Monday, December 16, 2013

Rocky 50k Fatass Run Race Report - Just the Running

If you told me that I’d ever organize a fatass run just a few months ago, I would say that you’re crazy. Life changed for me when an article was published mapping out Rocky Balboa’s run in his training montage in Rocky II. The story of how I planned the run is for another day; I’m here to write about my experience running with 150+ other crazy runners.

The run started without the hoopla of a normal race, I just told the runners to “Go!” We slowly took off away from Rocky’s and Adrian’s “house” in Rocky II. We made our way through South Philly, passing two ‘famous’ cheesesteak places: Pat’s and Geno’s (tip for non-locals: these aren’t the best cheesesteaks in the city, so avoid the tourist traps that they are). I kept looking around in awe of how many people showed up, many in grey sweats and red sweatbands.
My brother came up for it and ran his longest
run to date, 14 miles!
As we ran through Center City and Kensington (in North Philly), I soaked up amazing conversations with these fellow runners. For many, this was their first ultra. For one, it was his 275th marathon distance race or longer! I enjoyed meeting new people, most from the Philly area, but some from as far as Arizona!

A favorite moment was  running back to South Philly and through the Italian Market, where there were actually flaming barrels! I always thought it was just a prop in the movie, but man, how empowering that was to see! A few miles later, I really needed that strength to keep going.

Flaming barrels! Photo by Loren Thomas
Right around the halfway point my lack of sleep from the days before the run really hit me. I just felt wiped. I was running with a really fun group, so I just forced myself to break the run up into fun segments to check off my list and focus on the fun discussion going on. My legs were feeling tight and I just felt off, but the organizer of the run can’t quit!

The worst of it was around mile 23 when nausea hit me. Our group had separated a bit and I was just with 3 other runners, none of which were talking. I kept thinking about how terribly my stomach was feeling, so I had to spark conversation so that I was distracted. We actually saw my mom around mile 25.5, right by the Art Museum stairs. Sadly, we weren’t finished, so I kissed my mama goodbye and said that we’d see her in a bit!
Attempting to jump/hurdle the benches! Photo by Pete DeCarolis
I had a lot of fun (and pain) the last 5 or so miles of the run. We ran through Center City, even right by my apartment, but the hardest part was that we kept hitting traffic lights! While running wasn’t pain-free, the starting and stopping was hard. The best part was when we got to the benches that Rocky hurdled, though. I was afraid of face planting, so I made an assisted jump.
So happy to be done! I was also super cold. Photo by Jose Magos
As my group of running companions and I finished up the Art Museum steps, I just felt a sense of relief. One, obviously, because I was done and my legs were thankful (50k on city sidewalks is painful). I mostly felt relieved because I aimed to put on a fun run and I had a blast as a runner, as did everyone that I talked to at the finish. People forget sometimes how much fun it can be to just get together with a group of friends and just run for the hell of it. We can get caught up in competition, elaborate races, fees, medals, etc. and forget what we’re even doing to begin with: running. I had a blast making new friends and can’t wait for next year’s run to experience this again, hopefully with even more new friends.

Oh, and while it was unofficial, I did time myself with my Garmin watch and did it in about 5:42 for 31.7 miles. Pretty happy with myself!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Philadelphia Marathon Race Report

This took longer to get written, but life happens.

When I left off in my last blog post, I had just run the Richmond Marathon and my mom, my friend Annie, and me were driving back to Philly. Luckily, we hit very little traffic and it took only about 4.5 hours to get back (this includes our stops for crazy unhealthy foods like fries and Whopper Jrs, but when you BQ like Annie and I did, you eat fast food).

My mom and I dropped off Annie, parked the car, got Vietnamese take out, then finally relaxed on the couch. It wasn't hitting me that I had another marathon the next day as I was trying to stay positive and cheery for my boyfriend, John, who was planning to run his first marathon the next day. To back up a bit, John and I have been dating for 6+ years, most of which he always said running was silly and he didn't get it. Last year, he started talking about possibly running a marathon in 2013. I was skeptical that he'd want to actually do it, but earlier this year, he signed up for a half marathon and the Philly marathon in the same day. Once I found out the Richmond and Philly marathons were the same weekend, I came up with the plan to race the Richmond one and run with John in Philly.

Race morning came upon us and we were up earlier than normal to get to the start. They had added security this year, so I was afraid we'd get stuck in a giant line before the start. There was milder weather than usual this time of year and there was no issue with security, so we were walking around the start for a bit. We met up with our Back on My Feet friends, stretched, and eventually made our way to the start. My mom took some pre-race photos for us and soon enough, we were in the corral to find the 4 hour pacer (John's reach goal was to break 4 hours).
Us before leaving our apartment for the race
We found friends, including Olivia, who also wanted to break 4 hours. The race started and were off! I noticed in the first few miles, the pacer was a bit fast, which kind of got me nervous. We slowly lost them, but we were keeping good pace. My body was sore and I was getting concerned that if John was really going to keep a 4 hour pace, I would struggle myself to keep up.

We made our way through Old City and eventually through Center City, where the crowds were huge. We saw my mom and some of our Back on My Feet friends around mile 5 or 6 and continued west toward West Philly. We hit our first hills and started to get off pace. I told John that he should just focus on continuing to feel good and pace should not be a factor for his first marathon. We eventually came around to the Art Museum and hit the halfway point at 2:04 and change. I realized that we probably wouldn't go sub-4, but I just tried to focus on being a good pacer and supporter to John.
Us about 14 miles into the race. c/o Island Photography
We started the second half, which is a out and back along Kelly Drive and in Manayunk. I could see a bit that John was hurting a wee bit once we got to East Falls and hit mile 17, but I told him that we were pacing great and we only had single digits left! Hurray!

