Monday, December 30, 2013

2013 in Review

Ah, it’s time for the most difficult post of the year. Looking back on 2013 is going to be tough because it was a year of huge change and growth, quite a few firsts, and a full race calendar. These kinds of posts tend to be pretty personal, so I understand if it's not interesting for my usual readers. Still, if you'll allow some self-indulgence, here's my reflection on 2013.

First, here are some of my favorite posts from the year:

January: Worth Its Weight, in which I ruminate on the excellent article "The 25 Golden Rules of Running."

February: Running's Hidden Gifts, wherein I contemplate laundry day and eczema, and Gear Report: Strength and Stretch Edition, where I post awkward photos of how to use a resistance band and foam roller for hip strength and ITBS relief.

March: The Fast and the Furriest race recap. Not only was this a PR at the time, but I met goal #1 for the year and got to run with Kim!

April: I Wish I Knew Then...a little list of things I learned the hard way when I took up running.

May: This is a hard month for running. Both of my favorite posts weren't running related. DC (a reflection on chaperoning my students' trip to the capital) and The End Draws Nigh (about the pit-falls and wonders of teaching) are both teaching-related.
June: Wow, so many good ones to choose from! Here are a couple: A Health Post, in which I talk a little about my angioedema; Handling Honkers, a post in which I take advice from Mr. Rogers and consider flipping the bird at honkers; Smile! You're Running!, in which I fight my natural Bitchy Resting Face; and A Blog in 3 Parts, in which I discuss the RW Running Streak, an old friend's wedding, and my dad.

July: A Very Special Blog Post, a non-running entry for Matt's and my third wedding anniversary; The 10 Commandments of Running is a must-read, of course!; and most importantly, What I've Learned, my reflection on the Runner's Streak as it came to an end.
August: My guest post over at See This Girl Run was definitely one of my favorites to write. It was a necessary kick in the pants. I also loved You Know You're a Runner When.
September: 10 Things You Learn When You Start Running...another list that still resonates whenever I reread it.

October: My recap for my first 15k, because the race and the positivity surrounding it still make me smile when I look back at it.

November: A Daring Heart, in which I admit that I'm a scaredy-cat but am trying to learn to be brave, and my recap of the FMB Half, which was supposed to be my first full and during which I found a strength I didn't know I had.
December: The Perfect Weekend...a run, a recovered bird, and a party with friends.

Now let’s take a look at last year’s resolutions.
My 2013 resolutions.
1. I can't believe I almost sidelined this goal. But in the end, I not only broke into the 28s early in the year (and ran with Kim in doing so!), but I also smashed into the 27s! I haven't repeated the performance yet, so I can't say I've been consistent, but this goal was met.

2. I did run two more half marathons this year - the Naples Half in January and the Fort Myers Beach Half in November. Neither were pretty, and neither were anywhere close to my previous PR or my goal of 2:10. But the latter especially taught me a lot about perseverance and inner strength.

3. I missed racing in May, June, and August, but ran 12 total, doubling up during the months in which I did race. I'm going to call this one a pass because the goal is really about staying on top of training and running the equivalent to a race a month. The breakdown goes: six 5ks, two 10ks, one 15k, one 8-mile relay, and two half marathons.

4. DONE. I ran my first 15-miler this year. Although it's probably what brought on my foot injury, the fact that I was able to complete it was a point of pride this year.

5. For the most part, I avoided a lot of negative thinking this year. I focused on myself and what I needed to do as a runner. I came into 2013 facing burnout, but once I got over that hurdle, the rest of the year was smooth-sailing mentally!
Looking back, I see that this was a year of set-backs, but I refused to give in. I faced injuries and illness, especially as my big fall races came up, but I had learned through the summer run streak that I’m strong enough to push through challenges.

The biggest success of this year isn’t training mostly alone or setting a 5k PR that was so beyond my wildest dreams. It was pushing myself to run the streak fully. I didn’t let myself back out. I'd had no idea when I began the streak how much it would change me; I credit it for the mental fortitude I have now, as the year draws to a close.

This was also the year of meeting my Ragnar teammates, finally running a race with my sister, and my longest long-run ever.

