Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Keep Moving Forward


My 2 big races are over. Months of training and hard work culminated with successful races that I am super proud of!

Now that those races are over, it's time to start looking at my next set of goals.  My next long race isn't until the Rock 'N Roll Half Marathon in March, so I have the next 2 1/2 months to focus on something other than running long distances.

With that in mind, I made this declaration on Facebook a few weeks ago...
 Yes - I am declaring war on the last 20 pounds.  You might remember that back in August I wrote about NOT focusing on those pounds - and being content where I am right now.  I didn't write that to say that I would NEVER go after this last but of weight - but just at that time, I couldn't focus on it.  I needed my mind to catch up with my body.  I needed to focus on distance running, and anyone who runs distances knows that it is actually difficult to lose weight while running like that because your body requires a lot of fuel!

These last 20 pounds are not going to go quietly.  Everything I read and research talks about how difficult this part of weight loss is.  Our bodies want to hold onto these pounds.  My body is very content at around 170 pounds.  I haven't counted a thing in months - and actually I haven't been eating that terrifically either - and I've maintained my weight just fine.

I could stay here and be okay. I could tell myself that I've worked really hard to get where I am and I should just settle here - but then I'd be SETTLING.  And really - I've worked too hard already to settle for stopping right now.

I've enlisted the help of the "cardio queen" - a trainer at my gym named Jeanean (referred to affectionately as "J'Mean" by fellow weight loss blogger Kristina) and I'm checking out my friend Jeremy's "Gruver Fitness Outdoor Boot Camp" to help me mix things up a little.

It will take hard work and sacrifice - but I'm willing to do both!  It's time to get comfortable with being UNcomfortable! 

Current Goals:
1. PR in a 5k (my fastest unofficial time is 26:55)
2. Lose the last 20 pounds.
3. Get back to tracking my food better
4.  Mix up my workouts more - try new things!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Men's Health Urbanathlon Recap

This weekend goes down as one of the best weekends of 2013.  Between the race, the time with my fit friends, a great Sunday at church (several friends were baptized!), and "The Walking Dead" - there was so much JOY in this weekend!!

Last year I did the Urbanathlon as part of a relay team with my friends Barb and Laura.  When we started training last year, we barely knew each other and now we don't go a day without talking! 

Together with our friends Dawn and Cathy, we call ourselves the "Fab Five" - we text each other daily, check in on workouts, and encourage each other.  We committed to doing all 10 miles and 10 obstacles together - and we did! 

The race begins at CitiField (home of the Mets) and runs through Flushing Meadows park, around the Arthur Ash Tennis Stadium, and ends with a run through CitiField.  The race is a total of 10 miles, with 10 different "urban" obstacles throughout.  Each obstacle was separated by a run of about 1-2 miles.

Many of the obstacles included things pictured below - parking barriers, cone hurdles, pallet walls, police barriers, and tire runs.

One obstacle that had us all a little nervous was the MONKEY BARS.  These are not your average playground monkey bars.  They're much farther apart and thicker than playground bars.  But - every single one of us conquered the bars! We were so excited when we finished them - and then remembered we were only at mile 3 - haha!!
(we're in the back in the lime green shirts)

An obstacle that I loved was "Over, Under, Through" - which I did on my leg last year.  Last year, I needed help getting over the 5 ft wall.  This year - I did not need help! I climbed over both walls, army crawled under, and jumped through with no problem!

The last obstacle before the stadium was a combination of "marine hurdles" and a tire carry with balance walk.  The marine hurdles are 5 foot high hurdles made of two 2x4s together.  Most people required help to get over these, as they are difficult to pull yourself up onto and over.  

(yoga came in handy here!)

The last mile of this race is a little unique - it's run inside the CitiField Stadium!  We entered the stadium and climbed stairs allllllllllllll the way to the nosebleeds.  From there, we ran up and down the nosebleeds 4-5 times (I can't remember).  Then it was back down, under the stadium, through the visiting team clubhouse, out their dugout, and a lap around the outfield!  It was a very cool experience - though it would've been cooler if I'd been a baseball fan.  Funny - I just realized both of my October races ended at baseball stadiums!
(NYonAir got this shot from their helicopter!)

After exiting CitiField (that took us about 15 minutes), we headed for the "Finish Sequence" - which involves 4 obstacles.  First is the taxis, followed by a cargo net up and over a bus, then under a fence/barricade, and finally over the 8 foot wall!

(I should note - this picture makes it appear as if I actually went over the wall using the rope.  In reality, I attempted it - and then used a rope ladder at the end of the wall.  Haha!)

