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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

National #RunningDay June 4

I hope you will all get out for a run on National Running Day, June 4.  This is a relatively new "holiday", only 5 years old.  The day is set aside for runners to declare their passion for running.  Sounds like a great day for me!

 
I will run tomorrow with a few of my running friends, just to reaffirm my commitment to running and a healthy lifestyle. I will push my 5 yr old daughter in the stroller, and have her run at least part of it, to set an example of a healthy lifestyle.  My kids have learned that running, and daily physical activity is "normal" and what is expected.  I think that is the best lesson that I can ever teach them. 
  I will also be running my miles for charity tomorrow.  I discovered Charity Miles more than a year ago.  It is a free app that you can download onto your smartphone and dedicate your miles to several different charities.  Every mile walked or ran equals 25 cents to the charity of your choice. You can also bike to earn money for your charity of choice, with 10 cents earned for every mile biked.  Charity Miles has partnered with several corporate sponsors, including Timex and Humana in order to collect the donations to charity.  I run with my phone anyway, for safety, and to be reachable while my children are at school. It is so easy to turn on the app when you head out.
  My favorite charities include The Wounded Warrior Project, Team RWB and Every Mother Counts.  Just by turning on the app when I start my run, I have been able to donate at least $25 per month, just by doing what I would have done anyway: running!
  I hope you can get out there and run or walk tomorrow. Also, think about turning on Charity Miles when you do.  #EveryMileCounts
 Happy #RunningDay everyone!
 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

AMR Strava Prove it Challenge

I'm finally getting around to posting about this challenge.  Dimity and Sarah over at Another Mother Runner introduced this challenge way back in January.  The challenge offered a 17 week training plan for either a 10K or Half Marathon distance.  Training started January 13, and was to conclude Mother's Day, May 11. The "Prove it" part meant that you would accept the challenge to "prove" something to yourself. Maybe it was to run the distance the first time, run it faster than ever before, or maybe even just to commit to getting the miles in no matter how life got in the way.
  I accepted the challenge, and chose the Half Marathon distance. I have run at least a dozen half marathons over the last 8 years, so this seemed like an appropriate choice for me.  What appealed to me about this challenge was that there was going to be a virtual community of support at Strava.  In case you have never heard of Strava, it is a  free mobile app and website that allows you to track your runs ( or bike routes, if you are a cyclist).  You can follow other users, and they can follow you, with the option of giving and receiving "kudos" and comments.  There are also discussion boards within challenges to share comments and questions.  I had never tried Strava before, and at first it seemed like just another thing to add to my social media "time suck".  Once I got started with the challenge, however, I found it to be quite enjoyable.  I liked seeing what other people were doing for their workouts, and I must admit, those "kudos" and  kind comments boosted my ego a bit.  Not only did I have this group of "mother runners" on Strava, but I soon found Strava teams to join with Oiselle and Nuun.  How fun!
  I tried the mobile app on my iphone, but I found that using my Garmin Forerunner 10 watch and uploading the run from that device to Strava was easier for me.  The mobile app was good for checking others' runs during the day, and receiving push notifications when I others had given me kudos and comments.  I am going to continue to use Strava. It is a great way to track my runs, set goals, join challenges and feel like part of this running community. 
  Another aspect of the challenge that enjoyed were the weekly emails with the training plan, and training tips.  The plans were designed by Christine Hinton and I found them to be comprehensive and challenging for me.  They included easy, tempo, interval, hill and long runs. I looked forward to receiving the email on Sundays for the following week, although I had printed out the plan at the beginning of the challenge.  During the month of April, we moved into a new home, and somehow those papers got lost in the shuffle! Knowing that I could just check my email was helpful.  What also was provided in the plan was two 20 min strength training workouts.  The recommendation was to do these workouts twice a week.  I have to admit, I was sporadic at best with getting these in.  Even getting a good stretch or foam roll during the last 2 months has been difficult, giving the stress of moving.  That is probably why I am still having issues with my piriformis syndrome. 
  There were also monthly Webinair hangouts, with different experts answering questions, including Sage Rountree and Greg McMillan.  And to top it all off, there was swag: a "Prove it" t-shirt, a medal, Nuun tablets, Hyland's Calm Forte tablets and Roctane gels!
  Now, as far as me "proving it", I have struggled with this since I completed the challenge on May 9.  I chose to race "virtually", rather than joining an organized race on Mother's Day.  There were no logistically easy races for me around here on that day, and I decided that I would rather relax at home on Mother's Day rather than race.  I decided to "race" on Friday, May 9 after I dropped my daughter off at preschool. No fanfare, no on course support, no cheering fans. This was fine with me.
  If I were to choose a word to describe my training for this challenge, I would have to choose lackluster.  Very few shining moments, mostly "blah" workouts. After struggling with piriformis syndrome in the fall, only coming back to running in early January after Physical therapy treatments and rest, I was ready to take this challenge. 
  But, for good or for bad, I had also registered for two half marathon races, which were to take place in February and March. February was the Love Rox 1/2 Marathon in Richmond, VA with my best friend, Michele. I went into it without expectations, only hoping to finish the distance. I was able to run that race in 2:10 and it was a hilly course.  I was happy with the result, just coming back from injury and it ended up being a great weekend.  The next race was the Shamrock 1/2 Marathon in Virginia Beach, which was also a fantastic Oiselle Team meetup. I had some solid training effort going into this race, and it showed. I was able to run 1:58, which I was very happy about.  I felt like I was finally getting back in shape, and running this Half Marathon Challenge could possible bring me to a PR. 
  I don't want to dwell on excuses, or come up with reasons why I wasn't able to run faster on May 9. But I have to say that April was an extremely busy and stressful month for our family.  We closed on a new house on April 7, and moved for a whole week from the 15th to the 25th.  Most of the move was done by myself and my husband with some assistance from friends.  I also had to go back to the old house to clean, which was exhausting.  On top of this, my son was performing in a ballet with CPYB in Harrisburg. Not only was I driving him back and forth to rehearsals and performances, I had committed to volunteering with back stage costume changes.  Oh yeah, and I haven't mentioned that I started leading a new running group on Saturdays for my local gym and studying for my Group Fitness certification.  To think that I would be able to run a PR was unrealistic at best.  I really should have sat down to think about my goals, and set some realistic goals.
  The day of my virtual race, I set out with the thought that I would just run by effort, not worry about the time. I covered my Garmin watch with a piece of tape over the time. I could still see the distance, so I would know when to stop. I didn't want to be focused on pace, just effort.  I ran through my normal running routes, which tend to be pretty hilly.  The weather was warm and humid, so that may have affected my pace as well. The run was tough. I actually had a really difficult time just convincing myself to finish in the last 2 miles. It did not feel good. It was upsetting.  But I did finish. In 2:08. Disappointing for sure.
  What did I "prove"?   That is such a tough question to answer. I feel like I really haven't proved it yet.  I still think I have better times in me. I would love to get faster than 1:50 in the half marathon. My fastest time is 1:53, which I ran in early 2012.  Is it possible? Maybe. Do I need to really dedicate myself to training? Yes. 
 Which brings me to the next AMR Challenge: 13.Fun.  Starting in July, I will join this challenge, with my focus on a PR on October 19. 
 What will bring me there? First, I need to get my body strong, and injury free in the next 2 months.  I am going to work on my core, with special attention to my hips and glutes.  I am going to go into this challenge much stronger and smarter.  Strength training will be non-negotiable. I will finally Prove It in October.  Who's with me?
  

