Get fit · Healthy living · Running

Running Update: What’s New and Next

I ran a marathon in 2014. It was hands-down one of the proudest moments of my life. I worked so hard and overcame so much to get to that finish line, and I know without a doubt that I left a piece of myself at Fort Benning on the Avenue of Flags.

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And then…I stopped running. That piece of me that I left or lost during the marathon training cycle was too big and I couldn’t find it within myself to lace up my shoes and even go for a short jog. So I didn’t. For two and a half years.

During the last few years, I tried a bunch of other activities: spin, yoga, barre, and even an aerial silks class. I loved all of them, and using ClassPass (back when they still had their unlimited option) let me take tons of classes and get back into working out without feeling the pressure to run again.

Recently, I’ve pretty much been purely doing yoga 4-6 times per week. I love power yoga, but I do miss the variety that I got from ClassPass. And then I got the opportunity to get guaranteed entry to the Peachtree Road Race through Northside Hospital.

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My first Peachtree in 2013

The Peachtree is one of my favorite races. It’s definitely not a race where I go for a PR, and I’ve always been able to just run and enjoy myself along the course. That’s why it seemed like the perfect opportunity to start running again. I’m taking it slow right now. Just 3-4 times per week at whatever pace feels easy for somewhere between 15 and 30 minutes. Over the next couple of months, I’m planning to start stepping that up to 30-45 minutes 3 times during the week with a 5-6 mile long run on the weekend. I’ll still incorporate yoga with two power classes during the week, and a gentle/yin/power combo of some kind on the weekends.

I don’t want to push myself too hard and keep myself from learning to love running again. I really want to rediscover my inner fire and inner passion for it, even though I’ll always be a mid-to-back-of-the-packer. I know that the girl that used to run for fun is still in there, and I can’t wait to meet her again.

Have you ever run the Peachtree? What is your favorite race to run every year?

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Running

So, I finished a marathon

I did it! After starting to dream about running a marathon in 2009, on November 8th, the dream finally became reality at the Soldier Marathon in Columbus, GA. Countless miles, GUs, chats with my bestie, and viewing of Spirit of the Marathon went into the last six months.

Still high off the Publix Half from March, RunningBFF and I signed up for our first full. Unfortunately, our training was plagued by illness, injuries, and a growing sense of impending doom. While we got up to about seventeen miles for our longest run, neither one of us felt great about our training, and our goal was simply to survive and finish within the seven hour time cap.

The course is billed as flat and fast, and while it was pretty flat, there were a fair amount of small rollers and one big hill at mile three where they have drill sergeants out to “motivate” you up the climb. I discovered that years after high school and collegiate sports, I still respond to yelling for motivation.

Solider Marathon Elevation

RunningBFF and I got really lucky and found a pair of sisters (shout out to Andrea and Laura: you guys saved our race!) who were also coming off of a less-than-ideal training cycle and were doing run-walk intervals. We hung with them for the first sixteen miles until we got derailed for a few minutes by angry stomachs. We picked our way home, running and walking, for the last ten miles, taking our time. After we hit the twenty mile mark, we knew we were going to finish without a doubt, which was by far one of the greatest moments of the race for me.

The crowd support on this small race (1,500 runner cap) was incredible! I was so impressed by how loud everyone at all of the water stations were, even after standing out in the cold for five-plus hours. They made a back-of-the-packer like me feel just as special as the top finishers. Also, they gave out GU at four different stations along the course. I was thankful to be able to carry less with me at one time!  Speaking of top finishers, the last eighteen or so miles of the course is an out-and-back to Phenix City, AL. This meant that as we were headed out, we were able to see and cheer for everyone else as they came by.

And then I finished. It’s been a week, and I don’t know if it’s completely sunk in that I finally finished my marathon. After building something up in my head for five years, it seemed simultaneously like the biggest deal in the world and strangely anticlimactic. I hugged RunningBFF, got my dog tags from the (very cute) soldiers at the finish line, then grabbed water and a bagel and hopped in line for a post-race massage. I think immediately afterwards, my normally very emotionally contained father was more excited than I was. Don’t get me wrong, I was excited and proud, but I think I was more contemplative than anything else.

marathon shirt

Of course, I’m super proud. The marathon always seemed like an unattainable fool’s errand, even on race morning. And I finished it. At the same time, I feel ready to move on and focus on other things. I’m ready to run faster at some shorter distances and get back to a place where training doesn’t feel like a chore. At this point, I don’t know if I’ll ever be back for another marathon. I certainly won’t become a marathon maniac anytime soon. One is enough for right now. It might be enough forever, and I know that separates me from a lot of other bloggers who run. And that’s okay.

