Running Eight Miles and Loving It

Isn’t 8 miles a great distance?

The past few months I’ve been working hard on strength training and speed workouts.  I’m trying to build a strong, solid base so that when marathon training starts, I’ll be starting from a place of strength.

Oh, did I mention?  I’m running the NYC Marathon in 2015!  What’s more, I will be running for Girls on the Run NYC.  As most of you know, I am on (returning to) the Solemates Committee for GOTR NYC; we work to recruit adult runners to participate in local races and raise money for the organization.  It’s about time I recruited myself!

I’ve been running about 20-25 miles and completing 3-4 strength training workouts per week.  The past two weeks I have done 8 miles on Sunday.  It has been blissful.  I’ve taken the opportunity to run on the trails; through Arroyo Canyon and along the Puget Sound.  The views are unbelievable.  The mountains and trees are so tall; the water so vast.  I have to share the views!

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2015-03-01 11.38.012015-03-01 12.01.592015-03-01 11.48.25-12015-03-01 12.11.592015-03-08 13.54.542015-03-08 13.55.13I heard most people got a spring day today; hope you all got out and enjoyed it!

Happy National Pizza Day!

I can’t believe I never realized this special holiday existed; it must get overshadowed by Valentine’s Day!  The sad thing is I didn’t even eat pizza today…but no need to worry, I get my fair share.

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Growing up, we had pizza every Friday night.  Homemade crust, homemade pizza, a la my very talented Mumma.  (Still my favorite pizza in the whole world.)  It is so good, my friends used to ask me if they could come over and join us.

One of the best things about dealing with my food issues is that I enjoy pizza again.  Like, REALLY enjoy it.  Not only is it a delicious combination of bread, tomatoes, garlic, and cheese, but it brings people together! I have the best memories of eating pizza with my most favorite people.

And then today, I was reading some stupid article online, and it told me that I should not eat foods that act like “sponges”: breads, pastas, rice, etc.  I thought “Oh! that makes so much sense, bread acts like a sponge when you eat it, absorbing and storing all the fat”.  And then I felt bad about the bread in my sandwich, the pizza I ate over the weekend, even though I KNOW my body needs a balanced diet…

BUT THIS IS BOGUS.  Bread is not a sponge!  Who says that?!  Who believes that?! Well, I used to.  I would take that, and think of a sponge every time I ate a piece of bread.  And now, it might throw me for a minute, while my old brain tries to hold onto every stupid nugget of “food advice” I come across.  But luckily, it passes.  And the next thing I read was that it was National Pizza Day, and well, I thought about that a lot more.

Progress Is Slow

It’s been one month since the holidays, one month since I increased my strength training workouts and put the emphasis on shorter, faster runs.  I told Coach Jess that I was ready to “rebuild”; to get stronger in all areas as groundwork for the goals I have later in the year.  Plus, after marathon training, I just needed a break from long endurance runs.

I have been feeling really heavy and slow.  I know I’m carrying around a lot of stress.  My stress manifests itself in my body physically; I deal with the frustration and worry by taking it out on my body.  My thighs literally feel and look bigger when I’m stressed.  It isn’t logical.  So in efforts to be nicer to myself, I have been trying to accept it and do my best.

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BUT THEN.  THEN!  Saturday came.  I had a tempo workout on my schedule: 20 minute warm up, 20 minute tempo, 20 minute cool down.  I was nervous.  I was afraid my tempo speed wouldn’t be as fast as I wanted/used to do, and I was afraid of how disappointed I’d feel.  And then I thought to myself: JUST DO IT, ANNIE.  Go out there, and when it’s time for tempo, RUN YOUR BUTT OFF.

And I did!  I ran those 20 minutes of tempo at a 7:30-7:45 pace.  It reminded me that progress is slow.  That it takes a lot of hard work, but there will be improvement. And if you keep working hard, and keep doing your best, you will see results.

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I really needed that run.  I needed to see that I am making progress, that my hard work is paying off.  I just hope I don’t have to wait a whole month before I see it again…

Back to Basics – Healthy Eating & Strength Training

Hello!

