running

Being a Fit Mom

In May, a month after I stopped working, we joined a gym. Before my son was even an idea, I was a fitness junkie. You could search the archives of my blog for old posts about fitness, diet, exercise, and healthy living. It was kind of my thing.

Until it wasn't. For a while. Before I was a mom, running was one thing that kept me sane. When people ask if I worked out my entire pregnancy I feel sheepish answering "yes, except the first trimester."

Which is true. My first trimester knocked me on my ass and kept me there. Twelve solid weeks of exhaustion while my body took the energy I would otherwise apply toward walks, run, weights, and writing and used it to build an organ and the gummy bear baby I saw at our first ultrasound. Apparently organ construction is hard - who knew? 

I don't know why I feel so sheepish sharing my fitness journey before my son, even though I adored it. I ran a half marathon a year before I got married. A marathon relay (I was leg 3), three weeks before my wedding. I've run more 5k races than I remember, two 10k races, a 7k and a 15k. Running, writing, and photography were where I found joy. 

Finding time to run or go to the gym after Little Man was born was a challenge, especially once I was back at work. My gym in Kentucky didn't have childcare, and even if it had, the time I had to get there was limited. We were house-hunting and preparing to move cross-country. I was breastfeeding. Workouts of the nature of "before" just weren't happening. 

What was happening, though, was online workouts. Walking. Keeping active without having to leave the house or take a class. I ran with the stroller infrequently (and got really fast doing it). I knew that for me, keeping up with physical activity was crucial to my sense of self. So I did whatever I could to be active, including seven months of Kayla Itsines BBG Program, which I credit with helping me get my strength and pre-baby body back. Well, mostly. I will always have some squish round my middle, and I credit that squish with helping me to grow my adorable little boy.

Eventually, though, I wanted more. I wanted classes. My free weight collection wasn't quite large enough to reach my needs with BBG. 

So we joined the gym. A gym with childcare and classes and free weights and TRX and a pool. 

In short, we joined my dream gym.

And we started taking classes - spin classes - together. I took spin classes a touch in college, but hadn't been in a spin studio since a one-off visit right before Oscar and I moved to Texas from Kentucky (a class that renewed my love of group fitness). They were hard. Challenging. Wonderful. They still are. A few days a week we go to spin, or run, or just workout, and for that time I indulge my love of fitness and being a fit mom, or #fitmom. A hashtag I used to look at in awe, and now try to participate in occasionally. 

I found a community. My Wednesday night spin instructor has helped us build a tribe. A tribe where we get together more than once a week to ride our hearts out on bikes, to push to get 90rpm at a gear 9 for more than a minute and where 5 minute time trials are just another day's work. 

Since we joined the gym, I've gotten stronger and faster, and I've been able to jump back into running in a way I didn't think I would until Oscar was a little older. On a whim I signed up for a 5k Memorial Day weekend and smashed my previous PR by almost a minute - something I didn't think possible.

It did wonders for my confidence.

And that, my friends, is why I work so hard to be fit. Not fit by someone else's standards, but by my own. I workout to be strong for me, my son and husband. To be able to keep up with a toddler who rarely naps and never sits still. To be able to go as fast as I can, as long as I can, and come away from a workout feeling exhilarated, not exhausted. 

I may not be able to workout like I used to - I can't always just tie on my running shoes and step out the door. But I can check a class schedule, sign into a class and pedal my heart out while being encouraged to push just a little harder, and go just a little farther.

For me, that's what fitness is all about.

Recap: 2015 Hudepohl 7k

I ran a 7k race. Pregnant. I feel like a badass. 

In some ways, I feel like I should. In others, eh. It was 4.3 miles. I've run it before. Just not at 20 weeks pregnant.

Now, this year, I was definitely slower. I 100% did not go in hoping to PR. I was running this year just for fun, and that just meant finishing within the course time limits, which is something like 16 minutes per mile. 

I set out at race start determined to run at least the first mile without walking. That was my big goal. And I'm proud to say I achieved it. My plan was to run the first mile without stopping, and then run/walk the rest of the race. After not really running a lot in the first trimester, I didn't really want to overdo it.

What I ended up doing, though, once I settled into a solid pace, was deciding that I wasn't going to let my pace drop any higher than twelve minutes per miles, provided I felt well enough to do so. The race course is fairly easy, with a few moderate uphills and one bridge (crossed twice - the turnaround is on the bridge). I did this by combining walking and running and only really paying attention to my average pace on my Garmin.

You see, before I'd set off, based on my average pace per mile while training, I told Allen to expect me anywhere between 48 minute and 50 minutes after start, and I figured trying to hold to a 12 minute mile on average would be reasonable once I got past mile three.

Funnily enough, in all of my focus on keeping my pace steady, not overdoing it, and finishing all while just having fun, I failed to look at my total time, so it wasn't until I was just under a mile from finish that I realized that I was pretty darn close to finishing in 48-50 minutes, if I could just keep up the work I was putting in. 

