Training for Tuesday: Shamrock Marathon Training & Goals

Holy crap, you guys. This is a special edition of Training for Tuesday because it's the last one I'm going to write before my big races coming up. The one after this will be post-marathon #3 - I say that definitely this time because, well, I switched my registration from the half to the full last week so there's really no turning back now. Ready or not, I have a registration email that says I'm running a marathon in 26 days.

I had hoped to be writing this month's post having run and lived to tell about my 20-miler, but due to Mother Nature completely losing her shit last week, that run was postponed to this upcoming weekend. I know I won't be able to rest easy until I cross that run off my training plan, but I'm confident in the work I've put in so far. Speaking of training, this is the spreadsheet I've been rocking for the last 3 months:

This has been the most piecemealed training plan I've ever put together. I've had to rearrange my run days way more often that I've ever had to before. I mean, I had to do one of my long runs on a Thursday afternoon - who does that? In fact, a lot of my long runs have been on odd days at odd times. I'm not sure I've done any of them at the same time and day two weeks in a row, which is very out of character for me. No early Friday bedtimes; no pre-dawn Saturday morning alarms. I haven't gotten in nearly as much strength training or yoga as I have in the past. I knew up front that there was a good chance I was going to be making a lot of this up as I went, which is what I wanted at the time  since the last time I planned to be super disciplined, it blew up in my face.

My body is more or less ready for the physical challenge; it's my mind I'm more worried about. But as much as I feel like I haven't done the right things physically, I've put in more than my fair share of mental training this time around. Training through this winter has been extremely tough. The temperatures have been freezing cold, there's been snow on the ground, there have been more occasions with 20-30mph winds than I'd like to remember. I don't even think I'd need both hands to count the number of nice running days I've had this training cycle, at least as far as weather is concerned. But despite less-than-ideal conditions, I've managed to power through every single run. Maybe not with as much speed or grace or mental fortitude as I'd like, but rain or shine, bad mood or good, tired or alert, distracted or engaged, I earned every one of those miles up there.

Despite the fact that training hasn't been rainbows and sunshine, truth be told: I'm pretty pumped. There is just no other race weekend like Shamrock weekend and I can't wait to line up at that starting line for the 4th year in a row. It's hard to believe I'll be celebrating the 3rd anniversary of my first half marathon by running my 3rd full marathon. Shamrock is a tradition for me, and even though I never planned to run the full course once, let alone to come back for a second try, I'm grateful to be healthy enough to be able to participate in any of the races this year. When it comes to Shamrock, for me, the second time's the charm: my first half was disastrous but the following year I came back for a 30-minute PR. Last year, my first time running the full, wasn't the performance I wanted, and I'm hoping I have a lot more to give this year.

The one moment that pushed me over the edge from running the Shamrock Marathon being a tiny thought in the back of my head, to it being something I actually wanted to do: Christmas morning, filling out my new medal and bib holder.

Translated in terms of average pace for each distance:

5k: 7:43
10k: 7:56
Half Marathon: 8:21
Marathon: 11:01

One of these things is not like the others.

I had originally planned to run the Shamrock Half and shave 4 or 5 minutes off my PR. Even though doing so would have been a huge accomplishment, it would only have widened the gap between my half and full marathon times. It might sound silly that something that trivial made me want to run a marathon, but writing those PRs out made me realize which distance I wanted to work on. My marathon pace is not going to start with a 7 or an 8, that I know for sure, but I feel confident that I can get it closer than it is now and close the gap at least a little bit.

Shamrock Marathon Goals

Realistic Goal: PR
I don't want to write this off as a guarantee, but if I have confidence in any of my goals, it's this one. I'm a much stronger runner than I was a year ago (thanks, hills!) and my comfortable pace, like the one I ran my PR marathon at, is over a minute faster than it was this time last year. Simple math would indicate that my chances of reaching this goal are very good. On the other hand, it's totally possible I could have the worst race day of my life. Not counting that out yet.

Reach goal:  4:21:XX (9:59 pace)
I really want to knock at least a minute off my average pace. All my training runs last year were in the 10:00's and I was really disappointed that I let my race pace slip to just over 11:00 when it was all said and done. Since all of my runs are in the 8's and 9's now, I really don't want to let my race pace start with a 10. This is another one I'm reasonably sure I can accomplish, but I can't be too sure.

Crazy reach goal: 4:10 (9:32 pace)
I'll be honest, this one is pretty arbitrary. It's the best milestone I can come up with between my reach goal and my super crazy, I done lost my mind goal. I would be insanely happy to hit any time in the low 4's, and anything under 4:10 is far better than I've ever dreamed of doing.

Super crazy reach goal: 4 hours (9:10 pace)
Go big or go home, right? I'm more than confident about my ability to get through the first half at least a few minutes under 2 hours, but not at all confident about the second half. Those miles, especially the last 6 or so, can be brutal and I have no idea what to expect from them. I've trained to run 16 at a pace that would leave me time for my pace to slow down by 30 seconds/mile for those last 10 miles, but I'm just not sure I can replicate that on race day. Some days I feel like this is totally within the realm of possibility, and other days I feel like I should just put my pajamas on because I'm dreaming.

All of these seem pretty optimistic, some extremely so, but the last time I set time goals for myself (in the fall), I ended up really surprising myself and far exceeding them. Not that I'm banking on that happening again, but you just never know what race day is going to bring.

Until next time!


