Saturday, February 27, 2016

Recommended Reading

This week, Matt and I drove up to Sarasota for a couple hours to sneak in some time with his cousin Stef, her husband Greg, and their new baby Sparrow. Stef's a good friend of mine - she was one of my bridesmaids, and I was her maid-of-honor - and she and Matt were like siblings growing up.
Stef and me at her wedding.
She and Greg live in Pittsburgh so we rarely see them, and they were in town for a short visit. We were really glad we were able to make the trip to meet Sparrow! The next time we see her, it will be Thanksgiving and she'll be walking!
Look at those tiny toes!
While we were hanging out, I must have started roughly 100 sentences with, "I read an article that said..." This is pretty usual for me, and probably really annoying for people I hang out with. But it means I have a lot of stuff to talk about, and I always know the most random news and trivia. Here are a few articles that interested me this week.

If you could use a laugh, do yourself a favor and skim this article on running-clothing styles through the years.
The crop top, the color, the chunky sneakers...None of these compare to the flowing locks on this guy!
I've been doing Meb's recommended warmups before my long runs and races since I finished reading his book, and this week I read an article reviewing his skipping drills.

I've also done some reading this week on strength exercises for runners that don't take too long.
Can we talk about how deep this squat is?!
Not all my reading revolves around running. Actually, I think most of what I read is random trivia or news. I read a lot about politics, and when my blood pressure starts to climb I switch over to sites like Mental Floss for a little brain break.

This week, I read about the names for every color in the rainbow. (There are WAY more than ROY G. BIV!)
What came first, the food name or the color name?
I also read about Kanye West's ridiculous rules for his models. Spoiler: most of them are completely contradictory and make no earthly sense.
Also, his spelling is atrocious.
To finish on a particularly high note, this week I read an article about Hitler's penile issues.
How can you NOT read an article when this is the title?
It's so interesting to me that people are still trying to find a way to explain his particular brand of diabolical evil; I personally believe there's never going to be a clear answer as to why he was so filled with hate, but I guess having a micropenis or genital anomaly could've made him feel impotent and contributed to his issues.

I've always been a curious person, and I love that the internet has made it easy for me to learn new things and satisfy that curiosity. I just love learning! We used to have an encyclopedia set at home and I'd randomly read entries when I was bored. (Oh, the good old days.)

I try to pass this natural curiosity and love of learning to my students...and everyone around me. I don't see how some people avoid reading and learning new things at all costs. Sometimes, it's the most relaxing and enjoyable part of my day.

What kinds of articles do you like to read?
Are you a naturally curious person?
Click on that Mental Floss article...what's your favorite color?


Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Shopping, Snacks, & Kitchen Stuff

I'm in one of those "brain dump" moods today. I guess that happens when there's not much running going on! I'm in that weird limbo between recovery/time-off and beginning the plan I outlined in my last post.

So...random mind musings it is!

Early this week I got my new, personalized discount code for Skirt Sports! You can use ABK20 for 20% off anything on the site. How cool is that?! They're still dealing with some glitches from updating the site, but they're in the process of updating merchandise and everything. I've got a bunch of stuff in my cart but I'm waiting to checkout until I see what else goes up on the site this week.
Oh you know, just restocking for spring!
Tuesday I ran for the first time since A1A. My quads hurt in that I'm-still-tired-why-are-you-doing-this-to-me kind of way, but it felt really good to get out there and get moving.
Feeling good after 3 easy-ish miles: 11:06, 11:10, 10:57. I should've gone much easier but I was just excited to run.
If you look closely, you can see my weird tan lines. I currently have a calf sleeve tan line and a shorts tan, so there's one section of skin above and below my knee that's normal and everything else is ghostly pale.

Wednesday an old childhood friend of mine was in town - he actually had a business meeting in Tampa but flew into our airport so he could see us before he had to go home So we were able to spend a few hours and grab dinner; this was one of those times I was too engaged in hanging out to take pictures of dinner. We talked about what's on our book list, so here's one I'll be reading at his suggestion:
Matt came down with a cold the day after A1A and I started feeling it late last week. It's made this week pretty hard to get through; my energy just feels totally depleted. Part of that is the post-marathon stuff, but the cold's not helping.

