Sunday, June 15, 2014

ODDyssey Half Marathon 2014 Recap

I completed my fourth half marathon last Sunday. <--- Still can't believe I can say that. Joe and I ran the ODDyssey Half in Philadelphia over the weekend, partly because it looked like fun and partly because we were able to register for $55 and I thought that was a pretty good deal.

Since the race was in Philadelphia, we drove down the night before and stayed with our friends who live there. Megabus was a sponsor of the ODDyssey, so they were offering "free" bus services from the Sonesta Hotel to the start line and back after the race (you had to pay a $1.50 reservation fee, so I don't know why they said it was free). The buses were supposed to pick up from the hotel every 15 minutes, ending at 6:30. We reserved spots for the 6:15 bus so we would have a cushion of time in case something went wrong and it's a good thing we did.

We walked from the apartment to the hotel in the morning and when we got there, the line for the bus was wrapped all the way around the block. We waited and waited and didn't end up getting on a bus until 6:45. As you can probably imagine, I was really annoyed and anxious that we were going to miss the start of the race. By the time the bus arrived at the start line, the national anthem was already being sung, so we ran across the field and got in line quickly with the other runners. The one positive thing about waiting so long for the bus was that we got to use the nice hotel bathrooms instead of the porta potties at the start. ;)

The start of the race seemed to go smoothly and there was enough room that everyone seemed able to run at their own pace. There was slight congestion at one or two points, but nothing bad enough that I had to slow significantly or walk. The course itself through Fairmount Park was beautiful and it made me wish that I lived closer and could run there more often.

It wound up being a humid and sunny 73 degrees and by the time I hit half a mile, I was already damp with sweat. That had me worried because I've never run a half marathon in such warm weather, but the organizers had a lot of water stops (although not enough stops had Gatorade too, but I brought my own bottle with Nuun so at least I had something other than straight water).

I've been having soreness in my hip flexors for the past two weeks and it probably wasn't wise of me to run this race, but c'est la vie. They bothered me throughout, but it was never excrutiating and I was able to maintain a pretty fast pace (for me). Unfortunately, they feel pretty awful now and I'm thinking I should probably take a week or two off to rest them up and get them feeling good again.

The last half mile of the race was a ridiculous uphill section. I'm all for a challenge, but this was just cruel. I knew before we signed up that the hill was there, but I thought, "oh people are just babies, I run hills all the time, no big deal." This hill is a big deal. I did manage to muster up enough energy to keep up my run (barely), but the majority of people near me had started walking at this point.

I ended up finishing in 2:09:30 officially, and 2:05:47 according to my watch. I stopped once to stretch out my hips and once to use the restroom, so I definitely would have PRed if it weren't for that. I'm annoyed with myself that I wasted so much time, but I honestly didn't think I'd have any chance of running anywhere near my PR with it being so warm and humid. 

I did learn some important lessons this weekend, though:
  1. Don't eat a slice of pizza the size of your head the night before your race. Half a slice would do.
  2. Don't wash that gigantic slice of pizza down with an equally huge strawberry Nutella crepe.
  3. Don't get 4 hours of sleep the night before your race.
  4. Don't wear flip flops to walk around the city the night before.
  5. Actually, just don't walk around the city the night before. 

A medal that doubles as a bottle opener... perfection.
All in all, it didn't end up being too bad of a race for me, but I know that if I had disciplined myself and behaved in the days leading up to the race, I may have had a shiny new PR right now. That's a little sad to think about, but I had a great day with beautiful weather and two (mostly) functional legs to run with, so what's there to be sad about?

Monday, April 21, 2014

Yuengling Light Lager Jogger 5k Recap

Oh, this race. I was so excited for this race. The race was held in Pottsville, which is about an hour and forty five minutes from my house so we had a really early morning. The race started at 9am, but we need to be there between 7 and 8:30 to pick up our packets.

We got there at the perfect time and walked right up to get our packets and our beer bracelets for after the race.  We found a sunny spot to wait until just before the start. They released about 500 runners every two minutes starting promptly at 9am.

The race, simply put, was awful. I started getting a stomach ache before the start and foolishly hoped that it would go away once I started running. It didn't. I spent 3.1 long, hilly miles fighting with myself to just keep moving. For the first time since I started running, I had to walk during a 5k. I wasn't happy. This was probably the most hilly course I've ever run, which would have been fine if I was feeling up to it, but I wasn't so nuts about it that morning.

I ended up with a chip time of 34:46, which I'm pretty sure is my worst 5k time ever. In the scheme of things, I am glad that this happened to me for this race instead of the Scranton Half the weekend before though. Besides, we signed up for the Yuengling Oktoberfest 5k in October, so I'll get my re-do then!

