Thursday, February 27, 2014

Link Dump

I've been absolutely hoarding running and fitness articles. I'm truly the worst. I see all these great links come across Facebook and Twitter, and I bookmark them for later. Please tell me I'm not the only one who does this!
And this isn't even the entire list!
Anyway, I finally got a chance to read some. Here are a few that are definitely worth the bookmark.

Stretches & Exercises

Hip Strengthening Exercises: this article has some great, simple exercises for hips. I try to keep my hips strong to keep my IT Band from acting up, and it really helps. I've got a collection of these links, because I'm always looking for more and better exercises for my hips. See also: The Best IT Band Routine EVER.

Yoga Stretches for Recovery: A nice video of a 10-minute yoga routine for post-run recovery.

Hamstring Exercises: Many women face injury from weak hamstrings. These are some great, simple exercises to keep your hammies healthy and happy!

The New Core Curriculum: Ah, a core curriculum I can get behind 100%! Your core is NOT just your abs, and it's so important to have core strength to keep you upright and in perfect posture during your runs. This video is easy-to-follow and effective!

Running Tips & Tricks

 26 Tips to Run Your Best Marathon: Obviously I haven't run one yet, but I want my first to be amazing. These are helpful, if not a teeny bit overwhelming.

8 Things Runners Should Know About Coffee: Ah, my favorite beverage, my perfect pre-race pipe-cleaner. This short read is super interesting!

5 Mental Barriers, Smashed!: The mental part of running is so important, especially when facing new, longer distances. I've become much stronger mentally this year, but I still have improvements to make.

Run the Tangents: Nothing is worse than running an extra half mile at the end of a long, grueling race. I'm so bad at running tangents; this article helps.

The Magic of Mantras: Relentless Forward Progress. I Can Do Hard Things. Transcend. Each running mantra helps me at a different point in my training, and science supports their use! Here are some of the best from some of the most talented runners around.

Dear First Time Marathoner: From Runladylike's useful and apropos to my current mindset!

In other news, this week I did T25 and a three mile fun run on Wednesday, after doing four fast-ish miles on Tuesday. Ouch! I'm resting today. I need to remember not to push it, and just to have fun!
I've loved this store ever since my sister worked there years ago.
Afterward I used the opportunity to spend half my gift card from my MIL. I'll do a review on the item I bought sometime soon! Here's a hint: I've been wanting one since Ragnar, and it's freaking amazing.

Share a must-read link in the comments!
Have you read any of these articles? What are your thoughts?


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Running is My Snickers

Today I put on running clothes, then crawled onto the bed and curled into a ball. I just couldn't find the motivation to go. After a big race, I almost develop a weird fear that I've literally run out of my mojo and can't run anymore. That I'll get out there and totally fail.

Matt prodded me until I was halfway off the bed, and goaded me until my shoes were on and I had shuffled to the door. Why? As he put it: "You turn into a grumpy honey when you don't run for too long."

By mile 1.5, I felt the shift take place. The shackles fell off. I bloomed inside. I remembered why I run. I fell into the run like it was the most natural thing in the world, and before I knew it I'd gotten in four miles before it was time for dinner.
Not bad at all!
On the run, I also realized my greatest fear (more on that later I think) and that I miss my Ragnar girls! Good thing I'll be seeing Kristin this week and next, but I'm going to have to set something up so I can see them. Because seriously, I'm having withdrawals.

Anyway, you know those Snickers commercials? "You're not yourself when you're hungry?" Oh my gosh, guys, running is totally my Snickers. I'm such a moody diva without it.

So yeah, back on the horse and onto running! It's the end of long-race season for me (almost), so that means running for fun, some speed-work, and short races! Hooray!

Fill in the blank:

Running is my _________!


Sunday, February 23, 2014

An Off Week

The worst part of running an amazing race that makes you feel proud and accomplished is the come-down. I always try to take some time off after big races so that I don't get injured. But when I take time off running, I end up feeling moody and stressed.

