Thursday, January 31, 2013

Ideal speed work conditions

Thursday morning is going down as one of the hardest runs that I can remember, which isn't saying much, because just a few weeks ago after a run which began in the 4am hour, I found myself standing in the shower, with no idea if I'd washed my body, even though it either did or did not happen literally seconds ago. (Obviously I doubled down, just to be safe). The point is, my memory sucks, but I swear this run was hard.

I got home from a meeting for my running store job around 9:30pm Wednesday night, so clearly I was already off to a great start for this week's speedwork, scheduled at 5:30am Thursday morning. I'm not sure that speedwork early in the morning on insufficient sleep (at least for me, a self-diagnosed sleep addict) would have been enough of a challenge. Luckily, the weather once again hooked me up with pouring rain and a wind advisory.
I'm not here to be a Debbie Downer though, there were some positives. Everyone I talked to at work said they couldn't sleep all night due to the storm, but I slept like a baby. Second, I left the meeting hooked up with this sweet new Brooks jacket. 

I'm getting too good at selfies, which means I need something else in
 my life to take pictures of.

It's one of those super thin ones that's waterproof and windproof, but not hot, so you can wear it in warmer weather. Plus, it's super reflective, as you can see.

I've never owned anything with those little thumbhole thingies, and when I tried on the jacket before I went to bed I discovered them and freaked out and demanded Eric stop what he was doing to admire them. It's the little things in life.

This jacket could not have been a more perfect addition to my running wardrobe because Thursday morning was in the 50s, so too warm for my normal jacket, but insanely windy. I'm not exactly sure how this post turned into a product review because I'm sure as hell not getting paid.

Anyway, Thursday's run was 10 miles with 6 X 800s. I ran 3 miles to "warm up" and then hit the track, running a hard 800 (half mile) followed by an easy 800 to recover. Running into the wind felt like I was trying to push my way through a brick wall. My times were pathetic. Too pathetic to post. Out of the six, only one was faster than my average pace from Sunday's half marathon (and that was only by 3 seconds!). For non runners, who probably aren't even still reading, that means that I was running half mile intervals slower than the speed I ran for an entire 13.1 mile race. But, whatever, I PR'd in the half 4 days before, so that counts as speed work too, right? And the effort was there, even if the times didn't reflect it.

Not every run is a winner but I honestly considered just calling it quits and going home at least a dozen times on the track. When it was finally time to go home, I had to hold my hands over my face during gusts because random debris was blowing into it and I wasn't taking a chance with all the broken glass on the ground.

This is one of the two toughest training weeks on the schedule, and now 2 out of 3 of the killer runs are done! Next up: 18 miles with 10 at race pace Saturday. Yikes. 

What's your idea of the worst possible running (if applicable, if not, in general) weather? I'm probably incredibly jaded after this morning so I'll say wind, but really it's probably humidity.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

My million dollar idea (don't steal it)

The trouble with using a shorter race as a part of a training cycle (in my case, a half marathon while training for a full) is that after a hard effort, you can't just take it easy and dust your shoulders off, you actually have to just keep training.

This week is one of the real killers in my training plan with some super high weekday mileage. Monday I had a huge conundrum. Schools were closed for students, so after a morning meeting I was free to do my report cards on my own time, which meant that I could have knocked out one of the long runs during daylight hours. I wasn't exactly sore, but my legs definitely felt that tight "time for a rest day" feeling. And THAT meant waking up at ungodly times the rest of the week. It's amazing the tough decisions I have to make.

In the end, Mother Nature took over again and slapped us with freezing rain. I was slipping and sliding walking to my car at noon, so a rest day it was. 

As I suspected, working from home was the BEST THING EVER. Just check out this sweet setup. I was so relaxed that I knocked out my report cards in record time.

You can't see it, but of course this included pjs, a cozy blanket, and the heat cranked.
Now my life goal is to work from home, and I'm really upset that I love my job and it's not really conducive to working from home. It remedied the two things that I really, really hate about work.

1. Temperature - in the winter my fingers are constantly blue, and there's no AC, so just imagine that on those 90 degree Baltimore days.
2. Dressing professionally - I think we can all agree that this is just the worst.

Over spring break I plan on working to invent and open a school where teachers sit on couches in pajamas, covered in blankets, and the kids all sit around you while you teach. Basically what you see above, but with children. I'll even sacrifice Bella and Edward and save that for my free time. The kids can wear pajamas too. 

On Tuesday, it was back to reality and I jumped right in with a 15 mile run. Yes, 15 miles, and no that wasn't my long run for the week. My second grad class started that afternoon, so I had to be up at 4 and running at 4:30. I was pretty tired (shocker, I know) but luckily Lily joined me for 7 miles somewhere in the middle and that really pepped me up. The main motivator was the weather - 40 degrees at the start! I even wore capris.

I was worried about falling asleep in class, but the strangest thing happened - class was actually interesting, and seemed completely relevant to my career. I'd heard of this wonderful phenomenon, but it was my first time experiencing it.

That 4:30 am wakeup is such a bitch though - she'll always get me in the end. I was supposed to do 10 today, but I felt like I'd been hit by a truck when my alarm went off and decided to save that for Sunday and do an easy 5 today. It felt anything but easy and I was glad I wasn't wearing my Garmin, because I'm sure my pace was like 12 minute miles. 

