Training for Tuesday: Training in the New Year

Well, it happened again. This little linkup has only been in existence since September and this is the second time that I've planned all month for one post, then completely flipped the script when it came time to actually write it. I will say that I'm still training for Rock n Roll DC and Shamrock in March, but what my training over the next few months will look like remains to be seen. I'd share if I knew for sure, but honestly, I don't.


In lieu of a real update on my training, let's talk general training for the new year. It's just about that time when we all vow to do amazing things and to be the best versions of ourselves, or at least to try for a few weeks or months. We start out with the best intentions, but maybe we set our sights too high or didn't have a good game plan to start with and so inevitably all those aspirations start to fade away. I'm totally guilty of doing the same thing, but if there's one thing I've managed to get the hang of, it's a consistent fitness routine.

I've consistently run 4x per week for the last 2.5 years. I could probably count on one hand, maybe two, the number of runs I've missed since the summer of 2012. It's a habit now. It's as routine as brushing my teeth in the morning or doing my laundry. It's just a thing I do - rain or shine, busy or not, tired or not. It took me a while to develop a strong sense of dedication that ultimately led me here. It definitely wasn't an overnight process, but over time, it happened. I think a lot of people crave that kind of consistency but just don't see how they could possibly get there, so today I want to share a few things that helped me along my journey.

Prioritize. Figure out what your fitness goal really is. Do you want to start running? Want to try a different sport, like cycling or swimming (or combine them all and do triathlon)? Maybe you want to start practicing yoga or get into Crossfit. Maybe you want to do all of those things! While each is beneficial and they can complement each other, you probably have one that interests you most. I recommend picking one or two big things to focus on and using whatever else you might want to try as secondary activities.

Be realistic. If you've never run a day in your life and you want to complete a marathon this year, I would say that's not realistic. Sure, people have done it, and it's certainly not impossible (although I think they're asking for injury and/or disappointment). But just because something might not be totally impossible doesn't make it a great idea. Be realistic about your abilities, your time, your dedication, and your life outside of fitness. Understand the commitment that whatever you want to work toward will require, and be honest with yourself if you're willing to put in the work. It's not a big deal if you're not, but if you don't admit that to yourself up front, you're probably going to end up unnecessarily disappointed and no one wants that.

Se a concrete goal. Find a goal race you want to run. A swimming or biking distance you want to hit. A yoga pose you want to master. A weight lifting benchmark. Whatever it is, make it specific (just make sure you allow yourself at least a few months to work toward it). I didn't start running regularly and consistently until I trained for my first half marathon. That date was always in the back of my mind, and the finish line occupied my thoughts on almost every training run. Just having something you know you're working toward does wonders to make it more tangible and help you remember what the point of all your hard work is.

Schedule your workouts. I like to be pretty structured in accounting for my time, and I understand that not everyone works that way, but hear me out. I found that having a few months worth of workouts planned (via a training plan) helped me see the big picture and keep my long-term goals in mind. After following a few training cycles to the T, working out 6 days a week became second nature to me. It may take a while to establish that routine, but if you stick with it, you'll get there. Need help putting a plan together? Lucky for you, the Internet is chock full of them - I started running by following this Couch to 5k program (I seriously can't say enough good things about it and owe it all the credit in the world for turning me from a non-runner to a runner), and Hal Higdon has been my main man for half and full marathon training. Even though I have no formal training in this area to speak of, I am full of anecdotal expertise and enthusiasm for running and scheduling and am happy to share plans that have worked for me if you drop me a line!

Treat your workouts like an appointment. If I had to pick one piece of advice that has been most beneficial to me, it would be this one. You wouldn't just bail on an important doctor appointment because it's raining, right? Well then don't bail on your training. If you wait for the perfect time to complete your workout, you won't get much done. I can come up with a million excuses not to work out, but I avoid giving in by not giving myself the option to skip them. Sometimes it means shuffling days around, but once I've scheduled a workout for a certain day and time (based on how my week is going to be), I try to stick to it. 

Never give up on something you can't go a day without thinking about. This isn't even close to a concrete piece of advice that you can easily implement, but it's just as important. I know we all have goals and things we all want to achieve, but we also all have these things called lives. Families. Jobs. Friends. Other hobbies. Things that in no way contribute to or serve our fitness goals. It's good and important to have balance, but it's also easy to let these other things cause us to lose sight of our goals. Ultimately we are the only ones who can make those goals and dreams come true. If it's really important, it will be on your mind; if it's on your mind, go out and make it happen. One of my favorite quotes is, "Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway." This time next year, 2015 will have come and gone whether you achieved your goal or not. Do you want to look back and wish you had done it, or do you want to look back and be proud that you did it?

What goal are you going to rock in 2015? How are you going to get there? Link up and share 'em!

Sunday Sweats [12/22-12/28]

Monday: I was all jazzed about officially beginning training for my spring races, only to have a completely unspectacular run. Later that night I hopped on the trainer for an episode of RHOBH (this is how I bribe myself to ride my bike now).

Tuesday: Woke up early to get my workout in before we left town, since I knew that would be my only opportunity. About halfway through the workout I realized I had forgotten to move up in weight for one of the exercises, and by the end I realized that I was actually supposed to move up for all of the exercises. Can you tell I don't normally work out at 6am?

Wednesday: Another run I was super pumped for, since we were at home and I got to run in Portsmouth! Except it was WAY warm (70*, and the only bottoms I brought were long pants), WAY windy, misty, and overall just disgusting. I felt soggy the gross the whole time - definitely not the welcome home run I was looking forward to. I felt good for the first minute and then horrible pretty much every second after. First 3 miles were 8:01, 7:54, 8:22, so not bad...but then I was tired and my stomach hurt and I wanted to just quit and sit on the sea wall and look at the water and think about how I didn't want to push myself anymore and I wanted to throw in the towel on a 1:45 half and be happy with my 1:49 and not even do Shamrock at all. Six walk breaks and 2 miles at 9:58 and 9:35 later, I finally finished the 5 miles I had scheduled.

Thursday: I was determined to have the run I wanted so I gave myself permission for my run to be whatever it was going to be that day. I told myself to think less and do more. I ran where my parents live, down a wooded road to the main boulevard home to chain restaurants and a shopping mall. The scenery was entirely unremarkable, but it didn't matter. Changing my attitude made all the difference.

Friday: Rest day. Ben and I went to breakfast, shopping, lunch, the movies, and had Christmas with his family so there wouldn't have been time to work out even if I had wanted to.

Saturday: Up early again to get in my long run before we left to go back to Blacksburg. I ran some of my old marathon training route and it was nearly perfect. The map looks crazy because of all of my back-and-forth and zig-zagging - I love and miss that. I think I hit just about every street in Olde Towne. The first 10 miles felt pretty great, but by that point I was really regretting not bringing any fluids or food with me to refuel. My legs were starting to feel tired and heavy and it was a bit of a mental struggle to get through the last 2 miles, probably due to lack of energy more than anything.

Sunday: I figured out the BEST way to pass time on the trainer: playing Threes on my phone. That hour flew by! Pumped my tires beforehand, and I don't know how this makes any sense, but I really do seem to ride better on full tires, even on the trainer. Did NROLFW afterward in between prepping dinner and cooking dinner.

- Running fast was hard.
- Zero yoga was done.

