Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Music to My Ears

For whatever reason, whether or not runners should listen to music while running has become a topic of debate. I usually love debating, but I kind of hate any controversy that serves to drive a wedge between groups of runners.

Barefoot vs. traditional? Zero-drop vs. cushion? I don't want to hear it. Do you.

That's why I was surprised when Runner's World's Facebook page posted an image a few weeks back that opened the floodgates for heated debate that was filled with un-runner-like animosity. People feel really strongly about this, apparently.
The image in question...the comments on this from both sides of the debate were simply ridiculous.
When it comes to my choice, I like to have my music with me when I run. I can run without it, and often I run without headphones and just let the ambient soundtrack play from my phone speakers, but if I had my druthers (can you tell I'm reading To Kill A Mockingbird right now?) I'd choose my Run It! playlist and Yurbuds any day.

My music falls into three main categories and a sub-genre, but I mix them all together into a single playlist because I like to hit all three areas of my mood, rather than choosing a mood and sticking with it the entire run.

Pump Up 

Anything catchy, upbeat, and fast-paced falls into this category. Of course, there's a fair amount of unexpected alternative and rap here too...Who can say no to DMX or The Clash? They clearly go together. These songs kick up my pace, and usually I can be found mouthing the words or pretending I know how to play air-piano while running.
 Zone Out

Probably my favorite songs, but the least-represented on my playlist, my zoning out songs are sometimes slow and may seem like the antithesis of workout music. But they follow a very important rule: I know every. single. word. Matchbox Twenty (oh my gosh, favorite!), Goo Goo Dolls, The Spill Canvas...These are the best when I take the playlist off shuffle and let a few of them play in a row, especially if I'm well into a long run and facing some tough miles.
 Power Songs

I love Nike+ for having this option. Adding power songs to my playlist lets me hear exactly what I need to at any particular moment with just a tap of my phone screen. (Seriously, people who ran with Disc-Mans and Walk-Mans? How did you do it?!) Most of my power songs are about overcoming something. I've got "How Far We've Come" by MB20 right alongside "No More Drama" and "Work It" by Mary J. Blige. And for some reason "Backstabber" by Ke$ha is super effective.
Downright Embarrassing

If you've even glanced at the pictures in this post, you know what I'm talking about. 3OH!3? Gangnam Style? Avril Lavigne? Yeah. You need some space for embarrassing music that you genuinely love on any running playlist. A run simply wouldn't be complete without it!

As far as running races goes, I've never run a race that was so crowded with spectators and entertainment that I felt I was missing something by having my music going. I guess if I ever run a Disney race or any show-stoppingly huge race, I'll stow my headphones.

But for the most part, I'm just a music lover. Music gives me a way to deal with my head; the beauty of music is that it speaks to us in a way that is personal and intimate but also universal. If running is the perfect time to get my head straight and refocus my emotions, then what better companion is there to run with than a good playlist?

Do you run with or without music?
What about at a race?
What are your top music choices right now?


Monday, October 28, 2013

A Sunshine Post

Andrea at Morning Runner Girl nominated me for the Sunshine Award! I know I've done this before, but her questions were just too fun not to answer.

(If you're looking for a blog that's honest, upbeat, and need to go read hers. Immediately.)

1. What is the craziest thing you have done?

Okay, maybe not crazy, but definitely something that took a lot of guts...going on my Birthright trip to Israel two summers ago. It was something I had wanted to do but kept putting off, and it was the most rewarding, eye-opening, and moving experience. I'm so, so glad I took the leap and did it.
Riding a camel in the Bedouin camp.
We hiked up Masada for sunrise.

2. Hot weather or Cold weather?

Cold! Of course, it's all relative It's hot 90% of the year here, so "cold" to me is now anything below 70 degrees. If we're talking snow, I'd have to take hot weather!

