Monday, November 30, 2015

Thanksgiving Weekend

As usual, Matt and I had a very busy Thanksgiving!

We started the festivities Thursday at Matt's dad's house, then stopped by his cousin's for dessert. We finished with dinner at my parents' house.
Meal #1 - I had a tiny helping of everything to save room for later! I like that Tammy always has ham at Thanksgiving so I don't have too much turkey.
Matt had three slices of pie at dinner #2. THREE.
Selfie break!
Thanksgiving #3, plus the homemade chocolate pecan and blueberry pies my mom made. I also splurged and had GF cookie dough ice cream at our final dinner.
Post-dinner coffee and games.
Friday we had our fourth Thanksgiving at Matt's mom's. She made roast beef, so we weren't completely overloaded with turkey.
Playing Fill or Bust and Matt's mom's.
Saturday, we met Jenn and Tommy for lunch and then went to Mote Marine. I haven't been in years, but it was the first place I ever saw manatees, so I blame it for my crippling fear of sea life. (It's actually a research aquarium, so the exhibits are not only educational to visitors; they also allow marine biologists and other scientists in Florida keep our ecosystem flourishing.)
Sea turtles, lion fish, sharks, sea dragons, and sea horses! (The males were all pregnant, and watching them try to swim with their huge bellies was kind of hilarious.)
We used the "two finger touch" to pet some baby sharks, sea cucumbers, sting rays, and more!
Saturday evening I went for a five mile run while Matt longboarded along with me. I realized that last time I ran 20 miles, it took a full week to recover. This time, I felt ready to run again Friday but didn't have time; my legs felt fresh and light Saturday, and I kept a steady pace easily.

Sunday, after a stop for lunch at Matt's mom's and a stop to see Brittany, we finally came home. Groceries bought, laundry done...I guess that means the weekend is over, but it was blissful while it lasted!

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving, US friends!
How was your weekend?


Friday, November 27, 2015

It's certain. I will.

At this time last year, I was packing for the Space Coast Marathon. I was full of turkey and pie, but I had eaten in moderation. I had the specter of my first marathon looming over my head; it wasn't necessarily a bad kind of looming, but it was unavoidable.
With BDR just around the corner, I've found myself thinking about how my training last year - and my anticipation of my first marathon - was so vastly different than this year's cycle.

Last year...

...I was in constant awe of myself as I hit new milestones, which I now realize was borne of a tiny seed of self-doubt.

...I surprised myself when I realized I could run twenty miles. That run solidified for me that I could run a marathon, and that I wouldIn a way, training successfully was the greatest accomplishment; the marathon was big, but getting there was bigger.
...My highest mileage month was 79, and that was during the final month of training; I didn't taper properly because I got sick a couple weeks before race day, so my last long run was that enlightening 20 miles mentioned above.

...The moment of clarity - when I knew I'd definitely complete Space Coast and become a marathoner - was like an explosion bursting; this year's has been a steady, warm candle that refuses to go out.
This year...

...I went into training knowing what I'm capable of and feeling confident I would succeed from day one.

...I didn't feel any doubt. It took me awhile to get into the swing of things, and I leaned pretty heavily on Kristin and my virtual buddies to get me going after Archie passed, but there was never a moment that I thought I wouldn't run BDR.
...My 100 mile month in October gave me the confidence and energy I needed to continue building until taper, and then to taper correctly. I've done two 18-milers and one 20-miler, and I did two of those three very-long-runs alone. (The second 18-miler, which I did with Kristin as part of the Fort Myers Half, was actually closer to 19.7 miles.)

...I know I'm slower, but I'm also more consistent.

...I feel calm and certain.
I do think marathon training changes you. Tackling training for weeks on end, building mileage, conquering all builds a kind of quiet confidence. I don't feel invincible or superior in any way, but I feel like I know myself. I know how I react under pressure, under stress, when I'm in pain, when I'm doubting myself. And I now know how to handle myself in those situations.
My internal dialogue has changed. "I don't know if I can" has changed to "I will." This shift was subtle and happened in stages, but even in my darkest moments, the feeling of inevitability is there. It's very powerful and cannot be argued with. It's certain. I will.

