Monday, December 12, 2011

Can you find my motivation? I surely can't.

Maybe it's because I have been training for some sort of race for nearly the past 2 years with very little breaks. Maybe it's because I just trained the most consistently for a marathon in my life the past 6 months. Maybe it's because I just ran two marathons in a week. Maybe it's all three, but what I do know is that my motivation to run has gone missing.

It all started Saturday when I had an entire free day to run 14 miles and also to run some errands. I haven't had a free day to do nothing in a long time, so I didn't feel the need to rush to get my run in. As the day went by, I completed most of my errands (mailing gifts, creating my first DIY scarf as a test for a gift!), but couldn't get my butt up to run. I honestly feel not excited at all to be training for another race. I am excited to race, but not excited to be right back into the thick of marathon training. I tried to tell myself the things that motivate me like, "You never regret a workout" and "You drank a fair amount last night. Might be good to burn that off." I just couldn't get up.
Cat memes FTW
I started to think that maybe I'm not mentally ready to prep for another marathon and what good is it to force myself to do something I don't want to do? Do I want to grow to resent and hate running? No, but was that me just coming up with good excuses to be lazy? I don't know, honestly. I did 300 reps of the BodyRock 1000 rep workout, which kicked my booty, but was really fun. I am contemplating just taking the month of December easy (focus on running a few times a week, yoga, and cross training), starting ultra training in January, and bump down from the full to half marathon for the Surf City USA Marathon on Feb 5th. I don't really want to race a half marathon and a full marathon would be better prep for my ultra training, but the idea of training for a marathon right now sounds as awesome as pouring hot sauce into my eyes.

Who knows how I'll feel this week. Maybe I just had a bad weekend, but I'm hoping some that throughout the week, I can find my motivation. I've looked everywhere for it, but alas, it is elusive. Here's to hoping it comes back soon!

Monday, November 28, 2011

NCR Trail Marathon RR - Maniac Certified!

Can't believe I'm done racing for 2011. Where did the year go? For my last race of the year, I raced the NCR Trail Marathon in Sparks Glencoe, MD. When planning my fall marathon, I knew I'd race Philly. Later, I realized that I wanted to attempt joining the Marathon Maniacs, I found this race and knew I'd have to race it. So glad that I did!

I woke up early the race day and got myself ready. I was too tired to get everything ready the night before and I paid for this later. My mom/my race sherpa and I hopped in the car and started the 1.5 hour trek to the race location. About 45 minutes on the road, I realized I had left my Garmin watch at home. What was I going to do?! I downloaded the Nike+ app on my phone, hoping for the best.

After getting a bit lost, we found the location to be picked up (they had shuttles to the location). I got there, got my bib and chip, then met up with fellow Marine Corps Marathon Runner's World fourmite, Eileen. We chatted and got to know each other. So glad to meet her in person! Right before the race, another fourmite, Billy, joined us and we snapped his great photo:

Yay MCM fourmites!
Soon enough, the race started! To say this course was really different from Philly would be an understatement. The course was along a flat trail course (until the end, which was uphill. Yeesh!), with the surface mostly being crushed packed rocks. The race only had about 500-600 racers, which felt like so small compared to Philly.

Photo I snapped at the beginning of the course
About two miles into the course, my phone died (stupid Nike+ app taking up so much battery life). I honestly didn't know what to do since I had zero clue what pace I was running, but I couldn't stop, right? I ended up finding this redheaded guy ahead of me and stuck with him for as long as I could (I've got quite the love of redheads, so I had zero issues following him :D). 

Around the turn around point (it was a out and back course), I was hoping that I would get an idea of my pace, but the clock wasn't working. Around mile 15 or so, I was running next to a guy and asked him what pace we were running. He said we were running 8 minute mile pace. Um, that's too fast, but I kind of just went with it. I was able to keep up with the redhead and his fast pace until I passed him around mile 17 or 18. 

The last 9ish miles of the race were tough. I could feel racing the first 17 or miles too fast, so I could tell my pace was really slowing down. Normally, I would beat myself up about the pace, but I felt very zen and at peace with it. Instead of getting upset, I just told myself to keep going and finishing was all that mattered. 

The last 1.5ish miles are uphill and man, did they stink. Again, I somehow was just at peace with how slow I was and just cared about finishing. As I was coming up the last hill, I saw my mom/sherpa at the top. I just had to turn and run about 100 meters to the finish. My goal was just to finish the race and I told myself if I could break 4 hours, especially without a watch, I'd be over the moon. As I ran towards her to get to the finish, she yelled, "You're going to break 4 hours!" I literally stopped for two seconds to stop myself from choking up. I've cried when I've finished races, but this was the first one where I found myself on the brink of tears during a race. I pushed to the finish in a final time of 3:58:02, which is my second fastest marathon! So happy to have had a decent race and to have broken 4 hours!

The other great thing about finishing this race? I'm officially a Marathon Maniac (#4630). While I only have the bottom level entry, I'm just proud to be an official member!

I also raced in a dashiki. Why not, right? I raced my last two marathons in some sort of funny costume item, so I knew I had to keep up the streak. I found it in my brother's closet and loved racing in it. Racing in abnormal running items allows me to take myself and the race less seriously. How seriously can you take yourself when you race in a tutu? Not very, which is a good thing! Can't wait to race in more odd things in the future!

My next race won't be until the Surf City USA Marathon on February 5th, so I've got a few down months to train for that race. Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving!!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Philadelphia Marathon Recap - PR, babayyyy!

