Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Books that Swallow Me Up

Wednesday at 5am, I'll be corralling a group of 8th graders -  90 strong - at the airport as we prepare for our annual trip to Washington, DC. Wish me luck!

When I fly, I like to have a really good book with me. As I've gotten older, I've become a more nervous flyer. I never was when I was young, but now I'm totally aware of all the things that could potentially go wrong! As a chaperone on this trip, I need to remain calm and appear totally unfazed, so having a good book is one way I can mask any discomfort.

Here are some books that swallow me up...in no particular order.

This is one of the only series I own entirely in hardback because I always preordered them and refused to wait for paperback or to borrow them from the library. I own them all on e-reader now, too. I have a problem.
Harry Potter. I know there are adults out there who still haven't read this series, and I'm only going to pressure you to try them a little, because they're honestly a must-read whether you think you like fantasy or not. I make a habit of rereading this series every summer, and each time I read it I discover more nuances, more humor, more subtext, more magic. I love HP as an allegory for the Holocaust (and when I draw that parallel for my students, their reactions are always priceless) and the dangers of intolerance and prejudice, but it's also just wonderfully written and full of little moments of humor and humanity that we can all relate to. I hope I never tire of rereading the series! 

Right now I'm enjoying watching many of my students read them for the first time, and it's been so fun to watch their reactions as plot points planted in book one come to fruition at the end of the series. Seriously, the way JK Rowling subtly mentions some of the finer details and strung them through 1000+ pages before the big reveal? That's just masterful foreshadowing at its finest.
The TV series is pretty good, too, but I can't get over the major casting flaws.
Outlander. This is another series I've reread quite a few times; the author (Diana Gabaldon) is still working on it, so every time a new book comes out I reread the earlier ones! I first read it when I was studying in Scotland; it was a fun way to experience the country. Like with Harry Potter, the writing is just flawless and I've grown to love and know the characters as if they were real people. I also appreciate how truly well-researched the books are (they're historical-fiction), even if it means waiting years between installments.
The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials trilogy). Perhaps less well-known than the other two, this trilogy is no less stirring. Like HP, these books contain a lot of magic and center around adolescent characters, but the allegorical thread is a little more purposeful and direct here. Author Philip Pullman wrote the trilogy in response to CS Lewis's Narnia stories, and they are undeniably anti-church. That said, they're really more "anti-corruption in the church" and "anti-church teachings about sex and puberty" than anything else, and the storytelling and worlds Pullman has created are so vivid and believable, these novels are hard to put down. 

Now for something a little different...

Stiff. This non-fiction book by Mary Roach was seriously impossible for me to put down! I found every chapter to be interesting and I flew through it. The book details what happens to our bodies after we die, specifically if we donate them to science, and Roach's research and writing flow together in a dry, funny, weird, informative, and satisfying read. I also loved Bonk (about the science of sex) and Gulp (about eating and digestion). If you love non-fiction and weird-science, she's a must-read author.

With each of these books (or series), I look up when I'm finished and feel completely disoriented. What time is it? Have I really been reading in a corner for hours? Now that I think about it, maybe these aren't the best books to read when I'm supposed to keep one ear and eye on students at all times!

On another note, I know this trip is going to alter my workout scheduling this week, but I'm not stressing. After all, walking approximately seven miles daily is a pretty solid workout. I probably won't be posting this week, so keep up with me on Instagram if you want to see if I'm surviving the trip!

What are some books that absolutely swallow you up?


Sunday, May 29, 2016

Weekly Workouts 5/23-5/30

Monday: Self-made core circuit from last week. We changed up one of the planks but otherwise kept it the same.

Tuesday: "Recovery" speed work...meaning the pace wasn't as fast as we usually try to keep it lately. We did 6x800 repeats and kept the paces in the low- and mid-8s. Between each repeat I alternated tricep dips and push-ups (15 reps) because I forgot my weights.
Wednesday: Elizabeth and I completed the leg circuit I created a couple weeks ago. As usual, I was dripping and shaking by the end! This one is definitely a keeper.
30 seconds each, repeat 4 times with 30 second rest between repetitions

Thursday: Rest...and well-deserved. Standing up after sitting and climbing chairs made my quads ache!