3. Wine or Beer?

Wine, hands down. (Most beer isn't gluten free, so that's an easy answer.) I prefer Merlot these days.
The winery in Malibu was one of the highlights of my CA trip this summer!

4. What do you do when you first wake up in the morning?

Wash my face. I have mild OCD when it comes to bathroom activities and the order in which I have to accomplish them. I could be running an hour behind schedule and I'm still going to stop and wash my face.

 5. What is your favorite thing about the city you live in?

We are really blessed to have so many track clubs nearby, so there are always races within a 30-minute drive.

6. What’s one thing that can immediately brighten your day?

When I genuinely make Matt laugh. I'm not really that funny, so when I do something that can cause a real belly-laugh, I'm in heaven. Also, receiving notes and letters from students. They make everything worth it.
Just some of the notes I received at the end of last year. Seriously made my entire summer.

7. What is one book that you can read over and over again?

I reread the Harry Potter series every summer...all 7 books. I always get something new from it. The story itself is beautifully written, and there's so much nuance and allegory...I could teach an entire year's curriculum with just that series!

8. Have you met anyone famous?

 I've met Sugar Ray (the band, not the boxer) and O-Town (remember them? It was in an airport on my way to Alaska in 10th grade). I think there was one other, but I can't remember...

9. What is your worst habit?

I am a slob. I leave wrappers all over the place. (This was Matt's biggest gripe when we first moved in together. Eventually I moved on to wrapper-less gum, and that helped haha.)

10. What is the best Halloween costume you have ever worn?

Isn't Steph the cutest clock ever?
  I think this needs no explanation. I was born to be obsessed with HP.

Answer any of the questions above!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Race the Roof 15k

Last year, this race was an 8k that took us through a beautifully landscaped neighborhood and over scenic boardwalks. This year, runners were given the choice between a 5k and 15k, and I happily jumped on the opportunity to run a new race distance.

One of the women on my Ragnar team, Sarah, was also running this race. We carpooled, and when we got out at the venue, we were both reluctant to take our warmup shirts off...The temperature has finally dropped to autumn levels! It was 63 this morning pre-race, and topped out at 72 when we were finished.

That's what I call perfect race weather!

I was happy to get a little jog in before the start time; my legs have been leaden this week from the 10k last weekend and the start of volleyball, and my 3.6 miler on Wednesday was brutal. This morning, though, after intense rolling therapy all week, my legs felt fantastic. I felt ready for this race from the moment we got there.
The crowd waiting to start.
Sarah and I started out by Sean, another friend who is super fast, but knew we wouldn't be running "together". Sarah is the one who placed 3rd in her AG in the 10k last weekend.

Anyway, I found a nice easy pace early on. I watched others pass me and smiled a little, completely aware that by mile 3 many of them would be burned out. I kept to my pace and thoroughly enjoyed the scenery. I even took a picture - while running - along one of the boardwalks. It was just too pretty not to!
I didn't even have to stop to take it. Check out that gorgeous view!
This was the first race that allowed me to use my new fueling habits. I wore my Nathan fuelbelt and packed it with lemon Gu Chomps, gum, and chapstick. Because I wasn't sure about the exact location of the water stops, I took my first two chomps at mile 3.
The belt felt like I wasn't even wearing it; it stayed in place and was easy to handle.
I really hit my stride around mile 4. I just felt like it was time to ramp up the speed a little. Sure enough, I was soon passing many of the runners I had watched speed by me in the first mile or two.

I ate another chomp at mile 5. I waved and said "thank you" and "good morning" to all the volunteers. I was happily distracted along the entire route by the gorgeous views as the sun began to peak above the trees.

This is seriously one of the most beautiful races I've ever run, hands down. The route was much improved from last year; somehow, even adding 7k to the distance, they avoided that long stretch of road I remembered hating last time. We looped along neighborhood streets (I saw one woman in her bathrobe come out to get the paper as we passed) and ran along paths bordering lakes, fields, and the golf course.

