Thursday, August 30, 2012

An Unexpected Benefit

Last night Mike and I headed out to a town on Seneca Lake to meet up with two of our Reach the Beach relay teammates, Sarah and Rob.  We were bad bloggers and didn't take any photos but we had an amazing time going for a boat ride, I held their adorable mini dachshund, Fenway, the entire time. We're best friends now.  They also made us dinner and we had a great time getting to know each other. I can't wait until the relay! (Although we should hang out again sometime).

That got me thinking about one benefit of becoming triathletes: we have made so many friends in the past year and a half. 

In addition to the new friends we have made, it has helped us become closer to people who were already in our life.

Our friends, Sarah and Mark (who just recently got engaged, yay!) have been a part of our life for awhile but we have gotten closer because of running.  I love being able to go for a run with them!

Our Seneca7 relay team bonded during the almost 8 hours we were running around the lake. 

And now Reach the Beach (and me blogging about running) has helped me reconnect with someone I went to high school with, my friend Isaac.

I can't wait to meet the rest of our team, as well as, others that we are planning on meeting up with this year!

What are some unexpected benefits that you have experienced because of running (or triathlons)?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Head Games: How Mental Preparation Can Improve Your Race Performance

I have a special treat for you all today, a guest post! We all know how mental preparation can make or break your race so hopefully you pick up a few tips from Alison.

Race day is approaching and you’re feeling ready. You’ve followed your training plan, put in the hours and logged the miles, followed a good nutrition plan, and you’re all set for a great race. But there’s one thing you may have overlooked, something that can make the difference between a good race and a great one: mental preparation.

What happens inside your head is one of the most important things on race day. Your body knows what to do because you’ve trained it. Your head needs training, too. We’ve all heard “it’s 99% mental” and similar catchphrases, but what does that really mean and how can you use it to your advantage?

Positive Thinking
In racing, staying positive no matter what happens is vital. If you go into a race thinking, “ugh, I don’t feel great…think I’m getting sick…I haven’t trained well…this/that hurts…” you are guaranteed a crappy day. You have to stay positive. Tell yourself “I feel great, I’ve trained for this, I know the course, I’m going to do well…” even if it isn’t all true. Yes, lie to yourself a little bit.

I used to always start my running races too fast. After seeing my first mile split I’d think, “Well now you’ve gone and done it, you idiot. You went out too fast and you’re going to DIE. Better slow down now to try to minimize the damage, moron.” Then, one day, after going out too fast yet again, I realized that my body wasn’t complaining, it was just my head. So I said to myself, “OK, you went out too fast but you know what? You feel great so maybe you can keep this pace up. And that first mile was all downhill so it was bound to be fast. You didn’t kill yourself. In fact, you were taking it easy…” That day, I PR’d.

Preparing for Challenges
Being prepared for things to go wrong is key to your mental preparation. This way, if you get water in your goggles or a flat on your bike, you can deal with it instead of having a total mental breakdown. Think beforehand about how you’re going to approach issues. Of course, practicing tire changes is a key factor in dealing with a flat tire, but maintaining your cool is another, and this is done by anticipating, not fearing, such an event.

Pain is another challenge we try not to think about. But thinking about – and preparing for – pain is very important. If you don’t hurt at some point during a race you’re not racing hard enough. So plan for it. Think about what you’re going to tell yourself when the pain hits. Hoping it doesn’t happen is futile. Have a mantra, something to focus on that will take your mind off it. This is what the pros do. Just because you’re not a pro doesn’t mean you can’t think like one!

If you’re hurting early in the race try to work out why and fix the problem. Don’t dwell on it. Sometimes aches and pains come and go. Late in the race things will start to hurt and that’s when you need to focus on that finish line, how close you are to it, how great it will feel to be done, etc. Some athletes learn to embrace pain and see it as an indicator of how hard they’re working and ultimately how well they’re doing. As ultramarathoner Scott Jurek likes to say, “pain only hurts.”