Basically I'm getting all the runs on my plan in, but none of them will be on the day they were supposed to be. 

Everyone loves working from home right? Asking who likes that would be like asking who likes sleep or dessert or oxygen, right?

Do you try to follow your training plan day by day or mix everything up to fit in your life, like I do?

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Cloud Snapple Half Marathon Recap #3

I've now come head to head with the Cloud Snapple Half Marathon three times, and I've finally defeated it.

In 2011, the course (a towpath along the C&O canal) was covered with about six inches of snow and melting ice. I ran something like 11 minute miles and still fell.

The fallen trees slowed me down a bit too.
In 2012, the weather was fine, but the course was short (it was about 12 miles). I was having the type of race where they could have put the finish line at the one mile mark for all I cared.

My first race with a dog.
Similarly, I've been having a battle for nearly three years with my half marathon time. I ran my second ever half marathon in May 2010, when I was still new to distance running. I aimed to run it in under two hours and ended up with 1:50. Amazing, right? If only every race could be like that. But, my PR has remained at 1:50 ever since. I managed to chop a few seconds off the following April, but I was stuck with pretty much the same time, and it still hadn't improved almost two years later. It was getting to the point where I was pretty sure that I was cursed in the 13.1 distance.

Finally, today, the stars aligned and I beat the Cloud Snapple AND broke my half marathon curse in one fell swoop. According to my Garmin, I ran the race in 1:48:27.

Splits, for anyone who cares (probably just future me).

To do this, I had to bust out two secret weapons.

#1 - Hiding my time from myself.

So far, all my best races have been when I don't look at my Garmin. Conveniently for me, Victoria just posted a fantastic explanation of why this is. However, I wasn't sure if I could resist the temptation, so I just eliminated it as an option.

#2 My Brooks PureFlows

It's not just because they are pretty colors, the PureFlows weigh 7.1 ounces, and my normal shoe, the Adrenalines weigh 9.4 ounces. It doesn't sound like a big difference, but I swear they feel so much lighter and make me faster.

I was dragging a little in the second mile, still warming up, when secret weapon #3, which I didn't even know I had, hit me.

I challenge anyone out there to listen to Blow and not run faster. Especially during a race.

To be honest, I was really anxious about this race. All day Saturday it was on my mind. Going for a PR is hard, and while not looking at my time helps me mentally, it's not easy to keep a pace when you can't even check to see what your pace is! You would think that was why I never mentioned I had a race coming up on the blog, but actually I just completely forgot.

I got lost on my way to the race and ended up in Virginia. I'm pretty sure this is the same thing that happened last year, but it worked out great because I channeled all my stress into that, instead of the race itself, and I still got there in time.

I ran into a few friends at the start, and even then I was hesitant to admit I wanted to break 1:50, because, you know, then I would actually have to do it. And it was going to hurt.

The race started right on time, at 9am. The towpath was covered with a layer of snow, but other than a few spots wasn't too slippery. Plus, this is the same towpath that 27 miles of the JFK 50 took place on, so when the going got tough, I just enjoyed reminding myself "remember that time you started running on this thing and you had 35 MILES to go? Thank God that's not the case today".

I love just being able to zone out and run, so this race was perfect - 6.55 flat miles out, turn around a cone, and 6.55 flat miles back. I ran by feel and just made sure that I was out of breath and my legs were burning a tad, but that it was sustainable and I wasn't dying. The last mile was killer, as always, and it was a little nerve-racking, since I had no idea what my time was, so all this could have just ended up as a huge disappointment. 

I turned off the towpath to the finish and someone yelled out "125!" and for a second I was like "WOW I really killed that old 1:50 PR" but then I realized it was my bib number. Still, I saw 1:48 on the clock and was thrilled.

I kept going right after the finish line straight to the car to change clothes in the wonderful heated bathroom provided. 

When I finish a race and it's below freezing out, I have an extremely small window of opportunity to get out of my soaking clothes and into a minimum of two jackets before I end up shaking uncontrollably for hours. I wish I were exaggerating.

The race shirt was exactly the same as the past two years, but they upped the ante and gave me this sweet running beanie. I wore it all day and love it so much.

I drove home and showered, and then it was time for what is apparently our new Sunday tradition - football and meat. There were no NFL games on today (although, if I've learned one thing in my marriage, it's that there is always a football game of some sort on, somewhere) so instead of watching, we played.

That's my "I'm going to pretend I am serious about throwing this ball" face.
Eric and I joined a touch football team that starts in March. One of his friends texted that he was getting a game together today, and since I don't think I've "played" football since high school gym class, it seemed like a good idea. We played from 3-5 pm, and it was fun, but FREEZING. Long after we left, I had three jackets on and was still shivering.

As soon as I proclaimed myself a carnivore on Facebook, people started telling me I needed to go to Abbey Burger Bistro.

There are about a million toppings and you can create your own burger. They had crazy stuff like kangaroo meat and a peanut butter burger, but since I'm still new, I stuck to somewhat more traditional stuff - beef, brie, mushrooms, avocado, tomato, pickle and mustard on a pretzel roll.

You can barely see the burger, but it was delicious.
I felt like Dorothy when suddenly she sees Oz in color - I didn't know I was missing out, but eating a veggie patty is just not nearly as satisfying as the real deal.

