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. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Philly Marathon Training

Hmm, it seems that I have become stuck in an "only blog on Monday" rut. To be honest, since we are "only" training for a marathon right now and have drastically reduced our cycling and swimming (read: we aren't cycling and swimming much or at all), I don't have a lot to talk about.

I guess I'll talk about how Philly Marathon training is going so far.

After our Ironman, we took the first week "off". We did ride once and we raced a 1 mile open water swim, but other than that we didn't do anything. While making our marathon training plan, I knew that we only had 13 weeks in between Ironman Louisville and the Philly Marathon - and we would only be training for 12 of those weeks.

 So long ago, and my tan is almost gone (though I still have weird tan lines, ha)

Luckily, it has worked out really well. The first week or so of running felt a bit rough but after that Mike and I have really worked hard. Our speed has increased a lot, without really even doing anything! I think that our legs were so tired from all of the miles that we were putting on them during Ironman training, that once we reduced our weekly mileage we have seen great results.

 An underwater selfie!

While our "total" weekly mileage has decreased a lot, our running weekly mileage has increased. We were only running three times a week during Ironman training and now we are back up to four times a week. While I have enjoyed the break from cycling and swimming, we do need to get back at it a little bit because that helps keep me injury-free!

The one big difference between Ironman training and Philly Marathon training is that we aren't training with friends as much as we were over the summer. The goal during our Ironman was just to finish, with some time goals in mind but very, very loose time goals. As this will be our fourth marathon attempt, we have somewhat of a better idea on how to tackle those 26.2 miles (though, I still feel like I don't know what I am doing at times). Since we have specific goals in mind when we set out for the majority of our workouts, it doesn't always make sense to run with friends. Sometimes it doesn't even make sense for me and Mike to run together, specifically when doing a marathon pace run (which we have only done once so far, but there will be more).

 Mike pushed me to run faster miles 10-14: 9:11, 9:07, 9:10, 9:06, 9:00, 9:00, 9:01, 9:06, 9:04, 9:09, 8:39, 8:37, 8:34, 8:38, 9:09, 8:57, 8:54, 8:54, 9:02, 8:59

While I love running with other people, I am happy that we have done the majority of our runs lately by ourselves. Back when we started the Couch-to-5K program, that's what it was all about - something that we could do together.

I love finishing a long run and high-fiving Mike because we accomplished something great. I also love having him there when I need a push to do better and, hopefully, he feels the same way. I never would have thought that I could run sub-8:40 miles in the middle of a 20 miler for four miles and still finish the run without blowing up the last 6 miles, but because of Mike I did!

I still don't know my exact "plan" for Philly, but hopefully marathon #4 will be really special for both of us!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Race-tastic Weekend

Kathrine Switzer said it perfectly when she said, "if you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon".  The same can be said of a long distance triathlon.

This weekend was full of so much happiness, and most of it was because of other people and their achievements.

Two thumbs up for volunteering!

Every year Mike and I have volunteered for the Great Lakes 100 Mile Triathlon on Lake Ontario and this year was no different. For the third year we made our way to Barker, New York to cheer on and support amazing athletes. We woke up extremely early so that we could get in our own training (an 18 mile run) and then we spent all afternoon and evening manning the mile 4/mile 11 aid station on the run course.

 I don't know what Mike is doing, ha.

Since we raced at the Lake Erie venue in June, we know how lonely the race can get sometimes. It is still on the smaller side and given that it is an out and back type of course, you don't see that many people. We made sure to bring our cowbells and cheer everyone on as they made their way through our aid station.

I loved seeing so many people out there battling the rain, wind and colder temperatures with smiles on their faces! I know that some people were hurting, but they pushed through and they finished their 100 mile victory lap which is an amazing feat!

Yesterday we finished our weekend by cheering on friends and strangers at the Wineglass Marathon. Even more happiness that was extremely contagious - I can't wait for the Philly Marathon now! I was so proud of everyone that we knew running the race, even though all of them didn't accomplish everything that they set out to do they still had smiles on their faces the majority of the time.

 Team Watermelon signs! (I need to fix mine to be a darker outline!)

There are times when I get down about whatever is going on in my life, but then I have weekends like the one I just had that remind me what it is all about.