The biggest thing this whole process taught me is to believe in myself. RunningBFF and I overcame an awful lot just to get to the start line, let alone to finish, and I went to some dark places in the training cycle and in the race that I now know I can overcome. I know how badly I can hurt, and how much tougher I am mentally than I thought. Does that translate to another marathon down the road? I don’t know. It does translate to a new sense of perspective on myself. What else can I overcome? What’s my next challenge?

While my next challenge isn’t another marathon, I can’t wait to see what it is.

Running

Run for Recovery 5K

In the midst of marathon training, I got to finally do something a short and sweet! I signed up a while ago to volunteer for Kennesaw State University’s Center for Young Adult Addiction and Recovery’s (CYAAR) Run for Recovery, so on my one day to sleep in, I was up at six to go help man the race-day registration table before running the race itself.

R4Recovery

The CYAAR is a group that is near and dear to my heart. Their mission is to enable, support and encourage young adult recovery and wellness by providing programs and engaging in collaborative research and education. They work with students with substance abuse histories, eating disorders, and mental health issues to provide a safe and supportive environment for students in the community to experience success in school.

The turnout was great, with over 200 people preregistering, and a good number of people signing up at our table. I was thrilled to see people coming out to support such a great group. I also got to run the race with friends, which was a different experience for me. Usually, I’m a lone wolf at races, so having people cheering for me along the way was really motivating.

The course was three times around a one-mile loop that ran along a trail in the Kennesaw State sports complex with some rolling hills. I really enjoyed running on a paved trail instead of a typical road race. The scenery was really pretty, which helped distract me from the fact that it was a loop course. It was a little demoralizing to get passed by the winners on the second loop, but then I passed some stragglers on my third loop, so that kind of made up for it.

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Passing the finish line twice before actually finishing sucked, though.

Since I’ve been so focused on running long and slow in preparation for the marathon, I was worried that my legs wouldn’t have any speed for this race. My official PR was a 33:30 from the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure this spring, but my unofficial PR was a 32:35 from the halfway point of my Run the River 10k race in 2013. I figured I would shoot for another official PR and try to get close to my unofficial PR.

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I blazed through my first mile in 9:26. Oops. I could definitely feel that through the rest of the race. My next two miles were a steady pace in the low 11-minute range. Maybe I could stand to work on my pacing a little bit? Even with the fly-and-die approach I took today, I crushed my goal of getting a new official PR by running a 31:51. I’ve been playing with the idea of shifting my focus back to shorter races after the marathon and really working on speed, so it’s cool to have a new benchmark to work from.

The volunteer support was great, even though I might be biased because I know most of them. The fact that it was a loop meant I got to see the same water stand volunteers over and over, and they were doing a killer job motivating people on the course. We had a little snafu with t-shirts at the end, but everyone pitched in and worked together to make sure that every runner left happy and satisfied.

I also ran this race in random extra running shoes, because in the early morning confusion that is my house, I couldn’t find my regular (mile-heavy) shoes. I learned an important lesson. I. Need. New. Shoes. Shocker—when I wear shoes that aren’t beat to hell and back, my knees and back don’t hurt. I know, I know, I’ve just unlocked a magic running secret.

To sum it up: speed, new shoes, friends, volunteering and a PR. Sweet day.

If you are a student at Kennesaw State University who is struggling with addiction or an eating disorder, please look at the CYAAR website for resources and information. If you are in active recovery, you can look into how the CYAAR can help you achieve success at KSU.

Running

Gummy bear nightmare

My long run this morning started off so, so promising. It really did.

RunningBFF and I went out to the Silver Comet trail to log 17 miles this morning. We were foam rolled, stretched, Advil-ed, and ready to go. The only hitch was that I was out of GU, so we decided to swing by a gas station on our way to the trail and see what they had available. They had a pretty solid candy selection, so I scooped a few ounces of gummy bears into a baggy to use as a substitute fuel.

