2013 Year in Review

Who doesn't love to reflect on a great year? This was a huge year for me personally, professionally, and most of all, athletically. I pushed myself out of my comfort zone more times than I can count, and really proved that I am capable of so much more than I think.

Some of my favorite moments from 2013:

Starting off 2013 with a new 5k PR - Bane's first snow - coming home after a snowy 10-miler during HM#2 training and deciding it would be a great idea to sign up for HM#3 and my first tri

Pushing myself harder than ever at the Virginia is for Lovers 14k - a day at the beach with Bane and Ben - accepted to ODU for my 2nd bachelors degree, in Civil Engineering

Hard work pays off at my 2nd half marathon, a 30-minute PR!

My first triathlon - 3rd half marathon (and I discover that I love runcations) - first "fun run"

Running comes to a halt mid-month due to injury...have to bail on a race for the first time BUT I pick it up in the biking department and bike this bad boy for the first time (on a 30-mile ride, no less, my first one over 17!). I also officially begin my 2nd college career this month by taking 2 summer classes.

My return to running at my 2nd triathlon - first 8k race - deciding to run the Charleston Marathon and beginning preliminary training - in New Jersey with my husband to see two of our friends get married - day trip to Colonial Williamsburg

Family beach day - Dave Matthews concert with my dad - my first tri bike - getting the hang of this triathlon thing at Tidewater Tri! Also (not pictured), we celebrate our 3rd wedding anniversary and I finish my summer classes with A's in both.

First family trip to the Outer Banks - I somehow convince Ben to bike from Buxton to Hatteras and back (20 miles round trip) - seeing He Is Legend in Richmond, our 80something-th concert together - (with mixed feelings) I become an official ODU student - Bane becomes a water dog

PR at Patriots Sprint Triathlon (and worst race photo of all time) - finish my first tri season with my first Olympic at Outer Banks Tri - (not pictured) I commemorate my accomplishments and celebrate this transitional time in my life by getting a tattoo

I turn 26, Ben and Bane dress accordingly -  on my birthday I take the first step in making 26 my marathon year by actually registering - 4th half marathon - place 3rd in age group at super fun Jordan Bridge 5k - fastest race pace ever leads to a new 10k PR (and I wear my Boston shirt because the Sox are about to win the World Series!)

A distance PR and half marathon PR on a hilly course with a head cold = WINNING - conquering 13.1 with my 5th and final half marathon of 2013 (6th total) - we celebrate Thanksgiving with my family in the mountains of North Carolina - (not pictured) we spend a weekend in the Outer Banks, same weekend as the OBX marathon

I run a lot and take a lot of running selfies - new 10-mile race PR and unofficial half marathon PR - New York!!! - new distance PR's as marathon training ramps up and then taper begins - Christmas!!!! - (not pictured) I finish my first semester in engineering school with a 4.0

Bonus: All my training and races this year put me at over 1000 miles for the year! That's just over double my mileage from last year!

I am still having a hard time believing I managed to fit allll of that in this year. If someone had told me a year ago that that's what 2013 would hold, I don't think I would have believed them. 

I had 2 goals for 2013: conquer 13.1 and run a race every month. I think it's safe to say I blew both of them out of the water. I ran 5 half marathons this year, and PR'ed at 2 of them. What I most wanted was redemption for my first half marathon, and I got it in the form of a 30 minute PR at Shamrock this year. The half marathon distance no longer scares me - in fact, it might be my favorite!

As for my race goal, technically I didn't complete it because I missed May (injury) and August (no races worth running). However, I completed 18 races this year, so even though the timing wasn't exactly right, I think I can check this one off. 

I started 2013 with some ideas for what I might want to accomplish, but still with some reservations. I was afraid of actually committing to a lot of the goals I had, in fear of falling short. Over the course of the year, I worked hard both mentally and physically to actually complete those things. I learned so much this year, but I think the biggest lesson is that I can do anything as long as I put in the time, energy, and determination required. 

I'm starting 2014 with even bigger goals and dreams, and they really scare me, but I feel a little bit more confident knowing that I've worked and achieved goals before, and I can do it again. 

Weekly Workouts 12/16 and 12/23

Ack, so many posts, so little time! Has it really been 2 weeks since I posted a workouts recap? Oops. Things have been so crazy these last few weeks I feel like I've barely even sat down at a computer for more than 5 minutes.

Week of 12/16-12/22
This week was a stepback week in running mileage, yay! I had my longest weekday run ever at 9 miles, but my long run was only 14 miles. Excuse me for a minute while I laugh at the fact that I just said "only 14 miles" hahahaha wow, thanks marathon training! The bad news is I started developing some knee pain (I am thinking runner's knee, but not positive) that hasn't totally resolved itself. It hasn't affected my running in any way, so that's good, but it's still annoying to not be able to bend my knee correctly. The whole week I ate and drank WAY too much and slept not enough at all

I was not expecting much from Monday's run. Sunday night I hung out (i.e. drank wayyyy too much) with a friend who is in town who I hadn't seen in a year. I woke up Monday feeling sufficiently crappy but that didn't change the fact that I had 5 miles to get through. Surprisingly, they weren't terrible and I even pushed myself to make the last mile my fastest at 9:16, and ended up with 9:40 average overall. It's hard not to enjoy a run with a view like this!