I began to tire out around mile 7.5. It's hard for me to mentally keep myself going when I know I'm almost done. (Just something else to work on this year.) But at this point, it was too late to eat another chomp. So I just tucked in and kept going.

Around mile 8.5 I was tailing two young women in pink. We were alone on the course for awhile; I was the caboose. But something sparked as we made a turn off the road onto more boardwalk, and suddenly I was flying.

I overtook the two the point that they weren't even in my hindsight as I looked back. The last stretch from 8.5 to 9 was completely empty of volunteers and runners. I thought maybe I had gotten lost...I've never been completely and totally alone during a race!

But I didn't dare stop, in case one of the pink girls caught me. Finally I saw a volunteer, who directed me at the turn. (I wasn't off course, just uniquely timed I guess.) The last two boardwalks were heaven for my legs. I pounded around the final turn, burst through a copse of trees, and raced to the finish.

The clock was ticking 1:34:xx and in that moment I wanted to beat 1:35. I cranked it out and gave it my all at the finish, coming in at 1:34:49. As this is my only 15k, it's an automatic PR.
My pace was faster than last weekend's 10k, and considering the extra distance, I'm really happy with that. I successfully maintained a steady pace and saw negative splits in the second half of the run. I even ran miles 7 and 8 at a sub-10 pace!
Sean getting his medal, and us afterward, with our bling! (I really enjoy the banana peel I haven't bothered to throw away yet...I guess I was holding onto it for sentimental reasons.)
I found Sean after the finish; he placed 3rd in his AG! We walked over to breakfast together; this race always sponsors a great spread. Sarah's husband and kids had come to cheer her on, and she was playing with them at the swings in the park. (Have I mentioned yet that this venue is perfect for racing for a million reasons?) She had placed 2nd in her AG! (Remember, this is only her third race ever.)
I was too short to get a picture of Sarah getting her medal, but here she is showing it off!
This was one of those races that will easily top my favorites list. It has restored my faith in my ability to run long distances. It gave me the opportunity to practice fueling at a race. (I need to perfect my strategy.) I smiled during the entire race and just felt absolutely great.
Post-race exuberance! (My fuelbelt is doing a great job giving me that Steve Urkel look I was going for.)
Another milestone from today? I got my first blister. I know, I know...4 years of running and no blisters? I've been lucky. Next time I'll remember the Body Glide.

I'll never again take for granted the effects of beautiful surroundings and cooler weather!


Monday, October 21, 2013

SUP Sunday

I think this is becoming a habit.

Matt had a paddleboarding race on Saturday while I was running the 10k, so we were both exhausted. We had a lazy Sunday morning complete with waffles and coffee before heading out for paddling.
Breakfast of champions!
I love that Sundays have become an actual "weekend" day now. Sundays are usually so stressful for me, but I've made more of an effort to do things like laundry, grading, and online classes before Sunday rolls around, so now we can spend the day doing things we love.

We grabbed Jimmy John's subs (an unwich for me!) and took lunch with us to paddle. We took a route that brings us through beautiful shallow backwaters to a nice beach spot, then through mangroves.

Water so calm it was literally mirror-like.
I can't help it; I see a bird and I just have to try to hold it.
There were so many little fish for this guy to catch.
Matt enjoying the water.
Ducking through spiderwebs...those banana spiders are ginormous!
We went about 5 miles at a very leisurely pace. Because I run mostly in the city, paddling has become a way for me to enjoy nature again. It's so quiet and calm on the water. I love being in the sun. I love being active in a non-demanding way.
Meg joined us for a little while. Like our matching boards?
This week volleyball begins. Practices are three days a week, which means I need to begin running in the mornings before work. My plan is to do a couple 5-milers this week and a 7-miler if I feel up to it, as I have a 15k Saturday.

It will be the first time I've run a race of this distance, so it's an automatic PR! I haven't run 9 miles in awhile, so I'm going in without expectations. I just want to keep getting stronger for my half in November.

