Good Riddance 2014…and 2015 Goals!

I know this is said every December, but man did this year fly by! I always try to find the positive in situations, but overall 2014 was a pretty shitty year – there were some ups, lots of down and a lot of heartache when my step dad passed away in August.

There were a few good things about 2014, and they were all in the running department:

  • I set a PR in both the half marathon (2:18 at Pittsburgh) and 5K (28:10)
  • I started this little blog
  • I’ve started connecting with other runners in the area, and even made a new friend!

I am so ready to kick 2014 to the curb, and ring in what will hopefully be a much better 2015.

I’ve seen a lot of other people writing out their goals for the year, and because I’m a follower, though I’d do the same. I’m sure this list will evolve over the year and it will be fun to check in periodically to see where I’m at with that!

My Running/Fitness Goals:

Run the Pittsburgh Marathon on May 3rd, and finish with a PR.

Bring it!

Bring it!

My current time is 5:23, so I’d be happy with any improvement but I’m really looking for a 4:50 or better.

Half Marathon PR. My current PR is 2:18, which I snagged this past May. I’m not sure what time, specifically just yet, but 2:12 sounds like a fun number to shoot for.  

STRENGTH TRAINING. I have tried so many times to stick with this and just can’t seem to make it work.  I am really going to try to add it in 3 days/week to my upcoming training. At this point I don’t know how else to make it stick, other than to just DO IT. I know that it will be beneficial from an injury prevention perspective, and to be honest I wouldn’t mind leaning out a bit…losing some chub and gaining some visible muscle definition would be A-OK in my book.

Pretty much this...     (source)

Pretty much this…   (source)

Run an injury free year. This ties into the strength training above. No one likes to take time off due to an injury, so I’m going to do my best to strength train, stretch, ice, etc. so that I don’t have to take days off to heal. If I take time off, I want it to be because I want to…not have to.

Other Goals

Blog more! I blog about as consistently as I lift weights, so I would definitely like to increase my posting frequency!

Learn how to use my camera. Last Christmas my husband got me a fancy digital camera and I have barely used it. I don’t understand how to work most of the functions on there except for the auto setting, so I feel like I’m not getting as much out of it as I could.

Use my Gratitude Journal daily. I am a big believer in the power of positive thoughts and gratitude. At the end of every day when I’m getting ready for bed, I stop and think of 1 or 2 things that I am most grateful for, or the best thing that happened that day. It can be something  small, or something bigger but the point is that it gets you thinking about the many things you have to grateful for. I also have a gratitude journal that I write a few things in everyday that I’m grateful for. Again, this can be big or small. I sometimes go a few days or weeks without actually writing in the journal, so I’d really like to get back into the habit. It can be 1 thing for the day or it can be 10, but the bottom line is, to write them out.  My overall outlook is brighter when I do these things so I’d like to be a little more consistent.

Find a good sugar cookie recipe! We tried to make sugar cookies this year, and it was a huge flop. I need to get a few recipes together, test them out and find the best one. If you have one, pass it along!

Get Braces…at least look into it. My teeth aren’t terrible, but over the last 2 or 3 years my front teeth (really, it just one lousy tooth) have started crowding a bit and have become really crooked. I don’t always notice it when I look in the mirror, but I REALLY see it in pictures and it makes me incredibly self-conscious. I want to check out Invisalign to see what the time and cost commitment are. I’d rather not get traditional braces, but if that’s my only option that’s what I’ll do. I’m going to make an appointment for a consultation and then hopefully get the ball rolling later this year.

Happy New Year!!

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Weekly Recap 12/22-12/28

Happy Monday! I am coming off a 23 (technically 25, but I’ll get to that) mile week and am feeling great! I’m still working on my marathon training plan – I’m trying to mesh something between the beginner and intermediate plans because the beginner plan is too low volume but the intermediate is like wowzas, intense.  Right now I’m still thinking 4 days a week with 1 easy, 1 speed, 1 hill, 1 long; two of those will be shorter weekday runs (the easy and speed for now) and the other two will be weekend runs with a lot more miles.  I just have to assign some numbers to those days!