I see this view on my runs 5 or 6 times a week and it never gets old!

Tuesday I did an hour total on the trainer, but because of some things I had going on, I had to split it in to a 40-minute and 20-minute session. I also completed a weight training session - started my strength training for runners program again, which meant 12 reps, my least favorite workout! I would much rather do higher weight/fewer reps than lower weight/more reps.

Wednesday was 9 miles. I ran the first 4 alone and was struggling to get through them. After the 4-mile loop I was back at my house where I met my dad and a friend and we finished the last 5 together. The pace was still slow, but it was nice having company! Later, I realized that I was exactly a month away from the marathon, scary but exciting!

Thursday I needed to get in 5 miles before leaving for NYC, so I headed out at 6:00am. It ended up being one of the scariest runs of my life. I don't know if I was in any real danger or if I was just on high alert running alone and in the dark (most likely scenario), but I was creeped out enough by a guy who came up running behind me, out of nowhere, and then stopped when he got right to me, that I called my husband and dog to meet me. It was smooth sailing after that, but I think it will be a while before I put myself in that situation again.

Friday was an unplanned rest day. I had thought I'd be able to sneak in a core workout while we were in NYC, but I wouldn't even have had time if I wanted to!

Saturday was my planned rest day since I had a long run on Sunday.

Sunday was my long run in NYC! I was really looking forward to it, and it lived up to my expectations. I will be doing a full review on the run and the experience with City Running Tours.

Week of 12/23-12/30
My last big push before taper time! This was actually my peak week (by less than a mile, from Week 11) and it ended with my longest run yet: 22 miles!

Monday I ran 5 miles with a training buddy at an easy pace. I don't like to run the day after my long run, but sometimes it just happens that way.

Tuesday was Christmas Eve, and I frantically tried to pack in all the errands, gift-wrapping, and working out I needed to do that day. I somehow got in both my workouts, a (boring) hour on the trainer and a strength training session.

Wednesday I had the most glorious 5 mile Christmas run! I spent all day planning to run at a certain time, then not getting to, rescheduling, then repeat...I finally got it done right before dark and it ended up being the best run I have had in quite some time!

Thursday I was up ridiculously early to hit up the after-Christmas gift wrapping sales with my mom, and afterward I ran with my dad around our old neighborhood. My stomach wasn't feeling great and my legs felt like bricks, but after a couple of miles I started to get more comfortable. I was running around a 10:15 pace the whole time but the last mile I pushed myself to kick it into high gear and busted out a 9:34 mile 5!

Friday was a rest day! I spent it shopping with my mom and resting up (fighting a cold, grrr) before my BIG run, my last long run of marathon training!

Saturday was the biggest day yet of my running career, no big deal. Not only did I run 22 miles, my newest distance PR, but those miles put me at over 1000 for the year! That wasn't something I had set out to do, but it was a pretty cool milestone to reach. I ran 14 miles alone before meeting my dad and training buddy to finish the last 8. Having them there was a huge help. I felt pretty good for most of the run, but I started to lose some steam around mile 18. I remember being about 17.5 miles in and actually saying out loud, "It's been over 3 hours, what's another 45 minutes?" Turns out...it was a lot. 19 miles in, I was hurting pretty badly, mentally and physically. I got a little pep talk from my peeps, cried it out for a few seconds, and kept going. I posted a picture the night before my run, just a simple picture that said, "You are going to be great. Keep going." That was the mantra I adopted for this run, and I kept going back to it when things got tough. Once I got to mile 20 I was actually starting to feel a little better, at least mentally. Physically, I'm not sure if the movement I was making could still be considered "running," but I know that my feet were off the ground and somehow I was moving forward, so I guess it counts. I had to slow down during these miles but I never walked or stopped. At mile 21 I actually started to pick it up a little. I think it's more mental than physical, but no matter if I'm running 5 miles or 20, once I get to that last mile and can see the light at the end of the tunnel, I tend to suddenly get a little pep in my step. I actually hit 22 miles a little earlier than I had planned, and since I technically wasn't at the "finish line" (the sidewalk in front of my house - it's where I finish all my runs, I don't stop until I get to that point) I just kept on trucking. I turned on my power song and with every block I crossed, I kicked it into higher gear. I ended up running an extra .2 miles and Garmin tells me my pace for that last .2 was 8:46! Overall pace for the run was 10:41, not too shabby! That's actually about 10 seconds per mile faster than I ran my 20-miler. I would be very, very pleased to run that pace in 3 weeks. This run was not easy, but other than wanting to stop and chop off my left leg starting at around mile 19, I am really happy and pleasantly surprised with how it went.