This week I did three days of T25, but I couldn't help but feel like it wasn't enough. One of those days, I ran two miles, which was my first (and only) run since the Paradise Coast Half. My calves and right hamstring ached the entire time, and although I kept the pace fast - just to get it over with - and although I was happy to be out there, it wasn't a good run.
A quick two miles through the neighborhood while Matt skateboarded ahead of me.
Saturday morning Matt convinced me to go paddling. It's been forever since I got out there. The weather was beautiful, but my heart just wasn't in it. I hit a new was the first time I fell off my board! (I guess rolling waves and tired legs don't mix, but I'll say this for a nose-full of sea water - it clears sinuses better than a Nettie Pot!)
Trying to catch more glimpses of the dolphins. We also saw a big ray!
This was the perfect opportunity to wear my new Ragnar tank!
There were dolphins all around us in the Gulf. They were awesome to see so close up, and it's been so long since I've seen them. That was really special.

We spent the evening dress shopping so that I don't have to wear the same dress to the weddings we're attending in March. (Considering the couples getting married all know each other and share friends, that would just be fashion suicide haha.)
Matt got the S'mores cheesecake, a selection which helped fund a national food bank.
We finished the evening with appetizers and dessert at the Cheesecake Factory. As I was savoring a slice of Adam's Peanut Butter Cup Fudge Ripple and a steaming cup of decaf, I ruminated on my running schedule over the next couple months.

While there's a half in March I'm considering running, I'm also happy to focus on some short distances right now. I'm hoping to follow a loose marathon training plan before real training begins in June, in order to build a really solid base. And training seriously means eating seriously.

I've never been good at planning meals ahead and watching my total daily percentages of proteins, fats, carbs, etc. I don't think I'll ever become an expert. But I'm really hoping to be a more mindful eater in order to fuel myself correctly, so that I can go into the marathon feeling confident and prepared.

And of course, a post isn't complete without Archie. I finished Age of Miracles this weekend, and it left me feeling a little despondent. Next on my list is Stir of Echoes.
His side-eye clearly says, "What? This is my perch. Get over it."
How did your week pan out?
How do you deal with post-race blues?


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Perfect Timing

Make sure to check out my guest post over at Heather's blog Run Like a G! In it, I discuss why, despite obstacles and set-backs, I am dedicated to running a marathon.

And if you don't already follow her, you should. She's so positive, friendly, and down-to-earth. Her blog is a joy to read.


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Biking Makes Me Realize...

...That I am still in desperate need of "additional padding" on my tuchus. Ouch. Also, I hate to say never, but I truly don't see a tri in my future.
I just finished Is Everybody Hanging out Without Me...And Other Concerns and was a little disappointed. Age of Miracles is already amazing and I'm barely five chapters in.
We biked to the park Monday after the race and read for a little while. The weather was just beautiful. Sometimes I'm just enamored with Florida winters!
Matt sneakily took a photo of me reading...
...And I sneakily took a photo of him. Match made in sneaky heaven, yes?
Other ways we celebrated the long weekend and a new half marathon PR?

Giving Archie some love...
He loves scratches!
Waffles for brunch...
Be jealous.
Ice and the Olympics...
My cold knees commiserated with the skiers' cold everythings.
Receiving the most hilarious and awesome birthday gift ever...
My sister knows me so well!
And finally...
Technically I signed up on my birthday, before the half, but here's my official announcement.
That's right folks. I'm giving it another go. I've heard such good things about this race, and multiple people from my Sub-30 group are running it. I'm a stronger and more confident runner than ever right now; I'm ready to keep on track and tackle a full.

Last year I was sidelined by injury; this year I will prevail!

Would you ever try a tri?
What are you reading right now?
Please tell me you've seen and love Labyrinth as much as I do! Not joking, my siblings and I have probably seen it over 100 times because it was the only thing we rented from Blockbuster (remember them?) every weekend when my parents had date night. Its soundtrack was the first CD I ever owned.


Sunday, February 16, 2014

Paradise Coast Half Marathon

I didn't actually set any goals for this half. It was so soon after Ragnar that I wasn't sure what my legs would allow me to do, despite my awesome runs this week. So my goal was simply: run it. Really run it. Ragnar has taken some of the easy-going attitude out of my runs lately and has reminded me that pushing myself can feel really freaking good.

