Another Finish Line Crossed!

On Saturday I ran my seventh (?) half marathon. I ran the Rock and Roll USA half here in DC. It was hilly. I wasn’t feeling like it was my day, so I ended up just taking it easy and enjoying the race and finishing in 1:53:36.

Image

 

It wasn’t my best time, it wasn’t my second best finish. But I finished and I didn’t feel burned out or frustrated. One of the things I have learned about running is that some day your day doesn’t fall on race day. But it’s always how you handle yourself once you’ve crossed the finish line that determines how you being preparing for your next race. 

 

And speaking of my next (big) race … I got some awesome news this morning! 

 

Image

 

So I will run my 3rd marathon this fall! I am a mix of excited and nervous! I’m excited because running a marathon is a big deal! I am also hoping to improve on my 4:12 PR I set back in 2012 at the Steamtown Marathon in Scranton, PA. I’m nervous because 26.2 miles is a lot of running! It’s also a lot of training! And there’s a good chance that I will be doing some of that running and training at odd hours. I’m changing jobs soon – moving from an 8am-5pm schedule to a variable schedule that will change every few months and include some overnight work. Oh journalism! 

I am going to try my best to document my training and all that entails here. I’ll try to share some of the gear I love, some of my workouts, and probably what I’m eating and cooking (although not tonight, I ate chicken tenders and smile fries because I am 32).

In the meantime I’m looking forward to a couple of other races. In April the cherry blossoms will be in bloom and I’m hoping to kick some butt at the Cherry Blossom Ten Miler. I’m hoping to PR in that race. Then in May I’ll run the Capitol Hill Classic 10K. J got me hooked on this race. It’s got an awesome neighborhood feel to it, and I’m going to try to take April to real focus on training for a 10K. My goal in that race is to get under 50 minutes! 

For now, I’m going to relax! I did some 800s tonight and they kind of kicked my butt. Tomorrow I’m planning on just a nice and easy 5-6 mile run. My weather app tells me that it should be perfect for a run outside … on the first day of SPRING! 

Being Good To Yourself

In two weeks I’ll run my 7th half marathon. 

This morning I ran 12 miles with my irreplaceable running group (shout out to the DC Road Runners Spring Half Marathon Training 9:30 Pace Group). Since my days of college in the south, I have become pretty introverted. So when people would say they went running with someone and talked the entire time, I kind of wanted to wilt inside. I never really understood the appeal of talking while running. But honestly after running with a group, I never want to go back to running by myself. Running with people makes the time go faster even if you don’t talk the whole time. And if you do talk, it helps when you can talk with fellow runners about things that are bothering you – like your knee. 

 

Image

the best ice pack for knees!

 

Let’s not talk about my knee though. It’s a little sore, and I’m kind of obsessing about it. I’m going to stress the positive and look back on all of the progress I’ve made since I started running. My first race over a 10K was in 2011 – the Cherry Blossom Ten Miler. I famously told my parents I thought I would finish around 1:45 and I ended up finishing in 1:33 something so they never made it to the finish line to see me! Oops! 

In a way, that first “big” race says a lot about me as a runner. I am constantly underestimating my abilities. That sounds braggy, but I promise it’s not. If you had told me in April 2011 that I would be able to run 8:30 miles for an entire half marathon I would have said that you were crazy. And that’s what I’ve done. It hasn’t always been easy. I’ve been injured. 2012 was pretty much a bad year for me all around. And I didn’t get to the point where running didn’t feel unnatural until last year. (I’m not a very natural athlete.) But I stuck with running honestly because I loved the way I felt after I finished a race. I love the faces of the people cheering on loved ones and total strangers. I love to see people cross the finish line, exhausted but completely satisfied. I love that months of work come down to a few hours. 

Here’s the thing – I run quite a bit and I’m not a tiny gal. I’ve got a belly. My back sometimes spills over my sports bra. There are parts of me I wish looked different. Sometimes I go through the same thing we all go through – self-loathing, putting myself down for not making better choices. I don’t spend nearly the same amount of time praising myself for what my body does. (That sounds gross.) I dont think about the fact that this is the body that has carried me across so many finish lines. This is the body that has smashed PRs. This is the body that helps me do what I love most Saturday mornings. 