Sunday I did some strength training in my new home gym! I have been working out at home for almost a year now and my workout space has been less than ideal. I have a mat, some dumbbells, and a little corner in living room. It's all I've really needed, but I will admit it's been pretty limiting. My sweet, romantic husband took it upon himself to upgrade some of my equipment and help me expand my space as part of my Christmas present!

This is our spare room and has always been our catch-all room. It's our ferret/cat room, craft/home improvement project room, but mostly our junk room. We did some major rearranging and overhaul of our furniture and are in the process of turning this room into a room we can actually use. The animals will still live there, but I actually have a place to set up my sewing machine and craft area now. Its main use will be for working out, though. We have plans to put in a TV and some display areas for my medals and retired shoes. I can't wait to get it all set up! 
After I finished working out, I rested for a little bit then did yoga. I don't know if it was because of the run, the lifting, or the fact that it had been 2 weeks since I had done yoga, but my legs felt awful. I think it was good for me to do anyway, though. 

And now...I have arrived in Taper Town! 

High Five For Friday + The Big One

It's been a while...the day after my last post, my husband and I went to New York for 4 days, and things have not slowed down since!

I'm linking up today for High Five For Friday! Some of the things I am loving this week...

1. Christmas! Let's just go ahead and get that out of the way, because obviously it's at the top of the list. I got some running/triathlon goodies, and this may possibly be the best one (for my marathon in, oh, only 22 days!)

2. Running buddies! I think I've run more with others than alone in the past couple of weeks, which is unusual for me but much appreciated! I have really come to realize recently that, while I really do love running alone and need that time to myself, having a friend or two can really make the miles zoom by.

3. Our trip to New York. I am working on the world's longest recap of anything ever, but for now here are some highlights of our trip.

4. Weeds. So like 2 weeks ago I was obsessed with Scandal...then I had no episodes of Scandal left to watch and it was on to the next round of binge-watching. Weeds has been in our queue for years but I had never watched it until last week sometime. I'm not AS obsessed as I was with Scandal, but it's keeping me entertained. I rarely watch TV but when I do, it's because I'm on break and can host my own TV marathons.

5. Running. I know I already mentioned running, but this is different. I've been struggling with some serious indifference to running lately and going back and forth between loving and hating it. After my run on Sunday, I actually contemplated throwing in the towel on the whole thing. But then, a Christmas miracle...I had hoped to run in between opening presents at our house and going to my parents' house...didn't happen. Then I was hoping the new Garmin we got my dad would sway him into running with me after we ate...didn't happen. Instead I spent 5 merry miles running my normal route, alone, at dusk, and it was AMAZING! It was mentally and physically the best run I've had in quite some time. Whether it means I'm getting my running mojo back or not, who knows, but I will celebrate any good run at this point!

That leads me to...The Big One, aka my last long run before the marathon. I am running 20-22 miles, 14 alone then meeting my dad and a friend for the last 6-8. To say that I am feeling tired and worn out and overwhelmed at this point is a huge understatement. I am. Everything hurts. I'm exhausted. Every day there's a new pain somewhere that I didn't even know pain could exist. And yet, I just keep pushing. Because as hard as it is to keep going, I know in my heart it would feel so much worse to quit. I said I thought about dropping out of the race, and I was serious. Not for long, but I was. I told my husband, and he told me what I needed to hear: how disappointed I'd be in myself if I didn't follow through. I am not a quitter. I do not give up. Propositum tene, that's my motto.
(I don't have it tattooed on my wrist for nothin'!)
I've been thinking a lot lately, reflecting on everything I've done and accomplished this year, and it is A LOT. I have been so busy just DOING things this year, always working, always striving for the next thing, always pushing, checking goals off my lists and immediately making new ones, that I haven't really taken a step back to stop and look at all my hard work. Not to toot my own horn, but I'm astounded I was able to do even half the things I did this year, and a big part of that was preparing for this marathon. Now it's the day before my last long run. After tomorrow, I can punch my card to taper town. Making this training plan in June, I don't know if I ever really thought about this moment. Every run, I wonder how I'll get through it. But the most important thing I've learned? I will. I may not know how, but I will. Six months ago I didn't know how I'd get through training for my first Olympic tri, or how I'd get through the race itself. I didn't know how I'd run 4 more half marathons, and more than that on a weekly basis. I really didn't. But I've done it, just by putting one foot in front of the other. I'm not quite there yet, but I am so, SO close. All I have to do is keep going.

It's The Final Countdown!

Getting there, anyway. As of today, there is exactly ONE MONTH left before my first marathon. I can't even believe it! I have been thinking about, planning for, and training for this for months. I can't believe that 30 days from now, I will be a marathoner!