So I went into the race knowing I'd push myself and embrace the discomfort. I also kept in mind a question recently posed by Kristina over at Blog About Running. Some studies suggest that starting slow is best, while others say that starting fast will win you a faster over-all time, even if you slow down in the end.
Pre-race: the crazed look just comes naturally. I wore the BondiBand to keep my ears warm. It worked!
This morning it was 48 degrees before race time. This was a definite reprieve from last week's brutal heat, but it was a totally different kind of pain. Matt and I arrived at the venue around 6:25, which gave me just enough time to use the bathroom and mentally prepare myself to freeze for the first mile of the race. (I warmed up nicely at that point, and by the end - even though it was only 60 when I finished - I was uncomfortably warm.)
The full moon was still high and bright when we began, but of course you can't really see it in the pic.
A little after 7am, off we went! The course took us through a beautiful community in Naples; having just run a half through my parents' golf community, I was excited to have gorgeously manicured lakes and topiaries to distract me.
Meg and I ran into Rachel, another teacher at our school who was running her FIRST HALF EVER today. So exciting!
Excited to get going!
Meg left me in the dust not long after this picture was taken. Speedy!
I decided to gun it in the beginning and see where it got me.
Around mile 4, when I ate my first Clif Bloks, I was beginning to feel the pain of the fast start. My legs were tired!

In the past, feeling tired this early would have completely shut me down. I would have walked, felt stupid for taking an unplanned walk break so early, and thrown the rest of the race. But my mind is a better friend these days, and I refused to listen to any kind of negative self-talk.
Pretty much every photo I took was wobbly or sideways, so here are some pictures from the race's website.
Another from the website.
The ONLY passable picture I took during the race.
At this point, I changed over from music to the Savage Love podcast. I needed a distraction if I wanted to keep pushing the pace. It worked! I was able to keep my pace a little more comfortable without slowing down too much. I knew by mile 6 that I was heading for a PR, and I refused to let up on myself.
A change in tunes helped me get back on a steady pace. From this point on, the positive splits show where I ate/drank.
Matt met me at mile 7 for a quick photo, and then I was in for the homestretch! The route was a nice loop, so once we were back on familiar ground I felt my energy rev back up.
Mile 7, still happy!

My splits are all over the place, but I couldn't be happier!
I noticed a girl tagging behind me, and she apologized. "This is my first half, and I just really like your pace!" We struck up a conversation and ran most of the last two miles together.
Almost there...!
8/20 AG, 184/351 OA, chip time 2:11:38!
The last half mile was on gravel, which I didn't love, but when I saw the clock I knew I'd made it and all the struggle was worth it. I kicked in the last of my energy to beat 2:12, and I did.
Finally at the finish!
I PR'd by 4 minutes. I never thought I'd be able to break my previous PR. It took over a year to do it, but I did! I just needed to change up my training and my mentality to do it!

I cried a little after I crossed the finish line. I was just so happy to finally have broken that PR.
Matt and I found Meg at the massage tent. She had met her long-term goal of beating 2:00, coming in at 1:56. We both enjoyed the free massages, and then it was time to go home.
The Tiger Tail: my new favorite torture device EVER.
All smiles with our shiny new PR's!
I really do credit Ragnar for the success of this race. Learning to embrace discomfort, knowing I can do more than my mind thinks I can, realizing that (relative) speed is still something I can achieve, remembering the feeling of a great race...All this fed into my determination to just kick butt today.

And yes, this was my first race of my new age, the race I ran in honor of my birthday, and I couldn't have asked for better. Best. birthday present. EVER.


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Sweating in the Classroom

As excited as I was to sign up for this weekend's half, I wanted to wait until I'd had a post-Ragnar run to see how I was feeling. I know that sometimes our legs feel strong enough, but then the first run after a big race is shaky.

Not so this time! Matt and I had a great evening run on Tuesday, and without even trying we pulled off negative splits with a sub-9 third mile.
Boom! I signed up for the race immediately after this run.
I added the Ragnar mask to my car. As someone who was once a hater of bumper stickers, I've got quite the collection going now.
It's like a secret high-five to other Ragnarians!
I realized this week that I forgot to post this picture and I really love it, so I'm posting it. Because this is my blog and I do what I want!
Meg, Margie, and me after our massages.
Our Spanish teacher has been doing T25 in her classroom after school, so on a whim I joined her Wednesday. Seriously, a group of teachers working out in a classroom to ridiculous music? How can cross-training get any more fun? Plus, working out at school with friends is a great way to stay accountable!
Who knows, maybe I'll finally get an 8-pack.
We did cardio and legs Wednesday, then the ab video Thursday. I'll do another run Friday, and the half is Sunday.
Hilarious. This workout is 8x harder because we laughed through the entire thing.
We don't have solid plans for birthday celebrations yet. It's a long weekend, so there may even be time to go home and see my mom to celebrate. (We share a birthday!)