Last Sunday, I raced in the Philadelphia Marathon and I achieved things I didn't think were possible: a sub-3:50 marathon and a marathon race I actually enjoyed! That is getting ahead a bit, so let's start from the beginning. **Warning: there is a section about public urination that goes awry, so if you're not good with that, then this might not be your favorite race report.**

The past 18 weeks, I have trained harder and more consistently than I ever have for a marathon. I followed Pftiz's 18/55 plan (18 weeks, peaking with 55 miles in a week). I actually put in nearly every mile I had planned and I put in quality miles. I raced a the Philadelphia RnR Half Marathon and PRed it by 8 minutes, so I felt good going into this race. Even so, I hadn't had any previous marathons go well, so I was still nervous. 

I woke up Sunday, race day, from stress dreams about work. I kept dreaming I was consistently messing up and being scolded, which meant I woke up a bit distraught and frustrated. I tried to get past that while I got ready. I had laid everything out, so I just had to get into my running clothes, eat breakfast, and head out the door with my mom (in town for my race) and boyfriend. I did, like normal, use the restroom at home, hoping that was all I would need. This comes in to play later. 

We got to the race and it was still dark and I was getting really excited and nervous! I felt the need to go to the bathroom yet again (odd, I felt, but I had just drank a lot of water on the car ride there), so I waited in line and went again. I then met up with my lovely Back on My Feet friends. I was so proud to be rocking BOMF gear and to be racing alongside some amazing friends, especially those running either a half or full marathon for the first time. 

My outfit also included a homemade tutu. I loved running in costume for the Marine Corps Marathon last year, so I knew adding something fun to my race gear was needed. I saw some folks in tutus at the Mind the Ducks 12 Hour race, so I knew I wanted to make one to wear. I adored wearing it and cannot wait to wear it in other races! I think it was my good luck charm!

Holy tutu! Is it big enough?!
After meeting up with some BOMF friends, I headed to my corral to find the 3:50 pace group. I was aiming for that time, so I had planned on running with them as much as I could and hopefully passing them toward the end. I am so happy I chose to run with them because it allowed me to not have to constantly check my pace; I just had to stick with the guy with the balloons and I was fine. I realized around now I had to go to the bathroom yet again. What was up with me? I was hoping it was just nerves. 

The race finally started a bit past 7 am and we were off! I will say I was extremely frustrated the first 5ish miles with a lot of the racers ahead of me. If you don't plan on keeping the pace of the corral you stand in, don't be in it. Don't be in the corral with the 3:30-3:59 racers when you plan on walking within the first two miles of the race. It didn't help that the first few miles are though Center City with more narrow streets. 

By the time we got to my alma mater Drexel University, the crowds weren't nearly as bad. Around then, my need to pee was getting pretty bad. Just past the first major hill on the course is wall of trees that many males use to pee in. I decided this was my chance to go to the bathroom without waiting in a line for a porta-potty. Let's just say I didn't do a great job of it and ended up with wet shorts and underwear (super gross, I know!). What I would have paid to be a male for just 30 seconds! I then had to sprint up and catch the pace group, which was not fun. Lucky for me, my shorts dried out within a few miles, but I did not love those few miles with gross shorts!

Soon enough, we were at the half way point and I was truly happy. The first half didn't feel forced and I felt like I had plenty of energy. Before the race, I put on a temporary tattoo I got from (awesome site!) that really helped me focus on being happy throughout the race. Anytime I was starting to not enjoy running, I'd look down at my forearm and remember today was a day to be happy and appreciate what I was doing. 

I still have it on my arm and I love looking at it!
Only around mile 17 was when tiredness set in. I knew I had only single digit miles left, but that didn't mean it was going to be easy. I focused on staying with the pacer, even if that meant having to sprint after him after every water break. Soon enough, we were in Manayunk, where the fans were amazing, and we just had to head back to the Art Museum!!

As the miles slowly ticked away, the miles became harder and harder (duh!), but I knew 3:50 was in my reach and I refused to allow the pace group get ahead of me. With just a few miles left, I felt myself slowly pulling away from the pace group and although my stomach was starting to feel nauseous, I kept pushing. The end felt like it took forever to get to, but finally, I was pushing (albiet, not sprinting, because that was out of the question) one step in front of the other to the finish. I crossed the finish by high-fiving Bart Yasso, famous runner, and Philly's Mayor Nutter. My finish time? 3:48:50. I felt like death by the end, but I was so happy to have that time be mine! I worked hard, raced smart (for once!), and because of it, I cut 12 minutes off my previous PR.

Now it's time to rest up since I've got another marathon in 3 days. Ack!! 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Pre-Race Jitters - It's almost Philadelphia Marathon time!

It's about that time for taper madness to be hitting! With the Philadelphia Marathon less than 5 days away, I'm getting quite anxious for the race to happen. While other friends of mine got nervous before their races earlier in the season, I told each of them to relax. Now it's my time to start freaking out. I wouldn't say I'm as nervous as I have been in the past, but I am just really excited and wanting to race this very second.
Never enough cat memes. 
What is one way to ease nerves? Plan everything out so I am not so nervous! This week, I plan on getting plenty of sleep, drinking a lot of water, and eating healthfully. I've fulfilled the first two and struggled a bit with the last one, but I've got plenty of time to fill up on veggies, healthy proteins, and good carbs. I also plan on picking up my bib early on Saturday, then laying out my clothes and items needed for the race so I don't have to find them early on race day.

Another exciting part of my running ensemble (hopefully)? A homemade tutu. I ran the Marine Corps Marathon in a Lady GaGa costume and it was so fun. Whenever I felt down or negative, someone would cheer me on and it really got me back to focusing on racing and being happy. I'm the least crafty person ever, but I envy people like my friend Liz who are so crafty and DIY-friendly. I'm going to tackle this extremely easy project and hope that it brings me the happiness during the race.

Mine will hopefully look less like cotton candy. 
Anyone else racing the Philadelphia Marathon? Have any pre-race rituals that make you less nervous?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Great things of the past two weeks

I meant to post last week, but that didn't happen. I plan out posts and even start to write them in my head, then I come home from work and either am too tired to do a post or forget all together. The past two weeks have had a lot of fun in them, so I'll show that through photos.