I picked up some really weird snack foods when we went grocery shopping this week! I've been wanting snacks that are higher in protein to add to my usual fruits, so I grabbed some normal stuff: nuts, cheese, Greek yogurt...and sardines. How's that for weird?
One of these things is not like the others...
Last night, I was having a funny dream and woke myself outright, huge belly laughs! Once I woke up, I kept laughing because I had given myself the giggles. Ridiculous.

Our kitchen is almost finished! The to-do list still seems long, but considering how much we've done, it's really just little things. We just need to find hardware for the cabinets, replace the lights and fan, add a small portable island, and do the walls. The walls are the next step, but I'm indecisive about the backsplash.

I've never loved running a dishwasher more. Being without a functioning kitchen for four months will do that to you, I guess!
My new favorite room in the house.
So, that's my week so far! I'm looking forward to a nice, relaxing weekend. Hopefully I can kick this cold to the curb.

What's your favorite weird snack food?
What are you reading right now?
Do you have any workout gear in desperate need of replacing?


Monday, February 22, 2016

And Now...This

I don't know if you guys watch John Oliver, but I completely stole this post title from him, so here's a little something completely unrelated for your amusement:

The real purpose of this post is to (hopefully) answer the question rolling around in my head for the last week or so: now what? A1A is over and it's time to settle in for a year of speed work and short distances.
Look at that grin! I was zeroing in on the clock; nothing else mattered.
I gave in and ordered a couple pictures despite Marathonfoto's exorbitant prices because PR...and because I forgot to get a picture with the medal after the race.
I know that to get consistently faster, I need to run faster. I need to relearn getting familiar with discomfort for longer distances.

I'm not necessarily looking to officially break any PRs this year because I may not be racing much, but I want to keep those PRs in mind because they'll help me keep track of my progress.
It's time to dust off some of these PRs and get back to these paces!
I plan to incorporate bridge repeats into my weekly plan, along with either a tempo run or a fartlek or interval-type workout. I'll finish any "easy" runs with a few sprints. I want to continue doing a "long" run on the weekends, but what "long" means is up for interpretation at this point. That will give me four running days a week.

I know that getting faster also means getting stronger. I'll be incorporating some kind of resistance or weight training into my weekly schedule. I plan to start small so that I don't overwhelm myself; that means committing to daily planks and squats again and really building that habit before adding anything more complicated.
If speed work two days a week ends up being too much, I'll adjust as necessary until I'm stronger!
Finally, consistency is key here. If I keep my weekday runs around 5 miles and my weekend long run around 10, I'll average 25 miles a week. That's much higher than my usual "off season" mileage and I think it will help me build a really strong foundation and will get my body tuned up and ready for speed!

I'm nervous about this plan; it's not necessarily that lofty, but it's going to take commitment. This is always a tough time of year for running because second semester is always a little tough on my time-management. But I want this, so committed I will be!

...And I hope you guys will help keep me accountable, too, of course! ;o)

I won't begin this routine right away. I'm down for the count from a post-marathon cold, and I need to give myself some time for recovery runs before I started pushing myself too hard. But in the next few weeks, I'll set the plan in motion.

What does your maintenance running schedule usually look like?
How often do you do dedicated speed work?


Thursday, February 18, 2016

Post-Race Thoughts

Thank you all so much for your support on my recap! I have to confess something here: I was worried about admitting I had run the full! After I made such a big deal out of choosing not to, I didn't want you all to think I'd purposely lied to make the reveal more dramatic or something.

Is that dumb?

Anyway, this week I've been enjoying a post-race glow. A few things have crossed my mind, some of them pretty random.

1. It's nice to feel sore after a race, especially a marathon! After BDR, I recovered very quickly and didn't have much soreness. Monday and Tuesday I definitely felt A1A in my ankles, knees, hips, and's the feeling of accomplishment!
(This video is never not funny!)

2. I have this weird feeling that A1A was the marathon my first could have been. If you guys recall, Space Coast training went well but I was on cold medicine during the race that led to crazy calf cramps I'd never experienced before. I think if not for that, my Space Coast performance would have been similar to A1A. There's no real point in making this comparison, but I almost feel like A1A was the marathon I've been aiming for ever since I first decided to run one.

