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The Breakthrough Year

30 Nov

Without fail, at the end of every year I always seem to reflect and think “wow, what a crazy year.”  So hang with me for a moment here when I tell you – 2016 has easily been the most tumultuous year of my life.

I am a software/test engineer and my job has always involved some amount of travel, but up until this year, that typically meant maybe a one week trip every 8-10 weeks.  This year, that all changed.  In the first third of the year alone, I was gone for half of January, the entirety of February and March, and half of April.  

While I was on the road, I was also dealing with a pretty big breakup.  I was in the process of ending a 9 year long relationship (I say in the process because as you might imagine, breaking up with someone is incredibly difficult when you technically live with them and yet are never home) and while it was something that had been in the works for a while, you don’t flip your life upside down like that without incurring some mental stress along the way.

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I lost my dog in the “divorce” and honestly, I’m still not over it yet.

I thought I was handling things ok, but as I look back – I was flailing.  I was making the best of a difficult situation, sure, but I was staying out way too late, drinking way too much, making way too many “temporary friends,” all while claiming to be seriously training for the Utah Valley Marathon.

In March, I flew from Salt Lake City to Virginia Beach for the weekend to run the Shamrock Half Marathon with Hollie.  The weather conditions that day were tough, but I had been essentially living and training at altitude (SLC is approximately 4400’ above sea level) for months.  I had secret hopes of a PR and ended up incredibly disappointed to run 1:38:10.  “I’m a 1:38-1:39 half marathoner,” I remember grumbling to Laura.  “That’s just what I am and what I’ll always be.”

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Not. Pleased.

Of course, Laura never lets me throw too much of a pity party and I’m eternally grateful for that. Chatting with her got my brain back into a more positive gear. Out of all the stories of weather related misery, I noticed that one person happened to PR at Shamrock. I also knew that Laura was seeing success and enjoying working with her new coach, and I knew that oh, coincidentally, Mary and Laura had the same coach. I finally realized that if I wanted something to change, I needed to do something different. That it was stupid to think I wasn’t fast enough for a coach.  I gathered up all my courage and made a phone call. And then a day later, James became my running coach.

What happened over the next few months is something I’m still processing, and writing this post (and reviving this silly blog) is a way for me to do that. As I mentioned, I did end up running the Utah Valley Marathon but it became less of a goal race (I only gave James 11 weeks, I didn’t expect miracles yet) and more about getting another 26.2 under my belt and enjoying the time in Utah with my best friend.  I might go back and recap it at some point, but that is for another day.

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I guess I’m gonna run a marathon tomorrow or some crap like that.

After taking some time to recover from UVM, the focus became Dublin Marathon at the end of October.  I was still traveling quite a bit for work over the summer (and to Texas, no less – I have SO much respect for all you runners down south) but my attitude had changed.  Workouts became a priority, if I had a quality session on the schedule I was doing everything I could the day before to make sure it went well.  Nutrition was still a challenge due to some circumstances out of my control but I started making better choices when I could. (Long story short: I was working 16 hour days, unable to leave to go get food, and surrounded by donuts constantly. Damn delicious donuts ….)

More importantly, I started turning down happy hour invitations and I focused on getting more sleep. This all makes me kind of sound like a drag, I know, but I was really doing it because it made me happy.  I won’t try and tell you it was all glitter and rainbows, but most days, I hopped out of bed completely PUMPED for my run that day – even if it was just an easy hour of jogging.

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Not turning down ALL the happy hours though, gotta get your tan on sometimes

As Dublin crept closer, I had my doubts.  There were some amazing workouts that had me feeling on top of the world and then there were some reality-smacking-me-in-the-face moments that had me wondering if a BQ would even be possible.  I ran the Hartford half marathon in early October and while I did set a PR, I was minutes off of where I secretly thought I would be. That race would lurk in the back of my mind for the next 3 weeks until Dublin.  

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My goodness … I’m moving so slowly, yet feeling so terribly.

Even as James and I discussed the race plan for Dublin, Hartford was there whispering – “you’re a fraud, none of this is real, your watch is broken, you don’t deserve 3:2x.”  And then suddenly, I was in Dublin. In the starting corral. And suddenly I realized if I wanted this, all I had to do was execute.  The fitness was there. One bad race didn’t erase everything I had done, all that I had worked for. I could let my mind ruin it for me or I could just tell myself to just. shut. up. and execute.

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Executing. WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING AT, TONY

I ran 3:22:56.  A 4 minute negative split.  And while I do intend to recap the race itself, I will say here – the second half of my FULL marathon was 1:39:22.  Around the same time as I was racing HALF marathons earlier in the year.