We made our way to Manayunk and that's when things started to fall apart, sadly. Around mile 19, John got his first of many leg cramps. He dealt with them during training, but they had become slightly less of an issue later on in his training. We took our first walk break and I started to panic honestly. We had 7.2 miles left and I was afraid if he kept walking, we'd never get to the finish (okay, we would, but it would have taken forever).

Us about 1/2 a mile from the finish. Thanks, Marisa, for this photo!
This began the tough game we played for the rest of the run. I'd push him and plead with him to try to run, he'd get angry, we'd run a bit, he'd get more cramps, then we'd walk again. I've been lucky enough to never have them when running, so I can't imagine what that's like. He was in a lot of pain, but my job was to keep him moving to the finish. Even having a swig of beer at mile 21 didn't help his mood, sadly.

Each mile took a long time and I hated how hard I had to push him and how much he was in pain, but we had to finish the damn race! If he was truly injured, it'd be a different story, but he was strong enough to push through, I knew it. Each mile took a long time, but we made through together and I made sure we high-fived when we crossed each mile mark (okay, I'm a nerd and had him do this with me at each mile).
Really special moment caught by my mama.
We got to mile 25 and we were sooooo close to finishing! John didn't walk one last bit of the race from then on, although I knew how painful it was. Running up to the Art Museum and finish was so emotional because we were finally finishing and I was about to finish a marathon with the guy I love, which was his first. We saw my mom and his parents at around mile 26 and that gave us the awesome boost to finish together.

Part of the fun we had that day came from what we wore. I have run in costumes the last 7 marathons and was planning on wearing a different costume until a friend suggested we wear our football jerseys. I'm a Washington Redskins fan and John is a Philadelphia Eagles fan. The Eagles hosted the Skins in Philly the afternoon after the race, so when I told John about possibly wearing them, he loved it. We got tons of hilarious comments about how we're an odd couple, how the race would be easier than watching our teams play, and right at the end, a guy yelled to John, "It'll never work out! Dump her!" We laughed a lot. :D
We made the cover of the Philadelphia Inquirer! Can you spot us?
I'm really proud of John for not giving up and not shoving me in the Schulykill river like he wanted to (let's just say I was quite persistent during the race). He's not sure if he'd want to run another one, but if he wants to, I'd happily be there to race with him again. Either way, this day will be a memorable one for me!

Final Times (we tried to cross at the same time, but that clearly didn't work):

John: 4:56:14
Me: 4:56:15

Friday, November 22, 2013

Richmond Marathon - BQ, Baby!

This past weekend, I finally did something that I never thought was possible: I qualified for the Boston Marathon! I always joked that it would never happen until I was 80 and my qualifying time was slower, but through some key changes, I was able to do it! But let's hear about the race, shall we?

Friday afternoon, my friend Annie and I drove down to Richmond. She offered to come down and pace me, which meant I had a co-pilot in the car and a friend during the race. Perfect! We drove down and hit crazy traffic, which got me all nervous. I was worried that sitting in a car and driving for that long was going to tax my legs, but I couldn't change a thing. We stayed at my mom's college roommate, who lives outside Richmond. My mom came down and we all had a lovely dinner before the race, filled with carbs, before heading to bed.

Before I even knew it, it was time to get up, get dressed, eat breakfast, and hit the road to the start. It was pouring when we got ready, but the weather forecast predicted it would stop raining about an hour into the race, which made me happy. I did a 12 hour race in the rain, so I knew I could handle it, but it's just not fun for chafing and blisters to run in wet clothes and shoes.

Suz and me before the start
Annie, my mom, and I got to the start, then met up with a friend from the Runner's World Forums, Suz, before the start. We used the facilities (important before a race!), then quickly got to the start to find the 3:35 pacers. Since the race is small, we crossed the start line exactly 1 minute after the gun went off.

The rain started to pick up the first hour, but Annie and I tried to make the most of it and we chatted through the first few miles. At mile 4, I knew to expect my mom's college roommate and her kids. Boy, what a boost it was to see them! Running with the pacers was great, too, because you instantly had a crew of people to run and talk with.

Around mile 8, Annie and I made some new friends and were chatting along. I told Annie that if she felt good, she should take off and not worry about me. She told me she wouldn't be doing this, but around now is when she took off with one of our new friends. I was happy for her because I really didn't want to hold her back! Is it weird that I felt proud when she took off? She looked so strong, so I was happy for her!

Annie and me before the start
The course ran through some pretty neighborhoods and near the James River, which made for pretty scenery. I got the halfway point knowing that the pace was a wee bit fast (1 minute faster overall than goal pace at that point), but I felt good. I decided to just break down the next half by mile, knowing that 16-18 had some slight hills.

Those miles past and I felt fine, especially since the hills weren't bad at all. It's when I got to the 20 mile mark that I really struggled. I really thought I had lost it and wouldn't be able to hold on. I didn't bring any music device with me due to the rain and I was starting to really hurt once we had 10k left. My legs felt like jelly and keeping pace with the 3:35 pacers was growing tougher and tougher. I kept telling myself that it would be so awful to finish just shy of a BQ (Boston Qualifying time), but negative thoughts kept creeping up on me. I started to prepare mentally for not qualifying, but I had to stop myself from thinking that way and focus all of my energy on sticking with the pacers and BQing.

