Thursday, December 8, 2011

Uninspired

Well, isn't that a lovely title?

But in the spirit if being totally authentic, it's kind of how I've been feeling these past couple of weeks. I've managed to hammer out a few decent workouts, including my 1st spin class (not sure I get the hype but would try again), 3 yoga classes with my favorite instructor, a running date with Amy and my first "Christmas light run" of the season, but I'm still feeling kind of blah.

I'm not in a full blown funk, but my diet has also included wayyyyy more JUNK than usual and it's only fueling crappy workouts and a poor body image. Even despite some half-assed efforts at cleaning up my eating, I'm finding the mindless late night snacking and treats at work are winning out far too often. I've started being vocal about this and am hoping that by letting others know it is NOT OK to bring me baklava at 9am (seriously! And having it around makes me want to eat it *right.then*), that maybe I can get myself centered and back on track.

10 weeks of training to half marathon PR-glory supposedly started Monday with an unplanned rest day, followed by yoga on Tuesday and possibly the worst run I can recall to date last night. (Multiple factors at work there including but not limited to: lack of sleep, jacked out diet and user-error treadmill SNAFU) I was planning to run tonight and "race" a 5K on Saturday but feeling a bit deflated from the horrible bomb last night, I'm resting tonight, running tomorrow and running with Amy this weekend...I will "race" a 5K next Saturday instead when I have my confidence back. Normally I wouldn't be worried but I want that official sub-30 5K PR (which I know for many is not a big deal but I have not run a 5K for time in over 18 months--I blew up at that attempt due to poor decision making--and I KNOW that I am beyond capable of busting through my own barrier) and my confidence could not handle a race day bomb right now.

It would also help if I actually PUT TOGETHER my training plan for this half. I need to really hone my paces and make this training purposeful. I thrive on seeing a nice Excel sheet with a plan for the week and look forward to checking each challenge/workout off the list. And even if I don't follow it exactly (and I rarely do) it's nice to have a road map for where I'm going.

Sorry that this is so rant-y but I just needed to get this off my chest so I could acknowledge it and then move on from it. I actually do have some fun things planned that I'm looking forward to sharing, but I'm not going to log-in here and pretend that life is all unicorns and rainbows when indeed it is not.

Running for better or worse...

Melissa

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon: Race Recap/Review

Before I get into the nitty gritty I just wanted to say that this race deserves all of the kudos that it gets. A well-organized event, beautiful course, great volunteer support. Truly could not have asked for more. Sooo...if you are looking for a marathon in the fall...in the southeast (GA, for you 50-staters)...skip the overcrowded RnR Savannah and get thee to Ft. Oglethorpe, GA. I do not think you would be disappointed.
Before the Race
This was probably the *least* stressed I have been leading up to any longer race that I have done (13.1 and above). Don't get me wrong, it was a BUSY week leading up to the race, but knowing that the expo was open until 9pm Friday and that packet pickup would also be available Saturday morning before the race, eased my mind tremendously.

I worked until about 2:30 and then we dropped off the dogs at the vet for the night and finally headed out of B'ham around 3:45 Friday afternoon for the 2.5-3 hour drive to Ft. Oglethorpe, GA, which is actually just outside of Chattanooga (the race is sponsored by the Chattanooga Track Club). We actually "lost" an hour going from CST to EST which had me a tad concerned about the wake up call the next morning, but it turned out to be no biggie.

We got to Ft Oglethorpe no problem, they had a marquee at the entrance of town welcoming the marathoners which I thought was nice. We headed to packet pick-up/expo which was being held at the local HS...nice and easy to navigate through. Not that this is a bad thing, but it had a VERY small town feel to it and I was surprised to see more than a few vendors set up...including one with TONS of race day nutrition (Gu, honey stinger, etc) and another very creative booth that sold cowbells :) I have never seen/noticed a cowbell booth at an expo before and thought that was pretty cool.

Checking through the swag bag, I was quite impressed given that is a small race (capped at 700 half and 700 full marathoners). In addition to the l/s gender specific tech tee, there was a nice neoprene waist pack branded with the marathon info, key lanyard, mini-moon pie, muscle cooling stuff, and a couple of discount coupons ($10 off at Dick's? yes, please)


After the expo, we were on a mission to find dinner. Yes, we were not far out of Chattanooga, but we did not feel like driving back that direction so we decided to see what was available in town. Let's just say...TONS of fast food, plenty of Mexican, and about 3 sit down chains that we could identify (Applebees, O'Charley's and Logans) Each of the chains was equally packed so we finally settled on Logan's where there was not a pasta dish to be found. There WERE however, rolls the size of my head, so I had more than my fair share of those and then tried to pick the least stomach-averse dish on the menu.
After dinner it was on to the hotel. We stayed at the Hampton Inn in Ringgold, GA (which is basically the same town) which was actually a really nice Hampton Inn, IMO. Hampton Inn was one of the "host" hotels where the race would have free shuttle pick up in the morning which (among other reasons) made it especially attractive so Matt would not have to get up at the ass crack of dawn to drive me to the start. They also offered a marathon discount which seemed to be $25 or so off the published/Priceline/etc rate which was another bonus.

I set my alarm for 4:45, put in a wake up call for 5 and had no problem crashing soon after we got checked in.

Race Day
I slept incredibly well and woke up easily with my alarm. A(nother) check of the weather revealed that it was right around 32 degrees outside, so I was definitely going to need some extra layers.

Tired but not overly nervous this time around


I wrapped up a bagel with PB, grabbed a banana from the hotel breakfast buffet (which opened an hour earlier than normal to accomodate the runners...so very nice!) and hopped on the 5:45 shuttle with no problem. I read actually read blogs on the way over to keep any nerves at bay, the bus was generally pretty quiet at that hour.

We were dropped off with no real instruction, at the edge of what was a dark (and frozen) field which was a bit freaky until we were finally able to glimpse the start line and the tops of tents at the other side. The ride over had not taken long and the start was not until 7:30, so we had a LOT of time to kill and it was really cold. In addition to what I had on in the picture above, I had a l/s cotton shirt that would be my "toss away", along with gloves and a bondi band. Considering I also had on capris, that is not a recipe for warmth while you are standing still. Luckily, there were heaters inside the main info/reg tent and the ground was warm (and dry) in there so I found a warm seat and hung out for about an hour chatting, eating b'fast and relaxing. There were plenty of portapotties and I got in line before the lines got incredibly long and found out at some point that they were going to be delaying the start until 7:45 b/c of traffic being a major cluster. I guess it's nice that they were accomodating but this is a 30+ year old race and I would think that they would have figured out how to route traffic by this point (it's not as if the battlefield has changed locations!!!) Maybe I was just pissy b/c I was absolutely frozen and could NOT feel my feet at all.

FINALLY it was time to line up and get ready to run. There was a presentation of colors, the national anthem and then a cannon start...and we were off!

(borrowed from the Chickamauga FB page)

(borrowed from the Chickamauga FB page)

Aiming for a 5 hour marathon, I tucked myself right behind the 2:30 half pacers hoping that this would keep my pace in check. Given that I'd run a brisk-for-me 10K the Saturday prior I was wondering if my legs were going to default to that pace...which is definitely not something I could sustain over the long haul. (Side note: they had various half and full pace groups but in the full it went from 4:30 to a 5:30 Galloway group with nothing in between, kind of a bummer but for such a small race, I was surprised to see pace groups at all) I kept creeping up on the pacers and by mile 2 I was right alongside them. I told them I was trying to stay with them and why, and made some small talk but little by little I pulled away and never saw them again after about 3.5 miles. Maybe against my better judgement? I'm still not sure. I was averaging in the low 11's at that point and did so comfortably until the half way point even considering that I was taking 60-90 second walk breaks every 2 miles. (I actually forgot to walk at mile 2 and started this at mile 3, so I was walking on the odd miles for a while)
Just after mile 1 about to head into the national park/battlefield (borrowed from FB)


Headed onto the trail


It took nearly 2 miles for my feet to totally unthaw and we were seeing frozen breath for at least 5 miles. I tossed my l/s shirt at mile 4, gloves around mile 8 and tied the arms sleeves to my fuel belt around 12-13. I was trying to shed layers when I felt comfortable but before I actually started to feel warm. The miles were ticking by and I felt really great. We came to our first half/full split and I got a surge of adreneline (the course would split and converge at different times) but that first one made me realize that there was no "going back".

First split (borrowed from FB)


Sometime within the first loop (before mile 8...I still have the gloves!)

The course was so incredibly beautiful...and for me, the best of both worlds. I had "trail run" scenery but with the benefit of running (mostly) on pavement. Open fields, woods, cannons EVERYWHERE, tons of monuments and signs that would point to "XYZ general died here", "Union guns captured here". I am a sucker for that kind of stuff and wished I had the time (or extra energy to expend) to read more of the details.