Getting into my 25, but really 23 mile, week:

Monday was a rest day – I had Christmas shopping to do and by the time I made home from two lousy stores (Giant Eagle and Wine and Spirits) and was spent. My patience had been spent before I left the first store so by the time I walked through my kitchen door all I wanted to do was lay on the couch. So I did. With a Woodchuck  don’t judge. I actually had several more things to purchase, but could only take so many stores at a time so I split my shopping up over the last 3 days….otherwise there was a good chance you would have seen me on the 6:00 news for flipping out on someone, somewhere.

Tuesday I had more Christmas shopping to do after work so I did that and met some friends for drinks after. I knew that I would be out for most of the evening so I did my weights first thing in the morning. I went heavy (for me) with many of the sets and could feel it in my shoulders for days!

I had Wednesday off from work, so I planned on getting a longish run in but at the last minute Tall One decided to join me as long as we could run/walk. I am always thrilled when he decides to run with me, so I happily agreed to this and we took off for 3 miles of running alternating with walk breaks. I have to be honest, I am really glad we only did 3 miles because I was beat by the end. Mr. 6’4” has quite the long stride and naturally falls into a 9:30 or better pace when running so I was basically sprinting to keep up! I’m calling this my speed work for the week!

walk run split

I let Tall One control the distance – we would typically pick different landmarks to run to, and then pick another one to walk to. It worked out pretty well!

After our run, I made a special Christmas Eve treat: PANCAKES! We never have these at home, so we were both pretty excited. I topped mine with walnuts that I toasted and tossed with cinnamon sugar, real maple syrup, and a healthy smidge of butter. I had 2 big fluffy cakes and was a happy camper!

I wish I could eat these everyday!

Blurry cakes. Tasted much better than they look!

I had 3 more Christmas presents (and 1 birthday present) to buy so we headed out to collect those.

After dinner we went for a 3 mile walk (which is where the 25 total miles comes from) since it was SO nice outside. You can’t waste 60 degrees and sunny ANY day, let alone Christmas Eve in Pittsburgh!

Thursday was Christmas, and I was hosting my family for lunch so I was up early to get a quick 3 mile run in.  I was even happier that I spent so much time in the sun the day before because it was cold, windy and a little rainy. I wanted to run a little more, but I had lots of food to prep and cook so I called it at 3 miles in 33:51 (11:16 pace).

We put on quite the little spread for lunch. The holidays were really hard for me this year, so it was really nice to be able to spend this day together and being surrounded by family.

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YUM

I had to work Friday, but they sent us home early (YAY!!!) so we went for another walk that evening. I forgot to wear my Garmin and I’m not sure how far we went so I didn’t count it in my weekly totals. I think it was 3 miles but it could have been closer to 4. It was another beautiful day, so I was happy to be outside enjoying the sunshine and fresh air!

I met Jennifer at North Park for our 10 mile long run on Saturday. I’m thinking that all of the holiday snacks and goodies finally caught up to me because this run was tough! I also didn’t eat a very big meal the night before – I wasn’t that hungry AND I forgot that we were meeting on Saturday instead of Sunday, so I just had a good old fashioned PB & J instead of my normal pre run pasta dinner. I did eat a substantial breakfast, but that apparently still was not enough!  It seemed much colder than what the thermometers said and everything just required a lot more effort on this run. We finished 10 in 1:58 for an 11:50 pace. It was really nice to catch up with Jennifer and we spent a good while talking about Pittsburgh and our goals for the race! One of the BEST parts of a training partner is being able to toss ideas back and forth and get outside opinions and advice!  I know this run took a lot out of me, because I ended up taking an unplanned nap later that afternoon! I was reading a book…and the next thing I knew I was covered in cats and snoring!