Monday, March 17, 2014

Birds of a Feather Flock Together at Shamrock

Pretty Birds


 
     I had been looking forward to this Oiselle Team meetup in Virginia Beach since last November.  Since being selected for this team in the fall of 2012, I have jumped at any chance to meetup with my teammates. 
    I drove down to Virginia Beach on Friday morning. The drive was long, it took 6 hours, but so worth it. I checked in to the Holiday Inn in Norfolk, then decided to head to the Expo at the Convention Center to pick up my number and hopefully meet up with some of my teammates.
  I was able to meet up with Ellen, Allie, Carolyn and Allison at the Expo, who had travelled from North Carolina. We picked up our numbers and beer bracelets (we showed our ID's so that we could enjoy some Yuengling beer after the race the next day), and perused some of the free samples.  Our favorite was the Post cereal. Hungry runners always need a nutritious snack! We posed for some silly leprechaun photos, and then decided to head out to dinner. We searched yelp for a local restaurant, and found Baladi's for some yummy Mediterranean food. It was one of the best wraps I have had: Tofu and Portobello wrap with tabbouleh salad. It was fun chatting with these ladies who I have only known from Twitter.  Allie was racing the 8K in the morning, so we planned on getting together the next day to cheer for her, and some other team mates and join some other ladies for a "shake out" run.
   When I got back to the hotel, I ran into Kristin Metcalf, who also happens to be our team manager. It was so nice finally meeting her. She came all the way to Virginia Beach from Seattle to support all of us runners and cheer us on. She is full of positive energy and her love for the team is immeasurable. We are all so blessed to have her leading the team.
  I had planned on sharing my room with Ashley, who I had never met before, but we had corresponded via email.  Her flight was delayed, so I was able to leave her a key to the room at the front desk so she could let herself in when she arrived at midnight. I left a welcome note for Ashley, and settled in for the night. With my earplugs in, I didn't even hear her arrive. The next thing I knew, my alarm was going off, and I was up and getting ready to head to the beach to cheer on my fellow teammates who were racing the 8K on Saturday. Ashley and I found our way to the meetup place, and were able to do a short shake out run while finding a good place to cheer.
It was a beautiful day at the beach, and we were treated to this sunrise.
Once all the ladies running in the 8K finished strong, a few of us headed for much needed coffee and breakfast.  Ashley headed to the Expo to pick up her number for the next day.  Once returning to the hotel, I took some time to rest, shower, catch up on computer stuff and prepare for the team dinner that night.  I also was invited to watch the movie Blue Jasmine with another team mate, Rebecca in her room, and I took her up on it. I have to say, it was a great movie, with incredible acting performances by Cate Blanchett and Sally Hawkins.
  The team dinner took place at an Italian restaurant named Bravo.  A local team member, Mollie organized the whole dinner, and it was a great time for everyone. We had not only the Oiselle ladies, but also some spouses, children, parents and friends. I love this shot of our "paparrazi" taking our team photo after the dinner:
The local paparrazi. Photo credit: Allie Bigelow