What's your secret weapon in a race?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

New treadmill PDR

Today's surprise bonus post is being brought to you by: SNOW!

iPhone photo through the window is the best I can do - no way I'm going out there before I have to.
You know how, every single morning, the alarm goes off and you feel like you would be willing to cut off a limb for 5 more minutes of sleep? I know that's not just me. This morning I woke up, saw a little snow, crossed my fingers like crazy, checked Facebook, saw like five statuses saying we had a delay, then because I'm a psycho went and checked the TV, confirmed, and experienced the unmitigated joy of knowing I could go back to sleep for two whole hours. Other than a full snow day, there is no better way to wake up.

We finally got a two hour delay today, which coincided perfectly with my rest day. This is our first time missing school due to snow in TWO YEARS. This may not sound like a lot, but Maryland teachers count on snow breaks. One of the best reasons to live here is that they won't hesitate to delay or close schools over less than an inch.

Eric saved this post by taking pictures when he left for work!
Soooo much dangerous snow
Right now Mother Nature and I are BFF, but yesterday that wasn't exactly the case. Wednesday my training plan called for 9 miles with 6 X 400 intervals (aka I needed to run fast for a few portions). After my freezing 5 mile  run Tuesday night, I did the only logical thing and spent the rest of the evening agonizing over whether to attempt the great outdoors again, this time for nearly twice the distance, or to face my nemesis, the treadmill, for my longest indoor run yet (previous was 8 miles as part of an icy 14 mile long run while trying to train for a marathon on a weekend in Rochester).

Tuesday night I was frantically looking up treadmills on trying to figure out if they provided overnight delivery.

The treadmill sounds like the obvious choice, but it wasn't as easy as it sounds. I go to the YMCA, which is across the street, which meant that to use the treadmill I'd still have to face the single digit temperatures, and one could argue that would defeat the whole point of avoiding them. Then there's the crushing boredom of running in place for over an hour to consider. The YMCA doesn't have wireless, which meant I wouldn't even be able to watch Netflix on my phone and my only option would be auditory entertainment. 

I knew my idol Jillian Michaels would encourage me to push past all these obstacles, and so I did. I got to the Y at 5:30, and entertained myself with podcasts for an hour and 19 minutes (8:48 pace), and did my 6X400 intervals at 7.8, I don't know what pace that is. Also, FYI, in the interest of honestly, I don't put the 1% incline that's recommended on when I run on the treadmill. I use it like twice a year, so if the belt makes it easier to run those two times and my pace isn't accurate, well, so be it. 

If you aren't already jealous of my career, yesterday I got to jump rope (the really long kind where two people hold it and you have to jump in while they are already swinging it) in front of about 250 people, including my boss. I hadn't jumped rope in about 20+ years, and I was wearing knee high boots and a sweater, but I still earned this.

Pretty sure it was just for participation, but I'll take it.

What's your temperature minimum and maximum for running outside? Minimum - I can do single digits, but any sort of ice gets me indoors, which was another problem Tuesday night. Maximum - I can usually handle the heat until it gets above 90.

If you don't run, when is the last time you jumped rope? That type required really high jumps and it was much harder than I remembered!

Last question does everyone always put an incline on the treadmill?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

I don't wanna wait

I've enjoyed writing this little blog for awhile now, but of course I'm not in any way a professional, trained, or talented writer. Sometimes it's really hard for me to put things into words. I was randomly texting with my college roommate over the weekend, and I was finally able to nail down how I feel about my nephew, despite spending an entire post on the topic after he was born. I had to take a little stroll down memory lane to get there.

Except minus the romantic thing, obviously.

I should be embarrassed how long I spent browsing Dawnson's Creek images on Pinterest for this.
Clearly we were major Dawson's Creek fans in college. I figured that comparison would resonate with her because she (and I) met her husband during the series finale of the show. If I remember correctly, he wandered into our dorm suite from downstairs, and we were like "Hey there, random guy, why don't you sit down and shut the hell up because we're trying to watch here". Back then (this may shock my younger readers), we didn't have luxuries like "DVR" or "Hulu", and if you considered yourself a fan of a show, you had to actually commit to watching every episode in real time or you were completely screwed. Both your dating and social life had to take a backseat (although in college no social event begins until well after prime time television).

I'm forced to discuss amazing 90s TV because running and I are fighting this week. First of all, this happened. These pictures were taken of my back (where the waistband of my tights hit) Monday night. 

Usually chafing is a one and done for me - I suffer through one horrible shower and then it's all good. I don't know why this is still all red and, as Eric said, looks like someone slashed me with a knife.

The next problem is hardly worth whining about, since a good chunk of the country is dealing with the same or worse, but I'll go ahead and do it anyway. This weather is a joke.

Monday, I had ZERO motivation to run, but I forced myself to do 7 miles. Why? Because based on the forecast, it would be the only time all week that I'd be running in double digit temperatures. - I miss hating the summer heat

Tuesday, I woke up to this.

I swear, it was the same 2.5 hours earlier when the alarm went off to run and I was like "oh hell no". I planned ahead and everything and had pretty much every piece of winter running gear I own set out, but I hadn't anticipated how warm and wonderful my bed would feel.

It was actually almost exactly the same when I finally ran at almost 6pm. I only had to do 5 miles, and even that was a mental challenge, even with tons of gear.