My very favorite food truck, What the Fork, made the trek down to Pottsville for the race, which meant I got to chow down on some pork tacos to make me feel better. When I got home, I also enjoyed some lemon lime Nuun in my cool new Lager Jogger pint glass!

A couple thoughts... The swag was awesome. The shirts are comfy and I like the design, but women's cut would be awesome since I swim in the unisex size small. Also, MORE PORTAPOTTIES PLEASE. There's not much I hate more than waiting twenty minutes in line to use the bathroom. There were definitely not enough bathrooms for the 2,000 runners plus however many spectators were there. The after-race block party was pretty awesome and I wish that I had been feeling better so I could have enjoyed it more. Oh well, maybe I'll be back next year to give it another shot!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

10 Things I Learned in My First Year of Running

I can't believe it's been over a year since I started running. For some reason last March, I decided that I really wanted to become a runner. I signed up for a 5k and trained with the Couch to 5k program and eventually wound up training for and running my first half marathon in September. My journey to becoming a runner has been full of ups and downs, as any other worthwhile journey is and I've learned some important things along the way that I thought would be worth sharing.

1. Getting fitted for proper shoes is so important! This is one of the first things you should do when you get serious about running. Joe made a deal with me that if I stuck with running for a full month, we could go get fitted at our local running store. I ended up getting a pair of Brooks PureCadence 2s and they are fantastic. I even bought backups once they released the PureCadence 3s and the 2s went on clearance.

2. Not all of my runs are going to be awesome. In fact, some of them are really going to suck and make me wonder why I do this in the first place. Some of those sucky runs will end up being races that I paid good money for, like the Yuengling 5k last week (sad, short recap coming soon). All I can do is learn from it if I can and move on.

3. Signing up for a big race is scary. When I signed up for my first half marathon last year, I was terrified. What if I couldn't finish? What if my family is there watching me and sees me fail? I learned that the saying is true though, if your goals don't scare you, they aren't big enough.

4. Do the training. Seriously... Do. The. Training. Find a plan that sounds good to you and stick to it as closely as you possibly can. I used Hal Higdon's half marathon plan and loved it. It was simple and completely manageable. I skipped maybe two or three of my runs during training for the Pocono Lake Region 13.1 and I had a fantastic experience there. I hardly ran in the three weeks between that race and the Hershey Half and I had an awful time. Put in the time and it will make a world of difference.

5. Runners are the most amazing group of people. I was only about a month into running last year when the Boston Marathon bombing occured. I barely even considered myself a runner at that point, but I found myself glued to the television watching for updates and as the stories poured in day after day, I was amazed and proud of the support that the running communities around the country gave to the people affected by the bombings. It solidified my desire to be a part of it, a part of something so strong and united.

6. People are going to think you are weird. Unless you are really lucky and have a big group of runner friends, which I don't. And you know what? They are right. Running for two hours straight is a weird thing to do. But it's also challenging, invigorating, satisfying, and strengthening.

7. I want to run a marathon. Desperately. I almost signed up for one yesterday. The thought of it scares the absolute crap out of me, but I want to be a marathoner at least once.

8. I can run faster than I think. I almost dropped dead in shock when I ran a 5k with an 8:40 average pace a few weeks ago. But guess what? When you push yourself, awesome things happen! I spent so long thinking that I couldn't run faster than a 10:30/mile pace, but when I actually started pushing myself, I found out I was capable of much more.

9. Hills are my friend. There are literally no flat places to run anywhere near my house, so either way I go, I'm running hills. Guess who isn't afraid of a course with some hills? This girl.

10. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, that can compare to the feeling of accomplishing your goals. I ran the Scranton Half Marathon at the beginning of April with the goal of running under 2:10:00 and honestly, I didn't really think I could do it that morning. I ran a 2:07:41 that day and I've been on cloud nine ever since. I break into a huge smile whenever I see my medal hanging in my bedroom and the thought of that run gets me out the door on days when I really don't want to.

I've played sports, but I've never taken them seriously or considered myself an athlete until I took up running. I've made huge progress in this past year not only as an athlete, but as a healthy person as well and I can thank running for that. I can't wait to see what I can do in this next year!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Inaugural Scranton Half Marathon 2014 Recap

When I found out back in September that Scranton was hosting a half marathon in the spring, I knew I didn't have a choice but to sign up. We don't have an abundance of local races (other than 5ks) and this one looked like it was going to be especially awesome. I got plenty of emails to keep me updated leading up to the race and Joe said packet pickup on Friday night was a breeze.