Borrowed from FB (again) :)


I actually saw a runner run up to the tower and go in...love it! (yes, again from FB)


The middle miles are kind of a blur and got pretty lonely. The marathoners around my pace were so spread out, sometimes I felt like I was on a supported training run. I got REALLY sick around mile 15.5 and felt better after that (amazingly, my pace wasn't really affected by that stop, lol) and actually never got passed after that point. I would come up on little clusters of runners and for the virtue that I was pretty much still running most of the time (I was now on a run 1 mile, walk .1 cycle), I was able to pick people off one by one. Volunteers and other runners were really encouraging to each other...I have never experienced so much genuine camraderie on a course before. Also, I should mentioned that the course was HILLY and really took its toll. I knew it was not "fast and flat" but I don't know that I fully anticipated the rolling nature of the course. However, I felt like I was really well prepared for it, given that I had specifically incorporated hill training into this cycle.

Missing a few layers! (That's an arm sleeve hanging off my hip)

I must admit, I had a mini break down at mile 23. I called Matt to let him know I had a little more than 5K left and he told me he was proud of me and I was really wanting to be done at this point (I'm not sure if this was my "wall" but I know I did not hit one the way I did in Memphis) and I almost started crying and told him how much I loved him. I was TOTALLY alone at this point (no runners in sight in front or behind) and in between aid stations (they were every 2 miles after mile 4 and had water, powerade, fruit and Gu at each one!) and Matt told me I needed to focus on getting it done. I found a second wind within a few minutes and got myself together. (Consequently, mile 23 was my slowest mile of the race).

One of my fav signs (FB)...another was a giant Justin Bieber cut out

The photographer I had seen on the first 2 loops (the marathon was 2 loops of the battlefield plus the entry and exit roads) was now at mile 24. I joked him it was cruel to be there and he laughed and said that his battery was dead because he had been blasting his music at the other spot and his wife was the finish line photog so he had to wait to get someone to come jump his car. HAHA! Then he took some highly unflattering pics of me and wished me luck...I thanked him for being out there. That gave me an added boost to the end.

I passed a few more people (mostly men at this point) and then came to the gravel trail. I saw a male/female duo ahead (I had noticed them on prior out and backs and they had seemed to be keeping pretty good pace ahead of me until now) The woman was tired and mentally done and the man turned around and saw me and I could tell did NOT want to get passed. I was actually cracking up a bit because he told her "Bri, we HAVE to run...NOW" She had NO CLUE what was going on and he took her water bottle and said "I'm leaving!" And she was forced to chase after him! (I felt so bad for her!) I was getting ready for a scheduled walk break anyway, but once I started running again I caught right back up. Dude, KEPT turning around and I kept a few paces behind. I probably COULD have passed them, but it would have been a struggle to maintain to a strong finish and I did not want to be a total bitch, b/c I knew he was bothered and there was no need to do that. I had lost my 5 hour goal by this point too so it's not like I was fighting for that and I knew we would be looping the post-race party and wanted to save my energy for that kick to the end.

Thankfully it was downhill to the finish and the spectators were very encouraging. I could see Matt waiting at the finish and I was so happy to see him and be done :)

Coming in to the finish

How the heck did Matt actually miss me crossing??? It's not like there was a crowd! LOL I do have toned calf muscles though, if nothing else!

After chatting with Matt for a few minutes, I headed over to the runner's food zone where I got a REAL fountain coke (no diet right then), a bottle of water, and some snacks to go (an apple and granola bar and a couple of cookies). They also had pizza, homemade soups, banana pudding, moon pies, bananas and of course more sports drink but I'm not one for tons of solid foods after a long run anyway, and if I never saw anything that resembled marathon hydration again I would have been happy.

Marathon #2 in the books :)


The Aftermath
We headed back home immediately after the race. We stopped at a gas station so I could change clothes and I got violently ill while in there. Forget a post-marathon splurge meal, I got the largest fountain Sprite known to man and nursed waves of nausea the rest of the day while laid up on the couch :( I fueled exactly according to all of my long runs (powerade/water, honey stinger chews, basically the same pre-run meal), so I am really not sure what happened here. My only guess is that is it was much colder than any of my training runs and that maybe my sweat rate was lower and that my electrolytes got imbalanced.

My hips and achilles held up much better than last time and this time the real lasting soreness was in my quads (likely due to the hills). I can't avoid stairs in my home so I had some creative ways of getting up AND down for a couple of days following and a couple of times while I was out and about running errands/at work, it actually felt like my legs were going to buckle underneath me. But that is totally better right now and I'm feeling ready to get back into some low impact cardio...

BUT, Sunday night I started coming down with a sore throat which turned into a full blown cold by Monday. At first it was just my nose/sinuses and now it's turned into a lovely hacking cough. I haven't missed work but I have been exhausted and have actually had to get this post up in segments due to my energy levels. I feel maybe I'm finally on the mend and I feel ready to ease back into things. I guess being sick made really took away any guilt I may have had for lounging on the couch and catching up on much needed sleep.

Thanks for sticking with me! Please feel free to ask any other questions about the race or experience or even my training...I am happy to answer the best I can :)

Monday, November 7, 2011

Race Report: Vulcan Run 10K

I ran this race last year as my first "official" 10K (and as part of a longer training run) and knew that as long as I could fit it into my schedule, I would be back again in 2011.
Vulcan is Birmingham's oldest race and has the reputation for being difficult. Miles 2.5(?) to 4.5(?) are run on part of the Mercedes Half/Marathon course but in the opposite direction that is not as favorable to the runner (read: a gradual uphill). It's basically a grind uphill on Highland Avenue  (beautiful area) with a teaser downhill and then a long, achilles-busting downhill onto 20th street which flattens/rolls into the finish. I get it, it's not easy but I really don't understand the hype (we live in a hilly city) and I still maintain that V2V is a tougher course. ANYway...

Even though I knew I would be running the race, I procrastinated on registering and finally did so at packet pickup the night before the race. Swag bags were pretty mundane (lots of paper plus a coupon for free Yogurt Mountain and a mini-Snickers energy bar) and we also received a s/s tech shirt. Shirts came in mens and womens sizing but the women's ran ridiculously small so I opted for a men's small (like last year) which fits just fine.

A little more orange, less "melon" than this picture would suggest

I had 8 on the schedule for Saturday so I ran 1.3 before the race and figured I would make up the rest by running back to my car (I intentionally parked further away with that plan in mind). I hesitate to say I had ZERO expectations for the race because of course I wanted to do better than last year but I have not been training with 10K paces in mind. The closest thing I have come to thinking about my 10K pace is this: my tempo runs. HH advises to run the tempo portions "at or near 10K race pace". Well...my last official 10K time was in January and when I set my paces for marathon training I thought "maybe I should subtract 15-20 seconds per mile...that's probably closer to my current ability level given the training load". So that's the pace I have been using for my tempo training. It's pushed me for sure, but not to the point of being stupid, so I've felt good about targeting that for my zone.

The weather was in the upper 40s at the start. I was wearing my usual capris, Buenos Aires tech shirt and new arm warmers that I had picked up the night before for 20% off. I have been wanting to try these for a while and not quite sure why I haven't just bitten the bullet. Let me just say...it's some of the best $25 I have ever spent. I warm so quickly and hate having an extra layer...and then these are so easy to push down. I am totally sold...but I digress...Garmin and handheld in tow but no shadow pack (or phone) and no iPod. My first race without an iPod...but I have been training without one and love it, so no need.

We were off with a bang, and I told myself to hold back. It's so easy to take off too fast and (as always) I could pick out the people that I knew I would be seeing later...

Having done the race before, I knew what to expect and this time the 1st two miles ticked by quickly (for me).

1: 10:38
2: 10:38

I started to feel tired running down the flat industrial stretch before heading into the Highland Avenue part...where I knew the real work would begin. I could tell others were starting to feel the same way...I was hearing a lot of sighing and grunting...people trying to pep up their running buddies "we are not going to walk...we've got this!" and I was starting to worry that I would fade. And given that I had not set any hard goals for myself, I wasn't sure what I was shooting for. I realized I was warm and pushed my arm warmers down to my wrists which instantly felt better.

3: 11:00

Once we got into Highlands I set my mind to staying with the pack of people around me and began looking for people to pick off. I felt like my hill training was paying off and began to feel stronger and stronger. Any dips/slight downhills during this part, I took advantage of loosening up my stride and not holding back..shortening back up when I got to the next hill. I felt like I was running a smart race.

4: 10:47
Once we crested upon the fluid station just past mile 4 (thankful I did not have to stop or slow since I had my handheld), I decided to take advantage of the net downhill before the HUGE downhill and left the main pack I had been with, following one girl who had been with that same pack the entire time and seemed to be running a similar strategy. She would be my pace bunny the rest of the race...never caught her, never actively tried to do so either though because while I was pushing it, I was not going to do something stupid and jeopardize my marathon this coming weekend.

