A Week of WIN

My life is beyond crazy right now and, for the first time in a LONG time, it’s ALL good! My last post was only a week ago and already things are changing.

The biggest change is the news that Sean got a job here in PA! I will be travelling to SC the first week of March (for the last time!) and then we will be moving him here! I am so unbelievably excited to have my partner in crime in the same state. We have been through so much and survived seven months of being 600 miles apart. Hopefully I will never again go weeks (or even days) without seeing his face! And once he is here the fun of apartment/house hunting begins! Oh boy!

This picture says a lot about why I am head over heels for this beast!
On top of Sean’s new job, I also have one! Starting this coming Monday I am the newest personal trainer at Anytime Fitness Leechburg. I can’t help but feel like this was all somehow meant to be. Sean and I had our interviews the same day. He got the job he felt was the best fit for him and I got the one I have dreamed of since I joined Anytime. They are going to allow me to take a week away right when I’m just starting to get Sean moved and the timeline for my training period coincides perfectly with the end of my DICK’S Pittsburgh Marathon job for the year. The schedules work together perfectly! I just couldn’t imagine things being any better right now!
My training is still going strong. Thanks to Casey and Steve at Flawless Physique, I am stronger than ever and starting to feel ready to step on stage. I was looking at the South Carolina Bodybuilding Championships for my debut but I have no reason to travel to SC anymore! So now I am hoping to do a May show in Pittsburgh to coincide with the end of my marathon work and the beginning of taking on full time personal training.
I have made a lot of friends at my gym already. And they push me every day! Today, two state troopers took time out of their own workouts to help me get my first pull-ups. I started with two chin-ups (in the video) and then was able to get a single pull-up as well! I feel like I could take on the world! Next goal is to lose the kick and be able to perform them strict!
I don’t really have a conclusion for this blog. I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who has supported me or cheered me on when things were falling about. I am not always an easy person to deal with. I’m not an optimist and I often let my hustle get in the way of my personal relationships. But a handful of real life friends and a bushel of my social media peeps have always had my back. I can’t wait to pay it forward as I move into this next stage of my life!

Nutrition for Athletes

Yesterday I had an amazing opportunity! I got to speak at a UPMC Sports Medicine Marathon seminar for the DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon. The other presenters included Leslie Bonci and Dave Spell. Leslie is the director of Sports Nutrition at the UPMC Center for Sports Medicine and she also consults with Steelers, Penguins, Pirates, and the Pittsburgh Ballet. Given her amazing credentials and fun personality I paid strict attention to her presentation so I could share the wealth with all of you!

Leslie brought lots of foods for everyone to see
Of course, the first thing every marathon runner or endurance athlete is concerned with is hydration! Leslie explained that the newest research shows 70 ounces of water per day is the baseline for women. Men need 90 ounces minimum. What I found most interesting is that everything you drink (that isn’t alcohol) counts towards your baseline! That doesn’t mean you can just drink Pepsi or apple juice all day and be okay but even soups and foods high in water content can count towards that minimum intake. Just be sure you add enough water or sports drink to make up for your exercise habits too!
And what about that morning coffee? Or your afternoon energy drink? Maybe you take caffeinated gels prior to or during a run. The maximum amount of caffeine you should ingest per day is only 400mg! Leslie showed us a couple popular products, like Red Bull and 5 Hour Energy shots, and demonstrated just how quickly caffeine adds up. So be sure you’re not hurting your body or performance by overdosing on caffeine every day!
Athletes also tend to be concerned about macro nutrients and how to balance their protein, carbohydrate, and fat intake for optimal performance. I learned that it’s very personal and usually requires a consult to figure out percentages but there are guidelines that can help. Protein should consist of 0.5-0.8 grams per pound of body weight and be spread evenly throughout the day. Eating an eight egg omelet in the morning and little protein after is not optimal and will lead to muscle loss. So spread it out in little bits through each meal! Carbohydrate intake needs are around 3g per pound of body weight. Leslie also mentioned that fat intake should never be less than 20% of your diet. So no more counting every little bit as long as you hit your minimums!
Leslie also talked a little bit about the hottest trends in the diet industry lately. Gluten free anyone? You will have lower amounts of prebiotics in your digestive tract and it will be hard to hit your fiber intake minimums. Considering 70% of your immune system lives in your digestive tract this is a BIG deal. Try adding Chia seeds for fiber and Omega 3 fatty acids (keep them in the freezer to keep them from spoiling). Eating yogurt with live active cultures or kefir can help too. If you don’t want to eat dairy then try taking a daily supplement.
How about coconut oil? Well it’s primarily a saturated fat (read, not so great) and it does NOT help you shed body fat or lower your risk of disease. Instead use olive oil and save the coconut for your skin and hair care! Walnuts will replace that unhealthy fat too. A golf ball size serving is the way to go.
Running and other sports result in lots of aches, pains, and inflammation. Instead of popping an NSAID or pain killer you can try tart cherry juice for a natural anti-inflammatory. Drink 8 ounces of juice or a serving of the concentrate after your next run. Ginger can minimize delayed onset muscle soreness (500mg is about right). Turmeric is a tasty spice that also works as an anti-inflammatory and may help prevent Alzheimer’s. Try putting 2/5 of a teaspoon in your next dish. Dried plums contain Boron which is necessary for bone health. Eating just 3-4 per day will keep you topped off and also contains those helpful prebiotics!
Finally, who doesn’t want to improve their performance? Dietary nitrates can decrease the oxygen expense of an activity. This means you use less oxygen to create the energy to power your workout and tire less quickly. Bodybuilders use supplements like NOXplode but dietary nitrates can be found in some common foods. A spinach and/or arugula salad, for example. Other choices include celery (about two stalks) and beets. And lastly, replace the iron lost with every foot strike using black strap molasses. Just adding a TBSP to your oatmeal or in place of honey in homemade energy bars will do the trick.
So I hope that helps with your nutrition questions! Please feel free to click the link to contact Leslie or follow her on Twitter @LeslieBonci. And look for the next UPMC Sports Medicine seminar coming soon!

Bits & Pieces

The past week has been CRAZY! But in a really, REALLY good way. I have so many things going on that I am excited about and that motivate me to keep moving forward.

Obviously the biggest change has been having a job that is FUN. I spent 4 evenings hanging out at different DICK’S Sporting Goods locations meeting runners and talking gear, training, nutrition, etc. Life really doesn’t get much better than that! You can find me January 17 & 18th at the McCandless DSG from 10-2 or so.

This week’s events included our replica bridge, catering from Bistro on the Go, the DICK’S Pittsburgh Marathon’s Registered Dietitian on site, 20% off your entire purchase at DSG, and a raffle for a free hotel the night before the marathon. I haven’t been clued in on what we’ll be offering at the next events but I’m sure you don’t want to miss it!

