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!

On My Skin

I finally got my fifth tattoo today. I’ve been waiting… and waiting some more. Why? Because I hadn’t finished a hundred miler. And when I did finish BR100 my life began to fall apart. Maybe you remember this post when I wrote about the compass rose necklace I bought myself when I first started running. I told myself I would mark it on my skin permanently when I ran my first one hundred. Little did I know how long that journey would be!

Today I walked into my favorite tattoo place on a whim thinking I would get it drawn up and make an appointment. The guy asked, “Want to do it now?” I began to hesitate and then thought to myself, “What’s the point in waiting for anything? Just do it!” So I said yes and we began the process of laying it out and inscribing it on my body forever.

And here is what I walked out with an hour later:

It’s a representation and a celebration all in one. It represents the path I’ve travelled and the path I’m on as my life changes direction again. It celebrates the end of my journey to travel 100 miles on foot. It represents my moral compass and my desire to stay my course when it seems the entire world is against me. It will hopefully be a good luck charm for finding my path out on the trails when running and racing.

Life is never what we expect but so long as we raise our sails and chart a course we can follow the stars to where we are meant to be. The journey begins today…

Skincare for Runners

Like most runners I deal with clogged pores that are compounded by sweat and weather exposure. Training for Burning River has compounded my skin woes. Long runs on dirty trails, hot weather, sunny days, and lots and lots of sweat!

I use those skin cleansing pads daily and also wash my face with Dove soap. I still have breakouts fairly often. So when ToiletTree Products offered to send me a facial brush system I was more than willing to give it a go.

Inside I found several brushes: a soft exfoliater, a medium exfoliater, a body exfoliater, and a pumice stone. I used the soft brush on my face with a gentle cleanser daily for about a week and the body brush on my shoulders (problem area!) too. After that time I have experienced fewer pimples, smoother skin, and no more blackheads.

I forgot to pack my brush on our weekend trip for Shane’s 101st race and I ended up with another breakout after I ran 8 miles while waiting on him to finish. I think I’ll keep this as a permanent part of my routine!

Disclaimer: ToiletTree Products provided the product at no cost in exchange for review. As always, all opinions are my own.

Race Etiquette

When I was a new runner I had no idea how to act or what to do at a race. Now that I am experienced I try to remember that new runners don’t join our ranks knowing the in’s and out’s. Not every faux pas is a personal insult and every misunderstanding is probably the fault of someone more experienced for not explaining.

So here’s a few tips for the newer runner or racer.

1) Line up according to your pace.  Only the people who expect to win, or at least be in the top 10, should be toeing the line. Mere mortals should be further back in the pack. A good rule of thumb is to ask those around you what their goals are. If they match yours then you’re probably in the right spot. Not only does this save you from being stampeded by the speedier runners but it saves them from having to waste energy dodging you. *Note: If you’re a walker, you belong all the way at the back unless you are an Olympic speed walker.

2) Run or walk in a line. If you’re running a race with a group then you’re all probably going at your slowest member’s pace. Try not to walk or run three or four abreast. You’ve just created a wall that faster runners can not breach without elbowing you or your friends out of the way. Walking or running in pairs may make conversation harder but really, we’re here to see how fast we can do this thing. Save the chit chat for the finish party.

3) ‘On your left’ means move right. If you choose to ignore rule #2 and walk or run in a large group please heed the pained cries of ‘on your left’ from faster runners approaching from behind. Not only have they wasted their breath to warn you of their approach but they are often rewarded with a dirty look when they are forced to the very edge of the road or path to skirt your group. Moving to the right a hair takes much less energy for everyone.

4) Look before you blow. Everyone gets a runny nose or a bug in their mouth at some point. But before you spew body fluids on the run look in the general direction of your intended projectile to make sure no innocent people are spattered with your gore.

5) Don’t cut the course. It happens to a lot of new runners. You’ve finished a 5k or two and you’re looking for the next challenge. So you sign up for a 5 mile or 10k race and find out it’s not just twice as hard but more like 10 times as hard. Maybe that little voice in the back of your head says that hopping up on the curb and cutting that curve isn’t really cheating. Or maybe it says it’s okay to take the 5k turn off instead of continuing on. The truth is that it really isn’t. Either walk it in or remove your bib and don’t cross the finish line. Cutting the course is cheating and it takes away from the accomplishment of the runners who ran the whole thing. You don’t want to be the next Rosie Ruiz.

6) If you must walk, move right. Just like slower cars use the right lane, slower runners and walkers should move to the right. And before you walk take a quick glance over your shoulder to make sure no one is right behind you. You know, since runners aren’t equipped with taillights?