5: 9:53
One mile and some change left, roads I run during my normal downtown runs. Slight uphill the rest of the way and I was going to push to discomfort. I did feel a little woozy at some point during this last stretch and backed off a tad, but picked people off (men and women) right and left. Got a kick out of watching the Yogurt Mountain "mascot" running on the course pepping people up. (Wish I had a picture of THAT!) So proud, my last mile was my fastest and yes, uncomfortable but not "puke threshhold" uncomfortable.

6: 9:47
.25 : 2:15 (avg 9:10 pace)
Final time (Garmin): 6.25 miles, 1:04:58, avg pace 10:24 which is almost the exact tempo pace I have been running during my workouts!!! It's also almost 4 minutes faster than my time at this race last year and nearly a 2 minute PR!!! :)

However, I'm a bit surpised but my official time is 14 seconds SLOWER than my Garmin time and I'm not sure how/why? We used B-tags (bib timing) but there was a timing mat to cross at the start (so it's not gun to mat like V2V) and I hit the button as I crossed that and then actually the second (third) mat at the finish.  I didn't take any breaks or stop my watch during the race so I'm not sure where that large of a discrepancy would come from. Any ideas? Regardless, I'm going with my watch here since I have no viable explanation.

Fun fact: Before I knew there was a timing discrepancy, I actually asked one of the volunteers which finish mat was the "official" one since I never know which one "counts". Turns out the first one is for the announcers (they announce name and city when you officially cross), the second one is the "official" time and the third one is "back up" in case the official mat fails. Hopefully someone learned something there...I thought it was interesting :)

After I caught my breath, I grabbed a bottle of water and a bottle of powerade and headed back towards the final turn to cheer runners in. There was a "one woman volunteer cheering section" here so I stood opposite to her and joined in the "great job...finish strong" chorus for about 15 minutes before jogging back to my car and heading home. I completely forgot about the post-race party and free massages inside Boutwell until after I got home and saw the FB messages, but I was alone/didn't know anyone there and I was riding high from my PR anyway so no matter.

I am beyond pleased with my race and so happy that I could finish with 2 strong, solid miles in the 9s without feeling like death. I keep saying I know I am capable of "more" and I am excited to dial in on paces that will get me there. This performance also suggests I am close to being able to go "sub-5" at the marathon on Saturday...a performace which I would be thrilled with. More on those goals in another post :)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Chickamauga Training: Week #16 Recap

I wouldn't be "me" without posting this way late :) I'm sure I'll be thankful for the record of this later...

Monday, October 24
Plan: Rest
Actual: Rest

It was the day after my 20-miler, Matt was getting back from Vegas and I had errands and laundry to catch up on. I was residually tired AND hungry from the day before too.

Tuesday, October 25
Plan: 5 miles
Actual: 4.25 miles

Amy and I agreed to meet after work and I was so excited to get to run with her. I just love that we can be silent or chat the entire way and the run seems to fly by no matter what. The trail was really crowded tonight and we ran for a lot of the time "single file" since it's a double track trail. We wanted to run our "loop" but it was another case of chasing daylight so we settled for a modified out and back. She carried her flashlight this time and we needed it by the end. I forgot to turn on my Garmin so I have no idea of our pace but I could tell that we had really pushed it. It felt great!

Wednesday, October 26
Plan: 6 x hill
Actual: 6 x hill plus .5 w/u and .5 c/d

I ran my usual downtown hill...it would be the last of this training cycle...and for a while...because downtown is NOT a place I will run after dark. I hate to say that and to give my city a bad rap, but it's not safe, especially since our downtown is more of a M-F, 8-6 location and not very "residential". There are some awesome lofts and condos and great restaurants, but for now, it's the reality that we deal with. Anyway...

I ran the first at a slow, steady pace, picked the middle 4 up to focus on powering up and down (using the parking meters as stride counters) and ended the way I began. I felt a little sluggish on the "down" portions, like I couldn't loosen up but I didn't wear my Garmin, so I'm not sure if it was perception or reality. As I was running back to my car close to sunset, I noticed a couple of very shady looking guys peering into the windows of closed businesses and checking the doors/pushing on the windows and it made me run a little bit faster. Something was NOT right and I didn't want to be anywhere near where I was.

Sad.

Thursday, October 27
Plan: Rest
Actual: Rest

I took Friday off work to spend some quality time with my mom before the weekend of basketball and football festivities. Since Matt works from home the majority of the time, we decided to head down to AU/OPL Thursday night to avoid traffic and to take one car. Traffic was hell getting home and then we hopped into Matt's car to continue the nightmare going south. It took us nearly 3 hours on a (slightly less than) 2 hour trip and my commute home was over an hour (75 minutes) when I would normally expect it to be 30-40. To say that I was restless and agitated when I got to my parents' was an understatement!!

Friday, October 28
Plan: 5-6 miles
Actual: 3.2 mile walk with my mom and her dog

My mom ended up having to go to work for just a couple of hours that morning and I had every intention of heading out for some solo miles while she was gone. But relaxation won. When she got back, she agreed to join me (and Ziti) for a nice walk. Beautiful clear skies, pretty leaves and comfortable temps. We did the route that we always used to walk when I was in HS or home from college "to the middle school" and "with the loops".

Saturday, October 29
Plan: 10 miles
Actual: 9.25 miles + 2 miles walk

It was a chilly morning and hard to peel myself out of the warm bed. My aunt left to do some cardio and body pump at her gym and I knew I needed to get out the door. (On a side note, I was also really glad that my Dad had given me some gloves when I saw him on Friday as they were perfect running gloves and I totally neglected to pack some for the weekend) When I initially left I thought I might run for 2 hours (1 hour out and back) but as I progressed my energy felt really low and the route I took ended up "cross country" for nearly a mile on the out and about .5 on the back. It's a locally popular road to run on but there were no sidewalks and no shoulder to speak of so I ended up running in the grass/gravel up and down some pretty challenging hills.

I ended up deciding to use a certain high profile local resident's house as my arbitrary turn around point (which I reached in 50 minutes...no not my intended destination, but yes, faster than I should be running my long run). I ate a couple of left over "pink lemonade" honey stinger chews that were hanging around in my handheld pocket but I wasn't really thirsty and drank maybe half of the water/powerade mix I had on me. I actually thought I was going to negative split the run (which shocked me as I had to walk a pretty steep incline on the death trap part of the route) but I ended up being 30 seconds positive. I tend to do a lot of "time-based" turn around runs and I really do run overall consistent pace over distance.

Sunday, October 30
Plan: Cross (choice)
Actual: Rest

We ended up heading back to Birmingham a little later than planned and by the time we picked up the dogs, ate dinner, grocery shopped, did laundry, etc it was time for Dexter (and relaxing!) I (we) always cram so much into our weekends down in Auburn between visiting family and friends, events with the University, running around, working out, late(r) nights staying up visiting, etc that by the time the end of the weekend rolls around, I am zonked!

Overall
I feel like this was really kind of a "down" week but I was constantly on the go and heading out of town on Thursday really compressed what I needed to get accomplished M-W at home.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

101st post...and fun things ahead

I had no idea when I was posting yesterday that it was my 100th post! Feels like such a milestone :) But seriously...I have probably "written" just as many posts in my head that have never made it to paper (errr...screen?) I enjoy writing and love looking back to see where I was and really am resolving to get things written down even if they are not "perfect". I have mentioned before that I had a blog/journal on another site long before blogging was cool (2003!) and wrote in it nearly every day.

For fun and amusement, I thought I would go back and look to see what was on my mind on November 1 "back in the day".

2003: My first semester of grad school and I was talking about my costume(s) and the Halloween parties (and all that went with that). For our "class party" I dressed up as our econ professor (Yes, I have a picture but given that she and I are employed with the same university system I'm not sharing). For the bars, my friend and I dressed up as 80s prom queens, crimped hair and all.

2004: I was talking about Matt. We met in a class that semester and were still getting to know each other. We'd been out a few times, but nothing official. I was musing about new relationships, old relationships and the passing of time.

2005: I had a lot of job stress at the time, as I was finishing my administrative residency and job hunting. Matt and I were getting ready to leave for our first real vacation together (San Diego) and were talking about me moving in with him to his townhouse.

Self-portrait in the rose garden at Balboa park...just before he told me he loved me for the first time :)

We were at the zoo from open to close

2006:  I was trying to find my identity and voice with a new boss (my current boss), trying to prove myself and navigating new responsibilies and challenges.