How has training for long distance races changed you?
What lessons have you learned from running this past year?


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

20 Miles Done...Bring on the Pie!

As you guys know, I was unluckily rained out of this run Sunday, but I was fortunate that we don't have work the Wednesday before Thanksgiving because it meant I could make it up without much delay.
Much, much better weather. But check out that wind.
It was really hard to wake up this morning. The temperatures dipped, so I slept until 4:30, which ended up being a mistake. Even once I was up, it took forever to get moving. I sat on the floor in our dressing area (where the coffee pot is since the kitchen is still a hole) and had coffee and my poptart, and then just sat there for awhile. The past week must have really caught up with me.

Finally, I got out the door. I had a Gu in the car (PB, with caffeine); my plan was to start running around 5:30 and I didn't start until six.
Most of the dips in pace were due to pausing at crosswalks. I decided not to stop my GPS when waiting to cross.
I had a good route in mind, and the first loop was perfect. I kept an extremely steady pace and stopped around mile 5.7 to have my first Gu (Salted Chocolate, caffeinated) and water and to take a bathroom break. As the sun began to rise, it was pretty cloudy at first, so things were still cool and comfortable.
6 miles in and feeling fine!
As usual, once I started running, things felt good. I listened to Heather Dubrow's podcast for the first loop and it was such a perfect distraction. I tried listening to "Death, Sex & Money" but found it boring. After the first loop, I switched to music.
Guilty-pleasure-TV meets podcasts. This was like listening to friends gossip and made running really easy.
At the end of the first loop (which was 9 miles), I veered into the neighborhood I've been running recently to add two miles. When I exited the neighborhood and stopped at my car briefly (Gu #3, Chocolate Outrage, caffeinated), I realized how much warmer it was. The wind had picked up a bit, too. I grabbed my sunglasses and headed back out for the second loop.
Mile 10.5 or so. Halfway there!
From this point on - mile 11.5 or so - the headwind was tough. I could feel it affecting my asthma, and breathing was a pain. But at least the wind meant the day still felt cool despite the sun! I was starting to feel some little pains, but I knew I was nearly there and just had to dig deep.
At mile 15, I had my final turn-around. The wind disappeared. Suddenly, there was no shelter from the sun. The last four miles were brutal. I stopped at the park (mile 16.5, Gu #4 - Lemonade. No caffeine and definitely not a flavor I'll have again. I was hoping the citrus taste would get rid of the cloying sweetness of the other Gu, gum, and Lifesavers. Nope) and had some water. A lot of water.
I should've started the run earlier and avoided this mess.
I actually didn't regret chugging water at that point. I walked a little and then just decided to get it done and ran most of the rest of the way. By this time, my left knee really hurt (definitely IT band pain) but the rest of me felt good, just tired. And my mouth felt disgusting. It was pretty distracting!

I stopped my GPS at 20 miles and walked the last quarter mile back to the car.
Then I chugged a bottle of water the size of my head.
I walked a little during mile 16 after I stopped for a drink, and then at mile 18.5 for a little bit. I'd like to avoid that on race day, though.
I'm really pleased with my pace on this run. I didn't pause my GPS at any stoplights, and while moving my pace was always in the 12:20 range (although it dipped into the low 12s at some points, which wasn't smart planning on my part). I paused it during my bathroom break at 5.7 and at the car pitstop at mile 11, but all the times I had to stop at crosswalks and didn't pause seemed to even out those discrepancies.
I think I meant this more as a "20 miles!" sign and less to mean peace haha.
I am definitely ready to eat my weight in pie and enjoy taper from this point out. I'll be taking it easier this coming Sunday, and then I have one more long run (8 or 12 miles probably) before race day!

Can anyone recommend a not-too-sweet gum with long-lasting flavor?
Do you watch Real Housewives? I unashamedly watch OC, BH, and NY.


