an off season because I'm always doing something with a goal in mind.  Being a trainer, I'm a big fan of periodization, so I simply go through phases:  I'm either focused on running, or focused on a strength goal, or something else.  I'm such a type A personality and an overall fitness lover that I always have a training plan... even when there's no race date circled on the calendar in the near future.

During this particular "off season" I focused on strengthening my glutes/legs in addition to building easy mileage to prepare me for the upcoming running season.

Glutes:  As I mentioned, I used an outline of the Strong Curves program and tailored it to fit me.  I have noticed results in not just aesthetics but in overall strength and that's great.  I can't say that I'm extremely wowed by the transformation, but I think I just need more time to work on it.  From where I started to now?  Thumbs up.

Mileage building:  I used my heart rate monitor to stay in the "easy" zone and keep things slow and easy while running 3-4x per week.  I have totally changed my mind about heart rate training this year.  I'll get into it more in my 2014 wrapup which will post tomorrow.  I ran long runs of 8-12 miles on the weekends and the runs during the week gradually increased in mileage as well.  I recovered very well between runs (I thank the HRM for this) and was able to build back up to 25-30 mpw during the last month as planned.  I feel very prepared going into my training plan for marathon #2.

That said --  TODAY was my first run of my training plan for marathon #2!  I'm happy to say that it went really well!  I ran an easy (via hr) 2 mile warmup, then did a 4 mile tempo run followed by a 2 mile cooldown (also via hr).  I was thrilled when I saw I ran the tempo run faster than intended even though I felt like I was going slow.  Good sign?  I hope!

So, here's the deal with this next marathon:  I'd love to PR, and I'm training for a PR.  But I'm not going to be all crazy butthurt if I don't.  A couple reasons why - 1) This is a different course. Here's an honest confession for you:  Pittsburgh's marathon course scares the hell out of me.  Not the first half, but the half I've not run yet.  I believe it to be a tougher course than MCM.  That said, I also am a scientific/numbers person and trying to compare performances on different courses/different seasons/etc is just so crazy..  Given fitness level vs course, I think someone capable of running a 4:00 in one place could run a 3:55 somewhere else and a 4:10 on another course, etc and still have "given their all".  There's just too much variable in the marathon as a whole and I'm not going to go psychotic over it.  2) I'm aware that having to train over the winter means that weather is going to dictate a lot.  Training over the summer/fall is ezmode: heat and rain.  Both you can just deal with and run through.  Heavy snow/Ice/subzero temps?  Not so much... Runs for this cycle may need to be moved indoors if I have to and am able to, or the schedule shuffled around, or *gulp* skipped as an absolute last resort.  We'll see what Mother Nature brings over the next few months...

I'm also going to do things a bit differently than I did for MCM.  First, I'm going to run more mileage.  Last training plan I peaked at 46 mpw.  This time around will be 55.  I'll also be going with the theory of "slow down to get faster", which has thus far proven itself to me. I'm going to be utilizing my heart rate monitor for the majority - if not all - of my runs.  A common running error for a lot of runners, and I know this to be true especially for myself is the tendency to run faster than you should for general purposes.  The heart rate monitor has kept me honest with this lately, and I've learned to embrace it rather than pooh pooh it.  So, prepare for me to slow down... way down in some cases!  Don't worry - it's all for a purpose.  My hard/workout runs will be intense (and I'll be doing a bit more of those this time around too), but the others will be super easy.

Secondly, I'm going to continue with workouts from Strong Curves.  I won't be doing the plan as written, but I will be doing 1 or 2 workouts per week as part of my plan in place of the strength circuit I used last time around.  That circuit got so freaking boring, and even though I stuck it out, I can't see myself doing it for another 18 weeks.

Yoga will be an important part of my plan, especially through the month of January.  I've signed up for 30 Days of Yoga with Yoga with Adriene and I'm really excited about it.  Flexibility has become really important to me post-injury and I am hoping to deepen my yoga practice with this program.  It's going to be a challenge for me because I don't think I've ever stuck with a yoga practice for 30 days straight.  The closest I've come was when I was pregnant and doing it about 3-4 times a week.  So, this will be interesting.

Here's to a successful, healthy, and FUN adventure ahead!
Calloway is not a fan of marathon training.  Or of me screaming at the TV during the Steelers game.  He is a fan of snuggles, food, sleeping on my face, and trying to aim his hairballs on my running shoes.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Oh Look - We're in the Home Stretch of 2014!

Isn't is always amazing (and scary) how some times it seems like time just drags along (like waiting for the doctor after the med assistant takes your vitals) and then others it just flies by dragging YOU along kicking and screaming?

Welcome to Life, right?

So, the first week of December is gone.  Which means now we're counting down to Christmas, 2015, MY BIRTHDAY (closer to 40 than 30... ahem), and - a new year of running and racing/training.

First let me tell you about this first week of December 2014.   I was able to put in just a tad over 25 running miles.  I'm very pleased with this as I feel like if I can keep this up (and inch it a bit closer to 30 in the next couple weeks), I will have a nice solid base for the coming year.  My legs are feeling good, and I've been doing small "speed tests" if you will... just to put my toe in the water physically and mentally.  I know I've said it before, but I really want my old speed back.  At least close to it.  I know I'm going to have to go through the ol' suckfest painfest to get it back, but I'm willing to do it.  That's another reason I'm trying to keep a decent base of mileage going into a new training cycle - this way I'm not adding both speed and new distance as a shocker to the body at once.  Injury prevention, yo.

I'm now onto Phase 2 of my "grow an ass" strength training plan.  I really wish I had taken pics at the start, but I can definitely see, and most importantly FEEL a difference.  My husband says he can see a difference too, so I guess that's a good thing.  I've always had the stereotypical flat Irish rear end, so it's kind of cool to start seeing something going on back there.

I was also able to get in a good yoga session this week.  Just a half hour vinyasa flow, but I know it helps.

Last week's runs, a pre-workout selfie (not of my ass), and my current favorite Spotify playlist.  I still can't believe I used to carry 100 more lbs on my frame.

This shouldn't come as a shock to anyone, but given the holiday season, my eating hasn't been 100% on point.  I've consumed more festive dessert than I should (hello last night's M&M cookies and ice cream).  At this time I'm not concerned because I do track everything on MyFitnessPal and don't go over calorie limits, but I know it's something I need to be aware of and keep in check so I'm not UNDERconsuming vital nutrients.

Speaking of vital nutrients, I found a new flavor of Emergen-C that has become my new favorite:
Why is the rum always gone?

I've been plowing down this stuff for years.  I have 1 packet a day and if I feel like I might be coming down with something, I up it to two (and try to make one of them the Immunity formula).  It works for me, YMMV.. the makers certainly aren't paying me to pimp it to you.  And please spare me the "omg you're drinking chemicals and GMOs and rat poison and the blood of Satan's spawn and really you're just making expensive pee" (kinda went through this on a running page on FB that I'm no longer active on).  Again, it works for ME.  Just like Jack Daniels and Coke Zero on a stressful day.  Placebo effect?  Maybe.  I don't care.

