Race Recap: Youngstown Half Marathon

I love racing. I love it. Even when I’m not pushing for time, I love the environment, the atmosphere, the thrill of the event, the bling at the end (can’t forget that now!). So no one should be surprised that I finished the Ogden (did I mention how amazing that was?) and pretty much immediately signed up for the inaugural Youngstown Half Marathon–because who doesn’t want to race every weekend?  That said, and I actually emailed the RD to make sure we could do it–race day pickup was my deal breaker. I was already making two trips to Ohio that week, a third was fine, but a fourth to pick up race packets was a non-starter. Fortunately, they said race day pickup was fine so the hubs and I signed up. A group from my running club was going, it was gonna be a good day.

Sunday morning we got up stupid early–really stupid early, like 3:30 AM–to get ready so we could head to Youngstown. Mind you the drive takes an hour 15 to an hour and a half, wanted to get there around 6 for packet pickup, race started at 7. So we left at 4:30. Which was slight overkill, but hey, live and learn. Got there, got our packets, got warmed up and ready, got the group photo for the running club, and soon we were in the street ready to start.

Great course, great great course. The half is mostly through Mill Creek park, which I have run before, though man, did I forget about the hills. Like I knew that hills were a thing, but after the Ogden last weekend I kind of brushed them off. MISTAKE. I struggled on this course, much more than I did at Ogden, largely because I underestimated the hills. Admittedly my nutrition has also been off balance lately, and I suffered for that as well. Plenty of good moments during this race, though. I flew on the downhills (that’s always been a strength of mine). And this bridge, in the middle of the park, which I LOVE:

It was the first year for this event and it was really well done–well organized, well executed, and I was overall pleased with the experience. The problems I had had zero to do with the race itself, and I would definitely consider this race again. Also…check out this medal! The photo does not do the glitter justice:

 

And in other news, when I went to update my stats on the Half Fanatics website I realized that I was soooo close to mooning up…I just needed one more race within a week. Sooooo I signed up for another half marathon this weekend. Closer to home on the GAP trail, a smaller event but it will still be nice and will get me that last race (4 half marathons in 37 days) I need to moon up.

Lots going on as I prepare for a round of full marathon training, but more on that later. Happy Monday, friends.

Marathon Madness…

A few years ago, when running was really bad for me for a million reasons, I kind of swore off the full marathon. I had no interest in doing another one for a long time, pretty much indefinitely. I never said never, but…I also couldn’t imagine WANTING to do it again–it hurts, and I found the training stressful. And then my running life was reborn, and that old familiar itch for distance came back. So I started poking around and looking at options. While Pittsburgh seemed like a natural choice for my return, the fact of the matter is that I HATE spring marathons. I hate training in the crap of winter to have it be 100 degrees on race day–No, Thank You. That’s the worst. Fall marathons are much more up my alley–train through the awful heat and humidity of summer, and get rewarded with cooler temps on race day. Worst case scenario is that the temp doesn’t break and you run in what you trained in–and you’re already used to it. So I came up with a short list of fall races I was interested in running and started to debate the merits of each. Then a friend posted his race schedule for the year and I was inspired–I could combine running my fall marathon with spending some time with friends I don’t get to see very often. We talked dates, he offered the hubs and I a place to stay if we wanted to come out, and I was sold on the idea–but I wouldn’t register until I knew the date of my other favorite fall race in Pittsburgh. The 10-miler should be in November, but they’ve moved it to October before and I was NOT willing to give up my streak on that race. I have done it every year since it started, and I intend to do it every year they have it as long as I live. Finally the  date was released, there was no conflict, so this weekend I bit the bullet and registered. And this fall I’m running…

the Baltimore Marathon.

I’m excited and nervous. I’ve been scoping out training plans and finally found one that I really like–though of course it will undergo modifications because I have a habit of racing as often as I can. I have a goal time in mind–though like the Pittsburgh Half, I’m not keen to share it publicly yet. The race ends on Raven’s Way, so you know I’m going to be decked in black and gold to represent my beloved Steel City.

I have a few more weeks before the marathon training cycle starts. I know it’s going to be intense, but I’m looking forward to the hard work, and first I have a few more races–a 10k this coming Saturday and the hardest half marathon in the country the following week (I’m a glutton for punishment and a buddy convinced me to sign up…).

