Sunday, December 16, 2018

My Running Buddy had a Baby!

I know I posted some of this saga on Instagram, but I didn't put it here because I was waiting for Elizabeth and baby to be home safe.

On the morning of November 27, Elizabeth texted me that she was on her way to the hospital.
I am a very supportive and calming influence.
Her due date was December 18, so all morning I was anxiously texting her for updates. Before contractions and labor started, she was texting me about her annoyance that all her maternity plans for her sub - which she had spent so long preparing ahead of time - weren't planned to start 'til January. I was like, why are you thinking about that right now?!

Around 2:30pm she texted me: "He's out!"
Little Tristen Omari was born at 5lbs9oz. He had to spend a few weeks in NICU, at first on a respirator and feeding tube, but soon just on the feeding tube. They came home December 7. I had a bad cold, so I stayed away even though I wanted to visit first thing.
I finally got to meet the little bean last Thursday, when I drove Steybi home from school! He is smaller than I imagined, and so cute. He slept the entire time I visited.
Elizabeth is doing well. Her labor progressed so quickly that she didn't have time for medication, and she hasn't needed any pain killers during recovery, either. Tristen is sleeping all day and up all night, so she's exhausted, but otherwise doing well.

The whole family is adjusting nicely, and I am over the moon!

ABK

Friday, December 7, 2018

The Good

Lately I've been feeling like I'm actually a different person than I was before my surgeries.

So far in training, each new distance has come with ease. I have felt confident. I have been nervous as I build mileage, but also unbothered by past hangups. I'm free from the comparison traps, the pace calculations, the hunger to prove myself...

It's as if running has been stripped back down to basics, and everything feels good as a result.

I honestly can't remember any time in the past that five miles felt like it could be my new baseline. It was three for a long time, and then four - and four felt like an accomplishment. Any distance over four felt hard-earned. Any distance over four was a long run.

I can't explain it. Friday's run felt like homecoming. My body just loved the run. It felt fluid. It felt meant to be.
And I was going to make a big deal about it, but then I realized I've been having this feeling on all my runs since early November. Like my body just knows what to do. Every run feels like homecoming.

Is it residual gratitude over being able to run again? Is it the cooler weather? Is it the fact that the race I'm training for is my favorite race?

I can't say for sure. But I know this: something has clicked into place for the first time in ages, maybe the first time ever, and running feels like a friend welcoming me home.

ABK

Thursday, December 6, 2018

A Brand New Garmin

I've had a total of three Garmin watches and none of them came to me brand new.
The first, a Forerunner 410, was a hand-me-down from a friend in the Sub-30 Club who knew I was looking for a GPS watch but wasn't sure what I'd like. He was upgrading and sent me the FR410. It turned out to be a little more watch than I needed at that point in time (I didn't even know Garmin Connect existed or how to look at data), and I started looking for a different one about a year later.

My second Garmin was a gently used Forerunner 10 from another Sub-30 friend that was more my speed and served me well. At the time, I was still using the Nike+ app, but it began to get really screwy. Once it flaked out on me mid-race, I decided to give up the app and go full-Garmin. However, once I made that switch, I soon realized the FR10 wasn't quite enough for marathon training, and I started to look for an upgrade.