Sunday Sweats [2/16-2/22]

The weather this week made it pretty impossible to do anything other than just get through the miles. Fortunately the weather didn't derail any of my runs; it just forced me to get a little creative and power through. I keep feeling like I'm training my mind more than my body. Getting outside in sub-zero temperatures and inches upon inches of snow isn't easy, but it makes me a stronger runner. 

Monday: 30 minutes yoga/hip stretching | Still working out this hip injury.

Tuesday: 5 mile run @ 9:15 + Core workout + 30 minutes yoga/hip stretching | This was one of the runs where I knew things were not going to be like normal, and that was okay. We got 9 inches of snow last night. Luckily by the time I got out to run everything had been plowed pretty well, but there were still a lot of areas that were slippery or just looked slippery because they were wet, so I ran very cautiously. Also I spent a lot of the time I was on campus behind people walking, because tons of people were out for the snowball fight on the Drillfield (we have a giant field in the center of campus and there's a big Cadets vs. Civilians  snowball fight every year after the first big snowfall).

Between the snow and the hurting hip, my pace was slower than normal but like I said, I expected that and I was okay with it. Later I did a core workout and it felt so good to lift some weights (even if they were light). Some of the twisty exercises bothered my hip a little but I'm glad I did it. Before bed was another 30 minutes of restorative yoga and hip exercises.

Wednesday: 5 mile run @ 9:02 + 30 minutes yoga/hip stretching | The roads were actually worse than yesterday since it snowed some more this afternoon and it was so windy that a lot of snow got blown back onto the paths that were plowed yesterday. It was snowing when I went out and it was just crazy. I don't know if a snow tornado is a real thing, but I'm pretty sure it is and that I almost got swept away in one.

Thursday: 16 mile bike ride at 16mph (?) | I've done my best at braving the elements, but when the temperatures are record-breaking low, that's where I draw the line. I don't think the wind chill got above -10* today. I did a boring ride on the trainer instead of running.

Friday: 9 mile run @ 8:42 | This was such a good run! Not amazing but just really...good. Compared to the rest of the week, 16* didn't feel all that cold, especially with no wind and the sun out. I was quite toasty and running felt effortless.

Saturday: 30 minutes yoga/hip exercises | The 20-miler I was supposed to do today got moved to next weekend due to snow. We got another 6 inches today so all day was spent cozy and warm inside! I neglected my yoga the last couple days and definitely noticed the difference in how my hip felt, so I made sure to do it today.

Sunday 16 mile run @ 8:53 + 30 minutes yoga/hip exercises: My 20-miler getting moved is mostly a good thing, since it means that it will now be 3 weeks out from Shamrock (the traditional length of time between the 20-miler and the marathon) instead of 4 weeks (I was never crazy about it being that far out). The bad news is that I was supposed to be done with doing super long runs by myself, but I had to add one to fill the space in my schedule this weekend. I did 16 miles total broken up into 11 miles + 5 miles since I had to go pick up Ben in the middle. It was only about a 30-minute break but it still kind of makes me feel like it doesn't "count," but oh well. This week was about getting the miles in and that's what I did. On another note, it felt SO WEIRD going outside in thin pants and only one layer on top. I actually checked to make sure I was really wearing pants, that's how weird it was.

Running: 35.13 miles
Cycling: 16 miles
Strength: 1 workout
Yoga: 150 minutes
- Having to do another long run by myself
- Not getting in any significant strength training. At this point it's been a few weeks since I last lifted and I'm getting too close to the race to feel comfortable starting up again. On the other hand, I think I need to work on my core the most so maybe sticking to core workouts isn't the worst thing for me.
- I know this goes without saying, but...the weather.

+ All the yoga! I was hoping I'd get some in all 7 days (and truthfully, I probably should have), but 5 is more than I've done in a while.
+ At this point I'm pretty confident that this hip injury isn't going to significantly derail my training or racing plans. It's been 2 weeks since it popped up (seemingly out of nowhere), but I've seen some improvement. More than that, I've been able to manage it, and I think that's key. The good news is that it hasn't affected how much I've been able to run. I've had to decrease the intensity a little bit, but I feel a tiny bit stronger every run. I don't think it's going to go away completely any time soon, but I think it's manageable.
+ I don't have to run more than 10 miles in Blacksburg by myself from now until race day! And that only has to happen once. All my other runs here will be 5 miles or under. And my other long runs left are the 20-miler this weekend and the Rock n Roll USA half marathon, both with friends. YAY! I can't believe it's almost taper time. I can already feel the freakout coming on...

When Florida Won

Of my 27 years on this earth, I've spent 9 of them in Charleston, SC, another 17 back and forth between southeast and southwest Virginia, and 1 - just one - year somewhere in between living in Florida.

When I was 21 I was finishing a 4-year stint of living in the mountains of southwest VA and yearning to go anywhere that wasn't there. I was in my last semester of grad school and Ben was finishing up his B.S., so when he got a job offer in sunny, warm Tampa, Florida for his first job out of college, we were so. there.

It didn't exactly turn out to be the beach party I was anticipating. Most of the time, it was really boring. In case you don't know this already, I have a bachelors and a Masters degree and am licensed to teach Latin. Most conversations I had with people in Florida about the career I was trying to establish went like this:

"Do they even teach Latin anymore?"

"Is Latin like Spanish?"

(I'm not going to insult your intelligence by providing you the answer key to those questions, sweet friends). So instead of starting the career I had spent the previous 4 years of my life working toward, I was a part-time daycare employee and part-time stay-at-home-fiancee. Like I said, not the party or the professional prospect I was hoping for. 

