Runners Tell All Linkup: Running Gear

It's time for another round of the Runners Tell All Linkup with Amanda @ The Lady Okie and Beka @ Sunshine to the Square Inch!
A lot of people are drawn to running because of its simplistic nature: all you need is a pair of shoes and and open road and you're ready to go!

Unless you're me, and a simple pair of shoes just isn't going to cut it. Here are some of my running faves and must-haves:

1. A good pair of shoes
Sensing a pattern? Nike running shoes seem to be pretty polarizing in the running community, but I've been on the Nike train for a couple years now. After trying a minimalist shoe and getting pretty bad shin splints, I went to my local running store for something with more support. I tried on a few and left with a new pair of hot pink and neon yellow Nike Zoom Elite 5's. I have now upgraded my short-mid distance shoes to the Elite 6's (the sherbert-looking ones, thanks Running Warehouse sale!) and for long distance I'm now on my 3rd pair of the Vomero+ 7's (which were discontinued during my marathon training, leaving me frantically scavenging the internet for days before finally finding a pair in my size).
And an honorable mention goes to my Newton Gravity's! As if these blinding colors weren't fun enough, these shoes are super speedy! Newtons are made with lugs on the bottom of the front part of the shoes to encourage proper running form. They kind of make you feel like you're running on the balls of your feet until you get used to them. They are great for short to mid-distances and are my go-to triathlon shoes. 

I am so intrigued by these and dying to try them out! My local running store is have a test run this Saturday, so I may go to that. If I can find $160 in my budget for them before then, that is...because I know if I go, I probably won't want to leave without them!

2. Garmin Forerunner 220

This thing is the bees-knees (and I would be a liar if I said the fact that it's beautiful purple had nothing to do with my purchase). I had a Nike+ Sportwatch that crapped out on me after 6 months, and when its replacement crapped out after another 6 months, I made the switch to Garmin and haven't looked back. I got the 220 a couple months after it came out and I've been so impressed with it. Not only does it sync up effortlessly and track distance accurately, it has so many features, half of which I'm sure I don't even know about. The screens are totally customizable - I set the one I leave it on to show me total distance, average pace, and total time. I can easily switch to the second screen which shows lap distance (which I set to be 1 mile), lap time, and lap pace. I thought that was SO convenient for intervals, until I learned that there is a whole setting FOR intervals. You can tell it exactly what you want your intervals to be, based on time or distance, and it will keep track of them and show you your pace and distance and all that good stuff during each one. Garmin also has an iPhone app that connects to my phone via Blutooth (since I always carry it with me, safety first people!). The app sends my husband (or whoever I want) a link so he can track me while I run, and when I'm finished, my stats from my run are already uploaded from my watch to the app and the GarminConnect website before I even finish walking upstairs to my apartment. Let me stop geeking out about a WATCH now...

3. Sweaty Bands
Who wants to be running along at a good clip and have hair flying in their face?! I don't. Enter Sweaty Bands. I know there are like a million versions of these things but this was the first brand I tried, and their headbands are cute, so I'm sold. I have about 5 I think (I got one randomly for free in one of my orders, not sure if that was supposed to happen or not but I'll take it!) and never run without one. I'll take one of each, please.

4. Cute but functional outfits. Now that we are officially in the spring season it's time to start swapping out the long sleeves and tights for shorts and tanks! Honestly, I have pretty much stopped buying shirts to run in because of the massive number I've collected from doing races. Sometimes I just can't resist, though, and when it's really hot, I prefer tanks to tees. As for bottoms, I like the swishy shorts (yes that's their technical name) over the skin-tight ones (I've never had a pair that didn't ride up and expose my bare ass, not a good look and not comfortable either). If I were about to make a Running Warehouse haul, this is what I would get (and since sharing is caring: you can get 10% off your order with the code "runblog10").

Spring running gear

1. This adidas Women's Run Tank is so cute! If you put anything running-related words or phrases on clothing, there is a good chance I will probably definitely buy it.
2. I have a few pair of bright colored shorts but I ripped my only black pair (i.e. the most versatile) last year and am in the market for a new pair. These are the Moving Comfort Women's Momentum Short and if they're anything like the pair I have, they're unbelievably comfortable!
3. adidas Women's Supernova Graphic Tank
4. Oiselle Women's Mac Roga Short Black & Indigo. Oiselle is a company I have been hearing a lot of buzz about lately. Their stuff is so cute and from what I can tell is really comfortable and made well.
5. Asics Women's Emma Racerback Bengal Print
6. Nike Womens Printed 2" SW Rival Short. I haven't tried this cut of Nike shorts but the pattern (it's hard to see but there are alternating black and dark gray triangles) is a fun way to spice up an otherwise boring pair of black shorts!