Friday: This five mile run started off shaky. My legs still felt pretty stiff and heavy from Wednesday's leg day, and I realize now that on weeks when I do an intensive leg day I may need to keep an easier pace on my Friday run. But I warmed up as I went on, and this turned into a pretty consistent progression-style run!
I felt like I was working moderately hard the entire run, but the last two miles felt the easiest.
Saturday: Rest.

Sunday: Nine very sunny, hot, and humid miles with Elizabeth at a 10:42 pace (we had positive splits because by the time the sun was fully up, it was so hot and we were dying). This run was not fun, but we got it done. I had to walk a little at mile 7.5 or so. It's really time that I resigned myself to starting long runs at 5:30; starting after 6 just isn't cutting it.
Smiling because it's OVER.
I was in new shoes for this run. I got the Asics Kayano 22s after being in the 21s for the last couple years. The new design is much narrower and the toe-box especially is more snug. I'm not sure if I like it. I tried going up a half size and the shoe was obviously too big, but the smaller size is pretty tight. I didn't get any blisters or painful toenails, but my feet didn't feel as comfortable as I'm used to on long runs. I'm torn - they're okay, but I'm just paranoid about the tight fit and I just don't love them.
They're SO pretty...I want them to work!
I may need to branch out and try other shoes, which is really disappointing being the Kayano has been my sole-mate for years, and we all know how stressful finding new shoes can be.

I wrote a constructively-critical letter to Asics, and I'm naively hoping that they fix the toe-box issue in the 23s.

Did you have a productive week?


Thursday, May 26, 2016

How Did I Get Here?

There's nothing quite like basking in the afterglow of a goal race that went your way. I've spent all week enjoying the twinges in my quads and reflecting on how I was able to finally nab a new PR after three years of half-heartedly trying.

There's no magic or surprise here - once I got rid of the "half" part and really decided to go for it, it was mine. But I had to really change my mindset in order to get to the point where my priorities shifted. I had to change mentalities from distance to speed. I had to willingly take a step back from certain aspects of training to focus on parts that I usually don't enjoy very much. I had to make each run purposeful, and that meant some of them weren't fun.

But I ended up really enjoying this whole 5k training thing. I liked having new workouts to try; I liked finishing each run totally exhausted. I liked feeling like my workouts had a reason.

I've also noticed this new mindset has helped in my recovery. I wanted to skip my run this Tuesday, but I told myself that this time of year - with the heat and the stress and the crazy schedule - is always when I quit, and then I have to work extra hard to get back to basic fitness. I don't want to lose my progress, and this time around I was able to convince myself to stay on track!

So, besides the shift in my mental faculties, here are a few things that I think really helped me kill the SUP & Run 5k last Saturday.

1. More consistent cross training that worked for me. This is key! I've tried cross training before and it always ends up boring me or injuring me. When I was just doing T25 for cross training, I was always too sore from all the jumping around to really push hard during my runs. This time around, I took aspects of T25 and other circuits that I enjoyed and I created my own HIIT-style workouts.
Oh you know, just pumping iron in a church parking lot...totally normal.
I also added cross training on running days. Once it became habit to lift weights for a few minutes following a run, I didn't think twice about capping off running workouts that way.

2. Sticking to a schedule. Like cross training, scheduling has bored me in the past, too. But this time, I made sure to sprinkle in a variety of stuff, so my schedule never felt old even though it was consistent and predictable. I also made sure that each of my runs was purposeful throughout the week; I don't really believe in "junk miles" but when you have a set goal in mind, each run should contribute to reaching that goal.
Obviously I have to stay flexible, especially because this time of year is nuts. Some weeks I move around which days I rest, and I know that when I'm in DC with students next week my plans will change drastically, but in general, this schedule has made working out second nature and hassle free.

3. Having a training partner. Elizabeth is actually my "accountability partner" at work, and that's a more apt name, really. Even when we don't train together, we keep each other accountable for our workouts. That will come in handy this summer when she's in Nicaragua for a couple weeks.
4. Speed work. This is so obvious it hurts, but you have to run faster to get faster. Again, a dedicated speed work day on my schedule has helped keep me consistent here. I don't follow a specific plan or prescribed workout; I just play around with what feels good and challenging.