In other news, remember Lauren Fleshman's infamous blog post highlighting what real bodies look like? She's at it again, presenting a challenge to women to post the photos of themselves that they hate. The photos that show them in a less-than-perfect light.
Click for the article.
The idea here is that our bodies are wonderful, strong, and powerful. They can take us great distances. They are amazing. The fact that we spend so much time hating on them is unfair. Posting unflattering photos is meant to be empowering. It to says, "Screw the beauty magazines! Look what my body can accomplish!"

So here are two of mine.
Overtaking my final kill last weekend at Ragnar.
Enjoying a nice paddle with Meg.
What's perhaps the saddest thing here is that I don't really like any photo of me, ever. I never think I look the way I "should". But my body is strong. It does amazing things. I'm grateful for the body I have, and I've learned to love it and appreciate it, even if I don't always love how it looks in pictures.

More importantly, I love it in real life.

I challenge you to join the movement.

How have your workouts been this week?
Do you like how you look in photos?
Have you ever tried P90X, Insanity, or any of those other programs?


Monday, February 10, 2014

Ragnar Relay - Miami to Key West 2014

This is too long, and I apologize in advance. If you scroll through and just read the captions, I wouldn't blame you.

As I sit down to write this, I know it will fall short. Ragnar is one of those experiences that defies explanation. If I focus on the running, I'm shortchanging the amazing emotional impact of this race; but, if I focus on the emotional impact alone, this post will meander and make no sense.

One of the women in my online running group told me, "It doesn't matter what you pack as long as you bring a positive attitude." This became my mantra for the entire race, and I think it saved my van. We were all so encouraging, supportive, nurturing, and kind to one another. I never once felt like I needed alone time. I never felt frustrated or annoyed. We had the good luck to mesh perfectly under the pressure of the race. I haven't felt this kind of bond and camaraderie since joining my sorority in college.

The food I brought. Pro-tip: bananas need to be stored in a hard box or they'll get smooshed all over and become inedible.
Two pairs of shoes and a backup running outfit were a must.
Everything fit perfectly!
Not pictured: a blanket, travel pillow, and beach towel. There's a fine line here between packing the bare minimum and making sure to have all your needs covered!

We left for Miami in the early evening and arrived for the safety briefing just half an hour before it ended. On the road, we experienced our first taste of Ragnar as a van of men honked and flashed us as they drove by. During the ride we realized everyone in our van works in (or used to work in) education. Can you guess how we bonded so quickly?
We decorated the van in a Cracker Barrel parking lot. Ours was pathetic compared to some of the ones we saw!
That's right, Sarah. We're running ALL OF THAT!
We arrived at our hotel to discover that they hadn't realized there was a giant race in town and had overbooked. We had no rooms. 

Luckily, Kristin knows some secret codes and we were transferred to a nicer hotel for free...but we soon discovered they, too, were overbooked. Finally, we figured out a way to fit 12 women into three hotel rooms (with six in ours!) and got some rest before the big day.

This could have been a disaster, but positive thinking prevailed and none of us were the worse for wear after this ordeal.

8:00am. We're at the starting line, using the bathroom for a millionth time, quickly becoming used to the treacherous conditions that are porta-potties. (We should have kept track of how many times we used the bathroom. Our rule became: if there is a toilet available, USE IT.)

Van 1 before our 8am start. L-R: Trisha, Sarah, me, Meg, Kristin, Margie.
The starting line!
Kristin was our first runner. This was all new to us. We'd never done Ragnar before and hoped our plan for meeting each other at the exchanges worked out. We had decided weeks ago to use a GPS tracking app made for families, and it worked like a charm.
Kristin takes off!
At exchange 2, I got to meet Laura, a member of that same previously-mentioned online running group. By the time the first exchange passed, things began to flow smoothly. We now understood how to find the next exchange, meet our runner, pass the bracelet, etc.
Meg and Kristin at the exchange. This is basically how they all work.
Laura and me!
The major downfall was the heat. Our lovely Florida winter had melted into an early spring, and we dealt with temperatures in the 80s both days.