An early bedtime was definitely needed for the early morning awaiting us.  Ashley and I settled to sleep by 9pm despite our loud hotel neighbors, who were in town for a Mason's reunion.  These people liked to party!
  Wake up time on Sunday morning was 5:15 am.  Ashley and I donned matching outfits of Lesko Shimmel tanks and Distance shorts, with several warmer layers on top. We grabbed a quick breakfast and were on the road with Rebecca and Kristin, who graciously had offered to drive us to the start.  Traffic was crazy once we got close to the race. Kristin dropped us off several blocks before the start, so we started walking. We took a quick pit stop at a hotel, and then continued walking. Within a few minutes we noticed that the runners we saw were not carrying their dry bags. But where was the bag check??? Apparently, in our relaxed "have fun" weekend, we had forgotten to check where the start was, where the bag check was, and the deadline for getting your bags on the truck. Oops. 
  We saw a few trucks sitting there, so we asked what we were to do. They were set up for the marathoners, but thankfully, one lady on the truck said she would take our bags.  Thank goodness for nice people who take care of us spaced out runners.  By the time we checked our bags, we realized the race was to start within 10 minutes.  And we still had a long way to walk. So we walked fast. It ended up being a good warm-up for the race.( I like to think "glass half full"). We rationalized that it was chip timed, and our race didn't start until we crossed the line. True, but it would have been nice to be in our assigned corral, and to hear the national anthem. Live and learn.
  Rebecca took off, trying to catch up with corral #1 which had already started (we heard the countdown to the race). Ashley and I tried to catch up with corral #3. Navigating from corral #7 to #3 was not very easy. Ashley rushed ahead, but I decided to save my energy for the race. I managed to get into #4 before crossing the line. My Garmin watch gps kicked in just in time and I crossed the line. It was crowded for the first mile, but I didn't let it bother me. I did not have a specific goal in mine, other than "under 2 hours".  After running The Love Rox 1/2 Marathon in Richmond 3 weeks ago in my slowest ever time of 2:10, I figured anything better than that would be fine with me. I also knew that this course would be flat. The wind would be the only issue. 
  After the first mile (9:30), I settled into a nice pace (around 9 min/mile). I was feeling very comfortable, and knew that I could maintain this pace for quite a while.  The weather was good, partly cloudy, maybe 40 something degrees, and a bit windy.  I stopped to drink water at about every other water stop, and took Gu gels at 4.5 miles and 9.5 miles.  I was able to pass the 2 hour pacer group somewhere along Shore Drive, maybe at 4 miles in. I knew that if I stayed ahead of them, I would make my goal of under 2 hours.  Once we entered Fort Story at mile 5, the wind picked up quite a bit.  There was also a slight hill.  I managed to keep a steady pace, right around the 9 min range. I even saw some 8:5x splits in there, and I was still feeling pretty good.  I felt quite good until about mile 11.5 when I started feeling tired. I knew that I would make it, but my mind was starting to get the best of me. I pushed those feelings away and carried on, not allowing myself to slow down too much.  By the time I made the final turn at 12.5 miles and saw my team mate Paulette, I got a second wind and was able to push hard to the finish.  I saw Kristin and some other team members cheering just a few yards from the finish, and I smiled as I crossed the finish.  1:58:25 official time.
photo credit: Katie Anderson's fiancé, Drew
  Through the finishing chute, I collected my medal, beach towel (sweet!), running cap, granola bar, water and shamrock cookie.  I looked for the bag check trucks, but didn't see them, so I figured I would meet up with the ladies from Oiselle.  It was so cold by this time. Once you finished running, the wind was fierce, and freezing.
  I met up with them, and Kristin was nice enough to get this shot of me and tweet it:

A few minutes later, I was shivering. I wrapped my new towel around me, and Asher, an elite member from our team, was nice enough to wrap her French Feather fleece scarf around my neck as an attempt to warm me up. Thanks, Asher! We all soon decided to find my bag, and skip the after party, opting for coffee and breakfast instead.  I was able to locate my bag, after seeking out any UPS trucks I could find, and soon we were headed to the Java Beach Café, where we enjoyed coffee, breakfast sandwiches and wraps, served by friendly staff, and helpful neighbors that seemed to just drop in to help serve breakfast. Elderly neighbors, in tight sweatpants. I guess you had to be there....
Here's a photo of my room mate, Ashley, who definitely wins the prize for the glamor shot of the day. And this was POST half marathon.
How does she look that good after PR'ing by 2 minutes???
  Anyway, we had a great breakfast and then we were heading back to the hotel driven by Kristin, with some mad driving skills.  Rebecca had to get back to the hotel so that she could get showered and to the airport to catch a 2pm flight.  I volunteered to drive her, and was also promised a sweet set of Lux arm warmers if I could get her there on time.  I would have done it anyway, but I wasn't about to say no to some extra Oiselle gear.  Could this weekend get any better?
  We made it to the airport on time, without any crazy "Daisy Duke" maneuvers, and I hit the road for a long 6 hour drive.  I made it home safely, and was happy to be home with my family after a very memorable weekend.
  Once again, I am feeling very blessed to be part of the Oiselle Family.  It is a community of women runners who embrace each other, literally and figuratively.  No matter your age, size, or ability, we are all runners, with a passion for the sport.  We all put ourselves out there, toeing the line, to do our best. In some of the best gear a lady can find. 
  Special thanks to Kristin Metcalf who brought us all together for this Spring Team Meet-up.  Thanks K-Met for taking care of all us and making us all feel so special.  It wouldn't have been the same without you.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Love Rox 1/2 Marathon

