Training for Tuesday: In Limbo

Welcome to Training for Tuesday!
If you're new to this party, the rules are pretty simple: on the last Tuesday of each month, link up to tell my wonderful co-host Alyssa and me what you're up to - what health/fitness goals you're working toward, races you're training for, yoga poses you're trying to hit, new classes you've been attending at the gym, whatever. Grab a button, spread the love, scroll to the bottom and add your link, maybe even  make a new friend!

It's been a busy past few months. Marathon training (be honest - who has made a drinking game out of how often that phrase comes up when you read this blog? I wouldn't blame you) took up a huge chunk of my time and energy, more than I realized when I headed into recovery week last week. I've never needed so much sleep!
At the beginning of the month I shared some goals for #4weeksfit that I felt like I needed to commit to in order to have a successful marathon. Here's how it went:
  • Go to bed by 11pm: I did this more nights than I had been previously. 
  • Drink at least 100 ounces of water a day: Getting my replacement Camelbak was exactly what I needed to get back on track with my water intake. I fill up my 1L bottle 3-4 times a day, easily. Related: I pee 10 times a day, easily.
  • Cut out alcohol until after Shamrock: Except for a couple times when I knew I would probably be drinking (like a brunch in DC with the girls), I stuck to this pretty well. I could already definitely tell the difference that not having a nightly beer or glass of wine made in the first week. Of course, I made up for all the alcohol I had been avoiding during my recovery week last week, but in general I feel better about cutting back. 
  • Make breakfast smoothies in the mornings: I did the best with this one! I crafted my perfect smoothie breakfast and now make it in the mornings and take it with me for when I get hungry later in the day.
  • Drink a recovery drink after workouts. So I estimated that before I drank some type of recovery drink about 5% of the I might be closer to 25%. I just keep forgetting for some reason. I guess I need to put it in a more prominent place than my kitchen cabinet.
#4weeksfit helped me form some more positive habits, not only for my marathon but going forward as well. Now that the marathon is over, I have no big races coming up, and I'm feeling a little lost. "But wait," you say. "what about that half Ironman you were talking about?" Oof. Yeah. About that...

Registration for the race that I was planning on doing on September 20, the one I went allll the way to New Jersey to scope out (and bug Alyssa), was supposed to open in December. Nearly 4 months later it still hasn't opened - maybe this week, but I'm not holding my breath anymore. I chose that race because it was my best option for an Ironman brand race, something that was important to me for a long time. But my recent experience with Rock 'n' Roll left a bad taste in my mouth for big name race companies. I thought Ironman was different, and I still believe it is, but so far the Princeton race organization has been surprisingly sloppy. Course changes and subsequent permitting issues are the reasons for the delay, but the way it's being handled just doesn't sit well with me (nor with a lot of others on Facebook - Princeton 70.3's primary means of disseminating information - who have already ditched it for another fall race). At this point I can't even be totally sure that this race is even still happening. The race directors won't confirm it and it's not listed under USAT's (triathlon's governing body) sanctioned events for this year.

All of that hesitation combined with the fact that during Shamrock weekend, some of my tri friends brought up a different (non-Ironman) race - Beach 2 Battleship, in Wilmington, NC - they're doing in October has left me really unsure about what my plans are going forward. I had my heart set on Princeton and on my first HIM being the real thing, but I'm starting to loosen those requirements I had. I thought I wanted my first half iron distance tri to be an official Ironman race, but I'm starting to think that's not as important as it once was. No matter what race I do, I'll still cover the same distance, and I'll still be able to call myself a half Iron(wo)man at the end (except I won't because I'm saving any descriptor with the term "Ironman" in it for that day far off in my dreams when I don't have to qualify it with "half). Beach 2 Battleship makes a lot of sense for me in a lot of ways: it's not until mid-October, a full month after Princeton, which means more time to train and better chances of mild weather; I will save $100 by not having to pay for the IM premium; North Carolina isn't as far away as New Jersey; I will have friends also competing in the race; it's put on by a regional triathlon company, the same one that has put on most of the tris I've done in the past...the only part that doesn't make sense is that Alyssa won't be waiting at the finish line with Artichoke Pizza. But the biggest thing that seems to make sense to me is that, as much as I used to want that big, exciting experience for my first HIM, right now I think a smaller, more relaxed race is a better fit for me (and if RnR taught me anything, it's that I might not get the big experience I'd hoped for anyway). So, all I can say right now is that that I will probably be doing a half Ironman this fall, but not being able to say exactly where or when makes me extremely nervous.

And then there's the part where I spent last Saturday night coming up with a training plan that I'll probably never use, for an insane goal that's ridiculously lofty - even for me. But that's another story for another day.

I may not know what my race calendar looks like 6 months from now, but I do know what the next couple months look like. I recently accepted an internship that will have me living in Virginia Beach for the summer, meaning I will get to participate in some of my absolute favorite races!

May 23: Elizabeth River Run 10k
This is the definition of a hometown race for me. Half of it runs along my normal route (that is, before the route I routinely ran before I moved across the state last summer) and the second half runs along a beautifully scenic riverfront path around the Naval Hospital (which I don't usually get to run since it's closed to civilians). It's the perfect race. I ran a PR there last summer and I'm not sure if I could pull off another one this year, but I hope to get close.

May 31: Breezy Point Sprint Triathlon (750m swim/20k bike/5k run)
In 2013 this was my second-ever triathlon, and my first one with an open water swim. I was recovering from an injury at the time and didn't even plan on doing the race until 4 days prior - luckily registration was still open, and I was able to get a great deal on a wetsuit on eBay and have it overnighted just in time for rest day - so I'd like to think I have a much better shot this time around. I was signed up for it last year but it was canceled at the last minute due to military security issues (it's held on a naval base), so I'm excited to give it another go this year.

June 7: Jamestown Triathlon (1500m swim/40k bike/10k run)
Another great local race that rolls around before it gets too oppressively hot. This will make for 3 race weekends in a row, and I hope I'm up to the challenge. Last year when I raced this one I did a fun day-in-the-life style recap

July 18: Tidewater Sprint Triathlon (500m swim/10 mile bike/5k run)
This is my absolute favorite triathlon. I've only done it once, but I remember it being such a great time. It's short, fast, and a good time. Somehow I managed to set my then-5k PR when I raced it 2 years ago - yes, a run PR in July, during a triathlon. I'm still not sure how I pulled that one off. It was so hot that day but the race is held at a local beach and we celebrated after by pulling up some chairs on the powdery sand and having some beers. Perfect race day, if you ask me! I wasn't able to do this one last year either since I moved the week before and didn't know if I'd be able to make it back into town or not - turns out I could, but by the time I knew that, the race was sold out. I'll be securing my spot early this time!

As of right now I have no big goals for these races, and that's kind of how I like it. As fun as it is to set goals, work toward them, and reach them, I've done a lot of that over the last several months and I'm ready to just see how it goes. Triathlon season is my fun time, my happy place...since the courses and distances can vary so much and 2 races are rarely ever the exact same distance, and even the weather can make a big difference since things like wind hugely impact the swim and the bike, I don't put a lot of stock into my finishing times. I would like to see my run times get back to where they were a few months ago, after I got fast (for me) but before they took a hit when I started marathon training, but as long as I'm doing my best and having fun, I'll be happy. 

Sunday Sweats [3/23 - 3/29]

I gotta be honest here...not a lot of sweats this week. Between my marathon and accepting an internship, there was a lot of celebrating and recovering to be done, and not much working out.

Monday: Rest | An obvious rest day today. I could barely move - having to go up and down stairs several times was cruel and unusual punishment. I did ride my bike about a mile round trip to the closest convenience store to grab a bottle of wine. It was an emergency, okay?!