What’s interesting is that, while you sometimes need to distract yourself from pain, you can’t distract yourself so much that you lose your focus on the race. Focus is especially important in shorter distances because you can’t slow down for a second. In triathlon, I find that I tend to lose my focus on the bike. I’ll just go into la-la land for a bit and before I know it I’ve dropped several mph. In open water I’ll focus so much on sighting and turns that I’ll forget to pay attention to how I’m swimming, something I’m much more attuned to in the pool. Even when running, my strongest sport, I can be distracted by what’s going on around me.

It helps to have a few key words to help maintain focus. In the water I’ll say “reach, glide, pull” in time with my breathing. I’ve found this helps me remember what to do (better swimmers probably don’t need these reminders, but I do!) as well as keep me occupied so I don’t freak out… focus can actually be a distraction from the negative thoughts! On the bike I’ll say “push, pull, cadence” because I have a tendency to forget to pull and to drop my cadence too low. On the run I’ll remind myself to maintain a fast cadence, lean forward slightly, and drop my shoulders. So these things are obviously individual and you have to use what works for you.

While this is something you do before your race, I’m telling you about it last because it should encompass all of the above. Visualize your race from start to finish. Remind yourself how strong you’re going to feel and what you will tell yourself when it really starts to hurt. Visualize your finishing kick.

Now all you have to do is make it happen.

Alison Gittelman is a freelance writer and editor from South Riding, VA. She writes about running and triathlon on her blog:

Monday, August 27, 2012

Turning Stone Races Half Marathon Race Recap

Half marathon #5 is in the books!

Mike and I headed out to Verona, New York on Saturday morning to pick up our race packets at Turning Stone casino.  We've been there only a few times before so it was fun to go back, and we were able to gamble because each runner got a 10 dollar free play card!  I lost all of my money immediately but Mike played for awhile before he eventually lost it all too. 

After checking into our hotel we were trying to figure out something to do before going to dinner.  There weren't really any good movies out so I suggested mini golf.  We ended up going to the only mini golf place in the area and that was an adventure in and of itself! Just take a look at the place. 

Yes, that is a giant octopus

Mike washing his putter off

 A submarine

 This section got annoying because "The Flintstones" theme song played over and over

 We thought this was funny

 The lighthouse is missing something

 Got milk?

We ended the night with some pasta and ice cream, if you are ever in the Utica, Rome or Verona area check out Nicky Doodles they have great ice cream!

Race morning wasn't too early of a start, basically the same time we wake up for work.  We checked out of our hotel and then drove to the casino.  When we got there I started to text Jenny and as I was she texted me!  She was also running the half marathon so we were planning on meeting up.  Luckily, as we were walking out of the parking garage we walked right by her and her husband. 

After hitting the port-a-potties and stretching, it was time to lineup.  There were a little over 300 people running the half and one person in the wheelchair category.  The national anthem played and then the announcer sent the man in the wheelchair on his way.  After about another 4 minutes, we were starting.

 Before the first mile, photo courtesy of Jenny

I tried not to go out too fast but my first mile was under 9 minute pace.  I could actually see Mike and Jenny and I knew that I had to slow down a little bit.  I was also really worried about the sun/heat because there wasn't a cloud in the sky and it was already 70 degrees.

I kept my pace under control the next few miles and as I hit mile 5 I saw Jenny's husband! It was really nice to see someone familiar out on the course.  Unfortunately, right after I saw him I had to stop and stretch/walk for a few seconds.  My calves were really tight and the sun was starting to get to me.

I only took one energy gel during the race and I think that it helped me enough to get to the finish line.  I did end up walking a few more times, but I know that if it had been cooler that I wouldn't have needed to walk. 

Around mile 10 I still had a chance to PR if I could run the last 5K around 30 minutes.  As soon as I started the 11th mile I knew that wasn't going to happen, the sun had taken its toll on me.  I focused on just finishing at that point, which was hard because the last 2-3 miles were completely in the sun with a few hills!