I had to break out the face mask for the first time, which in my head I call my Baklava, because it makes me laugh think of delicious pastry and gets my mind off the fact that I'm about to stupidly run when it's practically Antarctica instead. (It's really called a balaclava.) These are the types of pathetic head games Mother Nature is forcing me to play.

There's no point in bitching about the cold anymore, so what 90s show were you committed to enough to watch in real time? Believe it or not, I've never seen Beverly Hills 90210. Eric nearly left me when I revealed that.

Monday, January 21, 2013


This weekend it was like I didn't even know me. I enjoyed all sorts of things that the previous me would have looked at with disdain. I also threw in plenty of classic favorites to round things out.

I've determined how to make New Year's Resolutions stick. Often, people make resolutions that may be good for you, but they will suck to actually carry out. Examples include losing weight, saving money, spending less time watching TV, etc. If you make resolutions to do more of things you like to do anyway, it's pretty much guaranteed success. One of mine was to FaceTime with my newphew Harrison at least once a week, so he can learn who we are even though we don't see him often. We joined him for bath time Thursday night, and I FaceTimed with him again Sunday morning.

Horrible screen shot of FaceTime, but still cute.
Another one of my resolutions was to eat more and cook more meat. So far I'm nailing it, and made even further strides this weekend.

On Friday, I was due for a 14 mile run (9:46 pace), which meant I needed to begin prior to 5am. I did 4 miles, then Lily came and met me for the next 7, and I finished up the last 3 by myself. The run wasn't bad, especially all broken up like that, but as it got closer to sunrise, the temperature kept dropping and the wind was picking up. When I finished, it was 24 degrees with 15 mph winds and my hands felt like useless icicles.

 On Saturday I met a friend from Dailymile, Jen, and Lily for 18 miles (9:37 pace) downtown on the water. It's amazing what a difference the sun being out can make. I love getting to know new people on long runs - the entire thing seemed to fly by.

I was pretty much psyched out of my mind that after my run I could go home and relax and not have to spend the next four hours punching things, like I did the previous week. Saturday night we went on a double date with our good friends Carolyn and John, and I ate my weight in froyo. 

Sunday was a big day - first and foremost, it was my rest day, which is always something to celebrate. Second, it was the last playoff game for the Baltimore Ravens, and if they won, they'd be in the Superbowl. Normally this is the type of thing that I probably wouldn't even know about and if someone tried to tell me I'd tune them out and fantasize about chocolate. But this time I not only knew and cared, I also painted my nails AND toenails purple. 

Fun Fact: Eric and I went on our first, second, and third dates on the weekend of Martin Luther King Jr's birthday in 2006. 

This was taken in March 2006. If you can believe it, we didn't take any pictures on our first dates.
Instagram didn't even exist! Not such a bad thing since as you can see I was 10 times bigger.
It only took us 7 short years before we could enjoy a football game together.

We are hosting a SuperBowl party, and will be serving fried turkey, courtesy of Eric's Christmas gift, an indoor turkey fryer. We treated the playoff game as a trial run.

Yummm....raw bird dripping with marinade.
We have the world's smallest kitchen, so we had to completely rearrange in order to fit the fryer.

Here we go!
So dedicated to the cause
We invited Carolyn, John, and Lily over to help us eat our little 8 pound bird. Cooking turkey made me feel like it was Thanksgiving, so I went a little nuts and cooked enough food for approximately 14 people.

Corn bread, blue cheese bacon mashed cauliflower/potatoes, and cheesy broccoli orzo. Plus, we had chips and salsa, crackers and cheese, and pita chips out for appetizers.

Here's the really shocking thing, even more shocking than me actively participating in football watching.

I don't mention it too often, since it's not a popular sentiment, but I HATE dogs, like with the passion of a thousand suns. But, Lily's little puppy is pretty cute and was wearing purple, so I invited her over and even pet her. Eric was talking to his parents on the phone during the game and I overheard him say "Alyssa likes dogs now" and I was quick to correct him: "No, I like DOG. Singular.". I may have pet this dog and a very, very select few others that trusted friends own, but I will continue to:

  • disdain the entire species in general
  • be terrified of and actively avoid all unknown dogs
  • be disgusted and mystified by the fact that anyone on earth would intentionally choose a lifestyle that involves picking up poop on a daily basis
So yes, the meat eating and football fandom are lifestyle changes that I hope to continue, but make no mistake, I am most certainly not a dog lover, not a dog tolerater, not in any way a fan of dogs. I will make a limited number of exceptions on an individual basis.

I know most people won't care for that statement, so let's end on a high note. Actually two high notes. The Ravens won, which means they will be in the Superbowl! Also, I made brownie pudding for dessert. It's like a cross between brownie batter and molten lava cake. I highly recommend making this immediately, and topping it with vanilla ice cream like we did.

That's all that was left.

Have you ever suddenly enjoyed something that you formerly hated? The football thing is so weird for me - it's like I had a lobotomy or something!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

5 Common Cliches about Runners - Debunked!

Or at least proven wrong in my life within the past 24 hours.