That upgrade came in the form of Kristina's old Vivoactive. It's just been good luck that every time I look to get a new watch, a friend is also in the market and is kind enough to pass one on to me. The Vivoactive has truly served me well these past two years, but with my new legs and my running mindset, I felt it was time for a new watch, too.
The VA was the first Garmin I truly felt 100% comfortable and happy with. It helped me get used to running with a watch instead of an app.
Now, I always return the favor of passing along my old watches. The FR410 went to Matt before he started using a Speed Coach, a dedicated device meant for paddling craft. The FR10 went to Elizabeth so she could track her distance when we weren't running together. And the Vivoactive will go to my brother, who has taken up kayaking and has started using Strava to track his miles, but is in need of a GPS watch.
Elizabeth used the FR 10 well into her pregnancy!
Why can I now pass on the Vivoactive? Because for Hanukkah this year, Matt got me an ACTUALLY brand new Vivoactive 3. My secondhand watches have always worked just fine, and I am grateful that I've been able to test out a few different iterations without committing to an expensive watch all this time...But I am so excited to now have a brand new Garmin of my choosing!
Yes, we are using all three menorahs this year.
I took what I knew from my experiences with my other watches, did my research, and picked out what I think will be the best for my running lifestyle for a long time to come. Right now, admittedly, it may be more watch than I need, but that means I'll be able to grow into it as I continue to grow as a runner. (Read: Once I get back into full marathon training and aiming for a PR.)
LOOK AT THE SCREEN CLARITY OMG
I chose the VA3 because I liked the touchscreen on the VA, it's loaded with all kinds of features, and it's a smartwatch (not just a running watch). I'm thinking it may replace my Apple Watch completely. I was worried it would take awhile to get used to some of the features, but after about 15 minutes of playing with it, I've got most of it figured out.

Wednesday I went for my first run with the new watch and I am in love. The screen is so easy to read! The data fields are so easy to program!
This is my first watch with a built in HR monitor, so my dashboard not only shows my run data, but also my heart rate and stress level, among other things. In theory, I could start training using my VO2 max!
Some shots of the Garmin Connect app dashboard with all the new data available. I like the weekly Intensity Minutes goal, too.
It's super lightweight and soft. Like, weirdly soft. The band is unlike anything I've ever worn on my wrist before. I've never had such a comfortable watch!

Basically, I am 100% happy with it, and for my first official new GPS watch, I feel like I couldn't have made a better choice!

ABK

Saturday, December 1, 2018

A1A Training: November in Review

At the beginning of November, as I started half marathon training, I was so excited to know I'd be writing a month-in-review post. At the beginning of this week, though, that excitement turned to frustration and disappointment.

I'm sick.

I'm the kind of sick that can't be run through. And that means my last week of my first month of training - which was supposed to be a crowning glory week - was a total bust. I am trying to remember two things as I sit down to write this with tissues, tea, and albuterol on hand: as far as motivation, consistency, and follow-through went, this month was perfect. As far as my legs, lungs, and body went, this month was perfect. I couldn't have asked for a better first month of training...so even though this week is a wash, I can look back on November with pride.
I was on track to best my planned mileage, but that didn't end up happening.
As you can see, I started off the first week extending almost every run. I wanted to see what my body could do, and the plan I wrote is very conservative all the way through February. I basically wrote a "just get it done" plan but want to see if I can train on an "actually run this race like a race" plan.

The second week, I followed the weekday plan more closely but still built up mileage for the long run. I was really proud of myself for getting up early and doing these long runs by myself. It's been a long time since I've done that, and I forgot how amazing it makes you feel!

I didn't have a need to play with nutrition on any of my long runs; I brought food with me on my 8-miler but didn't stop to eat it. I was feeling so good, I was afraid to stop and drink/eat! I didn't want to mess up the roll I was on.

Anyway, despite this last week being a bust, I have to be proud of this month. I managed to run even on days I thought I might skip because of volleyball, and I made adjustments as necessary without flaking out. I was also surprised and pleased by how steady I kept my paces on my long runs; I didn't need walk breaks on any of them. It's like my body remembers how to do this distance running thing!

I am so looking forward to feeling better so I can be back on track ASAP. I'm upset that I missed my long run this weekend and I really don't want to miss next weekend's, too.