Hilariously, on our way to meet Sarah at the end of her run, we missed her because she ran faster than we could drive through traffic! (Blame the bad Miami traffic and credit her awesome speed!)
Margie running to the exchange to meet Sarah, who had been waiting there for a few minutes already.
Thursday flew by in a weird blur...The day felt simultaneously like the longest day of my life and also the shortest. It was insane how fast those six legs seemed to go.

When it was time for my first run, I barely had time to strap on my water and set my Nike+ before Trisha got to our exchange. She slapped the bracelet on and off I went! My first leg was a mere 2.7 miles, but the heat made it tough. While I killed the first mile in 9:16, I got stuck at two long traffic lights that added six minutes to my time. Still, I finished in just under 28 minutes, which was exactly where we had planned for my pace to be.
Exchange made...
...I'm on my way!
Coming in to the exchange to meet Tracey!
Tracey's on, and van 1 is done!
(Something I learned from Ragnar is that conditions may not be perfect, but sometimes you have no choice. Do I like running in 85 degree heat while the sun blasts me? No. But I did it, and I was awesome. We all were.)

After our van finished round one, we stopped at a BJs to eat. By this time we were all exhausted and hungry, but none of us ever seemed to crack under the stress. We were accommodating and understanding, and once we ate, any hint of a sour attitude disappeared. Food is magic. The handicapped stall felt like a luxurious bath-house. I "bathed" with baby wipes, changed clothes, and devoured a gluten free pepperoni pizza.
Thursday Night/Friday Morning

At this point, our van's decorations were becoming a symbol for our bodies.

Night gear: check!
Our next round began at the Homestead-Miami Speedway. We partook in some glorious free massages while we waited for van 2 to meet us.
Kristin is clearly super excited!
Yes, my IT band took two masseurs to work out. I was cool with it.
These nighttime runs were a different kind of challenge than our early runs. Kristin ran through pitch-dark urban streets and past a penitentiary. Meg and Sarah ran on a dusty, rocky canal road. Margie killed a 12 mile bridge run. Trisha ran down dark, slanted sidewalks. My 7.8-miler began just before 2am.
Meg and Sarah on the canal road.
If I hadn't had time to stop at 7-11 to pick up a Starbucks Double Shot Espresso, I would've been toast. But the caffeine set in just when I needed it, plus I got a surprise pick-me-up.
Best. Surprise. Ever.
Throughout the run, I passed vans from other teams. They cheered for and high-fived me, prompted me to overtake the runners ahead of me, and kept me going when I felt my energy waning. The feeling of fellowship and connection is indescribable.
Matt found me just in time for my second leg!
Trish and I look like robots!
At the end of my run - when I had overtaken those runners ahead of me I mentioned before - there was some confusion. Apparently our team was behind on time and we were concerned about finishing before the finish line closed. But van 1 was done, and it was up to van 2 to figure out what needed to be done.

We had other fish to fry. Margie had been throwing up since returning from her run. We had planned ahead to get a hotel in Marathon near our morning exchange with runner 12. Meg drove the rest of us, who were basically comatose, and we took desperately fast showers and passed out for a mere three hours of sleep.

This was the most brilliant thing we could ever have done. Somehow three hours revitalized us. We awoke feeling strong and pumped. Margie felt worlds better. We were looking forward to our final round of runs!


We arrived at our final exchange much earlier than necessary. When Kristin finally got to run, she was so excited to get going she took off with a scream. She PR'd her distance and set us all off on the right foot.
Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed! Ready to rock it!
Daniella hands off to Kristin, and the final round is upon us!
Meg had volunteered to run the 7 Mile Bridge (part of a 9 mile stretch) in honor of her dad, who passed away last year. By the time she ran at 9:30, it was already cloudless and nearing 85 degrees. But she persevered and owned that bridge and came in right at the estimated time.

Sarah took off for her own 10 mile bridge run in that same heat. She never carries water, and we were worried, but as usual she showed us what an awesome runner she is by coming in under her estimated time.