1. Runners are slaves to the training plan 

I had to do a little switcheroo this week. I was supposed to do 14 on Wednesday, and 6 on Friday. I was mentally prepping all day Wednesday and actually really had my head in the game to wake up at 4:15, run 14 miles, then teach all day, do after school tutoring, and then work at Charm City Run (and we even had an event, to really keep my on my toes). The breaking point was the near-freezing rain when I went to bed. Friday is supposed to be dry, plus I only have to stay awake through ONE job. I slept in until 5:30 and somehow managed to convince myself to leave my nice, soft, warm bed to go outside and run in nasty cold rain (6 miles at 9:37 pace). 

This might only be funny to teachers, but it's seriously my life. This week a kid raised his hand to tell me his tongue itched. He "just wanted me to know it was still happening". 

2. Runners don't think short workouts count

This plan is tough but one thing lines up perfectly with my schedule - rest/cross training days on Thursdays. I always do a two-a-day on Wednesday, so I don't get home from Charm City until around 9:30pm, and then I don't really want to go straight to bed without dinner like some little kid being punished. So by the time I actually get into bed it's more like 11, and a 5:30 run is unlikely. I start one of my grad classes tonight, so now evening workouts are out. This morning I once again slept in, this time until 6:20, and did my girl Jillian Michaels' 30 Day Shred, Level 2. It's only 25 minutes including warm up and cool down, but don't be fooled, 20 of those minutes are pure unadulterated hell. 

3. No one is more obsessed with the weather than runners

This one is usually true, unless a group of teachers get wind of the tiniest, most remote chance that we might see a hint of a snowflake. 

When that happens, everyone goes nuts and suddenly turns into amatuer meterologists. Your Facebook feed will be covered with teachers' statuses asking everyone for their predictions (snow day? late arrival? early dismissal?), your phone will be blowing up with texts and emails discussing various models that they found online, and everyone starts making promises to God in exchange for a snow day, like "I swear I'll spend the entire morning grading papers in my pajamas if you just give us ONE DAY". If you thought kids got excited for snow days (I wouldn't really know, upstate NY does not follow this trend of "canceling school due to snow"), you have no idea. This was the case last night, but unfortunately, its not looking good.

4. Runners only eat healthy foods

A lot of runners are all like "I only eat superfoods AT ALL TIMES except for two special occasions a year when I eat like the rest of the disgusting American public but the rest of the time it's kale and lean protein with an organic whole wheat carb once a week". Obviously I've been devoting years on this blog to debunking this myth. I'm more like "I eat healthy at all times except when its time for dessert or when I go out or when I'm with friends or when I have a craving, or especially if any free food is offered to me". This attitude helps me out big time when we have events at work, because we always have a food spread, and I always step up and take one for the team and eliminate the threat of temptation by bringing all the leftovers home for me and Eric. Last night there was an entire cheese, meat, and pepperoni tray that had barely been touched. I called Eric to see if he wanted it (I thought he had already eaten) and his reaction was along the lines of if I'd called to say "they're giving away free money, do you think I should grab some?". He had it demolished before I went to bed. Last time I made out even better with a bag of Ghirardelli chocolates! 

5. There's only one type of special bath for runners

Me: "Guess who I have a date with tomorrow?"
Eric: "ummmm...."
Me: "I'll give you a clue - one of us will be in the bath."
Eric: "Ice?"

As exciting as an ice bath would be, apparently, my hot bath date is with this guy.

Now that the threat of snow is off the table, looking forward to that will be what gets me through the day. 

Which of these myths have you debunked?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Allergic to speed

On Saturday I did like three weekends worth of activities in one day, and then predictably I could barely even move on Sunday and getting out of bed Monday was a joke. I did that thing where I just kept "postponing" my run by hitting snooze 8 times and then resetting the alarm entirely coming up with various ways to "save time" (Ok, now I won't wash my hair. Ok, now I won't make lunch.)  until I finally admitted to myself it wasn't happening. So basically I wasted an hour in bed half awake/half asleep, woke up feeling completely unrested, and now I would still have the missed run hanging over my head all day. The week was off to great start.

Part of the reason I was putting off the run like crazy was because the run itself was freaking crazy. 10k at 10k race pace. According to McMillan, that would be a 7:53 pace. Terrifying.

I almost chickened out and used the dreaded treadmill, just because then I wouldn't have to deal with hills and that whole pesky "having to keep the pace myself out of sheer willpower" thing. My target race isn't actually on a treadmill though, so I put on my big girl pants and forced myself out the door after work. Everyone knows that cool shoes and clothes help you run faster, so I busted out my new Pearl Izumi capris, Brooks PureFlows, and Mockingjay noodle hugger.

I swear the shoes actually helped

My plan was to just run as fast as I could, and if I could keep it under 8:30 I'd be happy. I may have frightened any other pedestrians with my pathetic gasping for air, but I surprised myself with my splits.

To put it in perspective, my 10K PR is only 51:31 (granted that was on a horribly hot, humid day, but still). If only training runs could count as PRs, then life really would be perfect.

My joy at finishing at an even faster pace than I ever could have imagined was short lived, because I immediately started feeling like I wanted to puke and/or die. Eric called and asked if I wanted him to bring me a blizzard, and I didn't even say no, I said "GOD NO". That's when I knew things were serious. I spent the rest of the night laying on the couch, moaning, texting people to complain, sipping ginger tea, and of course, watching the Biggest Loser. It was still totally worth it, and as an added bonus, I felt I could truly identify with the contestants.