When I registered for this race, way back in the Fall of 2013, I was running well, uninjured and excited to plan a fun girl's getaway weekend with my best friend, Michele.  She was able to find a race exactly mid distance from where we both live: Richmond, VA.  We each would have a 4 hour drive, the race looked "flattish" and the best part was that your race entry included tastings at the Virginia Wine Expo after the race. Perfect!!
  At the end of October I developed an injury which lingered well into the end of the year. I was finally able to start running again in early January.  That left me only 7 weeks to train for the 1/2 marathon.  I tried to stay positive, just reassuring myself that I would just run as well as I could, not to be concerned about any time goal.  Luckily, Michele has had on and off training as well, so she was willing to go in with a "do what we can" attitude.
  The longest run I was able to complete in training was a 9.5 mile run 9 days before the race. I felt pretty good, I ran slowly, but I was able to run the whole distance. That was somewhat reassuring. But I still had another 3.6 miles to run.
  I drove to Richmond Saturday morning after dropping my son off at ballet and leaving the other two at home with a sitter. My husband was not so conveniently coaching his swim team in their final swim meets this weekend.  The drive to Richmond was without incident, and Michele and I met at the packet pick up.  The pick up was low-key, with just a couple of vendors, no lines to pick up our race bibs.  We were in and out in just a few minutes and off to check in to our hotel in downtown Richmond.
  We stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn which was the host hotel for the race.  It was conveniently located across the street from the Convention Center where the Wine Expo was taking place, and only a block away from the start/finish area of the race.  And did I mention that the race didn't start until 10:00 am the next morning? How easy was this going to me?
  I had been to Richmond several years ago while dating my husband.  I don't remember much about that trip, so the city seemed new to me. Michele and I walked around a bit after checking into our hotel.  We walked along next to the James River on the Canal Walk. Part of the race route would be here the next day.  The weather was great, much warmer than it had been for me in PA.  It was nice walking around in short sleeves and enjoying the sunshine. 
 We stopped at an English Pub on the way to dinner to have a drink. The Penny Lane Pub is a cozy bar, which was quite crowded when we arrived.  The older man at the front told us to head to the bar, and to make sure to show our ID's.  I took this as a joke, but Michele thought he was serious and quickly got out her driver's license to show the bartender. I hated to break it to her that he was joking, and trying to flatter us. We each had a "pint" , and then headed to dinner.
 Dinner was at a restaurant within walking distance, Cafe Rustica. It is a small restaurant, with good food and friendly service.  Dinner was good, relaxed and not rushed at all.  It reminded of us of being in Europe again.  After dinner, we headed back to the hotel and watched Olympic highlights.  It was nice knowing that the race didn't start until 10 am and that we were within a 5 min walk to the start.
We did, however, have to walk down to the parking lot where our cars were to pay for daily parking in the morning.  It seemed impossible to pay for the whole weekend, and our parking space was expiring at 5:59am. We had spoken to "Angela" the voice who answered the telephone when we called the info line and she assured us that we could park there, we wouldn't get towed, as long as we mailed her a check on Monday for the Sunday parking. ????? We decided it was probably best to pay for the parking on Sunday and head out early Monday morning to avoid having our cars towed.
  Sunday morning we paid for parking, then stopped at Starbucks on the way back to our hotel.  I was feeling apprehensive about the race.  My body felt tired, my legs tight.  Would I be able to run the whole distance? What about the temperature? It was already approaching 50 degrees. I hadn't run in anything warmer than 30 degrees during my training. I shared my concerns with Michele, and we just hoped for the best. We were able to catch the end of the Olympic Hockey game, with Canada beating Sweden for the gold medal. I proudly sang my national anthem before heading to the race.
    We walked down to the start and realized this was a much smaller race than we thought.  (We found out later that there were only about 400 runners for the 1/2 marathon).  There was a moment of silence for Meg, a local woman who had been killed by a drunk driver while running recently.  Then the national anthem was sung beautifully.  I began to calm down, and get ready to run. 
  We started right at 10am. The course was 2 loops, with the 10K runners running one, the 1/2 marathoners running 2.  Within the first mile this "mostly flat" course was anything but. We started to head up a long, gradual hill.  Thankfully, for every uphill, there was also downhills. We tried to make up some time on the descents.  I actually enjoyed running through downtown Richmond for the most part.  I like passing the sign that said "U R Downtown" twice.  Crossing a small bridge into Brown's Island was nice. Running along the Canal Walk and seeing some of the cool graffiti/art was interesting. I debated stopping to take photos, but as Michele stated on the second loop "I want to save my energy for running". Good point. We were definitely feeling it on the second loop.
  Crossing the 14th street bridge seemed to me to be the most boring part. It was mostly an industrial looking area. All the runners seemed to have become quiet on the second time around.  We were about 8 miles into it by then.  The hardest part, physically, was the second time up and over the Lee Bridge.  There had been a water stop at about mile 8.5, and not another one until almost 11 miles.  We were wanted to take our last Gu and had to wait until that water stop.  We were both struggling, and I think we both considered walking, but we somehow kept going.  Speaking of water stops, we did walk through all the water stops, drinking each time and taking Gu's at approx. miles 5 and 11.  Michele also ate some Sportsbeans while going up the Lee Bridge. She said it helped her get through it. I have never really liked them, and the energy it would take to chew and run was just too much for me at that point.
  Passing the mile 12 sign as a good feeling.  We were able to finish strong, with a slight uphill finish.  We ran mostly even splits, with the last mile being one of our fastest (9:20).  My watch time was 2:09:30. The official time was 2:10. I think that is my slowest 1/2 marathon ever, but I was just proud to be able to run the whole distance, feeling good without evidence of my injury.  Running the race with Michele was really fun. I like that we can support each other without even saying a word.  She kept me running when I really wanted to walk.  And I know I did the same for her.
  We took a couple of photos at the end of the race, even though we were tired and sweaty.