Do you like spending time outside/in nature?
How do you spend your Sundays?


Sanibel Race for FISH 10k, 2013

I wanted to wait for actual race pictures to be available before I wrote my recap, but ran out of patience. So here's what I've got...

First of all, last year's race was pretty much under the most perfect conditions I could ask for. I was in the end of serious half marathon training, injury-free, with an 8-mile long run under my belt, and the weather had been in the 70s to boot!

I knew going into the race this year that I wouldn't be as strong. It was my first race since July and I had just taken two full weeks off from running because of that mysteriously painful foot lump I had going on. I adjusted my goals accordingly.
Strong coffee is a must pre-race.
There was no way I was going to run sub-60, but my last 10k was 67 minutes and I knew I could beat that. I was secretly hoping for 62, but decided realistically (because of the lack of training) that 65 was fair.

My other two goals were to 1) genuinely and truly enjoy the entire race, and 2) finish injury-free.

The morning started out bright and early...because the moon has been monstrously huge the past few nights.

How is it this bright at 5am?!
 I was excited for this race because it would be the first one I got to run with half of my Ragnar team! Lisa, Daniella, Tracey, Sarah, and I rode together and met Meg at the starting line. It was awesome to be surrounded by race energy again.
The moon stayed up even as the starting line began to fill in.
I feel beyond lucky to be on a team with all these women. They're supportive, genuine, hilarious, and totally honest. Some of them are crazy fast (I'll get to that in a bit), but none of them put pressure or unfair expectations on each other. We are all about just having a blast and running our own races, and that was really important to me this year.
Pre-race: Meg, Daniella, Lisa, Sarah, me, and Tracey!
I had the advantage of knowing the route this year. I remembered the packed-shell loop from mile 4 to 5.5, and that last year it was surprising but a nice break for my legs after running on road. I constantly reminded myself of that example to refocus my anxiety into positivity.

As usual, the race was extremely well-organized. There were tons of cameras out (which is why I was excited to see them...alas, they're not up yet) and I made sure to smile at and thank each photographer and all the volunteers. I ran the entire race and was totally pain-free (goal met!).
Awkwardly trying to wave while running.
I wore my "transcend" bracelet and found myself using that mantra quite often. It wasn't an easy race by any means. Especially compared to last year. It was ridiculously hot and humid, even before the sun was up. My legs weren't as ready as last year, either. But as I ran, I remembered to look around.

The best part of this race is the scenery. The entire route cuts through gorgeous tree-lined roads and lush green fields. It was easy to remind myself to just enjoy it.
Finally, the finish line!
I was glad I was running again; that my foot was 100% pain-free; that I was here with new friends; that I was racing again.
Post-race, basking in our various accomplishments!
Above all, I reminded myself that I was running my race. That my expectations weren't to relive last year, but to be true to myself and to be honest with where I am right now in my running. I took a deep breath every time I started to feel pressure and reminded myself that this race was about much more than hitting a certain time goal; it was about coming back to running with a fresh outlook and a renewed love for this sport.

It worked.

I crossed that finish line exuberant and proud. I hit 65 minutes on the head and was ecstatic. I had not the slightest muscle-ache afterward. (The worst was that I was dehydrated the rest of the day because I hadn't been prepared for the heat...rookie mistake.)
A more honest picture of us post-race.
After the race, we learned that Sarah - who had run exactly one race before this, a 5k - had placed 3rd in her age group! She is super fast and a natural runner...she only started 4 months ago!

Sarah receiving her award.
On the ride home, I discovered Tracey belongs to the same sorority as me, which was an extra bonus. I also learned that Lisa lives literally just down the street from me in one of my favorite running neighborhoods. Basically, it was a perfect day.
When I got home, I showered and napped. Then I had a nice breakfast and added my bib and medal to my collection. It wasn't my fastest race, but it was definitely one of my best...for all the right reasons.