BUT! It wasn't all bad. And this week in particular, having been buried under snow for the last several days, with no end in sight...our time in Florida keeps sounding better and better.

This was our townhouse. There is no denying that you live in Florida when your neighborhood looks like a Skittles commercial.

We had a bayou a few blocks from home. It wasn't uncommon to see manatees swimming in it. (There were signs all around that said, "If you love me, please don't feed or touch me!" - we thought that was so funny and we still say that to each other often; it's one of our favorite jokes).

The beach was a 5-minute drive. (It was like 3 miles - it's hilarious to me now that it seemed definitely necessary to take a car there but now I would definitely walk/run/bike that short distance there). And going to the beach for an hour or two after work IN NOVEMBER was not as crazy as it sounds.

The city we lived in has the highest Greek population in the U.S. and is one of the world's leading sponge producers. We used to walk around the sponge docks and stop in the shops and eat at Greek restaurants. There was one shop in particular that had the BEST handmade olive oil soaps and straight-from-the-docks loofahs and sponges. It was amazing.

We randomly saw a space shuttle shooting through the sky when we were driving home from a friend's one night. A SPACE SHUTTLE! You can't make this stuff up.

We had so many pro sports opportunities! We went to NHL (Lightning) games.

And MLB games. We got to go to Spring Training and we went to Opening Day!

(Please note that I am not a fan of either of these teams and I am SO NOT a fan of Tropicana Field but that's neither here nor there because BASEBALL, people!)

Going to Miami was an easy weekend trip.

And let's not forget the fact that Disney World was a quick 1.5 hour drive.

I have such mixed feelings looking back on our time in Florida. We moved back to Virginia (the southeastern part this time - home) just shy of a year after we got there because it was so painfully obvious that I was never going to be able to establish a career (see example conversations above). Looking back, it's strange to think that it ever happened. It was such deviation from how life was before and how life has been since. It was like living in a bubble for that year - a hot, sticky bubble.  I hated being basically unemployed and having to use the AC in my car because it was 80*+ outside this time of year, but from where I'm sitting right now, looking out the window at a thick layer of snow in all directions, having to choose which tank top to wear in February doesn't seem like the worst problem to have.

Have you ever lived in Florida? Where all have you lived?
Also! Two things before class is dismissed and you get on with your weekend:

February is a short month (no one is sad about about that) which means that this month's Training for Tuesday is live THIS Tuesday, February 24th! Grab a button and let's do this thing.


I'll also be linking up with Jacqueline and Anne next week for their Winter Capsule Link-up Series! I'm surprised and honored to have been chosen as one of their featured bloggers this month and am looking forward to sharing some more of my favorite capsule outfits so far. Feel free to check it out, and to contribute if you have a capsule of your own to share!

So Much Beauty It Could Make You Cry

I don't share tidbits from our normal, everyday life very often. Sure, the past few weeks have been filled with good food, good drinks, good music, good talks, good laughs, and good times with friends and family, but for the most part it's just us. Just the two of us and our normal, everyday struggles, trying to be everything to everyone and to each other all at the same time. 

I've felt out of place lately, stuck on what feels like a desert island, where I'm too far removed from the past to feel like it bears any resemblance to life as I know it, but still nowhere close to the life I'm working on.

Just when I felt I had reached a breaking point - maybe, finally, after feeling it coming on for weeks - the Universe gave me 9 inches of snow and a day off from normal life.

We slept an hour later than usual. 
We ate pancakes for breakfast. 

When we needed a break from work we'd glance out the window at our winter wonderland.
We took our boy out and watched him frolic in the snow.

We made grilled cheese and tomato soup for lunch.

We worked some more.
We played some more.

For 24 hours I got to forget about all the things I'm not and all the things I do wrong. And it was as good as any snow day ever could have been.

The Boy Behind the Blog

Since I reference Ben a fair amount on this blog, I thought it was only fair that you guys got to know him a little better. I came up with some questions and left them open for him to answer. His first response upon seeing them: "I don't like open-ended questions! How long do my answers have to be?!" Sooo maybe that gives you some indication of the kind of guy he should be pretty obvious that he is not a blogger. He actually does enjoy writing, though, and after some encouragement, he shot these answers back to me. They're all straight from him, no additions or edits on my part (except some links I added in case you're new or just forgot what the heck he's referencing, and this: he wants you to know he thinks this post should be titled "The Boy Behind the Girl Behind the Blog").


So, Ben, what's your deal? Tell us a little bit about yourself. 
I'm 28 (I think - It's hard to keep track). I went to Virginia Tech for Computer Engineering. My parents are workaholics and the gene was passed on to me. I grew up working in the family business, the Commodore Theater. Now, I build computer software and hardware stuff for container ports. In my free time, I volunteer for Code for America by helping local government leverage technology to make their services easier to use. Translation, I make free apps like http://HRTB.us, and 

When Tracy can pry me away from the computer, I like to go to concerts and binge watch TV shows on Netflix with her. We also have a lot of pets. It wasn't my idea to get any of them, but I've grown so close to some of them that Tracy questions where she stands (Trace - it's the dog, then you, then Octavian). 

What do you think about Tracy's blog? What are your favorite post topics? Favorite post(s) in particular? 
I think it's really interesting to read Tracy's blog and get some insights into what she's thinking that I wouldn't get otherwise. The running stuff isn't my favorite because she already articulates most of that to me in person. I like when she examines her life choices, especially since they've been so dramatic over the last couple years. When she makes her decisions, I don't ask about for her reasoning; I trust her judgement, so I just encourage her to take the leap. It's interesting to read her thoughts once she's organized them and written them down. I'm also always pleasantly surprised to read posts about me. She says the nicest things. I need to work on doing the same for her. 