Funny that I almost chose not to run it.

3. I haven't had a problem calling myself a marathoner, but now that I've run three, I really feel I've earned the title - especially because I've gotten the PR and the performance I've been wanting. I finally feel proud of a marathon I've run, and I didn't realize until now how important and fulfilling that would be for me.
Third time's the charm.
4. I'm almost happier with BDR now that A1A worked out. In a way, it turned BDR into a training run. It definitely tested my mental strength and prepared me to suffer in a way Space Coast didn't. Space Coast was my first, so it was automatically wonderful; I had nothing to compare it to, and I was just amazed and glad I had finished. BDR left a bad taste in my mouth, but it humbled me and strengthened me. I'm grateful for that awful experience now! It's also a great reminder that often success isn't a linear path; sometimes we have to struggle and fail before we can succeed.
5. I think when I do eventually run another full, I'm not going to be really specific here about which it is. Obviously I'll post my training, because that's why I have a blog, but maybe I'll keep mum on the specific race. Keeping A1A "casual" really seemed to help me mentally and kept me focused on why I was running it in the first place.

6. I'm having a hard time parting with my temporary tattoos...especially the pacing one! I know it's silly, but looking at it reminds me of what I finally accomplished.
I did finally try to remove it on Tuesday, but without much luck.
7. I am proof that what I've been saying about failure is true: it doesn't define us, but it can make us stronger and better. There's no shame in failing, because it means you actually took a risk and tried, and in the end, if you learned from it, then even failure can be a success.
8. I'm feeling weirdly motivated right now in the sense that now that I know I can run a faster marathon, I want to keep doing it. Sub-5:00 feels almost doable now. But I'm 100% committed to shorter distances this year. I don't want to give up long runs completely because when I eventually do another full, I'd like to be a stronger runner, and that means keeping a good base; plus, I need to get faster at all distances. (And I want to get Elizabeth to 15 miles!) I think being faster and having a good foundation is really going to be fundamental to my continued growth as a runner.

Number eight is really important; it marks the first time that I'm making a decision in my training that will hopefully truly impact me in the long-term. It's also the first time I'm giving myself permission to dream about being a "faster" runner. It's a scary goal because it feels unreachable, but I'm determined to try.

That said, I have no idea how to start, so I'm going to need to do some research about how to get faster when you don't have a goal race in mind! I just want to get faster over all. I can't picture myself as an 8-minute-miler or anything like that, but I'd like to see if the vision I do have of myself - as slow and steady - can change.

Any advice on learning to be faster?
How has running new, challenging distances changed your perspective? 


Monday, February 15, 2016

A1A Marathon Recap

So...last week I posted that I'd made the decision to only run the half at A1A. Despite solid training, my heart just wasn't in it.

I honestly wrote that post fully committed to running the half. But then I changed my mind.

Here's what happened. I was driving the two hours to Fort Lauderdale on Friday night all alone; Matt was already there, having had a followup for the protein/SUP clinic he's been doing, and I had all this time to ruminate on my decision. Suddenly, I wasn't excited for the half. Suddenly, I was overwhelmingly afraid to miss this opportunity at redemption that I had put so much thought into since crossing the finish line at BDR.

I talked it over with Kristin, hoping she'd talk some sense into me. Which she did, but not the way I planned:

Mind the typos - I use voice dictation when I text!
Over dinner Friday, I laid out my thoughts for Matt and Oden, and both agreed that if my foot was feeling better - which it had been for days - that I should go with my gut. I spent the evening comparing my mileage from the last month before Space Coast to January/February of this year, because what was holding me back the most was my fear that I'd tapered too extremely. The mileage was almost exact: 79 for Space Coast and 74 for A1A.
After my 20 miler, I literally ran a total of 6 miles and I hadn't run at all between February 3 and race day. That concerned me.
Saturday I had lunch with Kristina and Kerry (which was so fun!) and they both weighed in as well, mulling over my foot issue and the possibility of injury, but also the fact that if I was going to run a half and possibly hurt myself, why not just run the full? (Runners are nuts, guys.)
I know we've all shared this picture now, but it's too cute not to!
Okay, here we are looking proper.
I didn't lie in my post about choosing to do the half. But what I came to realize was that my disinterest in the full was actually fear masquerading as disinterest. I wanted my PR so badly, it was terrifying me. It was a huge risk; I didn't want to face failure again. But I realized all that fear meant I wanted this too much not to try.

