Monday, November 10, 2014

It's Almost the Off Season

This year is flying by! It seems like yesterday that we were training for our Ironman and now here we are less than two weeks away from the Philadelphia Marathon. I am so excited to put our training to the test and see what we are made of (by the way, I already know what we are made of: awesomeness)!

 How was this day almost 3 months ago?

After the marathon, we will start our "off" season. We don't actually take much time off during the year, but we only have one more race planned and it is a fun 5K that we do every December.

As much as I love marathon training, I am looking forward to a few things in the "off" season. First of all, we really cut back on swimming and cycling (read: we haven't swum or rode at all in the last month or so). As much as we know that swimming and cycling help keep us injury free, as soon as we start to ramp up our running mileage we always drop the other two sports. I think that this time around it has actually benefited us to take a break from them, but that doesn't mean I'm not ready to get back in the water and the saddle!

We are planning on doing a few group trainer rides in the winter. As much as I hate the treadmill (I won't use one), I don't mind the trainer as much. That said, when you can ride in a group it is always better!

That's another thing we will be adding again, group training sessions. We haven't really been running with friends lately since we have such specific goal paces for the Philly Marathon. After the race, we are hoping to swim, bike and run with our friends again.

This Saturday, we did run with an informal running group and it was a lot of fun! They meet on Saturdays and Sundays all year, so we will definitely be running with them more after the race. We also have a bunch of friends who run trails, and since I have my 50K in May we'll be joining them more often!

 The trails are calling! Especially this trail, the Seneca trail is my favorite!

One very important thing that we'll be getting back into during the winter months is strength training. Whether it be at the gym or a group fitness class, strength is a must! And, I'm hoping that we'll make it a habit and continue to do it during our peak training season. 

So as you can see, our "off" season isn't really any different than what we normally do!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Do I Have What it Takes?

I wish I could say that I was the kind of triathlete who is content with just having the ability to swim, bike and run.

I am not that kind of triathlete, however. Granted there are races where I am content with just doing it for fun, or running with someone else to help him/her achieve his/her goals.

 Runner's World Half - fun and hard work

The Philadelphia Marathon (and basically every marathon I have done) is not one of those races. I have made a few statements about my intentions for this race before, while keeping in mind how I felt after our Ironman could be a game-changer.

Well, I have felt GREAT after our Ironman! Yes, there was some soreness in the beginning but our paces have drastically improved since the end of August (I think that the fact we aren't putting close to 200 miles on our legs a week has something to do with that).

Run after run has felt great, there have been a few that haven't felt the best but I was still able to push through and finish. Yesterday, was not really one of those days.

I had my dose of reality yesterday. Attempting to run a sub-4 hour marathon is going to be hard work, hard work that I am willing to put in and that I think I am ready for, but hard work regardless. Yesterday's 22 miler was my worst long run of this training cycle. On the surface it doesn't look that bad, 22 miles at 9:35 pace in the cold and the wind.

 Ah, the MDI Marathon.

However, I felt mentally defeated during this run and nothing pulled me out of it. I even said, "I don't know if I can sub-4 at Philly" to Mike. I said, "I can't", "I don't want to do this anymore", etc. The one reason I even planned a 22 miler, rather than just a second 20 miler like we normally do, was so that I could get past my 20 mile threshold (the furthest I have ever run without walking is 20.5 miles). Unfortunately, yesterday that didn't happen either. I didn't even make it to 20 miles before I "had to" walk.

In the end, no one cares if I run a sub-4 hour marathon except me. And maybe Mike. Even he will be proud of me no matter what I end up doing. Most people will be proud of me no matter what I do (and those who aren't, don't matter), the time on the clock is inconsequential to everyone but me.

I am still going to give it my all, I know that I have a sub-4 hour marathon in me somewhere, and try my best. I am hoping that my best on November 23rd is 3:xx:xx, but if not that's alright too.

I am happy that I am able to run a 4:xx:xx marathon. I am happy that I am able to finish a marathon. I am happy that I am able to run at all.

But, something in me wants more. Hopefully I have what it takes.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Bring on 2015

2015 is starting to look like it will be the year of friends and amazing adventures. I don't think I have officially announced these two things on the blog yet, but if I have, I apologize!

A few weeks ago, registration for the Pineland Trail 50K opened. I sat there with my cursor hovered over the register button for a little while, and then after some "peer pressure" from friends on Facebook, I did it. I filled out the form and hit "submit".

I will be running my first, and most likely not last, ultra on May 24th. Mike isn't running this race, but luckily, lots of friends will be there racing or cheering! And, even better, our friend, Isaac, will be running the entire race with me! I am so lucky to have such a great friend who is willing to put up with me for 31ish miles.