In general, just try to treat the trail or path like you would a road. Try to respect that others may be competing even if you’re not. And remember that we all make mistakes but, if you do, all it takes is a moment to utter an apology. Most runners are very nice people and won’t hold it against you. Happy trails!

Sunburn and Sweat: Surviving Summer Running

My coach, Alexa Dickerson, knows all about heat acclimation training and running through the hottest weather. She’s running Badwater for the second time this year (that’s 135 miles…. through Death Valley…. in JULY if you are out of the loop) and she’s also completed the Brazil 135. So I started following her lead last year even before she was my coach officially. Here’s what I’ve learned following her adventures and those of other extreme athletes.

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Everyone knows that being dehydrated increases your body temperature and your risk of heat-related problems. It also reduces your performance so you work harder for the same results. I regularly drink about 2 oz per mile but on hot days that average can exceed 4 oz per mile. However, there’s more to it than just good old H2O….

Get salty. Sweat isn’t just water. It’s salt, potassium, magnesium, and other minerals that are necessary for all sorts of functions in your body. So if you only replace sweat loss with water you could end up dangerously out of balance or with hyponatremia. Experiment with salty foods like chips or pretzels and even supplements like S! caps. Once you learn what you need in different temperatures and environments you can anticipate your bodies needs and avoid potential issues.

Free your inner tortoise. Slow down and work smarter, not harder. Walking uphill may cost you time but cutting your run short or ending up in the hospital will derail all your hard work. Take walk breaks and slow down by 2 minutes (or more) per mile on longer runs. Try to stay in the shade when possible even if it means you look like a drunk swerving from one side of the trail to the other.

Work up to it. You may be scheduled for a 10 mile run but if it’s the hottest run so far this year cutting it short may be necessary. Doubles are another option. Run 5 miles in the heat and 5 miles indoors or in the early morning/late evening. Just like when you started running for the first time, there’s a way to work up to running in the heat.

Immerse yourself in heat. This is something I got from Alexa’s training last year. She gave up air conditioning in her home and car and just let her body learn to deal with the rising temperatures all summer long. I decided to try it and I found that it worked. My sweat rate lessened and I lost fewer electrolytes. My body had become more efficient at staying cool and running on 100*+ pavement no longer felt quite so awful. On the really unbearable days I pack up the kids and head to the pool but the AC is always the last resort. If you’re really into heat acclimation then you can go full on Badwater-style and train in a sauna.

Go bare. No, don’t run naked. Just keep your head uncovered. Heat rises so allowing your body heat to escape through the top will help you stay cool. The only reason to cover your head would be if you have a bandana or hat that can regularly be refilled with ice or dipped in cold water. Anything dry will just hold sweat, and heat, against your head.

Travel light. Carry everything you need in the lightest form possible. Powders rather than pre-mixed drink solutions, a small flashlight, an iPod nano instead of a larger one, etc. This also goes for clothing. White or light colored technical fabric works best.

Holiday Party

The holidays are past and we’re ‘celebrating’ my birthday as I type. By celebrating I mean Shane and Ash are out cold and Gem and I are trying to be quiet!

Christmas is all about family and friends and too much food. We definitely did it right this year! The girls and I spent Saturday before Christmas with my side of the family. It was great to see my mom, her husband, my aunt and uncle, and my grandmother (plus all four dogs!) and catch up on what has been going on in our lives.

Christmas morning we opened gifts at home, just the four of us. There were a lot of presents under the tree but some of them stood out more than others. Here’s a sampling of what Santa left for the Brunazzi clan:

Shane got an INKnBURN handheld
 The girls got all of the My Little Ponys they were missing from their collection.
Gem was really excited about Princess Cadence
 I got custom drop bags plus new INKnBURN gear!
 Close up of my new drop bag!
 Lily got a new ball, which she promptly destroyed, and a new sweater.
 And our little tree peaked in from the porch (to protect it from the ferocious dachshund above)
In the early afternoon Shane’s parents came over for Christmas dinner and we ate more ham, lasagna, veggies, and rolls than anyone has a right to. After that it was presents with Shane’s side and once again we were overwhelmed with wonderful and thoughtful gifts. A new purse for me, pajamas for Ash, a sweater and a robe for Gem, new clothes for Shane. Plus a gift card for Red Lobster.
Being that today is my 28th (WOAH!) birthday we put that card to good use. We each ordered our fill of seafood delights and desserts and left stuffed to the brim. Hence, the sleeping half of the family! One day I’d really love to run to celebrate my birthday, e.g. 28 miles for 28 years, but this year my birthday fell on a cutback week so I only got 7 miles for my birthday this year. Maybe next year…
What did you get for Christmas? What was your favorite running or fitness related gift? Do you have any special traditions?