Happy Monday, Friends.

 

Processing…

I’m still processing all the awesomeness of this year’s Pittsburgh Marathon Weekend. My husband and a buddy crushed the marathon. I had an amazing experience at the half and I can’t stop thinking about it. I was really distracted all day at work on Monday. I can’t put my finger on why this year’s race is sticking with me so much more than any other year. Even the year I first broke 2:30 faded faster than this. Maybe it’s because I’m still sore, I worked really, really hard during that race and I gave it everything. Perhaps even more than the year I first broke 2:30. Perhaps it’s because of the emotional experiences of friends and my husband, who finished the full after not being able to on previous attempts. Maybe because it was just the perfect day. The weather ended up being amazing. It was the perfect blend of work and fun. I enjoyed every second of this race. I took in the city, the signs, the crowds, but I also worked my tail off during it. Maybe the fact I was mid-pack for the first time in such a large race played a role–I’m used to seeing people ahead of me, but not the huge crowd I had this time. It was really awesome. Maybe the fact I did the Steel Challenge factors in. I had a great time in the 5k on Saturday, even though it was raining. I used to hate 5ks, but not anymore. This was fun. Back to back races are fast becoming one of my favorite things ever. Maybe it’s because this year I had SCRR, and while I’m fairly reserved and not the most social person when I’m at group runs/events, I know that I have the support of an amazing community and seeing and hearing their stories and triumphs made the day even sweeter and more memorable. Oh, and how about this race photo where they actually captured me with both feet off the ground? This was the cherry on top of the weekend–evidence that I ‘get air’.

 

My heart is overwhelmingly full from this experience in a way that I’m having a lot of trouble articulating. And with no races on the calendar until mid-June I’m feeling a bit of a void. I need to remedy that quickly, looking at a 10k next weekend, though I also need to focus on re-building some distance for the 12-hour event in June. Then I will shift gears and get into some serious marathon training, because I have some big goals for my fall race. Lots to look forward to and work for.

Til next time, friends.

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.

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.

Wake Up Call…

I’ve been holding back, on here, in life, I haven’t quite been myself. It’s taken me awhile to realize it, and to realize that it’s my problem. I’ve lacked direction, I’ve gained weight, I just don’t feel like myself. For the most part I’m happy, positive, cheerful. I give the face of being driven and motivated but underneath I haven’t felt that. I struggle to do things that I know need to be done. I’ve made excuses for things without realizing I was making excuses.

I had a conversation with a friend at the end of last week when I’d slipped into a darker place, and he put things in perspective and snapped me back to reality. It was a kick in the ass that I needed much more than I realized. He called me out on my excuses.

I am not myself. I haven’t been running, at least not much. Not enough. My body isn’t where I want it to be and it doesn’t feel like mine. I felt most like myself when I was running most days of the week. I look at pictures from that phase of my life and that’s me. That’s what I look like, that’s what I feel like. And I miss me. A lot. Running has sucked for me for the past couple of years. I developed IT issues after my second marathon and I haven’t been the same since, and that became an excuse. And then we moved in together and got married and I’ve used that as an excuse. And my job situation sucked for awhile and that became an excuse.

And the conversation with my friend made me wake up and own up to all the excuses I was making, and made me realize that I need to shut up and run. It’s the piece that’s been missing. Ever since I was younger, long before I started running, I’ve envisioned myself as a runner, and that’s still how I see myself in my head. I know what it feels like to be that, and I want it back. And I want it back badly enough to do whatever it takes to get back there. If I can’t manage the IT issues on my own, I’ll go to PT and get help for it. Yeah it sucks and it’s slow going right now–I’m heavier than I should be and out of shape–but that’s not going to change unless I get off my ass and change it. I used to deal with my feelings by running, and that has gradually shifted to using food to deal with them–that has to change back. Now that I’m aware that’s what I’ve been doing I can change it.

The past few days since this conversation and the subsequent realizations have been so different for me. I ran both days. For the first time in ages I wanted to. And I packed my bag to potentially run after work (weather depending). I’ve had fleeting thoughts about missing time with my husband, but the fact of the matter is that girl–the one who ran all the time–is the one he fell in love with in the first place. And I’m missing some of my spark. If running more is what it takes to get it back, he’ll be supportive.