Tuesday: Rest | Walking and going about normal daily activities was enough of a challenge. I thought about doing yoga but literally not being able to use my quads to lift my legs kind of put the kibosh on that.

Wednesday: Rest | My legs felt a lot better today, but I just didn't feel like doing anything. Ha!

Thursday: 2 mile run @ 7:52 + 12 minutes yoga | I don't think I was supposed to run yet, and I definitely don't think I was supposed to run sub-8, but I couldn't take seeing all the runners out anymore! I had to join them. My legs felt surprisingly good at the time but I know I'll probably pay for that. At least I felt like I finally got to celebrate my marathon victory with myself. And now no more running until next week!

Since I already got off the yoga challenge train because of my rest days, I decided to go out of order and pick back up with Week 2 Day 3.

Friday: Rest | Definitely paying for that run. It was only 2 miles, but it was too fast and too soon and now my sciatica is acting up.

Saturday: 30 minutes yoga | I had every intention of doing yoga earlier in the day...but then Ben and I slept in, spent half the day watching The Jinx (Serial fans: get your hands on a loved one's HBO login ASAP. My jaw was ON THE FLOOR at the end). And then we went to play arcade games and I realized at lunch or whatever you call beer and soft pretzels and cheese fries at 4:30 in ther afternoon that this is the first weekend in literally a year that I haven't had to do a long run. A YEAR. Seriously the last time was the week after Shamrock last year. It wasn't the worst way to spend a Saturday. I did get some yoga in later - Runner's World Power Yoga. Still haven't gotten back on track with the challenge, but it was what I felt like doing.

Sunday: 2 mile walk + 31 minutes yoga | I had a meeting at school and afterward it was still light enough and not too cold so I decided to take an unexpected, pleasant walk home. Ended the night with yoga for IT band and lower back/hip openers.

Running: 2.05 miles (which is 2.05 more than it should have been)
Cycling: basically 0 miles
Yoga: 73 minutes
Strength: 0 workouts

Shamrock Marathon Recap

If you're about to read this recap and you're thinking to yourself that I'm some kind of superhuman because I just ran a marathon, and you'll never be in my shoes or even anywhere close - let me stop you right there. We need to have a little chat.

I ran my third marathon this weekend. Not because I am a gifted runner, or a natural runner, or a lifelong runner. Three years ago this very weekend I ran my first half marathon, and a year prior to that, I couldn't have run to the end of my block if I had wanted to. I didn't wake up one day suddenly able to run long distance. Or any distance. I started one day, with one workout that alternated between 1 minutes of running and 90 seconds of walking, and I wanted to quit and die before I made it through all 8 of the intervals. I ran so slowly I probably could have covered the distance faster by walking. But you know what I did? I put one foot in front of the other one and kept going. And I did that over and over and over again, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. And I continue to do it day after day because running is a process. You may cross figurative and literal finish lines across the way, but the truth is: there is no final finish line. There is always progress to be made. There are setbacks that will undoubtedly occur and will make you feel like you're right back where you started.

I've said this several times recently in e-mails, so apologies if you're reading it for the second or third or tenth time, but I wanted to put it here, out in public, because it's important to me that anyone reading this is completely clear. I share my running journey not to brag, but because it is a journey - one that I want anyone considering it to know that they too can start. There is nothing I believe more strongly that anyone who wants to run can run. The will to succeed is the most important part. I made it through every single one of my runs for the first year on willpower alone. We all have limitations - mental, physical, environmental, emotional, etc. Don't let them define you. Don't let them stop you from being the runner you want to be. I've been there, done that, and I'm here to tell you that you can succeed at whatever you put your mind to. My intention of sharing my running triumphs is never to brag about how great of a runner I think I am, but to maybe, maybe convince someone else that they can do exactly what I've been able to do. Thanks to all of you, whether you send me virtual high fives every time I accomplish something I'm proud of, or you silently congratulate me, for following along and sharing in my journey (and special thanks to those of you who texted, Tweeted, and tracked me on Sunday!).
Now let's talk about this race, shall we? I'm already having a hard time recapping it because it felt like it went by so quickly! Well, as quickly as 4+ hours of running can fly by, anyway. I wanted to have an account of all 26.2 miles for my personal record, but I don't expect you to relive every mile with me. Apologies in advance for the longest race recap in recorded history (brevity has never been my strong suit). Feel free to scroll (and then keep scrolling...and then scroll some'll get there eventually) to the end for my highlights and race reflections!


Shamrock Marathon 2015 Recap

The Shamrock Marathon officially has my heart. I lined up at the same start line I was at a year ago as the race started right in the middle of the oceanfront resort area of Virginia Beach and headed south for the first 5.5 miles, past the resort area then down a major road until the turnaround. I made friends around mile 4.5 with a guy wearing a shirt with The Blerch on the back. I'm not a very social runner but something he said prompted me to ask him a question and we just kept talking from there. We had similar time goals (as close to 4 hours as possible without dying) and he definitely helped me keep my pace in those early miles. They were all right at or below 9:00, which is faster than what I had planned to run, but it's what felt good and comfortable. I saw Ben and our friend who takes all my race photos at the turnaround at mile 5.5! My watch was already measuring about .1 mile long at that point which annoyed me a little.

At mile 6 we turned into Camp Pendleton, a Marine base. There wasn't a lot to see at that point but there were a couple spots with Marines lined up to give us high fives, and I made sure to high five every last one of them. There were a few spots in Camp Pendleton when the wind picked up and it made me really nervous about what was ahead. The forecast had predicted NE winds of 12mph, and I knew that once we got out of the camp we'd be heading north with the wind potentially in our faces for almost 10 miles. The wind was brutal last year and it got me really mentally down, and I was afraid of a repeat.

We made it out of Camp Pendlteon at mile 9 and got back out into the main road and went over a bridge (the only hill of any sort on the course, thank goodness!) back toward the oceanfront. There was a water stop and porta potties at the bottom of the bridge and I really had to pee, so I ducked in one of them (thank goodness for no lines). That was the last time I saw The Blerch (not his real name). That was at mile 10 and after that we hopped on the boardwalk for about a mile and a half. There was a fairly strong wind from the north and, as nice as running then Boardwalk can be, it's not so nice with wind in your face. I knew which street Ben would be at so I just focused on counting down each one until I saw him.

Next it was off the boardwalk and back to where we had started, then out onto the main beach road away from the resort area. I had been wanting to take a walk break but I made myself wait until I got to the halfway mark. I needed a break so I took one and I'm glad I did because my legs felt so refreshed when I started running again! I started taking walk breaks every mile or so after that. I've now run two marathons where I started taking walk breaks before I felt like I was dying, and one where I didn't, and I can safely say the former works better for me. My average pace obviously started getting slower at that point but it was worth it.

Miles 14-16 were still on the main beach road, but it turns into beach houses instead of resorts at that point. I got to see the marathon leaders coming from the other direction and heading toward the finish! There were lots of spectators out and also a lot of half marathoners out on the other side, also heading to the finish. I really like seeing people and other runners during races so that was fun. I couldn't wait to be where they were though...only about, oh, 11 miles to go! Right before mile 16 we turned onto Shore Drive. I walked a water stop, got a Popsicle, and made another friend. Actually I just asked him if he was okay since it looked like he kind of wasn't. He was okay except for some cramping, and we talked for a few minutes before I told him good luck and moved on.