So at 4:30pm on Saturday, I picked up my bib and immediately walked it over to be upgraded before I could think on it much more. And then I immediately looked at Matt and did that classic Home Alone face and shrieked, "WHAT HAVE I DONE?!"
Finding my name on the giant wall of runners.
I ran into Miriam, a Sub30 buddy, who was aiming to break her half PR!
Adding my name.
Officially holding that marathon bib.
That evening, I called my parents to tell them the news. I figured I may not be advertising that I was running the full, but they deserved to know!
Best mom ever!
We spent the rest of Saturday figuring out logistics. Oden and Matt decided to rent bikes and meet me along the course a couple times; my sister would meet them later on and then drive them to the finish. But I didn't want to see them too much on the course. I had a new plan: this race was going to be a secret. It was going to be a normal ol' long run. I wasn't going to post about it or tell people I was going. I was just going to do it. My theory was that if I focused on this race without any outside noise, I wouldn't psych myself out and I'd be able to just run the race I knew I had in me.

So that's what I did.


I slept poorly, which meant I was moving slowly when my alarm went off at 3:50am. I had all my clothes laid out already, and I set my pop tart to toast while I got dressed. I also took two Advil, had a banana, a ginger candy chew, and drank a Starbucks espresso double-shot. I was extremely nervous; I was shaking like crazy.
My lululemon top from Kristin, new flip belt (which I'm obsessed with), Asics Kayano 21, Pro Compression PC runners and calf sleeves, Skirt Sports redemption fitness shorts (aptly named), Apple watch, Jaybird headphones, and new Halo visor.
Once we got to the start area, I felt a little calmer. We knew the logistics better this year, so Matt was able to find parking easily and we found the hidden port-a-potties where the lines weren't too long. (Funny sidenote: After using the bathroom the second or third time, I realized my butt felt cold. I think the woman before me had icy-hot on her thighs and it transferred to me! I was sharing icy-hot with a stranger! So weird!)
The NE winds were gusting at 14 mph.
The weather looked nice. I did some dynamic warmups. I saw Kerry in the corrals and I ran into Miriam again. Things seemed to be falling into place.
Matt leaked my secret to the world.
I saw Kerry a couple times on the course.
One last picture with Miriam!
My plan was simple and I was dedicated to it: I would run 12:30 miles the entire race. It would guarantee a PR. I had a pacing tattoo on my right arm and planned to follow it religiously.
This time I really wanted to focus on having the courage to TRY and truly never back down. (We took this picture after the race - I'm wearing my new shirt from Kristina and Cecil! How cute is that?!)
Before I knew it, the starting gun had gone off and the race began!

I had to remind myself in the first couple miles to stay slow; I let a lot of people pass me. That was okay. Once I realized how easy 12:30 felt, I knew I'd be able to finish the race. I wasn't feeling emotional yet; I don't think the truth of my decision had hit me.
It was cloudy and cool, and the weather promised to stay that way. I was ready for some sun between 8 and 9am, but I wasn't prepared for the wind. The gusts were up to 14mph, but at least they were cold! (And at the end of the race, they were at my back, so that was nice, although around miles 22 and 23, I literally was almost blown off course as the wind was cutting sideways!)
Around mile 5 or 6, I caught up with a familiar face from BDR. We chatted a little about our "never agains" on that course, and then split around mile 7. At that point, I'd dropped my pace into the 11:40s and was having a really hard time slowing down.
I just let my legs take me. I kept it easy, but didn't fight it. At mile 9, the marathoners and half-marathoners split off, and I texted Matt: "I'm going straight! I'm doing the full!" And a sense of pure joy and elation overtook me. I felt fantastic. I had no foot pain. I wasn't tired. I was doing this!