What do you really think about Tracy's running and triathlon adventures? 
I'm super impressed by how far Tracy has come. I remember our first run... We tried to run through the grass around a part of the street that was closed and ended up in deep mud. Tracy got frustrated to the point of tears and we went home to wash our new running shoes out. Her adventures were almost over before they started. A few weeks later, we tried to run a 10 minute mile. We got to 0.9 when Tracy gave in to exhaustion. 

I know better than anyone how unlikely these adventures of hers are. I've learned to never doubt even her wildest dreams. I know she will find a way to achieve them all. It's fun to watch. 

You and Tracy have been to nearly 100 concerts together. Which one was your favorite? 
That would have to be the time we drove to Danville, VA together to see The Fall of Troy. I'm sure the show was good, but the lead singer was sick. Halfway through the show, he had to sit down and put his head in his hands until the throbbing subsided enough for him to continue. But this show takes the number one spot because it was one of our first real bonding experiences. Our friendship was solidified on that car ride through Southwest Virginia and it became the foundation for our relationship and our marriage. 

I'm really sad to say that my favorite concert from a musical perspective was one that Tracy didn't attend because she was sick. Dr. Manhattan came through Tampa when we lived down there and I went by myself. It was in a tiny little warehouse and there were about 30 people there. Every single person was completely into the show and we all danced together the entire time. 

Other notable shows include The Fall of Troy in Charlotte where we hung out with the band until 4AM and then got a speeding ticket on the way home, TREOS at the Peppermint Beach Club, Taking Back Sunday's Tell All Your Friends Tour, and Saosin with Anthony Green in Philly. 

Why do you even like Tracy anyway?
I hate this question because it's so hard for me to articulate how I feel about Tracy. It's like asking "why do you like breathing". Tracy and I have been best friends for almost ten years. Being with her is the most natural thing in the world. I've always loved her, but she's become a really amazing person in the last few years. The strength she has shown both in her running and in her career change has been truly inspiring. I can't wait to see her graduate college and become an Ironman! 

If you could quit your job and do anything, what would you do? 
I would Code for America full time. 

You give some pretty spectacular advice. What's one mantra you think everyone should have?
"Positive Thoughts. Positive Deeds." I'm a huge believer in the power of positive thinking. We are living in the future! Take advantage of it and don't waste time on negativity.

Hope you enjoyed getting to know the #1 dude in my life! Anything else you want to know about him?

Sunday Sweats [2/9-2/15]

As if last week punching me in the face wasn't enough, this week decided to go for the TKO. Between being insanely, abnormally busy with school and the advent of a new injury, this week didn't go as planned. Luckily it was a setback week in my training plan, with a slight decrease in mileage from the last couple weeks. I realized that my mileage has actually been increasing every week for the last 6 weeks!

Monday: Absolutely nothing | Bed at 1am + waking up at 5:30am + 2 hour road trip home + finishing homework in the car before getting to class at 9am + class all day + groceries to be bought + dinner to be made + laundry to be done = no more physical activity than what is absolutely necessary. I wanted to get in some yoga but it just didn't happen.

Tuesday: 5.5 miles @ 8:30 | I deviated from my speedwork routine (ok, I just started it back up again like last week) for a hill workout. Other than running on hills by virtue of the fact that I live in the mountains, I've never actually done a hill workout. Plus, lately I've been sticking to the flattest route I can find so I've really lost my confidence when it comes to hills. I warmed up with a half a mile down the path from my apartment to a .75 mile long road that goes uphill. Three rounds up and down plus the half mile back to my apartment made it by far the hilliest 5-miler I've ever done. I was so proud to have gotten through it!

Also, related: the sheep at the farm I run by had little baby sheep! They are adorable so here is a video of them running, because sharing is caring (apologies in advance for my heavy run breathing):


Wednesday: Stretching and foam rolling | I don't even want to talk about today. An assignment that should have taken an hour or two took from 1:00pm to 1:00am, thanks to technical difficulties. I literally worked on it all day. I did not pass "Go", I did not collect $200. I don't accept my having time as an excuse for not working out (if it's important, you'll make time) but y'all, the struggle was REAL. I was really frustrated about not having time to get a run in, but it may have been for the best, as I'm nursing an injury on the top/outside of my hip bone. I did do some stretching and foam rolling for it in the intervals where I had to wait for my computer to get its shit together.

Thursday: 8.2 mile run @ 8:41 | One thing I can definitely say about this training cycle is that I'm getting a lot of practice running in various weather conditions. Today was bitterly cold, windy, and it even snowed - honestly it was what I imagine running inside a snow globe would feel like haha! I had a much better time mentally on this one than last week. I shed exactly 0 tears, excluding the ones cause by snowflakes blowing into my eyes, of course. My hip wasn't totally healed but I wanted to at least try for a run. It really wasn't painful, just a little annoying and uncomfortable. I made sure not to push the pace at all and to take short strides so that I wouldn't aggravate it any further.

