Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Spectating the 37th Marine Corps Marathon with a Dinosaur and a Cowbell!

"Run! Run! Run!" "Go! Go! Go!" "Daddy Run-Run!" Nugget yelled as the runners passed by.  We were waiting for DJ Research to come into view as we joined other spectators along the National Mall to cheer for those tackling the 37th Marine Corps Marathon.  "Daddy Run-Run!" was his favorite line, though Daddy was still nowhere in sight.

I made us both dinosaur hoodies for the event (which obviously looks so adorable on Nugget, and absolutely ridiculous on me), and bought a cowbell to top off our costume (because who doesn't love a cowbell-ringing dinosaur?)

His turn to run-run! with cowbell in hand.

The whole family was there to cheer for the runners:

Nugget the Dinosaur
Elmo the Elmo
Elmo the Seal
Nugget and Elmo taking a break from cheering

We caught the DJ's attention as he came into view around mile 17, and he jumped off the course to quickly give Nugget a hug.  He had forgotten his hand-held at home, so I gave it to him and he jumped back into the race.

We saw him again at mile 18ish (just on the other side of the Mall), and then booked it back to Rosslyn so we could catch him at the finish.  Travelling through a crowded metro with a toddler and a jogging stroller and an over-sized umbrella that keeps poking people is neither fun nor easy.  Just sayin'.

As we arrived at the "finisher's fence," I got a text message saying that DJ Research crossed the finish line in 3:34:03.  He had beat his goal time by 57 seconds!  The DJ ran this race hard and it was an emotional reunion when we saw him.  I was so proud that he had done so well!

Congratulations to all the MCM 2012 finishers!!

Did you race this weekend?  What is your proudest race moment?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

For The Beauty Of It

Today was my last run on my running trail.

I lack the authorial skill to capture what this run meant to me and how I felt as I ran the pavement one last time.  I love this paved trail.  We've spent many glorious mornings together as I trained for my first marathon.  It feels like we've been through so much together.  Now as marathon training draws to a close, and my winter runs will be near home or with a local trailrunning group, our weekly rendezvous have come to an end.  And whats more, today's run was also my last long run of my first marathon training season.

I wish I could say I finished strong.  But I didn't.  It was a bittersweet run.  My body was achy from lack of sleep and the impending symptoms of on oncoming cold.  My mind apparently stayed in bed.  My legs felt fresh but my feet hurt.  The trail was beautiful, though.  It was oh so beautiful.  And as tired as I felt, I couldn't help but marvel at how lucky I was to run among the colors.

Tomorrow, over 30,000 runners of the Marine Corps Marathon will experience a different type of beauty: the beauty of achievement.  The beauty of reward.  The beauty of crossing the finish line.

Run hard.  Run happy.  We'll be out there cheering for you.


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Practicing Pace: Trying a Cutdown Run

DJ Research is wrestling with his pacing strategy as he is preparing for the Marine Corps Marathon.  He sent me this Running Times article about pacing, which got me thinking...

I have no idea how I'm going to pace Richmond. The miles in the bank approach worked for Freedoms Run--where I inevitably had to pull it back in the second half of the race because of the hills--but Richmond is a completely different course: it's all flat. If I go out too fast, I will probably blow up badly later.

Ideally, I'd run a negative split - that is, I'd run the second half faster than the first.  Problem is: a) I'm not very good at starting slow and b) I don't have much confidence that I can run faster in the second half, even if I take it easy to begin with.

Anyone else tend to start too fast?  Or do you have any pointers on how NOT to start too fast?

I've never practiced running negative splits, so I thought three weeks before my marathon would be a good time to start (notice dripping sarcasm here).  Thanks to the Running Times article, I decided to do a cutdown workout during the last 6 miles of my 18 mile run.  No, I did not hire someone to berate me with insults as I ran.  A cutdown run is when you start the workout at 30 seconds slower than marathon pace, and drop 10 seconds with each mile.  My reasons for trying this were two-fold: 1) to get a sense of increased effort towards the end of a run and b) to get a sense of increased pace towards the end of a run.  Because running 8:20 m/m at the end of a run is a hell of a lot harder than running 8:20 m/m straight out of the gate.

These were the splits I was trying to hit.

I proudly wore my Freedom's Run Marathon race shirt, in all its lime-green glory.

The morning was gorgeous.

This picture does not do it justice.

I ran the first 9 miles slow, listening to the great crew over at Trail Runner Nation.  My pace hovered around 9:55ish.

Miles 10-12 I started focusing on my running and picked up the pace just a bit.  My pace hovered around 9:30ish.

I turned on the juice for mile 13 and felt pretty good.  But my pace was all over the place.  First I was running too fast, then I was running to slow, then too fast again.  I decided to just run what felt good.

Mile 13 - shooting for 9:05, ran 8:58.

Ok, I ran mile 13 a little faster than I'd hoped, so I tried to hold my pace for mile 14.

Mile 14 - shooting for 8:55, ran 8:51.

Yay!  Ok, that was good.  Tried to pick it up just a tad for mile 15.