So - looking forward to 2015...  Would you believe I still don't have everything all planned out?  Right now I'm thinking I will run the Frigid Five Miler.  I think I can PR that race even in current condition.  I'm 92% sure I'm running the Pittsburgh Marathon as well as the 5K the day before.  And by that I mean that I already have my whole training plan typed out.  It scares the shit out of me, but they say if your dreams don't scare you they're not big enough, so there's that.  Also in my plans is the JASR 30K (another automatic PR because I've never ran a 30K - so there!).  I know I "should" actually race a 5K at some point to get a more accurate gauge of fitness, but I really hate 5Ks because they make me feel like crapola.  As for the rest of the year?  NFI.  My family is pressing me to run MCM again because they had such a great time with the whole weekend.  I don't know.  I mean, it would be cool to go try to do better than I did the first time and be kind of familiar with it, but at the same time I want to do other things (Philly, Wineglass, etc).  Maybe I'll just enter the lottery again and see what comes of it.  Again, I don't have much planned.

In the non-running and non-real life:  OMG Sons of Anarchy.  Tomorrow is the final episode and I'm going to be so sad when it's all over.  What will I do from here?  This is one of those shows I've watched every single episode of every single season of.  Like House.  I still am not over his antics and I still think Cuddy is a bitch.  Rescue Me - still laughing/crying over Lou and the red velvet cake.  I suppose another show will come along (I still have Homeland and Grey's Anatomy - at least for now), but this was one of the ones to remember.

Tig & Venus forever. :)  

Monday, November 24, 2014

Random Thoughts on Life and Great Recipes

I'm sitting here swilling coffee out of this mug:

Too early?

I'm trying to get the motivation to get up and out to get my workout in for the day.  yes, I do have a lazy bone in my body.  Sometimes I do indulge it.  I'm not perfect nor do I want to be.

First let's get the mundane out of the way - it's that crazy ass weather time of year.  It could do a 180 from one day to the next.  Right now it's in the 60s.  However recently, it's been so damn cold, I've been known to run in this attire:

Wind was really whipping that day too.  I don't think you can see it, but ignore my neighbor's tarp covered boat.  He can keep the boat covered up, but can't clean his dog shit out of my yard.

Speaking of weird animals, my oldest cat Meatball has taken to obsessing over celery.  Yes, the big green stalks of crunchy stuff.  I don't even know what started it other than she got a whiff and a lick of it in a bag that I brought home one day and that sealed the deal.  She has even gone so far as to jump INTO the fridge if you leave it open a split second to get to it.  I've searched and it doesn't seem like it's a harmful thing so we've been just giving her little pieces of the leafy stuff at the top if she's really persistent.  I guess cats get a little crazy when they get old too.

I'm loving this relaxed in between season of working out.  Of course this is only in regards to running because I'm starting week 3 of "Nichole's flavor of Strong Curves" and it's going great.  I did notice on my 10 mile run yesterday the extra strength I've got in my ass as I was running over bridges so I guess that's a good thing.  I do need to add a yoga/flexibility workout to my rotation again.  I miss doing a weekly one and I still have some stiffness to get gone.  Or maybe, like my cat, I'm just old.

Holidays... we are staying home!  We were going out to visit my family but our van just isn't in perfect condition right now.  After the rocky trip to MCM where the radiator almost left us stranded, it just hasn't been right and I don't feel comfortable taking another trip in it until it's either 100% fixed or (gulp) replaced.  So we've got a turkey, and we're getting all the rest of the fixins together to have a pig out fest of our own.  And yes I'm a trainer and yes I preach health and fitness to people and yes I believe that you should (mostly) be mindful of what you put in your body.  But that said, seriously I get annoyed at the barrage of "How to be healthy over the holidays" and "Don't eat all that bad food" and "Say no thanks to unclean eating this season" posts/memes/etc on the interwebs.  Honestly it is important to be healthy but it is just as important to experience and enjoy life.  You have to find that balance.  Have fun with your friends and family.. drink another glass of wine or scotch.. eat that pie only your grandma can make because you don't know if she'll be around to make it next year.  You know your limits, you know what it's gonna take to burn whatever you put in you off.  But that time... those people, those foods, those smells, those memories.  Enjoy it!  You don't have to answer to anyone, certainly not me.  I've told my clients to just have fun and enjoy themselves.  Be aware of what you're doing, but don't let it make you resentful or unhappy.  Come back honest and ready to put in the work at the gym next session.  If that makes me a slacker or a bad trainer or whatever than so be it.  I'll drink another just for you.  Cheers.

Kinda went on a tangent there.... sorry not sorry.

Speaking of putting things in your mouth, I tried two great new recipes this week that I believe are worthy of sharing.


Garden Style Lasagna  This was divine!  It's hard for me to cook meatless in this house.  It sucks, because I don't always "need" or even want meat, but even when I make a salad or plain pasta or heck anything else, the response I get from the males in this house is "where's the meat".  But this recipe had people coming back for more and NOT ONCE did I get a request for meat.  The leftovers were great too.  Just don't scorch your first batch of white sauce like I did... oops.


Shredded Beef  I know this recipe is written to make French Dip sandwiches, but I just made the shredded beef and served it (and that awesome juice) over brown rice with veggies on the side.  My husband is still raving about it.  He even used some leftovers to put in a tortilla and make a burrito.  For such a simple recipe with so few ingredients, I can't say enough good about it.

And on that note, I think I've worked up the motivation to get my sweat on.  To the gym I go!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

When I'm Not Running...

Don't let the title fool you.  I've been running.  I'm happy to say that I finally feel back to myself after MCM.  Like I said before, I want to work up to running 20+ miles per week to maintain over this winter.. which seems to be appearing pretty freaking early since this morning was -1 (yes there's a MINUS there) with the windchill.  Last week I put in around 17 and half miles, so I'm definitely on the right track.  This week I'm shooting for 20.

I've also on week 2 of the Strong Curves "flavor" workout plan.  Holy crap that first week was rough.  I was SO sore.  I didn't know if I was from still recovering from the marathon or the new training.  I believe it was from the glute exercises because I've never been sore like that in those areas before.  Wowza.  Hopefully this will be a good thing and help me in my running... in the long run.  Ha.  I'm so funny.

But, I didn't come here to talk about running or any other exercise.  Or the fact that I've eaten less than 100g of carbs a day for the last several days (hello again abs!).  What I want to tell you about is what I do when I'm not working out or participating in real life responsibilities.