I’ve missed my blog, my little space on the internet to talk about running and health.  If anyone is still reading this: I’m impressed.  And thanks.  Seriously

It’s been a tough transition after the holidays; isn’t January hard?  It’s so dark and quiet after the excitement of the holidays.  But I’ve been taking the time to get back to basics in both running and the kitchen.  And I am pleasantly surprised with the results!

After the marathon, the holidays hit, and I had a long string of asthma attacks which prevented me from running as often as I wanted.  To be honest, the break was probably good for my body.  Now that the asthma attacks/holidays are over, I’ve been working with Coach Jess on building a strong base.  This means I’m doing a lot of strength training, tempo runs, hill repeats, intervals…all my favorite forms of torture.  Seriously, I’m digging speed workouts these days.  IT BURNS SO GOOD!  And improving my overall strength is going to really help me for my next big goal.  TBD.

I am probably most proud of my return to basics in the kitchen.  I got fed up with eating processed food, and never being prepared for my hunger.  For a long time, I didn’t even feel hunger.  Since it’s return, I’ve been mostly unprepared.  I would never have enough food at work (old habits die hard), and would come home starving without much in the way of dinner.

But NOW, I am working really hard to change all that.  I buy real food, and make sure I’m eating a combination of carbohydrates, protein, fat, and vegetables/fruit at each meal.  I’m surprised at a few things: a) it saves a lot of money, b) I feel great, and c) it’s not as hard as I thought.  These are probably incredibly obvious points to most people, but it’s taken me a while to get here.  Better late than never, right?!

A few of my creations:

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Breakfast “Cookie”: its basically just baked oatmeal. 1/2 c. oats, 1/4 c. egg whites, 1/4 chopped apple, dash of cinnamon, dash of salt, squeeze of honey. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Don’t expect an actual cookie 🙂

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My new favorite: zoodles (zucchini noodles) with carroodles (carrot noodles), topped with tomatoes, garlic, salt, red pepper flakes, and parmesan cheese. Delish.

In my life, I am lucky to be surrounded by extremely talented cooks/bakers, and I do not count myself among them.  But I’m happy with my efforts and growth.  Growth!  It feels good.

What has everyone been up to? What are you cooking? What are you doing for exercise?

If I’m Being Honest…

I have been a terrible blogger these past few months.  And especially bad in the past few weeks.  I’m sure I can come up with a whole list of reasons why, having to do with being “busy” settling in, or being “tired” from a new job, etc.  But I’d be lying, because the truth is…

I’m not writing as much because I’m having a tough time out here.  At first, I expected it.  It was new, it was far, and I was alone (why did I do this again?).  But it hasn’t gotten easier.  And while I’m not going to spend a whole blog post complaining (I’ll call a few of you individually to do that, you lucky people!), I will say that it’s been hard to write.  I’m exhausted: from trying to set up a life, from missing everyone, from trying to tough it out.  I just don’t have it in me to put that on the internet.

I’m not looking for sympathy; I am fine and will continue to be fine.  I’m still running, and feel thankful everyday that I have my health and can run.  And with the New Year, I’m hoping to turn over a new leaf.  More energy, more optimism, more blogging.

Hopefully, I’ll squeeze in a few posts with smiles from NYC & NH.  But if I don’t, I want to tell you all:

Happy, happy holidays!  Enjoy the precious time with your family friends.  Eat, drink, and be merry!

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Marathon Training – Recovery

I’ve written about why training is hard, and why tapering is hard, but I don’t think I’ve ever addressed the challenges of recovery.  It seems like it should be fun and easy: after all those months of hard training, you finally get to sleep in, eat, drink and function like a normal person without the pressure of “training” and “the race”.

And that is a relief, at first.  I had a great time in NYC the week following my race, not a care in the world.  And my body was so tired and sore, that I knew running was out of the question.  But now I’m two weeks post-race, and the aches and pains have disappeared.  My mind is rested and recovered.  But my body is still not ready.