Nerve Check

Last month I had the amazing experience of meeting Shalane Flanagan during the Runner’s World Hat Trick. Getting to Q&A an Olympic marathoner has to be one of the coolest things I’ve had the pleasure of checking off my bucket list (even if I didn’t know I should have put it on there!). I promised to get up the videos of the session and I finally am! I’m only about 5 weeks late so hush!

The first video I wanted to share is Shalane talking about her pre-race nerves and how they affected her throughout highschool and college and how she uses them to push herself now. After the video I’ll talk more about my own experiences with keeping pre-race jitters in check but for now here’s the good stuff:

Now, if you’re still here, let’s talk about me! Every person is different but from my own experience I know that race day nerves can ruin a performance. My first marathon was an absolute disaster and a big part of it was nerves. My stomach went sour in the days leading up to the race and I let all the fears, excitement and anxiety get the better of me. I had the worst race of my life and a miserable couple days on either side of it to boot.

So what can you do? The answer is to focus on what you can control.

Have you done the training? If the answer is no then maybe you should reevaluate your goals or even drop down to a shorter distance. But if the answer is yes then you should feel secure in your ability.

Is your goal realistic? We all have the desire to blow our last time out of the water or get a medal. Evaluate your training and races leading up to your goal race. Do the times and paces that you ran indicate your goal is attainable? Note: I didn’t say easy, just within reason. Again, if not, reset your goals. If yes, try to relax and trust in your training.

I was extremely nervous meeting Shalane for the first time!

Do you have a plan? Have you figured out what your splits should be at each mile or certain interval (5k, 10k, half, etc)? Do you know when you are going to take a GU or a Shot Blok and when you plan to drink? For my PR marathon I had everything planned: 52 minutes per 5 miles and GU or 2 Shot Bloks every 5th mile. I carried a handheld and drank to thirst. Knowing that I had everything I needed in my SPIbelt and that I wasn’t depending on luck, the course aid stations, or last minute decisions really eased my mind.

Check the weather the day before and lay out your clothes, your drop bag (if you’re using one), your (charged!) Garmin and iPod, your GU’s/Shot Bloks/whatevers, and anything else you will need to take with you. Having everything right in front of you when you wake up will make it easier to remember your plans and you won’t leave the house wondering if you forgot something important.

Lastly, eat your normal breakfast even if you have to eat it earlier than usual. If you ate a bagel with peanut butter and coffee before long runs then eat that before your race. Think about how long it usually takes you to feel ready to run after your meals and allow at least that much time between your breakfast and your race.

You may not be entirely relaxed and confident, but as long as you know there’s nothing else within your control, it will be easier to trust in your training and have an enjoyable day.

What are your favorite pre-race rituals? Do you have any superstitions or good luck charms? How do you keep your nerves at bay? 

Just Another Runner

Since the Runner’s World Half & Festival I’ve been working hard to read all of the books I brought home with me. The Big Book of Marathon & Half Training was a good read, albeit very basic. The next one on my pile was ‘Going Long’ which is an accumulation of stories from Runner’s World, edited by David Willey. I had the pleasure of meeting Dave and his son, who both kicked my butt in the 5k portion of the Runner’s World Hat Trick.

However, as I read these books from Rodale, owner and publisher of Runner’s World Magazine, I find that one common thread ties every bit of editorial together, whether satire, drama, or documentary. The fact is Runner’s World seems to think that everyone is a Boston Qualifier or a 3-something marathoner. (Even in the ‘Big Book’ the little blocks with personal stories often featured 3:xx marathoners.)

The truth? We’re not. I am just as amazed and motivated as the next runner when I meet someone who’s lost 100 pounds, run 10 marathons, and just BQ’ed… all in the last year. But the fact is that these people are the exception, not the rule. And qualifying for Boston is a big deal because it’s HARD. I may never do it and that’s okay. What irks me is that every book in the Rodale repertoire acts like it’s normal somehow to tick off 7 minute miles on easy runs or do 8 mile tempos at a 5:xx pace. It’s NOT!