So these next two weeks I am going to be good to myself. I will try to eat well, but I won’t deny myself a few treats here and there. Speaking of which, thank goodness that the Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken food truck was in my neighborhood today. I mean, cold Saturdays after a long run merit a treat. Am I right? 

 

Image

Astro Doughnuts – maple bacon and crème brulée. I am sharing these.

Tonight I’m going to watch some movies with my sister in law (who is now my neighbor…I can’t tell you how excited that makes me). I have a feeling we might pop open a bottle of prosecco and I have a feeling there will be laughter. 

 

Also? I bought myself a little treat … feast your eyes on these: 

Image

Oiselle’s LF sweatpants

 

Nothing says sexy quite like sweatpants … but these are magic. I’m a huge fan of Oiselle. Their clothes are functional, cute and their brand is all about strong, amazing women. These sweatpants will be the perfect thing to slip into after my race. I can’t wait till they get here. This is probably the third time I’ve ordered something (with my own money, mind you) from Oiselle this year. I love them that much. 

What do you do to treat yourself? 

What plans do you have this weekend? 

2014. Let’s do this

We are nine days into the New Year and I’ve been reading a lot about various resolutions, intentions, promises, etc that folks are making. I want to eat better. I want to go to yoga more often. I want to run farther. I want to finish a marathon. I want to lose weight.

I set a bit of a mini-goal/challenge for myself this year – run 14 days straight? Get it? It’s a bit cheesy, but I really wanted to get myself focused again on running this year and making the time for it. I think a lot of the time I will go out on a run without even appreciating it, or the time it takes and the space it gives me to really think about whatever I want. That is a beautiful thing in a world where we are constantly being distracted.

But let’s also talk about those BIGGER goals, the kind that we really think about at the start of a New Year. Generally, I would say that having goals is a good thing. They are marks by which we measure progress. But what happens when things start to go awry? Do you give up on the goal? I have found that to be the most challenging part of goal-setting: what happens when things don’t go according to the plan? Setting a goal and making it happen are two totally different things, in my experience.

Image

Don’t mine me, just taking a gym selfie at the gym where I work.

What is my experience? Let me be honest with you. I am not overweight. I am not underweight. But for a long time I have not eaten well. It started when I worked an overnight job, and basically made an agreement with myself that because my work hours were so screwy I could eat whatever I wanted. That didn’t work out so well. This is when I started making some modest changes to my diet, and running.

Since then I’ve lost a little bit of weight and I’ve improved as a runner. But I know I could do better. I love, love, love a good burger and fries. I also have trouble saying no to a chocolate chip cookie. Even if I say I’ll only eat half – I usually end up eating the other half and then another cookie. This is not good.

So I wanted to make some changes. I want to be a better runner and that means putting some good fuel into my body. I hope to lose some weight in the process. Not because I NEED to. I don’t. I want to. I don’t want my belt to cut into my tummy. It does. But I also don’t want to feel that brick in my tummy from the burrito I HAD TO HAVE, or the chocolate chip cookie I felt I deserved after my day took a nose dive. Those things are great in moderation, but I need to recalibrate my moderation.

I bought myself a fitbit, and I’m going to be cataloguing everything I eat via MyFitnessPal. I’ve heard great things about doing this from dieticians, to friends. It’s not going to be easy, especially for this picky eater. But change is never easy right?

Do you have any resolutions for the New Year?

Have you ever set a fitness or nutrition goal?

Tell me about it/them in the comments!

Richmond Half Race Recap

On Sunday I ran my fourth and final half marathon of the year. And let me tell you, I had a goal. Oh boy, did I have a goal. I was REALLY hoping to break 1:50 this time around – I missed that back in April when I ran the Nike Women’s Half here in DC and it has haunted me like a running ghost. For the Nike Women’s Marathon I finished in 1:52:42 (I think) so  I was off by almost 3 minutes. I could make excuses  (nerves, a crowded start and poor fueling strategy) but I’ll just say I wasn’t ready. It wasn’t my day. This is a lesson that’s hard to learn in running, and it’s hard to learn in life. You have to forgive yourself. You have to let go of the bad and brush your shoulders off … otherwise you will probably repeat your sad prophecy over and over.