At this point, I was ready for the finish line. My lungs were holding up good, feet and legs were holding up, but MAN was I ready for my salty pretzel waiting at the finish line. I'd also drank all of my handheld water bottle full of water during the race, along with stopping at the halfway point water stop for some water, so I was well-hydrated, but I also was ready to get another full bottle of water at the finish, too.

I was motivated to get across that finish line in a timely fashion and when it was within my sight, I booked it. Like I always do. Perhaps a slower booking it now than before, but I was kicking butt headed toward the finish.

I crossed the finish line and stopped my watch. My watch said I came in just over 50 minutes after starting, but when I checked my official race time while we were enjoying some breakfast? I finished in 49:26. 

Not bad for a pregnant lady. 

I already cannot wait for next year's race. I am so proud of my performance this year, and cannot wait to see what the Hudy 7k brings next year. 

Prepping for Race Day

I don't often write about what I do before a race. I figure most things are pretty common knowledge: train for the race you're going to be running; don't change anything race day, including what you eat before you run; make sure you know where everything is the night before so you don't forget anything.

And well, that's pretty much what I stick to personally. I don't change up my fuel before I run, and I try not to try anything new day of the race. I want to be comfortable while running and successful.

But still, I thought I would share just what, exactly, I do to get ready for a race - night before and day of. 

Most of it's pretty basic stuff. I figure out the weather and what I'll be wearing and I lay it out. I don't pre-pin my race bib to my top because I find that it never lays comfortably for me when I do that. So I just put it all together, pins attached to the bib so I don't lose them. For Saturday's race it was in the mid-sixties when I woke up, I wore running shorts and a tech tee, hat, comfy socks and my Asics. 

I also make sure my extra gear is all put together. Extra stuff for me right now is my RoadID (I don't run without it), my Garmin, SpiBelt (if my shorts don't have zipper pockets. My Lulu ones do, so I won't worry about this tomorrow), a hand-held water bottle, Gu packet, and my inhaler. Out of all of these, I let my Garmin charge overnight so it's good to go first thing in the morning. I tend to keep this stuff with my shoes so I don't forget any of it. 

The last thing I do the night before is make sure I'm fueled properly and well-hydrated. Because of some of the fun of being pregnant, I'm most concerned with food and water right now. I don't want to dehydrate, and I wanted to be well-fueled to get me and Little Man through all four miles of this race.

Morning of? Since everything is put together it's super easy to get dressed, make sure any shoe tags are attached, and put on my road ID, FitBit, Garmin, and any accessories. 

Then, I eat. Or I don't. My normal pre-race fuel is either some white bread with a little honey (peanut butter before any run makes me want to throw up mid-run. I just find it too heavy) or some Sport Beans. For Saturday's  race I went the toast with honey (no butter) route. I needed to get myself fueled, and toast is (and was) pretty effective.

I also try to warm up a bit before the start of the race. I don't jog, but I do some dynamic stretches after walking a bit to get loose. I just want to get limber and make sure I'm warmed up enough that race start wont' be rough.

this is all that works for me, but it doesn't work for everyone. All this helps me get into the race mindset and helps me kick ass come race day.

Run, Walk, Ellipticize: Exercising Lately

If there is one thing that hasn't changed for me over the past 16 weeks or so, it's the amount of time I spend moving. I've been working to keep up with my exercise routine, with some modifications to stay safe, hydrated, and most of all, healthy. 

The reason I bring this up is the question I get asked most after "do you know what you're having?" is "are you still working out?"

Well, yes. But during the worst of the nausea, I did a lot more walking and ellipticizing at the gym than I did run. BUT. I am still running. And all of the activity I am doing I've cleared with my doctor. So no extreme sports, but she is totally fine with me continuing to run, do yoga, and other things. Everyone is different though, so this is just for me.

Why I bring this up now? Well, one ever-growing belly CAN make it a bit rough to keep going, but I've made modifications. I have a slower running pace. I carry more water, and my goals are much more short-term than they are long term. My goal really is just to stay active in some capacity up until delivery. 

Why?

The reality is, we are a pretty active household, and even if I wasn't running or going to the gym, I would be out walking a lot. Because that's really what we do. We went to Detroit for Labor Day weekend (more on that soon), and ended up walking over five miles in an afternoon. I worked hard to stay hydrated and well-fed (growing a baby makes you pretty hungry), and put my feet up and rested a lot at the end of the day.

Now, I'm working on getting ready for the annual 7k race, taking place this week on Saturday. I'm taking it slow and steady, and planning for walking breaks as a run. This year this race is all about fun and enjoying the four miles through downtown Cincinnati.

I know not everyone can exercise while pregnant, so I am counting my blessings that so far I am good to go. 

In which I finish top third: The Hudy 7k.

After crossing a finish line, getting a medal that doubles as a bottle opener (for reals, guys), there is nothing quite like getting a beer (and pretzels!) to celebrate your victory.

