Pittsburgh Marathon Training – Week 2

Another training week completed! It’s only Week 2, so very early in the training cycle but I’m feeling REALLY good! I know not every day or week will be perfect, so I will definitely take it while I can! We have been dealing with the cold temps off and on all winter, but this is the first time since real training started that I had to deal with the other side of winter – SNOW!  After realizing last week that I’m losing some of my hill fitness, I made it a point to make sure all of my runs were outside this week, and…Mission Accomplished! Running in the snow/slush/ice is definitely an adventure.  I finished with 23 miles for the week…still on the lower side, but I’m steadily increasing and feeling stronger every week!

Monday – Rest. After Monday being my rest day every day for almost the last 2 years, the Tall One has finally stopped asking me “Are you running today?”. I think he gets it. Maybe.  I worked on this week’s training schedule and on my blog post…Peanut supervised:

Keep working, slacker.

Keep working, slacker.

Tuesday – It has almost become habit to run my easy/recovery days first thing Tuesday morning on the treadmill. I decided to break that and run after work, outside, in the elements. It was beautiful outside – not too cold, with snow lightly falling…it just really made me happy to be out in the fresh air, doing something I love! The snow definitely makes you adjust your stride a bit, and I could feel my legs burning in spots that they usually don’t.  This would have been the perfect opportunity to try out Shaun’s trick of winterizing your running shoes. Except I don’t have an old pair that has enough miles left on them  – I try to get my money’s worth and run those bad boys  into the ground (literally) before getting new ones. 3 miles 33:26 (11:08 pace).


Wednesday – Strength. I switched up my routine a little and wasn’t really happy with a lot of the moves I selected. It would have been really easy for me to say “eff it. I don’t like this, I’ll rework the plan and try again on Friday”, but…I didn’t. That is a major win in my book.

Thursday – Speed Day!! Unless there is some kind of major weather event, I will always do my speed work (and long runs) outside – I just perform better out there.  The plan was a 4 mile progression run. As I made my way home, I took a peak outside and it looked like most of the slush and ice had melted. What that really meant is that it was all black ice. Yee-haw. 

Not bad. Not great either.

Not bad. Not great either.

This was definitely not my best work, and if I’m going just by my perceived effort, I could/should have done much more. BUT. I stayed upright the whole time (there were a few close calls) and finished with my body/face intact so I consider that a win. I vented a bit on Daily Mile and Nichole gave some great perspective.

Sometimes, you just need some perspective.

Sometimes, you just need some perspective.

Friday – Strength. I went with the same routine as Wednesday, and instead of whining about it I tried to keep a positive attitude, focus on my form, etc and ended up (almost) enjoying it. My arms were jello by the end and I had a hard time even picking up my hairbrush after so you know it was a good one!

Saturday – Long Run. 10 miles 1:55 (11:28 pace) I usually spend Saturdays hiking up and down the mountains hills in my neighborhood, but the threat of snow on Sunday prompted to me email Jennifer Friday afternoon to see if we could switch days around. I don’t mind cutting a 6 miler short (or attempting it on the treadmill), but I will not sacrifice the long run. I think that’s a Marathon Training Commandment, or something.  Luckily, Jennifer was fine with the switch and we met out at North Park for 6.5 miles for her and 10 for me.  It snowed a little overnight, so there were some slush puddles and snowy spots to deal with so we slowed down a bit to accommodate those. Overall, this was great – the first 6.5 flew right by and I set off for 4 (technically 3.5) on my own. I managed a good negative split over the last bit and that is exactly what I was looking for.  In a perfect world, the Race Day Plan is to run with Jennifer for the first 10 miles of the race until the Half/Full split at around 11:00 min miles, and after the split (and climb into Oakland) try to start chipping away at that pace to get into the 10:50’s. I don’t know how well this will work, but that’s the plan and the more comfortable I get with running progressions I think the better off I will be.  Theoretically, at least.

Everything looks so pretty covered in snow!

Everything looks so pretty covered in snow!

Sunday – Man, I totally botched this! When I looked on Friday, the forecast said 1-3 inches of snow Sunday morning and another 1-3 that afternoon/evening. Well…throughout the day Saturday those times kept getting pushed back. First it was supposed to start early, then around 11, then 1, then 4….etc.  Total Fail Whale on my part, but it can be tough to predict that kind of stuff so far in advance.