Okay so let’s talk about Richmond shall we? Step 1: plan ahead.

some of my racing essentials

Garmin charged, gu and snacks packed, outfit laid out, cowbell for my pit crew ready, bib ready

In my training leading up to Richmond I changed things up a bit. I ran 5 days a week and most weekends my long run was 13 miles. About half of the time I was running 30+ miles a week. Adding mileage is key both in the mental aspect of running (you just FEEL more prepared) and in terms of the running on tired muscles.

I was worried at the start because right before the half started it was literally pouring rain. Let’s ignore the fact that of all of the half marathons I have run it hasn’t rained in only one of them. I still do not like the rain. It doesn’t make me feel invincible. It makes me feel wet and like a human blister. The rain let up for our start though – which was good. It rained a little bit in the middle of the race for me. That was it. The temp was in the low 50s at the start so I wore shorts, my DCRR singlet, arm warmers and some gloves (which I eventually tossed).

Like so many races Richmond has a wave start. I was in  second wave and my pace group (the 1:50ers) was off to a great start for the first mile. I was chatting with our pace group leaders and other runners for the first mile so I missed clicking my garmin at mile 1! Oops! Our pace leaders were going to keep a consistent pace, and I think they did but they were a little faster than me so I dropped back by about halfway. That’s when I hit the only mini-hills Richmond had to offer in Bryan Park. Tiny rolling hills, but when you’re in the middle of the run and you’ve got 5 or 6 miles to go you’re thinking about how tough those hills are. So yeah, I kind of started to panic a bit, worried that I would lose my A goal (finish under 1:50). I tried to focus on B goal – finishing strong and PRing.

I won’t lie – miles 8, 10, and 11 showed some of the mental battles I was going through. They were my only miles that were above an 8:30 pace. I had to try not to listen to Bad Emily who wanted to quit, eat donuts and nap (in that order) Instead, I focused on running one more mile and trying to get it under that 8:23 pace. I got myself together though in time to see J who was waiting for me near the end.

At this point I can see the finish line!

At this point I can see the finish line!

By mile 12 I had a good feeling that I was going to be able to squeak by and get my A goal – if I hustled. And guess what? My 13th mile was actually one of my fastest. Way to go Good Emily!  I convinced myself that I wanted that sub 1:50 so badly that I would ignore the blisters on my feet, ignore my aching back and push through it.

I’m so glad I did because this is what I got:

BAM! A new 13.1 PR

BAM! A new 13.1 PR

I was beyond elated and so emotional and so tired that I started to cry and almost fell over. Luckily I saw a fellow from our pace group who helped me over to the side and out of the chute.

I earned this medal

I earned this medal

My splits:

MILE 1 & 2 (didn’t see the marker for mile 1) 16:44 – 8:21 per mile

MILE 3 8:09

MILE 4 8:14

MILE 5 8:27

MILE 6 8:10

MILE 7 8:10

MILE 8 8:33 (HILLY IN THE PARK)

MILE 9 8:26

MILE 10 8:32 (Started to worry a little bit about time here I think)

MILE 11 8:31

MILE 12 8:21

MILE 13 7:59 (downhill mostly)

LAST .1: 6:17 (very downhill)

Final time 1:49:26

Overall I was very impressed with Richmond’s half. It is a great course for a PR with minimal hills. The support on the course is amazing – some really dedicated volunteers (who again, were out there in the rain to make us all feel supported.) Race volunteers are the best. If you’re a runner, or an admirer of runners I would encourage you to volunteer for a race. You will see the awesomeness of humanity run before you.

After the race, J and I headed over to Buz and Ned’s for some BBQ. It’s probably one of my most favorite meals ever. I got the large meal – 2 sandwiches and 2 sides. I wasn’t able to demolish it all, but I came pretty darn close.

Later in the evening we headed to Carytown for tacos & obligatory celebratory margaritas at Don’t Look Back.  (Seriously one of the most delicious margaritas I’ve ever had.)

I doubt this will be my last race in Richmond. J and I are already eyeing the Ukrops 10K in March. For now though, I’m going to bask in the glory of another PR!

Back To It

There is so much I have neglected to write about … my half marathon (yes I PRed, but it wasn’t the PR I wanted), another half marathon in some serious heat, and a 10 miler that I love … let’s just say no records were shattered and I promise to be a better blogger!