It was a year of finding my commitment and accountability. I’m looking forward to taking who I am now into 2014. I'm so grateful for this year, because it has finally given me the foundation I need to step up my game and meet next year's goals.

How was your 2013?
How would you describe your year in 3 words or fewer? Positivity and growth.


Friday, December 27, 2013

Gear Report: Bracelets

It's been a long time since I've written a review of new products I'm trying, but over Christmas I received two I immediately wanted to talk about.

(I'll pause here to mention that all my runner friends, IRL and in blog-land, have gotten new Garmins, and I still don't have one! I am just sentimentally married to my Nike+ app, I guess, and a Garmin seems pricey and redundant. But I know if I had one, I'd fall in love. And even though I don't need alive I'm jealous of all you lucky ducks!)
Check out that awesome blackout job I did in Paint.
The first bracelet is my Road ID. If you recall, Matt and I both won raffle prizes of gift certificates for Road IDs at our SUP n Run race. They were waiting for us in the mailbox when we got home from Christmas vacation.

Matt's Road ID is just a precaution because he doesn't have any medical conditions or allergies. Mine is a little more necessary, and it's insane that I haven't had one before now. As you can see, the etching is very clear and easy to read. I was able to list my allergies and chronic illnesses, name, birth year, and emergency contacts without any issues for space.
The packaging in minimal but hugely important.
I got the Wrist ID Slim in a small, and it's tight going over my hand but then fits perfectly on my weirdly tiny wrists.

The best thing about Road ID is the lifetime guarantee. As it states in the "manual" the bracelet comes with:

"If you are not satisfied with our products for any reason, simply return them for a full refund or exchange. NO QUESTIONS ASKED. Additionally, the laser engraved, stainless steel ID carries a LIFETIME GUARANTEE. If you are tough enough to wear it out, return it and we'll send you a new one."

To me, this is one of the biggest perks. Their customer service is really unbeatable.
I got the Road ID in red so that it's clearly recognized as a medical bracelet.
The second bracelet I received was a gift from my in-laws. I had mentioned on Thanksgiving, as I flipped through the various sale catalogs around the house, that I was interested in the Fit Bit Flex. Sure enough, Christmas morning rolls around and they had remembered!

I haven't had a chance to use some of the more detailed aspects of the Fit Bit yet, so this review is going to be surface-level. The Fit Bit is basically a glorified pedometer that also links to an app and allows you to track food and water consumption, sleep patterns, and activity levels.
Clearly I haven't really set it up yet, but here are all the features for tracking in the app.
One of the main attractions for me was the "silent alarm" feature. When you wear the Flex to bed, you can set an alarm and it wakes you up by vibrating. This is less jarring than a typical alarm, and allows for a more gradual and natural wake-up.

My favorite feature at this early-date is the "How did you sleep?" menu. Once the Flex has been put into "sleep mode", it tracks how often you move around. There are two settings for this, so you can have it set to "ultra sensitive" or "normal". I kept mine at normal, and this was my result from last night:
You can scroll along the lines to see what times you were "restless" and for how long. Although a normal clock would show that I slept 9 hours last night, the reality is that only 8 of those hours were quality sleep.

I'm hoping this feature really comes in handy when school starts back up, and that I'll begin to see a pattern between what I eat and when I eat and my sleep patterns. (Once I start logging food.) I also haven't taken it for a run yet, and I'm interested to see how it tracks my steps and miles.

My only concern is that the app is so detailed that I (and many women like me) may toe that slippery slope of tracking myself to a point of obsession. The more you use the Fit Bit, the more accurate it is. The biggest "con" I've noticed so far is that you need to go into the app to put in food/water consumption, so in a way it's just as inconvenient as any other calorie-tracking app when it comes to that aspect.

Other cool features: the Fit Bit Flex is 100% water resistant, so it's safe to use in the shower; you can buy bands in different colors; the original bracelet comes with two sizes in the box (I'm wearing the small size); and the app syncs wirelessly using BlueTooth and is designed for both Droid and iPhone.

Have you ever used the Fit Bit before?
Do you wear Road ID or another kind of emergency notification while running? The Road ID app is pretty awesome and free, but I always forget to turn it on before a run!
What fitness gifts did you receive for the holidays?