My 3 favorite parts of this race were - 
1. The CitiField Stairs.  The stairs weren't as tough as I thought they'd be, the music was blasting in the stadium, and the atmosphere was just awesome!

2.  Standing on top of the bus with some of my best friends after we'd conquered the race!!!

3.  Crossing the finish line holding hands with "The Fab Five" - we trained together, raced together, and finished together! 





Friday, October 25, 2013

It's go time!

Today we're heading to NYC for the Men's Health Urbanathalon!

 Last year I did one relay leg of this race, but this year - I'm tackling the whole 10 miles! After half marathon training, I keep saying "this is ONLY 10 miles" - seriously?!  I laugh at myself when I say that because a year ago, the longest I'd ever run was 4 miles. I'll be back next week to recap the race!  I can't wait!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Stuff I Love - Running Edition

I've heard it said many times that running is a "low-maintenance" sport because you don't need a lot of "stuff" - a good pair of shoes and some sweats is all you need to run!  Well, anyone who has been a runner for awhile will tell you that's not true.  We runners actually can be a fairly high maintenance group!  Yes, at its core, running doesn't require anything more than sneakers and gym clothes - but, in my year of becoming a runner I have found that there are some items that make my runs easier.  I thought I'd share some of those things with you today!

1. My SpiBelt

First of all, let it be known that the Spibelt is NOT a fanny pack.  It is a "small personal item belt".  Totally NOT a fanny pack.  I have 2 of these non-fanny packs.  I bought a plain one several months ago and I have worn it for literally every single run I've done since I bought it.  At the Baltimore Half Expo, I bought a second SpiBelt - one that is water resistant and has loops to hold gels.  The SpiBelt looks small, but it stretches enough to fit my iPhone, a gel, extra gum, and my headphones.  It stays put on my waist and doesn't bounce at all.  It's a great alternative to an arm band!

I'm wearing it under my shirt in this picture and you can't see it.  If it WAS indeed a fanny pack, you'd totally be able to see it. Told you it wasn't a fanny pack.

2. The RockMyRun App
I haven't listened to my iPod playlist during a run since I downloaded this app.  It is AWESOME! RockMyRun is an app that provides DJ created playlists specifically for running.  You can search by genre and then choose a playlist based on the length or the beats per minute.  Mixes under 45 minutes are FREE (yes - seriously, FREE) and you can get mixes over an hour for a small fee.  I paid for the 3 month "training" membership - $12.99 for 3 months.  I've run to a different mix almost every long run and it's fun not knowing what's coming next, and being surprised with fun songs! 

3. Gum
This really doesn't require a lot of explanation...but I really can't run without gum.  It helps me feel less thirsty. I used to HATE fruity gum, but I found that mint gum mixed with Gatorade or NUUN is a terrible tasting combination, so I learned to love fruity gum when I run.  Specifically Trident Island Berry Lime.  


I've written about my quest for the best hydration additives before, so I won't spend a lot of time on this one.  But, I ended up using NUUN through all of my training runs for Baltimore.  It doesn't have a sticky sweet taste, transports easily, and I could divide the tablets in half and put one half in each of my 8 ounce bottles when I was doing long runs.  Plus they have a bunch of flavors! (local folks - they sell it at Vitamin Shoppe, Flying Feet, and maybe also Dick's but I'm not sure)

5. Foam Roller

The foam roller - oh it hurts...it hurts so good though.  I actually have 3 of these - one in my living room, one in my den, and one travel sized.  The foam roller is used for self massage, which is great since I don't want to drop a bunch of money getting a massage every time I run!  I roll my quads, hips, hip flexors, and any area that feels sore or has knots. I spend a lot of time in the position pictured - rolling out my IT band.  It's painful, but feels SO much better when I'm done!!  Read more about foam rolling here!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Pace Bracelet

I had a serious time goal for the Baltimore Half Marathon.  When I ran Rock 'N Roll USA in March, it was my first half.  I didn't have a time goal, I just wanted to finish.  My time for that race was 2:36.  Based off of how I was running in my long runs, I set myself 2 different time goals for Baltimore.  I decided that if I was feeling REALLY good, I would go for a 2:20 finish.  If I was hurting, or just not feeling it, I'd shoot for 2:30.

My finish time ended up being 2:16:13 - I was feeling fantastic!!!  I think the key for me was something simple: a pace bracelet.


To fins this one, I simply did a web search for "marathon pace bracelets" and found a website (this one) that allows you to enter your time goal and it makes this nifty bracelet.  I just cut it out, covered it in clear tape and then taped it onto my wrist on race morning.  I've seen other runners who write their split goals on their arms in Sharpie.  But with the way I sweat, I figured it would end up a mess and I'd have Sharpie smears all over myself.