Get ready for even more story-telling, Isaac!

Last week, Mike and I booked our flight to Sitka, Alaska to see Crystal and Joe! The four of us celebrated our two year "friendiversary" on October 26th, so it felt appropriate to celebrate with something huge.

 I always have a hard time picking photos of us!

We will be going to see them from August 1st - 9th (but we won't get back to Rochester until the 10th). I CAN'T wait! I am so excited to see them and I wish the trip was just a little bit closer to now, ha. I'm looking forward to lots of hiking, running and quality friend time! We are planning on racing the Sitka Cross Trail Half Marathon the last weekend we are there.

I think it is safe to say that these two things, plus a few other races and trips we have planned, are reason enough to be excited about 2015! I can't wait to spend quality time with amazing friends!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

What the Runner's World Half and Festival Taught Me

Did you miss my race recap and the "Amazing Shakeout Race"? Check them out, here and here!

I learned SO MUCH during the Runner's World Half & Festival! The events that Runner's World set up for the bloggers were amazing and the seminars during the festival were just as interesting. I thought I would share a few of the tidbits that I learned over the weekend!

How to run better

Budd Coates, the author of  "Running on Air: The Revolutionary Way to Run Better by Breathing Smarter" (which I received a free copy of, amazing!), taught us that indeed "belly breathing" is the right way to breathe while running. He mentioned that a lot of runners will breathe in their chest, which isn't right. He gave us a really short demonstration and talked briefly about rhythmic breathing (and being aware of your breathing in general) and why it is important for running and I can't wait to learn more from his book!

 Learning how to run, photo courtesy of David Tratner

Altra founder, Golden Harper, taught us the four principles of good running form: proud posture, arms back, bent (or soft, I can't really remember) knees and quick steps. He also said that what we THINK we look like while we run and how we ACTUALLY look, are often very different.

Altra is a company you should get to know

While I have not actually worn the pair of shoes that I recieved from Altra (disclaimer: at no cost to me and as a part of the RW Half blogger program), I learned a lot about how the company was formed and the people behind it. Their shoes are pretty amazing, and even though I am loyal to Saucony when it comes to shoes, I could see myself adding the 3-Sum into my triathlon routine every once in awhile.

 Golden Harper, probably talking about how he put a pair of shoes in the microwave

I learned that zero-drop doesn't mean no cushion, it means zero-drop from heel to toe but with varying amounts of cushion depending on what shoe you choose. And that transitioning from a different drop isn't what matters, it is the amount of cushioning. In addition, Altra is the only shoe that uses a FootShaped toebox, so your toes aren't crammed into an unnatural shape!

In addition to their shoes, the people behind the company are amazing. Golden Harper ran sub-3 hour marathons when he was 11, 12 and 13 years old and hasn't run that distance since (but has run ultras). Brian (who was on team "Wombat") has run seven 100 milers, including Mt. Fuji.

I should probably do more yoga

 Cute yoga equipment

After our shakeout "race", we were treated to some amazing yoga tips from Lotus (affiliated with iFit - which also has some pretty amazing things, like fitness trackers, treadmills that you can program with any route all over the world, even this treadmill hater was intrigued by that!). We were given a yoga mat, a block, a fitness band, a foam roller and massage stick to try during our session (and bring home!) Mike and I have done some yoga before, but after learning some warrior poses and going through the session with the band and block, I know I need to do more! (The day after, I wondered why my upper body was sore. Then I remembered, strength and yoga, duh!)

Getting ready for some yoga!

Hurts so good

I need Runner's World to make me food all the time

We were spoiled when it came to food this past weekend. The bloggers were treated to two meals that were almost completely made from The Runner's World Cookbook (that I also recieved a copy of) and all of the food was delicious! Our lunch included mushroom tacos (if you like mushrooms you will like these), white chili, cornbread, energy bars, etc. So good!

The dinner, that Mike was able to come to, was equally delicious. All kinds of pasta with three different sauces, feta turkey meatballs (and a beef version) and really yummy fig cupcakes (that even Mike liked!)

Seminars aren't boring, at least at a Runner's World event

On Saturday we didn't have a lot of scheduled events for bloggers. I was maybe one of the only ones who didn't race on Saturday so after Mike and I took the opportunity to drive the half course, we decided that we would go to a few of the seminars.

  Remy, talking about ebola or maybe running articles

Since Mike was with me, I picked two seminars that I knew would be funny and that he would like. We went to Mark Remy's seminar called "Remy's World: Live!" and he walked us through the steps on creating an online column. We laughed, and learned, a lot.