Our table and bridge replica
Bistro on the Go catering
The other major priority in my life has been training. I’m hitting the gym every day, snow or ice or sub-zero temperatures. I finally got into the BodPod again (last time was in September 2011) and got some great results. I’ve lost almost 3 pounds of fat and gained 5.5 pounds of muscle. I imagine I started this program pretty close to where I was in 2011 (22.8% body fat) because I was still neglecting resistance training and eating whatever I wanted. So for 8 weeks of actually watching my nutrition and exercise these results are fantastic!
I’ve been getting a ton of questions about my nutrition. I’ll admit that I’m being VERY restrictive to the average person. I honestly enjoy the challenge and the results speak for themselves. But here’s a peek at what some meals look like for me:
Tilapia, sweet potato, and asparagus
Chicken breast, sweet potato, and mixed veggies (and water, of course!)
I use a lot of different seasonings and try different recipes often to prevent boredom. But I still do not drink anything but water and protein shakes or Shakeology (I still have a coffee with Stevia in the morning). I don’t eat much red meat. I don’t eat white or processed carbs (no bread, no white rice, no white potatoes, etc). I only get a small amount of starchy carbs (like sweet potato and corn). I get 4-6 oz of lean protein per meal (chicken, fish, whey powder, etc) and unlimited veggies. It’s not always easy to pass up chocolate, cake or brownies, bread sticks, or pasta but the results are absolutely worth it and I feel amazing. Just for the energy and mental clarity I’ve gained I would recommend trying to eat 85-90% clean for a month. I bet you’ll stick with it.
Finally, the rest of my time is spent studying for my ACSM Certified Personal Trainer exam. I love my gym and the employees there and I am hoping to be one of them come February. I was super excited to be at the top of the ‘Frequent Flyers’ board for the first week of the year and have now made it my goal to be #1 for the month. Going to a gym where the members and staff are all excited and happy every day makes a HUGE difference in my motivation.
Tied for #1!
I hope the first part of 2015 has been great for you. Please feel free to let me know if you have any specific questions about my plan or things you would like me to cover in future blogs. I’m hoping to start a few recurring items each week that will help everyone get on track (and stay there!) for the new year.

An Invitation For You!

I hope the new year has been kind to you so far. I am very excited to be able to share with you an opportunity to start off your DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon training in style!

Each night this week, Monday – Thursday from 6-8PM, we will be hosting VIP Parties at four different DSG locations around Pittsburgh. These nights will include a coupon for 20% off your entire purchase, an opportunity to meet me (and my Brand Specialist partner, Shaun), food and beverages, and an opportunity to win a grand prize “Pittsburgh Staycation”. The grand prize includes hotel, parking, and meals for you and your family the night before the marathon so you can skip the traffic and get a good night’s rest before the big day!
If you would like to attend please comment on this post with your preferred date and location and I will add you to the VIP list. Spaces are limited and filled on a first come, first serve basis so make sure and claim yours today!
DICK’S Sporting Goods Monroeville – January 5th
DICK’S Sporting Goods Robinson – January 6th
DICK’S Sporting Goods Cranberry – January 7th
DICK’S Sporting Goods South Hills – January 8th

Here’s To 2015!

Happy New Year! It’s hard to believe 2014 is over already. So many experiences, both good and bad, were over in the blink of an eye. I’m ready for a new start and lots of opportunities!

The big project I mentioned is finally kicking off! So here’s my first announcement for the year. I am now a Brand Specialist for the DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon! I will be here from now until race day to help you prepare, train, and conquer. You’ll be able to run with me beginning with the kickoff run on January 3 and find me at different DICK’S stores throughout the training season to help you with questions, gear selection, and motivation. I am very, VERY excited to be working with all of the amazing staff and runners who make my hometown marathon possible!

I hope you all had a great holiday and feel ready to take on your first, fastest, or funnest (I know it’s not a word!) marathon with me in 2015!

Happy Holidays!

I hope everyone had a merry Christmas or whatever holiday you celebrate!

I took some time out to enjoy the holidays with my family and with Sean. I also had the distinct pleasure of losing my job on December 23 (sense the sarcasm?). My former employer certainly had a sense of humor when it came to handing out pink slips.

But the good news is that I always come up swinging. I have been working on a huge project and it’s finally a done deal! I am going to be working with a big name company, their marketing reps, and a big city marathon. As soon as I have permission to share all the details I promise I will!

I also scheduled my ACSM Certified Personal Training exam for the end of January. Thanks to this I may have a job at my gym. They hope to be hiring a new trainer in February so the timing may just work out perfectly!

Last but not least, I have applied to be an adjunct instructor at a career school. I’m awaiting a review of my qualifications and transcripts but hopefully I will also be teaching classes such as Kinesiology and Anatomy & Physiology in February!

Post-Christmas lunch cuddles on our cheap accent chairs (under $100) we just purchased for the holiday.
I’ve still stuck to my plan through all of this. I started week 8 today and Sean has been going with me every day for the most part. It’s been hard being surrounded by treats and junk food. I can’t say I haven’t fallen off the nutrition wagon a few times but I’m still doing the best I can. I have 4 weeks to make the best of my lean out phase after this week and I intend to kill it.
Christmas Selfies at the gym
On a final, and much funnier, note I saw the weirdest and coolest thing ever while at the gym yesterday. I was on the treadmill doing my long run and I glanced up out the window to see a man with a leash in his hand. Attached to the other end was a large, brown animal. I assumed it was a dog at first but then I realized it definitely wasn’t!
I thought maybe my pre-workout was the problem or maybe I was hallucinating. And then the man on the elliptical behind me exclaimed, “That man is walking a deer!” I let out a sigh of relief and then tried to get Sean’s attention so he could come see. I didn’t succeed so I did the next best thing and grabbed my phone!
Merry Christmas! Here is a pic of a man walking a deer!

Run Like A Nut

Crazy is probably the one thing I’m actually really good at. I’m a mediocre runner. I’m pretty average when it comes to just about anything in daily life. But dare me to do something that sounds batshit crazy and I’m all in. That said, the price of insanity can be quite high.

For the last four weeks I haven’t done anything. Since the marathon, but especially after my surgical debacle, I have become deeply involved with my couch (and maybe mint chocolate chip ice cream). I haven’t been allowed to do anything at work so I’ve spent my days staring at paper work and computers. I finally finished Breaking Bad and caught up on The Walking Dead. I also scheduled a trip to see Sean in South Carolina to brighten up my days a bit.

Which leads to our shining moment of brilliant insanity. Sean’s close friend was registered for the Run Like A Nut Half Marathon in Florence, SC. Of course misery loves company, so he volunteered us as running buddies. Next thing I know I’m registered for 13.1 miles of pavement pounding.

The days leading up to the race were our normal ritual of bar food and beer, video games and television, spicy things, and CrossFit (which in a moment of clarity I decided to sit out). We also added a new little fur baby to the family, Jake. Much time was spent cuddling and spoiling him (and the other furry monsters, too). I worried a little about my stitches and lingering pain. Mostly I fretted about what to wear. Halloween races are so hard!