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It’s weird because in a way, it doesn’t feel like I did anything drastically different yet at the same time, I feel like a completely different person than when the year started.

As far as running goes, I loved the workouts I was doing, but none of them were totally foreign to me – it wasn’t like I was being presented with concepts that I had never heard of or hadn’t tried before. (That’s not to belittle the impact hiring a coach had — more on that later).  I didn’t make any dramatic dietary changes, I still drank beer and ate desserts and all that jazz. There isn’t one major thing I can point to and say “that’s it – that’s how I ran 3:22.”  It was really a lot of small changes that added up to something big. Which is not to say that it was easy, just that it wasn’t some huge overhaul.

And as my running and approach to running changed, I found my attitude changing about other things.  I found myself opening up, accepting other points of view and opinions, allowing myself to feel and think and care about things again.  I don’t claim to have it all figured out now, but I think I was frozen in a cycle of unhappy relationship – unhappy at work – unhappy with running – drink to numb the pain – repeat.  Tackling the most superficial of those problems just happened to lead me down a path where I started solving the harder ones too.  2016 wasn’t just a breakthrough for running, it was a breakthrough for my life.

To wrap this all up in the cheesiest of ways, allow me to hop on my soapbox for a moment. If you’re unhappy with your life, it truly only takes a few small steps to start changing it. If you aren’t reaching your goals, reevaluate and try something new.  At the end of the day, the beautiful thing about life is that YOU are the one in charge – you are the one who gets to set your own priorities and make your own decisions. I sat around waiting for my life to happen, to change, to get better, to refresh itself, etc, for far too long.  2016 was the year I realized — you have to change your own life.

When Faster Isn’t Better

16 Feb

As I mentioned last time, there are a few things I am focusing on during this 12-week training cycle for the Goodlife Toronto Marathon. Today, let’s talk about #2 – less speed, more marathon pace.

I’ve decided to follow the Pfitzinger 12/55 plan from Advanced Marathoning – 12 weeks long, peaking at 55 miles, for those not well versed in PfitzSpeak. One of the main things that drew me to this plan was the focus on marathon pace (MP) miles during the long runs. The 12/55 also has very little true speed work in it; I’d say 75% of the quality miles are in the marathon pace – tempo pace range. The VO2 max work is all specified to be run at 5K pace and no faster, and the intervals are on the longish side – generally 1000m-1600m.

This is a vast difference from the training I have followed in the past, and something that I hope in turn makes a vast difference come race day.

Previously, I was doing nothing but slow, time on your feet style long runs with one speed workout per week. The workouts would alternate between a tempo, long interval, and short interval workout. We would do a tempo run maybe once a month; all the other workouts were legit, gut-busting speed workouts. This started at the very beginning of the training cycle, so anywhere from 18-22 weeks out depending on when your goal race was (so, no periodization principles being applied). We were also encouraged to run them as fast as possible – and maybe that was the real problem. On any given week, I was running workouts at speeds much faster than 5K pace, and then the rest of the time, I was slogging along at a 10-10:30 minute pace.

The short intervals also gave me a ton of problems with my hamstrings. I blame this on poor form and not enough of a warm-up to properly execute the fast stuff. My body just seems to break down once I push down into the 6:1x territory, but I also think that a 10 minute warm-up prior to running intervals isn’t sufficient for me. My muscles frequently felt stiff and tight and I would always end up with a minor tear in one, if not both, of my hamstrings.

I would then continue to run through the hamstring issues because again, we were encouraged to do so. Taking rest days meant you weren’t fully committed, that you were weak. If you felt like you were injured, you still run – just go slower. 6 days a week or GTFO.  Every training cycle turned into 12-16 weeks of injury mitigation.  I never felt 100%.

If I thought the speed work was doing anything for me, I would put some time and energy into figuring out how to do it without getting injured. And when I decide to focus on the 5K (spoiler alert: I kind of want to do that this summer), I will. Longer warm-ups, targeting specific paces for the intervals rather than essentially racing them all out, etc. I’ll play around with all of that. But after doing a lot of reading, I just don’t think those are the right workouts to be doing for marathon prep.

The final thing that drove the principle of specificity through my thick skull was this post that kept popping up in my Twitter feed about a month ago. An interesting read for many reasons, but the one thing that really stuck with me was the idea that workouts with paces closest to your goal race pace are the most important. It seems completely obvious that a 5K specialist would be wasting their time running a lot of marathon pace workouts, so why has it been so hard for me to understand that running a lot of 5K (or faster) pace workouts isn’t going to help me run a good marathon?