Sunday, November 22, 2015

Last Week in Pictures

Monday: A nice little run with Kristin over the bridge starting at her new house. I love how close she is to the bridge! It makes running it much easier.

Tuesday: Volleyball practice. It was the first practice with just the 9 girls who made the team, and it was great to see them all working together.

Wednesday: A surprisingly fast five miles - I was in the 10:40s the entire time. My quads and knees weren't happy. I need to keep the big picture in mind - it's nice to run faster these days, but I need to avoid injury in these last couple weeks before race day!
It's hard not to push the pace when you're in awesome new shoes! 
Thursday: Our first game! My girls played like champs and won in two (25-9 and 25-18). It was a great way to begin the season! The girls were absolutely walking on air, and I was glad to see that the team I've been crafting for the last couple years is really solidifying now.
We're the blue & red team. You can see me nervously standing on the sidelines - I absolutely hate sitting during games!
Friday: A wonderful six miles with Elizabeth. I like running with her because she's not training for anything and literally doesn't care how far we go. She's a very low-pressure running partner.
Saturday: Besides errands and laundry, I got some grading done. Progress reports close Tuesday before we leave for Thanksgiving break, so I'm working on catching up. I mentally prepared myself for my 20-miler Sunday...I was actually really excited for it...
Sometimes you just need to use the floor as a giant desk to get things organized.
Sunday: ...But then I got up at 3:30am and had coffee only to discover it was pouring...And would be pouring all day. It's actually finally stopped, but now it's sunny and hot. (I'm pretty jealous of people who live in states where you can run at any time of day because the weather is beautiful and cold right now.)
Cooler weather Wednesday will kind of make up for the delay I guess.
So, I'm planning to run shorter tonight and have my final LONG long run (20-22 miles) Wednesday morning. I guess I'm grateful that the rain means cooler temperatures. I'm lucky that this week is a vacation week, so I can make up the long run without waiting until next Sunday.

How was your week?
How far out from race day do you begin tapering?
What are your Thanksgiving plans?


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Some Small Things

Last week was emotionally draining, so I took a break from writing anything with substance. I also ended up taking some days off running. I used volleyball practices as cross-training and I let myself rest. Thank you for your kind words...they helped.

My good friend Brittany came over Friday night with her daughter Kaya for a sleepover. The original plan was to watch horror movies like we used to when we were in middle and high school, but we ended up just talking. It was nice to have an adult conversation spanning the topics of politics, religion, makeup, and the struggles of adulting. I definitely needed it.
Saturday we had breakfast and took Kaya to the park before they had to leave. We also spotted a car that should win for most confusing combination of bumper stickers ever.
I they know what country they're supporting? Do they know what Socialism and the Constitution are?
I made a little trip to Fit2Run to restock my Gu for my 20-miler Sunday, which will likely be my last really long run of training. I was chatting with the cashier, and I realized I've already put more miles into training this cycle than last. I'm feeling strong and confident, but not over-confident. I hope this is a good sign!
I'm trying some new flavors (lemonade and sea salt chocolate), but I'm really looking for the plain Gu. Lately, really sweet Gu has been awful for me once I hit mile 10 or so.
I'm avoiding running my usual route this week so that it feels fresh on Sunday when I tackle 20.

I also got my new shoes. It's amazing how many miles I've already put on my current pair because they're not that old, and I want a fresh pair for the actual marathon. They're super bright and obnoxious. Perfect for racing.
I actually wanted these when I got my current shoes, but decided to wait because they were a bit more expensive. This time though, I wasn't going to deny myself!
This week is as busy as last. Matt had his wisdom teeth out Monday and is recovering well. Our first volleyball game of the season is Thursday. The team is looking pretty good. The girls get along well and are really supportive teammates; I'm hoping they remember their rotation positions in an actual game situation!