In fact, the average runner is not a member of this club. Something like 62% of the field in my last marathon finished in the 4-4:30 range. I just missedbeing middle of the pack yet again. Maybe it’s supposed to be motivating to read these times and paces that aren’t even remotely on my radar. Maybe it’s supposed to be inspiring. Really, though, let’s face it. It’s getting old. I’m sick of opening books on training and finding that the pace tables stop several minutes shy of my actual training paces. The race time comparison tables end long before my races actually did.

Maybe Runner’s World is losing sight of their target audience? From what I see on their forums, the largest numbers are by far in the Beginner’s Forum. The elite racing forum is tiny, the ultra room only slightly larger, and the marathoners and training forums still miniscule in comparison. People who are only just trading flip flops for Nikes or jeans for compression shorts are the bulk of the ones who are seeking advice and training tips and motivation. In all honesty, the runners who are at the front either have coaches, are coaches, or might as well be for the most part. Either that or they are inhumanly genetically gifted with a high VO2max, perfectly balanced fast and slow twitch fibers, and speedy recovery cells. In other words, they aren’t me and I doubt they are the balance of my readers or my running friends.

Am I the only one noticing this or feeling this way? Is anyone else ready to take all of the Rodale and Runner’s World books and pile them for a bonfire?

I Can Die Happy Now

If this weekend is anything like today then I’ve reached the pinnacle of my running career. Just take me now so I can die happy lord! The Runner’s World 5k, 10k, and half marathon are here and I am just unbelievably excited!

I drove 5 hours to Bethlehem, PA today and arrived at my hotel around 3PM. I checked in and was immediately presented with a STELLAR schwag bag. It has it all plus some vouchers for freebies at the expo and backstage passes for a few of the tents and demos. Runner’s World and FitFluential really hooked us up!

At 5PM an AMAZING (am I using enough superlatives yet?!) luxury bus pulled up and whisked us off to Runner’s World headquarters. I thoroughly enjoyed the leather seats and bar stocked with bottled water (what else for a group of fitness freaks). I got to chat with many of the bloggers I’ve admired and worked with but never met face to face before. I’ve never enjoyed a 30 minute drive so much in my life!

Snakes on a Plane Bloggers on a Bus
Runner’s World HQ
We arrived at RW HQ just in time to greet the editors and then sit down for a fully catered meal of amazing local and organic foods. There were veggie burgers, real burgers, hot dogs, salad, pasta salad, potato salad, and plenty of desserts. I gorged myself while I gossiped with the other bloggers and the RW staff members. I got the low down on the courses for the 5k, 10k, and half this weekend. I ate a lot, learned a lot, and laughed a lot. This was exactly how race weekend should kick off!
It didn’t take long to demolish the buffet
Hanging out with a blurry Amby Burfoot
Running legend, Bart Yasso
Editor at Large, Mark Remy
Once we had all eaten our fill it was time for our clinic with Altra Zero Drop shoes. These shoes are already in my arsenal as I use the Intuition 1.0 as my every day, casual shoe. But I never turn down a chance to try something new. I tried on the new Intuition and was thrilled that they’re now PINK! However, I was wowed by the Superior. It’s a light weight, neutral trail shoe with a removable rock plate. I chose to go with the Superior instead of the updated Intuition 1.5. Tomorrow the Altra guys promised to let me try out a pair of the Lone Peaks as well. Either way I’m going home with kickass new trail running shoes from Altra!
L to R: Provisioness (stability), Intuition (neutral), Intuition, Superior (trail), Intuition
After everyone was fitted we headed off for a tour of the Runner’s World Headquarters. I got to see where all the magic happens, from photographers to editing to Bart Yasso’s office. I even got to eat some of a giant Brooks chocolate egg!
Bart Yasso’s office door

Picture in Bart’s office (There’s no “I” in team, but there’s an ass in Yasso)

Giant Brooks Egg

Eating the egg

Men’s Health covers from different countries

Apparently Men’s Health Brazil is a little more risque than the US version

Rave Run pics

Runner’s World covers

After the tour ended we gathered in the RW lawn for some s’mores over a small fire. RW’s Laura Beachy tells us that tomorrow’s going to be even more amazing but right now I just can’t imagine how! It’s going to be super hard to go back to real life after this weekend!
Apparently bloggers become possessed when toasting marshmallows late at night

Guest Post: Endorphin Dad?

Hello endorphin(mom) junkies, my name is Shane.  For those of you that don’t know me, I am Sara’s husband.  I have wanted to do a guest blog for some time. Two weeks ago I wrote one about a 5k I had just run.  Sara read it and said that it didn’t really say anything so why would people want to read it.  A few days later I reread it and it was like watching NASCAR.  I’ve got better things to watch than NASCAR.