Finally, I rounded the corner back on to the casino's grounds and right before mile 13 I saw Jenny and her husband!  She told me, "it's just up there", to which I made a comment about it being literally up.  It wasn't the worst uphill finish we've had but at that point I just wanted to cross the finish line. 

Mike's finish, photo courtesy of Jenny

 Almost done! Photo courtesy of Jenny

As I approached the finish I saw Mike and then finally finished my fifth half marathon!

My finishing time was 2:10:31 according to my watch (2:10:39 official time but we don't think that's right because it wasn't the chip time, even though we had chips), which is my second fastest half marathon time ever.  Mike had a great race and finished under 2 hours for the second time with a time of 1:59:19 (official time 1:59:29).

None of us really felt like eating much right after the race so we grabbed some light food and chatted in the hallway for a little bit.  We ended the day with a few photos.

I didn't pee my pants, I swear! Photo courtesy of Jenny

 Five time half marathoners, photo courtesy of Jenny

Overall, I am really happy with how this race turned out considering the conditions.  I know that I can run a PR half marathon and eventually run under 2 hours, I just need everything to be "perfect".

Friday, August 24, 2012

Fitness Friday: Crescent Trail Group Run

Hi there! I know people don't like it when others apologize for being gone and not posting as often, but I go against the grain and do what I want.  So, I'm apologizing.  I think I have lost my blogging motivation a little bit but hopefully with a guest post and a few races coming up I will find it again, so please bear with me. 

I'm linking up on Jill's "Fitness Friday", so go on and check out her post, as well as, all of the others!

Yesterday, our friend Sarah asked if we were going to the Medved group trail run.  We weren't planning on it but I asked Mike if we could switch our 8 and 5 milers so that we could go. 

My trail running shoes, in the middle, wanted some more miles put on them

During the summer, Mike and I had a few options to choose from on Thursday nights.  We could either go to the RATS swim, bike, run workout or go to the trail run.  We went to the RATS three times and now we have gone to the trail run three times.  It is nice to be able to change it up!

When we got to the group run we saw Eric and his wife, Sheila, but we didn't see Sarah and Mark.  They got there right as it was starting and then we were off!

The first .75 miles were actually run on roads, but it wasn't too bad.  My calves were bothering me but nothing too serious.  After we re-grouped, we headed out on the trail. 

I've never been on the Crescent trail before but it was beautiful!  The orange trail was a little bit difficult in the beginning, there were some huge hills that I had to walk up, but it was a good workout. 

Our group ran all the way to one of the hotels in the area where there is a trail head, and we actually interrupted a wedding rehearsal! I'm sure they appreciated all of us sweaty runners stopping by.

The nice thing about the group run is that we do stop every once in awhile to re-group.  There are also a few people from Medved who are intermixed within the group to make sure that everyone stays on the right trail.  

The rest of the run was pretty nice, the blue trail was nice and easy with lots of downhills.  We then went back on the orange/blue trails on the other side to finish up the run.  Mike and I waited for Mark and Sarah at the end and then ran on the roads back to the start area.  

Overall, it was a nice but challenging run.  I even mentioned to Sarah that it was a lot tougher than last week's run and she agreed.  

We didn't look like this after the run!

I'm really thankful for friends like Sarah and Mark, it is fun to have them at group runs and races.  I can't wait until all four of us cross the finish line at our first marathon in the fall!

Do you like trail running?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Wedding Memories: Trash the Dress

Wow, it is the last "Wedding Memories" post! I hope you enjoyed them as much as I have, it really was fun reliving these moments.

I think I may have saved the best post for last, good thing it was the last wedding-related thing we did!

I knew that I wanted to do a trash the dress session and I was hoping that our photographer would agree to do it.  He had never done one before so he agreed to do it for FREE in exchange for being able to use the photos to promote his business.  We would still get digital copies of the photos, so we were on board.