The crowd thinned, but I was never alone on the course. At mile 11, Matt and Oden caught up with me and I waved at them and told them how great I felt. Matt told me I was way ahead of pace and I shouted, "I'm trying to slow down but I can't!"
I continued on. Miles 12-19 were the toughest mentally; the race was hard in the way marathons are hard, but I never had a doubt I was going to finish. At BDR, by mile 9 I wanted to be done. Sunday, I was absolutely filled with a quiet confidence and feeling of inevitability. I was going to do this.

Throughout the race I just kept thinking, "Oh my gosh, I'm running another marathon. I'm running my third marathon! I'm doing this!"

I won't say the race was easy. It did get warm, but luckily the middle miles were partially shaded by clouds and shadows. I got really hungry around mile 14. (Because I was planning to run the half, I didn't pack my UCAN, and I really think I felt the difference in my blood sugar and hunger levels.) I took a bag of ice from a volunteer. (The volunteers at this race cannot be beat. They're the best I've ever experienced.) The wind picked up and at some points I had to duck my head and cover my mouth to facilitate breathing, and I nearly lost my visor.

It wasn't easy, but I never doubted. I just kept plugging away.
I kept myself positive by thanking every cop I saw; the course is on A1A so there's tons of traffic to redirect, and the officers did a wonderful job of it. I thanked all the volunteers. I smiled at other runners and pedestrians.

I finally stopped to pee around mile 16. I didn't pause my watch at all; I think that made a huge difference in my being able to keep on pace. I knew I'd lost some time and knew I had to keep going.

I started to barter with myself around mile 17. I knew I could get to 20. I kept saying, "When you get to 20, we can talk, but you know you can do 20, so just do it. Just get there. You're fighting for a PR, and it turns out PRs take work, so fight for it!"
At 19 I took my first walk break, but Matt texted that they had a banana and Coke at mile 20.5, so I picked it up again. At mile 20, Steph ran out to meet me and distracted me from my wall.
Running with Stephie was such a morale boost!
I could feel the Coke rejuvenating me. Off I went again; once I got to mile 22, the beach was back in sight and I knew the final stretch was here. I walked again briefly, but I was determined to meet my goal and I was keeping a sharp eye on my pace-time tattoo. I knew the walk breaks were mostly mental because I was in the same amount of pain no matter when I did, so in the end I just bore down and dug deep.
(Steph posted a Snap Story of the day; she caught some cute moments.)

At mile 24 I got really emotional. I was in pain, but a weird sort of calm had taken over. I wasn't going to stop. I was so close I could taste it.
At mile 25 a seagull flew dangerously close to my head and I thought, "If that bird hits me, I'll fall over, and that'll be it. My race will be over. I'll never get back up."

At 26 I saw the clock and couldn't stop grinning. I felt like a lunatic. The tears were close. The second I crossed the line, I dissolved into tears; big, disbelieving sobs. I had done it. I had fought for this PR, this redemption, this vindication of my training, and I had done it. I freaking earned it, every step.

Kristina got a great picture of me finishing.
My pacing tattoo was for a 5:30 finish. I finished in 5:25:27...a 16-minute PR!
Tears and a coke. Perfection.
Matt, Oden, Steph, and Kristina found me. There were the usual post-race things: massage, disjointed recapping of the major highlights, a shower, a huge brunch.
How crazy is this medal? The turtle is a locket and is really cute, and I love the color and sand dollar, but that marlin is so weird.
How do you replenish after burning thousands of calories? Cheesy eggs, bacon, chocolate milk, and a chocolate chip GF Belgian waffle, how else?!
I had quite a few messages from friends that made me laugh. I guess running the full secretly was worth it in the end! It was fun to see all the "wait wait, you did the FULL?!" comments.

I honestly didn't keep it a secret to trick anyone, but the reaction was pretty entertaining.

Matt had booked a beautiful hotel room for Valentine's Day and my birthday. When we checked in, the bellhop was all, "You're in room 1429? That's the best room in the hotel!" And he was right; the balcony view was unbeatable.
We took a nap, had dinner with Oden, and then I opened my birthday gifts from Matt.
I've been wanting a new menorah, and Matt found some beautiful handmade ones at Art Fest this year.
Last year I saw these lemon paintings at Art Fest and really wanted one for our kitchen; he remembered! I can't wait to get it framed!
It was the perfect end to a perfect weekend and the perfect way to say goodbye to my 20s. I couldn't have asked for better.