Monday Morning Rambles

Short and sweet today. So excited for this coming weekend’s races, and race Expo. So many running related purchases to be made. On par for a good race as my training runs lately have been lousy, and that is my pattern. Only made it through 4 miles of my scheduled 8 yesterday–calves were locking up and it didn’t feel like the right time to force through it. Lesson learned–I cannot wear the New Balance Zante v3 shoes even for errands. I wore them around on Saturday morning for a bit and apparently even that was too much for my legs. I’ve NEVER had this kind of trouble when changing shoes–I’ve changed brands, styles, etc without issue, but these apparently just don’t work for me. Never fear, I found another pair of New Balance Zante v2 and they should arrive today. I need another pair in the rotation, and I’m going to start breaking in my PGH Brooks shoes too. Hoping I’ll have no issues with those as OMG I love them and have big plans for them.

Need to find some more summer races, and finalize my fall marathon training plan. Super excited for what is taking shape. So much potential, so many big goals to smash and PRs to crush. I can’t wait.

Happy Monday, friends.

Weekend Race Recap

So I ran a couple races this weekend. Getting to be old hat because back to back races are fast becoming one of my favorite things–even though it seriously messes with my routines. But I LOVE racing. I LOVE it. It lights me up and makes me happy. To be fair, it usually makes me cranky first, but I’m happy when I’m out there, and when it’s over I can’t wait to do it again. Even when it hurts. (Like right now.)

I felt really good going into this weekend. I’d had some bad training runs, but figured out a couple of things, and I was just feeling it this weekend. I could just tell it was going to be a good weekend of racing. So Saturday morning I had the Pittsburgh Pirates Home Run 10k–running around the North Shore and finishing across home plate at PNC park, you get a medal. They had me at medal, honestly, I’m a sucker for the bling.

Pirates gear, repping the black and gold, ready to run. My 10k PR was 1:10:41, set last December at The Christmas Story 10k. I did the math and knew that if I could keep my average pace split under 11, I would PR. I started with the 10:30 pacers, but didn’t stay with them for long. And I was where I should be mile after mile. Things got a little rough around miles 4 and 5–I had a wicked stitch and had to walk a couple times, but I managed to pull it together and finish strong. I was originally thinking maybe I’d pull a 1:09:something. But as I entered the stadium I knew it would be much better than that. I ended up pulling out 1:05:07–a PR by more than 5 minutes!

Couldn’t celebrate for too long, though, because after I collected my medal I had to hightail it out of there so I could change, pack, and we could head to packet pickup for Sunday’s race. Drove to Ohio, picked up our packets, had some lunch, visited my dad, hung out with our friends (who graciously hosted us for the night) and tried to relax before the next event.

The next morning was COLD. MUCH colder than we’d anticipated, though I was optimistic that it would warm up before the race actually started. Sunday we did the 10-mile Drop, a point to point race that starts in Chardon, Ohio and ends at Fairport Harbor, Ohio. We parked at the finish and were bussed to the start where it started to warm up (and so did we). The race is billed as downhill, but its in Northeast Ohio, so that basically means flat with a slight downhill grade. PR material, though if you know me you know that I’m not super fond of flat courses, I much prefer some topography because I’m good at using the downhills to my advantage. Still, I chose this race, and I felt good going in. Same deal as Saturday, if I could stay ahead of 11 minute miles, I’d definitely PR. I started off great. The first half I was more than on track. I slowed down some in the back half, but I’d made enough time up in the first half that I was still on pace to PR. My record was sitting at 1:52:04. I would have been happy with anything less, but I really wanted 1:50:something. I was struggling in the last mile, I was sure I could PR but doubted I could get 1:50. I wanted to walk at one point and then I said NO. Just go for it, see what happens. I ended up coming in at 1:49:41.

I pushed hard both days. I was sore on Sunday from Saturday, and I’m sore as I type this now. It’s the most delightful sore in the world, I’m super proud of myself and how hard I worked. The Pittsburgh Half Marathon is 2 weeks away, and I have a steep time goal set for myself. I don’t know if I can do it, but after this weekend I know that I will do everything I can to get as close as possible. But today, I rest.