2007: Matt and I decided that we would go to Vegas before the Christmas holidays. His mom was gifting us some FF miles and we were super excited. (We stayed at Ceasar's, saw 2 Cirque shows and I made the rounds through a couple of spas...it was a full...and fun...4 days)

2008: No entry around that time :(

2009: I was stressing about turning 30 and recommitting to running. I had just run my 3rd 5K (Komen) a couple of weeks earlier and feeling pretty out of shape, so I decided to start training for my 1st half marathon (which I would complete in 2010)

2010: I was debating on running the Vulcan run as part of my longer training run for that weekend. I did and had a great run. Yes, I will be running it again this year, but no, I am a procrastinator and have not registered in advance.

Fun stuff! And I love seeing the evolution of my life, relationships and priorities. And I look forward to penning my next 100 posts :)

So as I continue through taper, my next race and the upcoming holiday season, I do have a couple of fun, fitness things (besides races) that I am participating in and wanted to give a shout out to...and extend an invitation for any of you to join in.

First is the Pile on the Miles challenge being hosted by Monica at Run Eat Repeat  It's very simple actually: all you have to do is log 5 miles (running or walking) each week to be entered into the weekly drawing for fun, health-related prizes. Challenge goes through Thanksgiving.

And then, starting up in just a couple of weeks (post-marathon, just my luck) is the Holiday Bootie Buster Challenge (HBBC) being hosted by Amanda at Run to the Finish. This is my first year to participate in HBBC but I have seen it circulating among several bloggers. She has several great prizes lined up as well. And the good news is that there is still time to sign up! AND this year, she has it set up into different levels, so novice participants are not competing against those in Half Ironman training which I think is great :)

Let me know if there are any other fun challenges going on...it can be tough to get moving again post-marathon, and I need all the motivation I can get!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Tale of Two Training Cycles

It's really and truly hard for me to believe that I am almost halfway through my taper and that I am running my second marathon NEXT WEEK!!! :)

These days I am pretty calm about it, feeling a little sleepy and pretty hungry. Craving salt and protein like none other and eating my fair share of Halloween candy (if you have not tried Dark Chocolate Mounds you are missing out!) We don't keep the Halloween candy at home but our assistant at work has a well stocked bowl at the main desk and due to the aforementioned hunger, it's hard to resist!

I have been even more quiet around here than usual because last week was a "short week": Matt got back from Vegas Monday and we headed out of town again Thursday right after work. Back to Auburn for football and I (shockingly) took Friday off and spent most of the day hanging out with my mom before joining my aunt for some basketball scholarship donor activities that evening.

That being said, my 20 miler the previous week went so amazingly well. On the 20 miler during my 1st training cycle I had a major crash and burn moment and even though it may not be clearly there in black and white, the meltdown I experienced was pretty epic. There was crying on the side of the road, tons of walking, delirious calls made to Matt and my mom, blisters...and an exhausted day spent on the couch. This time? 180 degree difference. The weather was pretty similar (read: warm by the end) but I ran smart and despite having a little bit of difficulty stringing together witty conversation when I ran into a former professor around mile 15, I really did keep my sensibilities about me. I had no blisters and managed a productive afternoon/evening of running errands and doing stuff around the house. I actually forgot my Garmin at home!!! (no, not intentionally) and I have no idea if this served to my advantage or not, but with no Garmin and no music, I was really focused on the external (enjoying the leaves, the fall decorations, connecting with others on the run) and also within my own thoughts.

During the run, I realized I was so much stronger and when I got to the bridge with a mile left and I knew I HAD IT I actually got goosebumps because I managed to shake the crash and burn cloud that had been hanging over me. Did I experience ups and downs? Of course. But on the overall it was night and day difference.

This got me thinking about my two training cycles and the differences between them. Of course I have "the experience" this time around and my work hours, while long and demanding, have been much more reasonable. Less days in the office at 6:30am and out at 7:00pm for sure. The residual fatigue from that was certainly a factor, but what about the actual training?

My first training cycle was all running, all the time. I went back and looked at the paper notes I kept and true to memory, there was a little bit of walking or "double" days involved, but yoga, cross training, strength training were otherwise non-existent. I wasn't hitting my distances or plan consistently during the week due to fatigue and scheduling but I was at least making it out there for the long runs. I also ignorantly tried to add in "speed" about halfway through the cycle, not knowing what I was doing or how to appropriately set tempos AND violating the good sense that you should not focus on adding distance AND speed at the same time. I'm pretty sure that is exactly what led to the problem with my Achilles and while that tendon has made itself known a few times these past 16 weeks, it's basically been just fine.

So this cycle? While I have not always been great about getting my recaps posted up here (maybe to your delight?), I have been keeping track of what's been going on in Excel. A quick tally shows quite a difference:

Strength: 11 sessions, generally in the form of a 30 min intense bootcamp or the 30 day shred (Level 2 or 3); when bootcamp there was a 2-3 mile run (total) that would bookend the workout for an extra dose of cardio and endurance. These workouts kicked my ass, but I loved them.

Days of run/walk doubles: At least 13 sessions of this; usually in the form of getting my prescribed run done first and then talking the dogs out with Matt for another 45-60 minutes for a hilly and brisk paced walk. Loved these (usually) and hated when daylight (or lack thereof) all but put an end to the ability to (safely) do this.

Yoga: 4 sessions. Not quite what I had in mind as far as goals were concerned but it's better than zero! It was hard to make it to the outdoor yoga or evening classes at my gym (6:00 was really not happening with work obligations and horrendous traffic) The good news is that my gym did add a Saturday class, so I was able to take this on weekends when I was in town (another reason why this number is not higher...I have been traveling A LOT this fall), as many of my long runs ended up shifting to Sunday.

Other cross training: Again, at least 15 sessions of this and not included in the run/walk double workouts or yoga counted above. This could include days where I did walking only, or hiking, recumbent bike, etc. It doesn't include all of the walking we did in Argentina which I'm sure kept my weight in check while we were gone.

Massage: Have been much better about getting worked on every 3-4 weeks though I am due, as I did not get a massage during the month of October.

This cycle I have also worked on "speed" with one session each week (progressive), alternating hills, tempo and Yassos 800s (so I have done one of each every 3rd week). These workouts have been tough but invigorating and have left me wanting MORE instead of feeling injured or burnt out. (Tempos are still my least favorite, but I have gotten them done!) I've run on trails, downtown sidewalks, roads in my neighborhood and some new neighborhoods, the indoor track, and even the treadmill. I've run alone and with friends...and withOUT my iPod.

Writing this, I know I have given what I could to this training cycle and while there is *always* room for improvement, I feel satisfied that I've found a fairly decent balance between the marathon and with the rest of my life. Who knows what will happen on race day...26.2 miles is a long way to go...but I feel physically and mentally good about taking on the challenge.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Itching to Race

I am really getting the itch to race. It has been WAY too long since my last formal race for my liking. I had hoped to identify some half marathons that might be close (and cheap) to work into this training cycle, but it has definitely not worked out that way, unfortunately.

Vulcan Run 10K in 2 weeks and the marathon the week after that. Training has been going well and Yassos indicate that I am certainly stronger than the last time around. But who knows. 26.2 miles is a long way.

I am really excited to see what Vulcan bring pace-wise, but it's also the week before Chickamauga so not necessarily the time to go all out either.

In the meantime, 20 miler on deck for this weekend. I am excited not to be injured this time around (achilles tendonitis), but admittedly mildly dreading spending 4 hours alone with my thoughts. I wish I had more running buddies! But Amy and I meeting tonight for 5-6 miles and I am super excited  and grateful for that!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Chickamauga Training Recap: Week #14

This felt like a really "off" week for me. I had a hard time getting my motivation going and felt residual leg fatigue from my long run (not quite 18 miles) last Sunday. I think it's probably time for a massage sooner rather than later.

Monday, October 10
Plan: Rest
Actual: Rest

Tuesday, October 11
Plan: 3 miles + boot camp
Actual: Rest

It was rainy and gross all day (including when I left for work) which meant bootcamp was canceled and I was not really feeling an outdoor run. I was starving as I left work so I told myself I would allow myself to go home, eat and digest before hitting up the gym. Except...I never made it to the gym. Not exactly sure what happened, but asi es la vida.

Wednesday, October 12
Plan: 45 minute tempo
Actual: 50 minute tempo

For runs like this, I always hit the 'mill so I can push myself/keep my "prescribed" paces honest. In this case, the tempo section is supposed to be run around 10K pace. Well, I don't have a really recent 10K time, so for my tempos I have been taking my PR 10K pace and subtracting 15 seconds/mile. I would like to think that my 10K time is improving, but who knows? (I'll find out in a couple of weeks)

I run the 1st 10 minutes at a warm up pace and then start cranking an additional .1mph every 60-90 seconds until I reach tempo pace. Hold tempo pace until 15 minutes left in the run. Crank down .1mph until I reach warm up (cool down) pace and stop. I ended up going longer this time because I wanted to reach a "round" number so I extended both the tempo and c/d sections by a couple of minutes each.

