Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Richmond Marathon -- reflections

I’d like to start off this post with a look at my Believe I am training journal from this year. Back in January, I wrote out my running goals for the year in a flow chart:

Although I didn't look back at this page more than once or twice during the whole year, it must have lodged itself into sub-conscious, because most of the stepping stones in this diagram got done. I worked on my form (arguably still bad, but it’s better). I embraced that fact that I have introverted tendencies thanks to the book “Quiet: the power of introverts” by Susan Cain and learned to protect my need for alone time. I got advice on how to improve my sleep habits, which included decreasing screen time before bed, watching my coffee habits, and setting time aside to ‘wind down’ before bed. My iron and vitamin D levels are back to a healthy place, thank you supplements!

What else was key to achieving the goals I wrote in my Believe I am months ago? Well, taking it easy over the summer was important. I knew that marathon training would be taxing, so I just cruised through June-July-August without stressing over long runs or super challenging workouts. Another critical thing was doing consistent core work (planks, mostly) and foam rolling during marathon training. Sometimes I had to practically bribe myself into doing my plank circuit, but ultimately I think it helped. I also threw out any notions about how I ‘should’ eat. I ate more cookies/ice cream/fried food than I care to admit. But ultimately not depriving myself during training also helped me ‘save’ my mental gumption for when it *really* counted (i.e. during workouts). My training group also pulled me along during the runs when I felt exhausted/grouchy/stressed and more miles of this training were shared than any of my other training cycles. Despite the higher mileage, I made sure I went out with friends whenever I could.  When necessary I went to bed at 9pm to get a full night of sleep before a big workout.

Ultimately, the key to it all was listening to my body. I adjusted workouts when I needed to, I adjusted mileage when I needed to, and I ate what I needed to.

And now with a marathon PR of 3:03:43 (details here), I have a clear goal for 2015. Chase that sub-3 hour time and have fun along the way!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Richmond Marathon -- the details

What a fun weekend in Richmond! It was so fun to have so many folks from my running community out there with me, and I’m happy to say that we all had great races. The course was absolutely beautiful and I tried to soak that up as much as possible during the race. The fall colors were stunning and the water was lovely. If you get a chance, run this race!

  Cool mural art we found in our pre-race shake-out run on Friday

As for my own race experience…it was not without a couple hiccups! I missed the start of the race, as did several of my friends, due to excessively long bathroom lines…like hundreds of people still lined up when the gun went off! And yes, I was stuck in one such line. I knew that once I crossed the start line that I was “on the clock”, so I REALLY wanted to take care of business beforehand. Soooo, ~6 minutes after the gun went off I started, and as you might imagine, WAY behind my pace group (I was supposed to be in wave 1). So, the first few miles were mostly dodging and weaving and trying to get into some open space.

AND, I messed up my Garmin. In the mad scramble to get off all the layers I was wearing (it was a brisk 27 degrees at the start), I didn’t turn on my Garmin early enough. It found satellite somewhere in first quarter-ish of a mile, and then I took my first split at the wrong place too…needless to say I was a little confused as to what my actual time was during this race, especially because I didn't know how many minutes late I had started

Mile 1: ?? who knows. I suppose I could calculate it but I don’t even care.
Mile 2: 7:21
Mile 3: 7:05
Mile 4: 7:09
Mile 5: 7:02

After these first few miles I felt like I wasn't dodging anymore but still had to run on the edge of the pack so that I could pass people. I was still well behind anyone running my pace-- I passed the 3:30 pace group at some point but I can't remember when.

Mile 6: 7:15
Mile 7: 6:54
Mile 8: 7:18
Mile 9: 6:56
Mile 10: 7:05

During 6-10 I was trying to find my rhythm and get into a groove. I had to really tune into my body since I was running on my own. Somewhere during this time I had a really weird twinge in my knee that freaked me out and caused some temporary quasi-limping. Thank goodness it loosened up and I continued on without slowing down.

Mile 11: 7:07
Mile 12: 7:01
Mile 13: 6:58
Mile 14: 6:54

I went through the half marathon in 1:33:20, but I didn't know this during the actual race due to my late start and screwed up watch. I just knew I was somewhere close to where I wanted to be and kept trucking. The next stretch of race (15-19) I had marked out in my mind as miles that I really needed to focus. I knew there were some long hills and a windy bridge to contend with and that it would be mentally challenging to push through.