Mile 15 - shooting for 8:45, ran 8:30.

Doh.  Ok, too fast again.  Tried to hold my pace for mile 16.

Mile 16 - shooting for 8:35, ran 8:21.

Ergh.  Too fast again!  Tried to hold my pace for mile 17.

Mile 17 - shooting for 8:25, ran 8:43.

Totally blew up at mile 17.  I couldn't hold my pace in the 8:20s at this point in the run.  Mile 18 was more of the same.

Mile 18 - shooting for 8:15, ran 8:40.

Still, I feel good about this run.  Now I know that I can run in the 8:40s towards the end of the race (I was doubting myself, thinking I probably couldn't run faster than 9:00s).  I'm not convinced that I should try for a negative split, though.  I'm kinda thinking that if I can blow up and still run 8:40s, maybe I should start out fast anyway?  I dunno.  Still pondering this one...

Do you practice pacing or train to run negative splits?  Have you ever tried a cutdown run?

Whats your race strategy?  Do you start fast and put miles in the bank or start slow and pick up your speed at the end?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Freedom's Run Marathon Recap: The Gritty Details, Part 2

Pre-race events are here, part 1 is here...

Miles 16-21

Ok, I am not proud of my performance on this next section.  Before the race I told myself that I would walk the very first hill.  Why?  I don't know.  I think I was scared after looking at the elevation chart.

As soon as I stopped, I knew I didn't need to be walking.  But once you stop, you're not only stopping your physical momentum, but your mental momentum as well.  Physically I felt good, mentally I was arguing with myself to keep running.  And if I'm arguing with myself to keep running, that means I can keep running.  Lesson learned: if you're going to argue with yourself to keep running, do it while you're running.

I walked part of mile 15 and part of mile 16, both times because I mentally gave in to my fatigue (in other words, I shouldn't have walked).  The entire group of runners I had been running with on the trail passed me - and they all ran up the hill.  And as I saw them go, I told myself that I hadn't busted my butt for the first 15 miles of the race, and run almost 10 minutes faster than my goal time, to lose all that progress in the second half of the race.  So I put my butt back into gear.

Around mile 18 we hit an out and back section that has a nice downhill and a killer uphill.  On my way out, I passed Strong Runner Girl on her way in.  I gave her a thumbs up and she smiled back.  I realized I wouldn't see her at the finish line, and wouldn't be able to thank her for helping me run this race so strong.  So, Strong Runner Girl, if by some miraculous chance you've found my little blog and recognize who you are, THANK YOU!!!

As I began up the second part of the mile 18 hill (yes, this hill comes in two parts!), I started feeling a sharp pain in my chest.  Considering the negative attention running sometimes receives, particularly after the death of Micah True, my paranoia immediately jumped to the worst case scenario, "I have cardiomyopathy and I'm going to die!" (yes, I'm that type of person).  I had had this pain once before at the end of a long run (and clearly didn't die), and I resolved it by just finishing my run.  To ease the pain this time, I decided to walk the hill and shed a layer (I was FINALLY warming up!), and see how I felt.

As I was walking, I remembered an episode of Trail Runner Nation podcast in which a runner relates her experienced with chest pain during the Angeles Crest 100.  Apparently, she was running just fine when she suddenly felt a strong pain in her chest and had to stop for 20 minutes.  Come to find out, it was a bout of acid reflux.  So my thought process went from "I have cardiomyopathy and I'm going to die!" to "Hmmm, maybe I have something like acid reflux."

See, until mile 17ish, I had just been using my Amphipod Hydraform Lite Water Bottle for hydration.  I was intending to refill my water bottle at an aid station...but things were going well and I didn't want to stop for that long, so I decided to just keep running and use the water at the aid stations instead.  The 17ish mile aid station was the first one I used.  I'm not at all coordinated, and while I know your supposed to pinch the cub and drink from it on the side of your mouth -- I mean, c'mon.  I walk into walls daily, you expect me to drink from a cup and run at the same time?  So instead, I slowed and took huge gulps of water...and air.  Immediately after that aid station (here we go: tmi), I needed to burp but just couldn't get the air out of me.  I felt the air bubble rise and then change its mind, and head south back into my stomach.  I'm no medical professional, but I'm thinking that may have been a contributing factor to the chest pain.  At the top of the hill, I did manage a small little burp, and found I felt fine, so I started the engine again.

The next few miles are a blur. Running through Antietam was absolutely beautiful...I think. I was pretty focused on the pavement, but the times I did remember to look around, I was stunned. At one point we passed 3 monuments lined in a row and I gave a little salute in memory of the soldiers who died here. Running through such a historical site was pretty incredible.

Antietam Monuments via NPS

As I was approaching the 21ish-mile aid station, a volunteer thrust a cup out at me and said, "Cough syrup?"
I gave her the look of death and her smirk quickly faded as she stuttered, "Kidding, its water. Sorry, its water."  I felt bad - I know she was trying to be funny and she must be tired from working the aid station for almost 4 hours (I'm not being facetious here), but I wasn't sure if she was mocking Gatorade by calling it cough syrup--meaning she was therefore holding a cup of Gatorade--or if she was just bored and looking for laughs, which turns out is what she was doing.  I only drink water on my long runs; even Nuun messes with my stomach.  So I didn't want Gatorade coming anywhere near my lips.  This interaction irked me a bit, but whatevs.  I really had no choice but to take it in stride (pun intended! hehe).