This past Thursday the new expansion, Warlords of Draenor, hit the market.  I had prepurchased it and was ready to go the second it went live.  Which was 3am EST.  Yes, my ass was in this chair.  I was there for the herd of people standing on top of Khadgar, jumping through the portal and starting the grind to level 100.  It's always such an experience that I'm glad to be a part of.  I've played WoW nearly 10 years now.  It's been a major part of my life.  I've met friends who I've connected with outside of WoW, witnessed people get married, have kids, even just grow up and go off to school (or as they say, "Uni", depending on where they're from).  I got lucky to be on an early American converted to Oceanic server, so most of my online connections are with people from Australia.  I love it. It's like I live in 2 parts of the world every day.  I remember hearing about Steve Irwin's death while logged in - even before American news was reporting it.  Memories.

So, every time there's a new release my husband and I go all out for it... get the game going the second it comes out, stay up all day and night, etc.  And now that the kids are older, they're into it too - especially the midkid who has his own characters going and really understands the game probably better than most.  After the newness wears off it's back to being more casual and relaxed about it (our hardcore guild and raiding days are long over), but it's nice to get back into it like crazy kids for a bit.

I did hit max level pretty quickly btw.  Because I rock.  Troll Shadow Priest FTW.  For the glory of the Horde.  Now if I can only get my Garrison built up the way I'd like it....

And for the record, I still got all my runs and all my other workouts in.  And I cooked (mostly) healthy foods.  Even on few hours sleep.  Years ago I would have just slothed around and ate burritos and chips.  But I guess I'm older and more responsible now.  Or maybe I'm just old in general.  That's ok too.

Thanks for 10 years of freaking awesome experiences, Blizzard.  Here, let me hand you more money.  I couldn't imagine being addicted to something more... EPIC.

An old pic of my priest after being one of the first people to get the Violet Proto Drake from the What A Long, Strange Trip It's Been achievement.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Aftermath and Now What?

You never know how you're going to recover from a marathon - heck, any race - until you run it.  I didn't know what to expect out of my body post-MCM so I really didn't lay out any rigid plans for myself.  I knew that I wanted to be on the conservative side and allow myself to rest and heal up as needed.

Something I am aware of for me is that I have to have a happy balance of keeping moving and resting.  If I simply lay around, I feel like crap longer and I tend to get really tight very quickly.  If I try to push myself to go and go and go, of course that just delays my recovery time.  So it's all about finding that sweet spot.

Walking the National Zoo (very sloooowly) the day after MCM was a good thing for me, I think, especially since I had a long car ride the rest of the evening to get back home.  The day after, more DOMs kicked in via the quads, but it wasn't too bad.

I wanted to take 7-10 days or more off running.  I didn't (and don't) see any reason to be out running in the days after.  In my belief you won't be helping yourself any, but you certainly can hurt yourself and I don't want to chance it.

In the week after, I went for a couple of easy to brisk walks, rode the bike and got on the crossramp.  The crossramp was the worst, as it generated some odd twinges out of the backs of my knees.  It felt good to be back in the gym and breaking a sweat in ways other than running, though.  Sometimes you just need the change of pace, if you will.  I'm excited about the fact that our neighbor offered us his upright bike when he moved.  We just got it set up in our new place yesterday and it will be nice to have that option here at home.

I ran on the 9th day post-MCM.  To be honest, I was scared because I didn't know how it would go.  It went ok... not great, but not awful.  I had that "I forgot how to run" thing going on at first, but then I eased into it.  I still felt sore in places - particularly my hip flexors - but I was able to keep going.  My body kept wanting to run at marathon pace, and I had to keep pulling back.  It didn't feel like I was running too fast, but I don't want to "accidentally" go too hard/too fast when it is unnecessary.  I got a little over 4 miles in, so no disappointments there.

I'm planning another short run this week and then I'm going to try just running for an hour this weekend sometime.  My goal at this point is to work myself back up to 25-30ish miles a week for the rest of the year.  I'd like to run 4 days per week and do strength training 3 days.  I will have a total rest day, of course, so one day will be both a short run and a lifting session. I'm looking at doing the Strong Curves program (with my own flair, of course) as I still believe I have weakness in the glutes more than anywhere else.  Right now I have nothing set in stone until I get a feel for exactly when I am fully recovered from the marathon.

Nutritionally speaking, I'm happy to be lowering my carbs again and picking up the protein (my diabetic husband is thankful for this as well - less temptations in the house for him).  I usually crave it after racing anyway... My standard post race or long run meal is a juicy burger.  I'm currently back to eating more whole foods and feeling good about it.  Not that I ate like crap during my marathon training, but at the end there I felt like I was eating us out of house and home and while travelling I was leaning on snacky things like energy bars, pretzels, etc.  Last night I made a delicious pizza casserole out of spaghetti squash and Italian sausage and packed it with mushrooms, onions and fresh basil.  Now I'm hungry for leftovers for lunch and it's not even 10 AM.  Crap.

Future plans... Well, in the immediate future I'm going to continue to enjoy the break... from extremely early wakeups, to being exhausted, to the rigid schedule, to the intensity of everything.  I want to get back to blogging more about my day to day and with that I want to catch up on the blogs I've been missing.  I've been reading and reading (bloglovin + long car rides), but I want to reach back out there and be more social.  I feel like I've cut myself out of the loop - I know I did - but I'd like to wiggle back in there.  This is also something I need to have a happy balance of - I tend to either overshare or just not be here at all.  There's gotta be a middle ground.  One of the things I'm considering for the next year is actually training with an actual group.  Maybe finally break out of my comfort zone as a perpetual lone wolf.

Racing...  I'm tentatively saying that my next race will be the Frigid 5 Miler in January.  I've wanted a redo of that since I did it almost 2 years ago.  I'm still trying to make a decision on Pittsburgh.  Part of me wants to go for the marathon to finally say I did it, but at the same time I really love that half and I'm still kinda bummed I couldn't PR it last year.  And, I don't know if I want to do two marathons a year (assuming I'll do another Fall marathon - be it MCM or Philly or another).  I would love to work on getting my speed back in the coming year... I know it's there, just lurking under the surface.  I feel it in the form of "oopsie" sub 8 min miles in the middle of random 5 mile easy runs...  It just needs coaxed out in the form of focused training.   Again, I don't know... nothing is set in stone.

Right now I'm going to enjoy this period of going with the flow.

Monday, November 3, 2014

MCM Weekend Photos and Stories

I promise after this post I will stop talking about my marathon.  Ok, probably not.

There's really not a whole lot to say about Friday.  We drove there - it took a while.  We did take the kids with us (DC is an educational experience after all, and we've never had the opportunity to take our brood there before this), and of course that meant stopping at every rest stop it seemed.  At least it was a beautiful day, and we left pretty early knowing this would happen.

 Practicing high kicks.
 Hanging out by the C&O Canal

 What a ham.
 This was a nice little stop.
More C&O Canal.