Shore Drive was a breeze - the figurative kind, not the literal kind - except for the sudden need I had to use the porta potty, but luckily there were some not too far away. I still felt pretty good and pretty happy, even though those miles were really tough for me last year. Ben was waiting with Bane and his sister, her husband, and their uncle right before the turn into Fort Story at mile 19. I stopped to hug Bane and tried to get a high five but he was too focused on the other runners. He eventually gave me something that kind of resembled a high five and I got back to running.

When I got into Fort Story I thought, "Game on, I am so ready for you!" In my 4 years of running Shamrock, that was the strongest I'd ever felt mentally or physically through that part of the course. That brutal 15-miler during training really did give me the mental strength I needed to get through it. Even though I was at miles 20-23 of a marathon and my legs weren't exactly fresh, it was nothing compared to how cold and windy it was that day a couple months ago. In fact, it was beautiful and sunshiney and, thank Neptune, the wind hadn't been an issue since mile 9.

I didn't take many photos out on the course, but this was just too beautiful of a sight not to!
I couldn't believe when I made it to the 20 mile marker, like was this real life? My pace had slowed a lot due to the walk breaks but my legs still felt okay and my running pace was around 9:00. I had a couple more miles to make it through Fort Story and then: the home stretch!

Running really long distance like that is a real mind fuck, let me tell you. Usually once I get to 15 miles or so, it doesn't make sense to my brain that I've run that far. And once I've gotten up to like 22+ my brain literally cannot register the numbers on my watch anymore. So by the time I got to mile 23 and had about 5k left, I really couldn't comprehend anything anymore, like...what? How...? I remember my watch beeping at 24 miles and I could have sworn it had just beeped at 18 like five minutes earlier. Even though the second half was slow-going it never felt like time slowed or stopped like happens to me sometimes. Those last 3 or 4 miles sometimes feel like an eternity, but they didn't this time. Sometimes I start feeling loopy during long runs, but I somehow remained mentally engaged this time. I just focused on moving forward and knew I'd get there. It got pretty hard to do so, as I was having some trouble breathing and my quads had been cramping up since Fort Story, but I took walk breaks when I needed and just kept moving forward. I was so happy when I made it to mile 25! I knew I only had 12 minutes or so left, and I was going to make it. I tried to pick up the pace when I could. The race was really coming to an end and I kept looking down at my watch...1 mile left, .9, .8...

With less than half a mile left we turned onto the boardwalk to make the final trek down to the King Neptune statue and the finish line. I slowed for a second to take it all in - that view, turning onto the boardwalk, looking straight at the ocean, the sun shining in the blue sky, waves rolling in. That has always been my favorite part of the Shamrock course, but it was exceptionally perfect this time. It was the best sight I saw all day and I just wanted to be in that moment for a second because it so perfectly represented everything about the day. I wanted to take a photo but I couldn't get my phone out in time, so the mental picture will have to suffice. It's something I never want to forget as long as I live.

But I couldn't linger for too long because I had a PR to go get! I picked up my pace on the boardwalk and once I got to mile 26, I started scanning for my family. Having people to smile and wave at as I make my way to the finish is the best thing ever! After I saw them I had just a minute or so more to the finish and I have it all the kick I had (which was apparently a lot more than I thought - the last .48 miles clocked in at 8:06 pace). I looked down and saw that I had just hit 4:17 - I had already added several minutes over the course of the day to the time I'd hoped to get, and there was no way I was going to let my watch get over 4:18 at that point. It hurt so good to cross that finish line!

(linking up my recap with Run Jenny Run!)


Shamrock Marathon 2015 Highlights

I don't know about you, but I'm feeling 26.2.

+ maintaining a sub-9 pace for the first 10 miles
  • Not what I intended on doing and I have to thank The Blerch for keeping me mentally engaged through some of those early miles, but it's an accomplishment I'm proud to have had. I never thought I'd see a sub-9 at any point in a full marathon.
+ finishing the first half in 2 hours (and 21 seconds)
  • I had a goal to make it through the first half in 2 hours, that way I'd have plenty of time to get through the second half. I'm proud not only that I did it, but that I didn't kill myself doing so. Getting through that first half in exactly 2 hours (my watch read 2:00:00 on the dot when I crossed the timing mat) felt comfortable and set me up for a successful (albeit slower) second half. 
  • A year ago, my plan was to run this year's Shamrock half, not the full, in hopes that it would be my first sub-2 half. Soooo to finish the first half of the FULL in the time I expected to run the half alone? Yeah, I'll take it.
+ PRing on both halves of the course.

  • The fastest I had ever previously clocked in at the halfway point of a marathon was 2:19, and the fastest I had ever run the second half of a marathon course was 2:30. This year I finished them in 2:00:21 and 2:17:29, respectively! There's some perspective for ya: my second (slower) half this year was better than my best first half previously. 
+ walking nearly all the water stops and drinking/eating what I needed to 
  • I rarely ever use the aid stations in races, and when I do, it's because I'm dying of thirst and I end up downing a cup of Gatorade and then cursing Gatorade approximately 23 seconds later when my stomach starts to hurt. Even on solo runs I rarely eat or drink anything because I don't like the feeling of anything sloshing around in my stomach, but I have ended up paying for not eating and drinking way too many times (remember that 20-miler I totally bonked a few weeks ago because I just needed to eat?). I practiced at RnR last week by not only walking the water stops but actually drinking water during them and it helped. I think I missed one or two in the early Shamrock miles, but I stopped and got water at all of aid stations from Mile 4 on to the end, whether I felt like I needed to or not. I also ate an entire box of raisins, started on a second box, and ate a popsicle I got from a spectator. Usually I eat like 2 raisins total, if I remember, so, as weird as it sounds, forcing myself to eat was a big win.
+ allowing myself walk breaks when I needed them and not beating myself up for it
  • I know that for a lot of people, the merit in running comes from not stopping. I fully admit to being one of those people in shorter races, and even halfs to some extent, but the marathon is a completely different beast for me that needs to be handled differently. For me, that means taking breaks. Breaks that started at the halfway point. Breaks that got more frequent as the number of miles got higher. Breaks that caused my average pace to keep slowing. And I was totally fine with that. Those breaks may have added a few minutes to my finishing time, but they kept me from hitting The (infamous) Wall and getting down on myself and my race. They kept me mentally engaged and gave me some physical relief which I think ultimately allowed me to keep going until the end. 
+ using the porta-potty twice!
  • One reason I hate to eat or drink anything is because I am terrified of having to go to the bathroom on the course. I'm not really sure if I'm afraid that I won't make it to a porta-potty, or if I'm just worried about the extra time it will take (especially if there's a line), but seriously, that has always been one of my biggest race fears. I stopped not once but twice and was weirdly glad I did because guess what? The world did not stop spinning, and my race continued on like normal after I was done. Amazing, right? Seriously, this was a weird but necessary mental victory for me to realize that. 
+ beating my last Shamrock half time, doubled
  • I never had any delusions of finishing this in my current half PR time (1:49), doubled, but I did think it would be cool to beat my Shamrock half time. Two years ago I trained and trained and trained and finished my second half marathon at Shamrock in 2:10:14. It was one of the toughest things I'd ever done and I was DEAD at the end. So, 2 years later, essentially running that same race back-to-back felt pretty good.
+ getting to ring the PR bell
  • The PR bell on the beach was a new addition this year, and I thought it was so much fun! I had seen a picture of it in IG from the 8k the day before and I just couldn't wait to finish my race and ring it myself!
+ drinking a beer out of my new pint glass
  • I came *thisclose* to purchasing that Twenty Six Point Freaking Two pint glass at the expo on Friday night, that way Ben could bring it to the after party and I could celebrate by drinking my victory beers out of it! Then I came to my senses - I never purchase anything with the race distance on it prior to the race! Even though I'd run a marathon before, even though I'd run the Shamrock Marathon before, I didn't want to jinx myself, so I sadly put it back. I had Tweeted about it the night before and I didn't even realize I'd be able to buy it after the race until I got a Tweet right after I finished the race asking if I had bought any merch. I wasn't planning on it but after I got that reminder I made a beeline for the merch booth. I'll probably be drinking out of that glass for the rest of time. 
+ not letting my mind defeat me!
  • Ah, my biggest accomplishment of all! This isn't to say that at Mile 3 I wasn't already wondering when I'd be done. Or that the wind in my face at Mile 8 didn't make me consider throwing in the towel for a second. Or that the cramps in my side at Mile 17 didn't make me walk a quarter mile until I could get it together. Or that I didn't consider just walking from Mile 22 to the end when I realized I could do that and still PR. I certainly still had some negative thoughts pop up here and there, but I never let them get me down. I embraced them, I dealt with them however I needed to, and I moved on. I couldn't keep the pace I was hoping to hold, and I watched some of my time goals (4:00...4:05...4:10...4:15...) slip away, but I didn't panic. I adapted. Every time I let one go, I was completely okay with it because I knew I was running the race I needed to run. I saw the long term instead of the short term. I recognized that even if I could pull off a 9-minute mile, the next one would likely take 12 minutes because I would have exhausted myself. The short term benefits weren't worth the price I'd pay trying to get to the finish line. I felt in control of my race the whole time and, most importantly, HAPPY!
I had some goal times in mind leading up to this race, but more than anything, I wanted to prove that I had a better marathon in me than the two I had previously run. I knew I probably didn't have a sub-4, especially since I just didn't feel like I trained the way I would need to to reach that benchmark, but I knew I could run a substantially better marathon than I ran a year ago. I wanted to close the gap between my half PR (1:49) and my full PR (previously 4:49), and I'm happy with what I was able to accomplish. I ran the best race and, most importantly, the happiest race I could have run. It was absolutely the best Shamrock race I've ever run, and the best marathon I've ever run. I'll never look back at Shamrock 2015 with regret, I'll never wonder "What if?" - I did exactly what I needed to do in those 4 hours and 17 minutes. I have no doubt I have an even better marathon in me - with even more diligent, harder training - but it will be a while before I attempt it again. For now I'm happy to have closed the gap and to have done what I set out to do all along: update my PR board!