Five 20 milers done! Ignore my swollen post-run fingers.
I'm officially in taper-mode for my two fall marathons (Philadelphia and NCR Trail Marathon). As much as I love running, I am really happy to be tapering. In preparation for two marathons within a week, I did five 20 milers in 5 weeks. That picture is me right after my last 20 miler, so happy to be heading into the taper. Now I have just 2 weeks until Philly and 3 until NCR.

MCM Fourmites!
Last weekend was the yearly running of the Marine Corps Marathon. I ran it last year and through Runner's World's MCM Fourms, I've met some amazing people. I couldn't pass up an opportunity to see these folks again this year, even if I wasn't racing. 

What a fancy group! I <3 OBP. 
This past week, the Back on My Feet Bash was held! Everyone gets all fancy and rocks running shoes. The picture above is my team, who I run with each week. It was such a blast to see everyone in non-running gear, eat yummy food, and dance the night away. Can't wait until next year's bash!

Aaaand last, but not least: witch fingers.
Is it 1998 again?
Can't wait for the next two weeks until the Philadelphia Marathon. Hope they are as great as the last two weeks have been!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Confusion: How Should I Eat?

I posted before about my food philosophy, but recently, I've been a bit confused. After hearing about a co-worker who ate close to a paleo diet and after doing some reading on my own, I can't help but be a bit lost. I grew up eating similar to the USDA's food pyramid (now extinct). I ate a lot of carbs, veggies, fruits, seafood, and lean meats. I did partake in a lot of snacking and processed foods as well. Fat was something to avoid, so that meant no fatty cuts of meat, no full-fat cookies and chips, and lots of 100 calorie packs, gummies, and Olestra-laden chips.

I haven't necessarily been happy with my diet recently and especially not happy with how my clothing fits. When I first heard about the "paleo diet," I thought that it sounded like a crazy fad diet. The diet allows for lean meats, a ton of veggies, some nuts and fruits, healthy fats, and lots of water-drinking. Things that aren't allowed? Grains, legumes, dairy, sugars, alcohol, and processed foods.  Um, those are all amazingly delicious things.
Paleo Food Pyramid Source
The thing is, the more I researched it, the more I was interested in it and felt it wasn't a fad. According to those who follow the diet, all of the things they remove from the diet are inefficient and poor sources of nutrients; a lot of those items also adversely affect people's bodies. All of the nutrients and vitamins those products have can be attained from the permissible foods. People who are on it say they feel better, have more energy, lose weight, and are better suited for exercise (which, by the way, this diet discusses. It says one should do short bursts of exercise [CrossFitters are big into Paleo] and long cardio sessions are not needed).

While I haven't officially made the switch, I have been trying to eat less carbs, most of the time to no avail. I have at least been more conscious to my eating and trying to get in more fruits and veggies; instead of snacking on popcorn or chips, I've been eating fruits and veggies instead. The issues is now when I would automatically know what to make for dinner, I feel paralyzed because what I would normally make now seems not okay.
In order to get myself unstuck, I'm just going to do more research. For someone who would not consider herself a lover of doing research, when I find something I am curious about, I research it to death. I also know that some diets and ways of eating work for some while it doesn't work for others. I'm going to keep an open mind and allow that to lead me to what makes me the happiest and feel the healthiest.

Have you ever come upon information that totally left you confused? What did you do about it? Anyone eat similar to the paleo diet?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Foodie Weekend

How was everyone's weekend? Mine was filled with running, football, and most importantly, lots of yummy food!

Saturday morning, I got in my 3rd 20 miler of my marathon cycle. I am doing 5 of them this cycle to prepare for my two back to back marathons (recently registered for the NCR Trail Marathon in Sparks, MD on November 26th as I want to be a Marathon Maniac). With each 20 miler, the distance has become less intimidating and I am eager to get in my last two. After the run, I started my delicious weekend eats with a mango tapioca drink and shrimp bun from Pho Cali in Philly's Chinatown.

I'm salivating looking at this right now. 

Perfect way to relax after a long run!
Sunday, I had some friends over to watch the Eagles vs. Redskins game. Although the game did not go in my favor (of course I invited only Eagles fans and they would not let me hear the end of it), we had some yummy eats, including a delicious homemade 4 layer dip (cream cheese, fat free refried beans, cheese, local Italian long hot peppers, baked in the oven until melty and yummy!). After eating too many chips with dip, I needed a healthy dinner, so I roasted a whole free-range organic chicken over one giant local sweet potato that I had diced up. How delicious do the roasted sweet potatoes look?!

I want to eat you over and over again. 
The chicken will last for lunches for part of the week and so will the sweet potatoes. Very excited about this!

To continue the healthy and fall trend, I had a pumpkin smoothie for breakfast this AM. I've been tweaking it and the recipe is as follows (and totally adaptable!):
I want to be sipping on you yet again. 

Pumpkin Smoothie

6 pumpkin ice cubes (take canned pumpkin puree and put into ice cube tray, freeze, then pop them out into a baggie and keep them in the freezer)
1.5 cups non-dairy milk, unsweetened
1/8 c maple syrup (if your non-dairy milk is sweetened, you will not need as much)
1/2-1 scoop protein powder (optional, but I used Sun Warrior Vanilla)
splash vanilla
sprinkle or two of cinnamon

You just need to blend everything up in your blender and enjoy!

Note: You may not need as much liquid, but my blender is totally lame and cannot blend unless there's oodles of liquid. You can use regular milk, but my tummy isn't a fan. I also am not a fan of nutmeg or allspice, but if you are, add it!