One of my favorite movies is Throw Mama from the Train. If you haven’t seen it, the movie stars Danny DeVito, Billy Crystal, and Anne Ramsey.  DeVito’s character, Owen, is attending an adult college writing class but he is having trouble coming up with ideas.  Crystal’s character, Larry, tells him to “write what you know”.  So Owen comes up with a great story about pushing his Mama from a train.  Only problem is Owen wants Larry do the pushing.  If you haven’t seen it, you should. It’s a great 80’s comedy.

What was the point of telling you about the movie?  Simple, I decided to write my blog post about what I know.  When I go to races or talk to people about running I usually get asked three questions.  So I am going to answer them here.

All in the family.

Question #1:  When did you start running and why? 

Right after Sara had our second daughter she started doing 5k’s every weekend.  I looked at her and said, “Why do you do this? Running is pointless.”  I continued to shoot my mouth off for about a month.   Finally I said, “Running is easy.  Anyone can do it.  I’m running in your next race.”  I had no idea what I had just gotten myself into.

Race morning I had on an old t-shirt, old work shoes with holes in them, and a pair of Old Navy wind pants from 1998.  This took place on November 7, 2010.  When the gun went off I was gone.  I yelled back to Sara, “This is easy!”  I even went as far as running backwards just to show off.  Then came the half mile mark.  I was exhausted.  Is it over yet?  I jogged/walked/crawled to a  time of 32:12.  And yes, Sara beat me.

Come the next morning I decided I had to win.  I couldn’t let a girl beat me!  I started training and a month later I was at my second 5k.  I finished with a time of 26:25. I have been running ever since.  Do I love it?  Well, I do like to earn a medal and I love spending time with Sara doing something we both like.

Running in a mine!

Question #2: How did you come up with Team Brunazzi? 

When Sara and I started dating she was on Team Under Armour, the clothing line. After Sara got pregnant with Ash, they did not renew her contract.  When Sara started running again she started looking for a new team.  She got turned down by a couple brands because she didn’t have any race times to report while she was pregnant.   That got me to thinking, “Why does she need a team?  We could be the team.”

At first I was going to call it the Brunazzi Running Team.  However my boss said when his kids all participated in a sport his wife would call them Team L.   So by my fifth 5k, we were in gray shirts with a turtle and Team Brunazzi on them.  A few months later I changed to the bright blue shirts and skeleton logo we use today and the team started to grow as our family and friends started coming to races.

#3 What made you start your own 5k?

Well, two things happened pretty close together.  The first was we were at one of the two 5k’s on our local trail. A group of runners started talking about why there were two 5k’s in the spring and none in the fall.  I cannot remember if it was Sara or I who said, “We should just do one”.

A few days after the second spring 5k a woman named Melanie messaged me. She wanted help organizing a charity 5k in the fall for her friend’s son who is suffering from Batten’s Disease.   I said I would help out so I sat down and started running numbers and costs.  About two days later, I decided to go for it; I would put on the 5k.  I picked a day and hired a timing company and the rest is history.  I had Sara and Gemma design a logo while I typed up a request for sponsorship letter.  Five months later it is all coming together.

***WARNING: DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!  Planning a race is not easy nor is it cheap.   I spent all of my free time, lunch breaks, and even some family time planning the race.  It was like having a second job.  It was also fun and rewarding.  Heck, I’ll probably do it again.  But it is a lot of WORK.***

Recruiting new Team Brunazzi members.

What do you think? To Blog or Not To Blog.

Pretty Muddy

I could alternatively title this post ‘Evolution of an Afro’. I knew there would be lots of photo ops at this event so I carefully straightened my unruly curls and even applied a little lipstick this morning. Of course, that was gone before I even arrived in Columbus, Ohio after a 4 hour plus drive! I was pretty proud of myself for trying though. It’s not often that I attempt being feminine but how could I not for a race with Pretty in the name?!