Today I celebrated with a 9 mile run, and by creating a goal on Runkeeper of the miles I have left on my road to 26.2. I've already run an incredible 350.2 miles since starting my 18-week training plan, and 572.82 total if you also include my training since this summer when I decided to make Charleston my first marathon.

I have 143.2 miles left to go (well, minus 9 from today) and RK gave me a fun chart to track my progress!

The idea here is that hopefully having a visual of what's left will help me push through some of the mental barriers. When I get to race day, I want to see the finish line not just as the finish like of 26.2, but as the finish line of all the miles and all the hard work I've put in leading up to that day.  I know there's some saying or quote somewhere about how the race is the victory lap, and that's what I want my marathon to be. My victory lap, my celebration of all the miles that got me there.

Weekly Workouts 12/9-12/15

Whoops...a few days late, but better late than never? Sure, let's go with that...

I started feeling like myself again last week, and my workouts were back on track. I felt like I had shaken whatever yucky funk feeling I got and was able to actually enjoy my workouts! I finished my last exam on Tuesday, so having the weight of school lifted off my shoulders definitely helped. I had a little reduction in mileage during the week due to my BIG run on Saturday! Overall I am quite pleased with my week.

I started out Monday with 5 miles after finishing my final calculus exam!!! The weather was still cold and dreary, but I got those miles done anyway!

Tuesday I took a break from studying for my chemistry exam to hop on the trainer for an hour. I did the same spin class I've been doing the past few weeks, while watching an episode of Scandal. I was supposed to do a core workout later but ended up pushing it back in my schedule so I could go out and celebrate being done with my first semester back in college!

Wednesday was my first day of winter break, and I took full advantage by getting in my run before it was even close to getting dark outside! Woohoo! It was nice to only have 5 easy miles on the schedule today (there's some marathon training perspective for ya). Later in the evening I did a 20-minute core workout, then about 15 minutes of random yoga - working on my forearm stand, and a few minutes of relaxing poses before bed.

Thursday I had a running buddy, yay - my dad! It's always nice to have unexpected company since I run alone ~99% of the time. He took off work a couple hours early and we ran my 5-mile route. He is recovering from a torn Achilles so I had to slow my pace a little bit for him. It was probably a good thing for me to dial back a little bit, though. We had another gorgeous day today, and I managed to take this selfie mid-run, so I'd say it was a pretty successful run!

Friday, my precious off day, oh how I love you!

Saturday I was up early...not even bright and early, more like dark and early...for the biggest day of my running life: my first 20-miler. I had previously run a 17 and an 18, but 20 still seemed like it might as well have been twice what I'd ever run before. Something about getting into a double-digit distance with a 2 on the front just seemed too hardcore for me. I (slowly, but successfully) ran every single one of my scheduled 20 miles! I was too exhausted afterward to really appreciate what I had just one, but it has really sunk in since, and I can't even believe it really happened!

Sunday I was supposed to do some strength training, but I knew that after the torture I put my quads through on Saturday, working out was probably going to do more harm than good. I still did Yoga for Runners <3 in the evening. I'm sure it was good for me, but my legs felt like lead!

This week I have a stepback in mileage, with "only" 14 miles on the schedule for my long run. However, tomorrow I'm leavin' on a jet plane (just kidding...I'm actually leaving in my Prius) to go to New York City for a long weekend with my husband. I can't wait to share all the fun things we do there, including something really cool that I've got planned for my long run on Sunday!

First 20 Miler + Santa Claus Shuffle 5k Recap

Today was quite the day! Today I completed my last race of 2013, my last race before my marathon, and my 3rd race where I ran to the start line. In even bigger news, I successfully completed my first 20-mile training run. That's 2-0, TWENTY, people!!!

The Santa Claus Shuffle 5k is a race that takes place right in my backyard, and most of the course covers my normal running route. My dad runs it with a group from work. I ran it for the first time last year, and at first when he asked me to join again, I was on the fence. I knew I had my first 20-miler scheduled for the same day, and didn't think I could do both. Then I realized I was going to be running this morning no matter what - I could either run all 20 miles alone, or run 17 alone and run the final 3 with friends. When I thought about it that way, the choice was obvious!

Generally speaking, the 20-mile run is the pinnacle of most marathon training plans. I was not comfortable only hitting this distance once before the big day, so I have actually modified my training plan to include a 22-miler as my longest before the race. Still, getting up to 20 miles is a pretty big deal. I knew I'd make it through, but I will admit I was pretty intimidated by the thought.

My morning was thankfully pretty seamless, and I was able to head out the door only a few minutes behind schedule. My plan was to run 17 miles, right up to the start line, leaving as little time as possible in between the two. I left the house at 5:50am to make a 9:00am start time.

Just about to head out on my first 20-miler, no big deal
It is still very dark at 5:50am! The first mile flew by, as it usually does, but I was surprised to see that I was only running an 11:00 minute mile. While I'm (mostly) fine with this, I did feel some pressure because I knew I had a deadline to make. At that pace, I would have just enough time to finish my miles before the race.

