Tuesday, January 29, 2019

That Point in Training

This month marked the third month of training (weeks 9-12 to be exact) and the point that I was over it.

In most races, I hit my wall about 3/4 of the way in, and it seems that pattern holds for training cycles, too.

It makes sense. You start out fresh, your excitement and momentum takes you through the first eight weeks, and then you start to get tired. And bored. And you just want it to be over.
This is my everything's-fine-but-I'm-kind-of-over-it smile.
The good news is, I think I've passed the wall. I have a lot of missed runs in January, some from travel and some from ambivalence, but last week I really forced myself to face facts: if I want to run A1A (which I do) and I want to feel proud of it (which I do) then I need to finish training even if it's not fun anymore.
Truthfully, I am at the point where I could finish 13.1 miles and do a pretty okay job. But I don't want to just do a pretty okay job. I want to feel happy and strong! Part of the point of running long distances is the challenge, and part of the challenge is the training. Like, the tough parts are the whole. damn. point!

So. I am back to the grind, and feeling like it's not so grind-like anymore. After forcing myself to break through the wall last week (by rearranging some runs but holding myself accountable to make them up), I feel I'm back on track.

Which is good, considering this week is the last week of January and then it's officially race month. I don't have time to waste, really. I will make the most of these last three weeks of training. I will get it done.


Monday, January 14, 2019

Learning from Long Runs

The point of running long during training is twofold. Obviously you need to give your body and mind practice at long distances; you need to build up the strength and stamina to stay on your feet and moving forward for a certain duration of time.

(Quick tangent here, but I am so proud of myself for actually getting up early and going on long runs by myself. In the last few years I could always count on having a running buddy for at least part of a run, if not the whole thing, so this personal accountability is new and a very welcome surprise.)
Another 10 miles, done!
Anyway. Long runs are also essential for testing out what works (and what doesn't) for a run of that length so that come race day, clothes, gear, and nutrition are figured out.

So, because it's been awhile since I've run a long race, I have been paying close attention on my long runs to figure out what's working and what's not. I'm worried I'll forget some of these important lessons, so I'm posting them here.

1. Clothes. I am not surprised that my Skirt Sports bottoms (shorts, capris/tights, and skirts) have been wholly comfortable and have enough storage for 10-13 miles. (Actually, this makes making a final decision tough!)
Ah, Florida winter...you kill me.
I'm still figuring out my top situation, though. The weather on race day will probably call for a tank top. I haven't decided which tank to wear, but if I wear one without a built-in bra, I know for sure which bra I won't be wearing.

On my last long run, my Champion bra felt so constrictive until I'd warmed up, about 4 miles in. It was terrible. It's weird, because I usually like that bra, but it's definitely a no for race day because it's unpredictable. Instead, I'll likely wear my VS bra, which is comfortable, breathable, and never too tight.
Can you see where I tucked the shirt into my bra to help relieve the pressure?
2. Gear. I recently got some new PC Runners (my favorite running socks) for Hanukkah from Matt's mom. They are so comfy and soft when they're brand new! I will definitely be wearing them; I won't be wearing compression socks during the race, but I'll have some for after.

Obviously I'll have my new Garmin and my headphones. I will probably need to update my running playlist so I have reliably good tunes during the race.

The main gear question right now is my shoes. I bought a new pair of Ravenna 9s, and although they generally feel pretty good, they are giving me a hot spot on the fleshy part of my foot under my big toe. I don't know if they just need more breaking in or what, but for now I will be using them for shorter runs and giving them one more long run test before deciding if they're okay for race day.
They're so pretty, but I just don't love them yet!
If I can't wear the new ones, I'll wear an older, more reliable pair of Ravennas, of which I own too many.
It's between these two pairs. It's a shame I only own one pair of Ravenna 8s because they're my fav.
3. Nutrition. What's been working for pre-run fuel is a cup of hot coffee and GF instant oatmeal with PB2 powder and honey, with a splash of almond milk mixed in. (I guess I will need to travel with this stuff so I have it on race morning!)
Why did I take this picture before cooking? Blame waking up at 5:30am.
I try to finish eating at least 30 minutes before I start running. I've been eating one Gu (usually of the salted-something variety) around mile 6.5 (give or take a mile) on my 10-mile runs, and that's been perfect. I don't think I'll eat a second Gu on race day.

I haven't been drinking on my runs at all. Last weekend that really hurt my performance; I could tell I was thirsty. But I think if I hydrate really well in the days leading up to the race, I will be able to bypass the water stops.

It feels good to be figuring this stuff out again. In many ways I feel like a newbie and I don't want to make a silly mistake that throws me off my game...But I also feel like I'm getting a lot of good practice in and my body and mind are starting to remember and enjoy long runs.