Before
I left home sometime around 7:30am. I made the drive to Columbus in pretty good time with a quick stop for food and coffee. When I arrived at Mad River Mountain the first thing I realized was that all of the participants were running straight up the ski slopes! Being that I haven’t run all week I wasn’t sure I was up for that!
The view from the parking lot
I checked in and picked up my bib and shirt. Then I dropped my bag of ‘after’ clothes at the gear check. It was all broken down by alphabet and/or bib number so it was really smooth and didn’t take long at all. I took some photos of the slopes and tents while I walked around. I also chatted with some of the volunteers and workers at the event. Everyone was super friendly and helpful! I had registered for the 1PM wave but I saw only a few people lined up for 12:15 (apparently not a popular time? The other waves were much busier!) so I decided to go ahead and jump in early.
Getting pumped up to start!
The announcer who started each wave was extremely funny. He kept joking with the DJ who was right next to the starting line and got all of the runners excited for the challenge ahead. I wish I would have asked his name but I did get a picture with him later! He did a really good job of entertaining the waiting runners for the next wave. It was only a few minutes and then we were off…. straight up the ski slope! I ran for maybe 100 yards and then I went into my ultra hike/walk.
The snow machines were being used as super soakers instead
Half way up the ski slope we hit the first obstacle. I took pictures of every obstacle except for a cargo net at mile 1, a slide at mile 2 and the last mud pit because they had professional photographers at each of those. I’m really excited to see the photos once they come up online! Anyway, the first obstacle was a tunnel of foam. It didn’t look too bad until I actually went in and then I was quickly buried! Foam was literally over my head and I just held my breath, closed my eyes and pushed through the other side. That would have been a great obstacle for the end to clean off some mud!
Inside the foam tunnel

The next obstacle was four walls. You had to climb over the first one, under the next two, and then over the last one. Of course, there was mud under the middle two! Next was the tunnel crawl then the cargo net climb, high knees through a cargo net, a slip n slide across a tarp, a run through a tunnel full of beach balls, the huge slide, running around a loop carrying a board over your head, two more wall climbs, and then the final mud pit! Not to mention running up and down the mountain the whole time!

First wall
Fourth wall
View from the mountain top
Cargo net run
The foliage is just starting to turn around here and the views from the mountain top were stunning. I did my best to appreciate the colors while speed hiking the uphills. I was too busy trying not to turn an ankle on the downs to look around! There really was no flat to speak of.
Foliage
Attacking the summit for the second time
As I ran I could hear the announcer below getting the next wave ready. Being that each wave was 15 minutes after the last this gave me a method of keeping tabs on my time. This event isn’t timed and there are no awards but I’m too competitive and number-focused not to worry about my performance. I didn’t wear a Garmin or watch but I did check the time at the start and finish. My only goal was not to have the 1PM wave start before I finished!
Alley of beach balls
Taking on the board run
As you can see, my straight hair didn’t last very long. I didn’t care too much though because I was having a blast! Thankfully I think I’m still pretty cute with crazy curls! 😉
Last two walls!
As I headed for the finish a couple people yelled that I was too clean. So I took the opportunity to literally swim in the final mud pit! I crossed the finish line, checked the clock (39-ish minutes), and then asked the ladies if I was still too clean!  I took a minute to pose in all my muddy glory before I headed for the hoses to clean up.
Yep, Pretty Muddy!
Once I was semi-clean (I was too chicken to spray myself in the face with freezing hose water) I grabbed a beer and was greeted by Kevin S., the owner of Pretty Muddy. We chatted about the event and what I thought was good and what could be improved. He seems like a pretty good guy with a real vision for the future of these events. I hope they’ll continue to grow because I saw smiles on the face of every lady out there today! Plus Kevin posed for a picture with me despite the fact he was wearing white!
Hanging out with Kevin
I had to stop and get a picture with the announcer too!
After getting hosed off and drinking a cold beer I was pretty frozen. I headed into the ski lodge to get cleaned up a little better and change into warmer (cleaner) clothes. I headed back out to take a few last pictures before heading home. I couldn’t help but smile at some of the women that were out on the course with me today so I had to get pics!
Post-Pretty Muddy with the full blown curls!
Pretty, pretty princesses?
Trash the Dress?
It wasn’t long before I was too cold to hang out any longer. I headed back to my Jeep and couldn’t help but laugh at my sticker. I feel like I really deserve it now!
This race was really well done for a first year event. The few things that I hope to see next year: timing (because I’m a number freak), finisher medals (because a lot of the women were first time runners and deserve it!), and any color besides white shirts (because mine is already stained from wearing it home post-race). Other than that the course was awesome (tough but doable for all athletic levels), the obstacles were creative and fun, the beer and food afterwards was good, and the ski lodge was a comfortable place to clean up and relax after the run. I would definitely recommend it for any woman looking for a different experience or a ‘girls day’!

Disclosure: FitFluential LLC compensated me for this campaign. All opinions are my own.

Home Again

It’s been an awful week for my running, as in I’m posting a big old zero. However, I did have a lot of neat experiences so I thought I’d share some of what I’ve been up to while I’m not pounding pavement, trail, or a barbell.