I realize that it may take a few cycles before I see the results that I want. I am still hopeful that even after a short cycle, the combination of MP miles and long runs with reduced stopping will prevent the epic crash and burn that has been the trademark of my marathoning as of late.

2014: Year in Review

1 Jan

My gut reaction to 2014 is “what a shitty year” and I know I’m not alone in that sentiment. For some reason, I think that perception is what is making me want to briefly recap the year … possibly to change my mind about it?  To be a little more “glass half full?” Or to dwell in negativity like the malcontent curdmudgeon I am?

Anyway, getting on with it.

My favorite 3 things from 2014!

1. Hanging out with some of my favorite people in the world (Lake Effect Half Marathon and New Jersey Half Marathon, as well as many other adventures).  Laura, Hollie, Brit – you guys are amazing and I’m so happy my year had so much of you in it.  ❤

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Sometimes we wear things that arent spandex.

 

2. Running in Aruba!  And everything else in Aruba.  Because Aruba.

running-in-aruba

 

 

3. Getting through a kickass training cycle with a really good friend and having a blast doing it.  I have honestly never had as much fun training for a marathon as I did training for Lehigh and Megan is at least 93% responsible for that fact.

 

training-for-via-marathon

 

The shittiest 3 things from 2014!

1.  The death of someone close.  I don’t like to get into real personal stuff so I’ll just say I lost someone who was like a sister to me who passed away way too fucking young from cancer.  Diagnosis to death was only 6 months and those were some of the worst months of my life.

2.  Overwhelming stress at work and not dealing with it gracefully.  I’ve had a hard time keeping my cool in professional settings this year and while part of me wants to be all IDGAF about it, another part of me knows that it’s a sign that my job is slowly cracking me.  I need to learn better strategies for dealing with the stress because at the heart of it, I enjoy what I do and the people I work with.  I totally failed at this this year.

3.  My only marathon attempt, and marathon failure, of the year.  This sounds somewhat trivial with respect to #1 and #2, but to put so much time and thought and work towards one single event, and to then have it go horribly wrong?  It’s pretty devastating.

 

Running in 2014: the takeaways!

– I cracked 1500 miles for the year!  This is the highest yearly mileage I’ve ever run.

– I PR’d in the 5k, twice!

– I ran more consistently than I ever have before.  This kind of goes hand in hand with the first bullet, but given my history of skipping long runs … and base runs … and speed work … well, let’s just say I’m proud of the progress I made.

– I went under 1:40 in the half 3 times.  Arbitrary standard?  Sure.  But for now it makes me happy.

Running in 2014: the puzzles!

– I remain frustrated by the fact that I haven’t made any meaningful progress since 2012.  My half PR from that year still stands.  I haven’t come anywhere close to the marathon time I think I am capable of.  I honestly have no real idea why more miles and adding speedwork have not translated for me.

– I’m not sure why my form is so wonky or what to do to fix it.  Or if I even should?  I seem to get injured a lot.  I tend to think poor form is to blame.  Unsure where to start.

– I can’t stick to any type of strength training plan.  I actually really like strength training!  Why the hell am I unable to keep it up?

 

I guess now that I’m done thinking about this (and trust me, there was plenty more that didn’t make it into this actual post – I’m really trying my hardest to not bore anyone to death), I stand by my original assertion that 2014 was pretty shitty.  I am, however, grateful for the positives and am looking forward to all that 2015 already has in store.

Happy New Year, friends!

9 Tips for Running in the Winter

8 Dec

I see a lot of posts like pop up around this time of year. The problem is they’re usually written by some bozo in SoCal who thinks 45 degrees is essentially unlivable. (No offense to anyone in SoCal … my anger in this particular situation stems from some hardcore jealousy.) I have trained through two Upstate New York winters and casually ran through two more so I am certainly still a novice; however, here are some tips that have helped make winter running bearable for me.

winter

So winter. Much cold.

 

1. Invest in a good running jacket

Of all the possible gear you can buy, a good jacket is worth every penny. A nice, warm, and reflective jacket will take the thought process out of layering and typically doesn’t need to be washed after every run (maybe this is just me? maybe I’m just gross). I find that if I keep my core nice and warm, the rest of me warms up fairly quickly.I currently have a Brooks jacket that they don’t seem to make anymore, but when it’s time for a new one, I would love a Nike Shield Flash jacket. This seems to be the crème de la crème of winter running jackets. I’d also be interested in reading a review of the Oiselle Katron jacket from someone who isn’t a member of the Oiselle team. It looks promising, but it’s a lot of money to drop if it isn’t really warm and durable.