I laughed so much!

Can you find me and Mike? Photo courtesy of Bart Yasso

We also went to Bart Yasso's seminar called "My Life on the Run". So much fun! Bart Yasso is hilarious and has incredible stories about all of his running adventures over the years. While he is not able to run as much as he used to (he has Lyme Disease), he is still an active part of the running community. Some of his stories included a nude race, a race with a burro, a trial run of a race that never came to fruition because of the dangers on the race course, and more. I want to read his book now!

Speaking of Bart Yasso, he's the man!

Bart Yasso is so down to earth that sometimes you forget he is a legend in the running community. He talked to all of us like we were people (because, we are) and he tries to make every runner at his races feel special.

 Talking to all of us on Friday morning

Bart Yasso eats food too!

At dinner on Saturday night, he sat down at our table! He told us more stories and made us all feel welcome. Mike was even in awe of how amazing he was, which says a lot!

Mike is the person I am meant to be with

 I love that guy in the back!

Ok, I already knew this but this weekend solidified it. Mike knows that I have been struggling with my emotions after our Ironman and some personal things, so to have him be so supportive of this weekend and of me meant the world. He wasn't able to come to all of the events but he kept himself busy on Friday (he had to buy some energy gels) and he willingly came to the seminars (even though at first he wasn't so sure), the comedian (Liz Miele is HILARIOUS - she was the entertainment on Saturday night and her running/health, cat lady and dating jokes were the best way to take our minds off of what we were doing the next day) and did whatever I wanted to do all weekend. He is the best!

Runner's World does events right

 "Welcome" is an understatement

While I am not that social, Mike even said I am not a typical blogger since I wasn't always with everyone else and in my own little world, I had an amazing time this past weekend. Runner's World, all of the editors, sponsors and special guests made us feel so welcome! I am truly grateful to have been able to have this opportunity, and even if it never happens again, I will always have a special place for the Runner's World Half & Festival in my heart!

Disclaimer: I was provided free entry into the half marathon, free lodging and any other items mentioned in this post as part of the Runner's World bloggers' program. I was not compensated in any other way and the opinions expressed in this post are, as always, my own.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Amazing Shakeout Race

Did you miss my race recap? Check it out, here!

While the Runner's World Half Marathon was AMAZING, it was just the icing on the cake. This past weekend was something that I truly needed. I am getting better after our Ironman, the post-race depression is mostly gone, but I still haven't felt 100% like myself. I think that what I needed was a race where I worked hard, but also a weekend where I got to play hard too.

 Just some of the awesome people I met this weekend! Photo courtesy of David Tratner

Mike and I drove to Bethlehem on Thursday night which, unfortunately, meant that I missed going to the Runner's World Headquarters and meeting all of the other bloggers and Runner's World editors. We didn't get to the hotel until 10:30pm and after quickly unpacking a few things (including an amazing welcome bag full of books, items from Running Skirts, ProCompression (Mike actually took those socks, which is fine since he was on his own for part of the weekend), BelVita, ClifBar, Sparkly Soul and more) we went to bed.

Friday started out pretty early (but actually I got to "sleep in" compared to my normal wake up time for work). After showering, I went down to the lobby where a few people were already milling about. When I walked up to the group, who was the first person to introduce himself to me? Well, none other than Bart Yasso. Yep, trip made right there!

We knew that we were going to be split into groups to participate in something called "The Amazing Shakeout Race", and I had somewhat of an idea of what to expect. I was a little nervous about this part, since I don't like doing things I'm not used to and I am rather shy (plus, I had already missed out on making friends!) Luckily, all of the bloggers were really cool and friendly. (Funny story, I introduced myself to Ali from Ali on the Run. Which if you didn't know, her blog is the first running-related blog that I ever read. When she introduced herself to me, I like a weirdo said, "oh, I know who you are. You're famous!").

Team "Wombat" as we called ourselves was comprised of me, Brian from Altra (an amazing sponsor of the entire weekend), Kristen from Fit Bottomed Girls, Presley from Run Pretty and Dick from Better, Cheaper, Slower.

Here's a video from Running Skirts (Mike texted me, since he was watching from our room and said, "they have a drone!")

After being split up into teams, we went outside to start the competition. The ladies from Running Skirts were outside and immediately I had flashbacks to a high school pep rally my freshman year. There were bags of "costumes" across the way and I knew what we were going to have to do. We had to put them on as fast as possible and then tag our teammates. We did not do well, ha.