A little foreshadowing: changing up you nutrition in the final weeks of marathon prep is a bad idea.

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I would come to regret this picture.

A few miles into our run, BFF and I were both feeling fantastic. We were clicking off the miles, holding an easy, solid pace, and we were consistent with our splits. The trail is beautiful, and there were a ton of people out running and cycling while we were there.

silver comet

We hit the turn around at mile eight and a half, and I figured it was gummy bear time. I chomped down about half my baggy, and chased it all down with some blue Gatorade. Everything felt great, my legs still felt light, and our pace was still fast and felt easy.

gummi gatorade

Then…disaster struck, in the form of major stomach cramps that kept me at a walk for most of the second half of the run. Like, every jostle is pain and I almost yakked through my nose just plain awful cramps and nausea. All within ten minutes of the gummy bears. Can I still call it a run when I had to walk five of the seventeen miles? I’m lucky that RunningBFF is a good person and doesn’t ditch me every time (read: every long run) I have issues of some kind. I pushed on with running as long as I could, but eventually my (newly picky and very demanding) stomach won the battle.

Poor planning. I can’t pretend that this run was affected by anything other than my failure to get proper nutrition that I know works for me.

Positives: Holding a steady, even pace, the pace feeling easy, no serious hip pain.

Negatives: Poor nutrition planning, stomach cramps from hell.

Probably the biggest positive out of everything today is my recovery speed. After one episode of NCIS and a meal of shoveling as much to-go brunch into my face as possible, I actually feel pretty good. This is a new development—I’m usually out for the rest of the day after a huge effort.

If I can manage to link everything together (pain level, nutrition, pace) in one of my next three long runs, it will definitely boost my confidence. Knowing that all the pieces are there, but not being able to put them together in one run? A little demoralizing.

At least I’ve got three more shots to try?

Just for fun · Running

My running playlist is so cliché

When I see other bloggers post their “favorite running playlist” I’m always shocked by the diversity of the music. There seems to be a lot of slower songs, gentler songs, feel-good tunes (which I understand), and wordless electronica. Or maybe I just have a really cliché playlist.

For lack of a better term, I listen to straight-up 80’s cock rock. Aerosmith, Def Leppard, Journey, Motley Crue, Van Halen, etc. They’re called pump-up songs for a reason, people. There really isn’t any other feeling like hitting the last half mile of a long run and having ‘Eye of the Tiger’ or ‘Pour Some Sugar on Me’ blast through your headphones. Yeah, I really am cliché.

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However, I do have a few not-as-popular songs that make it into my regular rotation. They offer me a really nice change of pace when I’m running, and they’re always songs I can sing along to in my head. They’re also almost all from the 90’s. When it comes to music, I’m totally stuck in the past.

1. ‘Argue’, Matchbox20

This gem off Matchbox20’s first album has an awesome driving beat that keeps me going. Also, it’s just plain catchy, and come on, what girl wouldn’t want to run towards 1996 Rob Thomas?

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Forget Ryan Gosling, I’m gonna go catch me one of those.

2. ‘I Want You’, Savage Garden

This one’s just fun. It’s fast-paced, but honestly, I just love the lead singer’s voice and the chorus. I still am not 100% sure on the verses, but I definitely pretend I know the words while I’m running.

3. ‘Crawling in the Dark’, Hoobastank

Ok, so this one’s not from the 1990’s, but it is from 2001, so that’s pretty close. I catch a lot of grief for liking this song, but those beginning few chords have been a part of my pre-race pump up routine since middle school swimming. It’s just one of those songs that makes me feel like a little butt-kicker.

4. ‘Numb/Encore’, Linkin Park and Jay-Z

Another one not from the 90’s, but from the early 2000’s. Really anything off this album is on my eternal running playlist. The beat keeps me going, plus I can pretend I can actually rap in my head. Fun fact: I learned all the words to 99 Problems by running to this album. I used to entertain my old roommates in the car on long rides by rapping for them.

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Imagine that face rapping for you. Terrifying.

Looking at that list, it’s still pretty cliché. I’m not going to lie and say I have OMGawesome taste in music, and I’m totally living in the past on my iPod, but I’m okay with that. After all, the stereotypical workout songs are that way for a reason, right?