 Now to get these tired legs recovered from 2 marathons so I can put this stuff to good use!

Shamrock Weekend Recap: Yuengling Marathon

Shamrock weekend is over! I completed the Whale Challenge and am now a 2 x marathoner!

I wish I had a happy race report to give but truthfully, this was a hard fought battle. It just wasn't my day. This recap isn't meant to be negative, but I'm putting the facts out there and the fact is I didn't feel so hot for a lot of different reasons. But before I go selling myself short, you should know that a lot of awesome things happened, best of all my dad and I crossed the finish line of his first marathon hand in hand! Two years ago he ran my first half with me and I loved repaying that favor at his first full (even though he could have left me in the dust 10 times over).

The first half of the race took us south, away from the main oceanfront area. From what I understand, it was the same as the Rock n Roll half marathon course, but I have never run that because it's always Labor Day weekend, and to running long distance in the brutal heat I say, "Lol, no thank you." We turned around right before Mile 6 to start heading back north (which is the direction we went for the next roughly 16 miles). This part was pretty uneventful, aside from running through Camp Pendleton, a Marine Corps base. There were a few spots where Marines were out cheering us on, but one right before Mile 8 was particularly amazing. There must have been 20 or 30 Marines lined up giving us high fives. It seemed never-ending! It was so fun and such a boost! 

The next few miles were also uneventful around Mile 11 when we made it onto the Boardwalk - and started running directly into a strong wind (this continued until Mile 16, for the record). Bad times. I got to the halfway point and all I could think about was how I didn't want to do run anymore. I didn't want to quit, I just wanted to be done.

At 16 we finally made it out of the wind for a little while. A little after Mile 18 I saw my friend and personal race photographer. After he took my picture he ran to meet the rest of my peeps. When he got to them I saw a group of people but couldn't make out exactly who was there. I knew my mom and husband would be there but from the distance I was able to make out my brother-in-law (thanks to his red jacket!) and was SO surprised that he and my sister-in-law had come out. Even though we just saw them on our trip last week, I was so excited to see them!

After what felt like an eternity on Shore Drive, we finally got to Fort Story around Mile 19. By this point my stomach, which had been bothering me all day, was cramping up pretty badly. I kept trying to tell myself, "Only 7 more many times have you run 7 miles?" and repeat for the next couple mile markers. It didn't work. I did a lot of walking through this part. Every time I started to run for more than a few minutes, the stitch in my side would get worse. I tried to stretch it out, breathe it out, etc. but nothing was really working. It was also around this time that I had developed the biggest blister ever on the bottom of my foot at the base of my big toe (that piece of skin is currently split open and burns if anything touches it, like shoes or the floor - you're welcome for that TMI!). Oh and the wind came back to greet us too, right in our faces! Needless to say, Fort Story also felt like an eternity. At one point I actually said, "All I want to do is keep walking and drink Gatorade." Oh but I did get a half banana that must have been laced with crack because that was seriously the best banana I've ever had. So at least there was that.

Once we got out of Fort Story after Mile 22, we had the wind at our backs for the rest of the way. I had told my dad and his friend several times that they were free to leave my struggling self behind, and they finally did sometime during Mile 23. I watched them get further and further away until I couldn't really see them anymore, and then I panicked at the thought of not being with my dad as he finished his first marathon. I decided then and there that I needed to start RUNNING - not jogging, not bouncy walking, straight up running. I gave it everything I had and after about a half mile I finally caught up to him. We had a couple miles left and we ran, walked, ran, walked, ran, get the picture.