Mile 15: 6:58
Mile 16: 7:08
Mile 17: 7:04
Mile 18: 6:59
Mile 19: 6:51

I would have paid money to have someone to run with behind during the hilly, windy bridge portion! But nope, I was a lone wolf this race so I had to bust through that wind solo. This stretch was definitely tough, but I knew that I had cheerleaders waiting for me a few miles down the road, so I focused on that when my mind wandered to how many miles I had left.

Mile 20: 7:03
Mile 21: 7:00
Mile 22: 6:48

Seriously all I could think about was getting a little boost of energy from the fabulous Ellen and Allie during this section…and they did not disappoint!! I could see them from a distance and instantly felt relief to see familiar faces. As I got closer, I could see a poster…"What does that poster say?" my fatigued and foggy brain asked. Finally it dawned on me in a moment of utter delight: NICK SYMMONDS’ BARE BUTT WAS AT MILE 22 FOR ME!!!!!! And let me tell you I smacked that booty with great force as I flew by and kept that moment in the forefront of my mind as the pain started creep in during the next miles. THANK YOU LADIES!!!!

Oh you know I smacked that fine booty!! Photo cred: Allie Creative genius cred: Ellen 

Mile 23: 6:43
Mile 24: 6:48
Mile 25: 6:44
Mile 26: 6:25
0.2: 1.42

As my splits suggest, I was ready to kick ass and take names!! Besides my quads squawking at me and my right foot feeling twinge-y, I still had gas in the tank to bring it home strong, partially due to the power instilled in me by Nick Symmonds' butt. This is the point in the race where I told myself to lay it all on the line and make all those weeks and weeks of training worth it. “NOW IS THE TIME” I hollered at myself.

When I finished…I had no idea what my time was! The clock said 3:09:something, my watch said 3:02:something but I knew it was short. I figured that I had met my goal but it was not until later that afternoon that Allie and Ellen texted me the good news:

3:03:43 !!!

21 minute PR

   SO. HAPPY.  

Friday, November 14, 2014

Final thoughts before Richmond Marathon

It's finally here after months of training, countless early bedtimes, dozens of gels, and many, many miles. Richmond Marathon is tomorrow morning.

I haven't been secretive about my goals. It's definitely easier to sandbag and tell everyone your "C" goal, while keeping your scary goals private, but I chose not to do that.

I want to run 3:05. 7:03 pace for 26.2 miles. 20 minute PR.

Obviously I will have to have a good day--my stomach will need to cooperate, my legs will need to be strong, and the weather not too crazy.

If everything goes smoothly, I feel that 3:05 is within the capabilities. I've made it through enough tough, solo workouts that I feel confident that I can make it through 20-22 miles without *too* much of a struggle. But as we all know, the real test begins after the 20 mile mark.

Of course I have a series of other goals too.
B goal: 3:10
C goal: PR
D goal: finish

From my last marathon experience, I know that adjusting to your D goal can happen pretty early in the race. Although I didn't talk about it much in that Boston post, I watched several goals slip by as the temperatures increased during the race. It was a good test of mental flexibility. Ironically, tomorrow is supposed to be about 50 degrees cooler than the start of Boston 2012. Is a 40 degree start temp too much to ask for?! ;)

Best of luck to everyone racing out there tomorrow! Go fast, take chances!

Monday, October 27, 2014

A Fall day in Raleigh

Raleigh is non-stop fun in the Fall, it's crazy. The temperatures cool off in the zone I would described as perfect, and everyone frolics outside excessively. Here is a photo-tour of a fun Saturday in Raleigh including scenes from Cooke Street Carnival and a visit from Big Gay Ice Cream (originally from NYC!)

The Cooke Street Carnival mascot--the ever-classy pink flamingo

Local brews

Two guys launching their drone to take video of live music + crowd

Local cold brew coffee by Slingshot Coffee Co.

