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.

Pittsburgh Marathon Weekend Recap

One of my favorite weekends of the year–Pittsburgh Marathon Weekend! The Pittsburgh Half was the first big race that I ran back in 2011, and it was in training for it that I really fell in love with running, and I suppose with racing. Starting on Friday, with the GNC Live Well Health and Fitness Expo. Usually I’d just go on Saturday, but this year I signed up for the Steel Challenge–a 5k on Saturday and one of the longer races (half, full, or relay) on Sunday, so I wanted to pick up everything before Saturday. I took a half day at work so I could wander around at the Expo and spend money. Which I did (with my husband’s blessing) because RUNNING and ALL OF THE THINGS. I get so excited for Expos, but then I’m always somewhat disappointed when I actually get there. It’s always a little chaotic by the nature of being an Expo, but still I wandered around for quite awhile and found some great stuff, ran into a friend, and signed up for the P3R Mega Ticket–Liberty Mile, EQT Pittsburgh 10-Miler, and next year’s Pittsburgh Half Marathon (or full, but I’m doing the half again), so hey, first race for 2018 is officially lined up and paid for!

Next up was the 5k on Saturday morning. The course runs around the North Side near the stadiums, and the science Center, then into town where you finish at the Official finish line. They have offered the Steel Challenge for 3 years now, and this is the first time I’ve taken part. I LOVED it. I told myself the 5k was just going to be a fun run. I wasn’t trying to PR, I wasn’t going to push myself, I needed to save all that for Sunday. And I didn’t. I ran a nice easy 5k, came in with a solid 32:42, though I did manage to negative split (each mile was a little faster than the previous one),  which rarely happens in my world so I was pretty pumped about that. One of the SCRR crew managed to capture this shot of me near the finish line and I LOVE it! One of my favorite race photos ever:

Good form, I’m smiling even though it rained the entire race. I’d just slapped 5 with a random lady and there was a kid ahead with his hand out so I left mine out to get him. And I was completely unaware of the camera. I wasn’t cheesing for him, I was just genuinely happy and in the moment. It’s how I feel when I’m racing (though admittedly I’m not always smiling).  The race went well, and I was happy. I definitely want to do it again.

Sunday was the half marathon, one of my favorite races ever. I LOVE running through the city of Pittsburgh. Had to change the course this year due to some construction projects, which made me really sad. They had to cut out some of my beloved bridges, and replaced it with a loop through the North side (again). It was fine, I still love it, though I sincerely hope they can bring the bridges back because to me running bridges is way more fun, and way more iconic Pittsburgh than a stadium tour (though we do have some nice ones).

I had a really steep goal for this race. I wanted to hit or break 2:15. Earlier this year I would’ve been absolutely crushed and/or pissed that I didn’t do that. I didn’t, and I wasn’t. I could tell pretty early in the race it wasn’t going to happen, so I just adjusted my sights–I really just wanted to PR, even if it was only by seconds. I had a great time. I enjoyed running through the city, I enjoyed the spectator signs, slapping 5 with random strangers and small children. I gave everything I had to the race, I can tell because I’m sore today from a distance my body is used to. And I DID PR, by about 3 minutes, 2:26:49 (previous PR was 2:29:53).

Post race I hung around the Finish Line Festival and killed time until my husband finished the marathon. Didn’t take as full advantage of the SCRR perks as I should have (now that I know what to expect, I think next year will be different). Didn’t take advantage of the cool but goofy photo ops, didn’t even ring the PR bell, because it’s not about any of that for me and I didn’t feel like waiting in the lines, quite honestly. At the end of the day I know I PR’d and I hope to break it again before the year is up. And these beauties are mine:

I have much more to share, but that will come soon. Happy Monday, 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.

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.

My Spankin’ new VFFs…

I’ve run exactly ¼ mile in them and I’m sold.

I’ve been thinking about Vibram Five Fingers for about 6 months or so. My friend Sam got hooked on them around the same time I read an article about minimalist footwear in Runner’s World. So I did some more reading and research on my own, and enjoyed Sam’s running commentary (ha!) in his journal comics. What sold me was getting Born to Run for Christmas (Have I mentioned how amazing this book is? I’ve already started to re-read it!). 