 2. Yaktrax

These suckers have saved my butt so many times. Even if the roads are plowed, usually the shoulders are full of ice and slush or just plain packed snow. This makes for a very treacherous running experience. I got a pair of Yaktrax a few years ago as a Christmas present and poof! Haven’t had one incident since. Strangely enough, the ones I have are the “walking” ones – I have no idea what the real difference is between those and the ones marketed for running except for the higher pricetag.

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She’s pretty mad I didn’t get her some Yaktrax to wear.

 3. Hand warmers

I have Raynaud’s which basically renders even the most hardcore winter running glove ineffective. Rather than spending $60 on a pair of gloves that won’t work, I use a cheap pair of gloves and stock up on hand warmers every season. I don’t use them for every run but they are a lifesaver on long runs in particular.

4. Ice bath in the snow

There is basically no time in my life in which I am willing to enter a tub full of ice water. I never take ice baths in the summer. In the winter though? Super easy to just park my butt in the snow. Boom. Recovery.

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5. Check the temperature rating on cold weather gear

No matter what you’re shopping for or where you’re shopping for it, cross reference against a site like runningwarehouse.com. They have temperature ratings on all the stuff they sell and this is the single most helpful thing I have ever come across when trying to shop online. A few years ago, I dropped $50 on a pair of winter running tights – they showed up and were so thin, I actually laughed. Turns out they were rated for 55+ – who the heck is wearing tights when it’s 55 out?! (See: earlier description of SoCal bozos, maybe?)

6. Reflective gear – lots of it

Winter running means a big reduction in daylight hours. Visibility is a huge issue even if you’re running a dawn or dusk – don’t be fooled by neon clothing, bright colors are not enough to make you visible to an oncoming car from far enough away! You want to be seen from a far enough distance so that drivers can be proactive and give you space, not make a last minute swerve on a slippery road. Dress yourself up like a Christmas tree – reflective gear, a headlamp, blinking LEDs – you’ll feel a bit ridiculous but in the end, it’s worth it.  Nathan makes some good products, from hand held lights to blinking lights that attach to your shoes.

7. Flexible scheduling

I love a schedule as much as the next slightly-OCD person out there, but in the winter, I’ve learned to be flexible. I’ll usually check the week’s forecast on Sunday and make a loose plan for my workouts based on that. If a huge snowstorm is supposed to sweep through on the day you have 10 miles planned – move it! It’s better to adapt to the weather rather than struggling through and making things harder for yourself.

8. Run with friends

If you know it’s going to be a battle to get yourself outside, make plans with friends to meet up. When I trained for Shamrock 2013, I ran entirely by myself. I had about a 25% success rate with actually doing my long runs as scheduled. Since joining a run group, I’ve been able to stay consistent with long runs even in less than desirable weather. Knowing that people are waiting for me takes away any of the internal bargaining and gets my butt out the door.

9. Take it inside

When all else fails, the treadmill is your friend. It usually takes a lot for me to resort to the ‘mill, but if it’s a choice between a few boring, crappy miles and no miles, I’ll take boring and crappy every time. If you’re one of those people who enjoys the treadmill, well, you’re lucky and I want to know how to be more like you.

 

Any tips to add?  What gets you through the winter?

 

Evolution of a Runner: 4th of July Edition

4 Jul

2001

  • Knew a few people who ran cross country
  • Knew of the existence of the Boston Marathon and the Mountain Goat 10 Miler
  • Spent the night of July 3rd talking to my crush on AOL Instant Messenger
  • Spent the 4th crying because said crush was spending the weekend with his girlfriend

2004

  • Concept of people running races recreationally was completely off the radar
  • Spent the night of July 3rd watching fireworks and drinking a handle of vodka
  • Spent the 4th sleeping off a hangover

2008

  • Saw a girl running at 6.0mph at the gym once; that looked hard
  • Spent the night of July 3rd watching fireworks and drinking bourbon slushes
  • Spent the 4th drinking more bourbon slushes in an attempt to stall the inevitable hangover

2011

  • Yo, running is cool and all, but who on earth feels good enough to run the morning of the 4th of July?!
  • Spent the night of July 3rd watching fireworks and drinking beer
  • Woke up the morning afternoon of the 4th and went for a 2-3ish mile run

2013

  • Yo, running is cool and all, but I’m not going to ruin a good night so I can race the next morning.
  • Spent the night of July 3rd watching fireworks and drinking a reasonable amount of beer
  • Woke up the morning of the 4th and went for a 7 mile run

2014

  • Yo, running is really cool and I think I’m in decent shape right now
  • I plan to spent the night of July 3rd watching fireworks and drinking water
  • Bitches, I am so going to PR at this 5k on the 4th

 

Happy 4th of July, friends.  No matter what you’re doing today, I hope you’re having a blast.