What's the best race you've ever run?! Tell me about your most recent PR! 

A bit of housekeeping....

  • Tell Alyssa and me what PR you're gunning for next week - March's Training for Tuesday goes live on the 31st!
  • As of today, I'm officially a resident of!

Sunday Sweats: Marathon Edition [3/16 - 3/22]

Monday: (Super) short bike ride + 10 minutes yoga | It was SO insanely beautiful today (70*?! I see you, spring) and I really wanted to run but a) it wasn't on the training plan and b) I didn't really want to because I was still having a hard time functioning after last weekend. BUT I did ride my bike - outside! Okay, it was for like 15 minutes total and I only rode it to the grocery store to pick up dinner, but still.

I got really inspired last weekend by our impromptu hotel yoga classes with Alyssa and Kristen's "Don't Break the Chain challenge" so today I decided to try Erin Motz's 2nd 30-day challenge. I completed the first one last summer but never made it all the way through the 2nd one so I'm giving it another go. Today was Day 1!

Tuesday: 13 minutes AM yoga + 3 mile run @ 8:35 + 15 minutes PM yoga | I woke up this morning feeling like my legs were actually working properly (a rarity during marathon training), and it was nice enough out that I decided to ride my bike to school, meaning I had about 10-15 minutes of extra time getting ready. So what did I do with that time? I knocked out Day 2 of the yoga challenge.

Other than the fact that it was beautiful outside, there was nothing special about my run. I'm running out of miles left before Sunday! When I got back from my run I did some yoga while I watched TV. I don't use phrases like "free flow" but I guess that's technically what it was? Just did what felt good and what I felt like I needed to do (some sun salutations and hip openers, mainly).

Wednesday: 12 mile bike ride @ 17.3mph + 30 minutes yoga | Today I finally made it to that point in my training cycle where I question every single workout I have ever done in my life, as well as my plans moving forward. It was so pretty outside again today and ALL I wanted to do was run...but I had cycling on the schedule instead and running Thursday and Friday. I spent nearly 3 hours trying to decide what to do, and ended up sticking with my plan. I was so busy with school that I didn't make it onto the trainer until 9:30pm. Not what I would have preferred, but it's what I had to work with today. After I finished I got ready for bed and cooled down with Day 3 of the yoga challenge. And then to fall asleep I did a bedtime yoga video.

Thursday: 2 mile run @ 8:10 + 8 minutes yoga | Why yes, Mother Nature, I would like ice pellets in the face from both directions.

Friday: 2 mile run @ 8:36 + 13 minutes yoga | My last training run was early and rainy. I altered my route slightly since I knew that there would be a lot of worms out on my normal paths. That's where I draw the running line, people. Not bad weather, not sickness, not even injury sometimes...but worms. I have to dodge them because I don't want to step on them, but in order to dodge them I have to look down and look at them to see where they are and they're just gross. And my plan totally backfired because there was one dip in my alternate route that was basically just a giant worm puddle. Blech.
Anyway, this was not my best run by any means but maybe that will mean I worked out any yuckiness before the race?!

After my early run I went to the chiropractor and hit the road to Virginia Beach! I picked up my packet at the expo, went to dinner, and even though I was beyond exhausted, I made sure to get in Day 5 before bed :)

Saturday: 10 minutes yoga | I had a pretty busy day, on top of getting ready for the marathon, but I made sure to get in Day 6! It was a relaxation flow which was actually perfect for my pre-race nerves.
Sunday: SHAMROCK MARATHON @ 9:50 + 12 minutes yoga | I'll have a full recap of the race later this week, but for now know that it was my best marathon ever - and not strictly because I beat my PR by 31 minutes. When I finally got home after the longest/most painful and uncomfortable drive ever, I got in Day 7 - that Warrior flow was super fun to do with non-functioning quads!

Running: 33.62 miles
Cycling: 12.34 miles (+6ish to the grocery store and school)
Yoga: 111 minutes

5 Mantras I'm Clinging to This Weekend

Sorry to get all deep on you two days in a row - marathon week is a weird one. Also sorry for posting solely about running for the last week but...were you listening?! IT'S MARATHON WEEK!

This one got me through a tough half marathon PR in November and I'm banking on it getting me through a full PR on Sunday. It's something I heard in spin class a few years ago from a teacher I really liked and have kept in the back of my mind ever since. I don't plan to torture my body on Sunday, but I want to remember that no matter what pace I'm clocking, I don't have to settle. I can demand more. And my body will give it to me.

The night before my first full marathon, I asked my family and friends for suggestions to add to my playlist for the next day - their favorite song, a song they thought I'd like, something motivational, whatever. I just wanted something that would make me think of them. My husband suggested "Sometimes You're the Hammer, Sometimes You're the Nail" by A Day to Remember. At first I laughed because I'm a) a music snob and b) an adult, and the only people I knew who listened to that band were my high school students, but it turned out to be the best suggestion. I listened to it on race day and loved it and now it's a staple in my running tunes. I love this message at the end. It's true for nearly every run and I think that's why I always come back to it. I know there will be times during the marathon when I don't feel comfortable and when I'm afraid to push myself. Last year I could think of no better word to describe my Shamrock experience than "humbled" and I have no doubt that it will humble me once again. I'm giving myself permission to feel every step, good or bad, and know that I can keep going even when it doesn't feel good.