+ I think I may have had a breakthrough this week about my race plans for the spring…although I can't be sure and am afraid to share lest I get burned. I need to give it some time before I know if it's real or not.
+ My long run was so great!

Goals for the Week:
  • Cross my fingers that Princeton doesn't open before I head to NJ in 12 days (!!!), but register if it does ;)
  • Figure out a time of day that works for me for running. I think that may be contributing to some of the luckiness I've been feeling.
  • Decide whether I want to run a 5k on New Years…and, if I do end up doing it, PR the shit out of it.

Sunday Sweats [12/15-12/21]

This was a weird week for me, since we traveled home just for the night at the beginning of the week, and I had exams all week, and I think it showed in my workouts. I had a rough beginning of the week but by the end I started to feel like myself and got some quality workouts in! Nothing earth-shattering, but a step in the right direction, I think.

Monday: Had to get up early to get my run in. I was tired and it was really cold and I didn't want to do it, but eventually I forced myself out the door. My legs didn't feel like they were moving that well and it wasn't a very great run, but I'm glad I got it done.

Tuesday: We didn't get back into town until after 5pm and then we had dinner to make, Christmas gifts to wrap, and decorations to put up, so I didn't get to my workout until after 8:30. Like Monday's run, it wasn't great, but I was glad to get it done.

Wednesday: This run was a bit better than Monday's, but not by much. I had planned to do my 4 miles and then get Bane for a 5th, but by the end of the 4th mile I was back home and tired and I had a cramp so I just quit. It was going okay for the first few miles (all around 8:00, +/- 5 seconds) but by the 4th one (8:34) I was just done.

Thursday: After Wednesday I was so mad at myself for not getting through my full run and for not taking Bane all week that on Thursday I made sure I ran a full 5 miles by myself and then picked up Bane for 1 more. The 5 miles were decent. I didn't push the pace but it still felt harden than it should have. I got on the trainer for 30 minutes later in the evening and had a much more pleasant experience than I have been lately! I turned the resistance down some - I'm not sure if I'm just a wimp or if somehow it got turned up really high, but either way it felt a lot better after I turned it down :)

Friday: Rest day! I did take Bane for a 1+ mile walk, but other than that, I did nothing.

Saturday: Rode my bike on the trainer for 45 minutes. Since I had already done 30 minutes on Thursday I didn't feel any pressure to get in a full hour, so I watched an episode of Real Housewives then rode a couple more minutes to round out a solid 45-minute session.

Sunday: Up early for 8 solo miles then 2 more with Bane. My goal was to establish a baseline for my long runs since I start half marathon training tomorrow. I wanted to find where my comfortable pace was, where I could run without feeling fatigue in my legs or my breathing labored. Since the semester is now over and most students have headed home for break, it was oddly quiet and desolate this morning, but it was also peaceful and I kind of loved it. I felt like I could have run forever! Running with Bane was a different story - apparently we needed to pee and sniff on EVERYTHING today. It was frustrating but in all honesty, as much as I want to teach him to calm down, I think he's teaching me the same thing.

- I'm pretty disappointed with how my weekday runs went this week. None of them were particularly fast or good-feeling. I never thought I would see a day when I was upset I only ran at an 8:15-8:30 pace but friends, the day is here.
- No sub-8's this week…unless that one mile 7:56 mile split I had counts…? Yeah I didn't think so.
- This is the second weekend in a row that I didn't get to run in one of my favorite races at home. Pretty bummed about it :(
- I definitely did not do as much yoga as I wanted to

+ I did 40 (out of 65) minutes of a yoga headstand class I have been meaning to do for a few weeks.
+ I got in 2 bike rides. Neither of them was very long but I did ride more total this week than I have in a while.
+ I did not want to kill myself or anyone else at any point while on the trainer this week!

Goals for the week:
  • Start my Rock n Roll/Shamrock half marathon training! I have kind of an insane goal that I'm not entirely sure is going to pan out, but I'm ready to train my little heart out regardless. It's been a while since I really put my heart into a training plan, so I'm apprehensive but excited.
  • Enjoy my Portsmouth runs. After my meltdown this week I'm pretty stoked that I get to do 3 out of my 4 runs this weekend in Ptown!
  • Bike 2x
  • Register for Princeton 70.3 (???). Registration has been supposed to open "soon" for like 2.5 weeks now, so no telling if this will be the week or not. At this point I'm kind of hoping it continues to be delayed so that maybe I'll be able to see the course first when I visit Alyssa in a few weeks, but I'm not holding my breath. I've never registered for a race this far in advance, or registered for this big of a race without at least knowing a little bit of the course first, but I know I'll be so mad at myself if I miss my chance and it sells out. I'm so nervous about registering now, but if I have to do it before I'm really ready to make sure that I get a spot, then so be it. 

Runners Tell All: 2014 Reflections & 2015 Goals

Well, this is it. The end of the road, so to speak, for 2014. I started blogging around this time last year and have linked up for Runners Tell All almost every month (a million thanks to Amanda and Beka for hosting!). I've talked about how and why I started running, my favorite running gear, going through a rough spot, my favorite running picture, my proudest running moment, my training tips, my race bucket listmy biggest running fans and finally, today, I'm looking back on my year of running (and ahead to what's next on my list).

By the numbers:
1120* = total miles run
177* = number of hours spent running
9:28 = average pace for the year
0 = number of injuries!
15 = finish lines crossed
4 = number of states I ran or raced in (Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, New York)
1 = number of back-to-back race challenges completed
2 = number of new races (full marathon and duathlon)
3 = number of sub-2 hour half marathons I ran (plus 1 more if you count unofficial)
8:25 =  my fastest mile at the beginning of the year / 7:29 = my fastest mile by the end of the year
27:39 = my 5k PR at the beginning of the year / 23:59 = my 5k PR at the end of the year
57:00 = my 10k PR at the beginning of the year / 49:20 = my 10k PR at the end of the year
2:09:59 = my half marathon PR at the beginning of the year / 1:49:34 = my half marathon PR at the end of the year
4:48:59 = finishing time at my first marathon
63.5 = lowest monthly mileage (April) / 122.4 = highest monthly mileage (February), 121.9 = close second (September)
*projected - there are still 10 days of December left!

This year of running was a lot of up and down (and I'm not just talking about the fact that I started running hills for the first time ever): I finished my first full marathon feeling like the champion of the world (or Wonder Woman, as it were), then the marathon turned right back around and humbled me; the half marathon put me in my place, but I later beat. the. shit. out of it; I got intimidated and dropped out of two big races, but doing so led me to some big(ger?) things that had never been on my radar until they happened.

This was a transformational year for me. It was my biggest year of running yet, not just because of the numbers up there, but because I finally felt like I got the hang of running. This was the first time I really ever pushed myself. I learned to run hard and to take risks. My attitude toward running majorly suffered after I moved, but the times I've put up since then make it hard to deny that moving has done anything other than good things for my running. Just as soon as I finally made it to a place where running felt comfortable, even easy, I was pulled out of my comfort zone and running was suddenly harder than ever before. I'm not proud of my bad attitude about my new surroundings; it's something I'm still working through. But through all of my struggles, both physical and mental, running has made me a fighter.