Happy Monday, friends.

Friday Funtimes…

I have been soooo excited about running lately. I’ve been binge listening to the Run, Selfie, Repeat podcast (which I discovered from another favorite podcast 300 Pounds and Running) and I can’t believe that I haven’t been following her forever–she’s like my spirit animal. That coupled with one of my buddies having a super great 20-miler the day of my ill-fated 11-miler. I’m going into a back-to-back race weekend that will be an exhausting whirlwind, but awesome to be sure and I feel really good going into it. I can’t wait to see what I can pull off.

Listening to the journey of Kelly (Run, Selfie, Repeat) as she goes for a Boston Marathon Qualifying time has me so pumped to start training for my fall marathon (registration coming soon). I’m trying not to get too ahead of myself though, I know I’ll set a steep time goal for myself (TBD, I’m waiting to see what time my buddy puts up at Pittsburgh) and I need to stay focused on the first set of races before I dive into a new training plan. I’m really embracing this ‘setting a goal that feels impossible’ mindset. If I don’t hit it, I don’t hit it, but I want to see how close I can get if I don’t.

I’m feeling really good about myself and my body. I wore a bikini for the first time ever on our vacation–just around our beach house, but still. I’m no Victoria’s Secret model, but I’m cool with that. I’m a ways from being comfortable running in just my sports bra, but maybe I’ll get there. It doesn’t feel like an impossibility to me anymore. Not even so much that my body has changed, but my comfort level with it has. The scale is bouncing around the same 3 pounds and for the first time, I don’t really care. I’m fine with the relative consistency. Intense training means I have to eat. And I like to eat. I’ve been reading The Endurance Diet by Matt Fitzgerald (who I got to meet through my running club, awesome guy) and it makes so much more sense to me. I want to perform my best–so I need to do whatever it takes to get there. Which right now means focusing on what my body can do and what it needs to do it.

Happy Weekend, Friends.

Coming Up to Speed…

I’ve honestly started this entry a million times, but never really finished it. Today’s the day. No lengthy catch up, just the basics…

I finished Insanity! and I LOVED it. LOVED. But it messed with my running–I didn’t have enough time or energy to properly devote to my training. So while the process was great and I got good results, I’m holding off on another round because I have some serious running goals staring me in the face.

I’ve done a ton of races so far this year, and I’m looking at another back-to-back race weekend this coming weekend. Still trying to find my groove as far as time management so everything gets done, but damn I love racing. Even on the bad days, running is lighting me up like it used to. Not going to get into details right now, but some new PRs have been set (as I inch ever closer to a sub-30 5k), and you can check out my Race Schedule page if you’re curious about what races I’ve done and how I did.

That said, there have been some bad days recently, and my poor performance at the half marathon course preview run killed me. Yesterday I went out for a 5k to redeem myself and was able to dissect it a little bit, which helps–if I can figure out what went wrong I can correct it. (1) My diet has been absolute crap–I’ve been on vacation so I haven’t been as consistent with my food plan. (2) New shoes–the ones I just bought and have been wearing are the updated version of my standbys, and whatever is different doesn’t seem to be working for me.

So today it’s back to my “diet” and I’m going back to my other shoes this week to see if it helps. Tweaked my ankle somehow during yesterday’s run so I’m resting today (crazy as that’s making me). That’s all I have for now, more soon.

Transformations…

When I was looking up race times for my last post I encountered the photos from last year’s First Day 5k. I shared them on social media on Tuesday, but there was far more to say than I could fit in an Instagram caption. I had a LOT of feelings when I first saw the pics and compared them to the ones from this year.

Not all of them good. My first reaction was admittedly not ‘wow’ and feelings of pride in how far I’ve come. I don’t remember being that big, for one, I was surprised when I saw the pictures. But I do remember how unhappy I was–not so much in or with my body, but just in general. I’m definitely someone who eats their feelings so periods of my life where I’m heavier are generally periods where I am struggling to deal. I was also just running races for the sake of running races at that point. I had fallen out of love with running and it would be another 6 months or so before I started to love it again. The second thought was still not ‘wow’, but more disbelief. ‘Sure, I look good in comparison, but…’ was my reaction as I was very much still spinning my wheels about the progress frustration I’d discussed the Focus entry. Yeah, I look good in comparison, but I’m still not where I think I should be. And that’s very much the headspace I was in when I posted it on Tuesday. I didn’t post it right away, and I was a little uncomfortable when I did. The nag at the back of my head wasn’t ready for compliments and way to go’s, her response was ‘yeah, but…’ and I think that’s what came through in the caption. Still, a part of me knew that I needed to put it out there, so I did.