Cool kids teach their dogs to play video games
Saturday morning we woke early and met Sean’s friend and his coworker at the military base. We piled into one vehicle and headed for Florence around 6:30am. Once we located the parking and start line we went into the Fitness Forum and picked up our bibs, shirts, and swag. We took everything back to the car just in time for the rain to start so I threw my Garmin back in the car along with my phone (sorry, no mid-race pics or splits!).
I was freezing in my INKnBURN skeleton shirt and denim shorts. I hadn’t expected it to be colder in South Carolina than Pennsylvania and I really wasn’t prepared to be wet on top of it. Thankfully a kind woman handed me a single use poncho as we huddled near the starting line.
We were sent off shortly after with very little fuss. Sean, our companions, and I set off conservatively. We ran and chatted and laughed but I could already feel my insides twisting and spasming. I tried to ignore it and focus on enjoying the company. I thought to myself, “We have to be at least 5k in by now. It’s only single digit miles now.” Then I saw the 1 mile marker and knew it was going to be a long day. I’m pretty sure I even cursed out loud.
From there things continued to go downhill. I checked out mentally. If someone asked me a direct question, I would respond. If our whole group laughed, I would too (even though I had no idea what was being said). I was already deep in the pain cave and we weren’t even 5 miles in yet. The only upside was that I was mostly warm and dry in my poncho unlike the rest of my group.
Around mile 7 or 8 Sean’s friend said something about my breathing sounding labored. Sean started to explain that I always sound like I’m dying but the conversation was just enough to pull me out of my own head. I suddenly realized I was being stupid and slowed to a walk. Sean dropped back and joined me and we told our companions to go on without us. We walked hand in hand for awhile, just talking, but it was too cold to stay slow for long. Sean mentioned that I could quit any time but I quickly dismissed that idea. If I had made it almost 9 miles then I could finish.
We picked up the pace again and passed the 9 and 10 mile markers. The rest of our group was long out of sight and the back of the pack was passing us with every walk break. We even saw the sweep vehicle on an out and back at one point. That was enough to put some pep in my step and we started running more than walking again. A friendly stray cat joined us for a couple blocks, running to catch us and then winding around my ankles until I started moving again. It was the best mood boost I could have asked for at that point.
Sean was once again the voice of reason, forcing me to walk when I looked or sounded as if I was in too much pain. Finally, I told him that we just needed to finish. Nothing was going to make me feel better until I could quit running. So he took the lead and said, “Just focus on staying on my heels.” I put my head down, pushed back into my own head, and off we went. It was exactly what I needed until I got a foot cramp around mile 11 or 12. Forced to walk again, I couldn’t escape the pain. Finally, the cramp subsided and Sean took the lead again, slowly picking off a few of the runners who had passed us during my walk breaks.
At one point, Sean started trying to encourage me. “Just a little more baby.” “You can do this.” Being pulled out of my mental fog brought all the pain front and center again. I snapped, “Shut the (expletive) up and run!” Thankfully Sean wasn’t upset by my outburst. Instead, he took my advice and poured on a little more speed.
A volunteer at a turn told us, “Five more blocks.” and I about died with happiness. It was the longest five blocks of my life but we finally turned the last bend and I saw the line. Sean and I crossed together and grabbed our medals. Then it was back into the warm building to find our friends and get dried off and fed.
Much happier (and apparently forgiven) after we finished
Our official finish time was 2:21:54. We were 78th and 79th overall. I was 4th in my age group and Sean was 5th in his. While our results are not at all impressive ordinarily, this time I am more than happy with my performance. I proved to myself that I haven’t lost all of my fitness and mentally I can still push through even the toughest runs. I got to spend a few miles with my favorite person on earth and a couple really good friends. I didn’t die and I don’t think I caused any permanent damage. Overall, it was a great day!
Even Jake says it was just what we needed

Darlington Marathon Recap

Excuse the delay in getting to this. It’s been a crazy few weeks.

My taper ended up coinciding with an outage at work. For those unfamiliar with the term, an outage is when a plant (power, chemical, refinery, etc.) shuts down for maintenance and repairs. It usually means I end up working 12 or more hours per day and sometimes staying out of town. Outages are great for my wallet but terrible for my running because it always parallels peak racing seasons.

I left for South Carolina directly from work on Thursday. I planned to drive a little over halfway and then stop for the night but I ended up making the trip straight through. Sean still had to work Friday so I occupied myself with picking up our packets, shopping for our pre-race breakfast, and laying out my outfit. By the time he came home I was going a little stir crazy and he’d had a rough day. So we did what all the best runners do… went to the bar. After a few drinks and some wings we finally called it a night.

Our alarms went off at 5:00am Saturday morning and we dressed quickly. Breakfast consisted of Clif bars and bananas in the car. I really missed my coffee but there wasn’t anywhere to stop along the route. We arrived right at 6:30 and parked in the infield of the Darlington Raceway. There was some hilarity to our self-induced predicament. Under trained for a marathon that runs around a NASCAR track and is sponsored by a fried chicken chain…. pure ‘Murica.

Pano shot of the raceway from the infield
We visited the restrooms, ditched our long sleeves in the car, and lined up on the track with the half and full runners. There were some announcements and then the National Anthem was sung. Pretty soon it was time to get started and we went out around a 9:30 pace just to get off the steeply banked track. We decided to run 2 miles and walk 1 minute for the first 10 miles and then reevaluate.
Mile 1-5: 9:36, 9:43, 9:46, 9:35, 9:51
The first few miles flew by as we found our rhythm and joked around. There was a group of very LOUD women directly behind us. We would speed up to get away from their chatter but it was like they were chasing us. Finally we took a restroom and walk break in mile 6 and got behind them enough that we didn’t have to listen to them anymore. One of the nice things about a small marathon is being able to enjoy a conversation and your surroundings in relative peace. And we finally got our chance on the remainder of this loop.
Mile 6 – 10: 10:51, 9:58, 9:50, 10:19, 9:57