Since it was so dark out, I asked my husband to come along for the first few miles of run. I wasn't expecting him so soon, but he came pedaling up on his bike at just over a mile in. I was trying to be extra safe, so I didn't listen to my headphones for the first 2 miles of the run. Then I turned on a marathon training podcast, and that's what I listened to for the majority of the run.

It was so early and dark that the Christmas lights on the boardwalk were still lit up!
The first podcast was pretty short, so then I turned on one from a few months ago about Kona. I forgot what podcast it was, but the hosts were British so I enjoyed listening to their accents and their funny British terms for a while. I think that got me through 6 or 7 miles. At 6.67 miles I was 1/3 of the way through and I felt pretty good. I "only" had about 10 miles to go until the start of the race. I was monitoring my time, still running around 11:00 min/mi, putting me right on target to be at the race at 9.

At 7.5 miles in it was light enough and I was in a safe enough area that my husband went on home. I made it to mile 8, then 9, and by then I was heading back toward our little area of town. I had already mapped out my route the night before, so all I had to do was keep going on that route. There were a few times that I thought, "Well yeah, but I could go this way and get X miles..." but I made myself stick to the course.

I got to mile 10, halfway!!! Getting through the first half of any distance is so hard for me mentally, so crossing the halfway point always feels so good. My route has me zig zagging up and down a lot of the same streets, but in different directions, so I'm actually never really more than half a mile or so from my house at any given point. When I got to 10.8 I thought, "Okay, just a 10k left to the start line, then 5k to finish." Then I got through another 5k and it was, "Just 5k left to the start, and 5k to finish." Around that time I got a text from a friend asking where we were meeting up before the race, and not 20 seconds after I read the text, I saw him running toward the coffee shop I was about to pass. I said hi and told him I had to keep going and that I'd see him at the race. At that point I had 2/3 down, 1/3 to go!

The hardest part of the whole day was the last 5k before the actual 5k race, from miles 14-17. I was just ready to be done running at that point, I don't know how else to put it. I didn't quite hit a wall, but I came close. The only thing keeping me going was that I had come so far, it would be stupid to give up now. I could see people everywhere walking to the start of the race, and I just wanted to get to that part already. The distance was starting to overwhelm me. I got to mile 15 and 5 miles didn't seem too bad, until I realized I'd been running for almost 3 hours and still had over 50 minutes to go. I stopped focusing on how much I had left to get through 20, and just how much I had left to get to 17. I thought I'd figure out the last 5k once I got to that point.

I made it to mile 16, and with less than a mile left I could see the crowd lined up down the street waiting for the race to start. That definitely gave me a boost, knowing I was in the home stretch to make it there and that I'd be done soon. Before I knew it, I was turning a corner and running toward the start line. I watched the numbers on my GPS keep climbing, and then I was at 17 miles and saw my dad and our friend waiting for me as the race was about to start. I stopped for a couple minutes - long enough to take a picture and put on my race bib, which I had been carrying in my belt all morning. I'm not sure how long I was actually stopped, maybe 3-5 minutes at the most. I know that I got there right at 8:58ish so it couldn't have been too long.

Pretty soon I was off and running again! The start was pretty congested, but since I wasn't trying to break any records, it really didn't bother me. We started out running a pace I could quickly tell I wasn't going to be able to sustained, so I had to slow it down a little bit. My dad ran with me the whole way, even though he could have easily blown past me. It was nice having him there to talk to. I had my music on but barely listened to it the whole time. During those last 3 miles, I was SO glad I had chosen to run this race. It definitely gave me a boost of energy to be around other runners after running alone for 3 hours. Those last 3 miles could have easily been a miserable experience if I were still running alone, but instead I was able to run them with no problem. I was excited to be done, but I never got the feeling of "Ughhh is this over yet?!" like I had around mile 15. The second half of the course is part of my weekday running route, so I was really on autopilot by that point. Before I knew it I only had half a mile left to finish my first 20-mile run!

19.5 miles in, still smiling!
With a quarter mile left and the finish line in sight, I started to pick up the pace. I actually felt quite strong at that point - it was only for a few seconds, but I really dug in and ran strong to finish the last .1. I was actually surprised by how strong I felt! I felt pretty good passing people at the end, knowing I had been running nonstop since before 6am! I crossed the line (I took off ahead of my dad, haha!), stopped my watch, high-fived a friend, and then turned around to see my dad right behind me.

Some fun facts about the race...I knew the pace we were running was faster than I had been running alone (again, great decision to run this race...that wouldn't have happened otherwise, I'm sure of it), but I had no idea what that pace was. When I checked my results, it turns out I ran 31:18 for the race (10:06 pace). Last year I ran 31:40 (10:13 pace). How about that?! I wasn't trying to PR either year, but beating last year's time on fresh legs, by 22 seconds, with this year's tired legs? I'll take it! 