Spring 2014 Racing Schedule

25 Feb

As I alluded to in my last post, I’ve decided against a full marathon this spring.  Instead, I want to focus on building a strong base and work on speed a bit.  My main goal is to be comfortably running 60-75 minute base runs along with 1 speed workout and long run (in the 2h30m range) by summer.

I also want to work on racing more.  Though I do realize that racing all the time isn’t conducive to actually running to your potential, I think a lot of my issues in a race environment are mental.  The best way to overcome that is by stepping out of my comfort zone and forcing myself into being on the pain train more often.

My “race” goal is to set a new half PR by the end of the spring.  Here’s what I plan to hit along the way.

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Lake Effect Half Marathon

Well, duh.  You already know about this one.  I’ll do due diligence with a legit recap later, but my goal was to run a comfortable 1:50 and I did just that.

Tipp Hill Shamrock Run (4 miler)

tipp-hill-shamrock-run

(source)

This race kicked my newbie running ass in 2011 and I swore I’d never do it again.  Turns out, I’d actually like a little rendezvous with those hills.  I don’t have major expectations for this race, I just want to put in a good effort and drink some green beer after.

Syracuse Half Marathon

syracuse-half-marathon(source)

This is a new race in Syracuse – I missed out on it last year since it was the week after Shamrock, I believe.   It fits my schedule nicely this year however, so I decided to register.  I am hoping to run anywhere between 1:40-1:45 here.

Springtime 10k

jamesville-springtime-10k

(source)

Another new race (inaugural year) but 10Ks are hard to find so I went for it.  A PR here would be nice because I feel like my 10K best is pretty weak.  But we’ll see.

Mountain Goat Run

syracuse-mountain-goat-run-10-miler

(source)

I have run this every year since I started running, and I don’t intend to stop now.  This will be a “for fun” race.  I’m already excited.

Buffalo Half Marathon

buffalo-half-marathon

(source)

Dun dun dun.  The goal race.  If all goes well, I’ll be in PR City on May 25th.  Running 7:20s for 13 miles sounds damn near impossible right now, but that’s what training is for, right?

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There are a few other “tentatives” along the way.  I am really eyeing the New Jersey Half in April because a) it’s a chance to see Hollie and b) it’d be a nice stepping stone on my way to Buffalo.

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So there you have it.  Now your turn to share.  (#properbloggingtechnique)

What races are you running this spring?  Do you have a goal race?  More importantly, will you be at any of the same races as me?!

Back from the Dead

22 Feb

I kind of can’t believe how fast time flies, but the Lake Effect Half Marathon is tomorrow.  I have been looking forward to this weekend for months now, due to these wonderful ladies coming out for the race.  It feels like a million years since I’ve seen Hollie and Laura, and it will be so great to meet Britt for the first time.  Basically, it’s about to get real obnoxious all over Twitter and IG, so I figured I should poke my head out of the hole it’s been buried in and say hi.

Update #1: Running

See: how fast time flies.  I took some time off after CIM, and quite honestly, in the month prior to CIM, I wasn’t running very much due to injury mitigation.  All in all, I was running negligible mileage for about 8-10 weeks.  So I knew when I started up again, I needed to build slowly.

I realized that a big part of my problem last year was trying to mash a bunch of different training methodologies together and never really committing to any one program.  I decided I need to go all-in with ONE training plan and see where that gets me.  I’m back running with my group and have been following the coach’s plan.  6 days/week, 1 speed, 1 long run.  My base runs started out at 15 minutes.  It’s really hard to make yourself go run for a measly 15 minutes, but I did.  Every day.  Until I had an injury-free base under me and could start increasing.

It’s hard to believe I have 6 weeks of running under my belt since I started back up and I’m happy to say that I’m comfortably at ~30 miles/week right now, with 1 speed workout and a long run of 10 miles.  I’m feeling pretty good, and I’m excited to start increasing my mileage a bit more in the upcoming weeks.

Update #2: Racing

I decided I will not be running a marathon this spring.  Between the brutal winter, and really wanting to commit to getting myself a solid base while running injury free, I felt it was counter-intuitive to try and ramp up my mileage super fast to get in any sort of marathon shape.

I do have a goal half marathon for the spring, and a pretty aggressive goal time.  I’ll talk about that a bit more in a different post.

lake-effect-half-marathon-2014

(source)

 

 

The Lake Effect Half will be the first time I pin a bib on this year and I’m really excited – but I won’t be racing.  A couple friends from my running group are planning on running ~1:50 and I decided to run with them.  I’m hoping this effort will feel like a long tempo.  I want to be tired but not sore or wiped out at the end.  We’ll see.  A lot will depend on the weather; as of right now, it’s threatening to snow a bit and be on the windy side.  The unfortunate part about running at the parkway is that you typically deal with a pretty good breeze ripping across the lake which can make it challenging to hold a steady pace.  The more important goal for me is to finish feeling uninjured and ready for post-race shenanigans with my friends.