 Foraged walnuts from the Falling Fruit group in Raleigh

Hello my beauties! Delicious baked things from Boulted Bread. If grad school doesn't pan out, can I come work for ya'll??

Waiting in line for HOURS for Big Gay Ice Cream visiting us from NYC!

Creating their most popular cone, the Salty Pimp. Dulce de leche is injected into each cone by hand before getting a dunk in chocolate!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Long run haikus, a series

clatter of footsteps
sleepy eyes and stiff muscles
beautiful sunrise

neighborhood gawking
loop around the whole city
which way do we turn?

last few miles solo
make that Garmin beep again
you can do it legs

Friday, September 26, 2014

Social media: 3 rules

Social media. Yes it's addictive. Yes it's highly entertaining. Here are my rules for keeping the endeavor sane:

Rule #1: FOMO is dumb. We all live different lives in different places with different stresses. We all have different families, friends, finances, goals, hair styles, belly button lint, whatever. We all have loads of fun/laughter/adventure sometimes, and other times we have to hunker down at work and barely come up for air. Feeling bad about missing out is downright silly, because we can't do it all ALL of the time.

Rule #2: (related to Rule #1) Social media should be a source of inspiration: Feeling jealous of amazing instagrammed food? Let that be an inspiration for your next girls night out, or perhaps your own at-home cooking adventure. Is someone on twitter literally on top of a mountain looking all bad-ass? Awesome! Think about your own (figurative) mountain you are conquering today. It may only be a mountain of laundry, and that's okay. Need some words of wisdom? Follow folks that post cool articles/good quotes/interesting observations. I find that Mario Fraioli is always posting stuff that fits the bill.

Rule #3: 90% positive/neutral, 10% negative. A vent tweet here or there is totally encouraged, but keep in mind that the negative energy you put out into the world is bound to influence others. 'nuff said.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The road to Richmond

Early-stage marathon training in a nutshell:

1) The foam roller has become my (statistically) significant other

2) Crushin' the peanut butter more than usual, which is truly terrifying/appalling

3) I hide by the coffee maker at work for a solid 20 minutes each morning in a ritual of caffeine worship

4) Every run has at least a 5 minute conversation about goal times/paces

5) Every run has an extensive conversation about recent bowel movements (not really different than non-marathon training)

6) Gel flavor testing feels like a part time job

7) Friends: "Wanna go out Saturday night?!"
     Me: "Totally! How does late November sound?"

My trusty coffee mug and picky bar sweat band--both training essentials

Saturday, August 2, 2014

#RagnarNWP #BirdMachine

As promised, Ragnar NWP was a load of fun! I don't have any ground-breaking revelations on the subject*, so a few of my favorite photos will tell the story for me!

Van 1 getting the party started!

Team #selfie

Paulette found a pirate, complete with guyliner

Leg 1: 4 miles at 6:50 pace
Sophia cruisin'
Hand-off to Anne!
Laurel showcasing #birdswim

Tagging some vans with Picky Bar goodies

Compressing ourselves with Swiftwick

Jess checkin' off those legs

Post-race breakfast--we're still smiling but look a little bedraggled!
Finally the whole team together, and DONE!

Star-sighting! The Oatmeal author *swoon*

*I will say that I was surprised how much I loved night running! It was absolutely awesome, even though it was raining for my night leg. Also my headlamp is not as bright as I thought it would be...

Come prepared with magnets/figures/other goodies to tag other vans with! This was a totally unknown aspect of the race to me, and so fun!

Have your own bad-ass hashtag

Most critical tips/trick: pack all outfits in separate zip-lock bags, and move sweaty clothes to the empty zip-locks. Definitely minimized the smelly factor and kept all my fresh clothes nice and dry.

Pick your van-mates wisely (this becomes critical in the wee hours of the night)! I was lucky enough to have a super fun and relaxed group of ladies, totally smooth sailing!

Bring a stick or foam roller if you can, your legs will thank you later.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

West coast bound

Tomorrow I’ll be jetting off to a two week whirl-wind trip back to the motherland (AKA Washington). It will be action-packed to say the least, starting with the Ragnar NWP! This will be my first Ragnar adventure, so I’m feeling a healthy mixture of nerves and excitement.  Luckily, I will be running through the night with a fabulous group of Oiselle ladies. Check out the Oiselle blog about the team here.