10 miles NP

Splits

 Sunday was another cold and rainy/misty morning. I suited for my hill run with no particular distance in mind. I decided to try out a new route and I had no idea what the mileage would be so I told myself that “somewhere between 4-6 miles” would be acceptable! I ended up right in the middle with 5.5 hard miles!

mt. everest

Love it!

 

These hills were intense and a few times I had flashback to Nittany Valley so I knew that I picked a good route.  I am REALLY excited to add this to marathon training in a few weeks! I have no idea what the second half of the marathon course is like and I’m hoping that this will help prepare me for that! I ran 5.5 in 1:02 for an 11:23 pace

Overall, this was a good week! Lots of good food, and good miles! As always, I slacked on my weight training but becoming more diligent in that area is absolutely on my list of 2015 goals (that I will hopefully be posting soon!).

Catching Up

Greetings! Long time, no blog! After my less than stellar race at Nittany Valley, I was in no hurry to return to blogging or running…so I didn’t!  I took the entire week after the race off, didn’t do any running and flew down to Florida to visit my dad!I haven’t seen him since he moved there in May and it was great to see him! Of course, it would happen that the week I go there also happened to be one of the coldest weeks in years, so no beach time 😦 ! I really didn’t mind – it was just nice to spend a few days away relaxing with my dad!
Doesn't matter how warm or cold...just looking at the ocean is soothing!

Too cold to go swimming, but still pretty to look at!

I seriously slacked with Christmas shopping and decorating…I just wasn’t into this year. We did put up a few things – some garland and lights, but that was about it. Of course, the cats did have to help with the couple of things that did go up…

 

The cats LOVE garland!

The cats LOVE garland!

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We fought a losing battle with this stuff...we'd put the garland up, kitties pull it back down.

We fought a losing battle with this stuff…we’d put the garland up, kitties pull it back down.

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Now that the holidays are over, I’m really hoping to get back to a good routine (including blogging!) as I get closer to the start of training for the marathon. I’m still working on a training plan for that – I’m getting close but still haven’t finalized things. I have all kinds of plans/goals for 2015 and am more than ready to tackle them!

Nittany Valley Half Marathon – RACE RECAP

Long story short – I started out too fast, wasn’t as prepared for the hills as I thought, and got my ass handed to me.

If you’d like the long version, stick around.

Originally I had planned to make the trip to State College solo and stay with my brother and sister-in-law, but earlier in the week Tall One decided to go with me so I didn’t have to worry about driving home after the race. Isn’t he a nice guy?  So, Saturday we loaded up the car and made the trek over to State College. It rained the whole way there, and continued raining for most of the evening. Luckily the weather report promised that by Sunday morning it would be clear skies and sunny but freezing cold!  We got to my brother’s late Saturday afternoon and my sister in law had everything a runner would need the day before a race: pasta, garlic bread, lots of water and CAKE!  We spent the evening hanging out, watching college football, eating cake, and playing with their pet bunny.

Bunny in a box!

Bunny in a box!

Isn’t she the cutest? She’s about 3 pounds of fluff and sass and is awesome!

We went to bed a little later than we normally do, but the race also started a little later than most (10 AM) so it all balanced out. I slept pretty well and managed to sleep in until almost 7, which never happens. The cats are normally clamoring for breakfast right around 6 every morning so it was nice to sleep in peace ;-).

RACE DAY

I got up, had my cinnamon raisin bagel with peanut butter and coffee and started to get ready. It was  cold which really doesn’t bother me – I was prepared for that. What I wasn’t prepared for was the WIND, but more on that later.  There was no Saturday packet pick up, so we had to leave a little earlier to get that taken care of. Pick up, and the start line was on campus at the Snyder Ag Arena, which meant absolutely nothing to me. Luckily, it meant something to my brother (a Penn State alum) and he was able to navigate and get us there without any problems!  As soon as we got out of the car, I noticed just how bad the wind was – the arena is on top of a hill and it seemed like the wind was coming in every direction making the already cold temps feel worse.  We got inside and I picked up my timing chip and shirt (no bibs for this race) without any trouble. I was really excited to see that the indoor facilities were available for use and I hopped in line to use a bathroom with flushing toilets and running water! It was amazingly wonderful to be able to stay inside until the start!