This was a really rough and challenging run. My legs never felt like they got in the groove and my breathing was a bit labored at times (but it was mostly just my legs). It was kind of discouraging, but you take the good with the bad and move on.

Thursday, October 13
Plan: 5 miles
Actual: 4.25

I was hoping Amy would be able to join me for our Mountain Brook loop again but she had dinner plans, so I was flying solo. When we ran this loop last week we totally ran out of daylight so I was hoping to hit the trail a few minutes earlier. Well, despite the best of intentions/effort, I ended up at the trail the same time and knew I didn't want to race daylight alone (especially since we got stuck in the pitch black at the end of our last run), so I opted for the out and back route that we used to do almost every Sunday. I needed every singly second of daylight I had to complete this mileage and though I wanted more, I didn't have a safe way to add in anything else.

Friday, October 14
Plan: Rest
Actual: Rest/Travel

I wasn't thrilled about taking yet another rest day this week, but I had a super early morning taking the dogs to the vet and then my aunt Paula was in Birmingham getting her car serviced so she offered to drive me down to Auburn for the football game (and I could ride back to B'ham w/Matt who was already in Auburn and had worked there Friday).

It was a crazy hectic day between being up at the ass crack of dawn, working (heavy on the meetings for a Friday!), meeting my aunt, driving down, going to my cousin Jimmy's HS football game, getting stuff ready the tailgate, etc. Though I drank plenty of water, I barely ate due to all of this and ended up with an expectedly crappy run the next morning.

Saturday, October 15
Plan: 10-12 miles
Actual: 10 miles + 3 mile walk

The Auburn/Florida game was at night so I didn't have to be worried about pounding the pavement at 5am but with other things going on, I also couldn't sleep the day away. I finally peeled myself out of bed at 7:30 and was out the door by 8.

I was planning to run the same 10 mile route I ran last time I was in town, but I must have been (I was) totally zoned out when it came time to turn and just kept going straight. At one point I thought, "I really don't remember these hills" (they were pretty intense at this point) and kept looking for my turn only a few minutes later to realize that I was almost at Kinnucan's and had totally missed the turn long ago.

My pace wasn't really off or anything, but I wasn't properly fueled and felt zapped even as I did power through hills. It was also much warmer than expected and was glad I had opted for a tank (last minute decision) but wished I had opted for my running skirt (also a last minute decision NOT to wear that). I tried to get myself into a rhythm of taking a 1 minute walk break every 2 miles but sometimes I would be on a nice downhill (I didn't want to waste that!), so I would just keep running until I hit an incline. I also had to stop a couple of times to adjust my ponytail since it kept falling out. I had no idea of the running club's route this morning so I was totally on my own for fueling, and I was rationing my water/gatorade mix (22oz) like it was my job.

Also toward the beginning of my run, I encountered another runner coming up a hill (moving from a run to a walk) and she looked exhausted and a little bit anxious. As soon as she got within shouting distance she asked me how close a certain cross street was. It was about half a mile away at that point and I told her so, but poor thing she said "Are you sure? It's not like 5 more miles or anything?" I could tell she was so desperate to just be done and hypothesized that she was visiting a friend in the area and had "gone out for a run" and gotten lost and/or wrongly estimated her distance. I felt so bad and thought maybe I should turn around and run her to her destination or offer her water or *something*. I didn't and still kind of regret it even now.

For the record:
Pre-run fuel: pack of keebler wheat and cheese crackers (I forgot my own food and scrounged around for something that sounded even halfway appealing), water
During the run: 22oz of water/Gatorade mix (arctic freeze) and a couple of Honey Stinger chews (orange) at no particular interval
Wore: UnderArmour capris (again), Auburn tech tank, WigWam Ironman socks, blue Mizuno Wave Nirvana 7s, UnderArmour head band
Accessories: Garmin, Nathan handheld water bottle, Nathan shadowpack (waist belt)

The walking was the parking at Kinnucan's and then trekking to and from the stadium (not even counting the additional walking around campus) At least this time I didn't get a blister!

Sunday, October 16
Plan: Cross (choice)
Actual: Walk (distance??)

I took my aunt's dog for a couple of loops through her neighborhood. I had hoped that Matt and I would take the girls for a walk once back in B'ham but we ended up barely even making it to the vet by pick up time. We were well on the way back to the Ham when Matt realized he'd left his work laptop at this friend's house so we had to turn around and retrace our steps. It cost us at least an hour of driving time and by the time we got home it was almost dark.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Chickamauga Training Recap: Week ???

Seriously? What week is it? I feel so disoriented coming back from work travel, vacation, etc etc. No better way then to jump right back in...right? (This week was developed before I went out of town, so I am going to write it as previously planned; obviously there was quite a bit of variance!)

Monday, September 26
Plan: Rest (travel back to the United States)
Actual: 6.2 plus tons of walking

This was our last day in Argentina with an overnight flight back to the states. I wasn't sure what we would end up doing given that it was the last day of our vacation. However, I had learned of an opportunity to get a solo guided tour of part of Buenos Aires through Urban Running Tours and HAD to take the opportunity. I woke up really sick and wanted to cancel, but as always, was glad to get out there. Read more about my experience here

Tuesday, September 27
Plan: 5
Actual: Rest

In theory, it would be great to "shake my legs out" after a long flight, but in actuality after getting home at 11:00 a.m., I needed to focus on cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping and picking up the dogs out of town. Plus, I was a sneezing and snotty mess. Getting in the 10K+ the day before made this an easy decision.

Wednesday, September 28
Plan: 4-6
Actual: 4.5

Welcome back to reality! Back to work today and everything that goes with it. My stuffy/runny nose, sore throat and headache (new symptom today!) were in full force, but I told myself that I just needed to get back into a routine. I hit up my favorite trail after work and found a new "off shoot" that could help extend distance a tad without getting too far off track. After being out so long, I left work late, thus getting to to the trail late and squeezed every.last.bit of daylight out of this run.

Afterwards, my head (sinuses?) felt so tight and I felt awful. I got home, showered, ate dinner (sitting in bed, I'm sorry to admit) and passed out by 8:30. I am a night owl. I do not do things like this! But seriously, I could not hold my eyes open and my head was pounding.

Thursday, September 29
Plan: 7 x 800
Actual: Rest

I woke up feeling just as bad as when I went to bed. But after being out for so long and a full meeting schedule, I didn't feel right about calling in sick. I wasn't sure if I had a migraine or a sinus infection, so decided to treat with nasal spray and OTC migraine meds! (nice compromise?) At the end of the day, I think it was a migraine, as the headache went away and the sniffles remained. There was obviously no need to push the issue, so I opted for rest and was in bed early again!

Friday, September 30
Plan: Rest
Actual: 7 x 800 (with w/u, c/d and 400 recoveries)

I was able to leave work a tad early (around 4:40) and hit the gym to get in this speed session. Matt and I had plans to go stuff ourselves at the local Greek Festival (annual tradition for us as long as we have been together) and I knew getting to the gym even a little early would help with timing. I was also hoping that with high school football I would have the gym pretty well to myself and really, it was just me and the regulars.

This workout ROCKED and seemed to fly by. Pretty nice to knock out nearly 6 miles after work and feel great afterwards. I have to confess that I had to leave the treadmill after the 1st 800 to apply body glide though! I love my Nike running skirt but I'm not sure if the compression shorts have stretched or I have lost weight (a little of both, I think) but the shorts were NOT staying in place and I knew I was in for some serious chaffeage if I did not remedy the situation. The really horrible thing though, I was too lazy to go downstairs to the bathroom so I ducked into the lesser used stairwell and prayed that no one would come in. Luckily...Success!

Saturday, October 1
Plan: Cross (choice)
Actual: Yoga (60 min)

Hit up the gym for the Saturday morning class. The class was great, but my hips were tighter than I realized. I wasn't having any pain, but some poses that are usually pretty accessible to me were NOT SO MUCH this particular morning. I've pretty much made the decision to attend this class again next week and shift the long run to Sunday so I can get in this (obviously) much needed component into my routine.

Sunday, October 2
Plan: 15
Actual: 15 (maybe a bit more)

I kept meaning to text Amy on Saturday to see if she would be willing to join me for some miles Sunday, but I was being kind of lazy and never got around to it. Anyway, when I woke up I knew I was in no mood to run my neighborhood or anything even remotely similar. After hitting snooze a few times, I finally got up and decided to drive out to the Lakeshore greenway...run 2 loops of this and finish with the Jemison/Mountain Brook 5 mile loop (actually 5.35 miles) that Amy introduced me to a few weeks ago (the greenway and Jemison trails loosely connect...more about that later)

It was a wonderfully chilly start (53 degrees) and being in s/s and capris, my arms were a bit frozen for the first mile or so. I say "or so" because I made a completely rookie mistake and forgot to charge my Garmin on Saturday. Of course, when I turned it on it beeped "low battery" at me and it was a complete paperweight within 2 minutes of starting my run!