With less than a mile to go I tried to pull it together, and I was finally able to with about half a mile left. Before I knew it we were turning onto the boardwalk, and the finish line was in sight. As much as I don't care for the Shamrock course, there is something about making that last turn onto the Boardwalk, seeing the ocean, the spectators cheering, the statue of King Neptune, and the finish line ahead, that makes everything up to that point just vanish. I really didn't have much left in the tank at that point so it was slow and steady. When we saw my photog friend less than .2 to the end, I grabbed my dad's hand and we ran it in and crossed the finish line hand-in-hand! We finished in 4:56:58 (11:20 pace), which was only 7 minutes 59 seconds under my first marathon time (11:01 pace - it felt like MUCH more than 8 minutes of extra suffering). He was so excited to have finished, and even though I felt so bad for making him totally miss his 4:45 goal, we did finish in under 5 hours which has always been the time he's said he wanted to beat.

There is a whole series of these photos at the end, I can't decide which one I like best (because I love them all), but I think it's this one. Maybe you can't really tell, but that's my dad going, "YES! I did it!" and me tearing up. YOU GUYS!!! My dad has always been a better runner than me but I know he never really knew if this moment was in his future. My plan all along was for him to run the Charleston Marathon with my as both of our first, but he tore his Achilles last June and was out of the running game until November. That was 4 months ago!

The race itself was not rainbows and butterflies and unicorns, but did I really expect it to be? It was a humbling experience, for sure. There were tears, lots of tears, not like full-on crying tears, but tears nonetheless. There were not enough positive mantras in the world to get me through some of those miles, and I'm full of them, trust me! I don't know if running the race Saturday had anything to do with how I felt (I really don't think so but obviously I can't be sure), but either way I'm still glad I did it. I'm glad I pushed myself and challenged myself. My first marathon was an amazing experience, and it was a challenge in the way that running a marathon is a challenge, but I never really pushed myself out of my comfort zone at that race. With the faster-than-I-would-have-liked pace we started out at, the brutal wind, and the boring course, I was WAY out of my comfort zone during Shamrock. I found out where my physical and mental limits were. Humbled is the best word I can think of to describe it. The marathon put up a good fight, but in the end, I crossed the finish line. I won.

Some final thoughts....
  • On the race: This was my 3rd straight year participating in Shamrock Weekend and I love everything about it - except the courses. This was my 3rd time running the half course (since I've done the half twice and the 2nd half of the marathon course IS the half course), and I have hated it every time. There is nothing to look at. It's boring. Maybe if I didn't live here or hadn't run a million races at the Oceanfront I'd feel differently, I don't know. But I do know that I've run 5 different half marathon courses and this one is my least favorite and most mentally challenging, because it's just not that interesting. The first half of the marathon course wasn't much better. I knew that going into this, and that's one of the big reasons I didn't choose to do Shamrock as my first marathon. I've also never run this race in nice weather, and the last 2 years have been pretty miserable (wind is not my friend). 
  • On the Whale Challenge: I love that this was offered. Since it was, obviously I had to do it since I'm an over-achiever like that, but I wouldn't have been sad if it weren't an option. This was the first time I'd ever run 2 races back-to-back, or even run the day before running long distance. I have no idea if the 8k contributed to my struggle in the marathon, but there's obviously the possibility that it did. I really wanted to complete a back-to-back race challenge, though, even though I intended the second race to be a half marathon, not full. I'm glad I did it, that I pushed myself to my limit and succeeded. And that I got to walk around after the race feeling like a boss with my two medals clankity-clank-clanking together.
  • On running two marathons in (just under) 2 months: My first marathon was January 18, second was March 16. That's 8 weeks and 1 day in between them - in other words, not a lot of time! I can't say that I 100% recommend doing this. I'm proud to be able to say that I did it, but it was harder than I thought it would be. I did it because my dad wanted to run it, and because I wanted to run a second marathon at some point this year. My idea was that I had already put in the hard training, and if I waited to do a second one in the fall, I'd have to go through the whole training cycle again. It seemed like a good idea to bank on the training I'd already done and the momentum I'd built up, but it definitely put a lot of pressure on me to have to turn around after Charleston and get ready for Shamrock. I know I didn't allow myself enough recovery time after the first one. Nothing was wrong and nothing hurt, but I struggled more than usual. I was more tired than usual. The actual pains came a few weeks before race day and I started to wonder if I had simply run out of gas. I played it cool for a couple weeks and was able to complete the marathon without any sign of injury. But if you've made it this far, you know that the race was no picnic. I didn't feel like I had trained enough, or maybe it was just the opposite - maybe I was overtrained. I wouldn't change what I did, but I don't think I'll run 2 marathons this close together again. 
  • On my future plans: First and foremost, I am taking some actual rest and recovery time this time. I plan to spend this week completely resting, with maybe some yoga thrown in to stretch out these tired legs, but nothing crazy. Depending on how I feel, next week may be more of the same, or maybe a little bit of running, biking, and/or swimming (which, aside from the fact that I can't really move, sounds so amazing right now). Whatever I do, it will be because I want to do it, not because I feel like I have to do it. I've been a slave to a training plan since last June. I had planned to tackle my first Half Ironman triathlon in June and do some races in April and May to get ready, but I'm just not sure at this point if I'm ready to jump into another training plan. I don't really know what my goals are moving forward, and I know that's okay. I don't have to decide right now, today. It just feels weird knowing I've been chugging along on the training train for so long. I don't do well without a plan, so it won't be long before I pick up another one. I just don't know yet what the end goal of that plan will be. I have a lot of options and am excited to see what the future holds but for now...I plan to enjoy my recovery time!