And that is totally how Saturday morning went down, after I finished my third running of the Hudepohl Brewery 7k race. It's 4.3 miles of running through downtown Cincinnati and into Northern Kentucky and it's just really fun for so many reasons. The race pretty much sells out every year, and one of the fun things about it: you get a pint glass as part of your registration.

Going into the race I had a few concerns. Namely that my calves wouldn't stop cramping the night before regardless of how much I hydrated and how much sodium and potassium I consumed to try to calm them down. I was fortunate that my legs stopped cramping by race start, but it was hairy in the beginning, and lining up for the race was pretty emotional for me for so many reasons. Until about four weeks ago I didn't even know for sure I was going to run it.

I knew at start that I wasn't going to PR. My running this year has been sporadic at best, and while I can sustain a 10-minute-mile, I wasn't sure how well I could for the 7k, and my plan really was to finish it. In under 45 minutes if possible. But really, finishing was my big priority.

That being said, I ran my first mile probably too quickly, and ended up having to walk a little bit right around mile two. I was running uphill and my left leg started to cramp up. I knew to have any chance of finishing in under an hour I needed to stop, walk it out, and then pick it back up. Which is exactly what I ended up doing, sort of leap-frogging with myself and two other runners to finish, hopefully in the top fifty percent of runners overall. Or at least in my age group.

The first half of the race is relatively flat, while the second half is a bit hilly. It involves running across two bridges - one of them twice - and finishes flat after a small downhill. The little hills in the second half were my struggle, and I pushed myself to not let my pace drop below 10:30 if I had to walk or slow my jog to keep on track. It was a good strategy, and when I rounded the corner and went into the home stretch as my Garmin marked forty-one minutes, I was set to sprint into the finish.

Which I totally did. I was running so hard when I crossed the finish that as I was handed my medal I was asked if I was OK. I was. I was sore and catching my breath but I was totally OK. Better than that, even. I finished the race! In under 45 minutes! It was exhilarating, hot, sunny, and just awesome. After I caught my breath and downed almost an entire bottle of water at the finish line, we headed into the tent to celebrate with beer and pretzels before making our way home.

It wasn't until about an hour after I finished the race that I realized just how well I'd done. That was when I checked the race results and discovered that I'd only run seven seconds per mile slower than a year ago, and had still finished in the top third of all participants in the 7k, of all women, and of all women in my age group. I was and still am thrilled.

Now that I know I can pretty much maintain my speed, my plan is to throw myself into my running for the next year and really pump it up for next year. For now, though, I just want to enjoy my personal victory!

Thoughts on Cold

Saturday it was a bit surprising to be headed to our 5k in temperatures in the mid-forties. At this time of year the typical average is around 65 degrees. The temperatures on Saturday were chilly, but they were tolerable, and we both ended up overdressed for our race (the temperature went up by 8 degrees between race start and finish all because the sun came out).

As the week progressed, however, the evening temperatures became colder and colder. Monday night we went for a walk in our neighborhood in lightweight jackets (both still being a bit sore from our race Saturday), but the weather forecast indicated colder temperatures were coming (and are probably sticking around).

So when I woke up on Wednesday morning and the temperature was a blustery 33, I wasn't surprised. However, the temperatures did not instill a desire to go running like planned. Even with our collection of cold-weather running gear, it was just a bit too dreary to WANT to go running, even though I actually really like running in cold weather.

Since our run wasn't planned until the evening, I decided not to really think about the cold, save for ensuring I was dressed warmly for the day. The morning rains were going to taper off in the afternoon, but the clouds and wind? Totally sticking around. I came thisclose to suggesting we skip the run, but then I read Rachel's post about staying in fighting shape and found motivation to dig out the running tights and other cold-weather gear so we could go for a chilly evening run.

My decision to wear tights was heavily influenced by the wind chill, which made the temperature feel closer to 35 than 42. I also sought advice from this tool from Runner's World which helps determine what to wear based on air temperature, wind conditions, time of day, and how you like to feel when you run. The tool said "running tights and long sleeves," and knowing how I like to feel when I run, I opted to layer a tee-shirt under my pullover, just in case I got too hot. Gloves and something to keep my ears warm were dug out of the drawer of gear and we were ready for a speedy and chilly short run.

The choice to run and to layer up were both great ones. We got home feeling accomplished and energized and agreed that even though the weather will take some getting used to, we are going to keep up with running as much as possible to maintain our fitness level. Running a 29:49 5k is really motivating to keep going, and we are going to be adding cross-training back into our routine as things continue to calm down. Even though I wish it was still shorts-and-tee-shirt weather, I'll be happy in my lined tights, pullovers, and cold-weather compression gear until it warms up once again.

Catch-Up

The past two weeks have been non-stop in a good way. We ran our 7k on the 21st and after pushing to complete the race in 45 minutes or less, I managed to cross the finish line in 43:55. While I cannot compare apples-to-apples due to a new race course, I CAN say that my average pace was 10:05, while last year it was 10:45. I'm still ridiculously proud of that time, and as I work to keep up the training for an upcoming 5k, I'm trying to keep in mind that I am capable of running fast - I just need to stop being so afraid of it.