Mile 16: 10:58
Mile 17: 8:55
Mile 18: 8:50 (Confusing. Must've walked this hill hella fast?)
Mile 19: 9:59
Mile 20: 10:25 (Not sure what I was doing here.)
Mile 21: 9:35

Miles 22-26.2!

Soon we were out of the hills of Antietam and running through the streets of Sharpsburg.  I was so happy to see DJ Research and Nugget cheering for me!  Later I learned that just before I ran by, a deer had totally bandited the race.  Was running alongside the runners and everything.

It appeared the deer bandit seemed to be using
the Jeff Galloway Run-Walk-Run method.

It was at this point, around mile 23, that I hit the wall.  I had never hit the wall before, and I didn't know what it felt like, but well...now I know.  You guys, I have never felt like this before.  Feeling like you wanted more than anything to give up, but knowing there was no way you could live with yourself if you did.  It was intense.  I am a very independent and self-sufficient person, but in that dark place it dawned on my that I needed someone.  Someone, anyone, to tell me that I could do this.  To tell me that I could finish this darn race.  That I could keep running and cross that finish line.

So, as I was approaching a group of walkers from the half-marathon, I was completely intending scream into their blissful, comfortable fitness dreamworld, "I NEED YOU TO TELL ME I CAN DO THIS!  I NEED YOU TO TELL ME I CAN FINISH THIS DAMN RACE!"  But at the last second my dignity grabbed me by the shoulders and slapped me across the face.  Instead, I didn't say anything.  Instead, I dug deep and told myself, "Don't stop. Don't stop. Don't stop."  I said it out loud, with every breath, "Don't stop. Don't stop. Don't stop."  I said it out loud to the very end. 

In hindsight, I realize that I had forgotten to take my last Gu Gel pack.  I was carrying 5 gels with me, and had taken one every 4-5 miles: 5, 10, 14, 18.  I should have taken another one at mile 22/23.  But I completely forgot.  I don't know if taking that last gel would have prevented hitting the wall, but I know the last 5 miles of the race would have been easier.

I saw DJ Research and Nugget as I entered the stadium, and when my feet hit the astroturf, I almost cried with joy. I crossed the line at 3:52:50 with my arms in the air, and my head down.  I had beat my sub-4:00 hour goal, but it had taken all I had.

The DJ found me and gave me a big hug.  I started crying into his should, "I did it! I did it!"  I grabbed Nugget and held him close, and he gave me a cute little toddler squeeze back.  "Mommy, run-run! Yaaaay!"  He told me, clapping his hands.  It was the perfect end to a tough but rewarding race.  It was the best feeling.

What's your proudest racing moment?


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

NatureBox Giveaway WINNER!

The NatureBox Giveaway ended to today, and the winner was chosen at random by Rafflecopter.  *drumroll please*  And the winner is.....

Congratulations!  I hope you love your snacks!!

Thank you to all who entered!  If you still want to try NatureBox (and you really should!), you can still get 25% off your first month using the code APPLE25 (please note that the 25% discount is only applicable to the month-to-month subscription. A 6 month subscription automatically receives 1 month free and a 12 month subscription automatically receives 3 months free).


Monday, October 15, 2012

Freedomʻs Run Marathon Recap: The Gritty Details, Part 1

They say you never forget your first time.  And I'm sure I never will.  The short version: despite a tough course, I ran my first marathon in 3:52:50, finishing 4th in my age group, and 11th woman overall.  The long version is long; I have a lot to say.  Pre-race events can be found here, part 1 of the gritty details is below, and part 2 is here. You guys, I'm still walking on air.  But now its time to taper - Richmond Marathon is only four weeks away.

The Start

The sun was just peeking over the horizon when the race began at 7:00am - gorgeous.  Everything about this race was just beautiful.  And at the start, everything about this race was cold.  Cold, cold, COLD.  My toes were tingling, and because I was wearing a running skirt, my thighs were burning.  But these were the conditions, and I wasn't about to let some stupid cold weather get in the way of my race.

Miles 1-4

Even though I started out at the front of the pack, I didn't race right out of the gate with the speedsters.  I ran a comfortable pace for a quarter mile to warm up as we ran towards the Murphy Farm Outlook.  On the gravel road out, I could feel another runner coming up beside me.  As she passed me, I could tell right away she was a strong runner than I am, but she seemed to be running a pace that I could keep up with, at least in the beginning of the race.  Oh wait, let me backtrack and tell you my race strategy:

Race Strategy

The Freedom's Run Marathon course is mostly flat or downhill for the first 15 miles.  10 of those miles are on the C&O Canal tow path.  Miles 15-21 are holy hilly hell through Antietam Battlefield National park, and the last 5 miles are mostly flat with some rolling hills.