After we finally got to our hotel and checked in and then got some food (we were starving!), we went to the Expo.  I feared long lines and waits, but really it was no different than any other race to me.  After a short security check in, everything was smooth sailing.  Packet pickup was downstairs and then the actual expo was upstairs.  I thought that was convenient.  Now, really, the expo wasn't totally "WOW".  Maybe I'm just on race expo burnout or something, but it all seems like the same stuff over and over.  This one had the advantage of having more specific military-type charity booths, but other than that it was the same vendors you see everywhere.  Swap the Brooks store with a Dick's and there you have the Pittsburgh Marathon expo.  So, while I browsed for a short bit (and bought a new Bondi Band for myself and for my daughter), we didn't stay too long.

Later that evening was the First Timers Pep Rally.  I signed up for this because 1) it was cheap.. haha, and 2) I thought maybe hanging out with other first timers would help somehow and 3) I'll never have this chance again!  This is only time I'll ever be a First Time Marathoner!

It took place at the host hotel - Hyatt Regency Capital Hill.  I got there pretty much right on time, got checked in, given a really cool pin, temporary tattoo (that I never put on), and an MCM 26.2 car decal.  Then I got directed to where the actual pep rally was down the escalator.  It wasn't too crowded just yet so I grabbed a seat and chilled out.  On the way in they handed us pom poms... lol
 One of the "famous" arches.
 Pom poms.  ha.
They had these screens on each side.  They showed videos and then streamed photos from Instagram and Twitter. #RunwiththeMarines

It was a good time and I'm glad I went.  Bart Yasso was hilarious (told us a lovely story about the Mile High Club), and the other speakers were good too (Clif Bar Pace team, etc).  There was an open bar and food.  I didn't partake of either since just eating before and I wasn't tempting fate with drinking.  I couldn't believe the amount of people getting a buzz on.  I wondered how they were going to get up the next morning.. lol.  Anyway, they did a lot of goofy competitions for prizes - Who had the best Oorah, who could run on stage and hug the host the fastest, who was coming from the farthest away, etc.  It was all really cheesy (and not something I would do normally), but I think I got my ten bucks of entertainment out of it.

Saturday morning I got up and headed out on the Metro to the Runners bRUNch, which started at the Iwo Jima Memorial.  Luckily, I met a couple other runners waiting for the train and we were able to get to the start together.  Unfortunately this was the most unorganized event of the weekend.  There were conflicting statements on where the start was, how long the run was, how to get there, etc.  There were no signs and no one to direct you.  It was strange.  But, we made it (after taking the long way around, of course) to the start where we had time to snap a few pics of each other in front of the memorial before the start.

 Yep, there's Bart Yasso back there again.  Giving us all a peptalk.  This isn't a good pic, but the second guy in there from the right wearing brown is Sean Astin, who was also hoping for a sub 4 hr MCM.  Another very cool guy.

In more poorly organized fashion, in one minute we were told there were going to be pacers for different times and then the next it's "lets get started" without telling us who was pacing what.  haha.  I was just pretty amused by all of this with my mind focused on keeping this a nice relaxing run to freshen up for the big day tomorrow.

I started off running with one of the girls I met at the Metro.  She was going for a sub 5 hour marathon time, had an achilles injury and wanted to stay slow.  We chatted a bit about various races (this was not her first marathon.. she's done quite a few), and I'm always interested in hearing others experiences in other places.  She recommended the Grandma's race.  After the first mile and change, I told her I was going to pick it up a bit (my goal was a light progression - averaging out around a 10 minute mile), and I bid her farewell.  Unfortunately I never saw her again, but I hope she had a good marathon.

It was a gorgeous sunny day for a short run.  The course went from the Iwo to the Jefferson Memorial and back.  I completed the run as I intended... nice and easy with a light pickup and was happy with it and confident for race day.  They gave us a book about the history of the MCM and a commemorative coin.

After the run, they had a huge breakfast buffet.  Huge donuts, bagels, pastries, oatmeal, yogurt, granola, fruits, etc.  I settled on what you see here - fruit, a small plain croissant and a banana nut muffin.  I didn't want to chance any frosted or filled donuts.  lol


Again, I'm glad I did this.  That said, this is one weekend event that I don't know that I'd do again.  First of all, it was expensive - $40+service charge.  For a run that had a lot of confusion surrounding it, etc I just don't think that it's worth it in the long haul.  I probably could have been just as well getting to sleep in Saturday morning, eating fruit and muffins at the hotel, and then going for a short run locally on my own.  Maybe that's just me, though.  Let's not forget running that hill that day gave me a really evil false sense of security for the actual race.  So maybe I'm just bitter about that too.  ;)  Still.. I can see better ways to have spent $45 bucks when you figure in service charge and metro charge to get there.

I already posted my epic long race day recap, so here's some photos from the day:
 Me and the kids with Miles after the race!
 I typically think Michelob is "beer flavored water", but it was fantabulous on this day!!
 My cheer squad.

Their little legs walked so far on marathon day.  I'm so proud of them!

After a decent night's sleep Sunday, we checked out of the hotel and headed home.  But first, what would a trip to DC be without a stop at the Zoo??  Yep, my crazy butt walked around the whole National Zoo the day after I ran a marathon.  No regrets.

It was a great weekend with lots of adventures!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Marine Corps Marathon 2014 Part 2

And.... the pacer was gone.  To quote the girl I was running beside "Holy shit he's flying!".  It was no joke... after being told that the first few miles were going to be taken slower than goal pace to conserve energy due to the hills this guy was running like his ass was on fire.  8:40s, 8:30s, low 8s.  Every time I'd think I'd finally get closer he'd be gone again.  Very frustrating.  I gave up trying to be "in the group" and settled on just being able to see the balloons bouncing in the distance.  I knew if I kept having to sprint ahead when I got a hole to just to keep up I'd never survive the race as a whole.

Speaking of frustrating... everything I've read/been told about the MCM start was spot on.  It was by far the worst of any race I've been in.  There was simply no moving early on.  It stayed shoulder to shoulder people for quite a while.  People barely shuffling along, charity groups running 4-6+ wide, walkers (yes, right out of the start line).  And yes, I do agree with those that say this is the problem with "Beat the Bridge" + unregulated corrals.  If you knew that you had to get to a certain point on the course by a certain CLOCK time, not chip time, why wouldn't you want to start as soon as you can?

Let's not talk (ok let's) about the fluid stations during at least the first half.  First, you have to find a way to get in there.  Seriously, you have to be aggressive.  Once you find a hole and grab a cup, guess what?  There's no way to move. You will get stepped on, pushed, tripped.  You might seriously have to stop for a few seconds.  Because that seems to be the standard.  I was trying to stick with running past the first group of Marines to the second, grabbing the first cup I could get to and then get back out on the course, sloshing and drinking because that was the only way to not have to STOP every freaking time.  Granted, that added to those extra miles, but sheesh.  And forget the whole "We're going green this year" thing by keeping the street clean.  It was just slippery cups and Gatorade.  I can't tell you how many people I saw fall or how many times I had to fight for my own right to stay vertical.  The second half wasn't nearly as bad.  It was pretty on par with anywhere else.  If I ever run MCM again I will definitely either bring my handheld or carry a throwaway bottle for at least the first half to avoid the fluid stations.  I noticed that a lot of veteran MCM runners did this.