 I was proud to represent not only Oiselle, but also, Team Nuun, which I was selected to be  an ambassador recently.
 I really like the medal that we received. It is in the shape of a wineglass, which I thought was cute and original. I thought it was a bit silly to have the little check boxes on the race bib: "Available, Taken or It's Complicated". Were we really supposed to check one? ;)
After indulging in a couple of Oreo cookies and some hydration, we headed back to the hotel for a very welcome shower.  My face was covered in salt. The temperature was in the 60's. Luckily, it had been cloudy for most of the race.  Under normal circumstances, this would have been an ideal temperature to race in, but my body was not quite acclimated to the higher temperatures. I made sure to fill our water bottles, and we added some Nuun to replace the electrolytes that we had surely lost during the race.
 Next was the Wine Expo.  We made it just in time to have some veggie chili that was being offered from the race. They were packing up as we arrived, but we were able to get a bowl, thank goodness. Then we headed into the expo, which was much larger than we expected. There were countless vendors, with I believe 450 different wines to taste!! All the tastings were included in our race entry.  We alternated between wine tastings and the free samples of food (crackers, cheese, cheese sticks, salad dressings with bread, chocolate).  There were several good offerings of wine, but our favorite was the last one we went to: Chatham Vineyards.  I enjoyed their Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Vitner's Blend.  We began speaking with John Wehner and his wife, who have been operating the winery since 1999.  They asked where we had travelled from, and when I said I was from Pennsylvania, John stated that his wife's family lives in Boiling Springs, where I live!  What a funny coincidence! It is tiny,  actually a village, with a population of only 3,000 people. I asked John's wife for her parent's contact information, and I hope to run into them in the "Springs". What a nice way to end the tastings. We grabbed a delicious crabcake before heading back to the hotel before dinner.
   We had decided to return to The Penny Lane Pub for dinner, but found it to be closed on Sundays.  We quickly checked our phones, and found another "yelp" recommended restaurant just a couple of blocks away, Tarrant's.  It ended up to be a lovely choice.  We both had the fish tacos, which were more than enough, and delicious.

  By the time we returned from dinner, we were both exhausted. We headed to bed early, knowing that we would have to move our cars from the parking lot by 6am, and head home. 
  The next morning, we were both tired and a quite sore from running up and down those hills. We both had to return home to our families, back to "reality", so we checked out early and headed our separate ways.
 All in all, it was a great weekend.  I would definitely recommend this race, especially since it includes the wine expo. Well worth the price of the race entry.  I had a great girl's weekend, and got my first race of the year in.
 Next up on the calendar: Shamrock 1/2 Marathon in Virginia Beach.  I'm looking forward to this race. I ran it a few years ago, going under 2 hours for the first time with Michele.  It is also going to be a Oiselle Team meetup.  I will finally meet some of my team-mates that I have been corresponding with via twitter.  I am also hoping to run well, getting closer to the 2 hour mark.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

2013 Recap (It's still January, right?)


One month already into 2014, and I am finally getting to recapping 2013. Better late than never, right? 2013 was a great year for me. I was looking back at my goals I set for 2013 and I am happy to report that I was successful in meeting most of them.
 Goal #1: Have an injury free year. Well, can I say I was successful for 10 out of 12 months? I ran more than I ever ran before (1,145.3 miles to be exact!).  I ran consistently most weeks 5 times a week. I had my gait analyzed in January with a Physical Therapist, and was fitted with new orthotics. I had no issues with shin splints for the entire year because of this! Unfortunately, in October I developed Piriformis Syndrome while coming to the end of my marathon training. Up to that point I had run in 12 races, and felt like I was going to finish my year strong. It was not meant to be, even with backing off training and starting Physical Therapy right away .After that,  I was able to run a Half Marathon, participate in a Marathon Relay with my family and even walk/run a Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day with a run coaching client. Not the way I wanted to finish my running year, with only 1 measly mile ran in December, but onward and upward we go!
Goal #2: 13 races in 2013. I would say I "raced" 14 races in 2013, so goal met and exceeded!!
Goal #3: PR. With five 5K's, one 10K, three Half Marathons, two 10 milers and 2 Ragnar Relay races (with 6 mini "races") , I would think that I had plenty of opportunities to PR.  I was able to PR twice in the 10 mile distance (6 min off previous times!) . Try as I might, I could not PR in the 5K distance. My best result was to tie it (24:10).  I guess the 10 mile distance was my sweet spot in 2013. I should probably find one or two to race in 2014.
  So, 2 out of 3 running goals met for the year. I think the biggest thing I take from the year was that I had so much FUN!!
  Some of my favorite moments from the year:
- My first Oiselle Team meetup at the Cherry Blossom 10 miles in Washington, D.C. in April.

- Meeting up with my best friend Michele at the Nike Women's 1/2 Marathon in Washington D.C. at the end of April. It was a great girls weekend that I will never forget.

- celebrating my son's age group win at his first 10K race

- My first Ragnar Relay with Nuun. I loved this whole experience. Check out my blog post here .
- Because I travelled to Seattle, I was also able to go to Oiselle HQ and even meet Mama Bird extraordinaire herself, Sally Bergeson!! So cool.

- Running on Team Sarah at the Ultimate Mother Runner Showdown at Ragnar Relay DC. I met some great women there that I can now call my friends.
- the Harrisburg Marathon Relay with my sons and husband. Check out Team Hart here.


I also had set some personal goals, including becoming a Personal Trainer and a Running Coach. I was able to become certified as a Personal Trainer in August after many hours of studying. I was a bit behind in the second goal, finally becoming certified as a RRCA Running Coach after attending their weekend course Jan. 11-12.
 This was totally not a goal, or a forethought, but I did cut most of my hair off in 2013. Not sure why exactly, but still pretty happy with my decision.  Here I am pre-haircut: (really bad selfie)
 
My first cut was in right before my birthday in March: (with my fellow birthday boy)
 
By July, I had cut off a few more inches:

  It is still quite short, and I have no plans to grow it out. Although I am kinda liking it mid length. Hmmmm. Maybe I'll keep it as an yearly update in the blog. How exciting, right?
Overall, 2013 was a great year. I am truly blessed to have a healthy and happy family. We continue to live in Central PA, as the Army has not decided to move us yet. I have yet to sit down and formulate my goals for 2014. Let's hope I am able to do that before another month goes by!