Knowing that I am not a strong hill runner, my race strategy for this marathon was to run fast on the flats (through mile 15) to put some miles in the bank early, pull back on the hills, and then pick it up again as we headed into Shepherdstown.  My initial goal was to run a 4:20 marathon, since I didn't know how killer those hills would be.

Then it dawned on me: I didn't bust my butt for 5 months to aim for a 4:20 marathon.  I've worked hard all summer, and I would be cheating myself if I didn't aim as high as I could.  So I decided I was going to shoot for a sub-4:00 marathon, still using my initial strategy of getting miles in the bank early.

Do you follow the same strategy every race? Or do you change your strategy based on course, weather, other life factors, etc.?

Back to the Race (Miles 1-4)

So back to...let's call her Strong Runner Girl.  As she passed me, I decided to keep up with her to see how her pace felt.  And to be honest, it felt good.  Early in my training I focused on my heart rate more than speed, so I knew what it felt like if I was running too fast, and what it felt like if I was running hard but not too hard.  Strong Runner Girl was running the perfect pace for me--hard but not too hard--so I planned to keep up with her until we hit the hills, where I knew there was no way I could keep up with her.

Around mile 3 the road began a steep downhill that went on for a little more than a mile.  I think this long downhill surprised a few runners, but I was lucky enough to have previewed this part of the course when DJ Research ran the Harper's Ferry Half Marathon earlier this year, so I knew that the downhill went on for a while.  (The Half Marathon course runs up the hill, though, and thats not even the toughest hill on the course!)

It was on this downhill that I passed Strong Runner Girl.  I like downhills and try to run them as fast as possible - bringing my hips forward, leaning into the descent, and really focusing on my turnover.  I knew this was a good downhill to run fast because it was so long, and I needed all the extra time I could get.

Once the road flattened out, we were running into Harper's Ferry town and over the Potomac River footbridge.  The view from here is spectacular, but I couldn't really enjoy it because the bridge was so darn slippery.  This was my least favorite part of the race.  I basically ran-walked this portion because I didn't want to fall flat on my face, or worst yet, my tailbone.

Potomac River Bridge, Harper's Ferry, WV
View from Potomac River Bridge
taken earlier this year

Mile 1: 8:39
Mile 2: 8:29
Mile 3: 7:44
Mile 4: 8:10

Miles 5-15

We descended a spiral staircase and got on the C&O Canal tow path, which is a mix of hard-packed dirt and gravel.  This section was stunning, with the Potomac River to our left and the beautiful fall foliage overhead.  It was also still freezing cold.  Cold, cold, COLD.  My hands and feet were still numb.  My legs were still burning.  I tried to open a Gu Gel with my fingers but failed miserably, and had to open the packet with my teeth.  I could barely squeeze my water bottle to squirt water into my mouth (I was running with the Amphipod Hydraform Lite Water Bottle. LOVE this thing).  But what could I do other than keep running?  So I did.

Around mile 7, Strong Runner Girl and another strong runner started passing me on my left.  Again her pace was perfect (I realized I'd been running too slow!)  Again I decided to keep up with her.  (I'm horrible at pacing myself.  Need more experience!)  The three of us ran together for a while, then another runner female showed up and joined our conga line, then another male runner, and the five us of pretty much stuck it out through mile 13.  We would jump frog each other on the trail, or the line-up would change dramatically after an aid station, though Strong Runner Girl was usually in the lead.

I saw DJ Research and Nugget at the last aid station on the tow path, around mile 12 or 13.  I had been so focused on the race, I completely forgot they were there to cheer me on!  At the Marine Corps Historic Half (my last race where they were there to cheer for me), I would stop to give them a kiss every time I saw them on the side.  Not this time.  I just blew them a kiss as I whizzed pass, and I could here Nugget crying, "Mommy!" as I ran off.  Ugh, worst feeling.

Soon after that last aid station, I lost Strong Runner Girl.  I don't quite remember what happened, but suddenly she was gone.  Most of the group was behind me, so I didn't feel too bad since she pretty much blew the rest of us out of the water.  But I had hoped to keep up with her at least until we headed into the hills.

Around mile 15, I saw a hoard of people running on to the tow path.  At first I thought they were bored high schoolers out to mess with the runners (why I thought that I have no idea), but then I realized this was the juncture where the marathon course and half-marathon course met up.  As a half-marathoner got on the tow path, he called out to us "Way to go marathoners!" and my face just lit up.  I was so focused, I pretty much forgot that what I was doing was quite an accomplishment.  Hell yeah! I was running a marathon!!

The half-marathoners were directed to keep going straight on the tow-path, while the full-marathoners were directed to get off the tow-path and head up the road.  Yes, UP.  The hill pretty much started as soon as we got off the canal path.  With my fuzzy math skills, I guesstimated that I had run 8-10 minutes faster than I hoped! (Yes, I owe Strong Runner Girl a HUGE thank you!)