Fail. Whale.

Fail. Whale.

It was a perfect winter morning for a run – not too cold and windy just a nice brisk day. I tackled 6 miles worth of hills in 1:08 (11:15 pace) and was pretty pleased with this. I wasn’t sure what to expect since my legs were a little tired from the day before, but I figured this would simulate the later miles of the marathon really well so I tried to keep my form, and breathing even and controlled on the uphill and use the flat and downhill to recover and that’s exactly what I did. Winning!  There were still a few icy/slushy spots to deal with, and I had to stop a few times for cars to pass, but nothing to complain about!

This elevation profile always reminds me of the Jack Rabbit at Kennywood!

This elevation profile always reminds me of the Jack Rabbit at Kennywood!


How’s your training going?

What’s your favorite ride at Kennywood? I LOVE all of the roller coasters, and really miss The Pitt Fall! I loved those few seconds at the top, depending on what side you sat on, you got some spectacular views!


My Winter Running Wardrobe

Confession. This is the first winter season that I have consistently run through. What?! Somehow, up to and including last year I never run through all of the winter months. Due to illness, injury, or just taking a break I always managed to miss out on at least January and usually part of February. As such, my winter running wardrobe was lacking. I made due with one (awesome) pair of Under Armour tights that my step dad gave me for Christmas a few years ago and a couple of long sleeved shirts. From there, I would just pile on the layers as needed.

I knew that between training for Nittany Valley and the Pittsburgh Marathon, I would be running through ALL of the winter months this time around and would need to add a few more staple items. Since I’m starting almost from scratch, I wanted to be a little budget conscious and not run out and buy ALL of the Nike/LuLu/Under Armour (even though I reeeeallllly wanted to) right away. So I headed to Target, and scored some serious deals!

I initially bought this shirt last year in blue and loved it, so I was really happy to see that it was once again on the shelves.

I have it in blue, grey/pink, grey/purple (I don’t see this one online, but it was at my local Target); the only one I don’t have is black but I will probably scoop it up if it’s in stock next time I’m there. Between the fleece lining, thumbholes (always a win!), and the turtleneck, I don’t think this shirt is missing anything. The fit is listed as ‘fitted’ so it if you like your shirts lose definitely go up a size (or two). I have practically lived in these shirts this winter – they are warm and cozy without being heavy. This shirt always seems to be on sale, and I can usually get it anywhere from 20-23 instead of 25.

Full length view of this shirt. I don't make it look as good as the model.

Full length view of this shirt. I don’t make it look as good as the model, but it’s super comfy! (Photo stolen from Jennifer!)

With only one pair of running tights, I needed some pants as well. I went with these pants in black/grey and blue.

 I used to hate running tights mostly because they are so NOT flattering on me. They make my already large, ahem, athletic legs look even larger, ahem, athletic-er. Typically, they are SO tight in the legs that I can’t get them on, or they cut off the circulation, so I need to size up for that and then they are falling off at the waist (in all fairness, that’s true of just about every pair of pants I own) and that is seriously uncomfortable. Oh well….they’re necessary so I checked out Target’s selection and picked up two pairs of these. They seem to run a little on the large size, as I was able to comfortably fit into a medium with no problems. Note – I read some of the reviews that said the pants ran TIGHT and to size up. That was definitely not my experience! They are also fleece lined and reflective (sort of).  The fleece lining is very warm, and I’ve worn these pants on several arctic runs without a problem! The “reflection” is a few dots on the top of the leg, and a few dots on the bottom. I haven’t tested it out, but I’m guessing they don’t do much. These pants also feature a handy little pocket, which is great for storing my car key when I run out at North Park. I have no idea what the zippers along the calves are for? If it’s cold enough for pants, I want them zipped all the way, and if it’s warm enough for capris….I’ll wear the capris. For 25 bucks (on sale) a pair, I’m not complaining – if I can get two pairs of running pants for what 1 pair would cost me at most other stores I am all for it!  They are warm, comfortable, stay in place and have served their purpose! I wore the blue pair to the Nittany Valley Half and received several compliments on them!