Today the universe forced my hand–I woke up with pink eye and had to call off of work. Not what I wanted at all, my workaholic side was pretty pissed in fact, and if working from home was an option I would have been doing so today. Which is why the universe forced my hand and made me take a break. I did stuff around the house, went to the doc and the pharmacy (obviously), and I’ll be getting my Insanity workout in because I’m fine besides my eyeball, but I also took a nap and took advantage of the unexpected down time to try on some old clothes. Like I said in my Focus post–I feel tighter and leaner despite the scale and so I needed to see if there was any progress that I could actually see for myself. I didn’t have my hopes up, I wasn’t expecting much of anything, and maybe that’s why I got a pleasant surprise. Most of the things that I haven’t been able to wear for a couple of years were still tight the last time I tried them on. But today way more of them fit than I expected. Not everything, but a lot of things. And I was kind of floored by it.

I wore these shorts on my first date with my now husband. Pretty sure that was the last time I wore them. I’m still about 10 pounds heavier than I was then so I couldn’t believe that they fit. Husband pointed out that I’ve put on a lot of muscle since then. And it finally clicked. My composition is shifting, so I’m heavier but smaller all at the same time. Duh. Still a work in progress–I’m by no means where I want to be, I’m still chasing my optimal racing ‘weight’, though I realized that I need to focus less on the scale and more on other means of measurement as it’s going to be skewed at this point. It also means that in order to progress I need to really tweak my diet because I’m closer to my ‘goal weight’ than I previously believed so I have to strike a more careful balance.

But more important to me in this moment is that for the first time in months I can see progress, and I feel really good about it. (And really disappointed it’s January and too cold to wear most of my reclaimed clothes…)

Happy weekend, friends.

Race Recaps…

So to jump right back in…I’ve done three races in basically as many weeks. So here’s a brief rundown of the events. I ended 2016 with a bang by doing the Harmony Silvester 5k on 12/31 where I managed to eek out a PR for the end of the year–33:04, a little over a minute faster than my previous 5k PR and a great place to end the year. It’s a nice race, rolling course, which is my favorite (I never seem to do as well on flat courses), decent number of participants. Having run in Harmony before, I’ve definitely encountered worse hills on other courses (looking at you Shamrock Shuffle Half Marathon). The race goes by gun time, which makes me even happier with my time. Overall a great event, and one I would definitely go back to.

Then on New Year’s Day we started off right with the First Day 5k. Not a gently rolling course, but a hilly beast that has kicked my butt now two years in a row. Finished two minutes slower than the Harmony race the day before, which I’m remarkably okay with as it was a solid 7 minutes faster than I did the same race and course the previous year, so I couldn’t be upset. It’s a tough course. I always underestimate the hills and end up walking (which, while there’s no shame in it, pisses me off a little). So hill work it is. Because if I hadn’t walked, I probably would’ve PR’d on that course, and now I want to do that. First goal for 2018, boom.

Last weekend I participated in my first group training run with the Steel City Road Runners–the Marathon Training Kickoff run. I’m doing the half at Pittsburgh this year, because I have a score to settle and honestly, I prefer the half to the full. I prefer to train for a full during the heat of the summer and end up rewarded with cooler temps on race day than vice versa. But I’m planning to run an ultra (and potentially now a full) in June, so doing the full marathon training makes way more sense. It was cold, and awful, and my pace SUCKED, but I got the miles done and had a good time. More group runs are in my future, for sure.

This weekend I did the Chilly Cheeks 5-miler up in Hermitage. Again, cold, which seems to be affecting my pace more than I want it to (and more than I want to admit it does). It wasn’t a tough course, but it *felt* tough. And my time was about a minute slower than the 5-miler I did in November, but when put in perspective of the fact it was significantly colder, I can accept it. Lots of work to do to hit my time goals, but I’m not starting off from a bad place.