Bundled up, and ready to go! I also wore a fleecy hat and gloves that I put on later. Also, my good luck charm!

Bundled up, and ready to go! I also wore a fleecy hat and gloves that I put on later.
I also tied this good luck charm to my shoe – I repeated that mantra to myself over and over again during this race!

 It was just about time to start heading outside. When we pulled into the parking lots, I was looking around for a start line and didn’t see one so I wasn’t sure where exactly to go. In the email we received from the race director the day before the instructions literally said “follow the crowds” so that’s what I did. The wind was really whipping at this point, so I said goodbye to Tall One and my brother and followed the crowds.

We all stood around waiting for the start, trying to stay warm. One good thing about being short is that all of the taller people around shielded me from the wind! Without any warning, the race started and we were off! 

Miles 1-3: The first 3 miles does a bunch of loops around the back part of campus around the agricultural department, so it was a lot of cows, sheep, pigs, etc. and thanks to the rain on Saturday it was muddy trails and frozen mud puddles.  This was by far the easiest part of the whole course. I made a BIG mistake along this stretch by going out way too fast. My breathing was hard, and my legs felt really heavy – had I looked at my watch I would have seen that I was running 9 min miles and I would have eased up. I really just thought my breathing was hard because it was damn cold. I always try to not look at my watch, because I normally run better that way but that didn’t work out so well this time. 

SLOW DOWN!

SLOW DOWN!

Someday I’ll learn to find a balance. Right around mile 3 you start a nice downhill that takes you off of campus and onto the highway. The highway that is also open to traffic the entire time, where all of the runners are crowded onto the shoulder/bike lane, with their backs to oncoming traffic. Fun.

Miles 4-6: The race website mentions somewhere that there are 3 water stops along the course, but doesn’t say at what mile markers, just on what road they are on. That doesn’t mean much to someone who is from out of town, but luckily I found this blog that gave me a much better idea of where to expect the stops. I knew the first one would be coming up after mile 4, so right at the 4 mile mark I started to take my first gel. It takes me a while to get those down so I start early. Right around 4.5 was the water station and the road/shoulder was so uneven here that I decided to stop and drink rather than try to choke it down while running. The hills started here as well, and they were the gradual kind that you can see from a distance (but not when you are actually on them)  and really do a number on your legs. Somehow I forgot about that part of the elevation map during my training. The shoulder of the road also started to disappear along this stretch and there were a lot of times I was running in loose gravel trying to keep my balance. I wasn’t 100% prepared for these climbs, and it was made even harder by the lack of space and the wind that just wasn’t letting up.  At some point, we were also running next to the airport and the wind here was just brutal. You are on top of a hill and I felt like I was being pushed backwards.  The shoulder is nonexistent in many of these places, so I tried to run on the road when I could. This was also difficult because I had to keep turning around to make sure there were no cars coming. Most of the traffic that came through was really nice about slowing down and moving over to give us some room but there were several that were flying along and staying as close to the shoulder as they could.

Getting Slower...

Getting Slower…

 My time started to suffer here, and I remember thinking that the hardest part hadn’t even come yet. I tried all of my tricks to distract myself. Positive affirmations, focusing on my form, focusing on my breathing and nothing helped. I kept hoping for a small reprieve from the hills and wind so I could try to recover a bit and it just wasn’t happening. My legs were already feeling trashed at this point, so I knew I was in for a killer second half.