Annie and me at mile 4
I decided to just break down the last 6.2 miles into mile increments and that helped a bit. The crowds were okay during Richmond, but they were really helpful that last 10k, especially with my costume. Running as Wonder Woman was such a great decision! I loved the costume and everyone around me seemed to as well. I was worried the pace group would get sick of hearing people call me out specifically, but the pacers kept cheering for me and talking about my costume, too. Anytime we'd come up to a runner hurting, the pacers would say, "Alright, we're the 3:35 pacers. You should stick with us; we've got our own Wonder Woman."

6.2 miles became 5.2, which became 4.2, 3.2, 3.2, then 1.2. The crowds were growing and become more exciting. It felt like such a struggle, but I kept pushing. I lost the pacers, but knew that if I kept my pace up, I'd still go sub-3:35. As I turned the last corner, coming to the dreaded downhill finish, I relaxed and let gravity take me to the finish. It hurt like hell, but I saw the time on the clock and knew I'd qualify for Boston, a feat I never imagined I'd achieve this young. I crossed and immediately started tearing up, just in awe of what happened. I got my medal, quickly found my mom and Annie (who ran a 3:30:25...badass!), layered up in compression, and called my best friend, Caitlin. She's always given me crap for not coming to Boston (not realizing at first that one had to qualify) and I finally got to call her and tell her to save room for me in April 2015. :D

It hurt to stand, but I was beyond happy!
Looking back, my training was solid and I did a lot of good miles and speedwork, but the biggest difference this time was mentality. I always thought a BQ wasn't possible and out of reach. Last year, when I PRed by 6+ minutes, it opened my eyes to the possibilities ahead for me. Instead of telling myself it wasn't possible, I let go of those mental constraints and allowed myself to really push myself, without letting limits stop me. I truly think this was the biggest aid for me getting my BQ and I couldn't be happier.

After we showered, ate a bit, and filled up the car with gas, we quickly headed back to Philly. Why so quickly? Well, I had to pace my boyfriend in the Philadelphia Marathon the next day. But that story is for another day. :D

Final time: 3:34:00

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Runner's World Half Marathon Race Report

This is delayed, but it's finally here: my Runner's World Half Marathon race report! In the last post, I left off after our awesome 10k race together! Janna and I then met up with Janna's parents, who were awesome and cheered us on during the race. We didn't want to leave the race area as we had seminars to attend, so her folks took us to the casino right in the race area and had lunch. I didn't think we'd find great food, but oh my word, the buffet there was incredible. We stuffed ourselves on some really awesome food (the mac & cheese being my favorite) and actually missed our "Fueling" seminar. Hey, we were properly fueling ourselves post-race! :P

Janna's parents kindly dropped us back off at the race area and we hung around the expo before we had our seminar on the race course. We saw a line to meet someone and we found out it was for Summer Sanders! I grew up watching her game show on Nickelodeon "Figure It Out" and she's just an awesome female athlete role model. Janna and I waited in line to meet her (and ended up bringing Amy along with us after we bumped into her. So happy to have met her and her husband, Emir, again!). Meeting Summer was incredible. Before we could say anything, she introduced herself and placed one of her Olympic Gold Medals on us. I honestly teared up. I've been obsessed with the Olympics my entire life, so to be meeting an Olympian and to be wearing one of her medals was just so surreal.

She could not have been nicer or cooler. 
We hung around the expo and attended our seminar on the course, which was great because they let us know where to expect hills. This was super helpful race day! We then went back to Janna's mom's house, showered, and then I proceeded to eat like a crazy person. We had awesome chips and dip, Janna's mom made a killer spread of food, and then we went to town on some vegan mini-cakes that Janna picked up for us. I went to bed with such a stomach ache that I worried if I had done something bad for my race day. 

Shortly after making my playlist and falling asleep, it felt like I had to be up again for the race. I had a wonky feeling stomach and was worried how the day would go. Janna and I parked at the race, found the restroom in the casino, and got ready to race. We both were going to run our own races and in the back of my head, I thought a PR might be feasible. The course wasn't nearly as hilly as I thought it would be, so I thought if I ran a smart race, I could maybe PR!
Before the race!
Soon enough, we were off! My game plan was to stick with the 1:45 pace group and if I felt good, I'd ditch them and go ahead. Within 2 miles, the group was far behind me and I felt good. Part of me worried that I was going too fast to start, but I knew the first half would be slower with the bigger hills then, so I just pushed at the pace that felt good. I made sure to run the tangents and race smart.

The two biggest miles were at miles 4 and 5.5 and man, they were big. The course had rolling hills for a lot of it, but those two were hard to get up. When I was finally done with the winding and long hill at mile 5.5, I started to see signs for RunningSkirts. In the course seminar, they warned us that they would be handing out free RunningSkirts around mile 6. You read that right: giving away FREE skirts. You just had to run to them, step into the skirt, then you were off! When I saw them, I thought, "Who am I to pass up a free skirt? This is going to make the rest of the race so fun!" So I ran over, stepped into the cutest skirt that I saw, and boom, I was off! It took all of 10 seconds and was so worth it!