5. Smarter eating. I hate that this is true, but there it is. When I eat less junk, my energy is higher and my body feels better. So I guess this is something I need to continue. I'm aiming for an 80/20 mindset right now, but I sure do miss my junk!
Luckily summer makes eating healthy easier. I can't wait for all that fruit!
6. Believing in the plan. This one may be the most important. Once all the cogs were in place, I had to trust that the wheel would turn. Instead of giving up or monitoring progress daily - which is sure to lead to disappointment - I really focused on the long-term goal. I kind of let myself get through workouts and meals without thinking too hard about them or over-analyzing them. I'd celebrate individual workouts that rocked, but then I'd move on. It was the same with workouts that were just kind of blah. I think this mindset is healthier and really helped me trust the process and believe in the eventual outcome.
Looking back on my activity and knowing I'm putting in the time is a huge confidence booster.
I finally feel like I'm on a good, consistent track right now, and I hope that recognizing the different elements that contribute to my success will help me stay on that track. Seeing results is fun, but in a way, I'm more excited about the results I haven't seen yet. I just have a good feeling that if I keep it up, things are only going to get better!

Easier said than done - how do you stay on track when you're on a roll?
What a major change you had to make to reach a goal?


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

SUP & Run 5k

Even though this was only* a 5k, this is going to be kind of a long post because it was a goal race and apparently I have a lot of feelings.

Friday night, Matt and I drove to Sarasota; Saturday's SUP & Run 5k was only fifteen minutes from my parents' house, so they let us and James crash there for the night.
I tore off my daily calendar before we left and felt like my weekend motivation was cryptically on-point.
Matt, James, and I had sushi for dinner, and mom had gotten us all cupcakes because she's the best host ever, so I had my fair share of carbs and protein the night before.
I was only going to eat half the cupcake but when I saw it had strawberry filling I couldn't help myself!
On the drive up, I was literally bouncing around in the car from excitement; I was just feeling totally stoked about the race. That feeling continued into the morning despite waking up a dozen times to pee (I was over-hydrating Friday because the weather for Saturday was sure to be hot). I also woke up with a bad Charlie horse despite foam rolling the night before.

Still, I felt really good Saturday morning. I rolled my calves and hamstrings and got dressed. Earlier in the week I'd decided that I wasn't going to wear a shirt to the race, which was a big deal for me and a personal milestone of a different sort. So Friday I had tried on five different sports bras to see which I felt most confident in.
After I took this, I threw an extra bra in my bag...just in case.
We left the house around 6:45. I had my UCAN mixed with water, ice, and coffee and finished it around 7:15. I had plenty of time to pick up my packet, jog around the park (mostly just to-and-from the port-a-potties a couple times), do some dynamic stretches, and drink some water.
UCAN magic.
My mom showed up at 7:50 or so; I had asked her Friday if she wanted to spectate the race and she decided to come! She's never seen Matt race SUP before so it was a good chance for her to see him in action. Matt's dad Dave also came to watch.
I never wear headphones during training anymore, but I like music on race day. My pick for this 5k? Les Mis! As I told Mom, sometimes you just need songs of revolution and rebellion in your ears!
The race began at 8:00 and it was hot. I lined up just behind Matt and James, knowing they'd be running miles in the 7s. My goal was to run an 8:41 pace as consistently as possible. Elizabeth texted just before I got to the starting line, and that helped me get my game face on.
Of course, when I first started, my pace was in the 7s. Oops. I pulled back and found a challenging-but-doable pace, around 8:20. I felt strong and confident for the first half of the race and decided to stick to the faster pace and try to bank some seconds. At mile .88 I tossed water on myself. I saw Matt and James at mile 1.4 or so, and knew I was near the turn-around. I still felt good, although I had a little side-stitch.