The last item that I was really excited about was this jacket. I had my eye on this Under Armour jacket at Dicks, but the $125 dollar price tag had me a little unsure (It’s now on sale for $93, and I’m soooo tempted!). I was pretty positive I’d get my money’s worth, but I’m like a little bird – cheap, cheap, cheap so I passed. It also helped that when I did go there to buy it, they were sold out in my size and the large was too large and the small was too small. I’m a regular Goldilocks over here.  I was browsing Target’s website that same week and saw this bad boy on sale for $20.

It looked similar to the Under Armour jacket, and I got my hopes up. I went out to Target that night and was really excited to see they had a few jackets in stock. On-line they listed White, Black, and the Blue that I ended up purchasing. I really wanted the white, but there weren’t any available in-store and I didn’t want to wait to have it shipped. I try to stay away from black jackets because I worry about visibility so, blue it was. In hindsight, its probably good that the white was sold out – I am the messiest person and would surely spill something all over that sparkly white jacket! The fit is great, and I can easily wear another long sleeved top underneath. This jacket is WARM! I’ve worn this all winter long, and I never need more than the shirt above underneath and have actually contemplated taking this off a few times. I have no way to compare it to the other jacket but just like with the pants…for $20 (Black Friday Sale) it was well worth it! Even full price at $34.99 is a major bargain! I also really like that the zippers and sleeve cuffs seem to be reflective. I’m all about safety and visibility when running (getting run over by a car is not on my bucket list) so that was a definite plus!

This is the best picture I have that shows all of the pieces. The pink/grey shirt underneath, jacket, and tights.

All put together

All put together

I totally look like Violet from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, no?


“You’re turning violet, Violet!”

What’s your ‘must-have’ winter item? Bonus points if it’s on sale/a bargain!


It looks like Target is having a big sale on a lot of their athletic apparel, so if you’re in the market for some new gear…check it out!

Pittsburgh Marathon Training – Week 1!

The first week of training is in the books! This was a pretty great week; all things considered, the weather was pretty mild (cold, of course, but no snow or ice!) and I had no problem getting all of my workouts in!

Monday – I love kicking a training plan off with a rest day. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll see that I nailed it.


Boom.   I also spy a Wilbur Tail (#whereswilbur)

Tuesday – First run of the week/training cycle! 3 easy miles (33:14/11:05 pace)on the treadmill . I always start out slow on the treadmill and try to finish fast (to simulate a fast finish in a race), so my pace looks normal for me but in reality, it’s usually an all-out sprint at the end!

Wednesday – Strength Training!

Thursday – My first speed session and I decided to take this one outside. Paces always feel so different to me outside than they do on the treadmill. I’m pretty sure I would have a much harder time pulling these splits off on a treadmill, if I could do them at all. Since this is the first week, I eased into it with 3 great progression miles.

Like lightning!

Like lightning!

I really love progression runs and hoping they will help me to stay disciplined to start the first few miles of the marathon slower and gradually increase my pace as the race goes on.

Friday – Strength Training, again! Since the New Year, I’ve been really good about hitting the weights 2x per week. I don’t have a lot of equipment since I work out in my basement, but am trying to get the most out of what I have. I’d like to see a few muscles out of this! 🙂

Saturday – Hills. In my downtime, I wasn’t as consistent with hill training as I had been. Couple that with more treadmill runs than I think I’ve ever done in my life and I could see a noticeable decrease in my hill fitness.

saturday 4 hills

I’m not worried though – I’m sure I will bounce back fairly quickly. Just by looking at the numbers, it doesn’t look like I lost a lot but it took some serious effort to sustain that!  From now on, anytime I need to run on the treadmill I’m going to start changing the incline around, instead of just the speed. That won’t totally make up for what I’m missing out on, but it should help. I’m also hoping that I will be able to limit my treadmill runs to just once a week on my easy day. I know that won’t always be the case but I can hope! 4 Miles (45:50/11:27 pace)

Sunday – I met Jennifer at North Park for our long run.  We were scheduled for 9 miles (me) and 6 miles (Jennifer) so we tossed a few route ideas around, that would accommodate us both and decided on the Frigid Five Miler course. Rather than try to do mid-run math and find a spot to turn around at, I decided to add on one more mile and make it an even 10.  The Weather Channel App said it was 42 degrees, so I used the opportunity to grace the other runners of North Park with my pasty, neon white legs and wear shorts.