Week is off to a solid start. Happy Monday, friends.

Focus…

I’ve been struggling this week, hard core. Last month I decided to change things up in my routine to take my training and running to the next level. I started doing Insanity. I’ve never been a big home-workout fan. The last time I did a DVD-style home workout religiously was when I did the original Tae Bo VHS tapes in college. That was also the last time I can say I *liked* a trainer on a DVD series (I can’t stand Billy Blanks in his newer stuff, he got really annoying once people knew who he was). Before that it was Richard Simmons and Mary Lou Retton on VHS tapes from my childhood. But recently? Can’t stand DVD trainers. Even the ones I like under other circumstances, I downright loathe when I’m working out with them. I’ll swear at them, half-ass the workout (because I’m by myself so there’s zero accountability), look at them like they’re crazy and refuse to even try some of the moves. So you can see why committing to something like Insanity was a stretch for me. I wasn’t sure how this was going to go. I was extremely skeptical, but I’ve heard a lot of good things about this particular program, and I’ve been intimidated by it forever (did you know it’s labeled as Advanced?) so I decided to take the plunge.

I love it. I actually LOVE it. Shaun T not only doesn’t annoy me, but I like him. I haven’t yet encountered a move I can’t at least sort of do (might happen in the second phase, but so far so good). I push myself–some days more than others, but such is life–and I legit like the workouts. So overall, I’m happy with my decision to do it.

So why the struggle? Because I’m nearly 4 weeks in and I’m not seeing the physical changes I wanted and expected. I’m tracking my food. I’m working out twice a day most days of the week. The scale isn’t budging and I see no changes in the mirror. Overtraining? Perhaps, but I feel largely energized by my workouts on the whole. I’m enjoying them. I took it a little easier this week because I was feeling a little run down, but I *missed* the workouts I cut. My body feels good and not tired, run of the mill soreness fades quickly–I’ve been pounding BCAAs but I’ve not needed Ibuprofen or anything more than once or twice in the past month. Food’s been pretty good as well. Mostly protein and fats, moderate carbs. I try to balance my calorie intake against my activity so I’m running a deficit but not too much. There are definitely things I can tweak, but I should be seeing some kind of progress. I’m working my ass off but yet it’s still firmly intact.

I broke down earlier this week. What’s the point? I’m doing all of this and it feels like it’s for nothing and I’m getting nowhere. I had a full out meltdown and pity party the other day. But I did my workout. Pouted some more. And went to bed. Sleep really is the human reset button, because when I woke up my perspective had shifted. I’m looking at this all wrong. Yes, I want to get back to my racing weight, but ultimately my performance goals matter more than that. I’m showing marked improvement on the FitTest that is part of the Insanity program. My running is still improving. I feel good, I feel tighter and leaner and stronger–even if I don’t see it. I need to focus on the process and just keep pushing forward. Results will come if I keep doing the right things. And ultimately I like the process. I *like* working out and pushing myself physically. It’s never for nothing, even if the results I get are not what I expect.

Looking forward to seeing how this plays out in my race tomorrow.

Keep pressing forward, friends.

Catching Up: 2016 recap and 2017 goals

The worst thing about taking a hiatus from blogging–whether intentional or not, but especially if it’s not–is coming back and feeling like you have so much to catch up on, and so much to talk about. This was definitely an unintentional break. I got busy with the holidays and morning workouts have edged out the time I used to use for writing and I just never made the point to do it. I’ve thought about it a lot, I have a list of things I want to get caught up on and talk about, bits and pieces of podcasts that have made me think “blog post!” but nothing has come to fruition. So, new year, time to buckle down and make this blog thing happen again. I’m not going to try to do a massive post to catch up on everything, I’m going to try to break it down in to several posts over at least the next week so it’s not a massive brain dump and I can do each thing proper justice.

First things first, then I’ll backtrack some (if you want to call it that)…2016 year in review and goals for 2017.