Hope everyone had a great weekend. Anyone eat any yummy things this weekend?!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Worst Long Run in Foreverrrr

Well, they can't all go well, right? Especially with all of the factors that played into my terrible 20 19.25 mile long run. Oh yeah, when I cut a long run short, you know it's for real.

So what was in my way of a successful run? Let's count the things:

  1. Hottest day in a long time (84 degrees, which is around 25 degrees hotter than last weekend's long run) and I started my run right when it was the hottest. 
  2. It was Yom Kippur yesterday, meaning I spent the day before this run mostly sans food and drink (was able to eat dinner last night). 
  3. Decided to eat meat sauce and pasta as my breakfast. Oh yeah, I'm really smart. Let's just say I didn't feel well for like 3 hours before my run as it was too heavy for a pre-run breakfast. 
  4. Lower GI issues later on the run; I'm very thankful there are porta-potties along the route!
  5. Side stitches on BOTH sides of my body. I've had issue with side stitches in the past (since XC in high school), but I've NEVER had two at the same time. Yeesh.
I wish I had seen this during my run.
Okay, so it just stunk. I was extremely tired and my legs felt heavy. I also started the run a bit too fast even with all of the reasons stacked up against me not to. After a PR in my half marathon a few weeks ago, I plugged my time into McMillan's calculator. You can plug in a time you have for a previous distance (in a race, ideally) and it will give you a guess as your future race times. It's not 100% on point, of course, but it's a nice way to see an idea how fast you can run. I did so with my half and it said I was on course to run a 3:40:34 marathon. Ummm, excuse me?! That's cutting 21 minutes from my marathon PR. I know that's too fast for me, but it gets me really excited since that's within a minute of my Boston Qualifying time (BQ) and it made me realize it may be possible sometime in the future. 

With all of that info, I was hoping to do the first half of the 20 miler at close to 9 minute miles, then do the second half at around 8:30 min/mile pace (close to the pace I'd need to hit for a BQ time). About 8 miles into the run, I realized this was not going to happen and was probably not smart to try to even do so. The last 6 or so miles were so difficult and I actually didn't finish the 20 miler; got back to my apartment with .75 miles left and knew doing them at the sloth-like pace I was only capable of was silly. 
Not half bad pace, even if I fell apart at the end!
Am I upset? Yes, because I don't like having bad runs, but it's one of the first ones I've had in this marathon training cycle and I'd rather struggle in training than in the actual races. I also averaged still a really decent pace, so it's not a total loss. Can't wait for next week's long run to redeem myself! 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

When to say "when"

Last week, a reader (hey, David!) commented asking me if I wanted race in the Sloppy Cuckoo 1/2 Marathon this past weekend in Philly. Two half marathons in a week? Sounded like such a fun challenge, especially since it encouraged to come in costume! There was no way to sign-up online, but I contacted the RD and found out I could register the day of. Fab!

As the week went by, I was getting more excited, but little voices in my head kept popping up with things like, "You're not ready for trails. What if you injure yourself? This isn't your key race and if you get injured before the Philadelphia Marathon, you'll be so SO upset." I just decided to ignore those thoughts until Saturday, the day before the race. John, the loving BF that he is, brought up some good points about the race and why I might not want to do it. I went out for a 5 mile run and the entire time, I created a list of pros and cons for doing the race. Here's what I came up with:

-Trail experience for my possible trail marathon in the fall after Philly
-Fun experience
-Another excuse to run in costume!
Lady GaGa costume from last year's Marine Corps Marathon
-Would spend more money participating than I should be spending
-Would need to go to bed really early Saturday, after the music festival I was at with John, my cousin, and friends
-Possibly jeopardize my ability to PR the Philadelphia Marathon due to injury
-Spending another weekend racing, away from friends and the bf

One main thing that I thought about is how much running takes up in my life. I run with Back on My Feet, in general, twice a week before work (doesn't interfere with seeing other people). I then usually run 2-3 times a week on my own, including my long runs. Sundays are usually shot (at least most of it) due to my long runs. Usually one night in the weekend, I have to go to bed early and/or not partake in fun activities in order to be ready for my long runs. I realized that registering for this race was going to be taking up more time away from my family and friends than I needed.

Do I regret it? In the end, 95% of me doesn't. I was able to stay out late with John, my cousin, Jessica (who was visiting from MD), and another friend Matt by going out late after the music festival. I was able to sleep in, watch Sunday Morning (guilty pleasure!), get in a 13.4 mile long run, run by the Puerto Rican Day parade in Philly, have a strawberry tapioca drink from Chinatown (first ever!), watch football games with friends out at bars, grocery shop, make vegetable stew, AND roast a chicken. Hello, did you see that list? That's a lot for one day, which wouldn't have happened if I ran the race. I do wish I could have done the race if it was on a different weekend, but in the end, I was able to balance out everything else in my life, have a blast, and still stay on track for marathon training. Win-win-win!!! Almost as much of a win the below gif is:

Source: Little Pancakes
You are welcome.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Rock n Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon Race Report

It's been a few days now since my race, so it's time to write a race report. I am pleased to say my race went exceptionally better than I had planned!

Saturday, the day before the race, I ran a bunch of errands and just took it easy. I picked up my bib from the expo, grocery shopped, and even painted my nails in a speedy pattern.

Lightening bolts to make me go, go go!
I carbed it up with a pasta for dinner with roasted shrimp and tomato sauce. Delish! I also did something I never do; I actually got everything ready for my race the night before! I usually try to get some stuff ready, but I got everything ready and even pinned on my number to my shirt. I knew I was going to be getting up early, so I didn't want to worry about missing a thing.

Sunday, I woke up, threw on my clothes, made breakfast, which was two slices of homemade french bread slathered with almond butter and banana, then headed out the door. I stopped by 7-11 to grab a water bottle then headed to the Art Museum where the races started. I met up with some Back on My Feet buddies who were running and before I knew it, it was time to get into the corral.