Giving a guy who’s 6′ 4″ bunny ears is tough
But his reaction when he catches you is priceless!
We continued to goof off and just generally have fun for the remainder of the first loop. We went to a run 1 mile, walk 1 minute interval towards the end of the loop which brought our average pace down some but we tried not to focus on anything but staying comfortable. Any time I picked up the pace Sean would gently (or not so much) remind me to slow the eff down! We passed the half by looping through the pit road of the raceway and back onto the streets of Darlington. The course was not closed to traffic and there were a few times I saw cars blow past the police and volunteers trying to direct them away from the runners. Thankfully there were no close calls that I saw.
Miles 11-15: 11:41, 11:22, 10:54, 10:22, 10:31
Yeah, I was ahead of Sean here 😉
As we got into the late morning heat of South Carolina the humidity rose and my breathing was worrying Sean. His knee was also beginning to give him some aches. I thought it was because he was going slow to stay with me so I told him to go ahead but he refused to leave my side. The chatty girls had slowed down and were quieter now. I began to contemplate that they just might be in my age group and that passing them might mean a medal for me. Sean had to keep pulling me back from trying to pass them too quickly. We slowly gained on them until they walked on a gentle uphill (to a girl from Pennsylvania) and then we overtook them for good.
Mile 16-20: 10:33, 11:42, 10:42, 11:40, 10:49
Somewhere in the first half
Around mile 19 Sean’s knee decided it had had enough. We tried taking longer and more frequent walk breaks but it wasn’t helping. We then tried to just push through but he could no longer bend his knee without feeling like it was going to give out. I promised to stay with him no matter what but he made me promise that I would beat the chatty girls even if it meant leaving him behind. I continued to walk with him and encourage him to try to run for awhile longer but by mile 24 I was cramping up from all the walking. My body felt much better when I was running and the women I had worked so hard to pass were back in view behind us.
Miles 21-24: 11:26, 11:47, 12:56, 12:38
Downtown Darlington
Sean encouraged me to go ahead and I finally did. I felt really weird running the last 2 miles alone but I also felt really strong thanks to Sean’s restraint on our earlier miles. I tackled the last long uphill grade passing many, many limping and puking marathoners. At one point I glanced at my Garmin, saw an 8:xx pace, and thought, “Wow! I have never felt this good this late in the game!” I turned into the raceway for the last 1+ miles on the track. I tore down the pit road, rounded the first sharply banked turn, and then cramped up! Less than half a mile from the finish line and I hit the wall. I was a little upset with myself but I took a deep breath, walked to the next turn, and then pushed every last shred of muscle in my legs to carry me into a run for the finish.
Mile 25-26: 10:02, 12:18
Finally finished!
My legs cooperated and I crossed the finish in 4:47:46. Not a PR but right in line with most of my marathon times. My legs instantly locked up as soon as I stopped to get my medal. I almost went down and an official grabbed me and started to drag me towards the golf cart waiting to take runners to the med tent. I didn’t want to miss Sean’s finish so I assured him I was fine, grabbed a water, and began to walk around until my legs quit fighting me.
I must have just missed Sean coming into the pit road as I fought to remain upright and in the finish area. Almost as soon as I was recovered I saw him come around the final turn and fight to run the home stretch. I asked the woman handing out medals if I could give Sean his and she handed me one. As soon as he crossed the line I grabbed him for a kiss and draped the medal around his neck. He hugged me tight and I knew that I was forgiven for leaving him at the last minute.
Sean crossing the line
Once Sean had some water and recovered his ability to walk we posed for pictures and then made our way to the celebration area and results tent. We typed in our bib numbers and were both shocked to learn we’d gotten second in our age groups. We walked over to the awards table and had to wait for our placement to be verified but it was correct after all! We proudly took our medals over to the food table before we made our way back to the car.
We celebrated my 8th marathon and his 2nd by picking up some Ibuprofen and BBQ on the way home. After a shower and lots of food (maybe some beer) we both felt good enough to continue the celebration with Sean’s good friend that you may remember from the CrossFit competition in August. Good food, good friends, and some good alcohol made the night amazing. It’s amazing what a difference sharing our accomplishment made on our views of the day. I wouldn’t have been so happy if I hadn’t shared it with an amazing man.
Bacon shots!
After a good night of sleep we decided that breakfast should be a good, greasy, southern-style affair. We headed to Bubba’s diner and, once again, the running community never ceases to amaze me. Sean and I were seated next to a familiar face and I had to check FaceBook just to make sure I wasn’t seeing things. I was seated next to the amazing Bruce and his wife, Brandi. Bruce helped me immensely at North Coast 24 Hour last year and I thought I would never get a chance to properly thank him since he is from Florida and I’m from Pennsylvania. But here we were, reuniting in rural South Carolina. They were even kind enough to invite Sean and I to visit for the Jacksonville Marathon for my birthday weekend. We chatted all through breakfast and caught up like we hadn’t been mostly out of touch for over a year. It was the perfect ending to our marathon weekend.
Super happy to see Bruce and company at Bubba’s Diner!
Honestly, I don’t know how I can even explain how incredible the whole weekend was. I’ve made an effort to surround myself with only the best people and in return I have developed the most amazing relationship, built true friendships, and accomplished things I wouldn’t have done on my own. I’m not sure that I would actually recommend Darlington Marathon on its own merit but if you have the right support any race can be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I feel like the luckiest woman on earth and I’m not sure how we’re going to top this. I just know that we will!

They Should Increase My Meds: Marathon Training Week 5

Week 5 meant that it was time to buckle down. In order to have at least a 10 day taper my last long run needed to happen in this week. I was really nervous and kept my weekday mileage low in order to be fresh for my last big run.

Week 5 ended up looking like this:

Monday: Driving back from South Carolina
Tuesday: 5.25 miles at 10:19 pace
Wednesday: 3.25 miles at 10:01 pace
Thursday: Rest
Friday: 17 miles at 10:44 average
Saturday: Rest
Sunday: 4.1 miles at 8:37 average (10:04 warm up mile followed by a 25:12 5k)

Total: 29.6 miles

After 17 miles. I was not impressed that I didn’t go 20.
Now I’m into week 6 and getting ready to face taper madness! The mister has already noticed my tendency to over-think every aspect of training and racing so it should be interesting to see if I can tone it down.

Marathon Training Week 4: Take me to the Asylum

My week 4 training was already slated to be a cutback week but I took it to the extreme. I finished the week with 6.5 miles and one CrossFit workout. Thankfully, I really don’t care too much about one week in my un-training plan.

Instead of training I visited my friends in Virginia. Maybe you remember them from my first attempt at a Strongman clinic last year? We got to spend an evening and the next morning catching up before I continued on to South Carolina. They even sent me off with a mug, two pint glasses, a pack of fair-trade root beer, and some Beast Lab bracelets. (HINT: You can score some Beast Lab gear over on their blog!)

Beast Lab cool

The very first thing the Mr. and I did Friday was head to CrossFit for a workout. Our warm up was 9 rounds of 2 rep floor presses. I used 65# for mine and only made 7 rounds. Doing bench press on the floor is probably the most painful thing ever. I won’t be doing that again. The WOD was called ‘The Chief”. It consists of max rounds in 3 minutes of:
3 rep Power Cleans (135 is RX for men, 95 for women)
6 push-ups
9 air squats
Rest 1 minute
Repeat for 5 cycles

The boy and I set up next to each other. I think he RX’d as usual while I went with 55# so I could not worry about hurting myself. We both managed 4 rounds the first cycle. We agreed to hold 4 rounds again the second cycle. The third cycle he told me to go for 3 but I had more than enough time to knock out 4. The fourth cycle I completed 3 rounds and then went for broke with another 4 on the final cycle. Our final tallies were 19 rounds for me and 18 for him. Overall, it was great to get back under a bar and especially with my favorite workout partner next to me.