This week I’ve been on staycation! Which means … pool time!

Image

Life hasn’t been all sunscreen and 50 cent cups of ice at my local public pool.  I’ve also been trying to bring running back into my workout rotation. (Prior to Monday, I haven’t run since June 15th! I’m a fan of the occasional seasonal break from running.) Anyone who lives in the DC area will tell you that it’s been demonishly hot this week. So Monday I just took it easy on the treadmill, and added a little HIIT circuit in for strength after.

Today I did a mile time trial, again on the treadmill. I’m not one of those super speedy runners.

Image

But given that I haven’t run in a month, I was pretty pumped. Let’s ignore the fact that I kind of wanted to pass out afterwards.

I should mention that I am taking Angel’s 21 Day Fitness Challenge. What I love is that it incorporates goals, workouts and eating clean! I need to step away from the bread, and the rice, and the cookies, and the ice cream, and the Diet Dr. Pepper. (Are you sensing a theme? I have many food/beverage vices.) So far I’ve sweated A LOT and sweating makes me feel great! Today’s challenge also included doing as many push ups as possible in 90 seconds, and as many jumping lunges as possible in 90 seconds. My thighs were burning and begging for mercy. I still had it in me for the bonus round: 1 more mile, as fast as possible – this time in 8:00. I was pretty tired.

Image

I don’t know how to explain this face … clearly part pool time with obvious sunglasses tan, part “I really want to get that sub 1:50 half marathon PR when I run in Richmond”. Did I mention that before? No? I signed up for two fall half marathons … The Freedom’s Run Half in October (which will be a hilly training run) and the American Family Fitness Half Marathon in Richmond in November.  I’ve realized through training for 2 marathons in this DC heat and humidity that it feels a heckuva lot better to pick a later race. I am going to really focus on trying to get that sub 1:50 half time with all the cells in my body. Please remind me of this when I complain about running so much during the week. It will feel great to get that PR.

You know what else feels great? Other than my super cool bathroom floor- obvs … these socks:

Image

They were a treat to myself from awhile back. I had heard from a birdie/several running blogs that they’re supposed to help prevent those dang toe blisters and toe rubbing. I am kind of grossing myself out so I won’t go into too many details, but let’s just say I took these puppies for a test drive today and they felt great.

On to tomorrow! I have some stuff to take care of at home, so I’ll either have to get up early to run, or wait until later in the day (as this non-morning person usually does)

Do you have a favorite time of day to workout? 

How do you treat yo self after a good workout? 

Boston Love

Like so many folks I was profoundly saddened to hear the news out of Boston.

 

So much has been said in the days following. There has been sadness. There have been tears. There have been words of encouragement. Personally, I have thought many times of one of my favorite quotes from the first woman to ever run Boston, Katherine Switzer: “If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon.” 

That is why I run. I love the warm up rituals. I love the look on faces of runners as they cross the finish line. I love the crowds – big and small – that come to cheer on finishers. 

I remember this well from my first marathon a year and a half ago. The first 19 miles I felt great. I felt invincible. But when mile 20 rolled around I started to feel lonely. I was craving a familiar face, someone to tell me that they knew I could do it. That was what I needed to get through that last 10K. I didn’t see anyone I knew, but  I saw spectators. They were people who took a day away from doing what they wanted to do to selflessly cheer on a friend, a daughter, a husband, a mother. And yet they cheered on me too.  Every now and then they would shout out my name (which was printed on my bib) and I would beam a big smile. Those cheers propelled me to mile 26 where I finally saw my boyfriend.

 

What I saw when I reached mile 26 was him, smiling so big. He was proud. He was running along with me, snapping photos with my camera. He was telling me how I looked fast and strong. I started crying and I remember I told him to shut up because I was so tired I didn’t think I had enough strength to cry and run at the same time. We laugh about that all the time now. 

 

My point in telling this story is that I think when most people think about marathons they think about the runners. For sure, anyone who has run a marathon accomplishes an amazing physical and mental feat. But many of the runners I know say that the difference maker are the spectators – the people who wake up early to line the streets, the folks who man the aid stations, the family that sets up a card table with water and orange slices, the local marching band, the smiling faces that scream the names of runners as they go by. Those people make the difference for us runners. Those are the people I am thinking about in the wake of this tragedy.