Next weekend, maybe I'll aim for 11 miles!


Wednesday, January 9, 2019

A1A Training: December in Review

Hoo boy. December was as tough as I thought it would be with our travel plans. But it also had some shining moments, including my first 10-miler of training well ahead of schedule.

I started the month with the tail-end of a cold, so I missed some runs early in the month, but then I was able to stay on track and get in some solid training for most of the month.
While we were in Vancouver and Seattle, we did a ton of walking, but I only managed to get in one run. It wasn't really a quality run; the first 3.5 miles felt pretty good, but I never settled into a groove because the terrain was so outside my norm - hilly.

The last little part of the run was a mess. We tried to run half of it to a Safeway to pick up bus cards, but the hills outside the park were so steep I had to give up. We did run from Safeway home, but it was so steeply downhill that I was worried I'd hurt myself, so it was barely a run.

I'm still not thinking about paces or goals for A1A at all. I'm just enjoying training and letting my body lead the way.

I am pretty happy with how December went, and from this point on, training should be smooth sailing! No more interruptions ahead!

Since vacation, my legs are having a tough time recovering. I'm hoping they warm up soon, as January is already well underway.

Now, I wrote before that I'm scrapping all my Thursday runs because it helps my legs feel more prepared for Saturday long runs. My original planned distance for December was 71 miles. After crossing out Thursdays, here's how my December looked.

Planned Distance: 57 miles
Actual Distance: 54 miles

Here's to January! Race day is 5 weeks away.


Monday, January 7, 2019

Our Winter Trip to the PNW: Seattle

Early on December 28, Matt and I took a cab (Vancouver doesn't have Uber) to the train station. The ride was scheduled to be about 4.5 hours and would take us to Seattle, where we'd disembark, before it continued on to Portland. I love that taking a train is an option, but it wasn't as exciting as I had hoped!

I managed to nap a little on the train while Matt enjoyed the views. We got to Seattle around noon. It was rainy and cold. After storing our luggage at the train station, we decided to get lunch and plan our first day in the city.

We found a little bar called Flatstick Pub that served tacos and had an indoor putt putt course. We had lunch and played a round of duffleball. It was honestly such a perfect way to start our visit! I immediately just felt so happy to be there!
After lunch, I wanted to go to the Seattle Pinball Museum. It was a short walk from the bar, but it had a waiting list. We put our names in and went next door to have some tea and get out of the cold. We hung out (I read) for about an hour before we got the call that there was room for us at the museum.
We spent a long time at the museum. It was so fun playing all the pinball machines. They even had Captain Fantastic, my dad's machine that we played all the time growing up. There were older games, like Captain Fantastic, and newer ones, like a Game of Thrones machine and a 75th Anniversary Wizard of Oz machine. We had a blast!
After playing for a few hours, we went back to the train station to pick up our luggage and took an Uber to our Airbnb. It was a cute little converted garage, super cozy, with a heated floor!

The next day, we finally got out for a run! There are tons of big parks and running areas in Seattle, but since we didn't have a car, I wanted to find somewhere we could run to from the Airbnb. I mapped out a path to the Washington Park Arboretum, which is part of the University of Washington Botanic Gardens. We had visited in the summer, so I thought the main road would be pretty flat and I'd be able to get in about four miles.
The day was drizzly and in the 50s; it was perfect! There were parts of the run that were way too steep for me to run, so I ended up walking some of it, but it felt good anyway. I wanted to see how running in the winter felt, and it felt great!
After the run, we showered and then took an Uber downtown to get bus passes. We had lunch (sushi...there is so much good sushi in the PNW!) and then to the Starbucks Roastery Reserve. This was one place we'd missed on our summer trip but really wanted to get to.
The roastery was different than I expected. It was basically just a giant Starbucks store with roasting equipment in the middle and three separate counters/bars. Each bar served different styles of drinks, including cocktails. It was packed!
We watched the process of the coffee beans being roasted and packaged and then perused the three different drink menus before finding seats at one of the bars and ordering a flight of cold brews (for Matt) and a Maharaja Chai Nog (for me).
The Pantheon blend, which is only available at the Reserve, was seriously amazing.
We walked around downtown a bit, and because it was raining on and off, we decided to see a movie. Let me just say, Aquaman was as ridiculous and predictable as I expected it to be, but it was fun!

On our last day in Seattle, we took a bus to Kerry Park, where we were told there are fantastic views of the city. We grabbed a bite to eat at a little French bakery and then, continuing our sight-seeing for the day, we made our way to catch a ferry to Bainbridge Island.
Matt really enjoyed the views from the ferry:
At Bainbridge, we explored the art museum and the downtown area. We picked up some amazing pastries from Blackbird Bakery and some drool-worthy fudge at Bon Bon. We spent some time browsing the bookstore before heading back.
Finally, we stopped by a rooftop bar called The Nest for a drink before heading home for dinner and packing.
I got basically a warm cider because I'm old at heart and it was delicious.
It was a nice way to finish our stay in Seattle, not too stressful or busy, but still kind of exhausting. At this point, I was so ready to sit on a plane for six hours because I was tired of all the walking!