Planned Distance: 53 miles
Actual Distance: 51 miles

ABK

Friday, November 23, 2018

ALSO Youth Turkey Trot 5k

It's been awhile since I've run a Turkey Trot, but I'm a sucker for family events, so when my sister floated the idea of running the ALSO Youth 5k on Thanksgiving morning, I had to say yes. The race fit in nicely with my training plan, too; I planned to go easy so my legs would still be fresh for my long run on Saturday.
Gordon drove Steph, Matt, and me to the race start around 6:15 in the morning. He wasn't running, but kindly volunteered to watch our stuff and get photos for us.
Race morning, I opted to wear the Wonder Wool shortsleeved top rather than the Watch Me Go because it was a little warmer than anticipated.
We picked up our packets and wasted 40 minutes waiting for the start by using the bathroom multiple times. This race benefits a great cause; all proceeds go to ALSO Youth, which is an organization for LGBTQIA kids ages 13-21 who are in need of a community and support. It was really nice to see 1500 participants supporting the cause in this red county in Florida.
Steph borrowed my Redemption Shorties so she'd have a pocket for her phone.
Matt opted to wear his HRC equality flag, since he was just running for fun and didn't foresee himself placing.
The downside of this race is that it's very popular and runs a pretty narrow route. It was a full 2 1/2 minutes between the starting gun and when Steph and I crossed the start line. (Matt had gone ahead of us.)
Moseying along to the start line.
For the first mile or so, Steph and I stayed together. We had to dodge in and out of a lot of walkers the entire race. That's another downside of...well, of turkey trots in general: they tend to attract race newbies and tons of young kids. In other words, there's a major lack of race etiquette on the course.

I had planned to walk the ascents of the bridge, but felt pretty good on the first one. After cresting the top, Steph overtook me and we ran the rest of the race alone.
I took my one and only walk break on the second ascent. I was just tired. Plus, the wind was now against me and my music station was boring me to death. I changed music and was running again after one minute of walking. It was all I needed to power up the rest of the bridge and through the end of the race.
With half a mile to go, I began to regret my effort. I knew the dodging-and-weaving from early in the race was going to add mileage, and I knew I had a long run on Saturday. I realized I should have set a more conservative goal, something like 33 minutes, and just taken it easy. But now I was in it and I just couldn't let up this close to the end. I kept on pushing right through the finish line.
The others found me and we rested a bit and then found our finishing times. I wasn't sure what to make of mine; considering the total distance according to my watch, the chip pace/time seemed off, but since I wasn't really hoping for a strong performance, I didn't mind much. None of us placed, so we decided to head home.
Steph's and my finishing times according to the chip.
My Garmin data. The distance tracked long, so I think my actual 5k was probably sub-30; that being said, I should have run this much easier than I did.
I'm glad we ran the turkey trot, but I do hope the organizers fix the congestion issue next year. Even just having walkers start five or ten minutes ahead of racers would be helpful! That said, it's been 9 years on this same course, so I doubt a solution is forthcoming.

The course is definitely a tough one, so it's not always easy to fit into my schedule, but I do hope to be back in future years to do this one again so I can continue supporting the cause.

*Edit: My legs held up fine and felt good on Saturday. A little tired, but not painful; I kept my pace a little easier than it has been on previous long runs and was fine!

ABK

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Holiday Sales & Reviews (Skirt Sports)

This is my third year as a Skirt Sports ambassador, and each year Nicole (the founder) and Noelle (the ambassador liaison) improve the program. The newest update to the program is that ambassadors now have personalized referral links to share.

Know that if you shop through my links, this helps N & N track my range as an ambassador and it gives me a little clout boost, but I do not receive a monetary commission for it.


As always, you can use my code for 15% off, too! It's 456ABKRUNS.

I've finally had the chance to test out some of the winter styles and I'm loving the Watch Me Go Top. It has ventilated panels to keep you from overheating, has thumb-holes for a secure fit, and has built-in windows for your watch to peek through! And, bonus!, those windows are featured on both sleeves, so it's lefty-friendly.
I also wore the Wonder Wool tops (long- and short-sleeved) along with the Toasty Tights and the winter headband while I was in Tennessee for Chattajack and can attest to their warmth and coziness.
The Black Friday sale is going on now through Cyber Monday, so now is a great time to treat yourself to something new.

Happy shopping!

ABK

Sunday, November 11, 2018

A1A Training: The First Week

I don't plan to do weekly recaps of training for this race. I'm leaning toward monthly "plans vs. reality" posts. However, the first week deserves its own little spotlight, so here it is.
I went into this first week of training feeling nervous. I was on my period and volleyball season was in full swing. That meant sticking to a running schedule that included runs after practices and games, plus an early-morning Saturday run after a long week. I was more worried about how my body would fare than whether I'd be able to commit; I'm in a very focused and committed mindset right now.