Years from now I probably won't remember how fast (or not) I ran in Charleston during my first marathon, or what time my dad and I crossed the finish line, holding hands, at his first marathon, or how long I stood shivering in the cold rain after the Hokie Half Marathon waiting to see Ben finish his first 13.1, or what pace I was trying to hold in Richmond. What I will remember are those experiences. I'm fortunate to have had them, and even more fortunate to be able to start a new year with legs that are able to carry me however far I ask them to.

2015 Goal: Complete a Half-Ironman.

That's it. One goal for this year. I've been wanting to do this since I started triathlon in 2013, talking about it since last year, and I'm ready to make good on it in 2015. I have my goal race all picked out and I'm ready to sign up as soon as registration opens. I'm excited, doubtful, nervous, and hopeful. I hope I'm ready for what awaits me in September.

Since my main goal for 2015 is the 70.3, I know that in order to accomplish it, I need to make it my focus. First and foremost, that means taking the marathon completely off the table for 2015. While I had a really successful 2014, I think I put way too much on my plate and I don't want to risk burning myself out again. I do have a secondary goal for 2015, and that's to run a 1:45 half marathon in March. It's enough of a dream goal that it's definitely going to take some work, but realistic enough that the training (which officially starts tomorrow!) won't be drastically different from how I would run otherwise. I plan to train for it and do my best, but if it doesn't happen, I can live with that.

I need to treat it the same way I treated my first marathon, with visions of the finish line my head during every training session. I need to eat, sleep, and breathe that race. I know from experience that fully committing to this race is what will make not only the race itself, but also my training, a positive, successful experience. As impressive as the second half of my year was, I have a hard time being proud of it because I don't like the attitude I had at the time. So, maybe that's my big goal for 2015: to be the athlete I want to be, mentally and physically. To get my head right. Then hopefully my legs will follow.  

Sunday Sweats [12/8 - 12/14]

Monday: Ran 5k by myself and hit that sub-8 @ 7:56 average…and then I didn't think I had any energy left to take Bane, but after I got home and regrouped for a minute I decided it wouldn't kill me to take him out for less than a mile. We did our .8ish mile loop @ 9:30 average.

Tuesday: NROLFW Stage 1 Workout A-2 (seriously that is so much to type). I could tell a huge difference already, this felt so much easier than last week!

Wednesday: Ah, one of those good-for-the-soul runs! I made a conscious effort to run at a comfortable pace - amazing what a difference just 10 or 15 seconds per miles makes. I ran 4+ alone before getting Bane for our loop. He did really well today! I mean, he did try to jump on 3 people but there was that one time we passed a couple walking the trail and he didn't even lunge at them. Go, B!

Thursday: Ran the same pace as Wednesday and felt pretty good. Picked up Bane after my 3.28 @ 8:07 and then ran .85 with him at 8:59. He ran so well today!

Friday: Rest day.

Saturday: I was excited to get back to my Saturday long run routine for the first time in…a couple months, I think…until my alarm went off Saturday morning. I focused on running slower than last week so I wouldn't crash and burn at the first hill (and I didn't, so yay), but I do wish I had been able to run faster and feel better about it (so boo). I also felt like toast when I got back to the house to pick up Bane after 6.8 miles, so that's no good either. I have 14 weeks until my goal half so plenty of time to get my pace down, I'm just frustrated running fast, far, and on hills don't seem to mix very well!

Sunday: An hour on the trainer (slower than last week) and then NROLFW Stage 1 Workout 2-B.

+I started feeling like I was getting my legs back this week. I really didn't expect that week at home to make the hills feel so much harder when I got back. I did have to slow my pace a little to get comfortable, but I hope once I get used to them again I'll start speeding up more.
+I held crow for like 2.5 seconds!

-I did not do as much yoga as I would have liked. I think I did some Monday and Tuesday, and that was it until Sunday.
-I HATE being on the trainer. Absolutely loathe it. I don't know what it is but I can't stand to sit there and pedal for more than 10 minutes, if I'm lucky, before I have to stop just to…I don't even know what. Wallow in self-pity and boredom? I just hate it and find it so boring and uncomfortable and when I struggle to make it through 5 minutes nonstop I start to seriously question and doubt my ability to ever be able to ride 56 miles.
-I didn't get to sign up for Princeton 70.3 because registration still hasn't opened (I think they are still working on getting permits, from what I heard)…but maybe that's a good thing? Haha!

Goals for this week:
Run a little longer/farther with Bane
Get on my bike 2x

This is my last week before my official Rock n Roll/Shamrock training starts next week! It's going to be a little crazy as I have an exam tomorrow morning, then we're going home (5 hour drive) immediately after for Ben's company's holiday party, then coming back on Tuesday and I have more exams on Wednesday. But I'm hoping that the semester ending at the end of the week will give me a nice (albeit) short break and leave me ready to start a new training plan and my winter class!

Sunday Sweats [12/1 - 12/7]

I don't normally post on Sundays, but this week I'm starting something new and joining Holly for Sunday Sweats!

This was a busy school week for me so my mood was pretty crappy, which didn't really help me in the workout department. Overall I just didn't feel that great.

Monday: Not-so-easy 5k. Didn't push the pace but it was still hard to keep a comfortable 8:20 pace. On the bright side, my mile splits were near perfect: 8:21, 8:22, 8:20. 

Tuesday: Started New Rules of Lifting for Women for the 3rd time. It's been a year and a half, I think, since the last time I did it (not even sure if I finished the 2nd time around tbh). I've hardly been doing strength training at all the last 6 months. Confirmed what I already knew: I've lost basically all my core strength. My core needs major work!

Wednesday: 4 miles at a comfortable(ish) pace. I actually hated this run until the last .8 because that's when I picked up Bane for his first day of training! He did so great!

Thursday: 2.4 miles alone before picking up Bane for a total of 3.2. He did the same as yesterday until we got about a quarter mile from the house and he saw another dog. He went berserk and I didn't know what to do except stop and walk him past the other dog.

Friday: Rest day!

Saturday: I really want to get back to Saturday long runs but it just wasn't happening this week. The weather was nasty all day Saturday so I traded my run for a ride on the trainer. It was a boring hour but on the bright side, by the time I got off all my Christmas gifts had been ordered!

Sunday: I couldn't decide what I wanted to do for a long run this week (5 miles? 10? 7?) so I decided I'd run for about an hour then pick up Bane for my last mile. For some stupid reason I started out with a 7:52 first mile, and that pace felt okay until I hit my first big hill at mile 2 and then it was definitely not okay. I walked a little up that hill...and some other hills...but on the plus side I ran hard the rest of the time, if that makes sense. I don't know what it is, I'm perfectly capable of running up the hills but I just don't want to anymore. It makes my chest feel yucky more than it hurts my legs. I ended up with 6.65 miles at 8:30 and then Bane and I did 1.35 at around 10:00 (his having to pee on everything and chase other dogs don't really help in the speed department). All around not as fast as I would have liked, but I'll admit it's kind of nice having no pressure and not feeling guilty if I can't quite keep the pace I want.

After dinner I did the NROLFW B workout for this week.

Lots of yoga this week! A lot for me anyway. I've been trying to make sure I do something at least every other day. I think this week I only missed Wednesday, and even though I didn't do much on Friday, I did practice crow for a few minutes.