This is part blessing and part "curse" because I only had a rough estimate of total distance and no clue on pace. I know the green way loop is somewhere between 5.25 and 5.5 miles but not sure and the connect points between the trails? No clue. Not to mention, I had no way to gauge intermediate distances (miles) since I was also running sans music and phone (phone was in the car, fuel belt at home so no way to carry it either). Sooo...I decided to run solely based on feel and to take walk/fuel breaks at predetermined land marks. (I had decided to test a new fuel and fueling strategy before the Garmin debacle)

I could tell I was pushing the pace (but feeling great) and when I arrived at my car after loop #1 to see I had finished in 55 minutes, I confirmed my suspicions. After the second loop I made the executive decision to drive (~1 minute) to the next trail head since traffic was starting to pick up (since I got started later than intended) and because I was not in the mood to add the mileage (out and back probably a little more than a mile).

The sun was out full force by now, but it still felt incredible outside and my legs and breathing were holding up really well. My nose was still a bit runny but it didn't affect my overall run. I ran into my former big boss with about 2 miles left and was glad I was still clipping along and feeling strong. By the end, I was actually kind of sad it was over. My body and more importantly, my MIND, had a lot left to give this particular morning and after A. dreading this run and B. not running particularly long in several weeks, it made me feel a lot better about the rest of the training and even potentially race itself. I even felt great all afternoon...was quite productive, never needed a nap and barely sore the next day.

For the record:
Pre-run fuel: One and half "mini" bagels with PB, 8oz of water
During the run: 24oz or so of water/Powerade mix, plus a few sips of straight Powerade before the last segment of the run (fruit punch); About 6 or 7 honey stinger chews (cherry) total (1-2 at various intervals/walk breaks). I REALLY liked these. Good flavor, not too "sticky", easy to chew and most importantly, no stomach issues! We may have a race day winner! The sports beans aren't bad, I'm just really tired of them
Wore: UnderArmour capris, Auburn tech tee, WigWam Ironman socks, blue Mizuno Wave Nirvana 7s
Accessories: paperweight Garmin (no I never took it off) and Nathan handheld

Overall thoughts for the week:
I am really super happy with this week. I was able to bounce back nicely into my routine despite being under the weather pretty much all week and was still able to incorporate yoga AND rest without feeling guilty that I wasn't doing "enough".

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Urban Running Tours: Buenos Aires

You know you're a runner when...

One of your activities on vacation is signing up for a guided running tour.

Seriously :)

This actually came about completely by accident, as I was searching for Buenos Aires running clubs, running spots, etc. Our Argentina trip was "bookended" by stays in Buenos Aires and since our flight back to the states did not leave until 9:30pm on Monday, Sept. 26, I knew we would have quite a bit of time to kill that day.

Enter Urban Running Tours  This company offers personalized, guided running tours (in English or Spanish) at any pace through your choice of Buenos Aires neighborhoods. For $50 (standard tour), you get a 10K guided run of your choice (at whatever time you want), tech shirt (sorry no pic--it's in the laundry), bottled water (carried by your guide), and photos taken at various spots around the route (actually when/wherever you want). Considering that I would normally pay $35-$40 for a 10K around Birmingham, I considered this to be a comparable experience. Plus...a personal guided tour of Buenos Aires too :)

Before we left, I arranged everything easily through email and chose an 8:30 a.m. start. Backing up for just a second though...on the flight back from Patagonia Sunday afternoon, I started sneezing and noticing that my throat was feeling scratchy. I could tell I was coming down with something. Upon arriving in Buenos Aires that night, I started drinking OJ like it was my job, supplementing with cold meds and cough drops. When I woke up Monday morning, I felt like DEATH. Awful congestion, a general sense of lethargy and stupor and just completely drained. However, I really had no way to cancel the run at this point, so I decided to roll with it and take it easy as needed throughout the run. It's MY tour, right?

My guide, Phillipa, a really nice girl originally from South Africa, was waiting for me promptly in the lobby of our hotel at 8:30.  After brief intros, she explained our general route (Recoleta--the neighborhood we were staying in, as well as Palermo Chico and Palermo Lakes, per my previous requests in the email with the company owner.) I warned her that I was congested and not feeling 100% up to par and she was INCREDIBLY accomodating  and never once made me feel uncomfortable (luckily she was also carrying tissues!)

Our route encompassed SO MUCH and since we had stayed in Recoleta the first leg of our trip, I at least had some general bearings about where we were going. We ran through the Recoleta business/shopping district (Avenida Santa Fe), through several residental areas, past and through various plazas and parks, the Recoleta cemetary where Evita (and several other noted Argentinians) are buried, etc. Like any running partner, Phillipa gave me not only a guided tour, but we also talked about our backgrounds, upcoming races, current events, travel, etc.

It was a beautiful day, not a cloud in the sky but starting to get warm and I had that awful "I'm getting sick" sweat going on--you know the one that feels especially "thick" and salty? Ugh. I must have looked even worse than I felt because Phillipa did ask if we needed to stop and get me something else to drink. Haha!

I have no idea of pace, we ran I would say 90% of the 10K at a pretty good clip, but there were times when my nose was simply a faucet and I HAD to walk just to get it under control. I kept apologizing telling her "I promise I am a real runner!" to which she reassured me that I was doing much better than she would be and that we could walk at any time! (My Type A is apparent in any country, I guess, but it was frustrating b/c other than my nose and throat I felt pretty great and was wishing for a better run under better circumstances) I only had her take a couple of pics mostly b/c I was feeling like crap and didn't want to keep stopping but I don't regret it b/c I took away so much from the experience and am so glad I got to do it.

In front of the law school at the Universidad de Buenos Aires, the largest university in Latin America (this university is completely free of charge for EVERYONE, including foreigners) 

La Flor, an aluminum sculpture designed and donated by Argentine architect, Eduardo Catalano; when operational the flower opens in the morning and closes at night

All in all, a really great experience that I would recommend to anyone visiting Buenos Aires. (And what a great business model for expanding into other cities! This is the "Business Development" part of me thinking out loud...)

I was not compensated in ANY way for this review...I paid for the tour with my own $$. All opinions are my own, I Just want others to know about my experience.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

She's alive!

Yes, I'm alive...we just got back yesterday from an 11 day vacation in beautiful Argentina :)

We enjoyed beautiful landscape, meeting friendly people and eating amazing food and wine and food and dessert and coffee and wine...did I mention food? and wine?

Hahaha, but seriously...all things in moderation, right? I guess that includes running...I "only" ran 15 miles while we were gone, but walked a TON, went horseback riding, trekked across a glacier and truly and thoroughly enjoyed myself. (By the way, I actually consider getting the 15 miles in a major success)

I promise to share more of our vacation soon. I'm back at work today, have my gym bag packed to go running after work and am slowly but surely working my way through Google Reader catching up with everyone.

Only 6 weeks until Chickamauga!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Chickamauga Training: Week 8 Recap

This week looks a little bit different because of college football/traveling/holiday weekend...the key is recognizing that schedule is kind of jacked up, readjusting and then rolling with it :) And yes, I know I am more than halfway through week #9 but that's the way I'm rolling this week too :)The good, the bad and the ugly of week #8...

Monday, August 29
Plan: 4 miles
Actual: Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred (Level 2) + 2.5 mile walk

It was a LONG day at work with meeting after meeting including 2 trips across campus (and back) in 5" heels. (I did not plan that well) I'm counting this because A. even with the walking I do, this is out of the norm and B. the walks to/from the meeting were NOT leisurely, and the pace had me striding out to the point where I'm pretty sure I looked like I was power walking (I was walking with men and needed to keep their pace).

After I got home, I knew I didn't feel like running...my legs/feet were sore from what I put them through at work and I was a little sore from my long run the day prior. Matt was doing his Fantasy Football draft so I popped in Jillian and decided to kick it up to level 2 (which I hadn't done in a while). Holy cow, that was tougher than I remembered! And my upper body strength is TERRIBLE.

Tuesday, August 30
Plan: Boot camp
Actual: 4 miles

I counted my Jillian video as "boot camp" for this week, so tonight was time for a run. I ended up working late again and was starving so I headed home to eat before going to the gym. Ugh. I had about 30-45 min to digest dinner before I jeopardized being able to fit in my 4 miles before the gym closed. Not to be totally TMI but I ended up burping dinner pretty much the entire run and actually threw up in my mouth a couple of times. Pretty gross. But despite that, the run didn't totally suck.