Running · Uncategorized

Slow and steady

I want to get real about running for a few minutes. While I love reading the blogs of super speedy runners, I’m not one. I don’t know if I ever will be one. I’m simply not a fast runner.

It doesn’t come easily to me. My natural stride is not something pretty to watch. Going out to “knock out a quick 10k” isn’t even something I can comprehend.

But I keep going. In two years, I’ve dropped almost three official minutes from my 5k time, and four minutes unofficially. I’ve run a half marathon. I’m planning to run a full marathon.

When I started running, I could barely run for a quarter mile at a time, at a 12:30/mile pace. I usually hold almost a minute faster than that for a long run pace these days.

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I’m not the kind of runner who adores every single mile. I certainly have never trained like I probably should to see awesome results.

That’s okay. Maybe someday I’ll get more serious and more competitive with my training. Maybe not. Maybe all racing will ever amount to is a way to keep me running.]

What I do know is that when I get out there, whether it’s a training run or a race, something about me changes that day. I feel accomplished. I feel like I’ve done something worthwhile, and I feel like I’ve done something for just me.

Yes, I like getting PRs and yes, I like beating the person next to me, but at the end of the day, I run because I can. Summer of 2011, I dreamed of simply finishing a 5k. That seemed insurmountable. Once I did a 5k, I set my sights on a half marathon, a goal that materialized in 2009. That seemed insurmountable. These days, a marathon doesn’t seem that way. I truly believe I can do it.

While I’m never going to lead the pack, I am lapping the old me.

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One painful, deathly, slowpoke step at a time.

Running

Run the River 10k recap

When I finished my half marathon, I signed up for a few races in a frenzy to recapture that racing feeling. I was super motivated and ready to race.

I was not so ready to race when my alarm went off this morning at 6 am. I seriously considered bagging on this race, especially when I started feeling some tummy troubles. However, I dragged my behind out of bed, put on an outfit, stepped outside, and promptly changed into something warmer. Thirty-nine degrees is no joke.

run the river outfit

I really prefer to race in technical shirts, and I kind of wish I had, but it’s always good to prove to myself that running in a cotton t-shirt is not the end of the world. I also introduced my new Mizuno Wave Nexus’s to their very first race.

The course was billed as flat and fast, so I was hoping for a good race. I ran a 1:09 10k split in the half marathon, so I was hoping for a 1:08 or lower. Keep in mind, I died like crazy in the half, so the 10k time was a pretty reasonable guess on what I could do.

My goal going into this race was just to see what I was capable of actually racing this distance. Also, I was using it as a gauge to see if going sub 1:05 in the Peachtree is a realistic goal.

Um, it is. As long as I keep training hills and start incorporating speedwork.

run the river results

I walked through the water stations (3 of them) and for a few seconds on the one hill in the race when my breathing got erratic and I needed to get it back under control.

This was a fast race. Unlike my last race, where I placed well, this is a big, established, organized race that attracted a lot of high level runners. There were several Atlanta Track Club competition team members there, and a lot of people that clearly don’t run “just for fun” like I do. I was in the bottom two-thirds of the runners, but that’s okay. I ran my own race.

It was easy to start too fast with such a speedy field, and my first mile was around a 10:20. I settled into a pace around 10:45 per mile, and save for a slow 11:10 fourth mile, I held steady. That was my big goal, was to run steady splits.

Running along the Chattahoochee river was really pretty, but I was more focused on keeping good form and running an even race, so I didn’t enjoy the scenery as much as I probably would have during a training run.

One thing I wasn’t a huge fan of was that there was very little swag. The 5k race started an hour before the 10k did, so the freebies were pretty picked through.

The shirt is super cute, though.

run the river shirt

This race benefits the homeless population, and this was the twelfth running. The volunteers on the course were amazing, handing out water, cheering us on, and giving splits at every mile. Also, the post-race food spread was excellent. Bagels, oranges, bananas, and yogurt. I can’t eat immediately after a race, so I don’t know how it tasted, but it was certainly popular with the other finishers.

All in all, I’d definitely recommend this race to anyone looking for a PR-ready course and some speedy competition.