The morning of the race, we got up at 6am, got ready and out of the house shortly after 7am, and arrived around 7:30. The race was scheduled to start at 9am, so we hung out in the car for a while to relax and stay warm.

At 8:30, we got in line for the bathrooms and then made our way to the start line. The "corral" area was crowded and cramped and it took us a minute or so to get past the start line and into a light jog once the gun sounded promptly at 9am.

Miles 1-5 brought us through a few different communities, including a row of gorgeous houses (and some hills) in Greenridge. The main hills for this course were here, although they weren't too bad. I had a hard time getting into a good pace because of the congestion so my first mile was close to 11 minutes but I picked it up into the 9:40/mile range for the next few. My goal for this race was to run under a 10:00/mile average pace and at first, I didn't think I could pull it off, but as I kept running I realized it just might be possible.

I also realized at this point that I could've done without my jacket. Even though it was only 35º, the sun was out so I warmed up really fast. It was annoying to run with the jacket tied around my waist for most of the race, but we live and we learn and there was no way I was tossing it.

It was so cool seeing the huge hoard of people running up the hills in front of me. Normally, I'm driving down these roads and I'm grouchy from the other drivers and the pot holes, so it was a nice change of pace to run through town with so many other people who were clearly enjoying themselves as much as I was. 

Miles 5-7.5 brought us into the downtown area down North Washington Ave and past my very favorite local restaurant, Cooper's Seafood House. Seriously, best crab bisque ever. I kept logging miles around a 9:30 pace and was excited to have a small bank of time for the second half in case I really started to lose it.

The part of the course I was most excited about was running on the Lackawanna Heritage Trail, which I've never done before. It was beautiful even though nothing was blooming yet and I'm really looking forward to getting some runs in here over the coming months.

However, this is the part where I started to struggle. We logged miles 8, 9, and 10 here and I started to have pains in my knee and hips. I took a gel at mile 8 (Salted Caramel Gu is amazing, FYI) and once I hit mile 9, I knew it would be rough but I could tough it out until the end. I switched my watch to show me my current pace and fought hard to keep it under 10:00/mile.

It wouldn't be Scranton if there wasn't at least one train sighting! Well, train car anyway. This was during mile 12, I think. The last mile or so was pretty much downhill, so it was a great chance to make a good push to the finish. I pushed myself really hard in the last two miles and I'm really proud of that. In fact, the last mile was my fastest of the day at 8:45!

The half ended on the track of the Scranton High School with TONS of crowd support and cheering. As I came around the corner, I saw 2:08:something on the clock and knew I had surpassed my expectations for myself. Once I passed the finish line, there were volunteers handing out Scranton Half fleece blankets (I didn't know about this beforehand and was so excited to get one!) and finisher's medals. One of the volunteers put a water bottle in my hand and I hobbled around the food tent to grab a banana. I wish I would have thought to grab a photo of the finish line area, but I was so thrilled by my finish time and exhausted that all I could think about was my water and banana and finding my parents and Joe.

I ended up with an official chip time of 2:07:41, which works out to be a 9:45 average pace. I'm still so thrilled about this and I'm not sure I've even fully processed it yet, but I feel so accomplished. I've never considered myself an athlete, but running has changed that for me. And besides that, look at that medal! It's soooo heavy and absolutely gorgeous! Scranton doesn't mess around; this was the inaugural year and they threw one hell of a race.

And what's better after an awesome run than a burger and sweet potato fries? Not much, I think. My parents joined us for Red Robin after the race and it really hit the spot! Apparently other runners thought so too since we saw quite a few medals around the restaurant! :)

All in all, the one and only complaint I have is that the start was a little congested and it took a while for there to be enough breathing room to run comfortably in the beginning. There were nearly 2400 runners who finished though, so I guess a little congestion is to be expected! But I will DEFINITELY be back next year and I'm already looking forward to it. This was one kick ass race and I'm proud to have been part of something so awesome in the area!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Where did that come from??

My plan for my long run last weekend was 11 miles. Imagine my surprise when I pulled out an unexpected half marathon PR... by 7 minutes! Every mile I hit starting with mile 9 was under a 9:40 average. I just got into a groove and decided to ride it as far as I could; my watch kept beeping every mile and I'd just look at it and laugh because I couldn't believe how fast I was running and how awesome I felt!

I have two possible explanations for this. The first is that eating half a pizza the night before a long run is the perfect carb-loading (this is kind of a joke, but I think also kind of true). The second, and more probable, explanation is that my cross training must actually be paying off and helping me run faster. I've started noticing changes in my body since I started taking cross training seriously about a month ago, so this is great stuff.

I am so freaking sick of winter, but I thought this photo was so beautiful with the snow and the reflection in the water. We'll be kayaking here in four weeks and I'm seriously hoping that it will be a lot warmer by then!