Friday: 17 mile bike ride @ 17mph (?) + hip stretches and exercises | So, about this bike ride. After hemming and hawing for a while I finally went to pump my tires in my tri bike so I could get on the trainer. My bike pump doesn't work right so after fighting with it for a while, I ended up breaking the valve stem on my front tire. Then I had to change the tires, which I've never done before, but after about 5 views of a Youtube video, I figured it out...only to realize that the valve stems on my backup tires are for my road bike, which has smaller rims than my tri bike, so they ended up being too short. This was about 45 minutes into this ordeal, at which point I finally remembered that I have another bike, my road bike, which had been sitting literally 2 feet away from me the entire time. I resigned to just ride my road bike, so I went to pump those tires, but my crappy pump ended up deflating them instead of inflating them. I almost gave up but I kept fighting with the pump, and eventually was able to get it to work. So I spent longer preparing multiple bikes for this ride than I actually spent on the ride itself.
As for the workout, I did a spin workout I found online that lasted about 45 minutes, then I coasted at an easy pace for the remainder. My road bike doesn't have a cyclocomputer so I have no idea how far or fast I rode, but I usually average around 17mph so we'll go with that. It could have been way higher or way lower, I honestly have no clue.
Afterward I had planned to do a core workout but the first exercise bothered my hip a little bit, so I decided to do some hip stretches and exercises for hip bursitis instead.

Saturday: 15 minutes gentle yoga flow for hip bursitis + 14.14 mile run @ 9:04 | (copied from my Dailmile since I have the lazy) Ran 4 miles to the start of the Blacksburg Classic 10-Miler. 
I wanted to time the run to the start correctly, but I was so nervous about making it there on time that I started out too fast. I made it there with exactly 3 minutes to spare! 
This run was much hillier than what I've been running, especially for long runs (557 ft elevation gain). I felt good for the most part but I hit the wall hard at 11.5 miles. The last couple miles weren't easy or pretty but I never felt defeated or like I wanted to give up. Just needed to give my mind and body little breaks, no big deal. My splits were decent: 9 of my miles were sub-9, fastest was 8:33 (umm too fast), and of the 5 that were over 9, one happened at the beginning of the race when it was crowded and two more were when I walked water stops. Oh and since I can't not talk about the weather: winds were 15-20mph again today. At least the temperature was higher than that today. Maybe from now on just assume that every time I run is windy and/or extremely cold unless I say otherwise? All things considered, I feel pretty decent about this one.

Sunday: 5 mile run @ 8:41 + 20 minutes yoga + 15 minutes hip strengthening & stretching | So, so, so cold, all I wanted to do was get it done and get back inside. That made me push a little too hard in the first couple miles because after that my hip started bothering me more than usual. Also, my first frozen tear, brought you to by a real feel of -2*:

And ummm...that's not blush on my cheeks:/

Later I did a running recovery yoga video and some hip exercises and stretches.

This week is the big one - my 20-miler is on Saturday - so I really need to be more diligent about working out my hip issues before and after running!

Running: 32.83 miles
Cycling: 17 miles
Strength: 0 workouts
Yoga: 30 minutes

- constantly sucky running weather. I know I don't have it nearly as bad as you Northerners do, but it's all relative people. I don't mind the cold so much as the knock-you-over wind. That can gtfo any time now...
- this stupid hip injury 
- really should have made more time for yoga
- disappointed that I couldn't make time for all my workouts and that I dropped strength workouts this week

+ Learning how to change a flat. Something I should have learned a long time ago!
+ Long run success. I've been listening to a lot of Eminem lately so, to quote, "Success is my only motherfuckin' option, failure's not."
+ It's official - I switched my Shamrock registration from the half to full (I guess that's a peak? We'll see on March 22nd...)

Things You Should Know Before You Train For A Marathon

The hardest part of running a marathon isn't the 26.2 miles you have to run on race day. No, before you even get to the start line, you've already done most of the hard work: you've put in the training. I think training for any distance or even any sport is tough, but there's something about the marathon that makes it a completely different experience from any other training cycle. Some of it is downright weird, y'all. 

You are going to feel like you've been deprived of food for several days....even immediately after you eat a meal. You will never feel full no matter how much or how often you eat. You will feel like a human garbage disposal.

You will no longer care about how much you eat in front of others. You just have to hope that they know and are okay with the fact that you plan on eating at least half of that pizza. No shame in your game.

Your legs will ache pretty much all the time. You will go to sleep with aching legs. You will wake up with aching legs. That's your new normal. 

Taper madness is a real thing. You will flip out when you see 4 miles on your training plan the week before the race, because you won't even be able to remember the last time you ran 4 measly miles.

You will start to use the word "only" to refer to distances around 10-12 miles. Only 12 miles for your long run this week? You might actually be able to function like a normal human being afterward. Party time!

Phantom injuries will pop up before nearly all of your long runs. Who cares about the fact that you've never had an Achilles problem before? Not your body. And just when you finally realize that you don't, in fact, have that injury, it will convince you you have something else instead. Chances that you're actually injured and your brain isn't just playing tricks on you: slim. 

You might gain weight. But surely that can't be right - didn't you just burn like 2000 calories on your long run? Yeah, you did, and then you came home and ate your weight in donuts. It happens. 

Your Saturday alarm will be earlier than your weekday alarm. When you're going to be out running for 3-4 hours, you want to get it done as early as possible. At least that way you have a shot of participating in normal life for the rest of your weekend. Just kidding, the real reason you'll want to get it done early is so that you have more time for napping. 

9pm is an acceptable bedtime. You're going to be too tired to stay up much later than that anyway. Don't bother.

You need to get used to saying "I can't…I have to run." Friends and family will ask you to join them for dinner or drinks, or maybe to go to a movie, but you have to check your run schedule first. The chances are good you already have a training run scheduled.