While I was in Sacramento over the weekend (more on that momentarily), it was easy to keep that speed and my time goals (3.1 in 30) for the 5k in mind while I went for a training run. Then, I finished 3.1 in 30:40, which should put my goals in reach as long as I maintain consistency with my running. It was a good run and I finished strong, which gives me a lot of hope for our next race (and the ones after that, though we're not sure which races we want to do next).

Why was I in California again this year? For a bar mitzvah! I had SO MANY FEELS this weekend. So. Many. My cousin was being called to the Torah on Saturday and I planned my flights out there a few days after receiving the invitation. Last week was a blur of runs, volunteering, laundry, and packing. Really Monday through Wednesday flew by and then Thursday morning happened and I was on a plane headed to Cali. It was tremendously exciting to see my family - aunt, uncles, grandparents and all - twice in one year, and I was eager to spend time with my cousins.

So much happened over the weekend that I don't even know where to begin. I got to run in some new scenery. I participated in Friday night services and enjoyed some homebrewed pale ale. I took so many pictures it will take me a couple weeks to process them all. I was given an honor during Saturday services and then danced the night away Saturday night.

It was a whirlwind and I had so. much. fun. catching up with everyone, eating good food and enjoying good company. Even so, I was excited to return home to my cats and husband when Sunday rolled around, though I am also eager to return and visit everyone again.

Busy? Yes. Fun? Yes. Emotional? Absolutely. Now? More running and training and being ready to RACE at the end of the month.

I can't wait.

Back in that Groove?

I think I finally have my running groove back, though I am not running high-mileage weeks like I was training for the relay (or even the half marathon). Wednesday we set out for a three-mile training run. Our two-mile run for speed was a little slower than normal, but I finished it easily. The first two-miler I've finished strong... ever. My husband says he's not a natural runner, but he's pretty darn fast and it can be hard keeping up for him. I am a start slow and end fast sort of runner, and he finds his running groove fairly quickly.

That being said, we both had aches and pains when we set out for our three-miler on Wednesday, so neither of us had thoughts of finishing quickly or strong, or really even running the full three. However, I was determined. Putting my phone away in the evenings to Get Stuff Done has made it a lot easier to get motivated and not worry about finishing all the housework and the like because I know I won't feel attached to my phone, and that motivation and determination carried over into Wednesday's run.

However, no internet wasn't the primary motivator. No, getting food poisoning last week was. I ran while I had food poisoning. Not the wisest choice, but sometimes I need to get out there and get moving for my sanity. I knew last week when I was struggling and pushing myself to finish a three mile training run that I wanted to go back out there strong this week, so I pushed for it. I wanted to see how fast I can run right now. While we were training for the relay, we finished a mile in one of our long runs in under ten minutes. I can't do that right now (or at least, I think I can't, maybe I need a dose of "The Little Engine That Could), but I can try.

One thing we are working on in training is pacing for negative splits. Last year when I ran the 7k, I finished with negative splits and averaged a 10:45 mile throughout. I didn't train for negative splits last year, and in fact when I ran, the farthest I trained for was about 3.5 miles for a 4.3 mile race. I am a better runner when I start slow and build up for speed, though Allen can find his speedy pace and settle in rather quickly, if I start out quick and stay quick I fizzle early.

With no goal and me with the Garmin, I decided to see what we could do. We agreed not to stop for water unless it was absolutely necessary (and last week, with food poisoning it totally was), and set out, first slowly, then speeding up. Ultimately, I'd like to be able to turn a ten-minute pace into an easy run, and I know it will take time. That being said, we finished our first run in just under eleven minutes, and then proceeded to shave ten to twenty seconds off each mile thereafter.

This was not a "comfortable talking pace" run. Oh, no, this was a "push it to see what you can do without dying" run and I was determined to finish strong. In our last half mile, I was able to communicate that we were going to stretch our normal route out just a bit to be able to finish and get some water, and when we passed the water fountain with just under a tenth of a mile left to go, I knew we would be finishing as strong as possible. My legs hurt, my IT bands were tight, and my arms hurt, but I wanted to finish SO BAD I wasn't stopping until the watched beeped the completion of my third mile.

We huffed, puffed, and sprinted the last hundred or so yards of our run, and when the watch beeped, we stopped and started walking to cool down. I worked hard for those three miles and I could feel it, but it didn't matter: I'd finished them quickly and had energy to spare. As we stretched, cooled down, and got some water, I checked our stats, finding that we finished with an average pace of 10:38. Not super speedy, but fast enough, and it put my goal of running the 7k a full minute faster well in reach. I was thrilled, and I'm ready for our next, longer run. I hope we can finish with an equal average pace or better, and I am determined to keep pushing and striving for better, faster, longer runs.

Let's Go Running!

Over the past two years, I have committed to running in a way I never thought possible. I've been a runner for at least thirteen years, if not more. In the eleven years before I thought to take running seriously, I always thought of it as a hobby. Up until three years ago, I ran, primarily, in cotton tees, mesh shorts, standard socks, but very well-fitting shoes. My running and workout wardrobe was lacking.