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Christmas Run

As I've said many times before, I really love running on holidays. Despite going to bed so late on Christmas Eve, I was up for an 8am run today. A cold front blew in overnight, and I had the fresh chill of the morning, the sun, and various wildlife as my companions.
Last year, I encountered a deer not five feet from me before I even left my parents' street; I hoped to spot some today, too. Sure enough, just as I was leaving their street, I crossed paths with half-a-dozen deer.

There were three near the turn to exit their street (in the background by the sign) and three right along the preserve as I came round the bend.
I stopped for pictures; I should have taken them as I walked past, but I didn't want to spook them. Seeing them really set the tone for this run. There is just something magical about seeing these calm, peaceful, silent creatures in the early light of day, when no one else is around and the chill is biting into your skin.

It takes my breath away.

I walked by them, giving them a wide berth, and they disappeared just as calmly into the preserve.
Standing on a bench near a viewing station, this is the view of the marshes in the distance.
My parents' community is home to quite a few mini nature preserves. While I didn't see the gator on this run - although I looked! - I did stop to take some photos of one such preserve, a few anhingas, and the view itself.
An anhinga suns itself in the trees.
An anhinga and a few herons near the water's edge.
I just did a very easy four miles. My legs felt really lethargic. It seems like this is going to have to be an easy recovery week after pushing myself this weekend.

I came back from the run refreshed and ready to spend the day with family. Matt's mom graciously bought me a ton of new workout clothes for Christmas, but I need to exchange some sizes, so the review of those will have to come later. The most exciting fitness-related gift at his dad's was this:
I can't wait to begin using it!
Now, the daunting task of reviewing the year awaits. I'm really excited to look back, but that means 2013 is officially coming to an end. How is that even possible?!

I hope Christmas was good to you all this year!

Did you have a good Christmas?
Did you run today?


Monday, December 23, 2013

Weekend Wrap-Up

This week I logged just over 18 miles, which is more than I've done in quite some time. I'm avoiding putting together my "year in review" post too early, but on my long run Sunday I just kept thinking about how much this year has changed me in so many ways.
I haven't seen numbers like this in way too long. It's nice to be training seriously again.
Those posts always take some real effort to put together, so I need to wait until after Christmas.

Anyway, Sunday I peeled myself out of bed thirty minutes later than planned and went out for my long run. Last week I had posed the question about how to work my race and long run into the same weekend, and I decided to heed the advice of a fellow runner that basically went something like this: run long after the race; it'll give you practice at running on tired legs.
My splits were incredibly even.
That was definitely accurate. My legs were tired from mile 1, but I ran the entire distance without walk breaks and enjoyed the whole thing. I was elated and so proud of my perseverance to push through the discomfort! I just knew I could be stronger than my legs wanted me to be, and I was!

This was my second long run during which I wore the fuelbelt (the first being last weekend's 7-miler). It really is super comfortable and I needed the water. Because I was late getting started, it ended up being really warm toward the end of the run.

I took a new route; it was gorgeous and perfect and I was a terrible blogger (but great runner) because I was too into the run to stop and take any pictures. When I run on Christmas morning, I'll be sure to get some...especially if the gator I saw Sunday is out again on Wednesday!
Ahh...perfect ice bath!
After the run, I was hoping to jump into my parents' pool. I peeled off my socks and dipped my feet in only to find out it was freezing. They don't heat the pool when it's not in use, and it doesn't get a ton of direct sunlight. It was the most convenient ice bath ever!
After the run, Matt and I drove to meet friends at Downtown Disney to see Anchorman 2, which was hilarious and random but really poked fun at "news" channels these days. The theater has real table service, so we enjoyed snacks and drinks while we watched. We stopped at Ghiradelli's for sundaes before coming home.

All told, this was a great weekend! I'm trying to use every moment of winter break to its fullest. I'd say it's been successful so far.

How are you spending your days leading up to Christmas and New Years?
How was your weekend?
What's the next movie on your "to watch" list? We need to see The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and American Hustle!


Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Frosty 5k 2013

Today's race was one I was really looking forward to! It's the first in the 22.4 challenge and marked the beginning of winter break!
The race began at 8am at Twin Lakes Park. Based on my runs this week - fast legs on Monday, heavy legs on Wednesday - I was tentatively hoping for a PR. (Hope only gets you so far; I knew I'd have to push myself.) My goals were: A) break 27:40; B) actually race; C) push through the mental wall I always seem to hit 2/3 of the way into a race.
At the start line...can you find me? (Hint: I'm in the middle, grinning like a lunatic.)
There I am!
The race went well. There were all kinds of costumes to take in on the course (there was an award for best costume) and the majority of the race went through well-shaded neighborhoods. There were two patches of grass that weren't nearly as "firmly packed" as promised, and the final quarter mile was on packed shell around one of the lakes.
I don't envy this guy...he's got some great spirit, but he must have been dripping by the end!
It was a flat and beautiful run. I didn't PR, but I'm really happy with the effort I gave it. (My first mile was a way-too-fast 8:41, and I had positive splits for the rest of it, but I kept each mile safely in the mid-9s.) When I got to mile 2 and could feel that familiar mental barrier creeping up on me, I focused on my positive self-talk and kept on moving. I relished the discomfort because it meant I was actually running a race, not just "enjoying the atmosphere", which I'm often guilty of.
I'm shouting, "Oh thank the looooord I'm almost doooone!" or something like that.
I feel like a hypocrite because I've said in the past that a medal for any distance under a 10k is silly, but today's race awarded a pretty, festive snowflake medal that I can't help but love. Plus it's a bottle opener!
Because this race is part of the 22.4 challenge, I think giving a finisher's medal makes some sense, but I'm definitely eating my words!

So excited for the next race on my schedule!
Just another normal day in Florida.
Official results are: 10/36 AG; a time of 29:03; and 213 of 663 runners. I'm absolutely thrilled with those results!

This was a humbling experience that reminded me that to carve off even a little time from a race, you need to adjust your entire plan for each mile. For awhile I was setting new PRs every race, but I didn't get there by luck. I need to put the work in if I expect to see results.

After the race, we grabbed brunch at First Watch.
Avocado, bacon, and tomato hash with over-easy eggs. Just what the runner ordered!
I've been lounging around while Matt tears up the golf course with my brother. As far as winter break goes, I'd say this is a pretty great way to start, and a great race to cap off the year...2013 is a wrap.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013


I belong to a couple Facebook running groups, my favorite of which is the Sub30 Club. Although I've broken the 30-minute barrier for a 5k multiple times since joining, I just find it such a perfect place to vent/seek advice/offer insights/and connect with other runners.

Once in awhile, someone will smash through the 30-minute barrier with something ridiculously fast, like a 24:xx, and there's always someone there to comment WHEELS! To me, it's the best compliment. I don't know, I just like it!

Anyway, last night I needed to make my run fast so we could eat dinner at a reasonable hour, and I pushed myself and had just about the best three miles ever. Afterwards I was cheering "Wheels wheels wheels!" to myself.

Negative splits and low 9s?! WHO AM I?!
This wasn't even a race! I have a 5k this weekend, and I'm now hoping for a PR. My 5k PR right now is 27:40, and last night's run was 3.07 miles in 27:51, so I'm hoping that with race nerves and the knowledge that I'm in good enough shape to do it, I'll break 27:30 on Saturday.
Partial credit goes to this lovely temperature dip...finally!
I need to figure out my game plan though because I need to do an 8-miler too, so my choices are to do it tomorrow night after work or Sunday morning after the race.
Credit also goes to this amazing moon!
During the run, I passed two college-aged guys getting into their car, and one of them kind of pretended to run after me. I didn't feel threatened or anything, and just kind of looked over my shoulder and smiled, and they laughed. But as I continued to run, I got kind of angry.

Like, what kind of world do we live in where it's funny to pretend to chase a woman running alone at night? Was his intent to scare me? Was that supposed to be amusing?

Anyway, the run was pretty awesome and it felt really good to just push myself the entire time.