This morning I did a super easy 6 mile recovery run in the rain at a 10:05 pace, and luckily felt back to normal. Let's all cross our fingers that I survive this training cycle.

I also made an amazing recipe for dinner that: 1. had chicken and 2. is worth sharing. (I still make Eric do any cooking for the chicken.)

Chicken Florentine Artichoke Bake:

What's the best thing you've cooked lately?

Anyone else allergic to speed like me?

Sunday, January 13, 2013

I hate climbing on the backs of strangers

Friday was supposed to be either cross training or a rest day for me. I woke up at 5:15, got dressed, and was out the door by 5:30 for spin class, only to discover the YMCA had no power. Upsetting, but I regrouped, set up my bike on my trainer, and created my own spin class at home.

No, I told myself I should be upset but really rejoiced and rushed back to my bed for a glorious extra two hours of sleep. Obviously, it was a sign that Friday was supposed to be a rest day.

Saturday was jam packed, especially for a lazy introvert like me. The big 2-0 was on the running schedule, and the first one is always a bit daunting. Lily came and joined me for the first 10 miles, and I finished up the second 10 listening to the third book in the Maze Runner series. It was slow (10:05 pace), but the plan didn't call for any speedy intervals thrown in this week and it was humid as hell (92% in January, WTF).

I came home from the run, changed clothes, slammed a cup of coffee, and then Eric and I were off on quite an adventure: Krav Maga self defense training. Krav Maga, according to the website, "the official self defense system of the Israeli Defense Forces" and my understanding is that its basically street fighting designed to only use your own body for self defense in real life situations. Eric and I did an intro class a long time ago and it was pretty cool.

In response to the recent tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, the Krav Maga studio offered a free class to teachers that specifically focused on protecting your students from an active gunman. This is a serious topic, and in real life I treat it as such, as evidenced in that I choose to spend my Saturday afternoon doing what little I can to be prepared. However, on my blog, I'm going to be discussing it in my usual light hearted manner.

The class was really helpful but tough. There were over 100 teachers, and we did a short cardio warm up and then the instructors would demo a basic move and we'd practice it with a partner holding a punching bag. After trying to hold the bag and withstand Eric's hammerfists to my chest, I demanded a new partner, but there didn't seem to be any other married couples who wanted to be split up, so I was stuck with him. He was all "you don't know who could attack you, they could be my size, you need to prepare", but I didn't notice anyone else in the class battling someone a foot taller and over a hundred pounds bigger.

After that, we split up into groups to practice disarming gunmen with various types of guns and using things in our classroom as weapons. Each person had to run at a huge guy around Eric's size (covered in pads), knock him down from behind (onto a mat), and climb on his back and start punching his head. I hate being the center of attention AND climbing on strange men's backs (sober) AND punching people in the head so that was particularly nerve wracking for me.

It's my belief that in life there are Katnisses and there are Foxfaces, and I absolutely share Foxface's red hair and aversion to conflict. (If anyone STILL hasn't read the Hunger Games, if I hear a scary noise in the middle of the night I'm going to hide under the covers, not fashion an impromptu weapon.) I don't even like violence in movies, so trying to perfect my stomp to someone's head or knee to the groin is pretty foreign to me. I was forced to channel my inner Katniss and pretend to be fighting for my life in the arena, and that seemed to do the trick.

Overall, I'm so glad we went to the class, if only so I feel a little more empowered and there was a lot of good information about aspects of that situation that I'd never thought about. On the down side, I don't typically spend hours punching things, practice disarming gunmen, or beat giant punching bags with sticks so my neck and shoulders feel like this one time I was rear ended at a stoplight by a guy going 40mph.

Our wild day didn't end there. We were able to take quick showers at the Krav Maga studio and then grab some food and more importantly, again, coffee, and rush downtown for one of my favorite running partner's 30th birthday!

Yeah not the greatest picture, but our focus was dancing.
 Shockingly enough, I was once again highly invested in the Ravens game and couldn't take my eyes off the TV when we first got to the bar to see the outcome. It's like I don't even know me anymore, but I swear it's improving our marriage.

Orange crush bone
I actually only had a few sips of that giant drink because I had a feeling I'd be in pain the next day and didn't need to add on ahangover, and I was right. So I offered to DD, but luckily for me I can dance and act like a drunken fool with or without alcohol.

The joke was on me, because I still woke up feeling horrible today. Maybe it's dehydration, because coffee seemed to make it worse, which is unprecedented. I may not be hungover but I still went with the classic hangover cures. 

A nice, balanced lunch and dinner.

Are you a Katniss or a Foxface?

If you go out dancing, is alcohol a necessity?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Marathon training plan

Today is exactly 2 months until my spring marathon! A majority of the marathons that I've done have been either part of ultra training, or just coming off running an ultra. This spring I really want to just focus on improving my speed in the marathon distance. Kari posted today about the training plan that we're both following while we virtually train. 

The plan seems to have three pretty intense days of running - the long run, and two semi-long runs, with speed work incorporated into one of those. The other days are two easy runs and two cross train or rest days. The plan only has speed work every other week, but my friend Matt, who created it, said to do it every week, and to really focus on mile repeats, 800s, and hill work. 