There had been a breeze before the turn-around, but it disappeared in the latter half of the race. Around mile 2.4 I started to flag. When I passed the water stop a second time, I tossed more water on myself. I saw 9s on my watch and tried to pick it up but the numbers just kept climbing. I got into my head: If you miss your goal, fine, but you cannot finish this race with regret. You cannot regret your performance or your finish.
Just after I started to slow down, the finish came into sight across the lake, and that really helped me kick it back into gear.
So I picked it up. I forced myself to rally. My lungs felt like they were going to pop out of my chest. My legs had been the same level of uncomfortable the entire race; I was judging my effort entirely on my breathing.

There was a tiny bridge near the end of the race (crossing back over to the finishing area), and I bartered with myself. I could conserve some energy on the uphill there, but then I'd sprint the last quarter mile to the end. So that's what I did. I pulled back just a touch, and then just let loose.

I turned the last corner and saw 26:40 on the clock. My eyes laser-focused into tunnel vision. F THIS! I'M GETTING A SUB-27! I told myself, and pushed pushed pushed to the end.

I crossed the line at 26:57.

My A goal was 27:00; my secret A+ goal was sub-27, and I freaking EARNED IT.
Exhausted and proud!
My mom found me doubled-over at the finish and seemed appropriately surprised and impressed with my speedy finish; she wanted to get pictures but I'd come in too fast for her! (I wish she had gotten a picture because I'm sure my face was AWFUL in the best way possible.) When I told her I'd broken 27:00, I choked up a little.

I had passed the medals when I came in, so I went back and got mine, then got a water. A quick note here: this race benefits Operation Second Chance, an organization that seeks to offer support to wounded and ill veterans. The man handing out the medals was a vet, and I thanked him for his service.
Mom, Dave, and I hung out under his canopy for a little while because James and Matt were out on the water doing their 5k paddle, but we were at the finish when they came in. At this point, many of the wounded veterans were finishing as well. It was absolutely indescribable to watch. Many of the injured soldiers had specialty seats on their paddle-boards because they had lost their legs; Matt said he saw one female vet paddling with a single arm.
Click here to find out more about OSC.

James finished the full 10k (foot race and paddle combo) in 57:12 and Matt finished in 1:01:30. Their 5k run was 22:55! I thought it was great that they stuck together for the 5k rather than trying to push each other/beat each other because running isn't their primary sport and burning out on the run may have hurt their SUP portion. It seemed like a great strategy to hang together for the foot race.
Anyway, we hung around for awards and took some pictures in the meantime. I had a pretty good feeling I had a chance to place because there were so many divisions broken down into age groups: just the run, just the paddle, and the combination.
Sure enough, when they got to my division, I got to hear them announce my name for third in my age group! And there were more than just three of us! Yes! I collected my medal and basked in this sweet cherry on top of an already fantastic goal-destroying-sundae. (I came in 57 OA out of 163.)
Matt placed 2nd in his AG/division (5/73 OA) and James came in 1st in his AG/division (2/73 OA).
Power couple right here.
I felt weird tapering before a 5k, but I think it really paid off. Despite still having some calf issues, my legs felt fresh and ready to kick butt. Clearly my consistent running and cross-training has really paid off over the last few weeks. I'm feeling gratified and ready to continue working hard!
I honestly don't think that on this particular day I could have run any faster, and I think I performed the best I could despite losing control of my pace for a bit at the 3/4 mark; I was able to get myself back in control, so while my splits weren't even, they weren't too negative. This wasn't a race run under easy conditions, and I rose to the challenge!

I know I left it all out there, and I'm proud of that. I don't think I could have asked for a better day.


*Only as in "just three miles to review, and yet this post is 1000 pages long", not only in the sense that 5ks don't matter. Clearly they matter, because I put a lot of heart into this race :)

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Weekly Workouts 5/16-5/22

Monday: A very uninspired T25 workout. I just wasn't feeling it. I think I was suffering some burnout from four or five weeks of really strong training.

Tuesday: I had an after school meeting and then we had an art showcase until 7pm, so I only had time to squeeze in some yoga between 4:30 and 5pm, when parents began arriving. The yoga was...again, not great, but my legs felt good afterward and at least I put on workout clothes!