To use the bracelet, I wore a simple cheap-o watch with a stopwatch feature.  As I passed each mile on the course, I just glanced at my watch and my bracelet.  At mile 1, I was about 20 seconds ahead of my goal pace.  From then on, I got a few seconds more ahead with each mile. 

I loved the pace bracelet because...
  1. At mile 11 when my IT band hurt, I knew I was 3 minutes under goal pace and could afford a few seconds to stop and stretch.
  2. Knowing how close I was to my goal pace kept me pumped up the whole race.
  3. I could judge about how far I was between mile markers knowing how fast my mile times were.
  4. I maintained a steady pace the entire race (my fastest was 9:56, slowest was 10:23, but most miles were right around 10:00-10:10)
  5. I didn't have to spend mental energy trying to calculate times or splits.
I will definitely be using this strategy for distance races again - it was a lifesaver!!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Current Favorite Green Smoothie

I drink a green smoothie every weekday morning for breakfast. I've written about them before, but here's the recipe I'm currently loving!

Cinnamon Almond Green Smoothie
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1 scoop Designer Whey Vanilla Praline
1 tbsp almond butter
1 banana
big handful of spinach
cinnamon (to taste)

Blend it all up and enjoy!!  The cinnamon makes this the perfect fall smoothie!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Baltimore Running Festival RECAP!

Baltimore Half-Marathon Recap

Conservative Time Goal - 2:30
Ambitious Time Goal - 2:20
Actual Finish Time - 2:16:13 (!!!!)

The Baltimore Running Festival consists of several race options: Kids Fun Run, 5K, Marathon Relay, Half-Marathon, and Full Marathon.  Downtown Baltimore was decorated with signs welcoming runners all over!  Loved this one at Camden Yards!

As you know, I was running the half-marathon...but I had several friends who were running in the full marathon.  The full started at 8:00, and the half started at 9:45.  We had 2 different start lines, and the courses merged around mile 3 for the half and 16 for the full.  The start corrals for the half were also along mile 9 of the marathon course, so those of us running the half were able to cheer on the full marathoners for awhile!  My parents and I arrived at the start area in time to catch all 3 of my full marathon running friends at mile 9 - including my friend Jeremy, who earned a race entry by running the whole 26.2 in an iced coffee costume.  HAHA!!

Everything I'd heard about this course involved one word - HILLY.  My full marathon friend, Lauren, said she didn't think it was all that hilly though.  And I have to say, I agree with her.  I don't actually remember any hills from the course.  There were some hills, but none that stick with me.  I wouldn't use the word hilly to describe the course at all.  However - because I'd read the word "hilly" so much, I made sure I trained every long run on serious York County hills.  So, I guess my training paid off!

I was really worried about my hip and IT band going into the race.  I'd rested Thursday and Friday, and my leg was feeling good - but I still remembered the pain of a few long runs, like the one I ended in tears.  But - my leg held up great on race day!!! I had zero pain in it until around mile 10.  I paused at mile 11 and stretched my IT band quickly and moved forward. 

Overall, I LOVED this race.  The spectators on the course were awesome - there were some really funny signs, people offering candy and beer, and lots of general cheering.  The course was well marked, had plenty of water (and Gatorade - every 2 miles!) and great variety in the scenery. 

The absolute best part of the race was the last 1/4 mile or so.  We ran down Eutaw St. alongside Camden Yards (home of the Orioles) and finished right before M&T Bank Stadium (home of the Ravens).  This entire section was FULL of people clapping and cheering.

I really almost lost it at this point. I knew I was well ahead of my "ambitious" goal time and I couldn't stop grinning. The people cheering, the finish line approaching, and knowing I'd run an awesome race - it was a GREAT feeling!!

This was a fantastic race.  I'm already excited to do it again next year, and I've convinced some pals to join me!  See you in 2014, Baltimore!!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

That's A Wrap!

Yesterday's 3-mile run marked the end of my training for the Baltimore Half-Marathon! 

I knew it was the "last run before 13.1" but it didn't actually occur to me that it meant the END of training until I had finished running. 

The END of weeks of planning workouts and going to bed early Friday nights so I could do a Saturday long run. No more dropping water bottles or testing out fuel intake or finding new running songs. 

Runners will tell you that it's not really about the race. It's about the training. The race is not the hard part - it's a celebration of all of the training and hard work you've done for the weeks leading up to the race. 

So with those 3 miles, I ended weeks of had work doing something I never thought I would love so much. I love running. I am a runner. And I can't wait to cross the finish line on Saturday!