Three years ago I bought my first tech tee. Two years ago I decided to run my first road race, and eighteen months ago I decided to run a half marathon. All of this seemed to ask for gear, but what it really was asking for was commitment and goals. For the half marathon I ran in Cincinnati last year, my goal was just to finish. I went out and bought a lot of cold-weather running gear during that training period. Many early morning runs happened in 28-degree or colder weather, and I skipped a few in 40-degree temperatures, only because they involved rain.

I did finish the Flying Pig Half Marathon, though my time was nowhere near what I thought it would be. After I completed that race, I stepped back from running for just a couple months - maybe two - to focus on other things. That's when Allen told me he wanted to take up running and to try his hand (or feet, as it is) at a 5k in October. He wanted to get in shape for our wedding, and since I was ready to get back out for a run and road race or two, I told him I'd train for a 5k with him.

Running with my then-fiance was a whole new experience. He is very fast, for someone who was used to running for warm-ups only. By fast, I mean he can easily run a 9:45 pace when he puts his mind to it. Confession time: I am a slow runner, and my quick but easy pace maxes out at about 10:30. Surprisingly, after a few runs where I felt very disheartened that my six-foot-one-inch fiance was outpacing me far too easily, I noticed that with a little patience, I was keeping pace with him. Running with him forced me to learn speedwork, and forced him to learn how to appropriately pace himself. It was a win-win.

In the period of time since our first run together, we've been in two races together: one 5k and the Flying Pig Marathon Relay. My running pace has slowly but surely gotten faster, and I am at the point where if I push myself just a bit, I can hold a 10:20 per mile pace, soemthing I found unimaginable when I was first training for the Flying Pig Half Marathon in 2012. Now, after a month of working to get my asthma under control (last year I struggled in early early spring, right around when we got engaged, this year? June and July), we are slowly but speedily getting back into training.

What for, exactly? The brewery run! One of Allen's groomsmen and his wife will be running the 14k, while we hope to complete the 7k. Last year, I averaged 10:45/mile, and this year my goal is to hit 10:30s, which I believe are totally doable as long as I truly commit to running, speedwork, and regular training. Allen and I have discussed endlessly our strategy, and while his goal is not to try to run his fastest, he does want to see just how well he can do. After his 64-minute-long, 6.4 mile leg of the relay, he knows that he can rock this race, and I do too.

So now, we set goals. We train. This week in my Moleskine fitness journal I have written down "run 3x, yoga 2x, cross-train 2x." This is seven days of working out, when you look at it from a technical perspective. However, I am a firm believer in active rest days, and when we aren't running or cross-training, we often find ourselves out for a walk. Since I work at a desk 40+ hours a week, yoga helps keep me limber, and definitely helps my tense shoulders after a long Saturday of writing.

It is my hope that I can run this 4.3 mile race in 45 minutes or less. I want to shave time off of last year's performance, and I want to improve my fitness along the way. My long-term running goals are simple: get faster, go farther, get better. This will take a lot of time, dedication, and hard work. It involves more than just running and speedwork and will take time, cross-training, healthy eating, and strength. I am at my fittest, but that is fluid. I want to be fitter and stronger, and I am willing to put the work into getting there. It will take time, and sure, it will suck at times, but it's something I want, and I will make it happen.

Let's Get Our Run On: The Relay

When we last left off, I was talking about my sleepless night before the race. After sleeping a mere two hours before the race, I woke up very sleepy and very unsure of my ability to run. We had a four am wake-up to be at our buses no later than six. We had about a mile to walk to get to the buses and wanted to allow plenty of time to get there and get situated. If any of us missed our final bus, we were in big trouble.

After suiting up, downing some breakfast, and gathering up our exchange-point bags, we set out to our buses. Sheena made her way to the starting line, and The Boy and I stood and chatted for a few minutes after Erica left for her starting point, and then we split up, got on our buses, and went our respective ways. I knew that we would have a while to wait - I was the third leg and he was fourth, so I settled in at the exchange point to trouble shoot my Garmin and check the weather. Rain was in the forecast and I wanted to see how long we had before getting soaked.

Waiting, waiting, waiting...

Not long after reaching my exchange point, the race began, and the people around me and I started talking about the leader, who was averaging around a five-minute-mile pace. We expected to see him right around when I expected Sheena to reach Erica at the first exchange point, so we were eagerly following updates on the leaders from Twitter, Facebook, and various local news sources. I ate a few orange slices, not wanting to overwhelm my stomach (I do not have an iron stomach and before runs can typically only tolerate some jelly beans or gu), but knowing I had about two hours from race start until my leg would take off.