Wednesday: Best workout of the week! I think finally my burnout gave way. Because of scheduling, I had to run alone (although Matt joined me last minute) so I ended up getting a late start. I wanted to run the bridge four times; I did what felt like an easy warmup (2/3 mile) and was surprised to see a 9:19 pace! The bridge felt great; I saw some 8s on the ascents and descents on the first two repeats; then I wanted to quit. But I finished it off and did the entire workout.
Around mile 3.7, I let myself walk a tiny bit when I got to the top of the bridge for the last time. Even with that walk break, I kept my overall pace well under 10.
Because I crossed the street at the end of the bridge to run the opposite side, I was able to get the benefits of the different slopes. I also only climbed on two of the four slopes, and descended on the other two; in other words, I can look at my elevation map and my paces and know if I was ascending or descending, and it's kind of awesome to see 8s on the ascents!

This run gave me a huge confidence boost. Not only did I feel strong, but I didn't let myself quit when I wanted to. I ended up doing 5 miles and finished the last tenth at an 8:49 sprint. I thought, "I need to run Saturday's entire race at this pace" and felt a bit defeated because it felt so hard, but Matt pointed out that the sprint was at the tail end of a 5 mile bridge run, so I really shouldn't feel bad about how hard it felt.

Now I'm hopeful that I'm ready for that 10k PR I'll be aiming for at Sanibel in October.

Thursday: More meetings. This time of year is insane. Rest day!

Friday: Other than some planks and foam-rolling, another rest day. I hydrated like a crazy person in preparation for Saturday's 5k...to the point that I had to lock my students out of my classroom briefly so I could use my bathroom in peace haha!

Saturday: The Sup & Run 5k! I'll post more about this Tuesday but let's just say...it went very well!
Stay tuned for a full report Tuesday!
Sunday: We drove to Orlando for Shane and Mark's baby shower/a college reunion of sorts, and I wasn't sure if I'd want to run or rest Sunday morning. I packed running clothes in case and played it by ear. After a long day and late night with friends, I decided to rest Sunday. 

What was your highlight workout for the week?


Thursday, May 19, 2016

I'm Racing This Weekend

For today's TOL, I'm revealing my goal for this weekend's 5k, even though I told Matt and Elizabeth over the last couple weeks that this goal would remain a secret.

Keeping my race a "secret" at A1A turned out really well for me, but I wanted a place to think this through, so I'm letting you all in on it. (Maybe if I don't make it I'll reconsider ever telling people when I'm racing again! Just kidding...kind of.)
Thanks, Amanda, for hosting TOL!
My plans for 2016 have always been to focus on shorter distances and speed, to keep things simple, and if I manage a PR in the process, great.
Remember this?
This weekend, I'm running a 5k. It's the foot-race portion of a Sup and Run event at a park near my parents' house where Matt has had various races and where I've run with Montana before. It's a sunny, beautiful route around a huge lake (built for crew races) that is lovely to run but pretty brutal. The race starts at 8am. (Matt will be running the 5k and paddling a 5k; I'll only be doing the foot-race division.)
See? Gorgeous.
Obviously we're looking at sun and temperatures in the 80s (and possible storms), but I'm stupidly going to aim for a PR.
Only in Florida do you see a sun AND raincloud on the same weather image and think, those two things might happen concurrently.
I was going to keep that goal a secret. But I need to remember the lesson I took to heart after BDR: there's no shame in failing to meet a goal. Failing means you took a risk and faced a fear; most importantly, there's no growth without failure.

My current 5k PR is 27:40, and I earned it in 2013 in a July race. I know if I could "beat the heat" then, I can do it now. I won't have my sister to use as a rabbit, but I have the knowledge that I've been doggedly consistent in my training and speed work. I'll find another rabbit to stalk on race day.
A PR and the first time I ever placed in my AG!
My A goal is to run this race in 27 minutes flat, which seemed easy enough until I did the math and realized that I ran my 27:40 at a pace that scares me even now. I was sitting here going, "I'll run like an 8:58 pace to PR!" and then realized that actually I need to run closer to 8:50.
According to McMillan, if I can get my 5k PR it will mean I'm on track for a 10k PR when FISH rolls around in October.
So I guess my B goal is a PR of any kind, and my C goal is to beat 29 minutes. (Usually my 5k goal is to come in sub-30 but this weekend that's just not going to cut it for me.)