I found my corral and waited for it to start. Right before my corral started the race, Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" came on. Yes, it's super cheesy, but I adore it, so I got excited. There was a sign, though, that this race would be a good one (at least in my superstitious runner's brain). The Philadelphia Phillies, a team who I have become a big fan of, have started every home game this seasons with Kanye West's "All of the Lights." I already loved the song, but after going to a few home games this season, it always makes me think of the Phils. My iPod shuffle has literally 15+ hours of music and of all of the songs it chose to play first during my race, it chose "All of the Lights" by Kanye West. To most people, that's a funny coincidence, but for me, starting that race, it pumped me up like none other and was a sign of things to come.

The race has the first 5 miles through Center City Philadelphia, then the next ~8.1 miles around Kelly Drive and West River Drive. I ran this course last year and run most of the course in my normal running, so the race went by really quickly because I was familiar with the course. My original plan was to do the first 5 miles at 8:15 min/miles and pick it up to 8 minute miles for the last 8 miles or so, with the goal to go sub-1:50. I found myself going closer to 8 minute miles at the start, but it didn't seem that difficult. I worried about pushing myself early, but I thought that if I want to beat my time last year and PR, I need to push myself.

Before I knew it, the first 5 miles were done and we were of to start the Kelly Drive/West River Drive loop. I started to realize that maybe if I coud keep it up and actually finish faster than I started, I could possibly get close to 1:45. That time was one I kept in the back of my head and dared not say or hope for since it seemed so impossible to do. The fact that I could do it made me excited, determined, and nervous.
Never said I'd look good running. I look awful, but when you push yourself, you look like this!
Around mile 6, I ate some Sports Beans and felt really excited to be getting close to the halfway point. The race was really pretty uneventful, which sometimes can be good! By the time we crossed over Falls Bridge, I knew I had to start putting some speed in my stride if I wanted to hit 1:45. For each mile marker, I'd do the math and see if I could finish the race doing 8 minutes miles and finish in 1:45. I was going to be cutting it too close, so I pushed my miles and was averaging sub-8 minutes miles to the finish.

In the last mile, I was really tired, but determined that I would hit my new goal time no matter what. I found a girl who I had been running near me for a few miles and was annoying me (she looked like a seriously talented and strong runner and that annoyed me haha), so I made sure to catch her, pass her, and keep her behind me for good. As we turned the bend to the finish, I couldn't sprint like I wanted to (never a good race finisher), but I did what I wanted: I PRed and didn't throw up on anyone (felt like I was going to, though!)!!!!

Do I look like death?! I felt like it. 
Not only did I finish sub 1:50, but I finished sub-1:45, finishing with an official time of 1:44:35. That is a time no one in the world can take away from me and heck, I earned it. I was worried going into the race about feeling confident in my abilities (I never feel confident, so it was weird to me) and that it would come to bite me in the butt. It didn't. I worked hard for this race and pushed myself 5 times a week running. It sounds annoying maybe, but I'm really proud of myself. I'm a lazy person at times (currently sitting in a messy beyond belief apartment due to laziness), but when it comes to running, I somehow have the ability to push myself and work hard towards goals. I was able to shave 8 whole minutes from last year's previous PR, which seems insane to me.

Sweaty and wanting to sleep, but soooo happy!
Up next for me is the Philadelphia Marathon on November 20th, possibly another race after that, and then I'll be done racing for 2011. That does bum me out quite a bit, but I've already got a lot of my 2012 races planned out, which is exciting!!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Baking and Racing

This week has been crazy and work was a bit crazy, especially Friday. Things that cheered me up this week, though? Drinks with friends on Wednesday, my pastry class, and a concert last night. Speaking of my pastry classes, they've been going really well! This week, we made a sweet pastry dough and a vanilla pastry cream to make a fruit tart. I have made a tart before, but really enjoyed the techniques I learned. I have to admit, I think my tart turned out realllly pretty.

Yup, I made that! I had a lot of fun putting the fruit on and being creative with the colors. I wish I could have decorated a few more because I have so many ideas for pretty patterns of fruit.

To change gears, I'm running the Philadelphia Rock n Roll Half Marathon in less than 16 hours! With my race tomorrow, I took this week nice and easy with running. It's been the lowest mileage week for me in a while and it's been equally nice and weird. I've gotten used to a higher-mileage week (and all I can eat during it), so cutting back has been relaxing, but a bit nerve-wracking. I'm hoping I PR (personal record) and go sub-1:50.

Race report will be coming after I hopppppefully PR! Here's to hoping!

Monday, September 12, 2011

French Bread and Running Playlist (download!)

My first class at the Restaurant School went really well! We made French Bread and it was so delicious. As suspected, I knew a majority of what the teacher taught, but did learn some more scientific/chemistry-related things and a few pointers. I didn't take any pictures of the two loaves I baked there, but I have some more dough in my freezer and will make sure to take a picture of them once those get baked off!

My bread didn't look this pretty. I wish!
While I was in Anna's Blogging Basics for Girls class, she mentioned using MediaFire to create playlists for her site. Immediately, I thought, "Oh, I don't do playlists. No need to pay attention." It then hit me! Music is an integral part of me being able to survive my runs. It can pump me up, put me in the zone, help me focus on my goals, and pass the time. I am very excited to say I am going to be creating workout playlists and posting them on this here blog.