You need sunglasses for those bad boys

You need sunglasses for those bad boys

The first 5 miles was great – I will never believe how fast the miles go when you have someone to talk to. As we tackled the little rollers of the course, I was reminded how remote that section of North Park is…and I started to get a little nervous about running another 5 by myself.  We passed our cars right before we started our second climb up the mountain and I grabbed my cell phone; I told Jennifer that way you guys could use the GPS tracker on it to find my body when I go missing up there. You think I’m kidding but let me refer you to cases 1 & 2 and tell me how crazy I am. Seriously though, safety first. We reached the top of the hill at the Lodge, and it was time to say goodbye to Jennifer (who crushed the hill both times!) so I could start my last 4 miles solo. I also reminded her of my description – grey and purple shorts, grey and purple shirt, ponytail, aviators….just in case.  I ran the last 4 miles a smidge faster than the first time – it was getting cold and rainy and suddenly the shorts seemed like a really stupid idea. I saw a few people here and there, but for the most part it was empty and I kind of really liked it (minus the whole being afraid of a mountain man stealing me and making me his child bride thing, that is).  I made it back to my car unscathed, except for a few frozen fingers that took a few minutes to come back to life.

I think it's obvious where the hills were!

I think it’s obvious where the hills were!

My overall pace was right on target, but my mile splits were kind of all over the place. As many other have said though, that is a really tough course to plan for! I tried to monitor my effort – I was able to truck up the biiiiig hill both times with no stopping or walking, and I was also able to use the level and downhill sections to get my breathing and form under control.

So pretty up there!

So pretty up there!

I finished the week with 20 miles (1 more than I planned for), and I’m feeling really good! Hopefully the momentum carries into next week.  In the coming weeks I want to continue to work on my strength training (that spare tire around my middle seriously needs to go!!), and focus on my nutrition to make sure I’m fueling my workouts!


How was your week of training?

Help me out – what are your favorite things to incorporate into your strength workouts? I’ve started doing single leg dead lifts with just a 10lb dumbbell and WOW! I can always feel it the next day!

Weekly Recap 1/5-1/11

Another week in the books! This was the last week of “freedom” before 16 weeks of marathon training kicks in, and I stuck to the plan of relaxing and taking things nice and easy – I only totaled 14 miles for the week! Jennifer and I were talking at the race yesterday and we both agreed that while there was a smidge of guilt over the lack of miles, it was really our last opportunity to do whatever we wanted and I took full advantage. It also happened to be the first “real” week of winter with subzero temperatures, ice, and snow so that made my decisions much easier! Having said that, I am READY to start marathon training!

Here’s a peek into last week:

Monday: You guessed it – REST.

Tuesday – This was a double workout day. I ran 4 miles on the treadmill first thing in the morning, and then did my weights when I got home from work.  I am still trying to figure out how I want to balance my strength work during this training cycle. If I stick to only doing weights 2x a week, I could pull doubles and run in the morning, then lift when I get home. This would give me a few extra rest days during the week, which would be lovely. I could also lift on the days when I don’t run…this would mean less rest days but also less work each day, if that makes sense.  If I bump it up to 3 days a week, this all goes out the window and I will have to double up on some days. I can’t make up my mind, so I think I’m just going to have to try them both and see what works best for me.

My trainer. He just lays around and barks orders at me. Jerk.

My trainer. He just lays around and barks orders at me. Jerk.

Wednesday – Rest.

Thursday – AM Weights + a quick 15 minute incline walk on the treadmill. I’m not crazy about hauling my buns out of bed at 4:30 in the morning, but I do LOVE getting a workout in first thing. I always feel energized and ready to KA-POW  the shit out of my day!

Friday – More rest. I could get used to this.