Monday, September 29, 2014


Since it is now officially fall, we are right at the beginning of fall marathon season! 

Ahh, fall marathons. The best.

 THE best fall marathon ever

While I enjoy training for a spring marathon because of the cooler temps, by the time race day rolls around it is usually hotter than I would like (alright I've only done one spring marathon, but you get my point). Fall marathons are different. While the training in summer may be less than ideal, for me, once race day rolls around the temps are nice and cool.

My marathon-iversary is tomorrow. Two years ago, I ran the Wineglass Marathon and officially became a marathoner. For those of you who have been following my blog for that long, you probably remember that my first marathon did not go how I planned. You may also notice that I am saying "my" and not "our". 

Mike and I trained for our first marathon together, looking back on it we did not train very well. We probably got most of our training runs in, but I know that our long runs did not go well. There was a lot of stopping and sitting, before begrudgingly getting back up and finishing our runs. We cut runs short and we just fell apart most of the time.

 One of my favorite pictures of us!

Still, we went into race day with big expectations (do not do that for your first marathon, your only expectation should be to finish).

I started out way, way, way too fast. Paces that I shouldn't have even been trying to run, but I was anyway. Why? Because I felt good! Well, duh, I felt good because I was only halfway through a 26.2 mile run.

 Foolishly thinking I was doing alright

I didn't respect the distance. at. all.

So, the distance decided to be mean and take it out on me. My race started to fall apart at mile 13-14, when I first walked. I was able to hold it together for the most part, and I know that I still wouldn't have achieved what I wanted but it would have maybe been a bit better, if it weren't for the next thing that happened.

 Right before

Around mile 18-19, Mike decided to DNF. And I saw him. He was on the sidelines, with this family who was spectating right outside of their house, and I, in my delirious state, tried so hard to get him to continue to run. He wouldn't.

I cried, I crumbled, I walked, I almost DNF'd as well.

 This photo says it all

But, I finished. With a time that I, at the time, didn't think was respectable (about 5:01). For a long time I was ashamed of this race. Ashamed that I became a marathoner and Mike didn't. Ashamed that I fell apart so badly. Ashamed of my time.

Now that it has been two years, I look back on this race differently.

I have, 100% (alright maybe 95% since I still go out too fast sometimes), learned from this race. I have learned to respect the distance. I have learned to run my own race. I have learned that Mike and I will achieve different things at times, and that is alright. I have learned to trust my abilities, but to not set unrealistic goals. I have learned to become mentally strong.

In no way does this mean that I am an marathon expert. I don't think that I will ever be one. I will always learn from my races and experiences and use them to become a better triathlete and runner. 

My last, stand alone, marathon finish. The sweetest of them all - so far.

I am excited to see what this fall marathon season holds for us!

Friday, September 26, 2014

35 by 35 Bucket List

I've always been a goal-driven person, even when I was younger. I would set goals as a young competitive swimmer and when I accomplished them I would set even higher goals. I did the same thing in school, after not doing well at the beginning of my college career, and graduated from my master's program with a 4.0 G.P.A.

The same is true as a triathlete, I set goals and I work extremely hard to accomplish them. Sometimes they are time goals, sometimes they are distance goals and often they are experience goals.

 This was a pretty big goal!

If you are friends with me and Mike on Facebook, you'd have noticed by now that I share a lot of races, events and experiences that I find with him on there. And usually I say, "we should do this!" or "let's do this!" He always says, alright, but the problem is when? When will we do all of these things that I want to do?

It is hard to do all of the things that I want to do because I typically have the next year or so of races planned in advance (we sometimes change things but for the most part it stays the same). At the same time, I see all of these things and I MUST. DO. THEM. NOW! Alright, maybe it's not that extreme but I get really excited about all of the opportunities out there, I just need to find time to make them all happen!

This coming year I am turning 30. I have not given myself "enough time" (really what is enough time?) to make a "30 by 30" bucket list since I have less than 6 months until my birthday. So, I am going to make a "35 by 35" bucket list instead, I don't like being like everyone else anyway.

Most of these, naturally, are triathlon related. Some are not, since I do have other interests other than triathlon. If I accomplish them all, great! If not, I can add them to my "45 by 45" bucket list.