I ran 18 races in 2016, the most I’ve ever done, edging out my previous record of 16 races in 2013. I definitely didn’t love running, or 5ks, when I set the goal to do a race a month in 2016, but somewhere along the way I fell in love with running again and learned to love 5ks as well. I started the year basically half-assing and doing the races for the sake of doing them, but after some soul searching and gentle nudging from a friend I started to actually *run* again. And I came back stronger and faster and I just want more.

Which brings me to my goals for 2017…

-PR at the Pittsburgh Half Marathon (I have a specific time goal that I’m not keen to share just yet…)

-Run a sub-30 minute 5k

-PR 50k time

-PR ultra distance

-PR at a fall full marathon TBD (again, I have a time goal, but I’m not keen to share it yet…)

-Press 16kg bell 5x each side

-Get back to racing weight and maintain within 5lbs

-Volunteer for a race

Serious goals. Steep ones, especially if you knew the time goals I’ve set for myself. But not impossible or unobtainable. I talked about Beast Mode last year, but my training this year pales in comparison to what I thought was Beast Mode then. I’ll share more about my training plan soon (because, accountability) but for me it boils down to what I’ve decided on for my word of the year:

Self-discipline: the ability to control one’s feelings and overcome one’s weaknesses; the ability to pursue what one thinks is right despite temptations to abandon it.

This is my focus, and will be the key to achieving my goals. In some respects I am very disciplined (working out, going to bed on time), in others I’m not nearly as disciplined as I should be (diet, stretching/foam rolling, drinking water). And developing and improving that consistency with self-discipline will be necessary.

I turn 35 next month. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would be an athlete when I turned 35. But I am and it’s time for me to act like it. The best is yet to come.

Race Recap: Holiday Double Header

I started this post last week, but the cold I’d acquired really kicked my butt and I couldn’t even get through typing it on Monday morning before I dragged myself to work.

I have really been looking forward to these races. I ran the Ugly Sweater Run in Pittsburgh last year with friends and it was so much fun. It didn’t come back here, but when I saw it was in Cleveland that seemed like a good excuse for a weekend trip. Then I found out the A Christmas Story Run was the day before. Sold. Unfortunately I caught a pretty wicked cold right before the trip which dampened my enthusiasm some for the weekend, but still…it was a lot of fun.

Headed to Ohio on Friday so we could hit packet pickup for the first race–A Christmas Story House run. No issues navigating in Cleveland (because it’s a grid built on a square…unlike our beloved Pittsburgh). Spent some time with my parents, then went over to Kel and Erik’s to have our pre-race dinner, a couple of drinks (because the pre-race beer has re-entered my life) and crash for the night.

Saturday morning we got up early, prepped, got out the door so we could find our way and make sure to get parking before road closures could become an issue (they wouldn’t have been for us, it turns out, but we didn’t know that). We were really early, and the lights were still on downtown, so Andy took some pictures of me before we went to Tower City for the SCRR photo.

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I started off great. I had energy, I was feeling good. I started with the 10:30 pacer (who was awesome) and stuck with him the whole first mile without much issue. But by mile two the sickness started to rear its ugly head and I was started to get depleted. I had to walk a few times. Cheers from fellow SCRR members helped as we passed each other along the course. It was a fun race, though, and I would totally do it again. Wish I could’ve seen more of the house (the actual house from A Christmas Story is the 5k endpoint and 10k turnaround) I thought about stopping for a selfie with it–pretty sure my time was already screwed because I’d had to walk, and this was supposed to be fun and not matter–but at that point I was running pretty well so I didn’t want to break momentum. So I kept going. The last bit of the course was rough for me, but I pressed on best I could manage. And ultimately I’m glad I did–I pulled out a PR! Only 5 seconds, and I’m reasonably sure the course was a little short, but hell it’s an official time on a course labeled 10k, so I’m going with it.

I was super depleted after the race, so we hightailed it back to the car and headed back to Kel & Erik’s. We got showered and such then the four of us went to lunch at FatHeads. So Good. Really hit the spot. Then we split ways and Andy and I went to pick up our packets for Sunday’s race, do a little shopping, then went to my parents house to help mom get ready for dad’s surprise party. I really could’ve used a nap, but it just wasn’t in the cards. We had a successful surprise 70th birthday party for my dad (and his twin brother). Then we headed back to Kel & Erik’s for the night.