Saturday – Holy $%# was it cold!! Even before the Marathon kick off run was cancelled, I decided that I would be hitting up the basement for a date with my treadmill. Originally I wanted Saturday to be my long run of about 8-9 miles but once I realized I wouldn’t be able to run outside I readjusted my expectations. I’ve never run  more than 4 miles on a treadmill so I set a realistic goal of 5 miles. Might not sound like much to some (like Steffany, who knocked out SIXTEEN miles on her treadmill this past weekend…SO awesome) but this was a big deal for me. I covered the screen with a towel, turned on my beloved Law and Order and went to work. I’m always slower on the treadmill than I am outside, so I knew that it would take me a while. I always play games with myself when I’m running, so I told myself to not look at the timer until after the episode ended (I started running at about 7:30, so it was already halfway over). Then I challenged myself to not look until after the opening credits played…and I just kept doing that until it had been almost 45 minutes or so. When I finally got to take the towel away I was past the 4 mile mark and pretty proud of myself. I very briefly thought about pushing it to 6 miles, but I figured there will be plenty of opportunities to try that out this winter! I started cranking the speed up every .2-.25 miles until the last quarter mile when I made it an all-out sprint to the end.  That sort of salvaged my pace to make 5 miles in 57:46 (11:33 pace).


It doesn’t seem like much, but that was big for me. I called it a TDR – treadmill distance record! Hopefully I don’t have to do this often, but knowing that I can is huge! I just pray that I don’t have to do my long run on that thing…

Also, as I’m writing/editing this I was contacted via the Pittsburgh Marathon that my entry on Instagram was one of the winners of their Treadmill Challenge! I won a VIP Package for race weekend – I NEVER win anything so I am soooo excited about this!! Wahoo!!

Sunday – Frigid Five Miler! Full recap is here.  Overall, I really enjoyed this race and had a great time! I did mention in my recap that I had some issues with our pacer…maybe it’s just me and I’m ultra sensitive to being a slower runner, but some of the comments he made seriously irritated me. It’s actually one of the reasons I decided to pull away from the group…I just couldn’t listen to him anymore! If I’m in the wrong, please tell me…I will shout an apology from the rooftops! I can’t tell if I’m being too sensitive or not.

Exhibit A:

As we were waiting for the start, someone in our group asked if 11:00 was his normal pace and he answered with a “ohhhh NO! I normally run an 8 or 9 minute pace. I ran a lot this weekend, so I asked for the slowest group they had.” Ohhh kay? There was also a good bit of attitude in his answer that made it seem like he was doing US this huuuuge favor of gracing us with his pacing presence.

Exhibit B:

We were talking about upcoming races, and I said that I was running the Pittsburgh Marathon and that 11:00 is my goal pace. He asked if I had run a marathon before and I said yes, and that going out too fast in that race cost me dearly in the end and added a good 20 minutes to my time. When he asked what my time was, and I told him “5:23” he replied with a “Huh. Well. Like I ALWAYS say….anyone can finish a marathon.” Again, with the attitude and making it seem like my time made this less of an accomplishment or… something. This is the point where I started to move a few steps ahead of him.

Exhibit C:

This is the last comment I heard, because we dropped him soon after so I don’t know (and don’t think I want to know) if any other comments were made.  We were still just ahead of the group, and some other girls were asking him about pace groups and if tucking into a group like this is beneficial because it can block some of the wind/elements, etc. He answered with a “Sure, but at this pace it’s not like you’re going fast enough for it to make a difference”.

I thought at first, maybe he just didn’t realize how those comments seemed but…the more he made, the more it just sounded like passive aggressive/digs to us slower runners.  Yeah, I’m not a sub 4 hour marathoner…I’ll probably never qualify for Boston; hell, I’ll be lucky if I can break 5 hours this year! It just seems to me that the last place for that kind of attitude is at a race where you are pacing these people.  If I had feelings, they would be hurt. Luckily, I can let a lot of things roll off my back but…what about other people? What if there was someone new to running in that group that was already nervous about being there, or nervous about finishing last (like I STILL am sometimes *cough* Nittany Valley *cough*)? Did those comments potentially cause someone to question whether or not to continue running?  I sincerely hope not. Luckily, it seems that for every 1 of someone with that attitude there are 100+ others that are nothing but encouraging and supportive to everyone not just the ones in their pace group. Sorry to go off on a tangent, but these kinds of things really grind my gears.

What do you think? Am I being too sensitive, or was this guy a little over the line?