I could feel the difference right away, so I’m expecting *some* soreness tomorrow. I’m not really a heel striker. A look at the soles of my shoes shows more wear on the fore/mid sole than the heel. I am barefoot or in flimsy shoes as often as humanly possible–I just haven’t been running that way. And bad joints run (ha!) in my family, something I want to delay as long as humanly possible because I LOVE RUNNING. Still, I know I need to take it slow. Sam cautioned starting with a half mile, others have said just to start with a few minutes. I decided I’m going to do ¼ mile on top of my scheduled training for the next week and progress an extra ¼ mile each week as long as it feels okay. When I get to running a full mile in them I’ll start subbing that mile for some of my training–but for starting out it’s not a big deal to add an extra ¼ to ¾ of a mile to my already short runs, and it’s a bigger pain in the butt to stop mid-run to change shoes.

But already, I’m sold. I can’t wait until I’m only running in my VFFs. And I can totally see myself getting another pair and wearing these around for errands and such because they really do feel like a second skin. And they are going to be so much easier to pack for traveling because they are wicked light and portable (the box looks like a child’s shoe box!). I didn’t get the color I wanted because the place I went didn’t have choices, but I don’t care. If I really wanted to I could order them in the color I want since I know my size now, but I’m not going to jump into that just yet.

2011 is going to be AWESOME! (Running edition)

Goals for 2011:

  1. Pittsburgh Half Marathon!–It’s on! They have my money! I just want to finish, that’s my goal, I’m not going to stress about time (other than beating the cut off). But I’m psyched. I do better with training when I have a goal. And if this goes well, I plan to do the CHAD Hero Half up here in late-summer/fall.
  2. Food.–I don’t eat like a runner-and I don’t run enough (yet) that I can use running as an excuse to eat. But a half marathon is serious business. I need to step up my game in the food department and actually fuel my body instead of eating whatever is easiest. I know how I should be eating, and what I most certainly should NOT be eating-time for me to stop talking and just do it.
  3. Learn to like running outside.–I actually don’t think this will be that hard. When I was running the ill-fated Turkey Trot I was enjoying the outside running (on a cross country course). The parts of outside running I don’t like are (1) the cold and (2) the pavement. If I run trails (easy to do in my area) and stay on the TM until the weather gets better it shouldn’t be so bad. I’m sure I will eventually even not mind the cold.
  4. PR at the Run for Empowerment 5k.–Again, this shouldn’t be hard, as last year’s race was AWFUL and I’ve only done it twice. I will also have done the half by then, so PRing at this will be a piece of cake.
  5. Run at least 3x per week.–(barring illness or injury) Now, this doesn’t sound like much as there are many of you who run everyday or almost everyday. And I will be running more than 3x per week for much of my training. BUT, when life starts getting crazy, when I’m traveling, etc. running is the first thing to get shifted out of my life. And 3x a week is a manageable amount to shoot for, so I’m going to promise myself that (barring illness or injury) I will run a minimum of 3x a week for the next year.
  6. Keep my training log.–I know that a real training log is a valuable tool. I will keep mine up-to-date for the whole year. I may not post everything online, but I will keep my paper version up-to-date and accurate at the very least.

Catching Up…

Running reports from the past two days

Monday–3 miles on the nose. My knee started doing something weird somewhere between 2.5 & 3 miles. It didn’t hurt persay, but it felt weird. So I wanted to take it easy.

Tuesday–3.47 miles. “Made up” some of what should have been 4 miles on Monday. Knee felt good.  I’m not stretching enough, though I am getting good at drinking water during my runs.

Last Night’s Run

The Plan: 3 miles

The Play-by-Play: Walked ½ mile, ran ½ mile for 3 miles, then walked almost ½ mile (.42) as cool down. Good times. 45 minutes total.

The Playlist:
Superhero –  Ani Difranco 
Eight Easy Steps – Alanis Morissette   
L.O.V.E. – Ashlee Simpson  
Girlfriend – Avril Lavigne   
Song for the Dumped – Ben Folds Five 
Piece of Me – Britney Spears  
Womanizer – Britney Spears  
Freakshow –  Britney Spears  
If U Seek Amy – Britney Spears   
Toxic –  Britney Spears 
Georgia – Cee Lo Green 
Ain’t No Other Man – Christina Aguilera   
Fighter – Christina Aguilera