I suppose it’s easier than tapering, because there aren’t any pre-race nerves.  But it comes with it’s own challenges.  There is a big gap where my “marathon” used to be; I spent so much time and energy preparing for and thinking about this race, and now its done.  It’s strange to be without a plan, without specific goals.  This is probably exemplified for me, as marathon training was continuity, an immediate connection to my East Coast life.

I’m trying to take it easy, letting myself recover and relax.  I know that’s what I need.  I ran three miles yesterday and 6 miles today, all on the trails.  It’s been a good way for me to get out there and run, without worrying about time.  Okay, fine, I did run two miles at an 8:00 minute pace, just to make sure I could still do it.  I’m terrified of losing my fitness!

Yesterday I ran through Arroyo Park, and the trees were covered in moss: they looked like spiders!

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Hope you all had a great weekend!

Philadelphia Marathon Recap

It has taken me so long to get this up, because I’ve been trying to process the race before attempting to write about it.  Turns out, I should have just sat down and wrote this recap earlier, because it would have actually helped me process it.  Live and learn, people.

To save some of you the agony of having to read a long recap, I’ll start with the facts.  I ran a 3:39 marathon.  I did not qualify for Boston, but I am okay with that.  I started out too fast.  I finished too slow.  My quads pooped out on me.  I beat my marathon PR by 38 minutes.  I ran the race of my life.

For those of you interest in more, let’s back up.  I flew back from Bellingham on the Friday before the race and had a magical reunion with FW upon landing.  I was a little worried about the flight/time change and the effect it would have on my legs, but I wore compression socks on the plane, rolled when I got home, and got to bed at a decent hour.  I made myself wake up at 9:00am on Saturday, even though my body wanted more.  I had a fantastic shake out run along my favorite path (West Side Highway), and was feeling nice and loose by the time I got in the car.

Felt so good to be back the WSH…

To say I was nervous is an understatement.  I wanted to totally freak out, but instead, I obsessed about the day’s schedule (it’s a great quality, one that makes dating me a treat I’m sure).  Thankfully, we arrived in Philly right at 3:00pm, to check-in at the hotel and head to the expo.

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See my crazy face? That’s what expos do to people.

I’m going to say it: I hate expos.  There is way too much energy, way too many people, and way too much pushing.  So we went in, got my number and bag, took a few obligatory photos, bought some weird clothing to wear to the start, and got the heck out.  And after a little break at the hotel, we went to a lovely dinner with my support crew at a delicious Italian restaurant in South Philly.  I managed to get back to the hotel in time to prepare my outfit for the next day, and get to bed in a decent time.

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Everyone else seemed overdressed; I ran in my shorts, tank, sleeves and socks. No way was I going to overheat!

My alarm went off at 5:00am and I got up easily.  I had plenty of time to get dressed, braid my hair, adjust my outfit, and get ready to leave.  I have no idea how it took me 45 minutes to do all that, considering I did not shower, but it did.  At 5:45 I went down the hotel lobby with my Clif Bar and water and hung out with the rest of the runners waiting to head out to the start.  When 6:15 came around, I went out, despite the fact that many runners stayed inside (I tried to be cool, but I just couldn’t).  It was 41degrees, and I was ready to run.

Ready to go!  Also, the GUs in my bra completely cut up my chest.  I do not recommend.

I started off too fast.  My plan was to run the first 10 miles between 8:05-8:20, but I ran too many 8:00’s and 7:50’s.  It was tough to hold a pace, because it was so crowded, and in order to maintain the pace I wanted, I ended up having to sprint by groups of people.  [Side note: it will continue to mystify me how/why people who know they are not running 3:30 marathons start so far up in the corrals.] As a result, I ended up running faster than I intended, and that coupled with my pent up energy resulted in a fast start.

I went on to run the next 8 miles at marathon pace, between 7:55-8:10, with a few at 7:50.  I should have held back, but my body was going and I tried to trust it.  At mile 18, I slowed down a bit, and sure enough, had to battle my way through the wall.  My quads were tight, my IT bands were starting to talk, and I got scared.  Not of finishing; I knew I would finish.  I got scared of losing my goal.