I'm looking forward to Thanksgiving. Grades are due for progress reports right before break, so I'm totally swamped this week, but I'm looking forward to some quality triple-F time - family, friends, and food.
Ideally, we'd have five pies to choose between. We actually don't usually have pumpkin pie, but it's a favorite, too!
Finally, this was on my Facebook when I woke up this morning:
Sometimes it feels like I've been running forever, but apparently this half marathon (which I consider my first even though it was my second...It's the first I really trained for, so it actually counts) was only three years ago. It's kind of crazy and inspiring to look back and realize how far I've come since then.
Click here to revisit this post.
Another memory Facebook brought up was my blog post on taking risks and being daring. It still resonates with me, and I enjoyed reading it again. I was happy to realize that I've grown braver since writing it two years ago.

What is your favorite Thanksgiving dessert?
Do you like when Facebook brings up memories for you?
What do you eat when Gu is too sweet on a run?
Marathon #2 is three weeks away...How is that possible?!


Saturday, November 14, 2015

Free Race Photos

The Fort Myers Marathon last weekend may have been brutally hot and a major strugglefest...but at least there are free pictures!

I think the pictures really capture the heat, our fatigue, and the general pain that was this morning.
Kristin and I still looking relatively happy at the bottom of the first bridge.
This is just before we went searching for ice at the Wendy's. We're pretending to be happy but too tired to run for the camera.
At the bottom of the last bridge, coming around the final turn to the finish line.

These finishing pictures make me laugh. I was too tired to raise my arms all the way, and my relief is tangible.

I think more races should offer free photos, because it's a motivator to share them, which is free publicity for the race. Honestly, I don't care to reminisce about this race enough to have considered buying/sharing photos otherwise.

Best Damn Race is hoping to provide free photos as well, and that makes me really happy because I think professional pictures of a full marathon are worthwhile keepsakes, but they're usually stupid expensive.

What determines if you'll buy race photos?
Are free photos a factor in whether you'll run a particular race?


Monday, November 9, 2015

Heartache (Trigger Warning)

I'm going to write this fast and messy, because I need the catharsis.

Tonight I saw a post on Facebook that felt like a punch in the gut. One of the boys in my Birthright trip died by suicide in mid-October.

He was the first person I saw at the airpot in New York while trying to navigate the international flights terminal, which was under construction and basically a maze. He introduced himself and put me at ease. We sat next to each other on the 10 hour plane ride over to the Ukraine. He was my first impression of Birthright, and I can't think of that trip and experience without thinking of him. I am utterly shocked to learn of his passing.

Thinking of him brought back the sharp pain of last year's shock and grief, when I learned that an old homeroom student of mine had died by suicide. She was a sophomore. I remember her as totally and truly herself, someone who loved art and unicorns and had very distinctive handwriting - I can still picture it perfectly. I spent more than 90 minutes a day, five days a week with her for a year. She was literally the last person I would ever think would feel moved to suicide; if I had known, I would have done more. I can't help but think...what small thing could I have done to help her fight a little longer?

And that's the point, I guess. We rarely know if someone is truly struggling, because so often they hide it. Or, if they seek help, we don't always see how serious it is.

So this is just a reminder that if you need help, seek it. This link will take you to a plethora of helplines. If calling is intimidating, and are two chat-based helplines. Use them if you need to.

Be a listening ear. Support your friends. Let them know you love them and care for them. Be present.

This news is devastating, but I'm going to remember him for the funny, smart, and kind person I experienced the trip of a lifetime alongside.


Sunday, November 8, 2015

Fort Myers Half Marathon/18-Miler

I was really unexcited for this race. It has a pretty bad reputation for inadequate water stops, the forecast called for ridiculously hot weather, and the race course itself included two giant bridges at the end of the race.