Ok, so once I got over trying to be part of a pace group and settled into my own, I started focusing on even effort.  The first miles were hilly, but not bad.  I could still see those balloons ahead but I wasn't going to kill myself to be on top of them.  What I wanted to do was actually be able to run.  It was so crowded and I wasn't able to really open my legs up.  I was doing an uncomfortable little trot that just didn't feel right, but there was no room.  I distracted myself with little conversations with people I'd be running near and the spectator signs.

Sometime after the 10K split I noticed that I couldn't see the pacer balloons anymore.  Now you might think that I'm going to say I started to freak out, but it was really the opposite.  I had an odd sense of calm flow over me.  I simply didn't have to worry about it anymore.  I kept focusing on MY pace and effort, I started actually allowing myself to enjoy the race and I felt really good.  Then, as we were coming back from the turnaround point at mile 8 or 9 I saw him running the other way!  Somehow I'd passed him?!  I'm guessing it was at the last fluid station... it had to have been.  I didn't even notice.  Maybe he'd finally realized he was running too fast and slowed way down?  I don't know, but again I was totally calm and didn't care.  This was my race, not his, not the group, and I was going to do this on my own.  My pace was evened out and I felt really good.  At points I felt like I was running too slow, but I certainly wasn't going to speed up because I knew the good feels would eventually go away.  I was just going to keep plugging along and enjoy it.

Prior to the race, as most runners do, I stalked the weather report.  Two things were of concern: 1) For me, the forecast was too hot.  55 degrees at the start, climbing through the 60s during the race and a high of 70 for the day.  Also - Sunny. I wore a singlet and compression shorts, hat & sunglasses.  I had armsleeves at the start, but ditched them when I warmed up as always.  2) It was supposed to be windy - 14-18 mph.  The wind wouldn't pose a problem until later in the race. But around 10 miles the sun was starting to get high and hot, it was in my face and it really started heating up.  I was thankful to have trained in all that summer heat and humidity, but I had hoped to not have to deal with it.

By the time we hit the Lincoln Memorial and headed out toward the next part of the course (I forget the name - Hains Point?) the road started to open up and I could stretch my legs.  I went from feeling good to really good by being able to do this.  I really don't remember much of this part of the course... I was so zoned out and just loving the feel of running.  I read a lot of spectator signs, high fived kids and Marines, and had a good time.  My family saw me, but I didn't see them.  They got video though. :)

The mall was awesome.  Tons of spectators and entertainment and of course, lots of things to see.  I was able to see my family around mile 18 just before the Capitol and then again before mile 20.  They really motivated me and gave me an extra boost for the last part of the course.  Also before the bridge a lady decided to walk right out onto the course to try crossing the street in front of me.  I put my arms out and tried to stop quickly and an older gentleman behind me held me up so I didn't go down.  He said "freaking idiots.. they haven't been out here running 19 miles already, you can't just stop for them to cross the damn street.  You ok, dear?".  I said yeah, just annoyed, and he said come on, we're about to beat the bridge!

The Bridge.  Part 1 of my "don't be cocky until you experience it" series.  Before the race, while going over the map and reading previous runners comments I wasn't all that impressed.  I mean, I live in Pittsburgh.  I'm all about the bridges.  Love em, in fact.  What all this hoopla and drama was over this single bridge I couldn't fathom.  That is, until I ran it myself.  This is a lonely place.  Headed toward mile 21 the course is pretty clear, so you do have your own space.  But this is also a bad thing.  On a long, lonely bridge you're kind of looking for some kind of distraction.  Maybe someone to talk to.  Something to look at.  Due to the nature of this part of the course there are no aid stations, no spectators, no music, no nothing.  Just the sounds of a bunch of hot and sweaty runners plodding along, grunting, swearing... many give in and walk here.  I didn't, but it messes with your mind when the masses are struggling. Here's where an evil cross wind started too.  On one hand it took the edge off the heat, but on the other it made running straight forward more of a challenge. I kept praying for it to be over.  It sucked.  I was really hot and dying for water.

I was so happy when we got to Crystal City at mile 22.  It kind of reminded me of the South Side part of the Pittsburgh course.  Loud music, streets lined with people cheering and handing out food and drinks (those folks with the orange slices are forever my heroes), bright colored flags and signs everywhere... it was a huge party.  The best part?  A mister at the turnaround point that drenched us with water.  Just what I needed!

Part 2 of my "don't be cocky until you experience it" series:  There is no such thing as saying there's only a few miles left in a marathon.  I still felt pretty good at miles 22-23.  So in my lame little mind I think I can start really pushing here.  That lasted... maybe short of half a mile before coming to the realization that you know, there's still a long way to go.  After the mile 24 marker I was really "feeling it".... I wasn't at the wall that I've heard about, but I was definitely hot, and wearing out.  Remember the wind I talked about?  From here to the end it was in my face which definitely made the last part of the race a challenge.  It was becoming a serious mental game to keep myself steady and forge ahead.  I remember at one point thinking (and possibly out loud, I don't know) "where the hell is the mile 25 marker???".  That mile just seemed to take forever.  After mile 25 I really just tried to hold on to what I was able to do.  My right calf started doing this weird twitchy thing.  It didn't hurt, but it bothered me.  I believe that around this time was where I was personally hitting the wall because I really felt like I was entering survival mode... I was talking to myself to keep going, plodding along, ignoring the fact that my calf was being a bitch, my feet hurt like hell, and I had to remind myself to even stand up straight.  I never stopped though, I just kept on going.  So, for that, I'm proud.

At the mile 26 marker, you turn a sharp left to "take the Iwo".  Here is Part 3.  Saturday I ran the Runners bRUNch (aka an untimed 5K that was a little longer, but hey I ran with Bart Yasso and Sean Astin so I'm not complaining).  I'll write about the run later, but we did run the hill at the end... well, the sidewalk beside it anyway.  Oh, I was so pumped up.  That hill was so easy.  Nothing compared to hills I've ran before.  I was going to just go flying over it to the finish on Sunday.  Go ahead and join me in laughing so hard you might pee.  Sure that was an easy hill after a mere 3 miles on the legs.  After 26?  Ahhh not so much.  After a brutal first couple of footfalls where I felt like I was running through mud or really heavy snow I took TWO walking steps, shaking my head.  A Marine on my right said "No Ma'am, you are not doing this now.  Get up that hill and finish strong!".  In my mind I thought "WTF am I doing?  I've come so far!", and I dug in and got up the hill and just coasted to the finish.  I gave it all I had.  3:57:00.

Like I said, I'm very proud of myself.  I learned a lot from this race.  Respect the Distance is a good lesson.  The marathon isn't just another 20+ mile long run.  It is a true test of the physical and mental.  Even when I was starting to struggle at the end I was thinking that I'm definitely doing another one.  It will probably be Pittsburgh.  I may even come back for MCM, frustrating first half and all just to see what happens when I know what I expect.  We'll see.