Our flight home went without a hitch, except that when we got to the Seattle airport, security was super backed up (probably from the shutdown). We stood in an unmoving line that reached all the way back to the ticketing counters for 15 or more minutes before they finally just started letting people through - shoes on, nothing taken out of bags, etc. A bomb/drug-sniffing dog did the rounds while we all went through the metal detector (not the x-ray scan).

It was super fast. We overheard one TSA agent say she was working for free.

When we arrived in Tampa at midnight (we saw fireworks from the air!) we sat on the tarmac for 30 minutes - even though we were the only plane at our terminal, they were clearly short-staffed.
Happy New Year! And yes, I wore that sweater everywhere. It's my new favorite.
I really enjoyed our trip! The winter up in the PNW is not like winter in Cleveland (where I grew up); it's much more like Scotland, maybe a little wetter. If we ever decided to learn to ski or snowboard, I'd make the trip again.


Saturday, January 5, 2019

Our Winter Trip to the PNW: Vancouver

Shortly after returning from Seattle from Scott and Robby's wedding, Matt and I decided we wanted to take another trip up that way. Having just experienced summer in the Pacific Northwest, we thought it would be fun to see what the winter was all about. So, we planned our first actual winter vacation in years.

We flew out of Tampa to Vancouver early on Christmas day. The Vancouver airport is so cool! There's lots of art and even an aquarium! (Click that link to see the waterfalls by the escalators.) The airport seems to really be trying to highlight and celebrate the art and history of various First Nations tribes.
Not a bad view flying in!
Going through customs was easy; they have kiosks set up that you just slide your passport into and it takes you through all the usual paperwork via the screen. Then it snaps your picture and prints out a receipt that you give to the customs agent.
This display played bird sounds and had real running water beneath it. It's the first thing we saw out of the gate.
Matt has his Canadian passport now, so he went a different way than I did. I kept saying "we" to the customs agent and he looked at me kind of weirdly and asked who I was traveling with. Once I explained that my husband was with me but is a Canadian citizen, he let me through without any further questions.

We didn't have a rental car on this trip, so we had to figure out public transit. Luckily, it's not hard in Vancouver or Seattle. We took a train to our bus stop, then took a couple buses to our first Air BnB. We spent that first day not doing much - we got pho at a Vietnamese restaurant within walking distance from our place, walked around a bit, and spent the rest of the evening relaxing.

Waiting for our bus. You can barely see the mountains behind us.
The next day, I planned our two sight-seeing adventures. First, we went to the Bloedel Conservatory, which is a climate-controlled dome housing hundreds of tropical plants and birds. Obviously Matt and I are bird-lovers so this was a must-do. Plus, it was rainy and cold so being indoors was a bonus.
Excuse me, serious photographer here.
Lady Amherst's Phesant
Saffron Finch
Zebra Finch
Guinea Turaco
We spent a couple hours walking around the dome. Matt got a new, real Canon for Hanukkah, so we played with the settings and took some great photos. There were some really neat birds we'd never seen before, including this paradise whydah whose body is the size of a finch's and whose tail is basically two feet long.
Long-tailed Paradise Whydah and Orange Cheeked Waxbill
Umbrella Cockatoo and...the one bird I couldn't identify!
Red-Cheeked Cordonbleu
Pekin Robin
After the conservatory, we grabbed a bite to eat and then headed to Grouse Mountain. We chose not to go up Grouse during our July trip because it was expensive and we were short on time, but a work friend told me Grouse was well worth it in the winter, so we put it on our list.

Riding the gondola up the mountain was an experience. In four minutes, we went from 40F to 28F. We could see the distinct line in the trees where the snow suddenly began to stick and build. When the doors opened, we walked out into a blustery winter wonderland.
Matt and I toured the Light Walk (where I performed a perfect Patronus charm and produced a corporeal stag) and rode on a "sleigh".
Expecto Patronum!
Afterwards, we enjoyed some hot beverages at the lodge.
Hot chocolate and Kahlua. Yum!
The next day, we toured Granville Island, which is basically Vancouver's Pike Place. Besides delicious local fare, there are lots of artists in the market, and we spent most of the day there.
Our plan was to take a train to Seattle early the next morning, so we spent the evening packing and prepping for that. I enjoyed our time in Vancouver; the weather wasn't terrible (a bit rainy and pretty cold) and it was easy enough to get around on buses and trains.

Stay tuned for an update on our Seattle trip!