Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Gone Crazy: Week 2

My second week of super-condensed marathon training is in the books. It was another seven days of surprises but the biggest one has to be how quickly I've gotten back into the swing of training full bore. Cranking out 35 miles seemed like a long shot but 35.3 miles later I'm still going strong.

I started out the week with a slow 7 mile slog on dead legs. I happened to be working near my old home and decided to take a run on the Yough River Trail for old times sake. Apparently my body just hates flat and hot this year. I'm sure that bodes very well for Darlington (insert sarcasm here).

On Tuesday, my running partner/best friend's boyfriend and I decided to attempt two loops of our cemetery route. According to my Garmin, one loop is about 500 feet of gain and 500 feet of loss in 4.5 miles. We decided to cut the loops down to 5k even by walking to and from the cemetery. We were both miserable by the end but we finished our hilly 10k without any lasting harm.

 Elevation profile for one full loop of the cemetery

After two very slow, tough runs in a row I took the hint and rested Wednesday. It must have worked because the rest of my week only got better from there. Thursday I headed to North Park and ran the 5 mile loop around the lake. My only goal was to run it as hard as I could and see what happened. I ended up completing the loop in 43:40 for an 8:44 average pace. I was spent but thrilled!

Yeah, that happened.

Friday was pretty much a recovery run with the Electrodash 5k actually being 2.36 miles and too crowded to really run. I'm sure the forced slowdown was exactly what my legs needed so that my running partner and I could run long Saturday. We managed to cap off the second week of marathon training with a 12 mile run that was almost exactly the same pace as my 10 miler last week. 


Sunday I did a short 3 mile shakeout run to hit my goal of 35 miles for the week. I'd love to hit 40 miles for week 3 but I'm not sure it's feasible. I have to keep reminding myself that it's more important to arrive at the starting line healthy than over trained. So my A goal will be 40 and my B goal is to beat this weeks 35 miles. I guess my all-else-fails goal is to get in a 14 mile long run and a few other runs during the week.

And now I can start to panic because we are less than 5 weeks out from Darlington! 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Electrodash Recap

My friends from the Color Vibe 5k wanted to do another fun event. We picked the Electrodash in Pittsburgh. It was centered around the Great Lawn on the North Shore which meant plenty of parking and some really nice views. The run itself is basically billed as a running rave with lasers, fog machines, lighted props, and all the electro/house/techno music you can handle. Based on this I can say without a doubt that the event met its hype.

I arrived hours early thanks to living an hour northeast of the city and working half an hour southwest of it. I didn't have time to go home but I had plenty of time to twiddle my thumbs. Thankfully the parking lot I selected was directly across the street from the finish area and I was able to watch the construction as I ate my prepacked dinner and applied my electro temporary tattoo.

I accidentally rocked this thing for the rest of the weekend too.

After a bit I got out to stretch my legs and wander the Great Lawn. I happened to run into the first member of our group, P, and together we began to trek towards the starting line a half mile or so away. When we were a block from the starting line we found the rest of our group heading to the finish area to pick up a packet. We trekked back and then decorated ourselves before we headed back to the starting line again.

 Clouds rolling into Pittsburgh
P and I

The starting line was beyond packed when we arrived. It was supposed to be a two wave start so we found an alcove to wait in while we watched for the first wave. It never came and the clock ticked past when the second wave was supposed to be starting so we eventually just crammed ourselves into the pack and waited.

 Goofing off before the start

Just a small snapshot of the crowd

Finally the DJ yelled go and the crowd surged forward... at a snail's pace. We joked that it was now the Electrowalk. P and I finally got impatient and took off up the sidewalk while the rest of the group stuck together. Once we got off the road there were sights and sounds every quarter mile or so. It was a constant sensory assault with pounding beats, flashing lights, and eerie fog effects for almost the entire course.

As we approached the finish line (a mere three quarters of a mile short of a 5k) we were greeted with a stunning view of the fountain at the point. Then we turned and sprinted up a hill to the finish line party.

No joke. We literally crossed the line into a mass of writhing bodies pulsating to the beat and covered in glow paint and glow sticks. It was an adrenaline rush at the very least. Maybe a bit overwhelming to my almost 30 year old self.  

Once all of our group had finished we hung out at the party for a bit before heading home. Thankfully traffic on a Friday night in the city is minimal and it didn't take me long to navigate my way out of the maze that is Pittsburgh.

Overall, I'm pretty impressed with the Electrodash. For $44 we got a shirt, a bib, a ton of glow jewelry, and a moving party for 2.36 miles. Topped off with a 2 hour party with a DJ on the scenic North Shore of Pittsburgh. If you are just looking for a fun run to share an evening with friends the Electrodash is a pretty good way to do it (and costs less than a bar tab or rolling at rave too).