It's been hard getting used to mountain running again after a week at the beach. My pace has slowed a little bit but I hope with some work I can get where I want to be (about 10 to 20 seconds faster than I'm averaging now).

Goals for this week:
Practice crow!
Average sub-8 on a run
Bike for an hour without stopping every 5 minutes to complain about how bored I am
Register for Princeton 70.3 (if it finally opens and/or if I can get over my self-doubt on the bike)?

Training for Tuesday: Planning My Off-Season

I made it to the end of my 2014 races! Finally! If you think you've been listening to my training forever, just think how I feel.

I kid, I kid.

Kind of.

After the Richmond Half Marathon nine days ago, a truly great year of running came to a close. I'll do a 2014 running by the numbers recap at the end of next month, but y'all, I don't think I could have dreamed of a better year. It was absolutely the best year of my (short) running career. I accomplished far more than I ever planned and far exceeded any and all expectations I had for myself this year. I have a couple more small races lined up before the year is really over, but those will be more for fun than anything (although, for the record, I wouldn't say no to another PR...). But besides those, all the big ones are behind me, putting me now in my off-season.

I use the term "off-season" pretty loosely here, since it will only be about a month long. That's because I already have a a goal race lined up for March 2015 (which all five of you who actually read this already know):

Rock 'n' Roll USA half marathon in DC!

I'm super excited about this one, but it will be bittersweet because it means I won't be able to run Shamrock that weekend, which was my first half in 2012, second half in 2013, and last year I completed the Whale Challenge, my first time running back-to-back races: 8k on Saturday, full marathon (my second) on Sunday. Since Shamrock is local and I always have friends running it, it's become a staple in my running calendar.
The good news is that I think the benefits of RnR will outweigh Shamrock. It will be my first RnR series race, my first time running DC, AND (the best part), it's going to be a blogger race party with Alyssa, Becky, and Erin (to name a few). I could not be more excited!!! But, it's not quite time to start hardcore training yet, which leaves me with about a month to get my body rested up but still ready for another training cycle. I know December is a hard month to stay on track, but I want to do my best so that I'm as prepared as possible when I start training again. Here's what I'm thinking for the interim period before RnR training starts:

Continue to run 4x a week. I've miraculously managed this schedule for the last couple years, and that's my running happy place. I don't want to hold myself to a strict mileage goal, but I would like to keep my base by running 15-20ish miles a week. I don't think I'll do any specific speed workouts, but I'll probably keep my weekday runs the same (3-5 miles each) and do a long run of 7-10 miles on the weekend.

Keep short runs to ~8:00 per mile (or under), and long runs sub-9:00. My biggest fear is that I'll somehow regress and lose all the speed I've built up. I've put in so much work over the last year and I hope to keep getting faster, so maintaining my speed is really important to me. 

Cycle once a week. I just got on my bike last week for the first time since Giant Acorn Oly in September. Although cycling outside probably isn't going to happen, I have no reason not to hop on the trainer for an hour a week. Cycling is such great cross training and a habit I need to get back into. 

Get back in a strength training routine. I have made so many excuses for why I've let weightlifting fall by the wayside, but I'm ready to change that. Specifically, I'm thinking of doing the New Rules for Women program again. I know I asked this before, but would anyone be interested in a review of the program as I go through it?

So that's my game plan for the next 4 or 5 weeks before the real fun begins! How's your training going? Are you enjoying your off-season or gearing up for your next race? Grab a button, link up, and share!


My Running Fans

I'm linking up today for Runners Tell All, and this month may be my favorite topic yet. I had one person in particular that I planned to talk about today, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized I'm lucky enough to have several people I'd consider my biggest running fans. So, lucky for you, today you get to hear about all of them!

First up is all of my fellow running friends. I'm a solo runner in my daily endeavors but I love being a part of the running community. I have friends I've made through running that I never would have otherwise met for myriad reasons. Some live in other places, some are nearly twice my age, some I've never even met in real life, but forging these unlikely friendships has impacted my life in a way I couldn't have anticipated. We might run different distances or paces, but at the end of the day, runners are a very we're-in-this-together kind of crew. There are some runs I wouldn't have made it through without these people's pep talks or encouraging texts. There have been some races that have felt like utter failure, until I get a high-five from a running friend who also suffered through it. Some are new friends, others have been there since the beginning. They inspire me and motivate me. I'm so grateful and proud to know these people not only as runners, but as friends.

Next is my original running partner in crime: Ben. When I got a wild hair and wanted to start the Couch to 5k program in 2011, Ben didn't really want to do it with me. But he did it anyway. Truthfully, 100% honest, no bullshit here: if he hadn't, I'd probably still be on the couch. I don't think I could have done it on my own, not in the beginning. Trying to run was scary for me. I had never been successful at it before and I was so terrified of failure, but having him there to support me even when I struggled gave me hope that I could succeed.  Ben is the best person to have on my side because he's biggest believer that if you put your mind to it, you can do it. When we ran our first 10k, I ran so slowly that he physically couldn't match my pace, but he stayed back with me and helped me through it anyway. After that race I kept up with running and he didn't, but he still gets up and drives me to races, cheers me on while I run, and is always waiting for me at every finish line, happy to celebrate each accomplishment with me. He's recently started running more races with me (although, after 3 halfs in the last 5 weeks, he swears he's going into retirement). I think we both prefer him waiting at the finish line, ready for me to jump into his arms and cry (either sad or happy tears, depending on how the race went).

And finally, really my #1 running fan if I had to pick just one: my dad. I have a great dad, and growing up, I assumed everyone had a great dad. It wasn't until I got to be an adult that I realized how fortunate I was, and that not everyone has the kind of dad I have. My dad coached a lot of my sports teams growing up, so we always had athletics in common, but he coached me through more than just softball. My dad taught me to push myself, and that a little hard work never hurt anybody. He never gives up on me and he never lets me give up on myself.

My dad is the reason I ever entertained the idea of running in the first place. He has always been an athletic guy but not a runner until 7 or 8 years ago. In his late 40s he joined a gym and starting running local races. I wasn't living locally at the time so I only heard about his experiences secondhand, and I didn't really get it. I couldn't figure out how he could be so happy doing something so boring. I remember him posting a watch picture on Facebook from his first sub-2 half and I asked, "You're HAPPY you ran for 2 hours?!" Like I said, I really didn't get it. A few months later I moved back home and found myself needing an answer to the post-grad "What do I do now?!", so I thought maybe I'd try running. Not because I had ever been even decent at it (in fact, I had historically been very, very bad at it) but because I figured if my dad could do it, surely I could too? And the rest, as they say, is history. We don't get to run together a lot, especially now that I've moved, but we do most of the same races. He ran my very first (very slow) half marathon with me, and crossing the finish line and then having him place my medal around my neck and tearfully tell me, "You earned it." will forever be one of my Top 5 Tearjerker Moments.

Another spot on that list goes to the time 2 years later when we finished his first marathon together, hand-in-hand. But before we got to the finish line, I was seriously struggling. Thankfully, my dad was there to coach me through it, in a way that only he could have. He knows just what to say to make me feel like I can do it while simultaneously pissing me off enough for me to get my shit together. As much as my dad is my hero, I think he'd say the same thing about me. He's always been my biggest cheerleader and my #1 fan, and the proudest moments of my life are the moments I knew I made my dad proud.