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c/o FW.  Love the neon.

I pushed and I pushed, but it seemed like the more I pushed, the more I slowed down.  It was around mile 19 that I knew I lost the 3:30 marathon.  And it didn’t actually upset me.  I knew that I had been pushing hard, and that I couldn’t have pushed harder, so I accepted it.  And I went to the bathroom because I had been needing to go.  If I wasn’t going to hit 3:30, I sure as hell was going to be more comfortable!

I made it through the wall to mile 22, after a mindset change and a much needed bathroom break.  My only plan for the last 4 miles was to run, and do the best that I can.  I was hoping for under a 3:40, and I did everything I could to get there.  I knew my cheer squad would be waiting for me near the finish, and I put all my efforts into getting there.  And boy, did they help me along!  Half a mile from the finish, their cheering sent me running, giving it everything I had.  And I made it in there, for a 3:39:08 finish.  I averaged 8:21 minute miles, came in 108th out of 4,360 in my division, and 2,219 out of the 10,359 marathon runners.

Was I disappointed I didn’t qualify? Yes.  I allowed myself to feel it for a moment, but while I was limping towards the family meeting area, drinking my chicken broth and water, I reflected on what was absolutely the race of my life.  I had taken 38 minutes off of my prior marathon PR (4:17).  I had run a strong and healthy race for the first time in my life.  I had trained for weeks (since July!) and poured my heart and soul into the training. There was nothing to be disappointed about.  No, I didn’t BQ.  But I completely changed my profile as a runner, and ran a race marks the beginning of a new era.  I am proud of myself, I am happy, and I am not disappointed.  I killed that marathon

Are there things I could have done differently?  Absolutely.  I need more practice racing, and running a race with an actual pace plan.  I need to improve upon my speed workouts – getting used to running fast and feeling uncomfortable.  I could do more strength training so that my legs are stronger.  But these are things for me to work on in the future, and will come with more experience.  I’m looking at them as my long term goals, and not something I should have done.

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Personal photographer, cheerleader, and love!

I have to give a shout out to my fantastic cheering squad.  In this 26.2 mile race, they saw me four times.  And each time, they cheered for me like I was THE runner.  That support means the world to me, and makes such a difference when the miles get tough.

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Maker of the sign, leader of the cheer squad, and BFF, LC.

And a HUGE thank you to all of you: the support you’ve given me throughout my training helped me more than you probably know.  When I was struggling through those tough miles, I thought of all your kind and encouraging words, and I felt better.  I couldn’t have done it without all your support; a million times thank you!

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The best running photo of me ever taken. Thanks, FW!

A New Time For Running

I discovered a new slot of time during my day to fit in running!

This is exciting news!  Well, maybe just for me.  But I am REALLY excited about this. You see, I’ve been struggling with the whole “it’s almost winter so it’s always dark” thing.  Back in NYC, it wasn’t a problem.  It’s the city that doesn’t sleep!  And that means light and people everywhere. I never had to worry about running in the dark.

But out here…it’s a city that sleeps.  There are [some] dim street lights that are not bright enough to light up the sidewalks, and there are not many people out and about.  There are pockets where I feel safe running alone, but for the most part, I try to avoid it.  And since it’s dark in the morning and the evening, it’s been tricky to fit in my runs.

ENTER NEW SLOT OF TIME TO RUN: my lunch break!

I am not someone who takes my lunch breaks; I, like most people, eat my lunch at my desk while working.  But today, I went for a run.  I needed to run 4 miles with strides, and an hour was the perfect amount of time to do so.  It was sunny, warm, and I came back to work refreshed and ready to get stuff done!

So sunny! So pretty!