After the finish!
I hit a sort of a mental low at about mile 7. I was more than halfway done, but I was worried that I had pushed too hard. I then heard the one song that I needed to hear, "Go The Distance" from the Disney Hercules movie. It's so empowering and right at that moment, the sun was shining beautiful and I honestly got choked up. I remembered how damn lucky that I am to be a runner, to get to run for fun, and for the amazing people and experiences that I've had because of running. From then on, I had a smile on my face for the rest of the race. 

All three of our races medals plus a sweet shot of my new running skirt!
With just a few miles to go, I looked like I could continue to speed up and push for a PR. I started picking off people in front of me and kept pushing as hard as I could. Soon enough, I was pushing to the finish and was able to secure a PR with a time of 1:41:07, almost a 2.5 minute PR! I honestly didn't think it was possible, but smart racing, beautiful weather, and a great course let it happen! 

I went back to Janna's car to layer back up and get into compression gear and by the time I was back, Janna had finished and had also PRed. We were two happy racing ladies! I had an absolute blast at this race weekend with Janna and I'm already so excited to participate in the races again next year! 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Recap of my Runner's World Half Marathon Festival Weekend: Part 1

Yes, I'm alive and yes, I have been running. Quite a lot, in fact. I've also been busy with this little undertaking that is the Rocky 50k Fat Ass Run. More on that in another post, though. I'm here to write about my amazing weekend in Bethlehem, PA racing a 5k, 10k, and a half marathon with one of my college girlfriends, Janna!

I trained to meet my friend Janna, who grew up not far from the race festivities. Janna had actually told me about the Hat Trick race option, which included racing a 5k and 10k on Saturday, then a half marathon on Sunday. Janna and I met in our honors fraternity in college and back then, she wasn't a runner. Since then, she's started running, obtained a ton of healthy habits, has run lots of races including 2 half marathons, and is now training for her first marathon, the Philadelphia Marathon. It's been so fun to have a friend turn into a runner and she asked if I wanted to join her for this triple race weekend, how could I say no?!
Janna and me before our 5k race
Friday night, we quickly grabbed dinner at Janna's dad's house, then rushed to make it to the screening of "Spirit of the Marathon 2." I saw the first documentary shortly after running my first marathon and I found it to be insanely inspirational. I didn't get to see the second movie when it came out earlier this year, so when we had the chance to, I told Janna that we had to. I really enjoyed the movie and even choked up a few times watching it. We then went to Janna's mom's house, gabbed for a bit, then went to bed before our 2-race day.

Saturday, we got up and layered up for our chilly races. My plan was to race the 5k, use the 10k as a cool down race, and try to race the half marathon if my legs could hold up. Janna and I were running different paces, so we didn't run the 5k together. I was worried about the hills as I tend to run on flat paths in Philly, but I was surprised how the hills felt fairly manageable during the 5k. I pushed the pace and was able to run a 5k in 22 minutes flat.

Post-5k with our medals.
Janna and I hung out after our 5ks and stayed inside to keep warm before the 10k. I wasn't hoping to race the 10k in order save my legs for my half marathon the next day, so I ended up running the 10k with Janna and man, we had a blast. Janna was hoping to go sub-1 hour for the 10k and we spent the entire race gabbing, laughing, and having fun. We finished in 58:32 and it was one of the most fun races I've run ever!
Janna and me after our 10k together.
In my next post, I'll recap the awesome fun we had in the seminars, meeting an Olympian, and a recap of my half marathon!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Dreaming of Waikiki

A little over 2.5 years ago, my dad decided to move to Hawaii. It was sad to hear that he wouldn't be so close, but being able to visit him in Hawaii is pretty awesome. I only had one chance to visit him when he lived on the North Shore, but at the end of August, the BF, my brother, and I had the chance to visit him in his newer digs in Waikiki.

We spent a full week there and we did lots of stuff. We ran a few times (including a 4 mile run that ended with a jump in the Pacific Ocean, a 12 mile run with a hike of Diamond Head mountain in the middle, and a really sluggish 18 miler for me), stand up paddleboarded a bunch (the BF's new favorite thing), ate loads of yummy food, saw a reggae festival, snorkeled, saw a ton of giant turtles, and even had a few lazy days on the beach. And yes, I finally tried Spam and I hate to admit how delicious it is. Overall, we had a ton of fun and I'll let my photos walk you through our fun.

Dad and brother at the reggae festival
Boyfriend and I enjoying some reggae tunes
I saw a double rainbow. I may have freaked out.
BF and me at the top of Diamond Head mountain.
I call him my baby brother, but he's 6'0'' and not actually a baby. 
Views of the beaches a block from my dad's apartment. 
Acai berry bowl with fruit and macadamia nut granola. To. Die. For. 
Amazing views from our trip up the coast to visit the North Shore. 
We indulged in some fruity beverages. Nom. 
Unflattering photo of me post-18 miler. It was not a great run. 
On our second to last night, we watched the sunset on some rocks in the ocean 
We ate some cream-filled malasadas aka amazing Portuguese donuts, drenched in sugar. 
I was happy to be back to Philly to get back to my normal routine, but I'll miss our awesome times in Waikiki and seeing my dad. Until next time, I'll just dream of Waikiki.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Birthday Celebrations and Trying New Things

Whew, I feel like I actually had a relaxing week and weekend, but when I look back, it was actually really busy.