Update #3: Weather

Hey, guess what.  I live in Upstate New York and it’s fucking winter.  Surprise: it’s been snowy and cold and awful.  You don’t even know fun until you try to do speed work in -10 degree weather.  My lungs have threatened to jump ship on many different occasions, but what doesn’t kill you, right?

These roads are a lot of fun.  And I'm improving the safety of this situation by taking a picture while driving!

These roads are a lot of fun. And I’m improving the safety of this situation by taking a picture while driving!

Update #4: Dog

She’s still an asshole, and she still gets away with it because she’s pretty.  Typical female.

Look at me, I'm beautiful.  Forgive me for my sins of 2 seconds ago when I peed on the carpet.

Look at me, I’m beautiful. Forgive me for my sins of 2 seconds ago when I peed on the carpet.

 

I trust that you are so distracted by my physique that you will not notice as I slowly creep towards this Christmas present.

I trust that you are so distracted by my physique that you will not notice as I slowly creep towards this Christmas present.

 

Update #5: Beer

Although I am actively trying to cut back, I have been enjoying a few good brews as of late.  My recent favorite: Tröegs Perpetual IPA.  Holy YUM (<– jk, that’s my favorite overused and ridiculous HLB expression).

Put some of this in your face-hole immediately.

Put some of this in your face-hole immediately.

And there you have it.  Now that I am back in the running game, I do hope to talk at you from behind this screen more frequently.  Honestly, as corny as I feel writing here, I do like to look back on not just the hard data of my running/races but how I was thinking or feeling about a particular event.  Also, I have to say, I’ve met some absolutely amazing people over the past year of “blogging” (<- I’m sorry, I can’t say that seriously without laughing or puking.  The word just makes me want to gag, I don’t really know why.) and they have changed my life for the better (sappy moment).  Some of my best adventures last year were with people I didn’t even know the year before.  So in that spirit, as ridiculous as I feel sometimes writing here, I don’t really want to stop.  I can’t wait for another year of fun with both new and old friends.

Happy running, y’all.

Staying Motivated Through Injury

29 Jan

As promised, I’ve been laying low since CIM.  This probably makes me look bad to admit, but it’s really hard to pay attention to my own blog/other running-fitness-etc blogs when I’m not running at all … or running very little.  It’s hard to read about everyone crushing their workouts and long runs when you’re not able to do the same.

It’s even harder to stay motivated while side-lined with an injury, at least for me.  My motivation to run is intrinsic – but to cross-train?  Not so much.  If I loved cross-training, I’d be doing that instead of running so much, right?

It didn’t help that my recovery aligned with the holidays.  It was all too easy to talk myself into extra treats, extra booze, extra time on my butt.

I didn’t do as well as I would’ve liked over the past month or so, but I didn’t become a total couch potato as I’ve done in years past.  And for that, I have to thank a couple of “fitness gadgets” (ugh, yes, I just used that term and I hate myself the appropriate amount for it).

I have previously raved about my Fitbit Flex, but I have to say – here I am, almost a year later, still going strong.  That’s as good a testament as I can think of; typically I tire of new gadgets after a month or so.  When I was running regularly, it was no problem at all to meet my 10,000 step/day goal but during the past month, I’ve had to get creative.  It has encouraged me to take my dog for longer walks (which I should be doing anyway, I’m a terrible person and again, I hate myself the appropriate amount for it), park further away from the store/work/etc, and get my butt to the gym.  Although it’s probably not exactly accurate, if you use this type of elliptical, you will register steps on your Fitbit:

precor-elliptical-trainer

What has really helped me stay consistent with my daily step goal is the integration of Fitbit with the Pact (formerly GymPact) app.  I’ve been an on-again/off-again user of GymPact since it first launched – the premise is that you make a pact for number of days per week you will workout, and if you meet the pact, you earn a certain amount of money.  If you miss a day, you pay up.  I loved the concept and the story behind the company, but at first it only worked by “checking in” at an actual gym.  I only actually go to my gym once or twice a week – during the summer it’s even less.  I almost always run outdoors, and very rarely do I actually go to the gym to do so.

As the app grew, however, they offered more and more ways to meet your pact.  They integrated with RunKeeper which I tested out for a while … but I don’t always run with my phone.  Once they announced the Fitbit integration though?  I’ve been using it ever since.

gympact-pact-app-screenshot

 

It’s not going to make me a millionaire, but it has been a great way to get my butt in gear when I haven’t been able to run much or at all.