Beastmode face?
The rest of our weekend was spent between the beach and the pool (and a trip to the bar). We drove out to Myrtle Beach on Saturday despite a 50% chance of rain all day. We got lucky and it was just a little overcast, very comfortable, and dry all day. We even took the dog which was awesome. For being so small she had very little fear of the big waves and water!
Ready for date night. Can’t beat wings and beers (or his face! LOL)
Sand sprints and hover dog
After that it was dinner and back to the pool. Sunday pretty much consisted of being as lazy as possible. Overall, I’ll take a weekend of fun and active leisure over hardcore training any day! Now back to the regularly scheduleprogramming training.

Batshit Crazy: Marathon Training Week 3

Three weeks down and 26 days to go! As I sit here contemplating what I’ve accomplished with less than a month of hard work I’m a little blown away. I feel strong. I feel ready to face this marathon. And more than anything I feel ready to get back into the swing of racing and competing (look for a post on this in a day or two).

If you remember, at the end of week 2 I was very unsure of making my goal of 40 miles for this week. I was trying to keep my focus on hitting a long run of 14 miles and letting the rest of the miles for the week fall where they may. Well, I blew my goal out of the water with 41.2 miles for the week and a 15.15 mile long run.

 Super happy with my week 3 training
Week 3 workouts looked like this:
Monday: Rest
Tuesday: 5.5 super easy miles (11:04 pace)
Wednesday: 10 miles (9:55 pace)
Thursday: 6 trail miles (10:30 pace)
Friday: 4.5 easy miles (9:45 pace)
Saturday: Active recovery
Sunday: 15.15 miles (10:14 pace)



Active recovery at the Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival

More than pleased with this long run
I am foreseeing week 4 as a cutback week. Not necessarily because I need it but because it’s the smart thing to do and I get to go see Mr. Wonderful. I don’t know that we’re going to take half a day of our time together to run 16-17 miles. I’m still going to set a minimum goal of 25 miles for the week just to keep my training up for week 5. Hopefully I can hold back my competitive (there’s that word again!) drive for a week and not let it get to me mentally. Also for kid training, you should consider the Step2 Skyward Summit, it’s an outdoor playhouse for kids, 2 in 1, playing and training.
Happy Labor Day everyone! I hope you’re making the most of it!

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!

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.

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. Check reviews on the best folding picnic table for outdoor activities
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!

I am Not an Athlete

When I started running just 5 short years ago I wanted to be lean and defined and ‘athletic’. I wanted the body and the attitude that went with it. I assumed that once I completed the Couch to 5k program I would feel like an athlete and be well on my way to looking like one too.

Then I finished my first 5k in 29:59 and realized that I am not fast in any sense of the word. I didn’t have an excuse for not being able to beat that mark for a long time. I wasn’t overweight. I quit smoking. I followed training plans. But I was still slow.

After my first half marathon
I convinced myself that I must be a distance runner. You know, all slow twitch. So I set my sights on a half marathon and finished in 2:29. I was still slow and I still looked exactly the same. The pattern continued and I tried the marathon, the 50k, the 50 mile. And the results were the same. I finished in the back of the pack, sometimes even dead last.
Shane and I after my first ultra in 2009
Every distance I tried I succeeded in finishing but it was never good enough. When I failed at 100 miles it was a real shock. When I failed a second time I was doubly convinced that I must not be cut out for it. So I hired a coach and gave training my all and finally ‘succeeded’ on my third try. I thought for sure that NOW I would feel like an athlete.
Well, the truth is, I don’t. I still finished at the back of the pack. I didn’t do anything impressive. All I did was endure. That’s all I’ve ever done; Hold on until the finish line is in sight and then heave myself across. I still don’t look any different. I still don’t feel any different.
I’m not saying running hasn’t given me anything or changed my life. I am more confident because I feel more comfortable in my skin. But it’s still the same skin. And I have made tons of great friends and travelled and gotten to experience many great things. But I’m still just me. I am still just average and I’m still scatter-brained and eccentric.
The Pretty Muddy experience
I don’t know what it will take to convince me that I’m ‘good enough’. Obviously, distance wasn’t the answer. I’m not sure there IS an answer. Maybe that’s the telltale sign of a competitor. Maybe I’m overly competitive. Maybe I’m just insane. In the end, all I know is that I still want to be better. The question now is what kind of better? And I think the answer is speed.
Boston Harvest 5k 2012
I want to consider myself fast. I want to take a podium spot because I ran a great race, not because the fast women were somewhere else that day. I want to be able to dream of Boston. I want to be in the front waves of my next marathon. I’m not sure how I’ll get there or what it will take but I plan to find out. And I can only hope that the same initiative and drive that got me over 100 miles will push me to new race times as well. At least now I have a base to build on!
When did you feel like an athlete? What are your favorite speed workouts or training plans?

Back To Back Halves

Part 1: Fox Township
This weekend I was feeling frisky. Well, actually I was feeling fed up, anxious, and antsy thanks to a bout of shin pain that cut my weekly mileage short. Shane and I were already signed up for the Fox Township Bicentennial Half Marathon on Saturday so I just hoped I would survive without too much pain.

We woke up at 2:30 am on Saturday morning (no, that’s not a typo) and left at 3:30 am to make the 3 hour drive to Elk County, passing such wonderful towns as Weedville and Lickingville. We made it just after 6:30 and picked up our packets and shirts. Our goody bags contained 3 Gatorades and 3 Gu flavors. Can’t beat that for a $20 race!

Around 7:30 we were all herded onto school buses and taken to the start line (point to point course). Rumor has it that some people misunderstood and showed up at 8 for buses that were already gone!