To kick off this workout playlist feature, I am going to take this past weekend's concert as inspiration. I attended the VirginMobile FreeFest with the boyfriend, brother, cousin, mother (who was doing PR for the event...yeah, she's pretty cool), and some friends. The inaugural playlist will feature artists who were playing the festival.
  1. Your Touch - The Black Keys (116 beats per minute [bpm]/13:24 min mile)
  2. Alone with You - Deadmau5 (128 bpm/12:12 min mile)
  3. Dance (A$$) - Big Sean (160 bpm/9 min mile)
  4. Walking on a Dream - Empire of the Sun (127 bpm/12:18 min mile)
  5. F*ck You - Cee Lo (127 bpm/12:18 min mile)
  6. Wolf Like Me - TV on the Radio (127 bpm/12:18 min mile)
  7. Punkrocker - Teddybears (141 bpm/10:48 min mile)
  8. Lights and Music - Cut Copy (126 bpm/12:24 min mile)
  9. I Can Talk - Two Door Cinema Club (163 bpm/8:42 min mile)
  10. Your Eyes - Bombay Bicycle Club (146 bpm/10:24 min mile)
  11. Paris (Ooh La La) - Grace Potter and the Nocturnals (182 bpm/6:48 min mile)

Playlist length: 46 minutes

I used to approximate beats per minute and min/mile times in case you were curious. 

Let me know what you think of this playlist! It's a bit slower than most of the music I workout to, but I'm excited to do a run to it tomorrow. 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Student for Life

I am quite the nerd and most people who know me would agree. I adore watching Jeopardy and love playing Quizzo because my brain is chock-full of random trivia. I constantly love to learn new things and in order to keep my learning going, I decided to sign up for two classes this week. I atended  one of the classes last night and I am even more excited for tonight's class!

While I haven't been blogging as much as I would like to, I still enjoy it and wanted to learn more about it. I got lucky when I accidentally Stumbled Upon Skillshare's website. It is a really cool concept where local  people create classes for other local folks to learn from. They have fun classes from couponing, social media for businesses, beer 101, etc. When I saw the "Blogging Basics for Girls," hosted by Anna at Shmitten Kitten, I knew I had to sign up. It didn't hurt that my friend Liz wanted to do it, either! I may not want to become a professional blogger, but I sure learned a ton that will help make this fun hobby even better.

I'm hoping to post more frequently, too. I don't try to foce myself to write when I don't feel like it, but I enjoy writing and will continue to push myself to be a better writer. I miss writing and I think this blog is a great way to express myself. If anyone has anything they'd particularly like to see on this site, let me know! I'm all ears!

So if that was my first class of the week, what is my second? As many people know, I love food and making it. I've always wanted to go to culinary school and while I'm not quitting my job to become a student again, I am going to be taking classes at the Restaurant School. I've registered for the beginner pastry arts classes and although I believe my skills are above the "beginner" level, I know there are techniques I can pick up from the class. I am beyond excited to start the 6-week course tonight and cannot wait to hone my baking skills! I feel one of my true passions is in food and I am so happy to be working on being better at it. I'll make sure to post a re-cap of the first class!

Monday, August 29, 2011

It's official - Philadelphia Marathon, here I come!

I may have been too superstitious to register before, but like that screenshot says, I am officially registered for the Philadelphia Marathon on November 20th!!! :D Ever since I had my IT band injury last year before the Marine Corps Marathon, I have been too superstitious to register; in my head, if I registered, I'd get injured and not be able to prepare for the race well. With it 85% full, today, I decided to just get some cojones and do it!

For the past 5 weeks (first week of plan was my week off after my 24 hour race), I've been using Pete Pfitzinger's 18/55 training program (18 weeks, averaging 55 miles per week). With just 3 short months to go, here's the training I've got left:




In the past, my training programs did not include enough speedwork and miles at my goal marathon pace. In the last 5 weeks, I have already done a handful of runs at my goal marathon pace or faster and it feels so good. I feel really great about this year's marathon and think that I am preparing myself the best I can so that I can get the elusive personal record (PR). Three months will fly by and before I know it, it'll be race time!

Anyone else have races they are training for? Anyone else doing the Philadelphia Marathon?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Labeling my eating

It is my honest opinion that we as humans must label and categorize things in order to best understand them; we label and categorize nearly everything in our lives. Not everyone has the same labels for things, but we all label and categorize everything. Sometimes, though, labeling and categorizing, in my opinion, becomes a bit unnecessary. When is that? With diets, that is.

I would consider myself a healthy eater (most of the time, says the girl who had two petifores at around 10 am from my work break room and just ate a handful of peanut M&Ms...whoops). I try to avoid overly processed food (*cough let's ignore those M&Ms I just ate cough*), get organic produce when it is necessary, and eat a lot of veggies (see my Food Philosophy). I have a great appreciation for vegetarian and vegan food because I find the food to be creative and resourceful. I also have an obsession with veggie burgers and get them out at restaurants all the time.

Why must I define it?
With my penchant for vegetarian foods, I tend to eat vegetarian at restaurants (usually healthier and cheaper, too!). When I order a vegetarian option, most people around me who don't know usually say, "Oh, so you're a vegetarian." I usually respond with, "Well, no, I'm not, but I happen to enjoy veggies a lot!" I even had a co-worker who was really stunned when he found out I wasn't a vegetarian since I order vegetarian lunches all the time; he almost looked at me in a different light. I am always in awe of how people feel the need to define and categorize how I eat.  I guess technically, I eat a "flexitarian" diet, but why do I even need to define it? When people find out I'm a non-vegetarian who adores veggie burgers, people tend to be perplexed. In their minds, veggie burgers fall under the vegetarian category, for which I am not a part of.

Next time you go out with people you don't know so well, think about how you perceive them before and after they order their meals. Do you wonder what they consider themselves? Could you care less? I find that people that have strict diet categories they put themselves into (vegetarian, vegan, paleo, low-carb, kosher, etc.) tend to want to categorize other people's diets more often than people who aren't so clearly defined in their diets. I get why we do this as humans, but feel we might live in a better world if we aren't defined so simply by how we eat.