Up and at ’em again on Sunday, not quite as bright eyed and bushy-tailed as I was on Saturday but good enough. This race was at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, which was admittedly a big part of the appeal. I love the zoo. Huddled in the info center to stay warm before the race and took some more pics while waiting for go time.

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The Ugly Sweater Run is billed as a 5k, but it isn’t timed–it truly is meant to be a fun run style event. I didn’t even start off as strong as I had the day before, I was definitely drained from the sickness, so I was really glad that there was no timing so there was no pressure at all for me to perform well. The course was also really short, definitely not 5k–Garmin clocked it about 2.75 miles. But again, it was a fun event. I liked it, I would do it again, especially at the zoo (or Pittsburgh, it was cool here too, and much closer to a real 5k). And this year there were medals! We got sweet medals for both events, which was awesome, because I am ALL about that bling.

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Next up is our New Year’s Double Header–the Harmon Silvester 5k on New Year’s Eve and the First Day 5k on New Year’s Day–because I can think of no better way to cap off this year and start next year than by running. Working on my training plan for the first part of the year and trying to get some races scheduled and on the books. It’s going to be a little intense, possibly INSANE, but I need to challenge myself to get where I want to be. More to come on that as it unfolds.

Also worth noting, I had to break my run streak. I made it 14 days, then my knee started acting up and I literally could not run. I rested a couple days and was fine. Then ran one day, but the last bit of chest congestion killed me. Yesterday I felt really lousy so I missed my run. I think I’ve just about kicked it though, so I’m going to start again. I’d rather keep trying and falling short than not go for it at all. Don’t give up. Just keep pushing.

Happy Monday, friends!

Playing Catch Up

I had intended to post last week, but things got a little crazy for me so this was the thing I let go. I started running in the morning before work most days of the week and I really like it. I’m still trying to find my groove with it, but it’s something I’ve missed doing. I’m taking this morning off as my knee is a little cranky, hoping that if I let it rest today I can continue my Runner’s World Run Streak after work, even if I just squeak out one mile.

Ran the PNC YMCA Turkey Trot (5-miler) on Thursday before I headed to Ohio. So much fun. I really enjoyed it. I love running through the city of Pittsburgh. Apparently I have no official 5-mile time (i.e. no races prior to this one), but the last one I ran on my own was 1:07:15 and I finished the Turkey Trot in 53:52, so I’ll take that PR.

After the race I headed to Ohio for a few days with my family and friends and it was very much needed. Got a jump on some Christmas shopping, spent time with my family, my best friend, got to see my KAKE girls for our annual meet up, got a couple of short runs in, it was a much needed respite from work.

Yesterday I ran again, and it was nothing impressive from a distance or speed stand point, but it was another turning point in my running life. I’ve always been a run-walker. No shame in that, no harm, it’s how plenty of people operate. Unless I’ve been running with someone who forced my hand, I’ve always walked some. I’ve never really believed I could do it without walking at least a little. And even after my training partner/buddy/coach forced my hand I’ve walked some in my solo training runs. Less, but I still walked. I ran every step of my races, but training runs, meh. That’s always been my problem–I let myself off the hook too easy, and when I am pushing, it’s generally his voice (or someone else, but admittedly usually his) pushing me through. Until yesterday. I set out to do 4 miles, with the only goal being to beat my time from the last time I did 4 miles on my own. I set out, and I ran. And I kept running. And I started to bargain with myself–you’re going to do at least 5k. You’re not going to walk until you get at least 5k in. I hit 5k and was three blocks from the car, and I told myself I was running to the car. I got a block from the car and told myself I was running the full 4 miles. And I did. I didn’t walk. I didn’t cut the mileage short. And the voice in the back of my head pushing me through it was my own. Pretty proud of that. It’s a sign of good things to come.

Two races this weekend–A Christmas Story 10k on Saturday and the Ugly Sweater 5k on Sunday. Gearing up for those and a lot of big things to come in 2017.

Have a good week, friends.