During the 20-ish minute drive to the starting line Shane and I noticed that we were doing an awful lot of up and down. There is no elevation chart on the site and I don’t feel like trying to find USGS data so you’ll have to take my Garmin’s word for it. However, the hills at the end felt much bigger than they look here!
We were dropped off in Big Springs on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere and shortly after we lined up at a spray painted line and a guy yelled ‘Go’! My shins were already giving me grief from step one and I was starting to worry that I’d made the wrong decision in running the half. I tried to hold my pace down as people took off ahead of me. There were overweight men, old ladies, and young kids just leaving me in their dust and I wanted to cry.
The first couple miles I wanted to just quit but I was in the middle of the mountains and forest and I hated to miss another day of training with Burning River approaching so rapidly. My shin pain started to fade, however, which brightened my outlook considerably as I approached the turn around (we started on a side road, turned left onto the main road for a couple miles, and then turned around and ran up the main road for the rest of the race).
Miles 1-4: 9:49, 10:27, 11:17, 10:19
Around mile 5 I started to feel good and began to pick up the pace. I caught a couple stragglers and set my sights on the next few women in front of me. I would reel them in and then run next to them for awhile until I felt ready to go after the next one.
Miles 5-7: 9:41, 8:55, 8:29
Around mile 8 the woman I was running near suddenly stopped and told the man she was running with that she felt like she couldn’t breathe. The heat was pretty oppressive by that point and she was wearing all black. I instantly lost all competitive spirit and stopped to walk with her and offered her my handheld. Thankfully it seemed to revive her and as we approached the mile 8 water stop she started to run again. We ended up running most of the next 4 miles together and she even took a picture of me while we were walking up a hill.
Miles 8-12: 10:59, 8:59, 12:41, 10:35
As we neared the finish line we left the countryside and began to run along residential lots. The houses all had a lot of acreage but the trees had been cleared meaning there was very little shade. The last 5k was tough with lots of rolling hills and temperatures nearing 90*F or more. Some nice folks set up beer stops in the last couple miles. I gladly drained my cup at both stops.
As I reached mile 12 I realized I wasn’t doing too badly despite the heat and decided to see if I could get 2:10. I was trying to pace it just right and as I approached the last turn a woman told me I was less than half a mile from the finish. I must have lost GPS signal in the trees because I had figured I had about half or three quarters left. I kicked into gear and cruised into the finish, catching one more woman before I crossed the line. Official time: 2:11:32
Mile 13: 8:47
I ended up 54th overall and 2nd in my age group. We also won two door prizes, a bunch of Gatorade and a hat. Overall, I’m thrilled with my performance. The last time I ran a half this hilly I was almost 20 minutes slower and it about killed me. This time I could have kept going and kind of wanted to. Which lead me to Sunday…..
Part 2: Peace, Love, Run
I knew I wanted to do a long run Sunday and I preferred to do it with people rather than by myself. I’ve really had enough of running by myself at this point. So I set my alarm for 5:30am knowing there were two group runs or a half marathon within an hour drive. I surprised myself when my alarm went off and I rolled right out of bed.
I chickened out of the group runs knowing that I might not be able to keep up on dead legs and I didn’t want to be lost in Pittsburgh. I decided to go for the Peace Love Run Half Marathon (advertised as 13.22 miles?) thinking I could run some trails or another loop of the lake after I finished. My aunt and uncle were both volunteering at the race so that added incentive too. I hustled out the door with only coffee in my hand and inwardly groaned when I noticed it was already 70*F at 6am.
I made it to North Park with little time to spare and ended up parking a little over a quarter mile from the vanity makeup table. I jogged in and registered quickly and then checked my race bag and shirt since I was out of time. Thankfully my aunt was working the bag check so that saved me time! I then lined up for the port-a-johns and made it out just as the mass migration to the starting line began.
I lined up farther back than I normally would and missed the fact that there were no starting mats, despite chip timing and a large number of entrants, so my Garmin splits are probably way off. As I started I wanted to see how close I could get to yesterday’s time. I could feel the heat picking up by the minute and I worried how bad it would get on a course with much less shade than yesterday’s half.
Miles 1-4: 9:38, 10:13, 9:44, 10:03
It didn’t take me long to decide to back off the pace and just enjoy the run. I was running beside another woman and we were chatting about the heat and our recent races when I heard footsteps behind us. A cheery woman asked if we minded if she joined us and we assured her we didn’t. She told me this was her first race (not first half, first RACE) and she’d started running in January. She had also lost an awesome amount of weight in that time. I instantly liked her so we stuck together.
Miles 5-8: 10:28, 10:11, 11:44, 11:40
Around mile 7 it was pretty obvious my new friend was hurting. She began to take more walk breaks and linger longer at water stops. She kept encouraging me to leave her but I really didn’t care about time. I was more excited to see her first finish. It brought back so many memories of my first half marathon and I remembered clearly all the pain and doubt of those final miles. I encouraged her and tried to be patient without letting her go slower than necessary (I hope I wasn’t too pushy).
Miles 9-12: 12:54, 12:02, 14:19, 13:15
Once we were less than a mile from the end I started to push her a little harder. I told her everyone on the course was hurting (I was hurting) and the best way to end the torture was to get to the finish line. I pushed the pace on our running sections and tried to walk a little faster when she needed a break. Even though it was obvious she was really suffering she took it like a champ and ran the last quarter mile non-stop.
Mile 13: 11:53
Last .22 (0.34 by Garmin): 9:45 pace
I crossed the line in 2:31:38 and she finished 2 seconds behind me. We collected medals and ice cold water bottles and then I gave her a high five. She really earned her medal and I had a blast helping (I hope) her do it!
My official finish results are 157/181 overall and 26/35 age group. It may be my slowest half time yet but I wouldn’t trade it for anything! It was way more fun than any other half I’ve run so far.

Hotter Than Hades

My plans for the Cleveland Marathon were vague at best. My friend and teammate, Lara, had invited me to room with her if I signed up. I never turn down a cheap marathon so I registered that very day with the blessing from my coach so long as I ran it as a training run.

The weeks leading up to the marathon were hectic. My job usually slows down during the summer but this year there’s been no breaks. On top of that the weather has been swinging wildly, from snow and overnight freezes to baking 90* days with high humidity. Between work and the weird weather I didn’t run much at all before the marathon. If I was smart I probably would have stayed home but I doubt there’s much question at this point on my subjective intelligence where running is concerned.

On Saturday, I drove out to Cleveland and arrived at the expo right around 2:30PM. I knew Lara was arriving around the same time so I texted her. The reply came quickly and it happened that she was outside the expo with some other friends of ours, Bob and Jenny. I found them and we all chatted a bit before Lara and I headed back to our hotel room.

Saturday night was relaxing. Lara and I chatted, went to dinner at the Denny’s next door, and then read quietly until lights out. I slept well after about an hour of tossing and turning and woke up ready to run. I had some small hope that I might accidentally PR because of the training effect of North Coast 24 Hour and my week of complete rest. The forecast called for 74* and slightly overcast so I wasn’t too worried about the weather either.

I dressed in my INKnBURN denim shorts, my Altra singlet, and Altra Zero Drop Torins. I threw on an old long sleeve race shirt as a throw-away. We walked out to my Jeep and found that the temperature was already warm. By the time we drove into town, found breakfast, and parked I was no longer in need of long sleeve. I left it in my car and we walked to the starting line.

The Cleveland Marathon starts at the stadium which is great because there are a million INDOOR bathrooms which all have running water and no lines. There’s also plenty of seating and places to plop down and rest, stretch, and wait. I wandered out to the starting line about 15 minutes before start time and lined up with the 10:07 per mile pace group. There was a father with a young son, probably about 9-10 years old, right next to me running the half. It raised my spirits a bit to see them chatting casually about pace and fueling. I wish more kids were into running!