Miles 7-9: Right around mile 7 I took my first walk break. I tried to hold off for as long as I could before walking, and this little section was really lacking in space so I slowed to a walk. A few runners passed me at this point, and I tried to rationalize my walk break as being a courteous runner to let people by. At this point, anything to make me feel better. Mile 7.5 starts the loooooong downhill section of the course, and I was able to get my breathing and form back and cruise down the hill (my splits don’t really reflect this, but I felt like I was cruising). Normally, I would try to take this easy (I have a fear of tripping, falling on my face and losing all of my teeth) but I figured I needed to make up all of the time that I could so I just went with it.  The downhill goes for about a mile and a half and after all of the hills before, this part feels like a dream.  For a minute, I thought that maybe I could salvage things from here and use the downhill to help power me up the last half of the course. Hahahahah, wishful thinking.  

It felt like I was going faster...

It felt like I was going faster…

At the very bottom of the hill is the next water stop at mile 8.5. Again, I had a rough I idea of where this would be so I took my gel earlier and planned to stop at the table for a drink. I was so surprised and happy to see Tall One and my brother waiting for me here! I said a quick hello, tried to look strong and took off again. Then the next round of hills started. These were the shorter, but REALLY steep kind and I finally threw in the towel and started to walk up them. My legs just felt dead. I would try to shuffle up the hill, walk a little and repeat.

Miles 10-13: At mile 10 the hill is so steep and long that you are better off  power walking up it than running. Everyone around me was doing the same, so I didn’t feel as bad about it. There is no shoulder at all along this entire stretch so you are also watching for cars to make sure you don’t die. Right before mile 11, I saw  Tall One, my brother and sister in law again! I tried really hard to start running again and look strong (I apparently failed miserably because later Tall One said I was looking “rough”, hahaha). I gave a big wave, and my brother told that the beer stop was just around the corner! Side note: Jain also mentioned that there was an unofficial beer stop put on by a local running club at mile 11. I was talking about it the night before, and was really hoping that it would be there again and it was!  At this point, I knew that it would take a miracle to not Personal Worst so I stopped, grabbed a Dixie cup full of ice cold Yuengling and enjoyed the hell out of that. Beer has never tasted so good! I thanked the guys, told them they were the best and took off again. Right after this starts another little downhill and then a flat trail, so again I thought just maaaybe I could pick it up, power up the last hill and finish strong.  Spoiler Alert: Didn’t happen.

Aren't we done yet?!?!

Aren’t we done yet?!?!

The climb started just after 11.5 and I was trying to tell myself that I can do anything for a mile! Didn’t work.  I saw my sister in law once more, about halfway up ringing the heck out of her cowbell and going crazy cheering for everyone! People loved her, and she was a total hit with the other runners! I couldn’t even attempt to look strong at this point but I gave her a big wave and told her she is awesome and carried on.  I tried to keep going, but the long gradual hill was just too much for me.  Right around mile 12 I picked up two ladies were run/walking their way up and said I was more than welcome to join them. I was SO grateful to see them, and I tried to hang on as best I could, but I had to let them go. I just couldn’t do it.  I got the worst side stich I’ve ever had around 12.5…it felt like someone shot me right in the gut.  In hindsight, it could have been the beer but it was so delicious that I didn’t care and would totally do it again! I got to the second to last turn, and tried to breathe deep and run but I couldn’t. I could hear my sister in law’s cowbell in the distance, so I kept shuffling along. Right at mile 13 I saw my family and Tall One gave me a high five and told me to finish strong. I was so tired, and over running that I nearly started to cry, but I just nodded and trudged on.

Mile 13.1: You make another turn back to the Ag arena where you started and mercifully the hills finally end. I rounded the last corner and crossed the finish line in 2:35:51 (An 11:53 pace) to more cowbell courtesy of my sister in law! A volunteer handed me a bottle of water (no medals at this race) and I the first thing I said to my family was “holy &*#$ was that hard – never doing THAT again!”.  It was still super windy and freezing cold so we made a beeline for the cars to get home, and showered so we could get lunch! Pizza never tasted to good!