So while I attempted to talk Matt out of spectating - since I wouldn't be racing it anyway - I also decided to rope Kristin into joining me. Misery loves company!
Apparently bridges are a selling point for some people.
Kristin planned to meet me at the house at 4:45am so we could run 5 miles before she signed up the morning of. Then we'd have some time to relax and stretch before the race began at 7am. (Race organizers in Florida need to realize that a marathon/half marathon should start at 6:30 at the latest. Starting after sunrise is asking for disaster.)
I hate you, Florida. Honestly, the weather is making me really nervous for BDR.
Matt was insistent on cheering us on, even though I told him he didn't have to, so I told him he could join us at the finish line so he could sleep later. He decided to come with us and run the 5 miles and spectate the entire race. His presence ended up being our saving grace...but more on that later.
After our five miles, the starting line began to fill up.
Our five miles went smoothly. We got perfect free parking at the start line because we were there so early, and we had plenty of time to have water, use the bathroom, foam roll, and eat before the race began.
And we're off!
The race itself was hot. I know that complaining about weather is one of the most annoying things ever, but seriously. My eyes were burning from my sweat for most of the race, and the heat made it really hard to fuel. Sweet, thick, goopy Gu is just awful when you're running double digits in 90 degrees.

We saw Matt at mile 3 or so and told him to bring us ice the next time we saw him. The course wound through semi-shaded neighborhoods. We struck up conversation with a few other runners. One of the highlights of the course was around mile 5, when we saw "puppies" playing in a yard that turned out to be baby goats. So cute!
We were soon taking walk breaks at each water stop - about every two miles or so - and using landmarks to get ourselves running again. We saw Matt around mile 8, just before we began climbing the first bridge, and at first it looked like he'd forgotten the ice...but fear not! He'd put some in his water bottle for easy transport.
Still all smiles despite the heat.
I shouted, "You're my savior!" as Kristin and I dumped ice in our bras.

We had agreed from the beginning to walk the bridges' ascents. The first bridge had a slow, long slope, and this was our first really long walk break. There was no shade or protection from the sun here, and very little breeze. I began to play mind games - as a race director, what would I add to the race to make it better?

Watermelon. Fruit kabobs. Misters. Troughs of ice along the route. A giant sun-shade to protect the course.

We ran the descent, but the bridge brought us to blacktop and a long, hot slog along 41. Desperate for water, we veered off course to a Wendy's to see if they were open, but no luck.

I texted Matt:

By the time we got to mile 11 of the race (16 for us), we had decided to run to the start of the next bridge, then walk up, as planned. Around 11.5 a woman on the side of the road was providing handfuls of ice, and we gratefully stuffed our bras again and kept trucking. At this point, I just wanted to be done.

My legs felt fine the entire run, but I was just absolutely sapped of energy from the heat. It was really frustrating; if it were cooler out, we could have killed this run.
Bridge 1 on the left, bridge 2 on the right.
Anyway, we got to the base of the bridge and walked. I thanked Kristin for joining me last minute for this long run/race because I think I would have quit without her, it was that miserable. Having a partner really, really helped.

At the top, we knew there was only about half a mile or so left of the race, so we ran down and refused to walk from that point on. We saw Matt just before the finish, and Kristin shouted, "There's Matt! I've never been so happy to see your husband!" I heard Matt yell, "You're almost there, I have your Cokes!"

We ran through the finish together and sat in the grass, where I finally checked my GPS. The half was long, at 13.7 miles.

Matt found us and gave us our Cokes. (Mine said "#1 Fan" on sweet.) Coke after a hot, long run is seriously like the nectar of the gods. If I ever had a doubt before, I know with 100% certainty that Matt is the best spectator ever.

We had water and bananas and generally just tried to cool down in the shade a bit.
The official half time was 2:42ish, about a 12:26 pace, which was fine for a long run, and considering the course was long, my GPS puts the pace at 11:59. Either way, I'm satisfied with that. Our 5 miles before that was at 11:21, so I'm pretty pleased, especially considering all the walking and the horrendous conditions.
Sean had a Go Kart race and couldn't come to the marathon, but he joined us at the end to cheer a bit. It was cool that the top three marathoners were women, but the fact that the lead man had to DNF due to the heat is pretty telling.
After the run, we had breakfast at First Watch.
I had the avocado and bacon skillet with three eggs over easy.
I took a super long nap once we got home. My legs and feet actually feel great, but I'm exhausted. I really hope we get some cooler weather for BDR, because I can't imagine doing a full in this kind of heat.