Las week, I participated in a yoga benefit for Back on My Feet at Dhayana Yoga in Fairmount. I haven't been to yoga in a few weeks, so it was really fun, especially since the money raised went to an organization I loved and a bunch of friends were there.

Not the highest-quality photo, but I'm all the way on the left
in the blue. I felt way lower than I clearly was! 
I also got in my long run this weekend, which was 16 miles with 10 at goal marathon pace. When I did a long run with miles at goal marathon pace a month ago, I struggled. I hit all of my paces, but it wasn't easy whatsoever. I was shocked that this time, my paces felt good and I felt strong. Was I happy to do my last 3 miles at a slower pace? You bet your bum I was! Did I feel like maybe this BQ idea isn't completely ludicrous? Maybe it isn't! Am I knocking on wood right now so that I don't jinx myself? 100%.
My teammate, Meaghan, and I dominated (well, we had loads of fun).

We also celebrated John's birthday this weekend! He wanted to do a pub golf, which is essentially a pub crawl with a golf theme with teams. We didn't follow the normal rules, so it really was just a pub crawl, but I had braided pigtails and my argyle compression socks on, ready to golf/drink the day away. We had lots of drinks and some food late at night (the veggie burger at Good Dog hit the spot like whoah). All in all, it was a fun celebration!

I promise you the birthday boy was happy, even if he doesn't look it here. 

Last week, I also learned that I can enjoy salmon cooked. Growing up, my mom would cook us fish frequently and I ate it, but one day, I realized I didn't like it. Since then, I had nevered cook fish for John and me. I adore sushi and raw fish, but don't like the texture of it cooked. I ordered a food delivery box and one of the meals was salmon. I decided to keep an open mind (and undercook it a bit) and lo and behold, I really enjoyed it. It feels like my dinner options are so much wider now that I won't be choosing from our normal protein options. Yay for keeping an open mind!

Anything that you've learned to love as you got older? 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Northern Girl in the South

Okay, so I may technically have grown up in the south (Maryland is south of the Mason-Dixon line), but I've always felt like a Northerner and completely out of place in the south. Spending the past 7 years in Philadelphia (next month is 7 years here, which I cannot believe!) hasn't helped either. This past weekend, though, I got to experience some more of the south by visiting one of my college girlfriends for her bachelorette party in Atlanta.

Friday night, I trained down with two of the other ladies to Baltimore for a cheaper flight down to Atlanta. On the way there, I realized that I had made a mistake and booked a different flight than them. Me = idiot. This is something my mother would do and I am 100% turning more and more into her! After my flight, I ended up taking the Atlanta subway, MARTA, and a cab to my friend's house as the other girls' flight was really delayed. By midnight, we all were finally together at our friend's apartment.

College girlfriends with the bride-to-be
Friday night included a weeeee bit of alcohol, learning about country line dancing, appreciating that some bars in the Atlanta area have last call at 3 am, and far too much late-night snack eating.

Saturday, we surprised the bride-to-be with a private Zumba class and a bit of snacking/drinking champagne after at the dance studio. I've never taken a Zumba class and even after this one, I know we sadly did not have a great teacher. He expected us to just follow the leader, but didn't explain moves, his planned counts for the moves, etc. He ended up quitting the songs halfway through because we couldn't keep up. Bummer, but we still had fun.
Gals having fun at the pool
The rest of the weekend included time by/in the pool, a really tasty farm-to-table meal, dancing in a club (I am much more of a dive bar kind of gal, but I ended up having a lot of fun), hilarious taxi rides, "Say Yes to The Dress" marathon watching, and far too much SmartFood popcorn as my primary food source. We got in super late (ended up getting home on Monday at 12:15 AM), but I had a blast and the bride-to-be enjoyed her special weekend.

I didn't run at all as I specifically got in my miles before I headed down. It felt nice to have a weekend free of running, but I'm eager to lace up my running shoes.

Anyone have fun plans this past weekend? I'd love to hear about it! 

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

I'm alive!

Yeah, I haven't written a blog post in a long time. I've honestly haven't wanted to write after my DNF, but I am in a better place mentally and have been doing some fun things:

  • I was scheduled to do an ultra relay at 20in24, but the city of Philadelphia decided to cancel it due to crazy heat and storming. I was bummed at first, but I ended up being able to spend a lot of time with some running friends from NYC who were down for the race. Had we raced, none of us would have hung out like we did that Saturday and it was a really fun time!
    The group of us hanging out since we couldn't race. Had a blast!
  • Marathon training is officially begun! In less than 16 weeks, I'll be toeing the line of Richmond and Philly. Yes, two marathons in one weekend. It's not my fault that they are planned on the same weekend, but they are, so I'm doing both. I am 7.5 minutes away from a Boston Qualifying time. I think if I train hard enough and race smart enough, I can hit my goal time in Richmond, using Philly as a victory lap. If I don't BQ at Richmond, I doubt I can do it the next day at Philly, so again, I'll just take Philly as a victory lap. My boyfriend, John, signed up for the race, so the plan is to run Philly with him. Yes, I am STUPID excited to run a marathon with my boyfriend. 
  • I'm all signed up for the Runner's World Half Marathon Hat Trick races. This means I'll be racing a 5k and a 10k on Saturday, then a 1/2 marathon the next day. It wasn't even my idea, but one of my girlfriends from college, who has recently become super into running (love!), told me about it and I couldn't say no. I am really excited for the two of us to have a fun race weekend!
  • I'm almost done with the Best Body Bootcamp and it's been a fun challenge. I can't say that I've loved every workout, but I've done two strength training workouts each week for the last 6.5 weeks, which is longer than I've ever done that. I can do more push-ups, hold a plank for longer, and I am starting to get a weeeee bit of a bicep. Am I magically 3 sizes smaller? Sadly, not. Will this be a great base to keep my running form in line for my 2 marathons? Yes!
  • I am realizing that I need to make food (and my love of preparing it) more prominent in my life. Ha, that sounds like I'm not eating, but I mean that I think working in food is my future somehow, but I don't know how yet. I bake a lot and bring it into my office, but I am finding myself needing a bigger outlet for my desire to be in the kitchen. I haven't figure out what will fulfill this need, but baking and attending the quarterly Philly Food Swaps has helped a bit, at least. 
  • I wrote an article for Trail and Ultrarunning about getting over a DNF. It was really great to write it and I hope it helps anyone who has sadly gone through that experience. You can find it here.
That's it! How has everyone been? I hope the last day of July is good for everyone (July is almost over? Wasn't I just watching fireworks for July 4th? Goodness...)! I'll leave you with this awesome photo my mom uncovered, which shows that I always have been a carb-loving fool, even as a baby:

Yes, that's a spaghetti sandwich. Deal with it. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

C&O Canal 100 Miler - First DNF

Well, this obviously isn't the race report that I was hoping to write, but alas, things happen. On April 28th, I quit my first race. Ever. In (off and on) 15 years of running, I've never quit a race. Mind you, for most of my time running, I've run 5ks, only getting into major distances in the last 6 years. Still, it really broke my heart to join the DNF club, but I'm not the first, last, or most awesome one to join that club.

My training for this race felt good, but the more I look back, of course, I question it. I was running more miles per week than my last training cycle, but I never ran more than 31 miles at one time. In my last training, I did a 12 hour race, running 60 miles in that time. That's incredible endurance training for a 100 miler. This year, I focused on more weekly miles, but never ran more than 7 hours at a time before this 100. I think this was a detriment to my training, but sometimes it's hard to run more when you feel like you are running during all of your free time.

I also don't think I mentally prepared for this race as I should have. In my last 100 attempt, I mentally prepared for the pain & the exhaustion and told myself that no matter what, even if I had to crawl, I would cross the finish line. This time around, I felt almost too relaxed. While I was nervous the weeks leading up to it, I kept trying to relax and brush it off, so I didn't end up mentally preparing. I was too nonchalant and it really bit me in the rear.
My mom and me right before the start
On April 27th, my mom drove me to Knoxville, MD, the start location of the race. The course was (supposed to be) a 50.4 mile loop along the C&O Canal that, minus the beginning and end of the loop, was pancake flat with nearly no turns. Living in Philly, I felt I was well-suited for a flat course and it would allow for a (hopefully) faster 100 than my last. I knew flatness is deceivingly hard as you use the same muscles over and over in the same fashion, but I hoped I could handle it.

At 7 am, after words and a short prayer from the race director, we started the race. We went down the only hill of the course, which was actually quite steep and slippery. My friend, Jon, was racing this course with his running friend, Justus, so the three of us stuck together. Jon, sadly, was sick, so his breathing was really off from the beginning. Justus had a 10/2 run/walk system and I enjoyed being with them for the company and the reminder to walk. I did notice that they were running a bit faster than I planned, but the idea of running alone wasn't fun sounding, so I stuck with them.
My mom and me at the ~20 mile mark (Photo by Jim Roche)
The course was really pretty, but I could tell I was going to be bored pretty easily. Also, by the time we got to the first aid station, we knew the course would be long. In the end, the race was 105 miles instead of 101.4, which was really frustrating later on in the race.

I saw my mom at the ~20 mile aid station, which was so great. I ate some food, applied sunscreen and bug spray (so many gnats!), and headed out to the (what actually was) 31 mile mark, which was a turnaround. I almost ran out of water before I got there and the aid station between 20 and 31 wasn't set up by the time we passed it. It was getting warm and I just wasn't in happy place.

After finally hitting mile ~31, refueling and getting some water in my hydration pack, we turned around and headed back from the ~40 mile aid station (same as 20). After what felt like forever, I got there to find my mom, boyfriend, and cousin there. My feet were getting too swollen for the shoes I was wearing, so I switched into my compression socks, trail shoes, got some more food in me, then hit the trail.
At ~20 mile mark (Photo by Jim Roche)

Jon was really feeling tired and rough, but I felt a surge of energy after seeing my family and BF. I kept pushing while Justus and Jon took a walk break at one point and I ended up doing the last 11 or so miles of the loop alone. My awesome feelings wore off quite quickly, especially when I realized at about mile 45 that I was out of water with 5-6 miles to go to the next aid station. Yikes. Rookie mistake.

I finally climbed up the insane hill to the start/finish area (it had a rope at one point to help runners climb up) to complete my first loop. I was dejected, exhausted, and cranky. I met up with my mom, boyfriend, and two friends who were my planned pacers, Brian and Annie. Brian was to take take me from miles ~51-73 and Annie was to take me 73-93ish. After changing my shirt, getting in some more food, and refilling my hydration pack, Brian and I headed back for loop #2.
At ~41.5 (Photo by Jim Roche)

The miles I spent with Brian were so odd. I love him to bits and it was so great to spend time with him, catching up, laughing, and running. The first half of our ~20 mile run together, I was in a cheery mood, boosted up by the fact that we were running together, but I was taking a lot of walk breaks and running slower. The second half, I was in the worst mood ever and was running faster. How that happened, I still don't know.