"The marathon is a classic example of success rewarded." (Thanks to Holly for the quote!) All your hard work, every early morning, every declined social invitation, and every pound you gained will be more than worth it when you have a marathon finisher's medal hanging around your neck (and a beer in your hand).

People I Don't Get

I like to think of myself as a pretty smart person. If I don't understand something, I can usually figure it out. But for some reason, lately I've come across several people that I just can't make sense of.

The Offenders:

Girls who spend the whole bus ride having a conversation consisting entirely of various complaints: Listen, I'm not always a ray of sunshine either but would it be so hard to start your Thursday with a little positivity?

Girl who called her 36 bra band size "small": I don't think that word means what you think it means. Come talk to me when you have to make due with the scant selection of 32" bands because the store doesn't carry 30".

Bloggers who talk about "growing the blog" and whatnot: Then why don't you ever respond to comments? (Bloggers who do respond: I <3 you).

This biyatch who honked at me and flipped me off as I was walking through a crosswalk (presumably because she had to choose between slowing down and running me over): As I already expressed to you both verbally and manually: eff you. Anyone driving on campus knows you generally have to go slower than the speed limit anyway and that 9 times out of 10, you will have to stop for someone in a crosswalk. Also, maybe you should get out of the car and try running 13+ miles and then let me know how fast you're able to walk through a crosswalk.

People who ride their bikes on sidewalks: Stop trying to make this happen. It's not going to happen. That's what the street is for.

What do people do that you just do not get?

(linking up with Melissa)

Making Melissa

Make Sure That You Make Time For Everything You Love

There are a lot of things I expected to happen when, at nearly 27, I moved back to the college town where I had lived from the ages of 18-21.

I expected to be older than most of the students on campus and in my classes.

I expected that moving to a smaller town than I'm used to would make me bored.

I expected to not have much of a social life.

I definitely didn't expect to make friends with a married couple, our age, without kids (and happy with that for the foreseeable future), and - bonus - who like all the same not-really-mainstream bands that we do.

I also didn't expect to road trip to concerts several hours away on nights when I have class the following morning like I did when I was 18. 

But I guess life is just funny like that?

In college, back when Ben and I were just friends, going to concerts was our thing. And since our mountain valley university wasn't exactly a major stop for most tours, going to concerts meant a lot of driving. We'd listen to music on the way, talk about our favorite bands, sing along to our favorite albums (ok, he would - I'm too shy to sing in front of other people). We must have taken somewhere around 20 or 30 road trips together over those few years and, somewhere along the way, we fell in love.

After an exhausting, lonely week that tested my patience and my sanity, a Sunday night spent with good people and good music was just what I needed - even if it meant only getting 5 hours of sleep before a 5:30am Monday morning alarm. It left me dragging my feet a little more than usual, even for a Monday, #103 was worth it.

Sunday Sweats [2/2 - 2/8]

This was a really hard week on me mentally and emotionally, and it showed in my workouts. As of today I am 6 weeks out from Shamrock and just over halfway through the training plan I started right after Christmas. This week was a peak week in terms of total mileage, and there were times I wasn't sure if I could make it through.

(No fancy graphic today because I'm on the road!)

Monday: 25 minutes yoga | I was on the fence about running today, but with sore legs, 20+mph winds with gusts up to 50mph, that sort of thing, I decided against it (which unfortunately meant shifting my schedule back a day for the whole week - not ideal but oh well). I was going to take a full rest day but I was feeling restless/lazy so I did Erin Motz Yoga for Runners and Abs. Take that, rest day!

Tuesday: 5 mile run @ 8:31 + 15 minutes yoga | Speed work fail…sort of. Pushed too hard on some of them and paid for it by the end. I should have done quarter-mile intervals instead of half-mile. I did at least get 2 half-mile intervals @ 7:35 and 7:16 pace out of it! And a last mile @ 9:50 pace (I had a really bad cramp, okay?!)...but we don't really need to talk about that do we? I also did Yoga for Runners again after my run.

Wednesday: Weights + 30 minutes yoga | Probably should have run today - wasn't scheduled to, but it was so nice outside! But I really didn't feel like it, so that was the end of that. I slept in and cuddled with Bane instead of getting up to work out early. No regrets. I had a lot of work to do and didn't get to my workout until late. I was supposed to lift then ride my bike, but the latter was so not happening so I opted for a 30-minute yoga flow instead. 

Thursday: 8 mile run @ 8:42 | By today I was really feeling the weight of this shitty week and just wasn't in the mood for this run. I had to stop to pull myself together several times and I also cried a lot and I had to listen to "Till I Collapse" 4 times but eventually I made it through.

Friday: 5 mile run @ 8:34 | I had a long day full of school of travel so my only opportunity to run was at 6:45am, so that's what I did. It might have been the coldest run I've ever done - the real feel was 5* and my face actually stung, it was so number and frozen! 

Saturday: Rest | Busy family day, so I did no working out at all.

Sunday: 15 minutes yoga + 18 mile run @ 9:38 |  I really was not expecting my long run to be my best run of the week! I felt great for about 12-13 miles, like I could have run forever. My dad dropped off at 14 so I was by myself for the last 4. Those weren't quite as good, mentally, I think mainly because that was the first time I had to use my brain to think about where I had to go (I had just been blindly following my dad before). But I never really struggled and never felt bad. I was happy and had fun for most of it. Our pace was slower than what I've been trying to maintain but if that's what it takes to be in a good place mentally, I'm okay with that. 