Demand More From Your Body

I used to have a really great spin instructor, back when I went to the Y and went to spin class. She was a little intense but also super nice and fun. She'd always crank up the music during tough parts of the class and she would yell things at us to keep us going, so we wouldn't give up, so we'd hang on just a little longer. The things she said always resonated with me, but none more so than this:

That class was almost 2 years ago. I was training for a big PR at my second half marathon, and I was willing to push myself as hard as I needed to get there. I thought I really got what she was saying, but I really didn't fully understand it until this weekend during the Richmond Half Marathon. 

I know I've been harping on this for like 2 months now, but this was finally, FINALLY my last big race of this year. A year bookended by two big races: my first marathon in January, and my (hopefully) first sub-2 half in November. If you've been paying any attention here lately you know that I actually hit that sub-2 not once but twice over the last month. Still, I hoped to go out with a bang at my last big race of 2014 in Richmond. I didn't have a specific goal in mind other than another sub-2 (I like to think of it as the Triple Crown). I had some other goals in mind, none that I was willing to admit out loud, none that even came to me until the day before the race. Here's the thing: I think my days of being married to a time goal are over. I've run a lot of races with a very specific time in mind. I used to spend a whole training cycle, leading up to one race, trying to reach a certain goal. I've achieved some and blown others. It's been a long time since I trained for a specific time, and I kind of prefer it this way. It's hard banking all that training on one day. It's a lot of pressure. I didn't train for any particular time for Richmond and I waited until right before the race started to entertain the thought of any goal times for the day.

As we stood shivering in the porta-potty line on Saturday, I was talking to Ben about how weird it is that I don't really get nervous for races anymore. I'm sure it's a combination of things, not the least of which is that I've stood at a couple starting lines in my day. I wholeheartedly believe that one of the best cures for race anxiety is simply to race more often. But another contender for the top spot is something I've only managed to start doing recently: trust my body. I used to race by the mantra "Trust your training," which was great for when I had been following a strict training plan, but that hasn't been the case lately. Don't get me wrong, I've been training, but not for anything in particular. I've been training for everything and nothing at the same time. So when I lined up on Saturday, "Trust your body" seemed more accurate and more appropriate. 

The morning of the race was cold, so cold, freezing actually. Starting temps were 28*, making this one of the coldest races I've ever run. I tend to do better in less-than-perfect weather (as long as it's of the cold and/or rain variety, not the heat and/or humidity variety), so I hadn't resigned myself to a less-than-stellar race like I think a lot of people had. The beginning of the course was easier than I remembered from last year. The first few miles were more or less flat and all I could think was that I was finally getting my reward for all the tough hills I've been running. I knew from almost the beginning that a sub-2 was pretty much guaranteed, and after a few miles, so was a PR. I started out fast but in control. Like I said, I hadn't committed to any time goals, but I did have 1:50 in the back of my head. I had already looked it up, just for funsies, and found out I needed to average 8:21 to pull it off. So starting after 5 miles, when my average pace was at 8:15, all I could see was the number 4. As in, come hell or high water, the number that came after the 1: on my finish time would be a 4. 

That was that. It was decided. And that's when I thought about what my old spin instructor had said. Demand more of your body. It will give it to you. I hadn't thought about that in a long time, but all of a sudden it popped in my head and became my mantra through the rest of the race. And, oh, the rest of the race. If the beginning was easier than I remembered, the rest was harder. There were hills where I didn't remember there being hills (not even close to Hokie Half or City of Oaks level, but still not easy). There were long straightaways that maybe could have used a small hill or two to break up the monotony. There were a couple sizable hills and my average pace dropped by a couple seconds but not enough to throw me off target. By mile 9 I was starting to get tired, and right before mile 10 I walked a water stop and got a drink. I walked another one and got another drink right before mile 11 and I watched my average pace go up to 8:22, just over where I needed it to be for 1:50.

This is not the first time I've gotten to mile 11 and had now-or-never choice to make: are you going to give up and just miss your goal, or are you going to keep going and finish this thing? I thought some more about what my spin instructor had said. And about what a friend texted me the night before the race: "Remember lay it all out on the line!! this is what you train for!!" That was the same friend who jokingly-but-not-jokingly suggested I go for sub-50 at the Wicked 10k a few weeks ago, his words, "Leave it all on the course" echoing through my mind and carrying me to the finish line that day. So once again, I let his words and my spin teacher's words carry me through to the end of this race.

I knew I had a big downhill coming at the end, so I just needed to do the work until then and then I could let gravity take over. I felt a little bit like I was running in slow motion at that point. I got to mile 12 and I just remember thinking, "Only 8 more minutes." Eight more minutes and this big, awesome, intense, crazy, rewarding, humbling, triumphant year of racing would come to an end. I ran my heart out this year, and I wasn't about to stop with only 8 minutes left. I knew I had to give it all I had, to finish strong. There were a few turns during mile 12, which was nice after a lot of the course running straight down one road for a mile or two at a time. I remembered that part of the course from last year and once I got to where I knew I only had a half mile left, getting really close to that downhill, I started booking.

I finally made the turn to see the long, steep downhill to the finish! I didn't know at that point if I would be just under or just over 1:50, but I knew I had given it all I had and that was all I could do. I took that downhill aggressively, looking at my watch frequently. Once the 13 mile marker was in sight, I had about 2 minutes to get to the finish, and that's when I knew I had it. The finish is very, very steep so as much as I was trying to push my pace, I was also trying to reign it in to make sure I didn't trip and fall on my face. Running downhill is harder than it sounds! 


I crossed the finish line and immediately checked my watch (duh). It read 1:49:34 (later official time was actually 1 second slower, SORRY I LIED ON INSTAGRAM). I know I sound like a broken record saying that I never, ever in my life dreamed I'd run ________ (fill in the blank with my most recent PR), but a 1:4X:XX half marathon is something I never even thought about until Saturday (for those of you keeping score at home, I've now taken 52 minutes 46 seconds off my first half 2.5 years ago - bet you can guess what my ultimate goal is ;)). Still, crossing that finish line, I wasn't totally surprised that I did it. I knew from 1/3 of the way into the race that I'd finish with a 1:4X:XX time, but it still wasn't a guarantee. I got it because I demanded it (and also because of that big ass downhill at the end...gotta give credit where credit is due). I'm still getting used to being able to trust my body, to know that it will give me what I demand of it.  I spent so much of my 3.5 running years not being sure what I could ask of it, not being able to trust it, being surprised and overwhelmed and crying tears of joy every time it actually did what I wanted it to do. It feels strange to all of a sudden know that I control my body, my body doesn't control me. Strange, but awesome. I can't think of a feeling I'd rather have to end my 2014 racing year.

City of Oaks Half Marathon Recap

This was my second year running the City of Oaks half marathon. Last year I learned that I don't have any clue about running hills. This year I learned that I still know nothing about running hills. Remember when I thought that, of my 3 halfs this fall, the Hokie Half would be the hilliest? Well, let me just tell you: that was incorrect.

Top: Hokie Half. Bottom: City of Oaks Half. I know the scales are different BUT STILL.
Until 3 weeks ago, last year's City of Oaks was my half marathon PR: 2:09:59. I was super ecstatic about that time last year, because I got in under 2:10, which had been my goal at a race earlier that year. And I did it despite having a head cold, running a mile before the race started (had to get in 14 miles total for marathon training), and never having run hills before (and there were plenty).