Right before the starting horn there were some fireworks. I don’t know who thought that was a good idea after the Boston bombings. A lot of runners jumped and a few let out shrieks. Once we realized it was just fireworks everyone calmed down in time for the national anthem but I’m sure it really messed up the concentration of some of the runners. The least they could have done was warn us!

The horn sounded and we were off. I popped in my headphones immediately. I just didn’t feel like socializing. The first mile or two I was forced to walk or slow down often as I ran into walls of people who must have lined up too close to the front. I didn’t mind too much as I wanted to go out slow and speed up later. I did end up adding about a quarter mile in this first section from swerving around people, however.

After 5-6 miles I realized I just wasn’t hitting my paces and began to give up on a PR. I figured I could probably get in the 4:40’s anyway so I kept pushing forward. And then the clouds parted and the sun shone down and the pavement began to take on the shimmering effects of a mirage….

By the half I was overly hot, had almost completely emptied my handheld water bottle, and just didn’t care about time anymore despite being on track for a 4:40 or better. I walked a water stop to refill my handheld and drink a few cups of Powerade and cool water. I took a couple Shot Bloks (margarita flavor, YUM!) and wondered how Lara was making out somewhere way ahead of me.

At mile 15 or so I ran into a moving party celebrating Jim Tucker’s 100th marathon. I decided travelling with them trumped continuing on my own so I jumped in and introduced myself. I met George and Robin who own Front Runner in Columbus, OH and a slew of other runners who were ‘crewing’ Jim by carrying signs, balloons, and gels. We kept running until around mile 16 and then we slowed to a fast walk. I didn’t mind as I was enjoying the stories and lessons to be learned from such an experienced group.

As we walked I watched ambulances fly up and down the course loading heat exhausted runners into their doors and rushing off to the med tent or hospital. A woman joined us around mile 20 and she walked with us for quite some time. Around mile 24 she suddenly wobbled and looked quite ill. I quickly offered her my remaining water but it wasn’t enough. Jim’s amazing crew escorted her to a bus shelter on the side of the road and then ran ahead to the water stop to get help and water/Powerade. They then stayed with her until help arrived before running to catch up to Jim again. What an amazing group Jim’s crew is!

As we neared the finish I didn’t want to end up in Jim’s pictures. It didn’t seem right to have him look back at his 100th marathon finish photos and wonder who the random chick in jean shorts was so I sprinted ahead. I finished in 5:49:48, a personal worst, and about 30 seconds ahead of Jim. I got to hear the announcer cheer Jim in and tell the crowd about his accomplishment. Then I rushed forward to hug Jim and all of his crew. I enjoyed meeting them all so much and they really saved what could have been an awful day for me. I never thought I would have so much fun running my slowest marathon ever.

After I crossed the line I found Lara at the bag check and then we began the long walk back to our parking garage. We happened upon the woman who had dropped from Jim’s group at mile 24 and I found out she had finished after taking some time to recover on the side of the road! We hugged and she thanked me for helping her when she needed it. I felt really good about her finish because I had been distraught at the thought of her being forced to drop at 24 miles. I’m so glad she pushed through and finished without any lasting effects.

As for Lara and I, we went back to the hotel where I quickly packed and left for home. I was saddened that we couldn’t spend more time together but I had finished so late that it would already be dinner time before I could get home and I had to work first thing Monday morning. We hugged goodbye and I made an uneventful trip home.

Minus some sunburn and a sore left hip I had no ill effects from my 7th marathon. As disappointing as my time was, I still had a great day and made a lot of new friends. I am also grateful that I didn’t end up in the med tent. The news reported that over 200 people were treated for heat related illness on site and over 20 more were taken to the hospital. Conditions being what they were I’m just glad I finished upright and healthy.

And sorry for the lack of pictures but I really can’t justify buying my race photos for a personal worst time where I walked most of the last half and looked like a broiled lobster to boot! 😉

Shamrockin’ and Beer Drinking

Due to our stalker issue I haven’t posted in a bit. I didn’t want to remind the crazy that Shane and I would be leaving our house mostly unattended for three days. Sorry about that!

Chesapeake Bay

Shane and I left Pennsylvania on Friday night after taking the kids to my mother’s and then furiously packing our own belongings. Shane had booked us a room in Frederick, Maryland for the night and we made a fairly uneventful trip to that point. Saturday morning we were up bright and early to finish our journey to Virginia Beach for the Shamrock Marathon.

On our way into town we encountered a tunnel. Being from Pittsburgh this really isn’t odd to me whatsoever. Shane, however, freaked out. Apparently a tunnel that runs under the Chesapeake Bay is much scarier than a tunnel through a million bajillion tons of rock. SMH!

Shane’s Tunnel Face
Our first stop was the expo at the Virginia Beach Convention Center. It was pretty organized and we were able to quickly pick up our bibs, bags, and shirts. There weren’t a whole lot of vendors and there wasn’t a lot to see either. I was kind of disappointed but I told Shane it was better if we didn’t destroy our legs walking all over.
Convention Center
After the expo we met up with our friends, Jenn and Dan, who were getting married the next day, AFTER running the Shamrock half marathon! If that’s not a running match made in Heaven then I don’t know what is! We hung out for a bit and caught up before Shane and I headed to our hotel.
Marathon morning dawned cold and grey. The prediction was low 40’s, cloudy, and possible showers. I decided on my INKnBURN leaf shirt, a long sleeve tech tee as a throwaway, and my INB capris along with my Altra Zero Drop Superiors. I added some cheap gloves and my SPIbelt and I was ready to go.

I also wore an orange bracelet that says “Running for Jenny”. Jenny is a very brave (and speedy) fellow runner who is battling cancer. Having her ‘with’ me throughout the tough points helped me to remember that my pain was minimal and limited in the bigger picture and allowed me to push through.

We parked at around 6:30am a few blocks from the start and finish. We were right next to a grocery store so we took advantage of the warm and dry bathrooms several times while we waited for our 8:30am start. If you ever run Shamrock, arrive early or be prepared to walk several blocks (or miles) to get to your corral and car. We wandered to our corrals around 8am and met up with a couple friends before we all went our separate ways. I was in corral 3 and Shane was in 2 so I wouldn’t see hime again until the finish.

There were seagulls everywhere!

A few minutes late we were off. I latched onto the 4:15 pacer with that being my ‘goal’. I really thought I could do even better, maybe a 4:10. I figured a 4:20 was the worst I could do. The first few miles I relaxed into the 9:45-ish pace and waited for my body to warm up and everything to begin to ‘flow’. Well it never happened. I warmed up enough that I removed my long sleeve shirt but didn’t throw it. The wind was finicky, changing directions and alternately freezing and soothing me.

Miles 1-5:
9:56, 9:50, 9:34, 9:38, 9:46

I continued to shadow the 4:15 pace group intermittantly chatting with fellow runners. I found out I was running with a fellow Pittsburgh runner plus a friend of mine from Twitter. That was pretty cool! We talked about our goals and I voiced my desire to run a 4:10. Maybe I jinxed myself.