Friday, October 18, 2013

My Students Are Faster Than I Am

Last night's run was rough. My legs felt like lead from the beginning, the route we took was short so we had to do quite a few repeated loops, and my body just felt like it was moving through wet cement.

Did it turn into an "I'm glad I went!" run? Kind of. I mean, today I'm still disappointed in how it went, but I'm glad I went.

Before the run, Matt and I went to the last XC meet of the year. A bunch of my students are on the team, and it was emotional to watch them run. In middle school their meets are 2 milers, so that's what they ran. Our top girl came in 9th of over 250, making it to states in November, and finished in around 15 minutes. All of the girls had strong races...most PR'd. The boys went the same.

The girls take off!
The best part was that at the end of their race, the girls stayed to cheer the boys on...and like true runners, cheered for every boy from every school. Talk about a "the kids are alright", feel-good moment.

After the meet and the run, I was not at all hungry. My dinner was an avocado. Delicious, but not really balanced. 

Saturday is my 10k. Last time I ran it in about 58...I'm hoping to break 62 this year. My last 10k in May was 67, so I know if nothing else this will be a more positive and fun race for me!
My finishing sprint this time last year.
Look for a race report sometime this weekend...maybe I'll even have pics!

What's your favorite race distance?
Are there any races you like to run yearly?
Did you run XC in school? I didn't begin running until after I graduated. I'm sad I missed out on team meets and races, and that I rarely attended my sister's track meets! (She was, and still is, speedy!)


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

I Know, I Know...I've Been Missing Again

This whole "week between posts" thing isn't purposeful, but unfortunately, blogging is at the bottom of the totem pole as far as concerns right now.

I've been having a pretty down couple of weeks. Not just because I've been easing back into running and having to take it slow is a little depressing...But that's part of it.

Report cards are in, and the clean slate of a fresh quarter feels freeing. I'm hoping that "free" feeling sets in soon, because right now I feel as stressed as ever. And unfortunately, that's rolling over into my fitness life.

Have I mentioned lately that I've realized that I kind of hate "working out"? If I'm going to be active, I prefer a whole-body activity that's fun and helps me forget I'm staying fit. That's why I love doesn't feel like exercise! It's also why I'm quickly becoming a SUP addict.
An evening paddle on the backwaters.
This past week, my Ragnar team met to discuss team names, payment plans (holy expensive race, Batman!), singlet designs, and more! I'm so excited to get to know all the women on the team better. I work with two of my teammates, but the others are virtual strangers (or "friends waiting to be made").
Saturday Matt had a SUP race and won first place in his division! Is it wrong that I'm a little jealous that he's been paddling for a short year and is already winning races, and I've been running for 4 years and have only placed once? (Third, I may add.)
The starting line.
Matt's in the center, hauling tuchus!
Of course, SUP is a relatively new sport and the races are smaller, but still. He's definitely found his niche.

I'm so proud!
I went for a nice 4-miler last night. My legs felt like lead after paddling 5 miles Sunday, but it feels good to be building up my mileage. I have a 10k this weekend that I loved last year, and I'm hoping that I'm in good enough shape that I enjoy it this year (although I'm not looking to PR...Not after having to take time for recovery.)

My foot was completely pain-free during the run! Now that I'm refocusing on a shorter distance race to end the season, I feel a lot happier and less stressed about meeting any goals. I'm just letting my foot heal, enjoying myself, and running because I want to.

This will be my first half marathon run alone, so it will be a milestone no matter what. I'm really looking forward to relying on myself for the entire race.

Also, like I said, I've been having a rough few days. I came home today to Matt waiting to greet me, holding these:
And they're my favorite, to boot.
Day. Made.

What interesting fitness activities do your friends or SO participate in?
Are you excited that The Walking Dead is back? I AM!
What cheers you up when you've been down?
Besides running and blogging, what have you been up to this week?