When I lined up at the starting line this year, again I wasn't expecting a particularly great race. My weekday runs last week all felt terrible. After two big PRs recently, I was tired. I knew I wasn't in mental or physical shape to run a hard race, so I had asked Ben earlier in the week if he wanted me to run with him and/or pace him. He said he did but he didn't have an exact goal, so we planned on finishing anywhere between 2:00 and 2:10, depending on how we felt.

The first few miles were mostly downhill, which was nice at the time, but I made sure to warn Ben that that was going to be the easiest part of the race. We ran them faster than I think either of us expected to, but we both felt good so we kept it up.  The 2:00 pacer was well ahead of us, which made me feel bad for all the people following him because he went out way faster than I think I would have wanted to if that were my goal. Miles 1-3 were 8:52, 8:46, 8:57.

Right at the mile 4 marker we started a pretty big climb, and it was up and down for a long time after that. The next few miles took us through a little bit of downtown Raleigh before we headed to a more residential area. At some point we caught up to the 2:00 pacer, and we played back and forth with that group for the rest of the race. All I could think about for the first half of the race was how amazing it would be for me and Ben to finish together, AND to finish under 2 hours. I had been keeping tabs on our pace the whole time and was sure we'd be able to do it with at least a minute or two to spare. Miles 4-7 were 8:57, 8:56, 8:48, 9:08. I don't know what happened to make us slow down during mile 7, but overall I was really surprised by our consistency!

Soon after that we passed the 10k finish line and relay exchange, which was great because there were a lot of people out cheering. But right after that we hit a HUGE hill, and then another really big, long hill after it. Essentially, 7.5-8.5 was a huge climb (and of course it was up, down, up, down even after that). We turned a corner and I distinctly remembered it as being the one where I developed my "What goes up must come down" mantra that I kept repeating to myself through the end of last year's race. That mile really took it out of me. I might have just been a little fatigued since I hadn't eaten anything since before the race, and I wasn't convinced my stomach would play nice if I tried to eat my raisins mid-race. Whatever it was, I was getting tired. There was another long climb from 9.5-10.5, not nearly as big as the previous one, but a climb nonetheless. At some point along that hill, I was really done. I was pretty sure I'd still finish under 2 hours, but I didn't want to chance it for Ben so I told him to go ahead without me. There had been a couple times that I wanted to walk before that and didn't, but I was done with hills at that point. It really wasn't that bad, but I just wasn't in the mood to kill myself that day. I took a walk break and almost immediately I got passed by the 2-hour pacer right as the hill crested (I'm glad I knew he was way ahead of schedule!), and I heard him say that that was the last big hill.  I didn't want to walk too much because I knew I'd be mad at myself if I came that far and didn't get a sub-2, so I ran enough to keep my average pace at 9:00 or below. I walked a water station to get some Gatorade and water in hopes it would give me enough of a boost until the end. Miles 8-11 were 8:53, 9:07, 8:58, 9:53.

When we got to the mile 11 marker, we made a turn to separate from the marathoners. It was about a half mile in one direction, then we'd turn around and run straight to the finish line. I remember this part being really awful last year, I think because it was a little hotter that day, but it wasn't so bad this year. I got to the turnaround and before I knew it, I was in the home stretch. I was thankful when I turned around and realized the wind was at our back, and my pace did pick back up for the last couple miles. When I got to the mile 12 marker I was right around 1:49:00 on my watch, so all I needed to do was maintain a 10:00 pace for the last 1.1 miles to get in under 2 hours (if you've ever wondered how I don't get bored running long distance, it's because I spend at least 50% of the time doing mental math). Even though there were some hills on that last stretch, they weren't nearly as bad as I remembered, and the last mile was mostly downhill.

Before I knew it I was running by the NC State campus toward the finish. There were a lot of people out at that point and I kept scanning to see if I could find my sister-in-law, brother-in-law, and friend who were there. I passed the mile 13 marker and kicked into high gear to cross my 41st finish line. Ben ended up finishing only 50 seconds ahead of me, which made me glad I didn't really lose much time with my walk breaks. I'm actually happy I took them because it made the finish much easier, and I had an awesome kick right at the end.  Miles 12 and 13 were 8:53 and 8:30, and the last .1 was 7:03.

Of all the things I thought would never happen in my running career, running not one but TWO half marathons with this dude would probably be #1.
And, with that, my 9th half marathon was in the books! At 1:58:20 it wasn't my fastest, but I think I can live with that ;)

AND! I got to meet Lisa after the race! I knew she was running but we weren't able to coordinate before the race, so I was super excited when I was standing around after the race and heard my name and turned around to see her! I didn't introduce her to family because I didn't want to have to tell them about this here blog, and later when my sister-in-law asked me how I knew her, I responded, "The Internet." I'm really smooth like that. Anyway. This was her first half and she finished in 2:14, on that crazy course no less. How amazing is that?! Only in my dreams would I have had any shot of finishing my first half in that time. You go, Lisa. Now if only we can get Alyssa in on that City of Oaks action next year...

I have to say, I signed up for this race mostly because I remembered how beautiful and quintessentially fall I thought the course was last year, but it didn't impress me as much this year. Not because it wasn't beautiful (it was!), but because all the fall foliage wasn't so novel for me this year. Since I no longer live at the beach and now live in an area that, honestly, looks pretty similar to Raleigh (i.e. it's like a mountainous fall wonderland every day), the course just didn't strike me the same way. It was still a really pretty race, and the weather was perfect for running (maybe a little chilly for those North Carolinians, but I was into it). It was well-organized, the swag was nice, and the post-race activities were great. I really have nothing but good things to say about this race and hope to be back again next year! I don't know what it is about the City of Oaks but I seem to do some of my best running there, even when it feels unlikely.

Crazy 8s: Hokie Half Marathon Recap

Linking up for Runners Tell All today! I'm kind of cheating because today's prompt is "Most Memorable Running Moment" but I don't have a most memorable running memory. I used to, but I don't anymore. I thought I always would. The first time I ran a mile, my first race, my first half marathon, my first marathon....surely, those would always reign supreme over any other future running memories I'd make. But 3 1/2 years after I first laced up, with 40 races completed and over 2500 miles logged, I have way more running memories than I could ever even count, let alone classify and rank.

But isn't that the beauty of running? There's always something new to celebrate. New memories to be made. Goals that were once never-in-a-million years are now daily occurrences. I don't put any one of these memories on a pedestal anymore. Instead, I keep them all, like adding photos to an album that I can thumb through from time to time. Mentally going through them all still brings me back to whatever feeling made them memorable in the first place - in that respect, they're all the most memorable. Even though I'm not sharing the highlight of my running career, I am sharing a highlight of my running career. I've made enough of these memories by now to know to cherish them while I can - because a new one is right around the corner. 


When the morning of October 12 rolled around, I was nervous but pumped. I didn't really have a reason to be nervous - it was my 8th half marathon and I didn't have a set goal time in mind - but I still was. Maybe because it was my husband's first half and since he doesn't get nervous about running, ever, I made sure to be nervous for him.