Thanks to everyone here, on DailyMile, Twitter, etc who sent me words of encouragement and advice along the way.  This has been quite the journey and I'm proud to be able to call myself a marathoner!

I promise I'll post some pics soon, but like I said I just moved and we're still pretty barebones right now so once I get things together they'll be up.

Marine Corps Marathon 2014 Part 1

Please allow me to shout it from the rooftop: I AM A MARATHONER! Cue the overzealous end zone celebration guaranteed to secure penalties and fines.

Wow.  Just wow.  Since I literally just got to my new house and got my computer set up (yeah, on top of everything else marathon week I moved!  Still moving today!  When it rains it pours, all!), I've had a few days to filter through the various thoughts and emotions I've had regarding the race.  Trust me, there are a ton.  I guess most first timers are the same.

Bottom line?  I ran exactly the race that I trained for.  And for that I am extremely proud of myself.  Yes, as a newbie I messed some things up and had to learn as I went.  But overall?  I won't talk down about myself or my performance here at all.

My A goal was a sub 4 hour marathon.  B was 4:15 and C was to not die.  I crossed the finish line in 3:57:00.  9:02 avg pace.  I couldn't be more thrilled.  Now, I will also mention my watch stats which reflect my typical tangent fails as well as a very crowded and hard to maneuver course: 26.77 miles in 3:57:10 - avg pace of 8:52.  Admittedly, one thing that kinda made me go "huh" for a moment after the race when I got my time was "how the hell is my average pace 9:02 when most of my miles ticked off on my watch at 8:50something?".  Then I realized on my watch I ran almost 27 miles... haha.  Bad tangents, yo... Not to make excuses or anything but I truly believe this is one course where it may be nearly impossible unless you're a front runner to execute those tangents.  It's just too crowded.

That said, looking at my gps stats as well as my official race splits I am just stoked that I was able to keep a fairly consistent pace for the majority of the race.  I usually refer to myself as the worst self pacer ever but maybe I just need to believe in myself a little more.  Here's one example of a 5 mile stretch of the race: 8:51, 8:51, 8:52, 8:51, 8:51.  Yeah.  And I held that within a few seconds most of the time.  Aside from a few odd miles this was not an "all over the place" race for me... which might honestly be a first.

So let me get to the race.  First of all, I don't think that anything else can compare to the epic beginning (and I'm talking pre-howitzer) that was MCM.

I chose to take the shuttle to Runners Village instead of the Metro.  The pickup spot was just a couple of blocks from my hotel in Crystal City (yep, totally planned) and I figured it would give my legs a bit of a wake up and give me solo time to clear my head.  I'd heard that lines get long quickly, so my alarm sounded at 4:30am.  I got my things together, put on my lovely goodwill throwaway, and headed out in the darkness.  Oh, something I want to mention is that DC drivers are much more conscientious of pedestrians than yinzer drivers.  Here it's like everyone is out for themselves while down there drivers will honestly stop 99% of the time no matter what to let a runner/walker cross the street.  It took some time to get used to the fact!

When I got to the shuttle stop shortly after 5am there was already quite a line.  I breathed a sigh of relief when I was able to get one of the last seats on the first bus out.  I definitely didn't want to wait for another one.

Runners Village was very well organized.  After we got off the bus, we headed through security (metal detector, wand, dogs, the whole gamut), and then proceeded up the road to where things were set up.  Oh, another thing to mention:  there's a LOT of walking involved for MCM.  Between the walk to Runners Village, the walk to the actual start, and then all the walking afterward I wouldn't be shocked to find out I had over 30 miles on my legs that day.  At Runners Village we had HEAPS of porta potties with no lines, the UPS trucks for bag check, coffee (I didn't have any because I was following my personal fueling plan of a banana and a light peanut butter sandwich), prayer services, etc.  Even in the dark there were huge signs everywhere and lots of uniformed Marines patrolling the area so there was really no way to get lost.

Around 7, I took one last potty break and then walked to the start.  I lined up beside the huge "Expected Finish 4:00-4:09" sign.  I was certainly not alone and the corrals started to pack quickly.  I took off my throwaway around this time too.  As we were standing around chatting, we enjoyed the Osprey flyover as well as the parachute jump with the huge American flags.  United We Sing also graced us with the National Anthem.  It was simply amazing and I can't put any of this part into words.  It's something you have to experience for yourself to understand.  Then we (myself and the new friends I'd made in the corral) started getting nervous.  Where the hell was the 4 hour pacer?  My plan was to use this guy to keep me on track and then sometime after 22 miles push it to the end if I still felt ok.  We were told online, at the expo, etc, that the Clif Bar Pacers would be there at 7:15 holding balloons in front of the "Expected Finish" sign.  Enter panic mode when he showed up moments before the race started and planted himself in the middle of the 3:50-3:59 corral...  Me and a couple others were able to squeeze through the crowd a bit and get closer to where he was but we were still quite a distance behind him.  It was shoulder to shoulder people.. no more room to move at all.  Any time you twisted or moved an arm you whacked someone.  It was crazy.  I told myself to breathe and be calm.  If I could keep him in my sights I was still ok.

The howitzer fired.  It would be a few minutes before I crossed the start line (around 4), but I was on my way!

Part 2!

Friday, September 12, 2014

I'm Alive!

In case you cared.  ha.

Yes, once again I disappeared into the abyss.  I had to.  HAD TO.  But, I'm feeling like today is the day I should break the silence.  I will try not to write a novel.

Let's just get one thing perfectly clear:  Marathon training is fucking HARD.  No, I did not expect it to be easy.  I'm not a total idiot.  However, I totally underestimated how much it consumes you, drains you, yet somehow strengthens you and keeps you coming back for more.  I was in no way prepared for the fatigue both physically and emotionally, the time spent either planning runs, fueling for runs, recovering from runs, sharing runs, and the actual running itself.  The highs and lows are like PMS overload.

Of course outside of this whole marathon thing, I have a life as a wife, a mom, a trainer and I have people counting on me to be fresh and available for them.  I had work drama, family drama, moving issues, school issues, sick kids, sick spouse, etc.

When I have a lot going on and hit that about-to-explode point, I find myself trying to overanalyze and overshare.  It all becomes very overwhelming.  I hit a really hard low point a couple weeks ago.  I hated getting up in the morning, I hated running, I resented the time I was missing with my kids, and I was seriously considering just saying fuck it all and cutting the plan down or just doing a walk/run thing or anything to take the pressure off.  I really needed to pull back and refocus.  I think (I hope!) I'm over that hump now.

I kept my DailyMile up to date with my workouts and I randomly post crap on Instagram.

I'm now almost at the end of the first week of the 3rd mesocycle in my training plan.  This section is focused on race preparation.  Just a few more weeks to go. I think I can do this!