And because I can't resist, here's something for those that want a little more proof that birds can be cuddly pets!
Click for the cutest video ever!
Are you drowning in holiday cheer yet?
What's your favorite running-related compliment?
It's Tuesday! How's your week going?


Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Perfect Weekend

If I can manage to fit a dinner out, a run, and social hour into a weekend I feel pretty satisfied and ready for Monday. This was just such a weekend.

Archie is doing much better. After the initial day of his illness, he only threw up once. He's been tired and a little clingy, but has been eating and drinking normally again, and his stools are normal again. (I jokingly mentioned to Matt that we're as bad as our friends-who-are-parents with our poop-talk and he replied, "That's what happens when you have a sick baby." Accurate.)
Cuddling in my shirt.
We're keeping him in the hospital cage as long as he's clingy because we think it's mostly due to his being cold. Today he gave himself a bath, so I think he's feeling much better.
So excited to eat, he took a seed-bath!
Snoozing on my hand while I was attempting to grade midterms today.
Friday night Matt and I had my favorite meal for long runs/races: sushi! It really is my favorite fuel, and once again it worked like a charm.
I could eat my weight in sushi and still not be tired of it!
Saturday I was up early for my long run. I met Tracey (one of my GGM teammates) at Tropical Smoothie and we ran a gorgeous 7 miles.
Feeling accomplished!
I was so distracted by the lovely route and good conversation that I didn't take any pictures...Oops! It's funny, because 7 miles is still a challenge to run physically, but in mental terms it doesn't seem that long anymore.
Thanks for the smoothie, Tracey! Next one's on me!
After the run, Matt and I hit up JoAnn Fabrics and got crafty making festive sweaters for Meg's Sweater Party. We enjoyed an amazing home-cooked meal, homemade eggnog, and some of the best sweaters and outfits I've seen in a long time.

Meg's coworkers are some of the funniest guys I've ever met. They make me miss our college friends!
Mmm, eggnog!
For those wondering, yes, those are authentic paisley pants from the '60s.
And because I love you guys, and am a sucker for public humiliation, here's a fun picture from Thursday when I did some speedwork at the gym and finished it up with weights for the first time in months:
Yes, 20 lbs hurts that much.
You're welcome.

How was your weekend?
Have you attended any holiday parties yet this season?
What's your go-to meal before a long-run or race?


Thursday, December 12, 2013

This Week in Pictures

Ah, midterms. I seriously can't believe we're basically halfway through December...and halfway through the school year. I know you've all probably had enough of this, but I just can't wrap my head around it:
Double brag: temperature and MPG!
Actually, today was cooler again. I'd like to have the same kind of crisp, frosty run I had on Christmas last year, so hopefully it continues to cool down.

Earlier this week, I had a very sweaty run and my lifetime miles on Nike+ hit an interesting number. Talk about a great way to get back into training!
So drippy!
If only I had run one more mile...
Every year, Matt and I get a new ornament for our tree. This year, I cheated and got a special one just for myself:
This is my first official "only mine" ornament! I couldn't have picked a better one!
Archie was super excited when it came in the mail. Like the cat he thinks he is, he loves all things box-shaped and cardboard:
"Open up so I can be in you!"
Matt and I had Outback last night. I'm a tricky customer at Outback; a friend of mine who worked there in high school taught me how to order an actually healthy salad. You get the Caesar, but ask for the Tangy Tomato dressing. (I get mine sans croutons and with shrimp.)
Outback always has the best coasters. Is that a weird thing to notice?
On a less upbeat note, Archie's been feeling sick today. Birds have evolved to hide illness, so when they're actually showing it, it's pretty serious. He's been sleepy, too weak to fly, hasn't been eating, and is throwing up. We're keeping him warm and set up a "hospital cage" for him.

Very few vets take care of birds, and the avian vets in our area are busy; we're hoping to get him checked out tomorrow. (We spent hours calling around tonight.)
Keeping warm on the heating pad.
Sleeping in his hospital cage.
I know it seems silly because he's not a traditional pet, but he's our little guy. We're as close to him as I've ever been to my dogs. Seeing him sick is terrible.

Are you a picky orderer at restaurants?
When is the last time you got a new ornament for your tree?
It's almost Friday! Any fun weekend plans?