This is some advice I got from Ben during a particularly defeating 15-miler a couple months ago, featuring wind speeds higher than the temperature (21 and 13, respectively, in case you were wondering). I got almost halfway through and I just did. not. want. to run anymore. I texted Ben with some whining, my usual MO when a run really sucks, and he shot one back with the above. And you know what? He was right. I was fine. My legs were fine. My breathing was fine, maybe a little labored running up that one random hill on an otherwise flat course, but I wasn't going to die. My body wasn't telling me to stop running, my brain was. I might not win the race on Sunday, but defeating my mind instead of it defeating me would make me feel like I might as well have earned an Olympic medal.

I've learned a lot of this this training cycle, like the importance of fueling properly and that I don't need to torture myself on hills to train for a flat race. I also learned that Eminem is my spirit animal. You can laugh and think I'm as silly as you want, but it's true. I've found myself digging a lot of his songs (and it turns out that trying to learn to rap them is a great mental exercise to keep my mind off running) because I appreciate his (to put it nicely) go-get-'em attitude. Nothing lights a fire in me faster than the beginning of this song. I'm anticipating that "sometimes" is going to be around mile 16ish? I'll probably have this song on repeat at that point.

I'm wearing this shirt on Sunday, so believing anything to the contrary would make a liar out of me. I picked this shirt for a lot of reasons (most of them being the fact that it came in green), and one of those reasons is because this is what I need to remember more than anything on race day. I'm not a professional. No one ever has or ever will write me a check for putting one foot in front of the other. In fact, I handed over quite a bit of money to have the privilege of running 26.2 miles through Virginia Beach.  No one forced me to; I did it because I wanted to. Because running is fun. Running is fun, running is fun, running is fun. I have a million things to worry and think about in my non-running life, so for those 4 hours I get to spend focusing solely on running, I might as well enjoy them.

So, that's it. I'm ready. As ready as I'm going to be. I've put in the miles and I have my mantras and my playlists and there is nothing left to do but put one foot in front of the other and not stop until I've made it 26.2 miles. The race starts at 8:30am on Sunday and I think I have tracking correctly set up to post to my Twitter, but you can also track me here if you're so inclined (I'm bib number 2094). Catch you guys on the flip side?!

#TBT: Shamrock Half Marathon 2012

I started running nearly 4 years ago - on April 23, 2011, to be exact. At that time, I had no clue what world would soon open up for me. Back then, I couldn't run for more than a minute without getting winded and having to stop, and even though I kept checking days off the Couch to 5k program, I wasn't sure I'd ever see the day when I could actually run 3.1 miles. The thought of me, having never even run one continuous mile in all of my 23.5 years, running over 3 without stopping was the most daunting thought I'd ever had. But somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew I could do it. Where that confidence came from, I'll never know. Prior to starting my running journey, I had really never done anything that was hard for me. That's not to say that I had never accomplished anything, or that I had never worked hard, but I had never worked so hard in the way that running required. It was the first thing I'd ever done that hadn't come naturally to me, that I was pretty terrible at to be honest, but that I stuck with anyway. I may not have been able to run far or fast, but I celebrated every little victory and, step by step, I learned to run.

I never intended to run a half marathon. I don't think I could have told you the distance of a half marathon 4 years ago. I knew that my dad had run them, and I knew they were really far, way farther than the 3.1 miles I was attempting to run, but that was about it. I never had any plans or delusions that I might run one too. It wasn't until I had completed a couple 5ks and a 10k that I started to think it might be possible. One Sunday afternoon in December 2011 I went out planning to run 5 miles and ended up running 7 - a distance PR, and over halfway to a half marathon. I had had my eye on the Shamrock Half Marathon in Virginia Beach for a while but never really believed I'd be able to get close to even being able to think about registering. But a few days after that 7-miler, with the clock ticking before the race sold out, I clicked "Register." And immediately wanted to throw up.

The race sold out the next day.

I spent the next 3 months conquering what I once thought was impossible. Nearly every weekend, my long runs ended with me celebrating a new distance PR, and I couldn't get enough. It was addicting. It was empowering. My world revolved around making it to March 18 - the day I, the girl who had an asthma attack running around the middle school track in the 6th grade, would be able to call herself a half marathoner.

Race day came, and I was SO unbelievably nervous. I remember being in the parking lot before the sun had even come up (the 7am start time was early!), stretching and trying to calm my nerves. It was my 5th race, but my first one of that magnitude. I had no idea what I was in for. Soon enough, my dad  and I and the friends we were with made our way to the start line. The corrals in front of us left one by one, and then it was our turn. I started having serious doubts right before we took off. I remember being in the front of the corral, toeing the starting line, tears welling up in my eyes because I was so overwhelmed with emotion. The race announcer counted us down and then we were off.

My dad had told me a few weeks back to think of the course in sections: first first few miles down Atlantic Avenue to Shore Drive; the turn onto Shore Drive until the turn into Fort Story 3 miles later; the dreaded 3 miles of Fort Story; and finally, the home stretch, the last 5k back toward the Oceanfront to the Boardwalk. Getting to the first “checkpoint” felt like it took no time at all. The second passed quickly as well. Even though I was running an average pace a little faster than the one I had trained at, I still felt good when we made it to Fort Story.

I was mentally prepared for Fort Story to be tough. Not a lot to see, very few spectators out, if any, since it's a military base, and the hardest part of any half, I think: miles 6 - 9.  I made it to the halfway point and it was like all of a sudden, a switch flipped. I started having a lot of trouble breathing, asthma attack type trouble. It shocked me since I hadn't had any problems during my training. I had to keep slowing down and I fought the need to walk for as long as I could. It kept getting worse even though I kept slowing and slowing, and finally I had no choice but to stop and walk right before Mile 8 in order to be able to get air into my lungs again. I've never been more disappointed in myself than I was at that moment.

I walked for about half a mile, until I felt better and got my confidence up, and then I got going again. Eventually I made it out of Fort Story to the 3rd "checkpoint", but I never fully recovered. I got better physically, but I was emotionally defeated. The 5k back to the beach to the finish line felt a lot longer than any 5k should. We started counting down the blocks we had left until we got to the boardwalk for the last half mile. After we got on the boardwalk my chest started closing up again, but there was absolutely no way I was stopping to walk. By that time I was scanning the crowd, looking for Ben. I finally saw him when I was probably less than .2 miles away from the finish line, and I was so excited about seeing him and finishing that I just started running as hard as I possibly could. With every step, the finish line got closer and closer until I finally crossed it.


The world stopped spinning for a few seconds when I crossed that finish line. Those moments afterward, the relief and pride and disbelief, the simultaneous joy and pain that comes from stopping after being in motion for nearly 3 hours, the way my dad grabbed a medal from a volunteer and placed it around my neck, saying, "You earned it." - that made all the bad moments from the race instantly vanish. It didn't matter that my finishing time was one that most people would write off, or that I'd almost given up on myself out on the course. It just didn't matter.

Finishing my first half marathon was about so much more than running 13.1 miles. It was about proving to myself that I could accomplish even the unlikeliest goals. That I could dig deep and persevere when things got rough. That I could do anything I set my mind to. Finishing that race gave me the courage not only to keep running, but to do other things in my life that scared me or that I thought were impossible. I've never been more proud of myself than I was that day.

This Sunday, wearing a necklace with a Shamrock charm that came off of that medal up there, I'll line up at Shamrock for the 4th year in a row. This time, it will be for my 3rd full marathon - 3 years (and 4 days) after my first half marathon. Oh, how time flies.