I know what you’re wondering.  Where did I shower? How did I not stink? How did I keep my hair looking normal after a run?  All very good questions.  The most important: baby wipes.  If you’ve ever run a Ragnar or Reach the Beach relay you know that baby wipes can in fact wipe away much of the sweat and smell.  A quick wipe down in the bathroom and I’m feeling [mostly] fresh and powder clean. The other important factor is that it has been cold and dry here this past week (hooray! no humidity).  In the warmer, more humid weather, I will likely be rocking the top knot.

It’s not a perfect plan, and it’s not a fix for everyday, especially considering I like to run far.  But it will work as a way to get in a few short runs during the week, especially in my “off season”.

How do you fit exercise into your schedule?  How do you deal with the increased darkness during the winter?

When Your Body Says ‘Taper’, You Taper!

On Saturday, I set out for my last long run of 20 miles, 6 of which were to be run at marathon goal pace (7:55-8:10).  I was nervous, because the previous Wednesday I wasn’t able to finish my speed workout.

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My new Brooks Pure Flow 3s. They are amazing.

When I started running on Saturday, I was running slower (around 8:55s) and losing steam.  I managed to run mile 14-15.5 at MGP, but at 15.5 I stopped.  And I called CQ to talk it through. We decided it wasn’t worth it to push it.  I was obviously battling a deep fatigue, and pushing it would only make it more difficult for me to recover, and possibly lead to injury.  After running home, I finished with a total of 18 miles at an average of 8:51.

It was so foggy for the first two hours of my run-I had to change my route to stay on sidewalks!

I had written an email to Coach Jess, letting her know that I needed to put myself on taper because I didn’t have a drop of juice left in me.  So we decided that Monday would begin my two week taper, consisting of three runs each week with a few miles of MGP.  I liked that, and I spent the rest of the weekend resting.

And then it cleared up! Oh, and that is Mt. Baker covered in snow, if you look closely.

On Sunday, I started sneezing and had a runny nose.  It all started to make sense, why I was SO tired: I was feeling the effects of months of training, but my body was also battling to ward of a cold.  Double trouble!

My body was basically screaming at me to start tapering, and I decided to listen.  There are two weeks until the marathon, and I’m officially done training.  I intended to have one last great long run on Saturday; that didn’t happen, and that’s okay.  I have done a lot of training, had some stellar runs, and that is what I’m holding onto.

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The scene, right before my massage. Tapering isn’t so bad!

So welcome, taper.  Between the extra sleep, rest, and massage, it’s been pretty good so far 😀

22 Mile Long Run: Done

Yesterday, I ran the farthest I will run in training for the Philadelphia Marathon: 22 miles.  And I killed it.  I don’t normally give myself that much credit, but I gave it my all and I’m so happy with the results.

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22 miles, NO rain (thank you, Mother Nature!), at a brisk clip, and a fast finish.  I averaged 8:32 minute miles and finished my last mile in 7:25.  For me, that is killing it.  There are many, many, many faster people out there.  I don’t pretend to be a speed demon, nor do I really care that I’m not.  What I do care about, is that I have put in a lot of hard work (with the help of Race Pace Jess!), and I have gotten so much stronger and so much faster.  And I’m still healthy.  So yeah, I feel like I killed those 22 miles.

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I have one more 20 miler to run next week, and then I’m officially tapering.  I am a boatload of nerves and excitement for this race.  Will I hit my goal of 3:30? Maybe.  I think if everything is perfect on that day, that I am capable of it.  But the full Mary, she’s a tough one.  Part of the allure of the marathon is that you never know what will happen.  You can have a perfect training cycle and tank on the day of the race.  There are so many elements that contribute to hitting your goals, and most of them are beyond your control.

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But what I do know, is that I’ve had a strong training cycle.  I have pushed myself further than I thought possible.  And I know that on race day, I will give it my all.  Maybe my all will result in a 3:30, maybe it won’t.  But I am trying to remind myself that my time does not dictate my success.  It is a goal, something to work towards, but the hard work I’ve done in preparation, that is my success.  The journey is where I have succeeded.  The marathon is just the party.

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Congratulations to everyone who ran the NYC Marathon today!!