2015 Frigid Five Miler – Race RECAP!

This was a last minute race – Jennifer and I had planned to run 8ish miles on Sunday at North Park to begin with and when we saw the race was going on at the same time we figured “why not?”. I also heard that there were pancakes and hot chocolate at the end…how do you say no to that?! That’s right. You don’t! We registered on Friday, and came up with a strategy for the race: make this a progression run at race pace. Start in the 11:10ish range and work our way down to a 10:50 pace. I am horrible with my pacing during races and it normally always comes back to bite me in the ass, so I wanted to practice starting out conservatively. This race definitely lived up to the “frigid” part – 17 degrees at the start with a wind chill of 9! Then again, compared to yesterday….it was almost pleasant. Almost.

Pre-race hashbrown selfie!

Pre-race hashbrown selfie!

The race starts and ends at the Lodge on North Ridge Road at North Park, and a pre-race email warned that there was limited parking up there so we parked at the skating rink and walked up the hill to the start. Realizing that we would later have to RUN back UP that beast was a little unsettling. After some warm up stretching, we made our way to the start line and found the 11:00 pacer. We were pretty excited to see that pacers were available and thought that it would be a good idea to stick with him for a bit. I’m pretty certain that I will be using a pacer at the marathon, so I wanted to try running with one today.  Our pacer said that he was going to bank some time early so that when we hit the monster hill at the end we would be OK. After seeing that hill, I figured that was probably a wise strategy.

The elevation profile:

Hold me closer, Tony Danza.

Hold me closer, Tony Danza.

The first mile of this course is pretty level; a few up and downs but nothing major. We stuck with the pacer* for the first mile, but then started to pull away from the pace group, but only by a few steps. I was feeling good as we started down a slight downhill just before the second mile, and we were still ahead of the pacer. Our pace was still in the mid 10’s, and I was feeling good but I kept thinking about the hill at the end and wanted to save something for that. Somewhere in the second or third mile there was a water table set up, but….no one was there! There were containers and cups, but no one manning the station. I joked that it must be self serve, but it was definitely strange. Maybe they didn’t have as many volunteers as they originally planned on and decided that this was a non-essential stop?

The miles ticked by, as they always seem to when you have good company, and we kept up a really speedy pace for the first 3 miles but it was starting to take it’s toll. Conversation wasn’t flowing as much and we started to focus more on our breathing and form. I started to feel awful because, once again, I didn’t stick to the plan, threw the paces out the window and it was going to cost us. The pacer was still behind us but was inching closer and closer. The last water stop was right at the start of North Ridge Road, just after mile 4, so we walked through that and started the climb. This hill was wicked, and was almost like you were running in place. We went with a run/walk to get ourselves up to the top and about halfway up the 11:00 min pacer finally passed us. We kept him in our sights though, and  seemed to get a second wind as we rounded the last turn, kicked it up a notch (passed a few people!!) and sprinted across the line in 55:15/ 11:02 pace. SOOOOO close to our 11:00 goal! When I realized how close we were to our goal, I didn’t feel as bad but I still couldn’t help but think that if we had held back somewhere else on the course, we would have had juuuuuust a little more to give at the end. That is something that will ALWAYS be a struggle for me, and something that I really need to get under control before the marathon. I can (sort of) get away with that in a shorter race, but that will (and has!) come back to haunt me in the half and full distances.

frigid pace

Not too shabby!

After the race, we went into the lodge to warm up and I grabbed some pancakes and hot chocolate!

Delicious. Also, Garmin gave me an 11:02 pace, vs the 11:03 FitSnap gave me so I'm gonna take the 1 second back ;-)

Delicious. Also, Garmin gave me an 11:02 pace, vs the 11:03 FitSnap (and Daily Mile) gave me so I’m gonna take the 1 second back 😉

All things considered, I am really happy with this race. I definitely still need to work on pacing myself but that will always be a work in progress ;-). I am really proud of Jennifer for gutting it out at the end and really grateful that she didn’t get mad when I nearly ruined it for us! This was a solid effort all around, we were only 3 seconds off of our goal pace, and this was a great way to kick off marathon training for me, and half marathon training for her!

*I don’t want to sound like a bitch, but I was not happy with this pacer.  I’ll talk about it tomorrow in my weekly recap….maybe I’m just way too sensitive about being a slow poke, but there were some comments made that really rubbed me the wrong way.