Those last 10 miles were really tough. Once the sun set, it got really dark. There was a full moon, but fog prevented any moonshine from hitting the course. Along the flat, straight course, with Brian's headlamp on, it felt like we were just running through a tunnel that never ended. We could only see about 5 feet ahead of us, with everything else around us being pitch black. I was so rotten to be around, I don't know how Brian stuck with me. My feet were in agony, so I was left to just shuffle. When I'd try to do the math of how many miles I had left until the next aid station, I couldn't because the course was off in distance. I was beyond angry about it, but I was so happy to finally get to the aid stations.
I was quite clearly HATING going up the hill at the halfway point (photo by Hai Nguyen)

When we got to the ~73 mile mark, I saw my mom and burst into tears. I knew in my head I was done, but was so overwhelmed with anger, sadness, frustration, and agony. I sat down in a chair, shivering from the chillier than predicted temperature, tried to get some food down, and just sat crying knowing I was done. Some volunteers tried to help cheer me up, but my mother quickly told them I wouldn't be guilted into finishing an optional race if I wasn't wanting to. One amazing Marathon Maniac, Jim, came to help us other Maniacs, and he kept running to get me more food and got me to eat sugary things. The BF kept rubbing my shoulder in support and my mom kept telling me that whatever I wanted to do was fine, that running 73 miles was something to be so proud of.
About to start the second lap. I fake being happy quite well.
After about 10 minutes, I slowly got up, told the head volunteer at the aid station that I was DNFing, sat in my mom's car as the BF, my mom, and Annie put all of my gear in the car, and just bawled. I couldn't believe that I was quitting a race. It felt so surreal, but I knew I had literally nothing left of me to give. I couldn't fathom the idea of continuing 10 more miles down the dark tunnel of the course, just to turn around and run another 20 to the finish.

Looking back, I made a lot of mistakes including starting off too fast, not mentally preparing, and not training long enough for my long runs. I had no clue that's how the night time would be as my last 100 miler occurred in NYC, where even the darkest places were bright and I constantly had distractions. Would I run this course again? Nope. The volunteers were amazing and while I appreciated the course for the first 20 or so miles, the straight, flat course wasn't enjoyable.
The BF, Brian, myself, and Annie. I have awesome friends. 
One thing stuck out to me when I was quitting: this is supposed to be fun. No, not every single moment of a race is great, but overall, I should be getting something positive from the experience. I wasn't, so I quit. I felt bad that my friend, Annie, came down from Philly to pace me and I quit before she could. I feel bad that my mom and boyfriend came out to see me not finish, but in the end, I think I did the right thing.

Sorry this is such a bummer of a race report, but alas, this was a bummer of a race. I'm excited for the rest of my races this year (20in24, Richmond Marathon, Philly Marathon, to name a few) to redeem myself and remind myself that even with this DNF, I've still got some good races in me.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Life Recently

I have a handful of half-written blog posts, but just haven't finished them up. I'll get to that, but right now, I figured I'd update with what I've been up to.

C&O Canal, where I will be running 100 miles this weekend
  • The awful stuff in Boston obviously shook me to my core. I had a ton of friends up there racing and it was so frightening trying to track them all down. I feel more fired up to continue running, but it just shows you how fragile life can be. I can tell you that they messed with the wrong group because runners, especially marathoners, are not people to be trifled with. 
  • I'm officially in taper mode for 100 miler. I was hoping to go finish my hard training with a bang, but a chest cold/nasal infection decided that wasn't the real plan. I took a handful of days off and missed my last long run. Can't say it has been easy getting into tapering after missing a major long run, but I think I'll be okay. A girl can hope, at least. With just a few days until the race, I'm pretty much sick to my stomach with nervers constantly. I am getting so pumped to run with my pacers and tackle the 100 mile distance for a second time, but jeeze, 100 miles is long and painful!
  • I'm now writing for! I love writing (I know, shocking to hear since this blog hardly is updated) and I am really excited to join the team to write about ultrarunning. My first article recently went live, for those interested (I interviewed the RD of my upcoming 100 miler): Read me!
  • I attended the latest Philly Food Swap a few weeks ago. I brought sriracha caramel corn and chocolate macarons with bourbon filling. I always get so nervous that my food won't be what people enjoy, but people really responded positively to my food. The swaps always end up being so awesome and inspiring. 
  • John and I ran with the Shake Shack Track & Field club on a few weeks ago and it ruled. We showed up, got free t-shirts, ran with some cool people, then drank beer and ate custard, fries, and burgers. Maybe not the healthiest of events, but we ran, so it's almost even. 
My next update should my my 100 mile race report. Fingers crossed (hell, I'm crossing anything I can!) that I have the fun, inspiring, tough, and enjoyable race that I hope for!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Being a Female Runner

When I am running for hours upon end during my long runs on the weekend, sometimes the oddest things will pop into my brain. Usually things like food, running, friends, family, and/or plans coming up tend to hold most of my brain space, but on my run this past weekend, I had something else come up: being a female runner. Sounds a bit weird, right? It's pretty obvious that I'm a female who runs, so what did I think about for a long time? I thought about my attitude being a female runner and how that's changed.