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Crazy: Week 1

Last week was my first full week back to running. I was pleasantly surprised by how well my body responded to the sudden return to training. Now if I can just keep walking that thin line between training and over-training everything will be okay!

I ended up with 30.3 miles for the week at an average pace of 10:04 per mile. I'm not setting any land speed records but I'll take it. I also managed a 'long' run of 10 miles using a run/walk technique. I would run until my watch beeped a mile and then walk for 1 minute. I ended up with an exactly 10:40 pace and now I'm thinking this may be how I aim to complete the marathon.

Fastest 5 miler in awhile (spoiler: I beat it this week)

I also have begun adding in more cross training than when I was running previously. My cycling buddy has been busy but I'm planning to get back on my bike as soon as we can. So while I'm off the saddle I have been doing things like push ups, jump rope, kayaking, and back to school shopping. If you can walk the entire mall three times to get EVERYTHING on your list then it counts!


Just try to carry all those bags!

And now I'm into week 2 of 'training' and 36 days away from my 8th marathon. I'm doing the typical freak outs over my diet, sleep, and every ache. So far it all seems par for the course with me. And Mr. Wonderful is doing just fine down south. He's throwing down some long and fast runs while still CrossFitting often. I have a feeling keeping up with him will be almost as much of a challenge as the marathon!

My motivation. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Going South

In the several months I took off from running and blogging (and pretty much everything except working) I went through a lot of changes. The guy I was seeing and I didn't work out. I jumped jobs AGAIN. The Jeep blew its engine and I traded it in for a Mazda. I guess it was a pretty eventful few months. But it also brought about a lot of wonderful things.

One of which was meeting the kind of guy I never dreamed existed. We clicked from date one... which was amazing considering I was working 13 hour night shifts and skipped about 3 hours of sleep to meet him for lunch. It wasn't long before we were spending all of our free time hiking, running, going to concerts, and playing in the great outdoors. The only downside was knowing our time was limited. See, he lives 600 miles from me and was only home for the summer. 

Even his dog is awesome

When it came time for him to leave we both had trouble saying goodbye. I promised to visit. He was sure I never would. And next thing I know I'm on my way to the Carolinas to spend a four day weekend with him. And it was without a doubt one of the best weekends of my life.

We went bar hopping Friday and I got to meet a few of his acquaintances. Saturday we were up bright and early to cheer on his friends at a CrossFit competition. I have never in my life felt so tiny as I did standing next to the ripped men and women of Carolina CrossFit. I am certain I looked like an idiot walking around with a huge grin on my face the whole time. I forgot how much fun it is to cheer and crew for athletes. (Which reminds me that I should really volunteer for a race soon.)

I may never be this much of a beast

After the competition it was time for our own workout. A nice 5 mile trail loop was a joy to run. It was flat, well groomed, and fairly scenic.... except for the 90 degree temps and the raging humidity. For the second time that day I was humbled as an athlete. It only reinforced my desire to get back in shape and be able to keep up with my boy and his friends. Then we had dinner with one of his running partners and her boyfriend. She is training for the Chicago marathon and kept us all laughing with her stories.

Sunday was more of the same. Another trail run in a beautiful park. There were so many things I don't see in Pennsylvania. Armadillos, huge snails, Spanish moss, and cacti. I loved every minute of our time on the trail. Well, except for when I twisted my ankle on a root. But I do that in PA too. Guess you can't leave clumsy at home.

After all the adventures and craziness, we are both still very into making this work. So I guess it's time for some southern races since I'll be making the trip fairly often!

Time to start knocking some more states off the list!


Friday, August 8, 2014

Progress, Not Perfection

I've made some really good changes over the last couple weeks. I'll just admit it now. I picked up A LOT of bad habits again while I was 'off'. I started smoking again. I was having a few beers way too often. I obviously wasn't exercising. And I was eating everything that a dietician would kill me for.

Now, well, I haven't had a cigarette in a week. I haven't had a drink in even longer. And I've been eating about 80% clean. I am more than pleased with the changes I've managed to implement and stick with in a very short time. 

Did I have an ice cream cone on one of our bike rides? Yes.

Did I eat a burger and fries at the OTB Cafe? Yes.

But I also had chicken breasts, turkey meatloaf, broccoli, almonds, berries, baby carrots, and greek yogurt. I carefully planned breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. I walked by the donuts in the break room and the cake in the kitchen and the candy on the desks. I had tilapia and greens while my family was eating spaghetti or Chinese. And I felt good about my choices.

And then, I picked up one of these:

I bought a case of 'real sugar' Pepsi out of curiosity before I got back on track with my diet. I made the decision that I would finish the last two or three rather than throw them away. I was eating my dinner of tilapia and greens and I opened a Pepsi. My own mother said something along the lines of, "Why bother eating healthy if you're going to drink that?" I explained that I wasn't planning to buy anymore soda but I wanted to finish what I had purchased and one wouldn't kill me.