One of the biggest things that surprised me about today? No crying! I had a couple cry moments on my first 15-miler, and maybe one or two on my 17. But 18? 20? Nope, nada. I guess in some way I am more confident than I think I am that I will be able to accomplish these crazy runs. Not to diminish the accomplishment of running 20 freakin' miles (kind of a big deal), but I really think deep down in my heart, I knew I'd complete this goal today. So as crazy and unbelievable as it is, in some ways it's totally believable. Somewhere inside I was certain that this would happen for me today. And it did. And I've got the proof (from a new, correctly-functioning watch) to prove it!

Surf n Santa 10 Miler Recap

I've run a lot of races (28 if you're keeping score), but I haven't done too many multiple times. This was my second year running the Surf n Santa 10 Miler in Virginia Beach, and it could not have been more different than last year!

I started off the day with a first for me - I drove myself to the race! Before this, my dad has either picked me up since he usually runs them too, or my husband goes with me. This was my first time flying solo! I left well before the start of the race since I wasn't sure about parking, and I had a 3 mile warmup to do before the race started.

I had no issue finding parking and ended up being about 40 minutes earlier than I needed to be. It was a nasty, rainy day so I immediately went and dropped off a bag at the dry gear check. I hung out in the lobby of the convention center for about 15 minutes and did some stretching before hitting the port-a-potty and heading out for my 3 miles. The kids' run was just about to start when I was ready to go. I made a last minute decision to head back to my car really quick and dump the windbreaker I had on, which I think turned out to be the best decision.

I headed toward the beach, down the same road that the first near-mile of the course would take me. I saw a lot of people walking toward the start line and, to be honest, felt like a mega dork for running before the race. Instead of making a turn off that road though, like the course does, I kept going straight until I hit the boardwalk and then I ran north down the boardwalk. Holy wind, batman! The wind was blowing directly into my face - luckily I only had about half a mile before I got to turn around and head the other direction. I got to the start line with about 2 or 3 minutes to spare. I said hi to a friend in a higher corral and made my way to my corral.
The race started with both 5kers and 10-milers running the same 3-mile loop together. We ran down 19th street and made a couple turns to get down to Atlantic Avenue. I felt like the first couple miles totally flew by. We ran north on Atlantic Avenue for a few blocks before making our way onto the boardwalk. 

The first loop ended with us heading back toward the convention center, where we started. The 5kers split off to finish and we kept going before turning around and again heading back toward the oceanfront. I hadn't realized last year how much of the same terrain this course has. Not that I mind, in my opinion that can make the course feel shorter than it actually is. 

This time we ran south, all the way to 2nd street, where we again picked up on the boardwalk. And this time we ran allllll the way to the end (35 blocks, or ~2.5 miles). The wind was still blowing directly in our faces. My strategy was to put my head down and keep moving forward! For a couple minutes I talked to a woman who had also run the Richmond Half Marathon (she noticed my shirt), but other than that I just focused on putting one foot in front of the other. Luckily it wasn't raining at this point, just cold and windy. The race was appropriately named for the weather today - we definitely had some surf going on!
Looks pleasant out there, no?

While on the boardwalk we hit Mile 7 (Mile 10 on my Garmin), and while I was glad to be getting close to being finished, I wasn't counting down the minutes or anything. I felt pretty good throughout the whole race and was surprised to see my pace steadily dropping - I figured surely something was wrong with my brand new watch. It eventually got down to 9:40 and I just knew that couldn't be right!

Soon after we got off the boardwalk we got to Mile 8, only a couple miles left to go! It wasn't long before we turned back down 19th street and hit Mile 9. I hadn't really been worried about running fast (I was actually already running faster than I planned or thought I could), but with a mile left I started to kick it into gear. With less than half a mile left, two guys I had been playing back and forth with for a lot of the race passed me, and I was not about to let them beat me! One of the guys went ahead, at a pace I knew I couldn't sustain, so I decided to let him go but I knew I could still beat the 2nd guy. I passed him, and I guess the other guy couldn't keep up his pace either because I ended up catching and passing him with ~.2 miles left to go. Yes! Victory was mine! I rounded a corner and headed toward the finish line, not in a full on sprint but definitely at a quick clip.
That's my "Haha I totally beat those guys!!!" face
Turns out...the joke was actually on me. The finish line is actually inside, and it couldn't have been more than a few seconds after I hit the carpet, almost at the finish line, that those two guys came zooming past me in a full out sprint. I was laughing to myself as I crossed the finish line. It was a pretty funny ending to the whole thing. 