I want to run a smart race with even splits; I don't want to go out too fast and fade at the end. I want to warm up beforehand because my legs don't feel good before mile two of most runs these days. And I want to remember that I want this at the moment when easing up looks tempting.
I'm excited for this race. Nervous, but excited. I'm ready to see what I can do; I'm ready to see if I can turn off my brain for a bit and just haul ass for 3.1 miles. It'll be the first time in a long time that I push beyond "discomfort" and into "OMG WHY" territory during a race.

5ks don't scare me; I've noticed that very fast runners hate 5ks because they know how brutal they can be when raced all-out. I'd like to join that club. I hope this weekend's 5k makes me hate 5ks!

Are you one of those fast runners who hates the pain of a 5k?
Any advice on race strategy?
Will you still like me if I fail? Ha, just kidding. But no, really...This is a huge stretch goal for me, so I can use all the encouragement I can get!


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

One And Done? & the Spartan Race Winner!

Today's topic for TOTR really spoke to me...in a way that made me laugh! I've never been a "one and done" runner. I never even said it about my first marathon. I knew that no matter how it went, I'd want to run at least two.
I'm joining Erika and the ladies for TOTR!
But really, I was tickled by this topic because I'm notorious for running the same races over and over again. I have so many duplicate bibs and medals from local races - especially 5ks - because I just love a familiar, nearby course! Here are some notable repeats in no particular order (all the race recaps can be found on My Races page):

Sanibel Race for FISH 10k. This is my favorite 10k and I've run it four years in a row. I plan to run it again this year and I'll be dragging Elizabeth along as well. The course is beautiful and always a joy to run. This is my most-often repeated race because they've never changed anything about it and the date (early October) is always easy for me to fit into my schedule.
My PR is on this course and I hope to break it here again this year.
Race the Roof 8k/15k. This race is absolutely gorgeous. It winds through lots of vegetation and over boardwalks. The inaugural year they offered a 5k and 8k, and after that they bumped the 8k to a 15k. I missed it in 2014 and 2015 because they don't advertise registration very well and I always miss it, but I plan to repeat it a third time this fall.
The Fast and the Furriest 5k. This was the first race I ever ran alone. I loved that the course was the same as the Race for the Cure course, so I knew it really well and could plan my strategy by it. I ran it the next year with my friend Kim, who drove over from the other coast to visit and run it with me, and that's another reason this race has such good memories for me. They moved it in 2014 and now it's too far for me to drive for a 5k, so I don't run it anymore, but I'll always think of it fondly.
A1A half/marathon. When I ran this half in 2015, it was on my birthday and I was getting over some sickness. I was surprised by how strong I felt and how much I enjoyed the entire course. Obviously I returned this year and surprised myself (and everyone else) by running the full. Again, I loved every step of the course. I'm debating going back next year for logistical reasons, but this is definitely one I like to repeat.
ALSO Youth Turkey Trot. I really loved this race when it was a 10k, but when they got rid of the 10k option I ran the 5k once and lost my love for it. Running over a HUGE bridge twice in a 5k is just too much to ask of me; I'm not against running it, but it hasn't been a priority for me over the last couple years. I do love the cause it supports, though, so I hope they bring back the 10k option eventually.
Shark's Tooth 10k. The Shark's Tooth is a 10k I've run more than once but probably won't run again. Last year it was just too hot! The first time I ran it was as the last race in a series challenge, and it was fairly cool out and a nice race. The next year, it was downright brutally hot. I wish it weren't an April race because the course is lovely and the medal is cute, but there's no shade during the entire 10k and the start time is after sunrise, so it's just too hot for me to truly enjoy.
Pretty course...but no shade at all! In April in Florida, that's a deal-breaker.
These factors make me want to repeat a race: location, cost, swag, and my own personal experience on the course. If I had a magical time out there, I'll probably be back for the next one!

PS: The winner of the FREE entry to the Spartan Race is my good friend Montana! I know that seems improbable, but I used Rafflecopter to generate a random winner, so who am I to argue?!
I know the race entry is going to someone who will really use it, so that's good news, too :)

Are you a "one and done" racer?
What is a race you like to do every year?
What factors win over your race loyalty?