Some highs and lows of the past several weeks:
The very first week of the 2nd mesocycle I had a terrible flare up of tendinitis in my right leg.  It still comes on every now and again, but it is controlled with rest, compression and ice.  I had to skip a long run, but I reworked my plan and it was fine.

In the revamping of my plan, I cut out the planned half marathon I was going to use as a test race.  I was going to do the River Run Half in Berea, OH.  I don't think that I'm screwed over by not having a race in the training plan.  In fact, I probably saved myself from injury again.  I'm ok with it.

I've built myself up to running over 18 miles!  And it was awesome!  Ok - let me be honest.  I'm having to break these longer runs up into sections because when I'm at mile 3 and I think "15 miles to go!" that's just completely demoralizing.  But, I also can't seem to grasp "just run the mile you're in"... because I still think "holy shit I have to do this X amount more times!".  So, I've found if I pick landmarks like "just make it to Hot Metal Street", I do well with that because then I can say "well, I made it here, next up - Steelers practice field!".  Then on and on.  I've used this method the whole way to the Waterfront and back home.  YMMV.  I plan on using this during the race, too if need be.  Make it through Georgetown... Washington Monument... Capitol... Beat the Bridge... You get the point.

I've skipped some speedwork.  Remember, I said I was going to do this when I started this plan if I wasn't feeling great.  I've stood by that, especially the last couple of weeks.  I've traded intervals for strides or just said eff it and ran easy but got the miles in.  If I'm not fully recovered from the last run, there's nothing I can do about it other than take care of myself and move on.  Forcing out half assed speed work isn't going to do anything but land my ass back in the ortho's office.

I ran 17 miles in the pouring rain.  Alone.  This run was a sheer test of willpower and determination.  And I did it.

Speaking of that particular run (and some others) I've learned a valuable lesson in chafing.  I always wondered WTF people were bitching about in regards to this.  I've never had an issue with it before.  Well, that's because you need to run a longer time, I guess... I started having chafing when my runs surpassed 14 miles.  Heart rate monitor?  Ouch.  The shorts I was wearing during the 17 mile rainstorm?  Never again.  Of course I get the chafing in sensitive parts... Lucky me!

Non-running high:  I helped a long-term client hit a weight loss goal and see progress that surprised her!  So happy and proud!  I love clients that are honest, stick to their program and are open to try things, even if they seem goofy to them at first.

All in all, this has been quite a journey and a learning experience.  I'm doing things I didn't think were possible.  I've made peace with some things and waged war on others.  This week is a recovery week and I'm loving it!  I'm thrilled that I "only" have to run a half marathon this Sunday.  Who am I? LOL  Next weekend I do my first 20 mile run.  Then another cutback week, then another 20.  Then... it's taper time.  Already.

I've made it this far and I'm going to see it through to the end.  44 days to go.  Staying healthy, calm and happy is the goal.

Monday, August 4, 2014

MCM Training Week 6

And this completes the first of the three mesocycles in my training plan!  That sure went fast!

I'm feeling pretty good about where things are.  I've been trying to train smart, not just hard and I've mostly been trying to remain positive.  I think the mind control is harder than the physical aspect of training sometimes.

This was the last cutback week before the really hard training starts.

Tuesday I ran 3 miles easy with 4 striders.  All in all a good run, but I felt like I really wussed out on the strides and didn't give them a full effort.  Then again, I reminded myself that this is a recovery week so I didn't need to be going all out anyway.

Wednesday 5 recovery paced miles on the trail.  It was nice and cool, but my legs were tight and tired.  Still a good run.

Thursday I ran a nice and easy 3 mile loop from the house to the stadiums and back and it was one of those "I needed that" type of runs.  You know the ones.... you've had a couple BLAH ones in a row and then you get one that just breaks you out of the funk.  This was that run.  :)

Friday was the Liberty Mile with the kids and we had a great time!

Saturday I was scheduled for 6 miles uptempo and I was honestly afraid of it.  But, this came easily and felt amazing!

Sunday This "long" run almost didn't happen.  During the previous evening, my leg was cramping up and I iced and wrapped it for a while.  When I woke up bright and early, it still ached a bit.  I also had a terrible night due to going through old things and packing for our move and ended up staying up way too late having an emotional breakdown.  I figured that if I was going to miss a long run, it was ok during a cutback week when it was only scheduled for 9 miles.  So I went back to bed for a few hours.

When I woke up, there was a crazy thunderstorm - lightning and all.  I felt pretty good though and was starting to kick myself for not running earlier.  By late afternoon the skies were mostly clear again and I was really feeling back to myself... no pain at all.  The kids wanted to go to a playground, so Nick and I planned to head up to North Park.  My plan was to run the lake loop.  If it sucked after the first loop, I'd stop and at least have 5 miles in.  Otherwise, I'd play it by ear.

My legs must have missed dear old North Park because they just wanted to fly around that lake!  That first loop was amazing - I was holding a consistent pace (again, rare!) and as I passed the playground the family was at I yelled "I got this - see you in another loop!" and headed out again.  The second loop was a bit tougher - the nice mist of rain went away and in its place came full on sun and heat, but I was still holding that SAME consistent pace and feeling pretty darn good!  I ran all 9 miles and then walked the last mile back around to meet Nick and the kids where I started from.

I'm so glad I let myself get some extra rest and I'm really thankful that seems to be just what I needed.  I still prefer early morning workouts, but hey, sometimes you do what you have to do.

I also got in all of my strength/core/flexibility supplemental workouts.  If I can be totally honest here, I'm getting bored with the strength and core ones.  I have added sets of biceps curls to the strength circuit and longer planks to the core, and that seems to help.  I know I said at the start of training that I was going to stick with these same workouts for the duration of marathon training, but I don't know.  I don't like getting to a point (like this morning) where I dread "doing this same workout AGAIN".  We'll see.

Mesocycle is one of them there fake words according to spell check.  However - at least Wikipedia is on my side.

A couple of things were achieved this week.  I hit 121 miles total for the month of July, which is the 3rd highest mileage month for me ever.  If all goes well, I should break my record here in August.  This week I also ran 6 days in a row, due to the Liberty Mile.  I have not ran 6 days in a row since before my stress fracture.  So, while I'm not able to put up any new PRs (yet - keeping my fingers crossed for next Sunday), I am making good progress and doing what I need to do.

The second Mesocycle focuses on not only building more endurance but improving on my lactate threshold.  Hopefully it goes as well as the first!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

GNC Live Well Liberty Mile 2014

What a fun night!  I really enjoy this event.  I think it's a great combination of simple family friendly fun and all out awesome athletics.  If you recall, I ran this with Victoria and Vincent last year and we knew that we'd make this a yearly thing.