Not long after we saw the leader pass us by, I got a text from Sheena. Erica had reached her exchange point and was on her way. It was chilly and humid, and I was texting The Boy about the possibility of running in my fleece hoodie, knowing very well that in the humidity this would be a bad idea. The excitement in the crowd around me was palpable, as the first relay runner came in not long after the first marathon runner reached our exchange point. Every runner was announced by bib number, and the excitement as timing chips were passed from runner to runner was great. I was grinning, cheering people on, and eagerly awaiting Erica's arrival. I couldn't wait to be off and running through Mt. Lookout and Mariemont.

When I thought Erica was about a half an hour out, I started getting ready - situating myself in my mini pigpen (which were ordered by bib numbers). I did a lot of jogging in place to warm up, stuffed my hoodie into our exchange-point bag, and had some gu. My exchange point was right at mile twelve of the marathon, so when Erica texted me from mile eleven, I was able to tell her exactly where I would be, and I immediately kept my eyes peeled, scanning the massive crowds of runners for her. Not long after, I saw her running toward me in the distance. Rather than wait for the announcers to let me know she was here, I started waving - and she waved back. We both were grinning ear-to-ear - we were almost halfway done!

Before I knew it, I was being passed the timing chip. I handed over the exchange bag and took off at a 10:30 pace, knowing based on our training that I could only sustain at that pace for so long. I ran into Hyde Park down a very long hill - misleading, as I knew my portion of the course was both long and hilly, though the elevation chart didn't look it. My first mile went by quickly, and I was shocked when I reached the first water station and timing clock at mile thirteen just over ten minutes after I left.

The next few miles went quickly. I had no plans to stop for water or gatorade until I was about three miles into my seven-miler. The humidity was making me very warm, and I almost regretted my choice of a long-sleeved tech tee and capris for the run. The course itself was gorgeous, and since I love running hills, I really enjoyed the ups-and-downs my part of the relay took me through.

Around my fifth mile, I developed a sharp stomach cramp. I was also in the heart of Mariemont, where countless people had come out to cheer the marathoners on as they ran through the square. The motivation was fantastic, and I knew that I didn't want to walk - I wanted to do my best and didn't want to let my team mates down. I did my best to run through it, but struggled, and ended up pausing and walking through the next two water stops, in hope that a few sips of gatorade would help. Fortunately for me, it did, and I was off and running a slow and steady pace in no time. I knew that I wasn't going to make up lost time, so I kept at it, running down onto wooster pike just over an hour after I started my run. As soon as I reached the marker for mile nineteen it started to rain. I pulled my phone out long enough to text The Boy that I was almost to the exchange point and he needed to be ready, and then I started to book it into Linwood and to the third and final exchange.

As soon as I saw the signs pointing toward the exchange point, I started getting ready for the hand off. I was shocked that I was almost done - it seemed like I had just started my run! The rain wasn't steady yet, but was about to be. I pulled off and reset the Garmin for The Boy to use, and readied myself with the timing chip in hand, ready to be passed off. Eventually the corrals came into view and the moment I saw The Boy I had to resist the urge to sprint! I was so happy to see him and so excited to be able to send him off for leg four. Our exchange was smooth and fast, and soon, I was on the bus to the finish line, eagerly awaiting updates from The Boy while I watched the rain fall steadily outside.

Getting back to the finish line was a bit of a challenge, and when The Boy texted that he had made it to mile three, a mere 28 minutes after the exchange, I was worried I would miss him cross the finish line. Fortunately, that was not the case. I made it to the finish with time to spare (though not much). I had enough time to grab some water, my medal, and mylar blanket before setting up in an area where I could see The Boy and get photos of him finishing the race. One hour and seven minutes after he started, and four hours, forty-two minutes after the race start, we were finished, happy, and soaked. We did it! We are still thrilled with our accomplishments and are eagerly refreshing the page at MarathonFoto awaiting our race course photos.

The crazy part? We were both incredibly sore on Monday, and I was done with running  - at least then. Now? We're discussing a half marathon in the fall. We will see!

 

The Road to the Relay

A year ago, I ran a half marathon on a humid and hot May day. I struggled to finish in three hours, and didn't come close to making my time goal. Crazily enough, I thought I might like to run the very same half marathon again this year - making training, nutrition, speedwork, and sleep priorities. All of this would be done while planning my wedding, and the race? Twenty days before my wedding. Friends both encouraged me and called me crazy for wanting to set aside twelve weeks for training, complete with long runs, cross-training, and, if possible, speed work.

Internally, though, I was hemming and hawing. Last year I registered for the half marathon in November. Of 2011. For the 2012 race. I was excited, right up until I got achy, came dangerously close to having a stress fracture, and got sick enough to have to miss a full week of training. I was waiting to register for the half marathon, until a friend said she'd run it with me. Then, a conversation on a trip home from the grocery store happened, and The Boy said he would run in the relay with me, if we could get a team together. In this, an idea and a relay team was born. The Boy, me, and two of my bridesmaids would run the relay in the Flying Pig, and we would do our hardest to finish in under 4:45.