I ended up deciding to run a progression run, partly b/c I was trying to make treadmill time interesting and partly b/c I knew I needed to if I was going to get it done before closing time. I started at warm-up pace (11:30) and every 5 minutes bumped it up by .1 mph...until the last .5 when I bumped it up by .2 or .3 every 1 minute. This was out of necessity and I ended up at an 8:XX pace by the end, feeling pretty good. I'm pretty sure I'm capable of going faster than my current training paces, but I know trying to add speed AND distance can be a recipe for disaster and I'm really not trying to get myself injured. It's something to think about as I work on my half marathon plans later this fall/winter. I think there is a 2:10-2:15 half marathon to be had with some work!

It would have been really easy to blow off this workout tonight but I had no VALID reason. Marathon training is not always supposed to be comfortable and easy, and I know there will be other times that I may have to skip a workout...tonight was not comfortable but I'm so glad I got it done.

Wednesday, August 31
Plan: Yoga
Actual: 3.5 mile walk w/Matt + dogs

I was actually really looking forward to yoga tonight but traffic was JACKED on the way home, so I wasn't able to make it to the gym by the 6:00 class time. My legs/feet were feeling so sore and fatigued (and kind of have been the past few days) so I knew I couldn't try to switch the tempo run to tonight so I opted for a walk instead. Ummm...my legs cramped on more than one occasion, including once completely buckling underneath me. I know I wasn't dehydrated and I have been fueling decently (not optimally, but not terribly either) and it was at this point that I knew I needed to book my massage for tomorrow. I missed it on my recovery week due to scheduling and other things going on and my body was CLEARLY telling me I needed it!


Thursday, September 1
Plan: 40 min tempo
Actual: Rest/Sports massage


I had a nice 9:00pm massage time booked which allowed me to work late and spend some time prepping for my weekend out of town. Massage Envy will let you customize your massage and lately I have been asking for only neck/back/legs/gluts. The last massage I got was AWESOME and he spent tons of time on my gluts/IT bands. This time I had a different chick who didn't seem to be able to apply anything more than light pressure and spent like 2.5 seconds on my gluts. Any massage is better than NO massage, but I am coming to be worked on and I asked for firm/deep pressure. Yes, I know I had one of the late slots, but I usually have one of the late slots and I've never had that be an issue before. Oh well.

I ended up staying up until almost 1am working on some volunteer stuff for the Humane Society and was hoping I could roll out of bed in the morning with time to squeeze in my missed tempo run from today.


Friday, September 2
Plan: Rest
Actual: Rest

Yeah, going to bed so late did NOT agree with me and it was all I could do to get myself together to get to work and get some minimal packing done for my weekend out of town. I was luckily able to leave work around 2:45 so I could get home, throw some more stuff together and get the girls loaded for the trek to Auburn. Matt had gone down Thursday afternoon since he telecommutes and could work from his friend's house Friday during the day. I BARELY made it in time to drop the dogs off at my aunt's vet (so sad!) at 6:00 because traffic was the SUCK going down (not thick, but I couldn't get any separation b/c of multiple idiots going under the speed limit in the LEFT lane). Anyway, my aunt and I got it together and headed to my cousin's football game to watch him march. (He's a sophomore and plays snare in the band.) It's so "Friday Night Lights"...I secretly kind of loved it :)


Saturday, September 3
Plan: 7 miles
Actual: 7.1 miles + 5 miles walk
No, this is not an extreme step-down week :) It is, however, the 1st weekend of college football...it's my favorite time of the year!!! Even though I graduated from FSU, I am a huge Auburn fan. I grew up there, my dad, aunt AND Matt (as well as many, many family friends) are alumni and have spent pretty much my entire life going to games. This year, my aunt Paula ("Auntie P"), cousin (Jimmy) and I got season tickets together, so I will be going to most of the home games.

Jimmy was too cool to show his face here

This week was an 11:00am kick off, which means leaving for the stadium between 8 and 8:30 so we can do Tiger Walk, see friends and head into the stadium before pre-game. NO WAY was I getting in a 15 mile run on that timeline!! I essentially shifted my medium-long run to Saturday and have my 15-miler slotted for Monday since it's a holiday and I'm off work.

I headed out around 5:40 a.m. and dare I say, it was actually cool outside. It was still kind of dark and I saw several other runners along my route. My plan was to run to campus, *possibly* meet up w/the running club for a few miles and then run back to my aunt's. I knew the AORTA route and passed a group of about 5 runners close to the meeting place. I knew it was them and that I wouldn't be catching up to anyone else, but it turns out it was a SLIM crowd on Saturday because there were only a couple of cars parked at the meeting spot (they usually have several dozen runners). It was actually fine, I loved running around campus so early and checking out all of the people setting up their tailgates, security getting set, etc.

At one point I heard solo footsteps behind me and I was hoping not to get passed. About a mile later, I pulled over to take a picture and realized another woman had essentially been using me as her pace bunny. Kind of funny and I almost wished I had kept going to keep up the motivation.

Jordan Hare stadium at sunrise

On another random note, one of the security guys joked with me that I looked way too happy for it to be so early, so I jumped into the air and clicked my heels for a "good morning"...I think we both got a kick out of that.
Reason #540 why I love running on the plains...
I was really shocked that by 6:30/45 traffic had REALLY picked up. Getting close to my aunt's house (running on the sidewalk) a car laid on it's horn and I JUMPED in the air...didn't miss a stride but I know it was comical looking. I am used to the occasional "beep beep" but this was shocking...holy MOLY!

We always park 1.5 miles from the stadium (at my aunt's work) and then walk...good exercise and actually more convenient then it sounds. I was wearing flat sandals (slick bottom) and by the end of the day knew I had (at minimum) a hot spot. Got home and OMG the nastiest blood blister about 3 inches long. BARF. All the running and high heel wearing I do and I end up with a blister from the flat sandals I wore all summer? Doesn't add up, does it?

Proof that I wear more than just running clothes on occasion

 
Me with Matt & Jimmy before the game
 (Auburn squeaked by with a win against Utah State)

Sunday, September 4
Plan: Rest
Actual: Rest

I would usually join my aunt at the gym, but between the nasty blister that made it difficult to walk and my pending 15 miler, I opted for the extra rest this morning.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Marathon Widower

It happened a little bit earlier in the training cycle then I expected but last night Matt "delicately" noted that it seemed like I was gone all the time and that I always seemed to be smelly/in my running clothes. OUCH. And to his defense, he tried not to express this in an unkind way but of course I got defensive.

I immediately started jumping to conclusions: "What do you mean? I thought you said you supported my marathon training"


"I do...I am so proud of you, babe, but I don't know if I can handle you running 5 days a week plus the weekends" (He was being dead serious)

Well, I think we all know my training plan DOES NOT call for running "5 days a week PLUS the weekends" (I have 4 runs planned during the week plus at least 2 cross training sessions) BUT I get the point and I know that I am very rarely at home before 7:00p.m. these days for one reason or another.

I really do try my very best to find some sort of balance between work, training and my family and friends and it would be easy to say that Matt is being selfish but I don't think he is: He's not telling me stop running, but he IS communicating that he feels like we need more time together. And it's important to listen even though it can be hard.

You might notice in my training logs that there are a lot of "walk with Matt + dogs" and we both love and cherish that time together. However, and this is me being completely honest, sometimes my legs are sore and tired and tackling the hills for another 45-60 minutes feels like a sacrifice on my end...I would love to, at that point in the day, just plop my butt on the couch and relax but it's a healthy choice and one that ends up sparking a lot of great conversation because we are not distracted by TV, social media, our phones, etc.

Could I get up and get all of my runs done before work? Not all but maybe I can switch *something* to an a.m. schedule on occasion. (My long run is usually complete before Matt is even out of bed, so that's 1 run already accomodated) I am NOT a morning person and early morning meetings at work sometimes make this a fairly prohibitive option (If I need to be at work at 6:30a.m. I am NOT getting up to run, shower and commute beforehand!!) Maybe Matt would be willing to run with me after work? Even part of my mileage?

I was talking to L. about this at lunch today because it has been weighing on my mind and I talked myself into the following conclusion: For me, finding balance can often be harder than the actual workout

Yes, the workouts are physically demanding, often quite taxing and sometimes unpleasant BUT I can endure that for 45-60 minutes or whatever the length of my commitment. It's shuffling things around to make room for LIFE that can often cause consternation. "I have XYZ commitment, maybe I can move this run to the morning...oh but I have an early meeting OR well, if I move this to the morning then I have less than 12 hours between tough workouts and I don't want to completely kill myself before ABC OR well, I can move this to my rest day but then I will have run/worked out 7 days in a row and if I do that I put myself at the brink of overdoing it/risking injury, etc etc etc" And sometimes, there really is just no good way to shuffle, so you skip the workout or flake out on your friends/family/whatever other request may be coming your way.