More daunting still, this is the first time I'm training for a race totally alone. With all my past half and full marathons, I've had a running buddy for at least part of every long run.
I mocked up a plan a few weeks ago, but bought myself a little calendar for hardcopy tracking, too. My plan is in light blue, possible scheduling conflicts are in green, and my actual miles are in dark blue.

As you can see, the beginning-of-training excitement served me well this week. I made this plan with a conservative mindset, but in practice decided to push myself. I didn't want to overdo anything, but I also didn't want to let myself off the hook.

Monday's run was by far the toughest. The four miles felt hard. I think the time change has something to do with that; it's hard to run when it's so dark out. Tuesday's run felt really good, though, and Thursday's two miles (squeezed in on the treadmill before our volleyball game) were easy but boring. By Saturday, I felt ready for five.
I was definitely overthinking prepping for a "long run" of five miles. I wasn't sure what route I wanted to take or if I wanted to take water with me. I couldn't remember what kind of pre-run food I'd need to have for a morning run of this distance.
I ended up having a mug of coffee and a gf Honeystinger waffle. I also ended up scrapping my original plan for the run (which allowed for a water break at 3 miles) and did the full five without stopping. (Well, I had one stop at a crosswalk and one brief walk break from 4.05 to 4.08 or so.) I kept a steady pace the entire run. My legs didn't hurt, but they did feel tired during and after.
I had forgotten the joy of the morning run. Every time I passed another runner and we waved and smiled at each other, I felt an extra little kick in my step. The weather was a cool 72 degrees - despite the high humidity, that was a treat. And I finished with plenty of time to get ready for Elizabeth's baby shower later that morning.

It was the perfect end to my first week back; it left me feeling confident and strong. It proved that I can get up and do a long run alone.
Feeling like superwoman!
The most discomfort I had during the week as I built mileage was in my feet. I really struggle with finding comfortable, supportive, cute work shoes. It may be time to look for a new pair, or to seek out some inserts at the very least.

So, yeah! Week one, done! I am feeling as excited and confident as ever! This may not be my fastest or strongest half, but I'm going to be prepared and I'm going to run it, and that's all that matters to me right now!

ABK

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Chattajack 2018

Chattajack has come and gone; this year was Matt's fourth consecutive time completing the 31+ mile paddle race. This year was a little different because he raced his OC1 (outrigger canoe) rather than a stand-up paddleboard. The new craft offered some new pros and some new challenges, too.

We spent all of last Thursday driving up to Chattanooga, Tennessee. One nice thing about this race is that it makes seeing Quack and Anne Marie a yearly tradition. This year we also got to meet Lucy:
This is definitely the first and may be the only time I ever feature cat videos on my blog. Enjoy.
The weather was rainy and cold, and I opted to sleep in Friday rather than attempt to run through the rain while Matt partook in a pre-race paddle clinic led by Johnny Puakea, the designer of the Puakea outrigger canoe (which Matt paddles) and one of the best paddle coaches in the world. (He's usually in Hawaii, so Matt had to take advantage of the chance to meet him and get some tips.)
Matt (green jacket) learning from the best.
Checking in and putting the finishing touches on his OC1.
The rain and cold weather had us hoping the current from the dam would be faster, but Saturday dawned with a diminished flow.
Race morning!
Surfskis and outriggers have a later start time than other paddle-craft, so we arrived at 7:30 for the safety meeting as usual, but had to wait until 8:30am for Matt to get on the water. He didn't actually start until 9am (EST).
Matt is the guy in the pink hat carrying a giant boat down the dock in this video.
Paddling to the start line.
Matt knew he'd be faster this year, as the OC1 is a faster craft than a SUP board. This meant that despite the later start, we could still anticipate a finishing time around 2pm (CT).
And they're off!
This year, I was driving my own car and I was by myself. This made catching Matt along the route much less stressful. As usual, I caught him at the 10 mile mark, Suck Creek, about 90 minutes into the race. He was in a line of OC1s that had formed a draft train.