 

I’ve been trying to think of how I, as a runner, can honor those who have lost so much in the wake of this tragedy. I’ve decided that for every mile I run in April I’ll donate a dollar to charity. I will run each of my runs with purpose and focus, thinking about those people who cheer so loud for their friends and family. Their love, their dedication will push us all forward to our finish lines.  

Cherry Blossom Ten Miler – or how I surprised myself with a better than expected PR

I am a competitive person. This is both my saving grace, and my downfall as a runner.

It’s a saving grace because it fuels me to sign up for races and push through tough workouts. And it’s my downfall because too often I compare my time to others who are faster and more experienced. I don’t think I’m alone in this. (And let’s just say for my non-running brethren out there, this exists in all different forms – we compare ourselves to better bakers, better writers, better sewers, better looking people, etc)

It’s not healthy. And I’d like to start a campaign, for me and for all of you.

Let’s stop comparing ourselves to everyone else. It’s not helping us. I know it will probablytake some time and effort to break these bad habits, but let’s try? Here’s the deal I made with myself – whenever I start to compare my time or my (insert skill here) to anyone else I’ll stop and compare it to me a year or two ago.

I’ve been testing this strategy out this year with my running. As some of you know, last year when I ran my second marathon I was very disappointed. I felt like I was a faster runner than I was the year before, but I didn’t see any real-time improvement. Any runner will tell you that after running through four months of hot weather, spending weekends out on the trail, and calling it early on Friday nights this is a disappointment.

So this year I have been focusing on improving my attitude, finding “zen” moments in running and really giving my workouts focus and purpose. I try to set intentions with each workout, and really give them my all instead of looking at them as another thing on my to-do list. I think this has helped me stay on track with more of my workouts this year.

This past Sunday was the first true test of my attitude adjustment. The Cherry Blossom Ten Miler is one of my favorite races. It was the first 10 miler I completed 2 years ago when I started running for real. That year I surprised myself by running it in 1:32:56.  I ran it again last year, but was plagued by a nagging leg injury so my finish time was 1:30:49, an improvement but I felt like collapsing afterwards because I didn’t have much training under my belt.

This year I arrived at the starting line healthy and with a better attitude.

Image

Cherry Blossom Ten Miler Start & Finish

I arrived by 6:45, quickly checked my jacket and guzzled  water. I had my standard bagel with butter for a pre-race meal. I visited the port-o-potty. I found my way into the blue corral. I hit start on my watch when it was my time to go.

I was expecting to keep a pace somewhere between 8:30 and 8:45 per mile. The first mile, because it takes awhile for the field to un-stick itself, is always a little slow. My first was around 8:24. The next few miles I was averaging 8:15 or so per mile, and I made a deal with myself: keep up this pace and you’ll be so proud of yourself. There were times (running into a headwind coming off the Potomac River) that I didn’t know if I could keep that pace. I just pushed those thoughts out of my head. I was racing 2012 me, and she was behind me.

Before I knew it I was at the 9 mile mark and that is the best stretch of this race. Everyone is out, they are loud and you’re running toward the finish line. The crowd really got me going. I started to tear up (I’m a very emotional runner). I wanted to finish strong, and I did.

Image

Objects in Garmin GPS watch are faster than they appear

Turns out my watch was a little off. I finished in 1:22:15 a PR – taking 8:34 off my PR from last year. I was so surprised to break 1:25. Once I crossed the finish line I saw my mom and I was even happier. It was so great to share this experience of finishing with someone.

My parents brought me flowers from their garden to congratulate me and we went out for breakfast sandwiches to celebrate.

Image

My “winner’s” bouquet

There were plenty of people who ran faster than me. 20% of the field finished in front of me. I would love to run faster – but I did run faster than I ran this race last year. I ran the fastest 10 miles that I’ve ever run. And I am proud of that. So on Sunday, after I cleaned up and tried to take a nap, I sat on my couch and made a new intention – I told myself, “This time is mine, for now, because next year I want to beat myself again.”

How do you measure your success? How do you celebrate your many accomplishments?