It's actually kind of tough to leave NC in the summer, because I LOVE SUMMER. Seattle 'summer' leaves me feeling pretty 'meh'. Don't get me wrong, I love a view of the Cascades, Olympics, and Mt. Rainier in one stunning vista just as much as anyone (maybe more), but I really crave heat. And boy do I get a lot of that in the South! One of my favorite things to do in the summer here is cruise around in the evening on my bike, or stroll around downtown. Here are some photos of said summer-strolling:

A Raleigh sunset

Summer riding

Downtown Asheville--so darn cute!


More Asheville--love this street

Kilwins in Asheville, a warm summer night necessity!
Raleigh tracks

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Portland - a quick getaway

Some adventures/delights from my brief stay in PDX

Book paradise (aka Powell's books)

Hoyt Arboretum run- (quintessential PNW foliage/forest)

MAX (easy public transportation via TriMet)


Coffee/ice cream (Stumptown + Ruby Jewel

Cutest darn ice cream shop! Honey lavender was heavenly!

Other places I visited:
FitRight NW - local running store
The Farm Cafe - a foodie experience. The "Farmhouse Veggie Burger" was lifechanging
Ringlers Pub - a McMenimans eatery. Try the Jamaica Bowl with tofu! Delicious!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Summer running: the game plan

It's a beautiful spring here in NC, and the weather is absolutely amazing right now (like, as-good-as-Seattle-ever-gets-and-for-days-on-end amazing)!

Exhibit A:

But soon it will be hotter than the surface of the sun and perma-sweaty, for running at least. Last year I tried to power through summer training with a naive optimism that I could train normally in the, yeah, it was real tough.

So! New game plan!

May: Race myself into shape. Race several 5ks and do shorter, faster track workouts. The goal is to whip my rear back into some semblance of fitness.

June: Hold onto said fitness as the heat sets in. Do a couple more 5ks. Attempt to threaten current PR.

July: Up the cross-training. Jump in the pool, hit the weights, and continue the short, intense track efforts. Work on my form.

August: Hold on for dear life. Try to retreat to cooler locations for long runs. Think about fall training plans. Racing in August is pretty rough, so I'll steer clear this year...unless peer pressure gets the best of me...

September and beyond: Begin training for fall half/full marathon. Devise an awesome training plan. Start lengthening out the speed work and long run

Bring it, summer!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Marathon Monday

As I explained to all my co-workers and non-running friends, Boston Marathon Monday is my Superbowl/World Series/World Cup/Other-'mainstream'-sport-championship equivalent. It's a day set aside as holy and sacred in my mind. It's a day that I look forward to all year long. And it's jammed full of emotions and inspiration. 

I admit it, the marathon has a strong hold on my heart. Part of my love for the distance is the inevitability that you will feel vulnerable, elated, scared, and joyous all in the same event, perhaps within minutes. Often times, keeping those emotions hidden is impossible. People expose their anguish, pain, and effort as they pound out the miles, and as runners, we all know how many hours of training, early bedtimes, and skipped parties a brilliant race performance represents. 

No matter the year, I am overcome with emotion when I watch the elites finish Boston. Partly because dreams are being fulfilled and dashed within seconds. Desi's incredibly close finish in 2011 was heart wrenching. Shalane Flanagan's race this year was amazing, determination and passion written all over her face.

A determined Shalane. Photo credit: Andrew Burton (GETTY)
 Relive Desi's 2011 finish:

But of course, this year was extra emotional. Meb ran such a beautiful and controlled race, and the nail-biting finish had me sobbing at the end (as usual). To finally see an American win Boston was magical, especially in the shadow of last year's bombings. It felt like Meb snuffed out lingering uncertainty and fear and replaced it will hope and inspiration. 

I'm not exactly sure how 26.2 miles does all that, but that's the beauty of running.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Going screen-free (or rather, phone-free) for 4 days

Ironically, I had to set myself reminders ON MY PHONE to warn myself "Screen-free day tomorrow!".  This is because checking my e-mail/facebook/twitter/insta/etc via iPhone is such a strong habit that I immediately start the daily social media blitz while still in bed (Eeek, so embarrassing!). Which is silly, really, because the birds are chirping, the sun is starting to stir, and my favorite time of day is happening all around me.