Questions for you: 
                               How did you do in 2013 with setting/meeting goals?
                               Any big plans for 2014?
                               Any thoughts about my haircuts? Which do you prefer?

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Harrisburg Marathon: Team Hart

I'm going to give full credit to Marc Parent, writer of the Newbie Chronicles for Runner's World magazine for the idea to do this.  Last March, I was reading his column in which he recounts the marathon relay that he had run with his family. He had requested that his family run a marathon relay with him as a birthday gift to him that year.  As March is my birthday, this was very timely.  Immediately after reading the column, I gathered my family around and let them know that I would like to make the same request of them.  At first I got blank stares.  Crickets. "No really," I said," we can do this. The Harrisburg Marathon has a relay. It's not until November. We have plenty of time to get ready for it." I grabbed the laptop and googled the Marathon to research the distances.  4 people relay, leg distances of 5.7-7.4 miles. "We can do this!". I think the responses were: "maybe", "we'll see", and "yes". The yes came from my 10 yr old son, the one we have dubbed "the runner".  At the time that I suggested this, he was in the middle of track and field training. His favorite event is the 1600m, and he had run several 5K's. He was also planning on running a 10K later in the spring. At least I had one willing participant.
  Time went on. "The runner" ran the 10K, I continued to train through the spring and summer, eyeing a fall marathon.  Once fall came, our weeks became very busy with school, and after school activities. My oldest son had joined the middle school cross country team, so he was running 5 days/week, but his maximum distance was 4 miles.  The "runner" started ballet training with CPYB, and rehearsals for the Nutcracker. It quickly went from 8 hours a week of ballet to 20+hrs. No time for running in that schedule. He also complained of some pain in his Achilles tendon 3 days before the race. My husband and I were also nursing injuries right before the race. 
  The night before the race, as we sat down to dinner, we discussed our race "strategy".  It came down to "don't worry how long it takes us" and "we just want to have fun out there" and "the course is open for 6 hours". We had no time goal, no aspirations other than to finish. I was really just hoping we would finish, and that they wouldn't all hate me for making them do this. I had a very fitful sleep the night before, with visions of crying, pouting and long-term resentment.
  In the morning, I decided I would just commit to a positive attitude, and hope that my attitude would rub off on them.  We had decided to come up with a t-shirt design for our team a few days before. My daughter had slept over at a friends house, so the four of us on Team Hart were up early, ate a quick breakfast, mixed up some Nuun Hydration in our favorite flavors, and were on our way to Harrisburg.  The marathon is set up very well for the relay.  I was runner #1, so we all headed to the start line together. I lined up at the start line, right behind the 8:55 min/mile pace group, figuring that was a good place to start.  As the race started, I waved to the rest of the family, assured them I would "return with honor" (inside joke among us), and I was off. While I was running, my husband was to take my oldest son, Runner #2 to the exchange point located only 1/4 mile from the starting area. Then he and my youngest son (Runners #3 and #4, respectively) would head to the other exchange area at the 1/2 marathon point. 
  As soon as I started to run, I knew it would be a tough one.  My left leg was already bothering me, and all I could hope for was a decrease in pain once I was warmed up.  I stayed with the 8:55min/mile group, feeling pretty well for the first 4 miles. At this point the route went on the Greenbelt path, a gravel trail.  I enjoyed this part of the course because we were off the pavement.  I started to slow a bit, mostly because of the pain increasing in my leg.  The pace group got a bit ahead of me, but they were still in my sight.  By the water stop at 5 miles, I was hurting. I walked through the stop, sipping water, then gave myself a inner pep talk to get through the last part of the run. I knew that my son was waiting for me at the exchange. I knew that he had never run more than 4 miles in his whole life, and I was expecting him to run 6.4!! I needed to show him that he could do it, that our team was strong and we could do it together.  I didn't allow myself to walk, I just kept going.  With 1/2 mile to go, we crossed the Market St. Bridge. My stride was altered at this point, but I pushed through.  I saw my son at the exchange, he was so excited and smiling! I removed the relay timing chip from my ankle, and attached it to him.  I handed him my watch, and he was off! The distance of my leg in the relay was 6.7 miles.
  I was in pain, limping as soon as I stopped. I headed to the Carousel Pavilion, where I picked up my drop bag with warm clothes, and it was a place I could wait until my family was finished running and we could meet at the finish line. I called my husband to let him know what time I handed off to my son. He suggested that we plan on running across the finish line at the end. I suggested that he forget that idea since I was now limping and unable to run another step.  So much for the positive attitude!
  Now I had to just wait. For 2 and 1/2 hours it turned out to be.  My husband called me to tell me that he was almost finished the 3rd leg, he had run faster than he thought he would. He also had run the most challenging leg: 7.4 miles, including hilly miles through Wildwood Park.  I could not believe we were already 3/4 done with the relay!
  Soon after, my husband called to say that he handed off to "the runner" and that they were heading to the finish area. I started hobbling to the finish line, which was less than 1/4 mile away. It was slow going, my left piriformis muscle was very angry with me. The full marathon runners were walking much better than me. It was quite sad, really.
  I looked at my watch when I got to the finish line. It was now 3 and 1/2 hours since we had started. We may just make it under 4 hours! So exciting. I was still concerned about my youngest son. His Achilles had been bothering him for several days, and now we expected him to run 5.7 miles on it. What if he didn't make it? What if he hurts himself, and he is hobbling like me? The next thing I knew, my husband and older son were there. They said they had passed "the runner" with about 1 mile to go and he was looking good. We started watching the finish line. We could hear the crowd getting excited, we looked, and there he was! Coming down Walnut Street Bridge, smiling and happy. The crowd was cheering as he raised his arms while crossing the finish line.
 