The Pact app also integrates with MyFitnessPal so I’m giving that a test spin.  I really detest logging what I eat but I also can’t deny that it works.  I also don’t hate the little motivator at the end of each day:

myfitnesspal-app-screenshot

 

I don’t know if I really believe that I could be down to my high school weight in 5 weeks just by eating reasonably and not housing beer and chicken wings for dinner, but it is a nice reminder that my extra lbs are absolutely a result of the fact that my diet is shit.

All that being said, the combination of these three apps has honestly helped me over the past 6 weeks.  I definitely gained a little weight over the holiday season and I’ve certainly lost running specific fitness, but I’m not in terrible shape.  I feel good, and that’s what matters most.

(P.S. I’m not affiliated with or being paid in any way to promote any of these companies.  It’s just a thing that has been working for me, thus I am sharing with you.)

The Best and Most Perfect Gift Guide for Runners EVER

2 Dec

Hi friends!  Thanks for stopping by my corner of the internet to read about the best and most perfect gift guide for runners.  Ever.  Of all time.  I’m not entirely sure why on earth you need to read a blog to figure out what to buy for a friend or family member who also happens to be a runner (who is the intended target of these posts anyway?  Clueless boyfriend?  Weird Uncle Al?  Fifth cousin twice removed who is pretty sure that maybe you ran a race once?  Is this just supposed to be my Amazon wishlist in blog form?!), but apparently, if you have a blog that is loosely related to running and/or fitness, you MUST do one of these posts.

 

 

So without further ado …

 

  • Overpriced and Possibly Ugly Running/Yoga Pants from Brand XYZ
These stupid pants cost $118!!  What a deal!

These stupid pants cost $118!! What a deal!

The more expensive your clothes are, the faster you’ll run and the hotter you’ll look! Everyone knows that. And this pair of expensive running tights is the best of all the overpriced pants on the market. I know this for a fact, because I just got some for free from the lovely folks at Brand XYZ. They changed my life! I love them more than any other workout pants ever. Don’t go searching back in my blog archives too far though, because you’ll find other posts where I’ve sworn my undying love for Brand ABC. Then I’ll seem like a hypocrite. Or worse, a sell out! Where was I? Oh, right. BRAND XYZ RUNNING TIGHTS WILL MAKE YOUR FARTS SMELL LIKE MAGICAL UNICORN DUST AND ROSES.

  • Compression Socks from Some Company That Sponsors Me

hey-girl-lets-throw-on-some-compression-socks-and-just-cuddle

Let’s be honest here, I hate running and I barely run more than 5 miles per week. I don’t really understand any of the science behind why compression helps with recovery but what I DO know is that these socks are so effing cute. And everyone likes to look cute while they run, amirite ladies?! The lovely folks at GenericCompressionSockCompany sent me these super cute holiday themed socks and they are also hooking you up with a DISCOUNT CODE!! Use code BLOWME for 20% off these stupidly expensive socks to make them slightly less stupidly expensive. And don’t ask me why runners can benefit from compression. Because I still do not know.

  • Protein Powder
DELICIOUS!!

DELICIOUS!!

You are not a real runner if you don’t add protein powder to everything you eat. That’s just a fact.

  • Extremely Expensive Muscle Stimulation (heh) Machine That Has Vaguely Science-y Sounding Benefits
I hope for his sake this is pre-stimulation.

I hope for his sake this is pre-stimulation.

To be clear, no one on this planet has any idea what this thing does. However, for the low low price of $400-800, you can give the runner in your life endless amusement as they try to tell anyone that they got a muscle stimulation machine for Christmas while keeping a straight face.

  • Special Snowflake Headphones for Girls

These headphones were made JUST FOR GIRLS. They cost a lot of money, and offer the same sound quality as the $4.99 pair in your local drugstore. BUT. The headphone earbud plasticky thingy dingy? Was shaped just for a woman’s special snowflake ears! What does that mean? Well, I have no earthly idea. I’m going to poke around in my boyfriend’s ear hole while he’s asleep tonight because I can only imagine the unexplored nature of the male inner ear is wondrous to behold.

  • SPARKLY STUFF!!~
A shirt that has a stupid sparkle slogan is just as good as an actual item that sparkles.

A shirt that has a stupid sparkle slogan is just as good as an actual item that sparkles.

Chicks dig sparkles. It’s science. Get ’em a headband or a skirt (or both!) – just as long as it’s obnoxious sparkly and maybe neon, too. We all know you’re out there running a race for good Instagram fodder; a nice sparkly skirt is a good way to make sure that nobody takes you or your athletic endeavors too seriously.