A little background on this race: it's in my college town, which I recently moved back to (5 years post-grad) to re-attend my alma mater, Virginia Tech. I was basically the anti-runner when I went to college here the first time, so being here again but being a runner this time is still strange but awesome. I heard about this race last year after its inaugural run and told my husband I wanted to come do it this year. Little did I know we'd be living here this year and have no reason not to do it! I even got my husband on board - or rather, the Hokie finisher's medal and maroon and orange swag did (I dare you to find a Hokie who isn't obsessed with all things in that color combination). He had only run a handful of 5ks and 10ks but after years of telling me after a half, "I bet I could do that," he was finally going to put his money where his mouth is.

All week there had been chances of showers on race morning, which just kept increasing the closer we got to race day. When we woke up it was steadily raining and we thought, "Maybe it will die off by the time the race starts." Then we checked the radar.

The rain wasn't going anywhere.

So, armed with rain jackets and ponchos, we made our way to the start. We parked and had to take a shuttle to the start line, and we made it there just in time to hear Enter Sandman playing up ahead (but not in time to participate in the pre-race jumping). By the time we actually took off, the race had already been underway for six minutes. I asked Ben if he wanted me to run with him, and he replied that he wouldn't mind but he also didn't need me to. He knew I was hoping for a much faster finish than he was planning on, so I told him I loved him and was proud of him and went on my way.

Schoenfelds do the Hokie Half!
(Side note: pouring rain = no official race photos, so all you get are the few iPhone pics I managed to take before and after)

So I said I didn't have a set time goal for this race, but that doesn't mean I didn't have a goal at all. Last month I shifted my training focus from a full marathon to 3 half marathons this fall, my goals for which were:
  • Realistic Goal: beat my official PR (under 2:09:59)
  • Reach Goal: under 2:00:00
  • Crazy Goals:
    • Sub-9 minute pace (under 1:57:46)
    • 45 minutes faster than my first half (under 1:57:21)
The Hokie Half is the hilliest race in my lineup, and for that reason alone I wasn't sure how feasible those goals would be. I was pretty sure I had a PR in the bag, simply because I've run 13+ mile distances probably 8 or 10 times in the last couple months and have finished all of them faster than my PR. Still, you never know what will happen on race day. As for the other goals, I didn't want to rule out the sub-2, but because of said hills, I didn't want to bank on it either. My loose goal was to get as close to 2 hours as possible. 

The first few miles were nothing special. We ran from the outskirts of the VT campus down Main Street to the neighboring town of Christiansburg, home to the area's chain restaurants and big box stores. It had been raining since the start so my focus was just on powering through. I don't know what got into me, but I was jacked up, y'all. I felt great. I was eating hills for breakfast while rain streamed down my face and I loved it. I passed so many people (probably because I started so late but don't tell my ego that). Every time I saw a hill in the distance I thought, "Oh no..." but then I'd run up it like it was nothing. I kept an eye on my time and after a mile or two I felt confident I could go sub-2, but it was still really early in the race and I've had a tendency in the past to feel too good too early only to fall apart in the end. My splits for miles 1-4 were 8:59, 8:29, 8:29, 8:25. 

We got to the mall parking lot and made the turn into the Huckleberry Trail (the Christiansburg side starts abruptly adjacent to the parking lot which I've always thought was odd). From there we were on the Huckleberry for the next 5.76 miles. It has several rolling hills but it's a slow overall climb back to Blacksburg. There's about 2.5 miles of slight uphill with no downhill breaks, and I thought getting through that would be the hardest part. My miles started to slow slightly as I went uphill and eased into my pace, but I never ran based on the numbers on my watch, I ran based on how I felt. By about 5 miles in I knew I was going to get my sub-2 (like, by a lot), I just needed to keep going. My splits for miles 5-9 were 8:19, 8:47, 8:44, 9:00, 8:52.

We got off the trail and ran through a neighborhood that's adjacent to it for a couple miles while making our way to back to another part of the trail. These were some of the hilliest miles! I couldn't believe it. A couple times we had to run up a hill only to find that there was another one right after it. I wanted to walk a couple times, just for a few seconds, but I toughed it out and before I knew it, the hill would be over. When we got out of the neighborhood we made our way back to the trail with a little over 2 miles left. I remember looking down at my watch at this point and seeing 1:35 elapsed with just over 2 miles to go was crazy! I wasn't able to run quite as fast I had been, and when I go to the mile 12 marker I told myself I just needed to coast through 1 more mile. I definitely slowed through these miles, but they were consistent and kept me on target.  My splits for miles 10-12 were 8:49, 8:45, 8:50.

And finally, it was the last mile. I didn't hit a wall like I usually do. It wasn't easy to keep running, but it wasn't torture either. The hardest part was the last half mile, and with about a quarter mile left my legs really started to feel like they might stop working. We had one last big hill and then a slight incline, and that quarter mile stretch was the hardest part of the whole race. My mile 13 split was 9:02.

Somewhere along the course, after I realized I was definitely going to be under 2 hours and probably under 1:57, I started thinking it would be cool if I ended up with a 15-minute PR, which would have been 1:54:59. I was pretty sure I was going to do it but kept a close eye on my watch when I got close to mile 13. For the last .19 (I always end up with a little extra on my watch due to weaving and whatnot), even though my legs were toast, I gave it all I had at 7:09 pace. When I got to the finish line, I didn't feel relief that it was finally over and I didn't feel as ecstatic about crushing my goal as I thought. Instead I saw the finish line and just thought, "Ah yes, there it is. It's been waiting for me this whole time."

I finished with a watch time of 1:54:52 and the first thing I did was call my dad and tell him! I anxiously awaited my official time to make sure it was really under 1:55, and it was posted later that night: 


That's 15 minutes 9 seconds faster than my PR from last November, and 47 minutes 31 seconds faster than my first half marathon in March 2012. Looking at those numbers still doesn't feel real. The course was challenging and the weather certainly didn't help matters, but I still did it. I've had a 2-hour half on a pedestal for so long and never really knew if I had it in me to get there. Breaking 2:10 was a huge hurdle for me and I didn't know how in the world I could take 10 minutes off my time. Maybe it just wasn't meant to happen before now, before here. I moved to Blacksburg to fulfill a dream I never knew I had, so it seems fitting to accomplish my sub-2 goal here.

But my day didn't end there! As soon as I walked through the finisher's chute I made a U-turn and headed right back toward the finish line to wait for Ben! I tried to track him on my phone but since it was raining (and the rain was just getting harder) I was having a hard time getting the touch screen to work. I checked in on him every now and then and was so excited for him to finish his first half! I know he always knew he could do it, but being able to say, "I can" and "I did" are two different things. I was able to track him well enough to see when he made the final turn to the finish line, and shortly after I saw him come running up! It was a different experience being the one on the sideline cheering him on at the finish. I was SO proud of him! 

But seriously is this boy built to be a runner or what?! I hate him.
After the race we were both so soaked and so wasn't that bad while we were running but I definitely felt it after I stopped. We snapped a few pictures together before heading home for hot showers and dry clothes. Ben was bummed that he didn't get a full post-race experience, and I was too...I guess he'll just have to do another half to make up for it ;)

This is how we were dressed for the entirety of the race. Sometimes attempting to be dry trumps being fashionable. 
I'm so proud of this run, not only because I beat my goal but because I really felt like I ran a smart race. I felt engaged, focused, and dialed in the whole time. I never thought about giving up (at least not more than half second during some of those late hills). I almost always freak out at some point during a half, especially if I'm running faster than normal, but I never did during this race. I felt oddly calm the entire time. I've been running paces in the 8's consistently for the last couple months, but it's only been the last couple weeks that every run has been that pace. I'm still not used to it. I knew I was running paces in the 8's the whole time, but I never let that scare me off or make me back down.  Finally fulfilling an enormous goal AND getting to be the #1 fan for my #1 fan made it one of my favorite races ever.