Mile 5: 8:51
Mile 6: 8:40
Mile 7: 8:36 (w/ Strong Runner Girl)
Mile 8: 8:19 (w/ Strong Runner Girl)
Mile 9: 8:12 (w/ Strong Runner Girl)
Mile 10: 8:15 (w/ Strong Runner Girl)
Mile 11: 8:26 (w/ Strong Runner Girl)
Mile 12: 8:26 (w/ Strong Runner Girl)
Mile 13: 8:34 (w/ Strong Runner Girl)
Mile 14: 8:58
Mile 15: 9:33 (heading into those hills!)

Has a complete stranger ever helped you run/finish a race stronger than you thought you could?  Did you get a chance to thank them at the end? 

Gotta be up early to run, but stay tuned for the rest of the race!


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Freedomʻs Run Marathon Recap: Pre-Race Events

Have you entered my giveaway yet? Win awesome, healthy snacks from Naturebox!

This weekend I ran the Freedomʻs Run Marathon in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.  Even though Iʻve been training for the Richmond Marathon, after my 24-miler last weekend--and with Richmond still five weeks away--I was ready for 26.  So I signed up for Freedomʻs Run at the last minute, making it my very first marathon.

Although Shepherdstown is only a little more than an hour away from us, it was still a bit of a scramble to get there.  With the holidays coming up, neither DJ Research nor I wanted to use our leave for this weekend, so we left right after work on Friday, meaning we got to packet picket just before they closed at 8:00pm.  DJ Research made us this snack of nutella and ritz crackers for the ride, much to Nuggetʻs delight.  

Ritz Crackers and Nutella

We missed most of the Expo since we got there so late, but I did manage to get a pair of Freedomʻs Run socks made by Swiftwick!  I have a pair of Swiftwick compression socks, which I love - theyʻre so comfy! (though I run in Pro Compression socks, because they offer more compression, which I like).

Freedomʻs Run Swiftwick Socks
Freedomʻs Run Marathon Swiftwick Socks

I got my bib and my race shirt.  At first glance, the race shirt is pretty hideous, but lots of people were wearing it during the race and it actually looked ok when worn.  Iʻm planning to wear it during the Richmond Marathon.  Its also made from 10 recycled plastic bottles, which is pretty cool.

Freedomʻs Run Marathon Race Shirt
Not my favorite color,
but I love that its long-sleeve
Since it was late, choices for dinner were few, so we opted for Kings NY Style Pizza, which also serves pasta.  Since we still needed to check into the Holiday Inn Express Charles Town, we took our food back to the hotel.  We stayed at a Holiday Inn Express in Fredericksburg, VA for the Marine Corps Historic Half, and I really liked it.  The rooms are nice and the rates are really reasonable.  The Holiday Inn Express in Charles Town, WV did not disappoint!

Holiday Inn Express Charles Town West Virginia
Home away from home

After dinner, I laid out all my gear while Nugget got some work done.  I think we made it to bed by 11:00.

Orange Pro Compression Socks Inov-8 F-Lite 230s
Racing in Fall Colors

All the cool toddlers are sporting this look

Despite my pre-race jitters and the fact that I got to bed late the night before, I slept well and was feeling good when I awoke.  I was up at 5:00am to catch the 6:00am shuttle that River Riders, a sponsor of the race, was providing to the start of the race.  For breakfast, I had a piece of toast with almond butter, a banana, and some coffee.  I knew it was cold out, so I wore two additional layers over my tech shirt, plus ear warmers and fingerless gloves that I made from a pair of my socks.  Its not as gross as it sounds, and they really helped, but I think actual gloves would be better next time (I just didnʻt have time to buy a disposable pair).

Layers (so not enough)
On the shuttle over, I met another runner who was attempting 50 marathons in all 50 states.  Sheʻs only done a handful and still has a ways to go.  She ran the Richmond Marathon as her Virginia race, and said she LOVED it.  I only hear good things about Richmond, so Iʻm excited for that race!

Even though I knew it was cold out, I was not prepared for just how cold.  To give you an idea, a Freeze Alert had been issued for the area; DJ Research said it took forever (plus or minus a few years) to get the ice off the car.  Luckily, we were allowed into the heated Harperʻs Ferry National Park visitors center for the hour we had to wait before race time.  We were quite cozy and packed in that little building like sardines. :)

Coffee and water was supplied at the start, and on top of that, there were REAL bathrooms.  With electricity, and flushing toilets, and running water.  If youʻve raced before, you know how rare that amenity is!

About 15 minutes before race time, I decided to brave the cold and do some light running to warm up.  And by warm up, I really mean try not to freeze to death.  It was sooooo cold.  I had to wiggle my toes constantly for fear they might fall off.  As I was just trying to shake myself loose, another runner comes up to me and introduces herself as Abbi from Higher Miles.  She was running Freedomʻs Run for the second time, and using it as a training run for the JFK 50.  She is basically living my dream.  We didnʻt get to chat much since the race was about to begin, but it was super awesome to meet her in person!

The race director, Dr. Mark Cucuzella, announced that the race is about to start and asks that everyone proceed to the starting line: a piece of tape on the ground between two cones.  I loved that there was no big hoopla at the beginning.  Because race times were determined according to gun time, I positioned myself at the front of the pack because I wanted my official final time to be as close to my actual running time as possible.  There was lots of space to spread out early in the race, so I didnʻt feel bad starting to close to the front.