  • <the stupid book I wrote/merch with my blog name on it>

The best part of this list, duh. And the whole reason I wrote this post. BUY MY STUFF, GUYZ! I am super inspirational and any runner in your life would be so super psyched to own anything with my blog name on it.

 

So there you have it.  The best gift guide in the history of gift guides.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to take a dip in a blogger ice bath*.

**.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*blogger ice bath (n): a tub full of money earned by endorsing products via one’s blog.

**this is where the disclaimer(s) should be because i received all of the aforementioned products for free.  i prefer to engage in ethically questionable blogging, however, so i’ve conveniently “forgotten” to remind you that yes, i got all of this stuff i am recommending to you for free.

Volunteering at the Empire State Marathon

6 Nov

I ran the Empire State Marathon the past two years, and while I knew I wanted to run a different fall race this year, I couldn’t imagine not taking part in the event in its third year.  I will also admit that I have never volunteered for a race before, and it hit me this year after both the Lake Effect half and the Shamrock full that I should probably give something back to the sport.  Both of those races were terrible, weather-wise, and to be out there, standing practically still in the cold to support the runners?  Freakin’ awesome.

I’m not sure how it works with all races, but Empire had their shit together.  Clicking on the link to sign up as a volunteer led to an information capture page, but also to a list of volunteer opportunities which allowed you to sign up for your job preference.  When I saw that “Finish Line – Medals” was still available, I jumped on it immediately – how much fun would that be?!

When I arrived for the start of my shift, it was a bit disorganized and I just tried to jump in and help where it seemed necessary.  Eventually someone showed up with boxes upon boxes of medals – they were really nice!

The half marathon medals.

The half marathon medals.

There were too many cooks in the kitchen, however, and at some point one of the volunteer directors came over and started shouting that she needed someone to lead the kids’ race.  “Who wants to run, does anyone want to run?!”  >> UMMM HI, I DO, I DOOOOO!!!

And just like that, I was in charge of leading the kids to the turnaround point of the race and usher them back to the finish.  Only problem?  Nobody was really sure where that turnaround point was.

Hey all these kids just sprinted off the line, do you even KNOW how to pace yourself CHILDREN?!?

Hey all these kids just sprinted off the line, do you even KNOW how to pace yourself CHILDREN?!?

So I made it up.  Sorry kids.  I just kind of ran for awhile, picked a random landmark, and told them to start turning.  I think it probably ended up being .75-1mile-ish, which is appropriate for a kids race, right?

Oh and I totally could’ve housed all of them.  That’s what you get for starting too fast.

 

Once I was back, it was time to start preparing for the half marathon leaders to come through.  My coach won by a landslide, but more importantly, he ran almost 2 minutes faster than he was hoping for and managed to come in under 70 minutes.  It was neat to be at the finish to see it, but also with some of the other runners I train with.  A nice little celebration.

From there, it was honestly go-go-go for the rest of my shift.  People started streaming through the finish like crazy, we were all yelling and cheering like crazy, and handing out medals as fast as we could.  We let the cute kids go up front, and the adults hung back to catch anyone else who still needed a medal.

Hanging back a bit

Hanging back a bit

It was so seriously inspiring and motivating to see all the finishers.  The range of emotion displayed by the finishers was huge: some were hurting, others wanted to jump around and high five.  Some wanted you to put the medal on their neck, others acted like you were almost offending them with your offering of a finisher’s medal.  Some looked so strong they could run the race all over again, others looked like they needed to lay down.  Only one guy puked, a few dry-heaved.  One couple kissed, another got engaged.  Some looked utterly defeated, others looked relieved, most looked joyous.  It was an absolutely amazing experience and I was so glad to be a part of each and every person’s day.

Why yes, sweaty shirtless guy, I will put a medal around your neck.

Why yes, sweaty shirtless guy, I will put a medal around your neck.

It was one of the best running-related experiences of my life, and I encourage anyone reading this to volunteer for a race at least once – especially if you haven’t ever done it before.

Cheering at the finish line as it starts winding down.

Cheering at the finish line as it starts winding down.

Honestly, from the stud speedsters running 2:40 to the people gutting it out to get under 6 hours, I was so inspired and amazed by everyone.  It made me remember how amazing it is to just finish a marathon – and that I need to be more grateful that I have a body that will allow me to run marathons no matter what the time on the clock says.  Congrats to everyone who ran the Empire full or half (or relay!) this year; I hope to be running this race in some capacity next year but if I’m not – you bet your ass I will be volunteering again.