At St. Luke's, photo courtesy of Kristen

 With Zelle, photo courtesy of Kristen

Our team was probably second to last or last to leave. After that it was just craziness trying to figure out the clues and our way around Bethlehem all while instagramming the experience. We ran to a bar, a hospital, the casino (I had a feeling we'd do this since they told us to bring our IDs) and then we ended up at SteelStacks, which was the race venue.

While our team didn't win, I feel like we put in a valiant effort. And, no one was hit by a car in the process, so that's a bonus! It was really fun getting to know my teammates a little bit more while on the run and it made me feel better about the rest of the weekend's events.

And now you'll just have to wait to find out what else we did!

Disclaimer: I was provided a free race entry and lodging as part of my participation as a blogger at the Runner's World Half & Festival events. I was not compensated in any other way and all opinions expressed in this post are, as always, my own.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Runner's World Half Marathon Race Recap

Even though this was the last thing that we did during the Runner's World Half Marathon weekend, I am going to start with the race recap so that I don't forget any details! Then, I'll go back and talk about the blogger events, festival events and everything else that happened over the weekend.

Mike and I woke up around 6am to get ready for the race. We were staying about a mile away from the finish location, which was not in the same location as the start, so we planned to walk there. In the end, we decided to drive to the parking to save us a little bit of walking in the cold!

Such a cool venue!

 More of the stacks

It wasn't too cold, around 40-50, but the wind made it feel even colder. We went to the bathroom in the Visitors' Center at SteelStacks (such a cool location!) and then walked over to ArtsQuest to stay warm before walking to the start. We wanted to take the shuttles, but we didn't see them!

The walk wasn't too bad, and it ended up being our warm-up for the race.

There were quite a few people at the start when we got there and we stood off to the sidelines before making our way into the self-selected pace areas. I was right in between 8:00 and 8:30. I was a little bit ahead of the 1:50 pace group. Mike lined up a little ways ahead of me in the 7:00s.

I never fully announced my goal, but I went into the race not only wanting to PR but I wanted to run a sub-1:50 half marathon. I knew that I could do it if everything turned out "perfectly" so I was pretty hopeful that I didn't need to run with the pace group in order to hit my goal.

After an AMAZING National Anthem played on a violin, it was time to start the race. We made the usual shuffle to the start line and when we crossed, I started my watch.

The first couple of miles flew by. I kept myself at an even pace that felt good, and honestly didn't even feel like work. I hit 8:09 and 8:10 for the first two miles. After crossing the Lehigh River, I knew that the next few miles of the course were going to be a bit hilly. Mike and I had driven the course the day before, and while it wasn't the worst half marathon course we've ever done (that was probably our first half marathon), it wasn't the easiest.

I took energy chews at mile 3, right around the time of the first hill. I just focused on getting up there at an even pace (and thought of my friend, Isaac, who told me to do that during the MDI Marathon, which ironically also took place yesterday). Mile 3 came in at 8:26, I wasn't worried though since I had "banked" time in the first two miles.

The one thing I liked about this race is that there were a lot of friendly volunteers and spectators out on the course. I never felt like I was all alone, because there were always runners near me and people cheering us on.

Around mile 4, I thought that I should slow down a little bit but we were running downhill. I did put the brakes on a bit, but I still came in at 7:59 pace. I felt good and I was still breathing easily.

One thing I did differently during this race was that I never "zoned out" (except maybe once, more on that soon) and I was completely in tune with how I was feeling and how my body was feeling. I would take inventory on my breathing, my legs, my posture, etc. I kept thinking of the four steps to a good running form: proud posture, arms back, bent knees and quick steps like the founder of Altra told us on Friday. For the most part, I was accomplishing all of these. I still didn't let myself go crazy with my pace because two big hills were coming up.

Goepp Street to Schoenersville Road had two pretty big hills. I knew that after mile 7.5 that the course would be relatively "downhill" so I tried to keep that in mind when my pace slowed up these hills. Mile 5 came in at 8:12 and mile 6 came in at 8:46. Mile 6 was the slowest mile because of the hills but also because I almost twisted my ankle in a pothole on the course! My ankle did "twist" but not in a way that caused any bruising or inflammation (luckily!) and I went down on my hands a bit. No one around me asked if I was alright, and for a few seconds I worried that I wasn't. My form changed and as I turned a corner I knew that I was alright and picked the pace back up a bit.

There was one spot on the course where they had timing mats, right around the 10K mark. I crossed that spot in 51:40. I had taken more energy chews right at mile 6.