Freedomʻs Run Marathon Starting Line
At the start

On Dr. Cucuzellaʻs command, the race began: "Runners take your mark! Go!"  And we were off!!

More to come...stay tuned! :)


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Ants in My Pants

Ok, you guys.  I just had to do it.  My training had me running 24 miles last week, and with the Richmond Marathon still 5 (yes, FIVE) weeks away, I'm not ready to start my taper.  I was planning on running 26 miles this weekend, so I figured I might as well...yup, you guessed it -

I signed up for the Freedom's Run Marathon.

Admittedly, I've been thinking of running Freedom's Run for a while.  I had it in my mind that if my training was going well, I would give it a go.  And after my 24-miler this weekend, I'm feeling really good about my running.  But as soon as I sign up, guess what?  Yup, self-doubt starts to creep in.

Even though I have done 4 20+ mile runs over the past 6 weeks, I'm still feeling really, really nervous.  Looking at the course map, I see the numbers 15, 20, 25  popping out at me like I've never seen them before; I'm starting to feel the anxiety that I felt when I was first tackling those distances.  But I know I can run this.  Pre-race jitters are normal right?

Do you get nervous before a big race?  Do you have any pre-race rituals?

Freedom's Run will be a different beast than the Richmond Marathon.  From what I understand, Richmond is mostly flat, while Freedom's Run boasts some really nice hills from miles 16-21 when we run through the Antietam Battlefield.

Freedomʻs Run Marathon Elevation Chart

Running through the Antietam National Battlefield is one of the reasons I wanted to run this race, in part because I've never been there and also because this is the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam.  I'm excited to be there to honor those who fought and those who fell, and the significance of this event to our nation.

Have you ever raced through/near a place of historical significance?

Freedom's Run is sponsored by Two Rivers Treads in Shepherdstown, WV, which is the first exclusively minimalist running shoe store in the country.  DJ Research ran the Harper's Ferry Half (also sponsored by TRT) earlier this year and we LOVED this race; its great for both runners and spectators.  So, we're expecting more of the same: low-key race with beautiful scenery along a challenging course and enthusiastic runners who just love to run.

Ready for that 26.2!!

Gaaaaahhhh!!  Suddenly my first marathon has gone from being 5 weeks away to less than 2 days away.  What do I wear?!?

How far in advance do you plan your race day outfits?


Monday, October 8, 2012

Redemption Run

Last week I posted about committing THE marathon training faux pas.  Which is to say, I skipped my long run.  I was scheduled to run 22 miles, but after a hectic week and a number of long and lonely 20 milers, I decided to take a break.

This past weekend I was schedule to run 24 miles.  I am proud to say, I did...and it was awesome.

But lets back it up a bit.  After skipping my long run, and basically not running the week before because my sister was in town, I told myself I needed to get my butt out there.  So on Monday, usually my rest day, I did 5 "easy, light, smooth" miles.  Pace: 9:28 m/m.  On the slower side for me at that distance, but I felt great.

On Tuesday, I put my game face on early in the morning and went out for a little more than 6 miles, this time in the dark during a torrential downpour.  The rain was coming down in sheets and though I was wearing a headlight, there were some moments when I could barely see in front of me.  Pace: 9:22 m/m.  Considering the conditions, I'm happy with that (also happy I didn't fall flat on my face).  Wanna feel hardcore?  Run in the rain.  Let me tell you, it was awesome.

Random fact: I look uncannily like my bro is this pic.

On both Wednesday and Thursday I went out for 5-mile runs on my lunch break, running my favorite hilly route.  I ran 8:36 m/m and 8:38 m/m, respectively.  These were good times for me, but I was more pleased with the fact that the hills didn't seem as intimidating as they did when I first started running them earlier this year.  Progress: check.

Friday I took off.

Saturday rolled around and I rolled out of bed ready to tackle this long run.  Truth be told, when I left my house I was still unsure whether I would run 22 or 24 miles.  I was definitely feeling good enough to run 20 miles, so I knew I could probably tackle 22.  But 24?  I was going to feel it out.

It was an insanely beautiful day.  

It had been a few weeks since I'd run my trail, and to be back running on it really felt like I was "home."  Plus, the autumn colors, crisp autumn air, and all around "autumn-ness" of the day made it so enjoyable to be out there.  

I recognized another frequent runner at the parking lot, and we exchanged hellos.  He started out before me, and was completely out of sight by the time I started my run.  Little did I know he would essentially be the one to determine how far I ran that day.  

The first 9 miles were uneventful.  A biker stopped me at about mile 5 to ask for directions.  She was trying to find a local park where she was supposed to meet someone.  I tried to help as best I could (I know the trail but not the surrounding neighborhoods) and continued on my way.  About 2 miles down I ran into another lost biker who happened to be the person she was looking for!  I pointed him towards her direction and wished him luck.  It kinda felt like a well-intentioned but poorly-planned date.  I hope they found each other.  