Monday was a typical workday. On Tuesday I took a training class on Computer Radiography and then came home to pack for my trip to Brunner Island Power Station. Brunner Island isn’t really a nice place and I wouldn’t go there for vacation but for a work trip it wasn’t bad. This time we were doing a boiler survey which means locating several areas and marking them with paint. Then those areas are sandblasted and me and my coworkers take readings on the tubes inside the boiler. At this site we took something like 36,000 readings!

Brunner Island
Water Wall Tubes
I arrived at Brunner around 8PM on Tuesday and checked into my super-sleazy motel. Thankfully 15 of my coworkers were staying there too so I didn’t feel too scared!
I could feel the creepiness in the atmosphere.
Wednesday was the day we did the layout so it was pretty quick. I was out of the plant by 1 and then back at the motel to do my homework. A couple hours later I was headed to dinner with my cousin (and I forgot to get a picture!). Thursday and Friday were the days we had to take the readings. That meant 13-14 hours both days and never seeing the sun. I stayed one more night and drove home Saturday morning. I spent most of Saturday unpacking, washing laundry, and cleaning fly ash and coal dust out of my car.
Today was the day to make up for lost time with the kids though! We went to a covered bridge festival and had a blast. They even had a tractor made up like a train to take the kids for rides in barrel ‘cars’! We didn’t come home with too much besides cotton candy and pumpkin pie but the kids had a blast so it was well worth the trip.
Train ride!
The best part, aside from spending time with my kids, was coming home to find a huge box of Reebok gear waiting for me! I had signed up for Team Reebok for the Canton 5k & 10k on Saturday but missed it for obvious reasons. I wish I could have represented this weekend but I’ll definitely be wearing my new gear for CrossFit tomorrow! I can’t wait to get back on schedule and get back to running again (just in time to taper for Baltimore)!

So what did I miss this week? Any big news or big races? Got photos you care to share? I’d like to start sharing reader photos and stories once a week or so if I can get some interest! You can email me at sbrunazzi @ gmail. com. Just take the spaces out! 😉

Long Run Leisure

On Thursday I posted about how awesome it is to be a third of the way done with my training plan. I thoroughly enjoyed my rest day Friday. I took it easy at work, went out to lunch with coworkers, and really did nothing of consequence Friday night. It was wonderful!

Saturday was a little crazier. Every summer our neighborhood has a community yard sale. This year the weather didn’t cooperate and it was misting and overcast all morning. We still took a chance and put out all thejunk treasures we had to offer. Shane’s parents also set up with us. Between getting up at 6 am, setting up all our stuff, and sitting in the drizzle for hours I was already worn out. Shane took the opportunity to advertise our race to all the people browsing plus the local churches and businesses that were offering food and refreshments for the bargain hunters.

Ash and ‘baby’ at the park.

When Shane returned I went to get up from my chair and something in my left knee popped. I almost fell over and caught myself on the edge of our table. There was no pain but I knew something wasn’t right. I waited a little bit longer before doing my scheduled 8 miler. It was supposed to be at marathon pace but I ended up running 5 miles pretty slowly and then doing the last 3 near tempo pace to come out almost at marathon pace for the average. My knee was still stiff and a little tender last night. After everything I gave up and went to bed at 8pm. I guess I needed it because I slept for almost 13 hours!

Today I felt better and my knee was stiff but no longer aching. I figured I’d give my long run a try. My husband kindly agreed to take Ash grocery shopping with him while Gem stayed and played at home. Being that Gem is 7 she can easily entertain herself for three hours so this worked out well. I hit the treadmill and decided to break the run up into 4 mile segments. After each 4 mile portion I took a Gu and drank about 6-8oz of water before starting the next one. It helped me stay fueled and hydrated but it also helped me stay aware of my knee. After slowing down my knee would be stiff again and it took me 2-3 minutes to loosen it up. It never gave me any pain though or I was prepared to shut it down and miss mileage for the first time this cycle.

After I finished (in 2:54:49), Shane had already put away the groceries and made gnocchi for lunch. I wolfed down my portion and then drove down to the corner gas station to pick up some bagged ice. I had a feeling the 4 trays in our freezer wouldn’t be enough today. Our hot water tank went out a few days ago and the new one is like super-powered or something. Even when our faucet is on fully cold the water is still warm. Even with 7 lbs of ice I only shivered for a minute before the water started to melt the ice and I warmed back up.