I will preface this by saying I'm not a super active feminist. Do I hope that women have equal rights to men, have ownership of their bodies, and more? Of course! I just don't happen to make it my #1 cause. I care a lot about other social issues that I feel need more attention and/or I am more passionate about. I know some women will think I'm the worst for that, but that's okay. This is how I feel, hence me writing this on my blog. I promise for less controversial talk in the future.
Me, freshman year of college after a 5k
When I was in high school and early on in college, I cared more about looking like a real runner and didn't particularly dress in a feminine matter. I feared dressing in a feminine way would make me look weaker or less like a tried and true tough runner. I do understand how sexist it is for me to think looking like a girl could make me look weak, but that's how I felt I would be looked upon by people around me. Screwed up? Yes. The truth? Yes.

This didn't necessarily manifest in dressing like a boy, per se, but not choosing the most feminine clothes to run in. I'd avoid pink tank tops and choose to wear a t-shirt instead. When running skirts first became popular, I scoffed at the idea of running in a skirt. Who is that high maintenance that they must wear a skirt and be super girly at all times? I hated the shirts I saw girls wear that said, "I don't sweat, I glisten." No, you sweat. Everyone does.

Things have changed, though. I don't know if it was me being insecure before and gaining confidence or what, but I actually have started to really enjoy dressing feminine while running. I look for cute clothes to run in that make me feel feminine and show off that I'm a lady (I couldn't deal putting down woman. I feel far too immature to be one!). Hell, I've run a marathon in a tutu and one in a dress.

Me before the 2011 Philadelphia Marathon
I started realizing that if I continue to play into what I think other people will think, I will perpetuate that thought myself. I also realized that if being considered weaker or the underdog was going to occur, why not take that as a chance to show people up? I've shown up to races, hair in pigtail braids (less knotting this way, but it also makes me feel more girly), and been underestimated for what I can do. When it's over and I've beaten a lot of people, I smile all the way home.

I still have some of those old thoughts (I will never glisten! I'm a girl and I sweat, proudly), but I've learned to 1) care less what other think, and 2) learn that I can help shape how others think. I can be strong AND feminine any day of the week.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Febapple Frozen 50k Race Report

Been a while, eh? I haven't felt like writing, so I haven't forced myself. I had a great experience at my first 50k race yesterday, so I wanted write up a race report!

I was looking for a race to do as a bit of a test of my training before my 100 miler in April. I looked around for local races and when I found the NJ Trail Series was putting on the Febapple Frozen 50k, I found my race. I was able to persuade a running buddy, Jose, to attempt his first ultra by doing the race as well.

Up far too early, Jose and I drove the 2 hours to the race, picked up our bibs, and tried to relax before the race started. The course was a 10 mile loop, broken up into a 4 mile loop and a 6 mile loop, both with ended at the aid station/start line/finish line area. The area was covered in a thick layer of ice and I worried what this would mean for the race. We were here and I wasn't going home without finishing, so I just told myself to relax and have fun.
Jose and I right before the start
At 8 am, we were off! The first loop flew by, with a lot of the racers still close together. The 4 mile loop had a lot of technical sections with a smaller running path. The 6 mile loop had some wider sections, but also had the steepest downhill, which was essentially one giant icy death trap. I was ahead of Jose for a bit, but we caught up during the first 6 mile section on the first loop. He had already taken a bit of a tumble, but looked good.

The first lap flew and although I had to walk a lot of the sections and had a few near falls, I felt good! Going out for my second lap, I started to see more of the 50 milers, who had started an hour before us 50k runners. Not being a trail runner, I was a bit timid on the steeper and more technical downhills, especially when they were rocky, rooty, icy, and/or muddy. I was in awe seeing other runners glide down the hills with ease, looking like gazelles prancing down.

The second lap was a bit slower than my first (not shocking), but I felt pretty good. I was curious as to how Jose was doing and found him at the finish all bundled up. After taking a few tumbles (he was in the majority of the group who had some falls), he decided he was done for the day. I was bummed for him that he wasn't having a great day, but proud that he was honest with himself and knew that calling it early was smart. I felt eager to finish the third lap so we could head home!
Incredible half-frozen waterfall along the course. Glad Jose got a picture of it!
The third lap was my toughest, physically and mentally. I was alone nearly the entire first mini-lap and couldn't get into a good rhythm due to walking frequently due to hills or technical sections that slowed me down. Close to the end of this loop, I saw Phil, the RD to my 100 last summer. He was running the 50 miler and looked great! I was able to push myself to keep up with him until the lap ended and a bit of the last 6 mile section. I couldn't keep up, so we said bye, but it was nice to not be alone and catch up a bit.

The last 6 miles felt like they would never end and I knew I was cutting it close to my sub-7 hour goal. I pushed as much as I could and finished the course (which was 1.75 miles short) in 6 hours, 42 minutes, and 19 seconds. I knew I had to add on some more to make it an even 31 miles, so I took off on the first section of the 4 mile loop, which was mostly on roads. I was able to finish with a time of 6 hours, 59 minutes, and 34 seconds.
Me finishing on the icy finish! 
The race was really hard as it was muddy, slippery, icy, cold, and it was lightly raining the whole time. I'm really happy that I was able to finish and that today, my legs feel pretty good. I hope this bodes well for my 100 miler in just 9 short weeks!