Along with cross training, I've also been really serious about eating better the past few months and I think it's making a huge difference in how I feel. I almost always feel full and satisfied without feeling bloated and stuffed. Five small meals a day seem to work out perfectly for me, which wasn't possible this past three weeks while I was doing work training at a different branch, so I'm really excited to be back to my normal routine/schedule this week. This mix of roasted green beans, sweet potatoes, and quinoa and a salad have been my lunch staples lately and I'm still not sick of it. So good!

My sister joined me for yoga yesterday morning and then we had a Panera and shopping date afterwards. I'm pretty sore today but I've actually come to love being sore after a workout. It lets you know that it's working!

The asian sesame salad was incredible, but I was disappointed with the turkey avocado BLT. First of all, I was expecting it to be warm (like a panini I guess), and secondly, I expected the avocado to be a mashed replacement for mayo but it was just slices of not-fully-ripe avocado. Next time I'll definitely just go with the full size salad.

I also realized this weekend that our local YMCA is only a 15 minute drive from my house, so now I'm seriously considering getting a membership there. They have an awesome schedule of classes and I'd love to be able to start swimming, but I'm not sure how often I could realistically get there during the week.

We're exactly three weeks out from the Scranton Half and I'm so ready and excited! I have high hopes for this race since the organization and social media presence seem to be top notch so far.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Protein Pancakes & PRs

I didn't run as many days as I wanted to this week, but today's run was so good that I don't really even care. A little bit of good news though: I got a full time position at my bank! I've been working there part time since July and am so thrilled to be full time now, especially with the wedding coming up this summer. I'm still trying to figure out how to work in my runs around my schedule but they'll get done one way or another so I'm not worried.

So how about that 7 miles under a 10 minutes average pace?? It's only under by one second but still! I'm so thrilled! It started with wanting to run my personal best for a 10k, which I did, and then figured I should round it up to 7 miles. Awesome way to start the day!

After this awesome run, I made some of these protein pancakes and topped them with banana slices and shredded coconut. I wasn't crazy about these the first time I made them, but they have grown on me and I look forward to making them after a particularly tough workout now. The Perfect Fit Protein is expensive though so I don't use it everyday.

Obligatory red-faced post-run bathroom mirror selfie. This is also my current favorite running outfit... I may just be suffering from a small Lululemon addiction. ;)

I seriously can't wait to be able to run outside again. About the lowest I can handle is 30ºF and it's been single digits or low teens for the past two weeks. Someone needs to tell mother nature that this is Pennsylvania and not Canada...

Sunday, January 19, 2014

I'm baaaaaaack!

I feel like I have a lot to catch up on here, but I also feel like I haven't done much of anything the past few months. After the Hershey Half Marathon, I had shin issues and ended up only running nine miles in the entire month of November. I spent a lot of time on the couch and eventually in December I decided it was time to stop being lazy and get my butt back in gear. Not surprisingly, I had to take it really easy since my shin splints came back as soon as I started running again. I ran through them though and they got better pretty quickly (with lots of ice, stretching, and compression as well). My biggest goal for 2014 is to run 1000 miles, so I've been trying to run 20 miles a week and have been successful so far.

The Scranton Half Marathon is in twelve weeks, so that means training starts now! I had plans to stick with the training plan that I used for my first half, but I honestly think I'm just going to wing it and try to get at least 20 miles in per week. I'm willing to cut it back if I end up feeling overly fatigued or injured, but I think I'll be able to swing it.

It's sucky that all my runs have been on the treadmill lately but I just can't force myself outside to run when it's less than 30º. I know people run in much colder weather, but I'm just a wuss. All I want is for it to warm up, but I guess I have to whine for two more months until spring arrives. :(

So other than getting back on the running wagon, I've also gotten on the healthy eating wagon. We were able to snag a juicer for less than $50 from Bed Bath and Beyond, so I've been venturing into that territory and I love it! We've been cooking a lot more from scratch lately too and that feels like an accomplishment in itself, besides the fact that we've been making healthy food.


On the wedding front, we've been kicking ass and taking names. We did our menu tasting (FANTASTIC!), started a registry, booked our honeymoon, and ordered save the dates! We are officially less than six months away and I'm starting to seriously get things done.

In totally random news, another leaf just unfurled on my very favorite plant and now I'm thinking I want one of these for every room in my house.

I'm going to try to do weekly training recaps again because I feel like it really helped keep me on track and accountable during the week. After the Scranton 1/2, I'm hoping we can get into the Broad Street Run, and I also signed up for the Oddyssey Half Marathon in Philly on June 8th! :)