Rock 'n' Roll DC Half Marathon Recap

After planning it for over 4 months, a big race weekend has come and gone. Isn't that the way it always goes? This weekend I ran the Rock 'n' Roll DC half marathon (half #11 for me) and it was...interesting to say the least. This race seemed to be best recapped in superlative format (maybe my brain is throwing it back to high school senior superlatives since I've been getting 100 Facebook notifications a day from people posting to the page for my class's 10-year reunion, coming up this later this year...*shudder*). I wish I had been able to take more/better photos but nonstop rain proved to be quite a deterrent!

Best Sign:
I love reading the signs people hold up along the course, and I especially love a good themed signed. DC didn't disappoint as there was a lot of crowd support along most of the course, with lots of DC-appropriate puns, but my favorite had to be "Hillary hasn't committed to running, but you have!" I might have even laughed out loud a bit. Not sure if that was because it really was that funny, or because I had spent the previous 5 minutes climbing a truly MASSIVE hill, I mean it was a mountain really...I can't say for sure that I was rocking 100% mental capacity at the point.

Biggest Motivator:
Right as we made our way to said mountain hill, there were pictures of soldiers killed in action lining the course. They continued for the first half of the hill and then after that there were people with the same organization standing on the side holding American flags, telling us good job and giving high fives.  I don't know whose idea it was to have those photos and flags at that point in the course, but they knew exactly what they were doing. All I could think about was that, looking at photos of fallen soldiers and my gosh, seeing ages underneath them that were lower than mine, that hill really didn't seem like such a hard feat in comparison. I'm not generally a person who gets really moved by patriotism, but I don't know that I would have made it up that hill without that encouragement.

Best Spectator Setup:
The DC tri club was set up somewhere around mile 9 or 10. They had a tent set up and were doing a workout on spin bikes as we ran by! There were a lot of spectators out (<3), especially for such a rainy day, but seeing those triathletes spinning away was definitely my favorite. 

Best Thing That Happened Upon Leaving the Finisher's Chute:
Seeing and meeting Becky and Erin! Crazy Awesome ladies waited for over an hour in the cold rain at the finish line waiting to see all their friends finish. They were still mostly dry and completely adorable under their pink umbrella when Alyssa and I came up to them looking like drowned rats, but they were nice enough to not look the other way and pretend not to know us (we wouldn't have blamed them if they had).

Worst Thing That Happened Upon Leaving the Finisher's Chute:
Everything that wasn't meeting Becky and Erin. Let me set the scene for you: it's been alternating between drizzling and steadily raining for the last 2.5 hours. We've just spent a little over 2 of those hours running and are completely, utterly, soaked-to-the bone drenched. We leave the finisher's area only to realize...there is absolutely nowhere inviting for us to go. No building of any kind to duck into, no giant tent, no nothing. We could change into the dry clothes we put in gear check, but there's nowhere to change and even if there were, there's no refuge from the rain so we'd be soaked again in approximately 7 seconds anyway. We were given space blankets, although we put them on backwards because I convinced Alyssa that Ben had told me to put them on that way and it turns out that he had, in fact, told me the opposite...meaning the literally thousands of other people wearing them logo side out were correct. My bad. Is race brain a thing? Not that it mattered a whole lot because there was no way that blanket could have undone the fact that we were already sopping wet and it was only getting colder. We huddled up under a metro overpass with nearly almost all of the other finishers while we waited for Kristen since that was the only covering of any kind in the immediate area. When we went to leave, we followed the masses to the metro station we knew was close by, but apparently wasn't that close, and when we finally finished that odyssey, the line just to get into the metro station was a block long. Then we waited for a taxi and were either ignored, shunned, or cut in front of by other people who apparently thought that neither the fact that we were in wet running clothes nor that we had been standing and waiting the longest trumped the fact that they too needed a cab. Then we had an Uber driver cancel on us and were nearly convinced we were going to die from hypothermia on that street corner when finally our second Uber driver showed up and rescued us. So, that was that. Thanks for the post-race accommodations, RnR! 

Weirdest Moment:
During said miserable trek to the metro station, a random guy standing on the street next to his pickup truck very obviously raised his phone to take a picture of us for no apparent reason whatsoever. So now he has a photo of the 3 of us shivering and giving him our best, "WTF?!" faces.

Favorite Part of the Course:
Despite the rain and the fact that we felt like Rock n Roll left us to shiver to death after we finished, I really enjoyed the course. The parts I could make out through the rain and clouds, at least. We ran by a lot of monuments, alongside the Potomac, and through pretty neighborhoods that I can't name but my favorite part was an out-and-back across Arlington Memorial Bridge. Anytime I get to run across a bridge is usually a win for me, but I especially liked coming back and being able to see the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument in the distance.

Overall I wasn't terribly impressed with the Rock 'n' Roll brand. Everything leading up to and during the race was well-organized, but I really felt like they dropped the ball at the end by apparently not preparing at all for the rainy day that had been forecasted all week. I know they couldn't help the weather, and I do think it would have been a much better experience from start to finish if it had been nicer outside, but it was disappointing to finish and have nowhere to go except under the metro overpass huddled with all the other cold and confused finishers. I would run RnR DC again just because I liked the course a lot and would like to see more of it on a better day, but I'm not exactly counting down the days until next year's race. Maybe I'm just spoiled because the races I run locally, although just as expensive as RnR, are truly top-notch and brilliantly organized in every possible way. My experience at RnR just made me look forward to a great Shamrock weekend even more!

Have you ever run a Rock 'n' Roll brand race? Was the finish line poorly organized, or is it just me?

Sunday Sweats [3/9-3/15]

Monday: Rest day | I spent the day traveling for an interview (!!!), so not exactly restful, but a non-exercise day nonetheless.
Tuesday: 3 mile run @ 8:06  + 30 minutes strength training | Had one of those days where my legs just felt really good. Maybe the whole taper thing is working after all? Plus it was nice to just have a 5k on the agenda for a change! 

Wednesday: 3 mile run @ 8:42 | Today ended up being an unplanned travel day back to the beach and I had to get in my run early before hitting the road. My legs felt tired and heavy, most likely due to the part where it was morning and I had just run 14 hours prior. It wasn't bad, just okay.

Thursday: 3 mile run @ 8:41 | I did this one at the beach and it was such a blast - literally a blast as there was an 18mph headwind for the first half as I ran north on the boardwalk. It was a gorgeous day with the sun shining so bright in the blue sky. I ran from our hotel to the statue of King Neptune, then turned around and came back (when the 18mph wind was now a tailwind, and much appreciated). Running the boardwalk makes me so emotional and I may or may not have spent a good portion of this run teary-eyed. I've ran and crossed countless finish lines there, and so many big ones: my first 5k, first 10k, first 10-miler, first half marathon, several PRs at those distances since the first ones. It's not always an easy or fun experience but I have had so many big running moments on that boardwalk. The finish line for a lot of races is just beyond the King Neptune statue, so seeing him is the almost-done signifier. They had already started setting up for Shamrock and had put up some of the signs, and the crew was just beginning to put up the tent on the beach, and I just kept thinking about the next time I'll see King Neptune!

Friday: 20 minutes yoga | More traveling today, but this time it was to finally meet up with Alyssa and Kristen in DC for the Rock n Roll half marathon! We spent some time getting ready for the race in our hotel thanks to an impromptu class led by Alyssa herself. I hope she remembers us as some of her first students when she is a big, bad famous yogi. 