I have to remember that what I do on any ONE day is not going to make or break my training; it's what I do over the course of the training cycle that will get me to the start AND finish happy and healthy.

Any tips you have for finding balance?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Chickamauga Training: Week 5 Recap

If there was ever a week for flexibility this was it. I almost didn't post the "planned" schedule because it was pretty clear from the get go that this week was going to be all about accomodating a lot of events that are out of the routine. Some things were planned in advance, some added kind of last minute and some I just didn't consider the impact of how busy my day was actually going to be. Without further adieu...

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Week #5...

Monday, August 8
Plan: 3 miles
Actual: Rest (otherwise known as run errands and stress about big presentation on Tuesday)

I was actually really looking forward to getting out and clearing my head for about 30 minutes but the festivities from Sunday (Matt's dad's b'day) ended up impacting the things I needed to do Monday. After leaving work late, going for a quick manicure, eating dinner and going grocery shopping it was past 9:30. With nerves about my presentation skyrocketing, I opted to spend more time with my slides instead of hitting the road. I was pretty much a ball of nerves the rest of the evening, tossing and turning with insomnia until nearly 2:00.


Tuesday, August 9
Plan: 6 miles
Actual: More rest (unplanned)

I had a 15-20 minute presentation this afternoon to deliver to 50-75 of the top executives and senior leadership in my company. While I knew most of the room pretty well and work regularly with many of them, I am still a junior executive and this is the group that can significantly influence my career trajectory within the company, so I was TERRIFIED that my performance anxiety was going to take over and that I was going to bomb the presentation. How's that for positive self-talk? I had a busy morning so I was able to keep myself distracted and I was trying to pump myself up in preparation. With my nerves essentially being shot since Monday, I had barely eaten anything the past 2 days. Not good, I know, but I physically could not eat I was so worried.

I am happy to report that I NAILED that presentation!!! I got up and as soon as I started speaking, I knew I was in total and 100% control of myself, the situation and the content. I tried not to overthink and just spoke naturally, moving around the room and engaging with the group. I got high marks from the CEO afterwards and many compliments from others. It was a great feeling to know that I CAN do this and I think that I even shocked my boss (who is a great supporter and mentor) :) However, as soon as I sat down (there were 4 or 5 presentations in the program) my stomach started growling...of course!

When I got home, Matt had prepared an awesome salad (and cookies) but after I ate, it was all I could do to hold my eyes open. With the adrenaline rush over, the exhaustion had set in. I ended up "napping" until nearly 9 and again, it was a little bit too late to get started with an hour long run, given that I had an early meeting in the a.m.


Wednesday, August 10
Plan: Rest
Actual: 3.2 miles

I had originally planned for this to be a rest day because I had an early meeting and Bunco in one of the southern 'burbs after work; however, with 2 rest days in the books I NEEDED (and wanted) to get out there and sweat! I had hoped to leave work a tad early so that I wouldn't be too late to Bunco but my volunteer commitment had an urgent need right around 4:30 so I spent a good half hour coordinating some things for them.

I opted to run downtown so that I wouldn't lose any time to potential traffic making my way to the trail. Ran to RR park, did 2 loops on the trail there and then ran back to my car. I had finally remembered to charge my Garmin but then left it upstairs in my office, so I have no idea of pace but I felt like I was booking it and was nice and schweaty at the end. Luckily I was carpooling with my running buddy, A, and she let me change into clean (running) clothes so that I wouldn't completely stink it up at Bunco.

Had a great time and my friend Amanda cooked us an AMAZING meal...who does not love homemade ginger dressing and veggies with "yumyum" sauce? I even had a BEER which is a rare mid-week thing for me but my body was craving the salt and nothing else would do!


Thursday, August 11
Plan: 35 min tempo
Actual: Rest...AGAIN

And this is what happens when life takes over...

Another day, another 7am meeting so there was definitely no running early this morning but I was still holding out hope that I could make it work in the evening. However, on this evening I was committed to attending a cook out for the new MSHA students WAY OUT in the sticks south of Birmingham. I am on the admissions board and an alumni of the program and the faculty are so gracious to include me on events that involve more than just interviewing and really make me feel like part of the team so I really try to attend whenever I can because I LOVE this aspect of my career/field and truly don't even view it as "work".

Anyway, I was out "in the sticks" from 6-9:15 helping prep dinner, networking, socializing (another beer! 2 in 2 days, what is happening to me?) and then did not get home until just after 10:00 (I told you it was pretty far "out there"...and that was with no traffic...it took me almost twice as long to get there from downtown). I was actually pretty pleased with my nutrition choices (minus the beer) but it was clear that it was another non-running day in the books. But you know what? I would not change a single thing. I had a GREAT time interacting with the students and the faculy and these are special opportunties that I don't want to miss for a training run.


Friday, August 12
Plan: Rest
Actual: 36 minute tempo run

12 miler tomorrow be damned, my legs were not content to rest today (and we were watching our friends' daughter tonight so it was morning or never). I pretty much rolled right out of bed and into my running shoes this morning without even stopping to think. Out of bed at 6:15 and at the gym by 6:30, I sucked down half of a Gatorade Prime on my drive over. The air felt a little cooler and the sun was just a little bit lower and I was ready to tackle the workout even though I am not usually a morning person. I knew I had some flexibility in my schedule this morning so I didn't have to get up super early which helped make this more bearable.

12 min warm up, 12 min at tempo, 12 min cool down this workout FLEW by I left the workout feeling refreshed and SO GLAD that I got this done. Everything was clicking this morning and really wish I had the flexibility to have finished off a full hour BUT I am not worried about it, as I nailed what I needed to for the moment.


Saturday, August 13
Plan: 12 miles
Actual: 12 miles

Our friends did not get home until nearly 1:00 a.m. Friday night so it was easily 1:30 by the time we got home and passed out. I was wanting to get out early since I knew this workout would take quite a while and I had a friend's bachelorette that I needed to run errands for (and attend), but I hit snooze one too many times. FINALLY at 7:45, I was out the door into the quickly rising sun. I went one of our less explored routes with the plan to loop back by my house after 6 miles, for a water/gatorade refill.

For some reason I could NOT get in the groove this morning and my mind would not zone out. I didn't have my iPod and kept trying to lose myself in various thoughts to no avail. I think the uncertainty of the new route (terrain, dogs, etc) kept me from getting too comfortable. The sun was strong and I was not getting any reprieve from breeze or otherwise so when I looped back home I made the executive decision to haul it up to the gym to finish my next 6 on the treadmill.


Headed to the gym at the halfway point

The 6 on the 'mill went great, I was able to hold a steady pace and my last mile was my fastest as I was able to do a "sprint" progression for the last .75. At the end I was covered in salt but otherwise fine.

My post-run refueling didn't go quite as planned as I had errands to run before my friend's party and Matt had an unexpected dead car battery that left him stranded across the city, but I FINALLY made it to the pool and was able to go into mini-vacation mode for at least a few hours :) And hey, if chocolate milk is a great refueling option then a margarita is even better, right? RIGHT?


For the record:
Pre-run fuel: plan bagel with butter and cinnamon sugar; 8oz diet blueberry green tea
During the run: ~30oz water/gatorade mix (lemon-lime) and ~10oz water plus 3 sports beans each at 40 minute and 1 hr 20 min mark
Wore: Nike running skirt, Auburn tech-tank top (awesome score at Target for $16 and SO comfortable), Wigwam Ironman socks, blue Mizuno Wave Nirvana 7s
Accessories: Garmin, Nathan handheld


Sunday, August 14
Plan: Cross train (choice)
Actual: 2 mile walk w/Matt + dogs

I started out the day doing this:



As part of Tess's bachelorette we had gotten rooms at Ross Bridge with the plan to spend Saturday laying out by the pool, going to dinner and returning to the room for a lingerie shower and fun signature drinks (created and mixed by your truly which is actually really funny b/c I am the person that probably drinks the LEAST out of all of my local friends).

But I digress...many of the girls had to leave kind of early Sunday to go on about their day but Nicole and I stuck around until nearly lunch time soaking in the rays before we had to get back to reality.

After an afternoon of getting caught up on some work, running errands and returning to Ross Bridge b/c I had left my phone charger in the room, Matt and I headed out for a short walk with the girls. I had hardly seen him at all this past week so it was nice catch up and talk before returning home and getting sucked into the vortex of True Blood and Real Housewives.


Overall thoughts:
Considering the week I had, I am pretty amazed that I fit in what I did. I could spend time lamenting over my missed medium-long run (AGAIN) but I know it's not what I do on any given day that's going to make or break my race in November. It's what I do over the course of 18 weeks that will get me to the start (and finish) happy and healthy.