So here it is, my "35 by 35" bucket list, in no particular order:

1. Go to Alaska (this one is pretty obvious, ha).
2. Compete on an ultra relay team.
3. Complete a multi-day cycling event.
4. Become a 46er (if you don't know what that means, a 46er is someone who has hiked all of the High Peaks (46 of them) in the Adirondacks).
5. Race in all 50 states and Washington D.C. (obviously quite ambitious, even for 5.5ish years)
6. Go on a vacation that is not race-related.
7. Go on a vacation with my family (Mike, my parents and my brother).
8. Buy a new house, with a bigger yard (Bernie wants a puppy brother).
9. Pass the next promotion test at my job.
10. Qualify for the Boston Marathon or Kona (both would be cool, but for now I'll go with either).
11. Run an ultra marathon, any distance beyond 26.2 miles.
12. Race in another country, not including Canada (already did that a few times).
13. Race a 5K open water swim.
14. Finish riding around all of the Finger Lakes (we have completed 5 and have 6 more).
15. Run up Cadillac Mountain (technically I have already done this during my one year of high school cross country, but I'd like to do this with Mike).
16. Go to Hawaii.
17. Go to Prince Edward Island.
18. Visit as many lighthouses as possible.
19. Related to #18, visit some west coast lighthouses.
20. Go on another cruise.
21. Compete in an off-road triathlon.
22. Win a triathlon as first female (dreaming big here, but why not?)
23. Compete in a triathlon with an ocean swim.
24. Hike all of the mountains on Mount Desert Island (we have done a lot, but have more to go).
25. Go camping with Mike and Bernie.
26. Go to a triathlon training camp with friends.
27. Go on a vacation, race or non-race related, with friends.
28. Renew our vows.
29. Go skydiving (I have to put something on there that is a bit of a stretch for me, but that I'd do!)
30. Go on a hot air balloon ride, preferably during fall.
31. Do a corn maze (I've never done one, lame, I know).
32. Go to the Grand Canyon.
33. Eat gelato in Italy (dreaming big here again).
34. Hike the Appalachian Trail.
35. Go to the Olympics (winter or summer) as a spectator.

Edited: My friend, Isaac, informed me that I had two "21" and "22" bucket list items, oops! So here are some bonus things I'd like to do. 
36. Be a guide for someone during a triathlon or running event.
37. Run in Central Park.

Well, there you have it. I'm sure tomorrow I could think of even more things that I would like to do by the time that I turn 35, which is kind of the beauty of a "bucket list". It isn't stagnant and can change with me.

It will be fun to see how many of these I do actually "cross off", though!

Monday, September 22, 2014

10 Years

This weekend was great! We got in some swimming, biking and running, but we also were able to do some non-triathlon related activities (including getting some apple frosts and donuts from our favorite apple mill).

We also celebrated our 10 year dating anniversary. On September 20, 2004 Mike and I met for the first time. We always just say that we met on the swim team, but that isn't the entire story.

 The oldest photo we have together - summer 2005

At the college we went to, we had the "hub", which is where you could share and download music, etc. (yes, I know. Not good, but we went to a tech school). You could also chat with people, and I vaguely remember someone saying that there were no girls at our school (which back then was true, it is getting better now). I decided, for some reason, to say that I was a girl and then people started to private message me, ugh.

One person was talking to me a bit and we chatted about my music, I think he liked that I had Sublime, and I happened to mention that I was on the swim team. He told me that his roommate was on the team and the three of us decided to meet up, on September 20, 2004. 
You obviously can guess who his roommate was, yes, it was Mike. So even though we would have met a few days later anyway at the start of the swim season, who knows if we would have ended up together if it weren't for his roommate talking to me on the hub!

In the past 10 years, we have accomplished a lot.

We have received four degrees between the two of us, ranging from an Associate degree to a Master degree.

Mike's graduation in 2009 and my Master's graduation in 2011

We bought a house.

 Just call me Vanna

We got engaged.

We got married. 

We have taken care of three birds, two cats and one dog together.

We fell in love with the sports of triathlon and running.

We became Ironmen.

I am so excited to see what the next 10 years brings; I know that it will be full of fun and adventure!