My screen-free days progressed as they normally would, except:

1. I had to pay attention to lecture for 100% of class time
2. I had to pay attention to my friends for 100% of lunch time
3. I had to pay attention to work for 100% of work time
4. I read a book
5. I enjoyed my food as I ate it
6. I didn't look like an idiot trying to walk and tweet at the same time
7. I worked on an art project

I still used the internet, but only at home on my computer. I used my computer at work too, but only for work-related stuff. And I still text messaged, because I didn't want to be a jerk and not reply for 24 hours.

Those four days were a lovely lesson in balance, attention, and simplicity. Try it!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

#ShamrockOn bird invasion

Last weekend was big. BIG. It was a crazy whirlwind of everything Oiselle and everything running. My favorites!

Friday: Awesome road trip with my NC running besties Allie, Ellen, and Carolyn! Seriously, these ladies are hilarious and fabulous! We hit up the expo and met up with Nicole, who was brave enough to participate in our photo shenanigans (see Ellen's pic stitch here). Later we ate a delicious meal at Baladi--some of the best vegetarian food I've had in a long time!

Saturday: As most running vacations, our alarms went off real early.  Time to catch a beautiful sunrise and cheer on all the 8k racers! The women's 8k field was super deep, and a bunch of Oiselle fasties kicked butt! The rest of us dashed around the course as much as possible to cheer and snap photos with our fab team manager, Kristin.

Our group dinner that night was SUPER fun (Thank you Mollie for organizing!)! I tried to soak up pro tips from Heidi, Aubrey, and Kelsey, who are all crazy fast and inspiring. It was also great to see one of my original running buddies, Phyllis! Post-dinner gelato with Danielle, Amelia, my NC crew, and KMet was the perfect way to end the day.

8k cheering squad! Thank you Ashley for the awesome photo!
The whole crew! Photo credit: someone at dinner...
 Sunday: RACE DAY! Ellen and I *barely* made it to the start in time...meaning we both peed behind bushes during the national anthem after a frantic bag-drop. Hellooooo pre-race panic! But we made it to the start in time to find Lisa, Stephanie and Hollie, phew! I was SO thankful to have Lisa out there to run with for the first 5 miles--seriously a huge help! The course was quite lovely, and I tried to enjoy the forested area as we cruised along.

Splits 1-5:

After 5 miles, she pulled ahead and I ran solo for the rest of the race. At mile 5.5, the unpleasant reality of headwind re-entered the picture, and also when we ran through the military base. The various bugle calls broadcast over the load speaker, like this one and this one, definitely helped keep my mind off the fact that the wind was pretty strong. I took my Vanilla Gu and started to feel more perky despite the headwind.

Splits 6-10:
6:54 (distracted by a water stop, missed the actual split)

By mile 10, I knew it was time to get uncomfortable and drop some serious negative splits because....well because that's always my race strategy. Luckily there were a decent number of people around me and ahead of me to 'roadkill', which made it easier to maintain a faster pace. AND, there was a big ole' Oiselle cheering squad with a half mile to go that pushed me through to the end despite some wheezy/moaning sounds I was beginning to make!

Splits 11-13:

Overall time: 1:26:00--PR!

If you read my last post, then you know this was a big surprise. But I HARD rested the week leading up to the race in an effort to revive my legs. Ice bath, massage, very little running, a ton of foam rolling/stick torture, and some good old fashioned race visualization/planning. That plus a hearty dose of adrenaline got me through race day feeling good! Success!

Mile 12.5 ish Photo credit: Andrew
Mile form. Somone help me. photo credit: Drew
Post race with Hollie and Lisa    

Smiles all around from these NC gals! Photo credit: KMet
What a great weekend!

Overall I would highly recommend this race--it was well organized, pancake flat, great post-race entertainment/food/drinks, and even some good swag including a beach towel!

Since I'm on the brink of breaking 1:26...I'm already plotting a fall half marathon. Any fast, flat suggestions?!