Let's look at this week as an example:

Monday: 10 miles
Tuesday: 5 miles
Wednesday: 11 miles
Thursday: 5 miles
Friday: cross train or rest
Saturday: 20 miles
Sunday: cross train or rest

So while the longer days are rough, they make the other days seem super easy by comparison. But make no mistake, the long days are a major challenge. 

Yesterday was 11 miles, and I started about 5:30am. Mother Nature decided to screw me with 85% humidity in 32 degrees. AKA the worst of the worst. This was one of the weeks I needed to add in my own speedwork, so I randomly choose 5 mile repeats. I ran 5 easy miles, at about a 10:00 pace, and then hit the track. 

According to McMillan, my mile repeat pace should be 7:38-7:50. Well, I failed miserably on that. My five splits were 8:24, 8:13, 8:16, 8:02,and 8:06, and the last mile was a cool down back to homeNot even a single mile under 8 minutes. Most were even slower than my tempo miles last week. In terms of effort, I can assure you it was there. I was gasping for breath so loud the walkers on the track probably wanted to call 911 and my legs were burning. I can only hope that my body will adapt to doing speedwork at that time and get better...sounds unlikely but it's all I've got. I'm just going to pat myself on the back for doing an 11 mile run before a 13 hour workday and move on. 

Right now the plan is pretty manageable, but things aren't quite in full swing yet. Pretty soon, I'll be teaching full time, working at the running store (very) part time, tutoring after school (separate from my regular teaching job), and taking two grad classes. So I'm a little nervous about how that will all play out, but plenty of people train for marathons with much busier schedules than mine. As long as I can fit in some sleep, keep up with the Biggest Loser, and regularly FaceTime with Harrison, I'll be a happy camper.

When things get busy, what fun stuff is essential and what gets cut out? My TV watching will fall by the wayside but I'll always find a few minutes for some blog reading/writing!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

An Ode to Jillian

The excitement has just been non-stop in my life! This week has had some major events. 

1. I returned to the 5am run! 

I included that exclamation point as a "fake it till you make it" sort of thing. No one is really excited to get out of a nice warm bed to run in dark, sub - freezing temperatures, but it's better than not running at all! Monday morning I jumped right in and knocked out ten miles at a 9:30 pace by sunrise.

I had some crazy anxiety about this run,  the type when I was training for my first half, the "OMG how could I possibly run ten whole miles??" type. Which really didn't make sense, since I'd run 18 miles less than 48 hours prior, so I knew I could complete the distance. But it had been almost 3 weeks since I last dragged myself out of bed at the crack of dawn to do anything, so it was intimidating.

Tuesday was a much easier watchless 5 miles, which oddly felt harder. Go figure.

2. I ate chicken! That I cooked myself!

Technically I already did that when I consumed mass amounts of buffalo chicken dip on New Year's Eve. But I don't really count that since that chicken was covered in cream cheese, blue cheese, cheddar cheese, and Frank's Red Hot, and I think even old shoelaces would taste good in that mix. 

Like most women in their 20s (I need to start saying that more, since I have less than six months before it's yanked away from me forever), I have a pretty good idea of what foods I need to eat to get that bikini body and what foods will make a fat cow. But I gave up meat so young that I never really learned which ones were for fatties. In my meat eating journey, bacon, burgers, and hot dogs have all been winners so far. And, it seems that meat follows the patterns of all the other foods, which is that the best tasting are the worst for you. So, while the idea of chicken still seems a tad gross, I decided to try it in the interest of not dying of a heart attack by age 35.

Yesterday, I made Sarah's Chicken Taco Soup in the crockpot. I loved the soup, and thought it was cool that beer was in it, but  the chicken? Not so much. It was in no way the recipe, that was fantastic, it was just my own neurosis. The chicken was all shredded up and mixed with other stuff, but eating it still freaked me out. I left a bunch at the bottom when the rest of the soup was gone and I couldn't bring myself to eat the chicken on its own. Sorry to all the diehard carnivores, but I would have preferred the vegetarian version on this one.


I've made my love for Jillian Michaels no secret around here. I may have mocked her for saying you should gargle with sugar water to avoid dessert cravings, but I'm just a simple school teacher, maybe if I had a multi-million dollar career based on my rock hard body I'd resort to drastic measures too. I still adore her. I listen to her podcasts every week and constantly drop little tidbits about her life to Eric as though we are real life BFFs (because in my mind, we are) "Oh, Jillian doesn't like Crossfit. Jillian's going on a ski trip for Christmas."

Therefore, her return to Biggest Loser on Sunday made me unbelievably happy. Eric and I aren't huge reality TV fans. We don't watch the Bachelor, because frankly, if you've seen Flavor of Love, no other dating show is even worth it.

But the Biggest Loser is amazing and without it this fall, we had nothing to live for on Tuesday nights. I'm going to go ahead and put a bold statement out there and say Jillian is my favorite trainer. Bob is kind of deep into the Crossfit cult right now. I love Dolvett, he's gorgeous, but I have my own gorgeous black man, AND he snubbed my sister by not retweeting her on her birthday. Jillian provides me with funny and informational podcasts, killer workout DVDs, and she's sexy. Sorry Dolvett, but unless you start cursing more and assisting me in other areas of my life, I'm on Team Jillian.

Now we've only watched Sunday's episode, and I've heard Monday's gets pretty nuts, but I still don't think anything will sway me. 