We arrived home from our honeymoon and then we immediately did our trash the dress photo shoot.  My friend, Christina, came over to do my hair and help me get into my dress.  Even though it was only a month after our wedding I was worried that with all of the food on the cruise that it wouldn't fit.  Luckily, it did!  She even let me borrow her amazing necklaces to use during the photo shoot.

We had three locations picked out: the graffiti wall at Village Gate, the beach at Irondequoit Bay and Seabreeze Amusement Park.

First up, Village Gate. 

Then it was time for a change of location, and necklace.  One requirement for our trash the dress was that we did something in water, other than that we didn't really care what we did.

Here are some "behind the scenes" to see what it takes to get the good photos:

The final stop for the night, Seabreeze Amusement Park.  I have to say that the photos from this location were the only ones that we were slightly disappointed in, we took so many more photos and for some reason only a few made the cut.  Oh well, they were free so we can't complain too much!

I hope you enjoyed these photos! Oh, and for those of you worried about my dress, don't be.  I sent it away to be cleaned and preserved after the shoot.  It is now sitting in a box in one of our closets, but if someone wanted to shoot another trash the dress session with us I would definitely take it out and wear it again!

Would you ever "trash the dress"?

In case you missed it:
The Engagement
Pre-wedding Activities
Getting Ready
The Ceremony
The Reception
The Honeymoon

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Thoughts During a 19 Miler

When you are running for over 3 hours, in our case 3:10:57, you have A LOT of time to think about things. I don't run with music so that means that I have to entertain myself in other ways, sometimes I get lucky and a song gets stuck in my head but that hasn't been happening lately.  Probably because I'm not working this month so I am not in the car listening to the same five songs being played over and over on the radio.

Today I had a few thoughts while out for our run and I thought I would share them with you.  I don't exactly remember when some of these thoughts occurred but they were sometime between 0-19 miles!

How could I have forgotten my watch? Good thing Mike is nice to me and keeps telling me the splits and miles.

I feel like we are going too fast.

See, we were going too fast.

Jeez, that car could have moved over a little bit more don't you think?!

Oh no, now I have to get my energy gel out.  Hopefully I can open it.  

This energy gel is definitely working, but now we are probably going too fast.

Yep, too fast!

I hate running over grates, it is one of the most annoying things ever.

I wonder how Crystal is doing in her half marathon?

I feel bad, but I need to stop.  I don't know what is going on but I feel some major anxiety going on.

A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y and Z. Now I know my ABCs next time won't you sing with me?

There have been a lot of cyclists out today.

Why do I keep kicking my ankle with my other foot? I must be getting tired.

I wish I had my watch, but I'm kind of glad I don't have it.

Just get to that kid playing basketball.

Jeez, buddy do you really need to block the sidewalk? Oh, you are moving your car forward, how nice of you.

I need to stop again.  Ugh, what is wrong with me?

Mike just said there is 1/4 of a mile left.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5...


Oh yes, I really do sing the alphabet to myself while running.

What do you think about while running?  

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Wedding Memories: The Honeymoon

Technically, I should have posted this last Tuesday.  Since we were on vacation I decided that I would take a week off from "Wedding Memories".  

We had three weeks in between our wedding and honeymoon, which ended up being really nice.  Mike and I decided on a cruise in the Bahamas and Key West, Florida and instead of flying to Charleston, South Carolina, we drove.

This allowed us to visit some more new states!

Our cruise stopped at Nassau, Bahamas, Freeport, Bahamas and Key West, Florida.  After, we drove to the Outer Banks, North Carolina (to see some lighthouses, obviously) and Virginia Beach.

I made a video of our honeymoon using lots of video footage that we took during our trip.  You can take a look if you want!

Here are some more of my favorite moments from our honeymoon: 

Only one more "Wedding Memories" post left! And it might just be the best one yet. 

In case you missed it:
The Engagement
Pre-Wedding Activities
Getting Ready
The Ceremony
The Reception