From the get-go

The Boy, having only run up to 5k distance before, wanted a training plan that would be doable for him. Me, wanting to support him in his efforts, agreed to do the same plan, and we opted for Hal Higdon's novice 15k training plan to get us going. It combined three days of cross-training with three days of running, was balanced, and looked to be the best plan for us. I hadn't run more than a 10k since the RedLegs 10k in June of last year, and I was worried about stamina. After our training fell apart at the end of last year's training cycle, I wanted something I would stay committed to. This plan was easy to commit to, broke down nicely, and kept our evenings full of exercise.

Not surprisingly, we both lost a little weight training. Our eating habits straightened up - more fruits and veggies, fewer sweets, and more water were key to keeping us energized for our daily workouts. We had some struggles in the beginning - our long runs were hard, when previously for me, four and five miles had been easy. Two new pairs of shoes (one for me and one for him) later, we were out and running easily and comfortably.

From the beginning, training was easy. I am a person who commits easily to a goal and will do everything I can healthily do to accomplish my goals. For this, it was to hopefully finish running just under eight miles in about ninety minutes. After running the 7k in September, I knew it was a possibility, but I didn't want to push myself to injury. I knew that the other folks on our team were working hard to accomplish their goals, and being part of a team was an even bigger motivator than I could ever had thought. None of us wanted to be a weak link, and we were all having fun training up to reach our pace goals.

Dealing with Injury

Right up to our eight-week mark, things were looking good. Our training plan was ten weeks long, with the final week ending in the race. Week eight was a seven-miler, and we set out in the late afternoon after my bachelorette party weekend ended, planning to go strong. Four miles in, The Boy started having some severe IT band pain. What started out as a strong and easy run ended in a slow walk home. This wasn't anyone's fault, but we worried that this meant bad things come race day. A week later, we had the same issue when trying to run seven miles again. This time, we stopped at our local running shop and asked for advice. They were able to offer concrete examples for stretches to do, and we decided that all we could do was our best to get The Boy's leg healed enough to run or walk his leg of the race. My IT band was acting up at this point in time, so rather than push it, we both decided to take a good long week off from running.

Making it to race weekend

After a week off from running (well, I decided to run three miles one evening as a way to relax), we both felt strong going into race weekend. Saturday we were up earlier than we might otherwise be, to finish straightening up the house for guests and to be ready to go to the race Expo. As soon as our friends arrived, we headed into downtown and the Duke center to pick up our packets, explore what there was to get at the expo, and figure out our race-day strategy.

At the expo, the energy was incredible. Erica stopped to buy a Boston Strong tee-shirt while The Boy and I explored the Asics booth. I looked for a 13.1 finisher's hat and browsed the other booths. We looked at other races, the corral maps and relay exchange maps, all while discussing the best means of carrying and passing our timing chip - which was the relay baton, so to speak. None of us have ever run a relay before, so this was all new to us. On an impulse, I bought an ArmPocket at one of the expo booths - My iPhone's armband was no longer any good, and we all wanted to carry our phones to keep in touch and to be able to find one another quickly at the end of the race. It was another way to keep track of each other while running, so we could be ready at the relay points.

Saturday night we made our way back home, with plans to meet up by 4:30 the next morning to be on buses on time. After enjoying a pasta and garlic bread dinner, we all headed to bed early, bellies full, adrenaline starting to race, ready to get our run on Sunday morning. My night was pretty sleepless, and when I woke up on Sunday morning after only getting two hours of sleep, I worried if I would be able to finish.

To be continued...

 

A Crazy thing Happened Thursday

As The Boy and I reach the halfway point in our training for the relay, I’ve been working on pushing myself harder and harder. This has been challenging, especially since we’ve been doing a lot of runs on the treadmill over the past few weeks. The weather last year at this time enabled me to run outside most days, but the past couple weeks have been full of very unspringlike temperatures and weather, including more snow than we’ve had all season (or in the past two years).

On Thursday, however, we had the opportunity to run outside for the first time since the weekend and our step-back run. So we took it, both running in shorts(!!) and long-sleeved tops. We started at a conversational pace, but before we reached the halfway point of our three-miler The Boy was starting to pace ahead of me – something that most days I don’t mind. Thursday, however, it bothered me. So I decided to do something about it.

As soon as I decided to do something about it I realized that he was about 50 yards ahead of me and gaining distance, quickly. When he gets into the zone he goes fast. When I get into the zone, I have a tendency to slow down. Getting faster means staying out of the zone and actively pushing myself. I started to work on speeding up, slowly, and as we reached our turn-around point, The Boy paused to get a drink of water, allowing me to catch up with him: a blessing.

For the rest of the run I made an effort to match his pace, which was challenging, and I could tell by my hard breathing. It wasn’t challenging to the point of discomfort, but I could definitely tell that I was pushing myself to my limits. Neither one of us wore the Garmin (the battery was mysteriously dead when I went to fire it up), but based on the distance we planned to cover and when we left the house, we were averaging at best a 9:50-10:00 mile. A pace I almost never maintain.