Our goal this year was simple:  Both kids wanted to PR.  Last year we all ran together and Vincent sprinted ahead the last bit.  This year the plan was for Vince to just go off from the start and run his own race without all the dancing and split jumps and running from one side of the road to another like he did before. ha.  I was running with Victoria and using our pacing strategy from our practice runs.  We were going to go just fast enough for a PR time and then if she had anything left the last 200m to kick it into gear.  We were also NOT going to use run/walk intervals but just run steady.

We arrived downtown about an hour before start time and spent some time wandering around and watching everything get set up.

Parking garage goofs.

Garrett wanted in every pic, and that was ok by me. :)  He's a wonderful cheerer.  Next year he'll be running too!

Nick and Garrett left us near the starting area with about 20 minutes to go.  The kids thought it was really cool watching the start line get blown up.

We waited until we were able to get onto the street and then got into place.  Vincent really wanted to go "right on the line" but I said no because I knew there were faster runners and while I wanted to avoid most of the congestion, I also didn't want to get ran over by the ones going all out.  I do have to say that we did pretty well this year as far as being in a good position and not having to do a lot of weaving around people.

At the start!
Required starting line selfie.

We didn't have to wait too long and we were off!  After we crossed the start line Vincent was out of sight and Tori and I stayed together as planned.  We did start off a bit on the fast side, but I quickly slowed us down as per our plan.  I kept her updated on how far along we were and kept assuring her that she had this PR in the bag.

I can't say enough about how strong she was.  She was so determined.  Right after we turned onto Liberty, she started fading a bit.  We were still within a PR for her, so I let her settle down in pace just a tad.  I could tell around the .75 mile point that she was struggling, but I told her to look up and see that finish line!  She had promised herself that if she saw the finish line she wasn't backing down and she would start forging ahead.  So, she started chanting "suck it up, suck it up, suck it up" and when she saw the 100m to Go sign she found that last gear and really ran ahead.  I let her go ahead of me, in awe and totally proud of her before catching up right at the finish.  We finished in 10:35 - a 21 second PR for her!  She did it.  I knew she would if she put her mind to it! :)

Vincent was waiting for us just after the finishing chute.  He had a huge PR himself - a 1:08 PR!  He finished in 9:28!  Nick said he saw him stumble on something just before the finish and he kind of stood there for a second and then sprinted across the line.  I can only imagine it was one of our city's lovely cracks, gouges, or potholes that even I have had the experience of rolling my ankle on.  But, it's all good, he had fun and I am very proud of him as well.

After we met up with Nick and Garrett, we headed to Market Square and drank some water and the kids had some snacks.  We also perused the various tables and talked with some people.  Tori is interested in Girls on the Run, so we might have that in our future.  :)

Then we headed back to the race finish area and got a spot almost right at the line to watch the other races.  There are some absolutely incredible athletes out there that participated in this event.  Some people I recognized from local social media/DailyMile/etc.  And the Pro Milers?  Just freaking wow.  To be *that* fast!  Holy crap!  I tried to get a pic of the finishers, but they were too fast for my slow old iPhone! haha

I swear that's Jordan McNamara kicking it in for the big win!

I got a high five from Jordan McNamara after the race, so hopefully some good luck rubbed off on me.  I did have a great run this morning, so I can hope, right?

All in all, another great Liberty Mile.  This is probably one of my favorite Pittsburgh events and I will continue to come back with my kids year after year.  What a great way to kick off the month of August!

Monday, July 28, 2014

MCM Training Week 5

This was an up and down week.  From rocking humidity to counteroffer negotiations to power struggles in different areas, it was hard to stay focused and positive.  But somehow I did.  It's weeks like this that I will draw on during times I'm feeling low.  I can get through a lot of crap.  Giving up isn't an option.

My Tuesday run was a short 3 miles, with the middle mile at half marathon pace.  When I got up and out during the 6 am hour it was already in the 70s and humid.  It wasn't a fantastic feeling run at all... I felt like I was panting like a dog at times, but I accomplished my goal.  At home I did my flexibility workout, which has really grown on me, especially the stretches involving the stability ball.  I've always been a little wishy washy about using the ball for stretching, but I'm a believer now.

I wrote about my Wednesday recovery run in the previous post.  It was hot and humid again, but I kept my head on straight to prevent getting into a negative headspace.

Thursday I ran 3 miles at a general aerobic pace.  During this run, I started having nagging pains in my shin/calf.  I couldn't tell if it was bone or muscle but it felt like my entire inner lower right leg was on fire.  I got through the run but it wasn't great.  I was terrified of being injured and frantically wrapped and iced the leg.  I was thankful to have a rest day on Friday.

After analyzing up one side and down the other what the heck could be going on, I really felt like my shoes were the issue.  For the past couple of runs I'd worn my Adrenalines with around 500 miles on them and my Nike Lunarglides with over 300 miles on them.  I've been putting off getting new ones for who knows why and I believe that this little twinge was trying to tell me that the time is now.  So, I went and picked up a couple pairs of new shoes.

I usually don't go all girly pink crazy, but these are LOUD.  I like loud.

On Saturday I set out to do my easy 6 miles after making my husband a promise that if I was in any kind of pain I'd stop and either call for a pickup or walk home if I could.  I wore new shoes and went out nice and slow. The first couple of strides felt weird, but then after that I went on to have a fantastic and pain free run.  Thank goodness.  Hopefully getting some decent shoes on my feet were just what needed to happen.

Sunday I ran my strongest and longest run in a while.  In fact, this may have been my best 12 miler ever.  I started off nice and slow the first mile again, just to stay cautious about the leg.  It felt fine, so I picked it up a little and was able to hold a nice steady pace for the next 8 miles!  That's so rare for me and I just loved it!  I felt amazing, wasn't over fatigued EVER during the entire run, and really enjoyed myself (other than the GI issues that picked up through the second half but didn't slow me down).  This run was supposed to have the last 3 miles picked up in pace, but since my leg was bothering me I was honestly planning to just run a straight 12 and not chancing it.  However, I felt so great that I just went ahead and picked up the pace.  I ran negative splits the last 3 miles and didn't feel bad at all.  I finished the run feeling strong and feeling like I could have gone longer.  Yeah!  The bizarre thing about this run was that I completely FORGOT to have my mile 10 GU!  On runs of 12+ miles I usually have 1 at mile 5 and 1 at mile 10.  Well after this run I realized that I never had the one at mile 10!  I don't know how to feel about it.  I mean, I finished the run nice and strong and never bonked.  But I don't want to set a trend of neglecting to fuel if I do need it.  So, like I said... I don't know what to think.  It is what it is.

After my long run I spent several hours in the car in that lovely torrential pouring rain going to visit my mother in law.  I wore my compression socks and that helped a lot.  I spent a bunch of time being goofy with the boys.

We're nuts and I love it.

I got in all my strength workouts this week, but I did miss one core session.  I'm not beating myself up about it.  In the scope of things 1 core workout isn't going to make or break MCM.

This coming week is a lighter recovery week and from there my schedule is downright scary/exciting.  This will make the last week in the first mesocycle before moving on to slightly more difficult things.