Miles 6-10:
9:43, 9:34, 9:51, 9:43, 9:39

Around mile 10 we entered the boardwalk. I thought this would be my favorite part but I think it was actually the opposite. There were 15 MPH winds blowing sand and salty mist in my face and the ocean looked cold and grey instead of warm and inviting. Not exactly the way I’d envisioned beach running. I stayed on pace with the 4:15 group but I wondered to myself if fighting the wind was a good idea. I tucked in behind two taller runners and hoped it would save some much needed energy for later.

Miles 11-15:
9:40, 9:32, 9:44, 9:37, 9:34

I crossed the half in 2:08 and my legs were already dragging. I started drinking at mile 14. Yuengling, Guiness, whatever was being offered by spectators, I started tossing back. Thankfully I have a stomach of steel but no amount of carbs and alcohol could put the missing bounce in my legs or lift my flagging morale.

Around mile 15 I started thinking I should start taking some walk breaks. I took a minute at a water stop to walk, take a GU, and drink a little bit extra. I had a little trouble catching up to the pace group and I got the feeling they were beginning to speed up. The pace group leader confirmed my suspicions less than a mile later when he stated he was a little behind and wanted to make up some time. I quickly realized a 4:15 may not be in the cards for me on such a craptastic day. I figured a 4:1x was still doable so I didn’t fret too much though.

Miles 16-20:
9:54, 9:34, 10:55, 11:45, 9:47

Around mile 18 I fell off the back of the pace group and I couldn’t catch them. I was running a 9:20-ish pace and they were pulling away so I quickly gave up. I took a longer walk break to try to get my legs to wake up. It seemed to help a little as I was able to see a 9:4x pace again for mile 20 but that was the end of my energy.

Miles 21-26:
10:57, 12:45, 12:20, 11:48, 12:04, 11:04

Last .2 (.42 according to Garmin): 10:43 pace

The last 6 miles I was absolutely dying. My legs were like lead. I would force myself to run a half mile and then I would walk for a minute. An 11 minute mile felt like 9 minute mile effort. I had a weird ache in my chest and I started envisioning dropping dead just shy of the finish line. I told myself I would find some way to make it across before I let death take me.

People were passing me left and right. I was getting more and more upset every minute but when the 4:30 pacer passed me I totally lost it. I started sobbing right there on the course somewhere between miles 25 and 26. I managed to choke it back after a minute and chase him down. I got in front of him for maybe a quarter mile and then I fell apart all over again.

I finally came back onto the boardwalk and I bargained and pleaded with my body to just let me hold on to a little dignity and make it to the finish line without walking. Thankfully it cooperated even though I could feel every step was more of a lurch and I wasn’t looking fast or smooth. The finish line never seemed to draw nearer until suddenly it was actually there and I managed to take the last few strides across it. And then I moved to the side, fell on the ground, and bawled my eyes out.


A very nice volunteer named Ken picked me up and handed me a kleenex. I sensed he was about to drag me off to the medical tent so I quickly explained I was just upset with myself and that I had trained much harder than my time showed. He still wouldn’t let go of me but he walked me through the medal line, Gatorade table, and bananas before I finally was able to reassure him enough that he let me go in peace. I appreciate his concern looking back but at the time I really just wanted to be left in the sand to fall apart and process the complete reversal of fortunes.


In the end I was happy enough. Marathon number 6 was over and I finished in 4:33:02 which is an official PR of 1:03. I know I can run a much better marathon and I just had a bad day on a tough course. Apparently pancake flat is tough for me. I am more sore then after Baltimore or Marshall University. I know that I will do better when the weather improves and I’m not fighting a sinus infection and I don’t have two kids with the stomach flu at home asking for me. I know that fighting sea winds didn’t help anything either. I also know that there’s a big PR just waiting to happen and now it will be even bigger because I have more time to train. Running is good!

6 states plus D.C. checked off!

Week In Review: Week 12

Only one month to go until Shamrock! One more week of training and then taper begins! Oh the madness and the doubts are about to begin!

Monday: 3.5 miles at 6-8% incline.

Tuesday: 5.25 miles on the CycleOps trainer + 30 minutes of yoga.

Wednesday: 10 miles with 4 x 1 mile at 5k pace.

Thursday: 5 mile recovery run.

Friday: 6 miles with 4 at tempo.

Saturday: Rest.

Sunday: 21 miles.

Total: 45.5 miles running and 5.25 cycling.

Sunday’s long run was pretty intense. The weather was brutal with temperatures in the teens and wind chills much colder. On and off snowfall plus icy roads made for a rough day. I kept the pace exactly where I wanted it until my last 6 miles when my lips cracked, my hands went numb, and my face felt like it was on fire from the wind. I still finished though! Mental toughness for the win!

Blowing snow over the lake
My personal frozen hell

BQ or Bust Baby!

Okay, not really. I’ll never qualify for Boston (unless I keep up my current speed until I’m about 85). And raising huge amounts of money for charity isn’t really feasible for most of us either. I don’t mind fundraising but some of the spots for Boston charity are just outrageous! However, there is now another option!

My favorite shoe company, Altra Zero Drop, is giving away ten, yes TEN, entries to the Boston Marathon. So how do you win? The complete post ishere. But here’s the basics…

Facebook (4 winners):
1. Tell Altra why you deserve a spot! Tag Altra Zero Drop in the post on YOUR own wall. BE CREATIVE! Pictures, videos, or just words are all acceptable.

Twitter (2 winners):
1. Send out a tweet about breaking up with your old running shoes! Tag @AltraZeroDrop at the end of the tweet.
Ex: “Dear old running shoes: You’re unstable. We’re done. @AltraZeroDrop’s are the shoe for me.”
Ex: “Hi old running shoes, There’s someone else. @AltraZeroDrop and I can go for hours and I love the way he/she holds me.”

Instagram (2 winners):
1. Show the world what #ZeroLimits means to you!
2. Follow @AltraZeroDrop.

Pinterest (2 winners):
1. Follow Altra Zero Drop.
2. Repin the Altra Takes Boston “Pin it to Win it” graphic.

Vine (1 winner):
1. Follow Altra Zero Drop (Open app-> Click the house in top left corner-> Explore-> Search “Altra Zero Drop” on “People” tab->Follow).
2. Make a Vine showing why you deserve a Boston entry.
3. Use the hashtags #ZeroLimits #AltraTakesBoston and #Running in the description.
What’s Vine? Its a new iPhone app. Check this out.

Terms and Conditions:
-All entries are pre-qualified
-Registration fee not included
-Travel and related expenses not included
-Registration Code will be mailed upon completion of contest
-Contest will run from 12 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 7 through 11:59 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 17
-Winners will be notified Monday, Feb. 18 2013

So there you have it! Now 9 of you go win and save the last one for me! See you in Boston!