Saturday: Rock n Roll DC Half Marathon @ 9:47 + 20 minutes yoga | Our daily weather checks leading up to the race showed all-day rain on race day (of course it was flanked by two beautiful days...of course it was, right?) and despite our finger-crossing, that didn't change by race morning. It was one of the wettest races I've ever run and the post-race organization was quite the letdown (understatement of the year but that's not what we're talking about right now), BUT it wasn't all bad. I really enjoyed the course a lot (what I could see through the rain and cloud cover, anyway), Alyssa had a crazy PR, and Kristen did amazingly well considering she had to make a pit stop at a medic tent  at mile 10 (she'll tell you she did horribly, but I'm telling you I am fairly confident wouldn't have made it to the finish line if I had been in her shoes - let's just say I've run a half in the time she finished without hanging out at the medic's tent). Considering that nothing about that race was exactly ideal, I think we more than earned our medals!

We also earned the Chinese and pizza deliveries to our hotel and the 2-hour nap that happened after. At least we made sure to get in some more yoga before our food comas.

Sunday: Rest day | This was my 4th day of traveling/last 4 of out 18+ hours spent in the car this week, so another not exactly restful rest day. Instead of getting in any exercise, we slept way late and eventually rolled out of bed to check out of the hotel to meet up with Carly for brunch in Georgetown before heading home.

Running: 23.02 miles
Cycling: 0 miles (what is a bike again?)
Strength: 1 workout/30 minutes
Yoga: 40 minutes

No big pits/peaks this week, except for the obvious: getting to run at the beach (peak), getting to run with Kristen and Alyssa (peak), the abysmal weather at Rock n Roll (pit).

And's marathon week. Any volunteers to push me across the finish line on Sunday? I might need it.

Sunday Sweats [3/2-3/9]

Monday: Rest day | Long day. Enough said.

Tuesday: 5 mile run @ 9:11 | I really want to take the rest of my runs easy and practice pacing, so that's what I did. Other than feeling like I was in a time warp, I felt good at an easy pace in the 8:40s. Then my stomach started to really give me trouble during the last mile and I ended up walking quite a bit, so obviously that drove my average pace up quite a bit.
This was my first taper workout and the crazies took no time settling in. I have an old pair of shoes that I stopped really running in last fall but aren't quite dead yet, so a few weeks ago I brought them back into the rotation for short runs to help extend the life of my other, newer shoes. I did not plan on replacing them any time soon since I didn't plan on running Shamrock in them. Well, today I was running in them and all I could think about was OMG I love these shoes! I have aways loved these shoes! I should run Shamrock in these! But these are too dead to run a marathon in, so I need a new pair! So, naturally, I came home and did the logical thing and ordered a new pair (at least Amazon came to my rescue by miraculously having them in my size at 50% off).

Wednesday: 4 mile run @ 8:52 | I don't know what was up with this one. Everything felt awful, from the stomach cramp that lasted the whole time to my legs feeling robotic (and not in a good way) and injuries in both my legs bothering me. Just all kinds of bad.

Thursday: 17.5 mile bike ride @ 17.5mph + 30 minutes strength training | I had to walk 2 miles home in the snow since it snowed while I was in class and the buses stopped running...does that count as a workout?

My bike ride really wasn't terrible, probably because I was watching Parenthood (I'm obsessed). Hopefully it will get warm soon and my trainer rides will come to an end! Later I did some strength training, including my first homework assignment from my new chiropractor.

Friday: 5 mile run @ 8:20 | Today I decided that I was tired of my body's shenanigans and that I was going to run it instead of it running me. 

So that's what I did. My left hip still hurt like it has been and I have some kind of nerve constriction in my right leg, but playing nice hasn't been helping so I thought I would give tough love a shot. Neither of them hurt as bad as I expected and I was surprised to pull off that pace. It was icy in some places and puddly/muddy in other places from our most recent snow so that was annoying - my pace definitely would have been under 8:20 if I hadn't had to slow down and/or walk around those spots. That pace wasn't exactly easy to keep and definitely required some mental pushing to get through. Where are you, girl who ran a half at that same pace just 4 months ago?!
Also I did my hip exercises from my chiro before and after my run, just like I'm supposed to, because I'm a good patient that shit is too expensive not to.

Saturday: 45 minutes yoga | I did my favorite Yoga for Runners video again this week. I don't know if it was getting back into that practice or my chiro appointment (and subsequent exercises) this week, but it felt a lot better than last week. I could tell my left hip flexor is already a lot less "sticky" than it has been. Still feel like I have a long way to go on that front, but at least I'm seeing progress.

Sunday: 10 mile run @ 9:46 + 20 minutes yoga |
I'm home for the weekend and the weather is gorgeous! This was my last, non-race long run before Shamrock and I'm happy with how it went. I'm trying not to get hung up on the pace (I hung back for my dad a lot, and I really want to run the marathon a lot faster, but I'm still not sure how much better I could have done on my own) because other than that, it was practically perfect in every way. The sun was shining, not a cloud in the sky, it was warm enough for short sleeves, and just...this. Oh how I miss the days when every run was made of this view!

Running: 24.48 miles
Cycling: 17.48 miles
Strength: 1 workout  (+6 rounds of the Myrtl routine, thanks chiro!)
Yoga: 65 minutes (I swear I did another 20-minute video somewhere in there but I didn't write it down so obviously it didn't happen)

- I'm having the exact same issue in my right leg that I had this time last year, right before Shamrock. It feels like a pinched nerve. It hasn't prevented me from running yet (usually I can stretch enough that it's tolerable), but it's still annoying.
- This was the first weekend in 3 months that I ran under 12 was a welcomed break, but it didn't feel as easy as I would have liked. I'm on the fence about whether or not the slower pace is to blame - on one hand I felt in control the whole time, but on the other hand I could feel it taking longer than usual (even if it was only a few extra minutes). I'm not sure I could have done that another 1.5 times, at any pace, and I'm feeling more and more sure that Shamrock is going to be a fight to get to the finish.

+ My Shamrock outfit is complete! So, I'm not gonna lie, one of the reasons I like running Shamrock is because of all the green. I don't have a favorite color, but if I did, it would probably be green ('s green, I just don't want to declare one favorite color because how can you ever choose just one?!).

Shamrock outfits past
+ I finally started seeing a chiropractor this week and had my first adjustment! I know some people love them and some people think they are a load of crap so I wanted to find out for myself. It was interesting hearing his take on how I move correctly and incorrectly - luckily there are no major issues, and the main one right now is my left hip. Both of my hips have always been weak, that one especially. It's given me trouble in various forms of injury over the years, so I'm excited to finally be addressing that (the way my chiro explained it is that a lot of people run a certain way that and it may not necessarily harm them to do so, but it may not be "right" either).
+ This is cheesy, but I just don't want to forget it...despite wishing I had a faster pace to show for it, my long run this week was everything. Two years ago I trained my ass off to be able to run a half marathon at a sub-10 pace and I did it by coming in at 9:59 pace at Shamrock that year. It was the hardest thing I'd ever done. And now I'm wrapping up a third marathon training cycle and a 9:46 is my easy pace and I just sometimes forget how I got here. Today was so beautiful out and I couldn't help but feel like I was being rewarded for all my hard work the past few months. All those times I went out in freezing weather, all those runs I pushed through...this was it. I rarely give myself credit for my running accomplishments - even when I celebrate them, there's always a voice asking, "But what if I had done better? What else can I do next time?" - but today, I felt like I earned every bit of ease and happiness I had while running. If I never got to run again after today, that would have been the best run I could have ended on.

Races I'm Looking Forward To

I don't know about you guys, but there were a couple days this week in between snow storms when I could actually see green grass, and one day I could even go outside without a jacket on, and it definitely got me itching for my spring races. I know I'll be singing a different tune in about, oh, two or three months when I can't walk outside without being immediately drenched in sweat, but for now, the warmer weather can bring it on. I have some good ones coming up and I can't wait to get the ball rolling.