This is my "Yeah, totally just killed 13 miles in cold, wind, and rain, no big deal!" face
Now for the numbers...one of the best things about my new Garmin is that all my data immediately uploaded wirelessly to my phone, and was just waiting for me to look at when I got out of the finisher's chute! My time for all 13.23 miles I logged was 2:06:41 (9:35 pace). Garmin tells me I spent about 5 minutes in between runs waiting for the race to start, so adding that in puts me at 2:11:09 total time (9:55 - my current HM PR pace). Official 10-miler time was 1:36:11 (9:37 pace), which is 9 minutes faster than my time from last year. About half of my splits were negative, my slowest mile was 9:57 (none over 10:00 woohoo!) and my last mile was my fastest - I somehow managed to bust out an 8:44 mile!

After I finished I met up with a couple friends to enjoy the post-race festivities! Let's just say I may have enjoyed them a little too much, and my being by myself may have backfired...we'll leave it at that.

One of the best parts of any J&A race is the swag, and Surf n Santa did not disappoint! The race shirt is actually a SUPER adorable cotton hoodie tee - probably my favorite race tee of all time. I love the design, and the style of shirt is totally up my alley. It's not something I would want to wear to actually run in, but considering that my collection of running shirts is growing faster than I can wear them all, I'm not even a little disappointed by that.

And what's a race without some bling? J&A medals always double as a bottle opener. I've never actually used it for that function, but it's a nice touch!

Despite the crappy weather, there is really nowhere else I'd rather have been on this cold, rainy December morning. Thanks for another great race, J&A! This was the 7th I've done (and I did all 5 this year, which means I will get some sort of special surprise item!) and don't see myself stopping anytime soon!

Weekly Workouts 12/2 - 12/8

I'm having a really hard time believing that it's already December and that the days are flying by so fast! This was a tough week for me. I had a lot going on and just didn't have the heart that I usually put into my workouts.

I was in some sort of funk on Monday. I think a big part of it was that my left ankle started bothering me after my 18-miler on Sunday and it still hurt to walk on Monday. Not a good sign! I wasn't sure if I should run as planned, or swap my days and cross train instead. When I got home from class it was gorgeous out, and I just couldn't resist the opportunity to run! Unfortunately, it didn't end up being rainbows and unicorns like I thought. My legs were tired, every part of my legs ached...in retrospect I probably should have taken a day off from running. Live, learn, and move on...

Tuesday was cross training. I spent about an hour on the indoor trainer doing a spin class on YouTube (and watching Scandal), and later in the evening I did some strength training. I think it was like 9pm by the time I got to the weights and I wasn't feel it at first, but I'm glad I did it. Easy doesn't get results, people!!!
My new obsession and arch nemesis...I'll let you decide which one you think is which!

Wednesday was a mid-distance run at 8 miles. I am SO glad that this was my last long-for-a-weekday run after school. I was exhausted, had 2 exams to study for, and just wasn't feeling it, to be honest! I was honestly shocked that I ended up with an average pace of 10:11 min/mi. The way I was feeling I might as well have been running 8 minute miles! I was almost in tears multiple times and I ended this run feeling completely defeated.

My run on Thursday was a tiny bit better...not much, but a little. I spent the first 20 minutes standing outside like an idiot trying to get my Nike+ Sportwatch to sync and tweeting NikeSupport about how to fix it. I finally got the GPS synced up (but not the shoe sensor) and was on my way. When I finished I was just happy to be done with running for the week. And later that night I was so fed up with Nike that I went and replaced my old watch with my shiny new Garmin Forerunner 220!

I had a much-needed rest day from working out and from school scheduled for Friday, and I took full advantage! I slept in and lounged around my house for a bit, both rare occurrences! I did have one class to go to at 2pm, but it ended early and then I went to have coffee with a friend before picking up my packet for the race on Saturday.

Saturday I woke up bright and early to run my 13 miles for the day - 3 miles of warmup before earning this baby at the Surf n Santa 10 miler in Virginia Beach. Race recap coming soon!

Sunday I again let myself sleep in. The only things on my workout schedule were strength training and yoga. Before my workouts I headed to the mall to pick up some new bras. The one awesome thing I have learned about marathon training? Losing weight despite treating my body like a garbage can. The not-so-awesome part? The fact that the weight is coming off of my (already-non-existent) boobs. Womp womp. I have a small ribcage which makes finding bras really hard in the first place, and it turns out I've now gone done to an almost-impossible-to-find size of 30DD. I didn't even know this was a thing before yesterday. Thankfully I was able to find a bra in that size that worked for me and promptly picked up almost every color it comes in. I procrastinated a little bit and finally got to my workout before dinner. I completed the last workout for this cycle of my strength training program, and later in the evening I did Yoga for Runners. I felt much better during it than I have the past several weeks. I even worked a little bit on my forearm stand, something I wanted to get down over the summer but didn't work on as much as I planned. I WILL get it someday!

Andddd that was my week! 

November Recap

I can't believe we are already 3 days into December! I am really looking forward to this month - for one, I finish classes in one week and will be free to really focus on my marathon training! I am also inexplicably REALLY excited about the upcoming holiday season. I really hope this month doesn't fly by too fast.