A little past mile 7 I ran into the runner I had seen in the parking lot.  He had met up with a friend and exclaimed when he saw me, "I was wondering when you were going to catch up to us!"  I laughed and then stopped to fix my silly sock that had been giving me problems the whole run (ugh!).  He and his friend continued on and I caught up to them at mile 9 when they turned around to head back.  "Only 18 for us today," he told me.  "How many are you doing?"  Realizing I hadn't actually decided how many miles I was running that day, I blurted out, "24!"

And to my surprise, I didn't feel scared or even nervous about tackling my longest distance to date.  In fact, I felt excited.  The nine miles had flown by (more than they have in the past), and knew I could do 24.

So on I went and reached a new segment of the trail since I had never run this far before.  Rather than veer left like I should have, I continued straight and found myself on a trail that was no longer paved but all mud instead.  ALL MUD.  To boot, I was supposed to run under a large overpass.  I stopped, unsure of how I should proceed, when two runners came up behind me, so engrossed in conversation that they were completely obviously to the new state of the trail.  They skidded to a quick halt, then decided rather than go under, they would go over and just cross the street above.  Brilliant! (Clearly, I lose brain cells when running).

I followed them up and over, and being the chatty runners that they were, they just started talking to me.  Which was the most awesome thing ever.  Finally!  People to run with without crashing their conversation!  They were training for the upcoming Army 10-miler, and had about the same distance to go as I did before their turnaround.  Not only did they offer some much welcomed conversation on my long run, but they also knew where they were going.  I would have gotten completely lost without them.

We ran for maybe 4 miles before my stupid sock started acting up again, and I had to stop to fix it.  By the time I was ready, they were gone.  Super bummed.  But they helped me through such a critical point of my run.  Thank you S. and B.!!

It was about this point that I realized I only had 9 more miles to go.  I couldn't believe I had already run 15 miles!  I was having so much fun on this run, I had covered more than a half-marathon without realizing it.  Still, 9 miles is no joke, and the last 9 were definitely more difficult than the first 15 (though thats to be expected).

Around mile 18, I stopped to refill my water bottle (I LOVE my Amphipod water bottle, though one of these days I should probably try the DJ's camelback), and to give my legs a bit of a shakeout.  My hips were killing me; I should probably talk to a PT about it but thats not going to happen until after my  marathon.  Also, I had been taking a GU gel (we use the Just Plain flavor) every 5 miles, but decided to take another at mile 18.  Not sure if that was the culprit, but I had stomach issues through mile 21.  This was the first time I had stomach issues during a long run.  Not fun.

Looking at my splits, the last 6 miles were definitely my slowest.  I was feeling it in my legs by then.  But never at any point did I want to call it quits.  Even though my legs were sore, I was still smiling and loving just being out there.  In fact, when I hit 24 miles, I seriously thought, "Well, I'm feeling pretty good.  Why don't I just run the whole dang distance?"  But I decided not to press my luck; 24 miles was plenty good.

I stretched out (omg, stretching has never felt sooooo goooood), had a banana and some coconut milk (I LOVE coconut milk after a long run; I feel like PopEye after he eats a can of spinach! :), and drove home to my boys, who were waiting on the porch when I arrived.  So cute!  My legs were pretty tight, but I had a huge smile on my face. 24 miles!!

I can so do 26.2 miles!  But my race seems so far away...so, um, how about next weekend?


Have you entered my Giveaway yet?  Win a box of delicious snacks delivered right to your door!  Courtesy of NatureBox!


Sunday, October 7, 2012

Naturebox Product Review and GIVEAWAY!

I recently won a NatureBox from MCM Mama.  I was super stoked because 1) I never win anything and 2) I love delicious food (who doesn't, right?)

So first, a little about NatureBox.  NatureBox is a company dedicated to delivering healthy and delicious snacks directly to your door.  Each month you receive 4-6 high quality snacks made from wholesome ingredients.  The snacks vary every month, so you get a wide variety of flavors and ingredients.

In my NatureBox, I received Toasted Sesame Stix, Apple Orchards Granola, Pistachio Power Clusters, Umami Roasted Nuts, and Big Island Pineapple.  And here's what I thought:

Pistachio Power Clusters

This snack reminded me of Okoshi, a Japanese puffed rice treat we ate as kids in Hawai'i.  The Pistachio Power Clusters are made of pistachios, almonds and cashews with a touch of sea salt.  I first tried these after a hard 5-mile run when I wanted to treat myself to something sweet - mmmmmm....perfect.  The name is a bit misleading; Pistachio Power Clusters consists mostly of almonds and cashews, and barely any pistachios.  Perhaps they should change the name.  But still, these were delicious.

Naturebox Pistachio Power Clusters

Umami Roasted Nuts

Almonds, sunflower seeds, amazing flavor ...oh my!  These roasted nuts come in on the savory end of the taste spectrum; Umami is known as the "5th taste" and describes a savory flavor that adds depth and richness to foods.  I really enjoyed these as a midday snack to tide me over until dinner.