 I looked at my watch 11:40. That means we ran the marathon in 3:40 (official time ended up being 3:39.11, by the way).  We had done it. I was thrilled, despite my personal pain. I hobbled over to my team, we had a group hug, and we headed to the food tent.  People were congratulating us, we felt like rockstars!
  After grabbing some food, we posed for a team photo.

 
So, thank you to Marc Parent for a great idea. There were no tears, no pouting, no grudges harbored. At least not for today.  We are already talking about next year's race!


 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

What Would a Mother Runner Do? Drop to the Half.


     I had registered for The Delaware Lehigh Heritage Marathon back in May of this year. I was looking forward to a low-key, non crowded marathon with a beautiful course within 2 hours from my home. Perfect.
      I trained all summer, through the heat and humidity of the East Coast. I did tempo runs, hill repeats, intervals and long runs. I stretched, foam-rolled, did my core routine, followed every workout on my training plan.  I even worked in Ragnar NWP and Ragnar DC.  My training went so well, until it didn't.
  My last, longest run was scheduled for Oct.12. 20 miles, easy.  I woke up super early that morning in order to get in 10 miles before joining my running group at 8am. The plan was to run the last 10 with them.  My left piriformis muscle felt a bit tight during those first few miles, but once I was warmed up, I felt fine.  I was able to complete the run in 3hours and 20 minutes, an avg. pace of 9:30 min/mile. Perfect.
  The next morning I woke up early to get ready for church, and I had to hobble to the bathroom.  My left leg/hip was tight and sore. Not so perfect.  I then proceeded to take a day off, foam rolled, stretched and tried to loosen up my left piriformis.  I hobbled through a 2 mile run/walk with my 5K group that I coach on Tuesday, ran a slow, uncomfortable 3 miles on Thursday, and somehow managed to run 10 miles at the Army Ten Miler on Oct.20.  2 weeks before I was scheduled to run the marathon.  My one marathon of the year. My "A" race. The one I had trained so hard for. To finally run a sub 4 hour marathon.
  I was still determined to run the marathon.  I made an appointment with my Nurse Practitioner in order to get a Physical Therapy referral and in the meantime just continued with stretching and foam rolling. 
  I was able to see Physical Therapy a few days later. The diagnosis was piriformis syndrome, hip bursitis and very tight hip flexors.  The therapist did ultrasound therapy, massage and stretching, and then introduced me to a therapy that I was not familiar with: iontophoresis.  This is used in order to administer medication to the affected area. Like having a cortisone shot without the needle. Pretty cool. And completely painless.
 So, after 4 physical therapy sessions, it was time to make a decision about the marathon.  I was feeling better, but certainly not 100%.  I had contacted the race director on Wednesday of the final week to inquire about whether or not I could change my registration to the half marathon, since there were no deferrals for refunds.  She got back to me quickly, and let me know that I could drop to the half if I needed to, as long as I told them when I picked up my number on Saturday. This gave me some sense of relief, knowing that I at least had the option. 
  I decided to rest from running until Saturday, and then go on a very short run just to see how I felt.  I was now walking normally, and feeling pretty well.  I ran for 20 minutes on Saturday morning and did feel some "pulling"  and discomfort in my left leg. I made the decision at that point to drop to the half. I just didn't know if I could tolerate that for 26.2 miles, and I knew it would get worse before it got better.  I also knew that I had plans to run the Harrisburg marathon as a relay team with my family on the following weekend.  I needed to be able to recover enough to run my part of the relay 7 days after this race.  Plus, I couldn't be in so much pain from the marathon that I wouldn't be able to function in my normal "mother" duties at home.
  I drove to Northampton, PA Saturday afternoon and my first stop was at the bib pickup.  It was located at the Northampton Recreational Center, and was easy to find, and park.  When I asked for my number, I found out that I had already been changed to the half marathon. Well, I guess the decision was made for me! No problem, I picked up my t-shirt and number, and then I was off to the hotel to check in. 
 I stayed at the host hotel for the race, the Hilton Garden Inn close to the Allentown-Bethlehem airport.  A very nice, clean room welcomed me! I was glad to fill up my water bottles and settle in for a few hours rest before heading out to dinner.  I started to check out local churches and restaurants so that I could attend Mass and eat before heading back to the hotel for an early night. 
  I few days before the marathon, I had tweeted to a couple of people from Runner's World for some restaurant recommendations, since their headquarters was close by.  Megan and Bart Yasso tweeted me back some suggestions.  I decided on going to Melt in Center Valley for dinner, because of this tweet from Bart:
Unfortunately, Bart was out of town for the NY Marathon, otherwise I would invited him to have dinner with me. ;)  Because I was going to be there for dinner, I decided to find a Catholic Church close by to attend Mass. I found Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in a place called, of all things, Bethlehem. How could I go wrong, right? I made my way there, and attended a very nice service, took some time to relax and get my head in the right place for the race the next day.  Just what I needed.
  Melt was located in a large shopping center very close to the church.  It took me a really long time to find a parking spot, but I finally did, very far away.  The restaurant was very busy, but I was told that I could eat at the bar on the 3rd floor.  The bar only had a few people there, so it was perfect for a quiet meal.  I ordered a Guinness and looked at the menu. There were some great looking appetizers. I decided on the sesame crusted seared tuna.  Since I also wanted some type of pasta dish, the waitress suggested I order a "side order" size of any of the pasta dishes. I chose Penne Boscaiola: penne pasta with chicken, wild mushrooms, zucchini, sage and cream.  I asked them to prepare the dish without the chicken, which was no problem, the kitchen staff suggested that they just add extra vegetables.  Everything was delicious, especially the tuna.  It was served with wasabi and soy sauce. It was so fresh tasting and yummy.