Margie's final leg was four miles without van support (we weren't allowed to stop and bring her water) but by this time all sorts of vans and good Samaritans were stopping to hand water out their car windows. We were able to provide some ice water to her and some other runners.

Trisha ran her last five miles to meet me for my final leg; it was a virtual exchange, so when I saw her across the street, I just bolted. I was so hyped up and ready to get it done.
I would've liked my entire run to be this shady. No such luck.
Excited and ready to go!
Some more of my view as I came to the halfway point.
I plowed through my first mile at an 8:58 pace, ignoring the heat. When my path turned onto US-1 and I was running on asphalt, the only thing distracting me from the baking heat was the simple truth that the faster you run, the faster it's over. I couldn't let my team down. I dug deep to keep my pace fast.
As I neared the exchange, I saw the woman in front of me dancing and waving her arms at her teammates; she thought she had finished and was golden. I knew, in that moment, that I had to catch her. I stealthily closed our distance. I stalked her like a puma. When I was within sprinting range, BAM! I struck. I took off like a rocket, grinning maniacally, and finished to shouts of, "How is that even possible?!" from my teammates.
We did it!
106 kills total, baby!
Placing the final check-mark.
Matt had made it to the finish there, too. We took photos at our final exchange number and trekked back to the van. I was elated. I had done it. I had run all three of my legs, given it my all, and accomplished something insane.

We all did.
Friday Evening

After some deliberation, we went to eat before changing. We had drinks and lunch at the Conch Republic in Key West, then found our hotel (an adorable old house called Courtney's Place) and got ready for the finish line.
A much-deserved margarita to celebrate!
We survived!
Shuttling to the finish!
We met van 2 at the finish in perfect timing to meet Daniella as she finished her last leg and led us through the archway. We were Ragnarians!
Girls Gone Miles brings it home! 198 miles, done!
We placed 6th out of 12 in our division and the race took our team just over 34 hours.
Adding my name to the wall.
Sarah and Meg sign the wall.
The whole team! R-L: Kristin, Lisa, Margie, Daniella, Sarah, Shannon, Chelsea, me, Mari, Tracey, Meg, and Trisha.
Van 1, feeling good!
We made it!
We had dinner at Burgerfi, took photos at the 0-mile marker, and collapsed into bed. I'm not sure who those people are that can really party after Ragnar, but we weren't it. We were wiped!

Final Thoughts

It's amazing how the smallest things can make your day. Gas station coffee...Honking at a runner to encourage them, and then realizing belatedly they're not running Ragnar...A perfectly timed comment that sends everyone into hysterics...Discussion of how to pee while running...Becoming "bona fide serial killers"...Off-roading in a mini van...Walking around with rolls of toilet paper and asking to bum some from complete strangers. (Seriously, where else but at races do you see this?!) Hearing, "Good job, Runner!" from dozens of strangers...Watching your teammates cry from happiness and pride, embrace bloody feet, and sharing in someone's greatest accomplishment...Realizing in the middle of my late-night run that I had trained for this exact situation, with a 3-miler back-to-back with an 8-miler...Seeing Matt on my longest leg.

Ready for some deep thoughts? Here we go.

The point of Ragnar is to see how far you can push yourself, to overcome, to be strong. Giving up because you're tired isn't acceptable. That's the whole point. You run. It hurts. You finish. You don't die. You realize how strong you are.

You do it for the team.

On my last run, as my legs threatened to buckle after so little sleep and so many miles in such a short time, it wasn't the promise I had made to myself that kept me going. At least, it wasn't that alone. It was knowing that my team needed me to leave it all out there for them. I felt responsible for them. I wanted to give them my best and make it count.
Staying positive is key.
I am filled with gratitude and love for every person who helped me get to this point. I can't put into words how much the encouragement of my family and friends has bolstered me and helped me to realize that I've done something great here. (And yes, I know just how lucky I am to have a husband who will drive 5 hours to the Keys to catch brief glimpses of me during a race.)

I was worried Ragnar might burn me out, but to the contrary, I'm actually more motivated than ever. My legs feel amazing. I am so ready to run my half this weekend to celebrate my birthday.

I can't wait to do another Ragnar. Maybe I'll even do the ultra next time. If this sounds even a little bit interesting to you, I can't urge you strongly enough. DO IT.