November was a GREAT month for me, and since I didn't really blog about it, I did want to hit some of the highlights.

On the 3rd I ran the City of Oaks Half Marathon in Raleigh, NC, where my sister- and brother-in-law live. I had only been to Raleigh once before this and was blown away by how beautiful the course was! It was a perfect fall day, with multi-colored leaves in view on the whole run. It was great. The only downside was that it was HILLY! I have run maybe....6 total miles of runs with hills, ever. That was my experience with them. I had no idea to expect them on this course (didn't do my homework I guess), so I was definitely caught off guard. I had a head cold and was honestly unsure how this run was going to go, and if I'd even be able to finish. Despite these things, I had an amazing run and felt (mostly) great, and ended the day with a new half marathon PR - 2:09:59 - and a distance PR of 14.22 miles. I wasn't trying for a PR at all and was shocked that I had done it. It's only a PR by 15 seconds, but when I set my previous goal, I had REALLY wanted to be under 2:10 and I came up a little short. I actually got teary when I saw my results and realized that I had finally made that sub-2:10 I had been searching for. I was on top of the world!

The next weekend, I had previously planned to run the Outer Banks Half Marathon, but ultimately decided against it since I knew I'd already be traveling 3 weekends this month. I ended up finding myself there anyway, since some friends invited my husband and I to their beach house for the weekend. We headed down on Saturday after my long run - a new PR of 15 miles! - and spent Saturday and Sunday there. The OBX Marathon and Half Marathon were being held on Sunday and, while I planned to go out and watch the race...when the time came, sleep was more enticing. However, later in the day we were out and drove along a little bit of the course, when I saw the last marathoner. She had just reached the halfway checkpoint, over 3.5 hours into the race, and the cop car was following right behind her. I cannot express the emotions I felt watching this woman. She was visibly struggling just to walk - it didn't take me long to figure out that she was in for a long second half of the race and was in danger of not even finishing for her. My heart ached for her in a way I think only we runners can ache for each other. Our friends commented on how at that point they'd just give up, and my heart sank at the thought. I emphatically disagreed with them. For the rest of the day, my thoughts kept coming back to her, and they still do sometimes when I run. Everywhere we went after that (especially restaurants!) there were runners still decked out in their marathon bibs and medals, and all I could think about was how I can't wait to join their ranks!

The following weekend I was on the road again, this time to my other sister-in-law's in Richmond for the Richmond Half Marathon, my 6th ever and last for the year. I headed to the expo on Friday night to pick up my packet and was so impressed! I love an awesome expo, and it had been a while since I'd been to one. The official merchandise was great - I picked up a shirt that says "2013.1" My goal for this year was to conquer 13.1 and I really feel like I did it, and wanted to commemorate that, so the shirt was perfect! I was also able to pick up a "Virginia is for Runners" shirt, which I have been eyeing for a while, from my favorite tech tee company. The race itself was also great. I was expecting hills, but they weren't nearly as rough as City of Oaks. I started off the race feeling kind of rough. It took about 5 miles for my brain and legs to get in sync, and after that I felt amazing. The miles seriously flew by and before I knew it I was in the home stretch, running downhill (yes!!!), and then crossing the finish line. I honestly don't know that I've ever been so happy in a race before! Even though I knew I didn't PR (nor was I trying to - thankfully my accidental PR at City of Oaks really took off the pressure for that), I still finished in 2:12:15, only a couple minutes off my PR. And with that race, I officially qualified for Half Fanatics! It was a great race and I was so, so happy to feel like I spent all year battling the half marathon, and I totally won.

A couple days after the Richmond Half Marathon, these beauties were released:

Now, I'm not one to get excited about medals, but this was pretty exciting for me. Seeing the medal I'll get when I cross the finish line of my FIRST MARATHON was big. And, as if I needed another sign that Charleston needs to be my first, what is on the medal but the (New) Cooper River Bridge?! This bridge is a Chucktown icon and is part of the reason why I'm in school to be a future bridge-builder. True story. Running helped give me the confidence to go after this dream and there is nothing the race directors could have put on that medal for it to be more special to me.

The next weekend was finally a weekend at home, and I spent it running a new distance PR of 17 miles. SEVENTEEN! Even though it was quite an eventful run, with an emergency Hardee's pit stop and trying to rescue a stray dog from getting hit in traffic, I ran it a little bit faster than my 15-mile run 2 weeks before it.

The last week of November was Thanksgiving, and what a holiday it turned out to be. Going out of town to the middle of the mountains turned out to be just what I needed. I felt refreshed and like a load had been lifted off my shoulders. I had a great time running our own turkey trot with my dad, hitting up a legit Christmas tree farm, and spending time with my family.

In terms of running, November was my best month yet with 125 miles total and my highest week (36 miles). I can't wait to see what December brings!