 As I ate, I took the time to look through my Believe I am Training Journal.  I find it helpful to look through the last few months of training in order to see how much work I have put in, and how much improvement I have seen in my running during a training cycle.  It can be a real confidence booster before a race, especially one when I am not feeling my most confident.  Seeing that I was able to do 15, 16 mile runs in the hot humid summer at a decent pace assured me that I had the fitness to do well in the half marathon.  The only question was whether or not my left hip/piriformis was going to be an issue.
  I returned to the hotel early and settled into bed. I took the time to catch up on some old episodes of Project Runway Allstars. Having the extra hour of sleep due to the end of daylight savings time was a nice bonus for sure!
  The hotel was providing a free breakfast, as well as a shuttle service to and from the race start.  I was up at 5:40, had a quick shower and then headed downstairs for a breakfast of bagel, peanut butter, orange juice and coffee.  I chose to wear my Oiselle singlet, arm warmers, my favorite shorts, Rogas in poppy, Superfly hat and orange Pro Compression socks.  I also had an old hoodie sweatshirt to toss at the beginning to keep me warm until the race started.  The forecast was for 40 degree weather with windy conditions. 
  The shuttle got me to the start 30 minutes before the start. Since this was a small race (total 700 runners, with a half and full marathon), that was plenty of time for a porta potty stop, checking a bag with some warm clothes and a short warm up walk. 
 The race started right at 8am. It was a low key start, with a few announcements, and then the half marathoners were off!  The scenery of the route was beautiful! The first part of the course is on pavement through Northampton.  Before long, we ended up on The Delaware-Lehigh Trail, where the rest of the course was. This was a nice, soft gravelly trail with pretty trees and water views. Just lovely to run on!! Especially with the leaves all turning color at this time of year. I settled in to a nice pace after the first few miles.  I tried to keep most of my miles right around the 8:30min/mile pace.  I did feel some "pulling" in my left leg, but nothing that affected my stride, or stopped me from running.  I stopped at all the water stops for sips of water (miles 3, 6, 9 and 11). I also took a Gu gel at 6 miles.  I tried to keep a steady pace, but found it difficult after the 8 mile mark. The wind picked up significantly at that point, and I was unable to keep my miles under the 9 min/mile pace.  I had a few ladies around me that seemed to keep leap frogging with me. Every water stop we would get behind or ahead of each other, but at the end of the race I did try to pass most of them.  I know one lady with a blue tank top and a blond ponytail I just couldn't catch at the end. I do think she was significantly younger than me, so that's just fine! I do remember thinking to myself at the end that I was very relieved that I had chosen the half marathon rather than the full. It was a wise decision, considering my leg pain. Once I crossed the finish line at the Lehigh Gap Nature Center, I was given my medal and a bottle of water.  I walked for a few minutes, and then quickly went to grab my bag of dry clothes. It was cold and windy at this point, and I was surprised by how much salty sweat I had on my face! I slipped on my most favorite pants of all time, and my Oiselle happy hoodie sweatshirt. Instantly toasty and warm.
  One of the best parts of this race was the post-race food!! It is really the best selection I have ever seen, especially given the size of this race.  They offered the runners 2 types of soup: Tuscan Bean vegetarian and regular, Vegetarian and Beef Chili, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, Black Bean Veggie burgers, regular burgers, celery and carrots, cookies, coffee, hot chocolate and Gatorade!! Wow, what a spread.  There were tables for us to sit in a tent that was blocking the wind and it was perfect for a recovery meal.  Since I finished under 2 hours (1:56), I was there early enough that I didn't have to wait very long in line for the food. By the time I was finished eating, the line had become very long, and I felt sorry for the runners waiting in the cold for their food.
  The race provided a shuttle back to the start, so I took advantage of this, and then called the hotel shuttle to come and get me. I had just enough time to return to the hotel to have a shower before having to check out.  Waiting for that shuttle to arrive seemed to take FOREVER, even though it was only about 15 minutes.  It was so cold and windy out there and I was completely alone at the now deserted start line. The shuttle driver was very pleasant to chat with though, and before I knew it, I as back at the hotel.  I think the Hilton did a great job for the runners, and I only hope that maybe they could have offered a late checkout for the full marathoners so that they could shower after the race.
  My leg was definitely sore after the race, and I was hobbling around. My iliotibial band was bothering me as well. I think I was compensating with my gait during the race, and this affected my stride.  Once I returned home, after a 2 hour drive, I was very sore and stiff.  I foam rolled my legs, and iced my IT band.  I am blessed to have such an understanding husband, who had bought groceries, and treated me to a yummy dinner of pasta, salad, wine and chocolate cake for dessert! I am so spoiled!
  I was very pleased with this race overall.  Even though I didn't PR at the half marathon distance, I placed 11th in my age group (out of 58) and 147th overall (total for half marathoners: 439).  I was happy to complete any distance due to my injury.  And the course was just beautiful.  It was a small, low-key race. The volunteers were exceptionally helpful, the food was the best I have ever had post-race and it was very organized.  I hope to run this race again, hopefully the full next time, so that I can finally conquer "Heritage Heartbreak Hill".