As we neared the end of our run (or so I thought), The Boy asked if I wanted to tack on another half-mile to the end. I shook my head but said I would try, and off we went. Five minutes later we were done. I was breathing hard, but I wasn’t out of breath. I felt great, though my legs were starting to feel a bit like overcooked pasta. We checked the time and mapped our route when we got home, to find that we had covered nearly 3.6 miles in 35 minutes.

It was my fastest run to date. I am proud that I pushed myself to succeed. Our next run is a long one, and I’m hoping to get it done at a 10:20 pace at most. We’ll see what I can do. In the meantime, I’m going to continue to be proud at pushing myself and not giving up, and hope I can keep improving.

 

Weekend Recap, March 9 and 10

I had a busy but fabulously fun weekend! So much to share, but not many photos - I was too busy having fun and getting ish done this weekend - and there was a lot to be done.

For starters, it was my brother's birthday this weekend, and he and my parents came into town because he had a couple hockey games to play. It was fun to have a full house and we spent a lot of time Friday night and Saturday giggling over so much - from joking about teenaged boys to enjoying birthday cake, going to two hockey games and eating Indian buffet with my parents, it was a busy Saturday for sure! Because my brother was going to be here for his birthday I baked him a yellow cake with cream cheese frosting at his request, and decorate the top with sanding sugar.

Unfortunately, I didn't get a picture of it before we covered it with candles and then dug in. I have maybe 1/4 of a cake left at home, and I plan to share what is left with some coworkers. The Boy isn't the biggest fan of cream cheese frosting, and I have a bridal shower this weekend and anticipate a lot of cake. Yum-tastic. After my parents left on Saturday, The Boy and I ended up watching some TV for the rest of the night, catching up on "Bleach" and "Naruto" on Cartoon Network, while I worked a little more on the playlist for the wedding and set all the clocks forward an hour before heading to bed.

Sunday was less busy, but really relaxing. The weather for the first day of daylight savings time was fabulously warm - in the mid-sixties. The Boy and I slept in, got up, and went for a very hard three-mile run. I struggled to finish as my asthma was acting up and my feet and shins hurt. Before we'd set out for our run I had looked at the tread on my shoes, which I've had since just after the half-marathon last May. It was pretty worn down, and the cushioning in my shoes was showing signs of compression.

As The Boy and I walked back to the house, I told him I wanted to go buy new running shoes. It wasn't an impulse buy, I knew I was going to need shoes soon, and the pain in my feet and shins indicated that "soon" was actually "this week." Running shoes cost way less than injury or long-term physical therapy, so not long after we got home, we headed right back out to the running spot, where I replaced my Asics Gel Kayano 18s with the Gel Kayano 19s, in some incredibly fantastic colors.

 I love the black, neon pink, and bright green colors on these shoes. When I got them, I was still dressed from my run - in black, neon pink, and green capris, a reflective pullover, and a Reds hat to guard from the sun. These match the capris almost exactly, and the minute I slipped them on I could definitely tell a difference in the cushion between my old shoes and these. I cannot wait to get out on my first training run in these bad-ass shoes!

Saturday afternoon, after the trip to the running store for shoes, we spent a lot of time enjoying the warm weather in the back yard, taking care of some yard work and enjoying our back patio. There were a lot of birds out and it's finally starting to feel like spring, which is exciting. When we finally went back inside, I set to work inviting our wedding invitations, and by the end of the night had all but three ready to go. The three I'm waiting to address are folks who have moved since we sent our save-the-dates out, and I want to be absolutely sure I have their addresses correct.

I'm excited by how much we got accomplished this weekend, and how much resting we go to do on Sunday. It was a fun, busy, but relaxing weekend, and I'm already looking forward to next weekend, which will be jam-packed with guests, cake, and even more fun.

What did you get into this weekend?

 

Work It Out

I am jumping on a bandwagon of sorts to share what my workouts were last week, and a loose idea of what is happening this week in terms of working out. We are just over eleven weeks out from our wedding, and about ten weeks out from the relay. Not only are things getting a bit hectic up in here with plans, but we're also budgeting a lot of time for working out, running, and generally staying in shape in the coming weeks. 

Last week I was sick with a cold that kicked. My. Butt. I was tired and couldn't blow my nose enough. My early week was shot in terms of workouts becaue I couldn't muster up enough energy to get off the sofa and go do anything, so on my butt I sat, for a good three days. It being the first week of relay training was a kick in the pants, and by Thursday I was back out running. 

I am honestly thrilled to say that I was able to get in two runs and one trip to the gym for some cross-training last week, and this week I hope to get into the swing of our training plan. Our plan includes strength-training, cross-training, and stretching in addition to the running, and I'm excited to see how my fitness levels change in the coming weeks leading up to the race.

Yesterday, in anticipation of all of the stretching exercises we'll be doing, I bought a yoga mat. My first mat in ten years. I also downloaded a few podcasts from YogaDownload.com and checked out a few books from the library. I've been doing yoga off and on for a few years now, but have decided to commit to it as a form of stretching to keep limber through all of the other training I do. I'm looking forward to my first yoga session this evening.

What workouts are you getting into this week?