Running: 36.11 miles
Cycling: 0 miles
Strength: 1 workout
Yoga: 85 minutes 
- Everything up until Saturday

+ I felt like I did a good job listening to my body and mind this week. I hate wimping out on workouts but I just did not have the mental stamina to get on my bike Wednesday night. I didn't do the yoga session instead so that I wouldn't feel guilty, I did it because I was really craving it and felt like I needed it. I'm bummed I didn't get on the bike at all this week, but proud of myself for choosing what I needed to do instead of what I needed to do.
+ I'm so glad to have made it over the 18-mile hump. The 18-miler was the one when I stopped training for richmond a I got up the morning of the run, couldn't fathom running that far anymore, tried to push through anyway and made it 3 miles (plus another ten later that day, but I was pretty sure I was done with marathon training at that point).

How were your workouts this week? How do you handle it when life gives you lemons?!

Checking In: Balance

I didn't make goals or resolutions, per se, for 2015, but I had a few things I wanted to work on. Most important of all of them: finding balance. I've always struggled to find balance. I like to schedule and plan, but then I leave myself no room for the spontaneous and unexpected. This year I'm working on finding a balance between all of my different roles and responsibilities 

School is my #1 priority - not necessarily because I want it to be, but because it's too expensive not to be. I took a class over the winter break and rolled right into the spring semester a few weeks ago, so it is in full swing. Sometimes I get frustrated because this is the area where I have the least amount of control and flexibility as far as finding a balance is concerned. I don't get to make the schedule, and not having that control is really hard for me. And once I get working on something, it's hard to stop - even when I need a break. It's that tunnel vision that I don't like, and that's where I really need to find a balance. To take a break for 5 minutes - read, throw in a load of laundry, whatever.

While running/working out are still high on my priority list, my life doesn't revolve around it. Even in the midst of a marathon training cycle, I don't spend every day obsessing over when I'll be able to run. I don't have to eat the exact same meal the day before a long run anymore. I don't get up at 5:30 to get ready for runs anymore. I'm learning to rest when my body needs it instead of constantly pushing myself to the edge. I'm finding a balance between the things I need to do and the things I need to do.

This is one area where I don't think I'll ever be able to do enough. I tend to schedule chunks of time for things (or, at least I used to) and family is one thing that rarely ever got a specified chunk. I still don't make it a point to carve out lots of family time, but I'm trying to take small moments here and there (which I think is more fun than anything I could plan anyway). A couple weeks ago Ben and I went to the movies on a Tuesday night, just because. Yesterday morning I slept in and cuddled Bane. 

I'm more of a let-it-pile-up-then-clean-it-all-at-once kind of person, but that obviously affects my balance because then I have to spend hours at a time doing things I could have done in shorter stints over a longer period of time. So that's what I'm trying to work on. Not leaving dishes piled up, or laundry unfolded…that sort of thing. I've never been able to develop a system or cleaning schedule that works for me, but I've been better able to balance home responsibilities by tackling more things as soon as they come up. And since most of our problem is just clutter, finding a place for everything helps too. Every time I feel like I've accomplished that I seem to find something else that needs a home, but I feel like I've made some big progress over the last month. 

I've always been really good at tracking spending, but not at controlling spending. At the beginning of the year Ben and I, like everyone else on the planet, sat down and really talked about our budget. Last year was our first full year as a single-income family (which we use to pay tuition as well), and when really looked at the numbers, it wasn't as rosy as we had thought. We committed to tracking our spending even further and to analyze where exactly our money is going. I'm 100 times more at fault than Ben is, but so far we have done a really good job. For me, balancing wants and needs is a serious struggle, so I've given myself an "allowance" for each month (I have a page where I'm keeping track in case anyone wants to join in or cheer me along - I'll have it up soon, I hope). Of course I've already gone over for the first month, but I still spent less than I would have otherwise because I really, carefully thought out each purchase. Well, except for those Real Housewives of Beverly Hills episodes from iTunes at $2.99 each - I was just really desperate to not die of boredom on my bike trainer.

Last on the list, obviously, and really only gets a mention because I have had a really hard time balancing blogging with the rest of my life, especially since this new semester started. My brain has to be on and working pretty much at full capacity from 9am-5pm every day, and since I don't have a lot of opportunity to blog in that time span, by the time I get home I don't have a lot of mental energy left. And on top of regular blogging things (posting and reading and commenting and replying to comments and tweeting and the list goes on…), I have some changes I want to make, like designing a new menu and tweaking my layout and I've even thought about moving to Wordpress. But that involves learning Bootstrap and how to even go about moving (tips or suggestions?! Pros and cons?) and I haven't even had time to e-mail you all back, so I definitely haven't had time for any of that. 

Do you struggle with finding balance? How do you overcome that?

Don't Let Your Mind Be The Thing That Defeats You

That was the text I got from Ben on Saturday's 15-miler after I had to walk up a giant hill that I didn't even think could have possibly existed in Virginia Beach and sent him a series of texts with the theme, "This is stupid. Running is stupid. I don't want to do this anymore. This was a stupid idea."

Everyone I know who has ever run Shamrock agrees: Fort Story is the worst part. It hits at just about the worst time in the race, especially for the marathon (miles 19-23). It's an army base so it's pretty desolate, both in terms of things to look at and in terms of spectators out cheering, and it's absolutely the most mentally defeating part of that race, and maybe of any race I've ever run. So, logically, doing a 15 mile training run through Fort Story sounded like a great idea.