Shamrock Weekend Recap: Expo and TowneBank 8k

Shamrock Weekend is underway!

Last night I went to the expo with my parents and another guy who is running with my dad and me. Since I had two races to run, I had two bibs to pick up, and I went to the marathon table first since there was no line. The guy working the table handed it to me (the challenge bibs are different than the regular marathon bibs, that way the volunteers at the end know to give me an extra medal) and said, "You must have done this running thing before." Ha! After getting all of our stuff we wandered around the expo for a bit. My sweet mom bought me some charms for my shoes and 2 new shirts, one for each race!

The best thing that happened though? I saw one of my former students, and talking to her for a few minutes made my day! We had talked about running a little when I had her in class and I was happy to see that she is sticking with it. She also ran the 8k today! She saw me first at the expo and came up to me to say hi and tell me how much she and my other students miss me, how sweet is that?! They like their teacher now but she said she's excited to get to the next level because she'll get to use all of my materials again (I made all of my materials on my own so knowing that the students like and appreciate them is a big deal). 

We went to dinner afterward and honestly, I was feeling pumped! Shamrock is such a huge event and it is put on so well that it would be really hard not to get excited. 

When I woke up this morning, that excitement had faded away. I wasn't dreading it, but I was a little intimidated by the number of miles I had to go this weekend. Getting to the race was fine, except that I had 3 bad omens right before I started: 1) my Garmin took forever to sync up (I didn't think it was going to at all) and then the signal kept going out, 2) I hit shuffle on my playlist and the first song that came up was "All Downhill From Here" by New Found Glory, which is a great song BUT I didn't exactly want things to go downhill right from the start, so I changed songs just in case, 3) as my corral was about to leave, the DJ started playing "Wake Me Up" by Avicii. I would almost rather take a needle to my eardrums than listen to that song, I hate it so much. 
But, bad omens aside, the race went about as well as I could have expected. It was pretty uneventful. The weather was perfect and running down the boardwalk, the ocean was just beautiful! My quad bothered me last night and this morning, but not during the race (it only hurts after I've been sitting for a while, but the longer I walk/run on it the less it hurts until it goes away). Every other part of my legs seemed to nag me at some point or another, but I think that's just because I haven't run much the past couple weeks and my body is like, "Oh...this? Again?" It took me a couple miles to warm up but after that I felt better and better. I didn't break any records, but that was the point. I ran the first 2 miles at 10:22 average pace, and I would be lying if I said that felt ridiculously easy. I picked up some speed after that but kept reminding myself to take it easy. I probably should have run even slower than that, but if I'm being 100% honest, I was kind of trying to pass someone I knew, haha. By the end I felt great and ran the last mile at 9:37! I finished feeling confident and strong.

I did a lot of thinking during this race. I had never run it before but I had spectated it once, 2 years ago. It was the day before my very first half marathon and I was a Nervous Nelly! I thought back to that moment and how I thought the half I was about to run was going to be a one-and-done deal. Running a marathon never even crossed my mind, and I never imagined I'd be back 2 years later with one full under my belt, running then 8k AND the full the next day. I say this not to (completely) toot my own horn, but because honestly the fact that I am here is astounding to me. Running Shamrock 2 years ago completely changed my life. I can't wait to go out tomorrow and prove just what I'm capable of. And I can't wait to look back on this weekend in another 2 years - I can't even imagine what I will have done by then. Seriously people, there's nothing you can't do. The sky is the limit! 