The last hill was tough, I thought that I might not be able to pick up the pace again as we made our way into a little loop out and back in this cute neighborhood (that actually reminded me of a race in Rochester). I saw Beth from Shut Up and Run, but didn't say anything to her, and then I think I got a little bit ahead of her. During this part of the course you could see people making their way out while we were making our way in, and I thought I might see Mike but I didn't. Miles 7 and 8 were 7:59 and 8:33.

As I was making my way out, right after running by the Running Skirts water stop (where you could put on a skirt and keep it, I didn't stop of course) I saw people making their way in. I saw a RWB runner carrying a flag (who we had met over the weekend) and I knew his goal was right around 1:50. I never saw the 1:50 pace group, and I hoped that I could keep them behind me the rest of the race!

After leaving this neighborhood, we had some nice downhills. I tried to take advantage of them, but I was still keeping myself in check at this point. I didn't want to push it until mile 10. I kept telling myself that I wanted this and I would be disappointed if I messed it up. We ran by a cemetery at one point and this was a bit windier, but I was still making good time. Miles 9 and 10 came in at 8:04 and 7:49.

At this point in the race, I started doing math. I was pretty sure that as long as I kept it at a 9 minute pace that I would get a sub-1:50 half marathon. I thought of what my friend Kirsten said to me before the race, "hustle, darling" and I started to push it on the downhills. There were still a few uphills, but nothing major. Mile 11 came in at 8:17 pace.

As I made it down one of the final streets, there were people with cutouts of big hands. I high-fived one (Mike told me he high-fived them too) and I PUSHED it as hard as I could down the hill. We made the turn back toward the bridge over the Lehigh River (they were playing the Fresh Prince song in this area) and as I made the turn the wind was HORRIBLE. I thought to myself, "don't let this ruin this for you!" and I kept going as hard as I could. We rounded the corner for the final 1.1 miles and I grabbed water (thinking of Rinny who took water in the last mile of Kona, I didn't want to mess anything up!) Mile 12 came in at 7:40.

The final mile, I knew I had it. How much I would be under 1:50, I still wasn't sure about. My watch was a bit off from the mile markers (I ended up with 13.21 miles on my watch) and as we ran down toward the Sands Casino and made one of the final turns, I just wanted to be at/see the finish line.

We ran through a fence in the parking lot and onto the road at SteelStacks and I could see the mile 13 marker, but I still couldn't see the finish! I ran as hard as I could and then I saw it, the finish line. I could hear the announcer and then I could see Bart Yasso (who smiled at me as I made it to the finish).

I crossed the finish line and threw my arms in the air, I had done it! I was a sub-1:50 half marathoner!

I found Mike, who had a great race and basically tied his half marathon PR with a finishing time of 1:43:32. He looked at me and said, "how did you do that? You did great!" He was in shock, but also proud!

I had finished in 1:47:41, which is a 6 minute and 41 second PR (previous PR was on a flat course). I still really don't know how I did it, other than believing that I could and not settling for anything less. I know that I have more in me, of course I do, but I am SO proud of myself. I am so proud of Mike too. I know he would have liked to PR, but to come away with the same time as his PR on a challenging course is a huge accomplishment.

 Bart Yasso is amazing!

After the race we walked back to our car so we could get our stuff and Mike wanted to take a #bartie with Bart Yasso.

 Great race!

Then we went back to the hotel and made the drive back to Rochester.

This race was amazing, I know we'll be back sometime in the future!

Disclosure: I was provided free entry into the race and lodging as part of the blogger program through Runner's World. I was not compensated in any other way and all opinions are, as always, my own. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Thank you, Runner's World!

I had the most amazing weekend! It was definitely one that was needed since we haven't raced, almost, since our Ironman.

 A #bartie!

When I was contacted a few months ago about being one of the official bloggers for the Runner's World Half Marathon race weekend, I was in shock. I am not that big of a blogger, I have a small following, and I am a pretty average runner/triathlete.

But, as Bart Yasso said yesterday, he makes everyone feel like Shalane Flanagan at his races! He, along with all of the other Runner's World staff, made me and everyone else feel like we were the winners of the race. We were so well taken care of this weekend, including Mike who was able to attend a few of the events for the bloggers.

I haven't quite decided how I am going to approach sharing all of the details from this weekend, including a HUGE PR race recap, but I hope that I can do it justice. Everyone should be able to experience what I was able to experience this weekend (and I didn't even do it all since I missed the Thursday evening events). 

THANK YOU Runner's World for making us feel so welcome this weekend and for an amazing race! We will be back in the future!

Disclosure: I was provided a free race entry and lodging as part of the bloggers' program through Runner's World. I was not compensated in any other way and the opinions in this post are, as always, my own.