Not ten minutes later I was in my room FaceTime-ing with a friend. At some point during the conversation I lift my can and immediately I get, "Are you drinking POP?!" I give my speech on just finishing what I bought and yada-yada. And still there was more grief to be had over my beverage choice. Meanwhile, he was drinking pop too!

When did eating healthy become eating perfectly? When did getting fit become a one way road? I honestly don't understand the mentality of perfection that pervades everything today. We have to be perfect moms, wives, employees, athletes, chefs, and supermodels. There's no room to be HUMAN. 

I'm perfectly fine with never having the body of a fitness model if I can still have a piece of cheesecake on date night. I'm honestly okay with washing down my boiled chicken breast and sweet potato with Pepsi. No one would think twice if I was at a burger joint chasing a double quarter pounder with cheese and a large fry with a giant soda. If rewarding myself with an ice cream cone at the end of a 20 mile bike ride gets me out the door and moving then it can't be all that bad right?

I see it said time and time again but it's beyond time we all take it to heart. PROGRESS, NOT PERFECTION. Do better than yesterday. Make small changes that you can stick with. And don't be afraid to make a mistake or reward yourself every once in awhile. After all we are only human... and I fully intend to enjoy as much of my short time on earth as possible.  

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Back in the Saddle... For the First Time

Maybe you've been around long enough to remember when I got a bike for Christmas. Well, it pretty much sat and collected dust for almost 4 years while I focused on my running. Then my friend, Jenn, suggested that I move it to her house and meet up for evening rides. She decided we would start with an easy 20 miler through the city. I felt confident I would bonk, possibly die, and embarrass myself.

View of the city from the Hot Metal Bridge

Amazingly, I survived and even kind of enjoyed myself. We made it 20 miles and averaged 10MPH or so. It was nothing spectacular but I was very happy that I completed it. We made a stop at REI and also at the OTB Bike Cafe for some dinner. It was a great way to spend an evening with some of my favorite people.

A cafe for cyclists? Right on!

I guess I enjoyed it more than I would like to admit because we did a 20.5 miler on a slightly tougher course just a couple days later. And then followed that with a 16 mile ride the next day. Ending up with 56 miles of cycling in 5 days, and a good number of running miles too, was completely unexpected. But it lit the fire in me that has been missing for some time now. 

Where's the pot of gold?

I don't know if I'm training for anything. Jenn thinks I should sign up for Pedal Pittsburgh's metric century (100k). Someone else has suggested doing a Spartan Ultra Beast in the not-so-distant future. And I've been eyeing a marathon or ultra early next year. But mostly I'm enjoying feeling stronger and healthier than I have for a long time. I'm enjoying spending time with the people I care about the most in the beautiful city I love. It's enough to just be back on the path of my six year journey to fitness for right now.

Cooling down along the North Shore Trail

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Color Vibe 5k

July 12 marked only my second organized event of 2014. The first being the mine 5k all the way back in February. I knew I wasn't in race shape but I hoped that returning to organized running in a fun way would bring back my motivation. Thankfully most of the group I was running with were only out to get dyed and have fun too.

I picked up my packet the evening before so I was able to wear the race shirt and sunglasses for the event. I'm extremely glad I made the decision to do the early packet pickup because the line on race day was absurd. The first several waves of the race went off while people were still waiting! However, I found my group and we were able to line up with no problems. We even had time to get bored and start smearing our dye packets on each other.

The Color Vibe crew pre-race

We were released in the third wave and P took off like it was a timed event. The rest of us kept the pace easy as we huffed and puffed, with the occassional conversation thrown in. The color stations were pretty understaffed so we resorted to grabbing our own and covering each other while taking a walk break. The water station was also woefully pathetic. We waited at least 3-4 minutes in a line to get a half a dixie cup of tepid water.

Maybe the mall should have secured their carts?
Despite the poor planning and my poor fitness level I found myself enjoying the run. I bumped into a few of other running friends and was able to catch up on their seasons. The longer I pressed on the better I felt and it seemed like my friends were enjoying themselves too. We finally crossed the line and were able to grab our bottles of water.
I look a little too clean
After we finished we stood around for awhile and chatted before we decided we needed caffeine. A Starbucks run seemed like the perfect way to end our run.
We took over Starbucks
After the run I thought about the Color Vibe and what I would recommend to anyone considering one. First, pick up your packet early. Either the day before or at least an hour before start time. Second, bring your own water in a handheld or waist belt. Waiting in line for water wasn't a big deal since this run is untimed but it was also annoying! Third, bring a change of clothes and a towel. I didn't think that far ahead and I ended up having to have my car detailed immediately after the race. So unless you enjoy having a tie dyed ride make sure you are prepared!