Rock n Roll USA Half Marathon

You know, it's like one minute you're tweeting with blog friends about potentially running a race together and the next minute that race is 8 days away. This will be a lot of firsts for me: first time running a Rock n Roll race, first time running in DC, and first time meeting Kristen, Becky, Erin, Carly, et al.(?!) I'm so excited to have all these experiences at one great race. Having fun is the A goal for this one - pretty sure I've got that one in the bag.

Shamrock Marathon
If you're a Virginia Beach runner, there's a good chance that your fall to spring running calendar, maybe even your yearly running calendar, revolves around Shamrock weekend. It draws nearly 30,000 runners over 2 days and 3 races and is every bit the party you'd expect from a huge St. Patty's-themed race. Training hasn't gone like I wanted and I'm really unsure about my ability to meet any or all of my goals, but I hope that if nothing else, I can enjoy the race and be happy and thankful that I get to run it at all. This has always been an unpredictable race for me, but I can't wait to run it for the fourth consecutive year because it's the one closest to my heart.

Also because I finally picked out my race day outfit, and wearing lots of green makes my heart happy. Especially glittery green. And this shirt (which I bookmarked a few weeks after I saw it on someone's Twitter - Kate? Amanda? - and was super happy to see was offered in green after searches for other green running shirts got me nowhere, so please tell me if it I got it from one or both of you?!).

3.2 Run in Remembrance

On this day, the Virginia Tech community reflects on the vibrant lives of the 32 students and faculty who were tragically taken from us on April 16, 2007. This community run/walk throughout the campus of VT strives to bring fellow Hokies together, to feel the support of the community, and to celebrate the lives of our friends and family members. (via)

If this doesn't end up being the most profoundly emotional running experience I've had, I'll be pretty surprised. I've never been able to find the exact words to express what it felt like to be in Blacksburg on April 16, 2007 or the days following. This year will be the first year I've been on campus since that gray Monday 8 years ago. I've been waiting to participate in this run since 2011: back then I was living away from Blacksburg and wanted to participate from afar, but I knew I couldn't run even a fraction of the full distance so I walked 3.2 miles instead; a week later, I put on running shoes for the first time and started my first day of Couch to 5k. Every single one of my runs takes me through campus - I make sure of that, it's too beautiful not to - but I can't imagine what it will feel like to be part of a sea of maroon and orange making our way through past all that Hokie stone. I'm grateful to have the opportunity to feel and express those feelings that come up every year, the ones I just can't seem to articulate, in the best, most therapeutic way I know how. I'm honored to be able to remember those 32 brave Hokies by doing something I truly view as a celebration of life.

A TBD Triathlon

Oh right, remember that part about how I'm a triathlete? I know it's been so long that I've talked about it that you probably forgot (in my defense, tri season ended like 6 months ago). The fact that triathlon season happens mainly during the summer months and that I have no idea where I'm going to be living this summer (since finding an internship is my top priority) means that I also have no idea what my tri season is going to look like. I have some in mind that I hope to get to - Jamestown International and Tidewater Sprint are at-home favorites, Bath County Sprint or Culpepper International would be new-to-me races, and of course I hope to make it to Princeton 70.3 in September - but I'm just not in a position yet to make any concrete plans (soon...hopefully soon). Still, now that we've seen a couple hints of spring, the triathlon bug is starting to take hold again. I don't particularly enjoy swimming laps in the pool or biking my heart out in preparation, but as soon as I step into the water and dog my toes in the sand on race day, I feel like I'm home.

Tell me about your spring and summer race plans!

Inevitable vs. Optional

Last weekend, the marathon training plan I've been running my way through, come hell or high water (or winter or high snow, as it were), came to a peak. Last weekend was the 20-miler, the pinnacle of most marathon training cycles, the final push before spending a few weeks getting rested up and ready for race day. One of the reasons I convinced myself, amidst a lot of doubt, that I could run the Shamrock Marathon (again) is that I would have several opportunities to do long runs as races and/or with running buddies. The 20-miler was supposed to be one of them, another one of those "competitive training runs" put on by my local running group. I'd have my dad (my marathon partner) and a hundred or so of my closest marathon-training comrades to tough out this training milestone with. From the beginning of this training cycle, I was never sure I could make it through long run hell if left to my own devices, but if I could run with other people, I convinced myself I could make it.

I don't know if you guys have heard, but we got some winter weather down South recently and, y''s bad. Or at least that's what my friends and family at home on the coast have been telling me. Meanwhile, I've been across the state where my little mountain town has the capability to get everything plowed efficiently. There may be snow piled high lining the sidewalks, but for the most part, my running routes have been clear and my training has been unaffected.

Until last weekend...when the 20-miler that I was supposed to run back home got canceled due to all the snow and ice and freezing temperatures and the unlikelihood that the trail would be cleared in time to be safe enough for a couple hundred runners. The Sunday forecast where I live didn't look a whole lot better either - snow and freezing rain in the morning to early afternoon and showers later in the early evening, with maybe enough of a gap between the two to fit in my long run.

Saturday night I did yoga, the first time in months that I've had what I would call a solid, long practice, as opposed to the 15 or 20 minute routines I've been squeezing in here and there. I found myself getting frustrated over not being able to get into every pose as fully as I used to - especially when we got to eagle. A couple years ago, just being able to hook my foot behind my leg seemed like an impossibility; now I can get it there with ease, but trying to hold that pose after months of slacking was a different story. As my legs quivered and my ankles and calves burned and I thought of coming out of it, suddenly another thought came to mind, a quote I had read on a running quote app last week:

The running app wasn't the first time I had ever heard this quote (and that probably wasn't even the first time I had seen it on the app since it does tend to recycle quotes), but for some reason it resonated with me. As soon as I thought of it mid-eagle pose, my perception changed. As long as I kept repeating that mantra, the pain was more bearable. It wasn't gone, but I wasn't focusing on it either, because I realized I had a choice in whether or not I would focus on it. I could choose whether or not to succumb to that burning sensation intensifying in my calves.

After I finished my practice and was planning my run for the next day, I couldn't help but wonder if all my planning would be for naught. Even if I got to run the next day, there was no way it could be an enjoyable experience. There was a chance I wouldn't have the opportunity to run outside, meaning I'd have to take it to the treadmill or the indoor track for several hours of torture. Even if by some miracle I were able run outside, it would be cold and probably wet and maybe icy and I'd be all alone to suffer through it.

But then I reminded myself: suffering is optional.

I didn't have to view that run as doomed before it even started. That was a choice I was making. It's not at all hard to see how I wound up at that perspective, but even if it were the most logical path, that doesn't make it the only one. It was a big run, yes, but in the grand scheme of things, those 3 or 4 hours I'd spend doing it - whether inside or outside, alone or with others - paled in comparison to the number of hours I'd already spent training to get to that point. How fortunate I am to have the ability to make the choice of not whether I'm able to run 20 miles, but just how I can do it.

There are a lot of things in life that just aren't optional. I've never liked that idea. The older I get I'm less and less able to give up my control, but unfortunately, the older I get the more I realize just how many things I can't control. How many things I just simply don't get a say in. Sometimes things happen that feel completely wrong and unreasonable no matter how you look at it and it just. isn't. fair. That's running, that's yoga, and that's life. There are times when it is going to be unfair and it is going to be painful, but whether or not we suffer through or make the best of it is a choice we get to make every single second of every single day.

So here's to facing challenges head on. To accepting the fact that sometimes things just suck. To breathing through it. And to choosing not to suffer.