The winds howled the night before the run and all morning leading up to it. Driving up to the base, we could see the waves of the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ovean whitecapping. The wind blew so hard that sea foam looked like snow falling. As soon as I got out of the car and felt the wind whip through my jacket, I immediately lowered any expectations of having a phenomenal run. Instead I wanted to focus on getting through it.

I tried to remain calm and positive. I pushed out all negative thoughts about the wind and just put one foot in front of the other. I listened to music. I watched the sea gulls flying around and reminded myself how happy I was to be back running at the beach. And for the first 7 miles, it worked. 

I hit the first hill around the halfway point and that's when the wheels started to come off. I texted Ben (remember that exchange above?). I saw my dad as he was coming down the big hill for the first time and I was about to go up it, and I stopped him to confirm that he wanted to do another loop to complete all 15 miles. I wouldn't have fought him if he had said, "No." So I started on my second loop, running right into the wind, and I swear it must have started blowing ten times harder than it had been. None of my mental games worked anymore and I had almost 6 more miles to go until the finish line.

Under normal circumstances, in normal conditions, I probably would have been mad at myself for getting defeated so easily. But the more I run, the more I realize that each run has its purpose. That run wasn't about getting through 15 miles. It wasn't about checking that workout off my training plan or about practicing pacing. It was about getting through Fort Story. It gave me an experience to keep in my pocket and look back at on race day, so that when I'm at mile 22, and I'm so close but so far and I just want to them in the towel right then and there, I can remember that I've run so much farther through that base, in (hopefully) worse conditions, and that I made it through.

I think nearly everyone who runs, whether it's the mile or ultra marathons would agree that the mental struggle is the hardest part. The mind gives up long before the body does. That's been the case for me ever since I started running, and even though I've gotten better at managing it, it never really goes away. My mind is always the thing that defeats me. Sometimes I let it beat me during a run, but I never let it crush me permanently. I always get back out there, no matter what happened on my last run. Not every run is perfect, and some are harder than others, but one way to another, I always keep going. I know there's a good chance I'll find myself in the same position on the day of Shamrock, running through Fort Story and wanting to throw my hands in the air in surrender, but I won't. My mind is not going to be the thing that stops me from finishing my 3rd marathon. 

Sunday Sweats 1/26 - 2/1

Monday: I stayed true to my word and took a rest day today, just because I figured I probably should. It was weird and it felt all kinds of wrong, but I didn't hate it.

Tuesday: It was so windy today! I looked it up afterward and found out it was 15mph, which definitely explains why I felt like I was about to fall over on those segments where I had to run straight into it (like for the first half mile, the first quarter mile of which was uphill…I'm really actually very smart you guys, I promise). I took a hillier route today than usual but after running 3 laps of my flat route on Sunday, I needed a change of scenery. It wasn't a great run, but it wasn't a bad run either. I probably pushed the pace a little more than I should have, but I'm having a really hard time pacing myself correctly lately.
I didn't go to my complex's weekly yoga class as planned. I had several excuses, some legit (I could better spend that hour getting some work finished up), some not so much (I just wanted to watch the sun set and the cows playing in the field behind my apartment). But, per Kristen's suggestion, I did do Yoga for Runners after I got home for my run! I have no idea why I've never thought to do that before. Kristen is a damn genius, y'all.

Wednesday: I felt a real sense of accomplishment getting this run done! I always dread midweek runs, for a variety of reasons, but I actually had a good one today. Maybe that extra rest day paid off after all.

Thursday: A morning workout sounded like such a good idea when I planned it last week! It even still sounded like a good idea when I turned on Friends at 11:30pm last night…not so much when my alarm went off at 6:30am (which is actually later t. It took me until 7 to actually lift a weight and about 20 minutes to get with the program, but it wasn't awful.

Friday: Went to class then road tripped home. It was almost 8 when we finally got there and I was beat!

Saturday: This run. This. Run. So, our local running club hosts a series of "competitive training runs" leading up to Shamrock. They're like races in that they're organized and timed like a race, but they're not really standalone races since the whole point of them is to get ready for Shamrock. The second one was this weekend and I thought it would be great to do it, because a)running with other people, b) running at the beach (no hills), and c) running through Fort Story (which is miles 6-9.5 of the shamrock half/miles 18-21.5 and basically the worst part of either race).
The morning of the race, the temperature was in the 20s with a real feel of 13* and winds were over 20mph with up to 35mph gusts. Oof. My eyes were completely welled up and my fingers were frozen just from the walk from the parking lot to the start line. There was one 3-mile loop followed by two 6-mile loops. It was surprisingly not flat! Most of the roads we ran on had a slight incline or decline and there were 2 big hills at the end of the 6-mile loop. I felt really great for the first half but the second half got pretty ugly. I was averaging sub-9 for the first 7 miles but later I had to stop to walk several times and I added about 15 seconds per mile to my final average pace.

Sunday: I ran errands in the morning before heading back to town and didn't get home until nearly 4. I didn't really want to work out but I did anyway. Lifted weights and eventually talked myself into getting on the trainer for 30 (slow) minutes and having my own triathlete Super Bowl party. Not the 60 I had planned, but better than 0?

- I keep feeling like my endurance just isn't where it should be, and I'm not sure why that is.
- Taking 2 rest days made me feel like I definitely had to work out on Sunday, even when I didn't want to after traveling and being out of town all weekend.

+ I did a much better job of eating this week. I've never really been a snacker but I am starting to feel like I might need to be in order to not feel famished basically 24/7.