So this journey is finding my way back to myself. As I do that I think the other things I’ve been struggling over will fall back into place.

On the job front…

I recently accepted a promotion at my job. I’ve only been there for about 6 months, but an opportunity arose and despite not being sure about it, I decided to go for it. Worst case scenario they say no and I  try again next time. I was legitimately okay with whatever the outcome. But they offered it to me, and I accepted, and yesterday I started my whirlwind two-week training before I’m sent off on my own.  I’m definitely still nervous about it, but I think I’ll be good at it too, so I’m going with it.

This has just made me ponder what I really want to do career-wise though. I miss non-profit work, but I know myself. When I was full boar into that it was a point when I didn’t want children, because I have no off switch if I’m dedicated to the organization and I knew in my heart I would not be able to juggle the two. Since meeting my husband I’ve decided that I do want a family, so I believe that is not the appropriate route for the time being.

Here’s what I do know: (1) When we have kids I want to be with them as much as possible during the early years especially, so the more flexible the job/schedule the happier I will be. (2) While possible for us to survive on one income, in order for us to have the kind of lifestyle we want I will need to have an income of some sort. (3) I know that I like working, and I want to work even if it is in a less formal setting.

What I’m doing right now is working…for now. But I’m still looking forward and trying to figure out my next steps and what the best path forward is. I’m staying open and exploring my options and ideas and working on action plans. I think the direction I’m headed is toward personal training (I already have a certification that I have not done much of anything with) and health coaching, but I’m having trouble finding a nutrition certification that jives with my personal approach and philosophy. So I’ll continue my research and see what comes of it.

Revamping my routine

We’re all creatures of habit, but I seem to be especially so. I like structure and routine. I like planning and checking things off the list. I’m an early riser, not sure if that’s by nature from years of not having a choice as a kid, but at any rate I get up far earlier than most would deem normal or necessary. I also go to bed far earlier than most would find normal. But that’s my life and I like it. Though lately I’ve been feeling stuck in my routine and like it’s just not serving me.

I’m big into listening to podcasts on my commutes, I find them more stimulating than music and far more appealing than talk radio because I control the subject matter. One of my regular podcasts is the 5 AM Miracle podcast with Jeff Sanders. It’s all about productivity and geared toward getting the most out of your day by getting up early and hitting the ground running. He talks a lot about routines and your ‘ideal’ morning. Although frequently I’m not into the actual advice given, the spirit of the show is motivating to me. And this week in particular he was discussing 7 things to do before 7 AM. The big one for him is to exercise in the morning, and that resonated with me.

I’m an early riser, but I don’t always use my morning time well. I’m not an early morning exerciser. I’m just not. I wish I could be, but when I’ve tried I don’t get a good workout because I am literally just going through the motions. And while I can get up and go when the situation calls for it, I much prefer a more gradual wake up–I like my coffee and kitty snuggles. Still, I want to use my time well, I want to be productive and go into my day feeling accomplished. So I’ve realized morning is a good time for me to write, to get focused on the day and what I really want before I head to what pays the bills. I can do that with a cup of coffee on one side and a cat on the other.

That said, I’m also an avid exerciser. I love fitness. But even my habits in that realm have slipped. When I was single and my time was purely my own I had a regular routine that I was very diligent about. Flash forward to new marriage with a husband to work around, new day job, new home in a different area (with a substantial commute), and I’ve struggled to create a new routine–in part because I’ve tried unsuccessfully to make it happen in the morning. I take a kettlebell class twice a week after work and most of the time that seems to be an ideal time for me to work out, I have energy, I can get out frustration from the day, and I feel good when I’m done. While many will say the best time to work out is in the morning, and I hear their points, I’m a firm believer that the best time to work out is when you will do it (and the best workout is the one you will do). Doing beats not doing. So for now, post-work workouts will be the plan.

I’m working to accomplish two goals–to write more and to work out more consistently–by flipping my schedule and being intentional. I’m hoping that making my goals and plans public will also encourage consistency by keeping me accountable. Let’s see how this works, shall we?