Do you define and categorize your diet? Do you do the same to others?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

I'm shaking in my boots

As I've started training for my fourth (wow, that seems nuts to say) half and full marathons, I've thought a lot about my running the last few years. In the last few years, I've run 5ks, 10ks, 5 mile races, half marathons, marathons, and ultra marathons. I have run a lot of races, but I have a confession to make:

I'm scared. What am I scared of? Oodles of things, like triathlons, trail running, distance-based ultras, and even marathons!

The more I've thought about it, the more I've realized that I am scared of things that are out of my confort zone. I'm not a strong swimmer (can barely do one whole lap without my lungs burning like crazy), I'm so out of shape for trail running that trails intimidate me, distance-based ultras mean I could possibly get the dreaded DNF (did not finish), and marathon training means I'm running much faster than in training for ultras. Lots of people have joked that training for my half and full marathons must feel like a breeze, but it's really hard and scary for me, honestly; I am comfortable going really slow for hours upon hours. I envy people like Shannon for doing her two tris this year and making it seem easy!

I have realized that I do repeat certain races because I just adore them (Mind the Ducks 12 hour!), but I also am not branching out because I am a scaredy cat. I hope that in the upcoming year or so, I can branch out and have the guts to do something out of my comfort zone.

Anything that scares you that you hope to do in the next year?

Sunday, July 31, 2011

July Goals--How'd I do?

Now that today is the last day in July, I need to see how I did on my July goals. I kicked butt in some and failed majorly in others.

  1. Track my eating: I've been doing decently with this goal. I have been, on average, tracking nearly all of my eating during the week and not so much during the weekends. Weekends are so crazy and a lot of times, I'm eating out, which is hard to track. I can see how tracking how you eat can get a bit obsessive, but I think I've done a good job of using it to help me make better choices and not go nuts. 
  2. Create a restaurant recipe at home: A month or so ago, John and I ordered in from this Japanese restaurant and I got a BBQ Tofu sandwich. It was fried tofu and on a super oiled bun. Needless to say, it was amazing, but not so good for me. I attempted to re-make this with baked tofu and it wasn't nearly as yummy. I will have to try this again with some tweaks to make this a bit yummier. 
  3. Organize my apartment: Huge fail! I did buy a bookshelf, but only 3 or 4 of my books have made it there. I did buy under-bed storage where my winter sweaters have gone, but I haven't really filled up the drawers they took up. Whoops. This will have to be another goal for the future. 
  4. Run more miles in my 24 hour race than last year: Yet another major fail. I've come to terms with the not so successful race, but it is disappointing this goal was not met. 
  5. Use my slow cooker more: I did roast a chicken in it a bit ago and yesterday, I made some chili! It may be super hot out, but John and I were wanting some chili, so I made it. It wasn't as good as a stovetop chili I make, but it was hearty, yummy, pretty healthy, and insanely easy to use. 
Chili over brown rice and topped with cheese. Look at the steam!
Overall, I've achieved some of my goals, but not others. For the first time I've ever set monthly goals for myself, I'm not too upset at the outcomes. I also liked having goals I felt I needed to meet, so I am setting August goals! :D
  1. Actually organize my apartment: With my cousin coming in town next weekend, I've got a great reason to do it!
  2. Use new ingredients to make new recipes: I've never cooked with collard greens, but we got them in our CSA share this weekend, so I am excited to use a new ingredient. I'd love to try a couple of recipes with new ingredients.
  3. Cross train two times a week: As I am training for the RnR Philadelphia Half Marathon and Philadelphia Marathon, I really need to step up my cross training so I'm a stronger runner all around. This can include yoga, strength training, biking, whatever!
Very excited for my August goals (though I am still in shock it's almost August....where did this year go?!). New goals mean new fun ways to challenge myself! 

I'll leave you all with the inside of an heirloom tomato John and I got at Greensgrow. So pretty!

My camera doesn't do it justice. It's so cool looking as it is green with stripes!

Monday, July 25, 2011

20in24 Race Report - Can't All Be Great Races

I've honestly been avoiding writing this race report because it means I have to relive a painful race. We all have off days, but it honestly stinks more than anything that my off day had to be on the day of my 24 hour race. I know this will be an experience I can learn from, but right now, I am still bummed out.

Friday before my race, my mom (and sherpa for races) came into town. She, my boyfriend, John, and I went to pick up my race bib at the Art Museum, picked up last minute items from the running store, and grabbed dinner. My mom and I then went to the grocery store to pick up food items. I was up a bit later than I had hoped in order to get everything prepped (including applying my good luck race nail polish), but I still got decent sleep.
Delicious danish as my pre-race meal!

I woke up Saturday morning before my alarm, eager and ready for the day that was to come. I didn't wake up nervous, but just eager for the race to happen. I picked up a breakfast pastry and my mom/sherpa and I drove to the race location. We set up our tent and eagerly awaited the start of the race. I camped out next to the TrailDawgs tent and got to me the three kind gentleman there. We talked about our previous races and our hopes for the race at hand. We had the pre-race meeting, I finished getting ready, and then we were off!

I was extremely excited for this race, so my first lap went by quickly and went by pretty much without a hitch. I did find myself with quite the dry mouth, which made it hard to eat the way I wanted to, but I felt pretty okay with this first 8.7 mile lap.

I write on the Runner's World Marine Corps Marathon forum and have become great friends with a lot of runners. One of the runners, Patti, lives in the Philly area and came out for last year's race, which was SO sweet. She of course topped herself and came with a really sweet sign! It was really great to see a familiar face towards the end of my first lap and it definitely gave me some juice to move towards the second lap.

Patti's awesome sign for me!!!
During my second lap, I noticed that doing my 27 minutes running/3 minutes walking pattern was getting a bit difficult, but I kept it up for this loop. My mouth became exceedingly dry and that made it even harder to eat anything. As I drank more and more water from my hydration pack, my mouth never felt hydrated and the water started sloshing in my stomach, making me feel nauseous. When I finished this lap, I felt much more tired than I normally do after 16.8 miles. This worried me, but I just kept plugging along.