Overall, I’m OK with the result. I knew this was going to be difficult, I just didn’t realize how difficult. I decided the day before that a 2:25 seemed like a reasonable goal time; I know that a 2:35 finish is way off of that, but considering the wind and the amount of walking I did at the end, this wasn’t a terrible time. Am I disappointed? Absolutely. I didn’t manage my pace properly at the start, and while I try to not look at my watch, my heavy breathing so early on should have been an indicator to back off a bit. I also was really under prepared for the entire course. I was so prepared for the last climb at mile 12 that I ignored the ones in the earlier part of the race. To be honest, that last climb didn’t seem nearly as bad as the ones that came before.  It’s always tough to put in weeks of time, and effort during training and then not be able to deliver on race day.  One of my fears when I initially decided on this race was that I would finish last…that didn’t happen, but I was damn close. I came in 514th out of 533 runners.

 This was a hard, hard, course.  A few years ago, I would not have even attempted to run this race, so that fact that I even attempted it was a win in my book. I’m proud that I didn’t give up, even though I would have rather stayed at the beer table  😉

 

 

NVHM – Reflecting on my Training

I’m still not 100% sure what my goals for this race are, but I wanted to reflect on a few things before this weekend.

I first decided to run this race (back in August), and I didn’t have any solid goals then, either.  At the time it was more about getting back into the training groove after taking some time off, and rebuilding a solid base so that I could rock the Pittsburgh Marathon in May.   I wanted to run a smart training cycle – listen to my body, don’t overdo it, and most of all HAVE FUN!  I feel like I really did that and then some:

I started to incorporate real speed work into my training. Not just a half-assed attempt at a tempo or fartlek runs, either. Real honest to goodness speed work.  And I liked it! For a long time, I would *try* (and I use that term loosely) to incorporate some speed into my training but I was going about it all wrong.  If I was doing a tempo, I’d get that first warm up mile in and then go out way too fast and burn out before I even reached another half mile. I learned how to gradually increase my speed, so that I could maintain that pace and get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

I learned to LOVE hills! I used to hate hills. All of them.  Then, earlier this year as I was training for the Pittsburgh Half Marathon I decided that I needed to start incorporating some if I wanted to do well. I was also battling Achilles Tendonitis  at the time and wasn’t able to run much, so I figured what little running I could do would be on hills to get the most bang for my buck.  I showed up to that starting line with the least amount of training I’ve ever done for a race, was just grateful to be there, with had no time goal at all. I just wanted to have a good race, do the best I could on THAT day…and ended up setting a 2 minute PR and smashing my PR on that course by over 15 minutes! If you look at my training for that time by just the numbers – mileage and paces – I had NO business running a 2:18 that day.  I firmly believe that those hills had everything to do with it, and I’ve been hooked ever since! I look forward to my Saturday hill runs, and I now go out of my way to make sure I hit as many as possible. Hills are the best!

I listened to my body. This can be one of the hardest parts of training, but I feel like I’m making progress! No one likes to take time off, but this year I’ve learned what can happen when you try to keep pushing through and I’ve realized that taking one or two days off is so much better than taking 1-2 months (or more) off because I was stubborn.  

And, finally…my favorite part of this training:

I started running with a friend.  Prior to this fall, I had never run with anyone before and to be honest, I didn’t think that I would like it. Then I learned how wrong I was. Running with a friend is the BEST! We can’t always get our schedules to work out but I truly look forward to meeting up with Jennifer on the weekends and am so grateful to have found a new friend who shares my love of running (and cats!).

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At the ZooZilla 5K

 

To me, all of these things are so much more important than a number on the clock. I feel like I’ve made serious strides as a runner (ahaha, see what I did there?!), and am really starting to find my confidence and realize that I do have some speed in my legs! Would I like to come away with a PR? Sure! Obviously I would be thrilled, but I’m not going to get all hung up on that.  I’m going to show up to the starting line and do the absolute best that I possibly can that day, have a good time, and just be grateful that I am out there doing what I love to do!