Naturebox Umami Roasted Nuts

Apple Orchards Granola

Wow.  This was like apple pie melting in your mouth.  The granola is soft-baked and chewy, rather than crunchy like most granolas.  I was really surprised by this, and actually really enjoyed it.  Apple Orchards Granola is sweetened with agave, which helps keep your blood sugar levels from spiking.  This was a great morning snack, enjoyed with a cup of coffee.  

Naturebox Apple Orchards Granola

Toasted Sesame Stix

These were Nugget's favorite snack.  We eat sesame sticks fairly regularly around here, which I purchase from our local organic market.  What I really liked about the NatureBox Sesame Stix is that each stick is smaller and crunchier than the sesame sticks I normally buy; even DJ Research commented on how fresh they were right out of the bag.  We took these with us to the zoo, and Nugget loved holding a handful in his little hand while looking at all the animals.  

Naturebox Toasted Sesame Stix

Big Island Pineapple

Ok, so these were my FAVORITE.  I cannot emphasize enough how much I loved this snack.  The scent of the pineapple was so strong when I opened the bag, I was immediately transported back home to Hawaii.  I'm not a big fan of dried pineapple (or dried tropical fruits in general.  Dried mango? Yuck.), but these were amazing.  DJ Research thought they were great too, and had ONE before I told him he had eaten too many and the rest were for me.  I'm so proud that I managed to save two for the picture; they were immediately devoured after the photoshoot.

Naturebox Big Island Pineapple

If you're like me, and struggle with keeping a stash of delicious AND healthy snacks around the house, NatureBox is a great option.  I don't even have to think, they'll just send different delicious healthy snacks to my door every month.  Also, I get bored when eating the same foods over and over again (I guess I have culinary ADD), so I really like the variety NatureBox provides.

What I love about Naturebox
  • The ingredients are high-quality and healthy
  • The snacks are super FRESH when they arrive at your door
  • You get a variety of snacks every month--from sweet to savory
  • You get a variety of snacks month to month--the snacks do not repeat
  • The snacks are DELICIOUS
  • You don't have to think about having healthy snacks around the house; Naturebox does all the work for you and you just enjoy delicious, healthy snacks every month
If you want to give NatureBox a go, you can enter to win a free NatureBox below or you can jump right in and get 25% off your first month using the code APPLE25 (please note that the 25% discount is only applicable to the month-to-month subscription. A 6 month subscription automatically receives 1 month free and a 12 month subscription automatically receives 3 months free).  


Since I totally fell in love with the company after trying their product, I emailed them to ask if I could host a giveaway on my blog.  They said Yes!  So here we go: my very first giveaway, featuring Naturebox!

A few details:

  • The winner will receive a different NatureBox than the one that I reviewed.
  • NatureBox is only able to ship to US addresses
  • At this time, NatureBox is unable to customize their NatureBoxes for specific dietary needs or personal preferences.

To enter, just follow the prompts below.  The giveaway will run for one week, from Sunday, October 7th to Tuesday, October 16th.  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I was not compensated for or even asked to do this review.  I won a NatureBox and was so impressed by the company, I asked to host a giveaway on my blog.  All opinions are my own.


Monday, October 1, 2012

Committing THE Marathon Training Faux Pas...and Accepting It

They say you should never skip your long runs.  Skip a short run if you must, but never skip a long run.

This weekend I skipped my long run.

I was scheduled for 22 miles, and I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I never quite recovered from FitBloggin' and was running all over town with my sister, so come this past weekend, I was exhausted.

The kicker though?  I'm tired of running by myself.  I've been reading various running blogs of people who are, much like myself, dreading their long runs, yet they still get out there and #getitdone.  I so admire them.  I just didn't have it in me this weekend to run yet another 20+ miles (it would have been my 4th 20-miler) by myself.

So at bedtime the night before my run, when Nugget said "Mommy stay downstairs. Daddy Me sleep"--a clear sign that I had been spending too much time away from home--I decided to skip my long run, sleep in, have breakfast with my family, and just putz around the house together.  We were actually quite productive in our putzing: we cleaned out the basement, set up the office and playroom, assembled our new dresser, did laundry, and bought supplies to paint our hall bathroom, plus we went out to visit the woo-woos (fire trucks) and had a family portrait taken.

New dresser!

New bookcase! (Finally!)

In the office.  Seems a productive arrangement, no?

Enjoying a soy latte and contemplating life amidst the chaos.

In an actual Woo-Woo!

Yet in the midst of this productivity, I couldn't help but feel guilty. Should I have gone for my run?

I wrestled with this guilt over night and into this afternoon when I went for an easy 5 mile run.  I didn't push myself, I just ran Easy, Light, Smooth...and not very fast, but I felt great.  I realized that this is what I needed to do: reconnect with running.  Marathon training is long, and I'm finding myself on the brink of burning out. Even though my marathon is still a month away (so not quite taper time), I think it's more important that I remember why I love to run rather than run because that's what my calendar says to do.  Not only is my goal to finish my marathon, but also to run smiling the whole way.

How are you feeling about your training? 

Have you ever skipped a long run and was that a good decision for you?