Matt hadn't gotten to practice drafting other OC1s much because his local paddling friends don't have them, so I was pleased that he'd found a train and seemed to be doing well.
He's the second in line.
The next stop was mile 20, Raccoon Mountain. I'd missed this stop last year and was determined to get to it because it's so close to the water and a great vantage point. Despite knowing how absolutely difficult it was to find, and leaving plenty early to get there, I still nearly missed Matt at this stop.

Basically, the Sherpa guide doesn't clarify that you need to drive toward the Raccoon Mountain boat ramp. If you go toward the tourist center or pump station, you end up UP the mountain and far from the river. With rain and fog added to the mix, I was pretty turned around and lost at this point. My GPS took me off the interstate an exit early, and when I fixed it and hopped back on, I'd already lost 10 minutes. Then I made two wrong turns on the mountain itself and got all the way to the "top" before realizing I needed to find the boat ramp.
While I was panicking about missing him, Matt was chatting merrily with fellow paddlers on the course.
I was nearly in tears at the thought of missing Matt here again, but I found the boat ramp and parked within literally minutes of his passing. I was out of the car and running around in the parking lot when I saw him.

I yelled, "GO MATT GO! I GOT LOST THREE TIMES BUT I FOUND YOU THIS YEAR!"
To which he shouted back, "WHERE'S YOUR CAR?!"

I guess he could easily spot my blue mini from the water at times, and that's how he knew I was successfully spectating if he couldn't hear me shout. At Raccoon Mountain, he just saw me running around like a crazed chicken. At least I made him laugh!
At this point, he was on his own, but still seemed to be going at a good pace. Filled with relief, and knowing the next stop was easy to find and not far away, I was able to take a breather and head down to mile 24, Sullivan's landing.

Sullivan's Landing, another boat ramp well across the gorge from where the paddlers pass, is the furthest viewing point I stopped at. Still, I was able to spot Matt without binoculars (I will try to get some next year I think!) and shout across to him. (He told me later he was able to hear me and see my car.)
The "view" from Sullivan's Landing
On my way to the finish line, my GPS got all turned around again, but I made it to Hales Bar shortly after Quack. We were able to see Matt's friend Justin finish (he was on a surfski, the fastest of the paddle crafts), and his friend Murray. Finally, we saw Matt come around the corner.
As I've mentioned in past Chattajack posts, the race ends with a separately-tracked final sprint. Racers can place in the race and in the sprint. Matt came to the final buoy turn with another OC1 just ahead and a SUP racer between them. The other OC1 kept attempting to block Matt from getting around him, even trying to knock him into the floating dock.
Luckily, they had to split around the SUP'er, which gave Matt some freedom from the overzealous (and over-competitive) OC1. As usual, I ran beside him down the dock, shouting and encouraging him. (It sounds like I'm coaching him to give birth...the video below is not for the easily motion-sickened because it was filmed by accident and is ALL OVER the place.)
Matt was able to pull ahead of the other OC1 at the finish. His time was 5:20:xx.
Pure beast-mode.
He was in better shape than in some of the past years - no major blisters, no hypothermia - but his arms were cramping pretty badly. Not only had the flow dropped, but the wind had risen, and once again he battled headwinds and whitecaps for most of the race.
After getting him back to Quack's, cleaned up, fed, and rested, we headed back out for the awards ceremony. Matt didn't place this year, but he wanted to get his commemorative glass and trade survival stories with his various paddling friends. (I realized this year that Matt knows basically the entire Florida paddling community and is too popular to be married to this anti-social homebody.)
We got ice cream with Justin and his family before calling it a night.

Over all, it was a good race and a good visit to Tennessee. Next year Matt will earn the much-coveted belt buckle given to racers who have completed five consecutive years of Chattajack. After that, he says he'll take a break from this monster challenge...but who knows...there's a 10-year belt buckle out there, too.

ABK