Shamrock On

I'm running an 8k tomorrow morning and my second full marathon in as many months the following morning. That's 31.17 miles over 2 days, for those of you keeping score at home. Some feelings I've had over the last week about this are: apathetic; uninterested; unprepared. Anxious didn't even make the list because that would require me to actually feel something and the truth is, I haven't.

I have a few reasons for this, not the least of which is a nagging pain (at worst)/uncomfortable feeling (at best) working its way up and down the inner top of my left thigh. I cut a few runs short and skipped a couple altogether. I took complete rest days. It didn't help. In the last 2 weeks, my longest run was 8 miles. Lately, getting through 3 miles has been a serious struggle. It's not usually painful, so I don't really think I'm injured or at risk of injury. It's just that I'm not into it. That shouldn't really be a surprise considering I've been training literally non-stop for the last 9 months. I should have taken a break after my marathon in January, but I didn't want to lose momentum. I wanted to run a second marathon. I wanted to run my dad's first marathon with him. I wanted to complete the Shamrock Whale Challenge. Basically, I wanted to be a badass.

I don't feel ready, mentally or physically, for the task I've placed on myself this weekend. Maybe it's that my legs don't feel 100%, maybe it's that I've been out of town, maybe it's that my dad (who is usually my biggest cheerleader) isn't being very supportive of me also running the 8k. Maybe it's that I haven't had a good run since my 20-miler 3 weeks ago. I just don't feel like I'd hope to feel on the eve of a race. I can't change the physical part at this point, but I can change the mental part. As race day is now imminent, it dawned on me that I've been thinking about this race all wrong. I've been looking at it as just another race when really, it is and always will be something really special for me.

I participated in Shamrock weekend for the first time in 2012. A few months prior I had managed to snag a spot in the half marathon hours before it sold out. With the knowledge that my longest run ever up to that point was only seven miles, I nervously clicked "Register."  I found a training plan online and even though I told myself I was fully committed, I wasn't. I gave it a good enough effort, but not 100% like I should have. When race day came, I spent 2 hours 42 minutes and 21 seconds learning the true meaning of the words defeat and victory. I wasn't as prepared as I could have been. The race was not rainbows and butterflies. It was the hardest thing I'd ever done in my life. I almost gave up on myself halfway through. But I didn't give up. I became a half-marathoner that day, despite never fully believing I could or would ever be one. To this day, it stands as the proudest day of my life (even above finishing the marathon).

In 2013, I was determined not to repeat the mistakes of the previous year. I followed a training plan to a T, I got really comfortable with running 10+ miles, and I knew I was going to crush it on race day. I gave it everything I had until I ran smack into "the wall" at Mile 12. I stopped to walk. I looked at my watch. I saw the time goal I had worked so hard for, the one that at the beginning of my training cycle was my super reach goal, and now was a mere 10 minutes away from being reality, start to slip away. I had a few spurts of gathering as much strength as I could muster, but I couldn't sustain it for long. The seconds kept ticking by. I got to a "Now or Never" moment and had to make a decision - if I still wanted that goal, I had to run RIGHT NOW and not stop until I crossed the finish line. So that's what I did. The goal time was 2:10, and even though I was technically 14 seconds over that, I counted it as a victory because I knew I really gave everything I had.

Going into the 2014 race, I had forgotten what Shamrock was really about for me. Am I crazy for attempting another marathon, let alone this challenge, 2 months after my first marathon? Yes. Most likely. Probably. Was I crazy to run a half marathon in 2012, when a year prior I couldn't even run a quarter mile, when on my best day I could maybe run an 11:30 mile? I sure thought so then. Was I crazy in 2013 to attempt to take over 30 minutes off my time from the previous year? When I toed the line on race day, a voice in the back of my head told me I was.

Running has always been a struggle for me. It has always been about pushing, just a little bit more, then a little more, then a little more. Can I make it to the end of this block, can I run another mile even though I'm already past my distance PR, can I hold this 8:00 pace for just a couple more minutes to finish this interval? The answer has always been yes. Looking back, Shamrock has always been the race that defines that spirit and what running really means to me. This race has always been about challenging myself, pushing myself to do things that I never thought possible. I don't know why I thought this year would be any different. I'm taking all my months of training and a will to succeed with me on race days (both of them!). Nothing left to it but to do it! Shamrock on!