If you watch BL, who's your favorite trainer? 

Any other Flavor of Love fans?

What meat should I try next?

Sunday, January 6, 2013

PHUNT 25K+2 recap and some football

On Friday, I said I couldn't make the huge decision about which distance to choose for this weekend's free trail race - 50K or 25K. While I appreciate all the feedback, it was pretty much split down the middle, so ultimately no help. While I was sorely tempted to be all badass and come in here with a recap like "I did the 50K, bitches!", I don't know how I let myself become delusional enough to think that was even a possibility.

The race didn't start until 9am, so I got to sleep in until the very reasonable race morning hour of 6:40. I enjoyed about 30 minutes in the porto-potty line, then continued my JFK tradition of sprinting to the race start.

We didn't get bibs, but I did get this: 

Nothing like starting a race with an emergency
phone number to inspire confidence

The race was on gorgeous trails, and there were some leaves covering up rocks and roots, and a lot of mud, but overall the course was really runable. I was having one of those "11 minute miles feels like sprinting" days and by mile 5 I was exhausted. The race didn't have many big climbs but it was nonstop rolling hills. 

Executive decision: I'd run the 25K and tack on a little bit because my training plan called for 18 miles (the graph says 17.5 because somehow I accidentally paused my Garmin for half a mile). 

Near the top of one of the hills

There was also a lot of running through fields and random grassy areas
All the runners were asked to bring a food and drink item for the aid stations (approximately every 5 miles) and I thought this was a fantastic way to put on a race. I'd much rather show up with some cookies and Gatorade than pay a huge fee for yet another tech tee and medal! I really wanted to bake something but I had some grades to enter and some errands to do Friday night and plus I was freaking exhausted from working three whole days last week. 

During the race, I ate: 

  • a delicious oatmeal craisin bar some talented runner made
  • an orange slice
  • a piece of chocolate donut 
  • pretzel M&Ms
  • a few sips of orange Gatorade

 I like my races on the wild side. In addition to eating home baked goodies, here are some other fun trail aspects that you just don't get from road racing.

  • At one point I entered a "managed hunting area" and couldn't see a single other person or sign of human life, but I did hear gunshots.
  • The race was extremely well marked and yet somehow I ended up lost with a random group of runners. Since I wanted to add on miles and they had maps and seemingly a sense of direction I wasn't too concerned. I just pretended I was one of them and after all sorts of backtracking we followed the trail we were on until it intersected with the course.
  • There were a ton of stream crossings and they slowed me down like crazy. Usually I don't worry about it and just splash through, but the temperature was 23 at the start and not predicted to get above freezing. I wasn't trying to lose any toes to frostbite.

Other than running the first mile or so with my JFK buddy and coworker Matt, and chatting with a few ladies around mile 15, I pretty much ran the whole thing in silence. My upcoming marathon doesn't allow headphones, and even though I made it 50 miles without music I still love rocking out to Ke$ha from time to time. I had headphones in my hydration pack and wanted to bust out my iPhone so bad but I forced myself not to, to build up mental stamina or something. I've never run that far without music or company and I certainly haven't run nearly that long (3 hours and 36 minutes) without it!

Proof that some of the race was, in fact, in the woods.
I got to the finish line at about 16 miles and really didn't want to keep going. I only needed two more miles but at the rate I was going that was kind of a big deal. Naturally I got lost again in the woods, and then emerged from the woods and started running across the field the wrong way, away from the finish, and had to stop and turn around. While I was doing this I ran directly into a pricker bush. I didn't think much of it at the time (I was focused on my embarrassment about looking like an idiot) but I guess it got me.

No trail race is complete without battle wounds.
Finally, 18 brutal miles were done.

Usually I'm not hungry until a few hours after I run but after this race I couldn't get a hot dog in my mouth fast enough. 

It's hard to tell, but half that dog is gone.
I ate the other half on my short walk to the car and just bit right into the generic oreo, without even bothering to twist it apart and lick the cream separately. That's some level 10 hunger right there.

Since I left the race nice and full, I was actually able to stop at Wegmans on the way home and grocery shop without putting my entire life savings at risk. I had leftover homemade hot fudge and heavy cream from my peanut butter stuffed hot fudge cupcakes, so clearly buying ice cream and making an epic sundae was my only choice.

Sundae and fuzzy blanket - Saturday night of champions
On Sunday, I did an easy half hour on the elliptical and then did Jillian Michael's No More Trouble Zones (the whole thing - I usually do an abbreviated version of only the first four circuits). Then things got really weird. I watched an entire football game, and paid attention, and liked it. This happened once before, but that was when we attended the game in person.

The game was the Baltimore Ravens vs. the Colts, my sister's favorite team, and since I live in Baltimore and am technically a Ravens fan, she'd been laying down some twitter trash talk. I don't know what happened but I guess the family rivalry got me revved up and watching the game turned out to be fun, especially since the Ravens won. Eric even said he liked watching it with me and didn't mind that I asked him stupid questions every 10 seconds. 

I am adding an item to my 2013 resolutions: I will become a true Ravens fan and enjoy football. I'm about 97% positive that adding meat to my diet helped immensely so by next fall I should be ready to embrace the sport whole heartedly. 

Believe it or not, my nasty runners feet helped too.

Anyone else ever done a free race? Would you want to?