Patti snagged a picture of me finishing my first lap
The third lap is when everything started to fall apart. I had zero energy (partially from the tiny amount of food I had consumed do the the dry mouth). I stopped doing the 27/3 ratio and switched to my old 10/2 run/walk ratio. I ran into a runner from my 12 hour race, who easily blew by me after a quick chat. I was super desperate and feeling awful. I texted fellow ultrarunner, Jesse, and Jon (whose 100 miler I paced back in Apri) for some words of advice. They said I could do it and to keep pushing, but I didn't really believe it was possible.

When I finished this lap, I was an emotional mess, too. My mom rightly suggested I come inside to the air conditioned runners area to lay down and get some more calories in me. She grabbed me a turkey sandwich and some chips, which were eaten between upset and frustrated tears. A fellow runner (and as I found out later, a running coach) gave me some great advice and overall, calmed me down. After eating, I felt better, but knew I wasn't going to have the race I had originally envisioned. I picked myself up and pushed along to the fourth lap.

I slowly trudged along for my fourth lap, but thankfully ran into another Back on My Feet volunteer that I run with, Sebastian. It was his first ultra and we ended up doing most of the lap together. I was really feeling upset and negative, so being around another running friend was amazing. We talked about a bunch of things, but the company was extremely needed and I got lucky finding him!

For my fifth lap, my great friend, Chuck, came to pace me. He had never run more than 5ish miles and was worried about "keeping up with me" (his words), but at that point, I was walking a lot and running verrrrry slowly. As I told him, he would have no issue sticking with me because I was going to be slow. He did a great job of keeping me entertained and we talked about everything from running, our friends, politics, and more. I had a hot spot on my right pinky toe, so I had the medical people tape up my toe about halfway through the loop. This sadly comes back up later in the race....I know that it was hard to stick with me because I was moving so slowly, so I owe Chuck big time for his help!

Blurry picture of Chuck and me after our lap together
By this point, I was really so tired, I knew that walking would be it for me. I could run faster than I could walk, but it took so much more energy out of me, so I walked. I had one awesome pacer for my last lap, my mom! She was amazing company and was able to keep me walking at a decent clip (for most of the loop). At this point, I really didn't know how I was going to keep going after this lap. My mom was extremely helpful and helped me talk out my options for the race. Did I just keep walking through the night, even with feet that were killing me? Did I attempt to sleep in the runners room inside and see how I felt after? Did I just go home after this lap, knowing I did the best I could and that I'd at least get in 50 miles? All of this was being pondered when I headed to the medical tent yet again for my right pinky toe.

As I hobbled over, I sat down and had my toe tended to by the same podiatry student that taped up my toe before. When he ripped off the tape, he quickly said, "Whoah!" That's not a good sign. My pinky toe was covered in two giant and gnarly looking blisters. He drained them, which was stupid painful. It felt like a cross between a painful burn and a sharp stinging. The other medical person there kept joking with me and I, like a baby, kept squeezing my mom's hand to forget the pain. He taped it all up and then taped up my heel after I told him about some plantar fascia pain. I couldn't put much weight on it, so my mom and I slowly moved on (me hobbling, of course).

Before we left the medical tent, the woman who founded Back on My Feet (the charity this race was for) came to the tent to warn of a mugging that had happened recently. A runner was mugged on the bridge on the course and we were told to not go out there with headphones and be careful if we were alone. We were not too far from that bridge, so as we approached, two other male runners asked if we wanted to be accompanied by them. It was really nice of them and I appreciated getting to talk to other runners. They, too, were having worse races this year than last year, so it made me feel a bit better that I wasn't alone.

With about 1.5 miles to go in the last lap, I saw two familiar faces walking to me: two of my co-workers, Melissa and Pat! They were nice enough to trek out to my race at midnight and seeing familiar faces really helped. We walked to the end of the lap and I decided I wanted to sit down inside and think about the rest of the race.

When I sat down, I had half of a mushroom and asparagus wrap (cafe in the building was open all night for the race!) and really thought out what I wanted to do. I was mentally much better, but my feet were killing me and I have no drive to keep going. I probably could have walked the last 10 hours of the race, but would I have enjoyed it? Would I have been proud of that race? Probably not. I also thought about my marathon that is only 18 weeks after this race, so I ended up deciding to stop. I got to 50.7 miles on a terribly off day, which isn't half bad. I did, though, shed a fair amount of tears. Walking up to tell the timers I was done, I cried. Walking up to pick up my 50 mile finisher plaque, I was crying. I felt like a failure and mentally weak for not finishing what I wanted. My mom and boyfriend were great in telling me I did the right thing, but I just felt like a quitter. I felt trapped and overwhelmed by the timing of it and stopping after 14 hours felt so lame.

I looked up "decision making" and found this.  It almost was like picking apples, except not.
As the days since my race have passed, I know I did maybe the right thing. I did the thing I felt I was only capable of. Minus a tender toe from the blisters, I was back to normal within two days. I am able to start training for the Philadelphia Marathon today, just one week behind a normal 18-week schedule. I am not injured for a month or so like I was last year, so that is a partial win for this race. I also was injured just two months before this race and only had one full month to train after the PT. I expected too much after coming back from injury. Overall, I'm still pretty bummed and will never know if I made the right decision, but I'm not focusing on it now. There are two more races (RNR Philly Half Marathon and Philly Marathon) in my schedule this year to focus on and I'm ready to put this behind me.

Final Stats:

Distance: 50.736 miles
Time: 14:15:09
Toenails lost: 0 (when you only have 6 to start, it helps...)