Training for Tuesday Kickoff!


When Alyssa and I first started talking about this link-up just a few weeks ago, this was not the post I thought I'd be writing. I thought I'd be sharing the ins and outs of training for my 3rd marathon (that's counting in my life, and this year), the Richmond Marathon. I thought I'd be talking about getting up to 18 miles, and how I thought I'd break 4:30.

I've been training for this race since early July. I completely underestimated how much summer training would be involved for a November marathon, but despite that, I've somehow managed to hit all my goal distances and paces. Just meeting this goals hasn't been enough, though. My heart just hasn't been in this training cycle, even from the beginning. Truthfully, it's been a long time coming, but after my long run this past weekend, I made a decision:

I dropped to the half marathon. 

I've been following a training plan but something just hasn't been clicking. I've run half marathon+ distances every weekend for the last 2 months, but to be honest, I've been struggling to get much further past that point. The thought of running another 10+ miles on top of what I've been running every weekend just doesn't sound fun to me right now. Two weekends ago I ran 17 miles, and the weekend after I was supposed to run 18. That's when when the wheels came off. I was already mentally struggling with the idea of my long runs, and that day, thinking about running for 3 hours through the mountains, I just couldn't take it anymore. And I panicked. I've never backed down on a goal halfway through training for it. It felt...wrong. I thought I was just being emotional and I needed to tough it out. I did end up running 3 miles in the morning and another 10 at night, but I wasn't confident about running the full. I told myself I'd take the week to evaluate and make a decision, since I was a week ahead of my training schedule and the race transfer date was approaching.

At the beginning of last week, I was pretty sure I was going to run the full. I had just had a bad run and needed to shake it off. Everyone bonks sometimes. Until 11.5 miles into my 13-mile run last week, I was still planning to run the full. Then, all of a sudden, I had a moment of clarity. I was happy to drop down to the half. There is something really magical and special about the marathon. One thing I am confident about is that I am not done with marathoning. Maybe I'm done with it this year, or this decade, or until I'm done with school, or until I move somewhere flatter, but I'm not done forever. I'm excited to revisit the beast that is the marathon when the time is right - I think I'll know when the time comes. But it's been over a year since the last time I focused on any distance under 26.2, and honestly, I'm kind of happy to get off the marathon train for now.

One thing that was important to Alyssa and me for this linkup was to share that ALL goals are good and worthy, so I felt like it was important to practice what I preach and put this out there. I don't know why, but this was a hard lesson for me to learn. I don't know at what point my brain got hard-wired into thinking the only thing I could do from this point forward is run marathons. To be totally honest with you, I'm still having a little trouble accepting it. I know my heart isn't really into committing to training, but I still felt a little sadness clicking the "Transfer" button. But I know it's the right thing to do. I don't need to run super long distances to feel good or validated. This is better for my schedule. It will allow me to add in speed work and even race some shorter distances. I'll be able to run some of my favorite fall races. I'm excited to have different goals (mainly speedy goals!) to work toward. I'm excited to not be so tired and hungry all the time.  I'm excited to not constantly worry how I can perfectly schedule my time so I can get in all of my runs and my school commitments. I'm excited to have my weekends back and not have them completely revolve around running. I'm excited to have a little more balance in my life.

So! Now that the marathon is off the table, I'm super thrilled to kick off this first edition with Training for Tuesday with the goals I've decided to work on: PR's all around! It has been a year and a half since the last time I trained for and raced a half marathon. I've put in a lot of miles in that time, and that has naturally led me to some unexpected PR's, but I'm excited to see what I can really do if I train specifically for shorter distances.

5k (Goal race: TBD - hopefully November or December. Anyone got a good 5k in southwest VA, Virginia Beach, or Raleigh that I should run?!))
  • Realistic Goal: beat my official PR by over a minute (under 26:00)
  • Reach Goal: beat my unofficial PR (under 25:27)
  • Crazy Goal: sub-8 minute pace (under 24:49) *please note this would require taking 13 seconds per mile off my unofficial time and running a pace with a 7 on the front for the first time in my life!
10k (Goal Race: Wicked 10k, October 25)
  • Realistic Goal: beat my official PR by over a minute (under 54:00)
  • Reach Goal: beat my unofficial PR (under 52:42)
  • Crazy Goal: under 52:00
Half Marathon (Goal Races: Hokie Half, October 12; City of Oaks Half, November 2; Richmond Half, November 15)
  • Realistic Goal: beat my official PR under 2:09:59)
  • Reach Goal: under 2:00:00
  • Crazy Goals:
    • Sub-9 minute pace (under 1:57:46)
    • 45 minutes faster than my first half (under 1:57:21)
I already had two halfs scheduled as part of my marathon training, and now dropping to the half for Richmond gives me a total of three chances to shoot for one or all of my half marathon goals. Those races will also qualify me for Half Fanatics for the second time - maybe I'll even join this time since I might actually feel like it's true. I'm most excited about the half and shooting for my first (official) sub-2. It's been an elusive goal for such a long time and one that I never in a million years thought was attainable (even moreso than a marathon, I think). Even back when I didn't know if I'd ever be able to run a full 5k, let alone any longer distance, I think deep down I always knew I could get through any distance given enough time. That's why I attempted a marathon in the first place - I knew it wouldn't be fast, but I knew I could get it done. Speed has always been another, completely different story. It's why my 10k PR race is one of proudest running moments. As a girl who started out with a 38 minute 5k, there was no part of me that ever though I could be a fast runner (and yes, 8-9 minute miles is fast to me).

Now it's your turn! Party time!

1. Write a blog post about whatever fitness-related goal you're working toward. It can be ANYTHING. No goal is too big or too small. You might write about...
- A race or triathlon you're currently in training for, like Alyssa and I
- Your weightlifting goal of any kind
- Your goal to establish a workout or fitness routine, like hit the gym 3 times a week or start going to weekly yoga classes
- A goal to touch your toes by X date
- Your goal to be able to run a mile without stopping (FYI: It wasn't long ago that Alyssa and I both started out with this as a goal!)
- A time or distance personal record (PR) with running, swimming, biking, anything!
- Your goal to tone those calves and quads
- Headstand, handstand, crow pose, or whatever pose or asana currently alludes you
- Anything else you can think of!
2. Link up your post with Alyssa and I below

3. Add the button to your post or your sidebar and/or link back to either Alyssa or I in your linked
post so your readers can find similar posts and we can all connect!

4. We'd love to create a community of ass-kickers here, so hop around to other linked blogs and read about the goals others in our little family are working toward. A few words of support, advice, encouragement, or even commiseration can go a very long way. Spread the love and build your community of cheerleaders and motivators!

5. Go out there and keep being awesome!

We'll be back for around round on October 28! Check in with us and let us know how you're doing!