Yeah, I rock the Disney princess wash cloth!
Luckily, the ice bath seems to have done its job. My knee is no longer tight or tender. I took 2 Advil after my ice bath and then focused on rehydrating and staying moving. We took the kids on a walk to the park where we played for about an hour. Dinner was a quickly thrown-together pulled pork BBQ, corn on the cob, and salad. It’s really amazing how quickly the weekends go now that my long runs take up a significant portion!
Do you take ice baths? Why or why not? And how do you stay connected with family and friends when you’re devoting significant time to training?

It’s Supposed to Hurt

I ran the Jerry Maher Memorial 5k today. Shane and our niece, Gabby, ran as well and we had a blast in the process. This race is held to raise money for Parkinson’s Disease research. This year I believe there were 108 runners and I don’t know how many walkers.

Team Brunazzi after the race.
I knew going into this that I’m not in PR shape so I dropped that hope before I left home. I thought 27 minutes would be a good goal given that the temperature was a little lower this morning. I know Shane always wants a PR and this was Gabby’s first race so her only goal was to finish. I pointed out a group of teens that didn’t look like local track stars and told her to beat them, which I believe she did!
By the time we registered the race was already out of shirts except for XL. We opted to take some of last year’s leftovers off their hands instead. I ran a quick half mile warm up and the hung out with our group until it was time to line up.
Never look a tech tee in the mouth… even if it is the wrong year!
The race start was crowded and it didn’t seem like most people were lining up according to their abilities. There were little kids in front of me and a woman who definitely looked faster than me right behind me. I tried to plant myself at the middle of the front of the pack but I couldn’t tell who was walking and who was running so I gave up.
When the race started there was about 2 minutes of mass chaos while everyone figured out their pace. I went out way too fast and was actually ahead of Shane for a little bit. Once we made a couple turns the runners spread out and it was easier to try to pull back. The first little bit was a slight uphill and then a slight downhill. I checked my Garmin and I was running sub-8 minute miles. Time to pull back more!
The middle section of the loop was a long uphill which really got me. I think this is where I lost most of my time. Once we finished the hill runners turned right and ran downhill for a short distance. Then it was a gradual grade up over some train tracks and around a bend to end up back where we’d begun. We ran this loop twice and by the second time around I was really have trouble keeping my pace sub-10 on the uphill. I repeated, “It’s supposed to hurt” to myself over and over again.
What really helped was that there was a man right behind me on the second half of the second loop and I got it in my head that I didn’t want him to pass me. When we got to the railroad crossing he tried but I gave a little extra and put him behind me again. As we approached the finish he kicked again and once again I caught him. Maybe 10 feet before the finish he was breathing down my neck and gave one last push. I tried but he threw himself across the line before I got there. I wanted to be mad at him for beating me in the last 2 feet but really I’m mad at myself for not having one more kick to out-race him.
My official time was 27:46. After I finished I found Shane and he said he’d done 22:16. I tossed him my water and went back out to find Gabby. I was surprised to find she wasn’t far out from the finish line. I turned back and ran with her to the chute. She finished strong in 33:18!
It ended up that I was 4th in my age group. I was a little disappointed but I would have had to run a PR race to get an award so I didn’t feel THAT bad. Shane took third in the 30-39 age group! Unfortunately for Gabby teens seem to be finding the joy of racing this year. The 15-19 age group had NO runners last year. This year there were at least more than 3. Gabby didn’t get the medal we’d promised her but we did take a pic of her wearing Shane’s and post it on her FaceBook page saying she’d won the race! Hey we gotta have fun somehow right?!
Shane with his medal
After the race we stopped at IHOP for some lunch and I mowed down the International Crepe Passport! I could have eaten another full meal too! I’d post pictures of the food but if I’d pulled out my camera to snap a pic it probably would have gotten eaten too!
After we dropped Gabby off at home I realized I had 4 miles for the day counting my warm up and cool down but I was scheduled for 6. I asked Shane to drop me off roughly 2 miles from home and I ran the rest of the way. It was definitely a little hot for my taste but it felt good to have all my miles out of the way early on.
Now I just have to convince Gabby she can race with us tomorrow! And maybe a Firecracker 5k on the 4th…. and maybe next weekend too…..   I hope I’ve created a monster! 😉

Mad Dash

Yesterday my husband decided to wake me up at oh-my-god early and drive two hours to run a 5k. We did a 5k in the same park over the summer and placed rather well so my husband was hopeful he could break into the top three.

We arrived early and registered. We were excited to get shirts because it seems like we never get them with race day registration anymore. We hid in the car to stay warm. Shane had checked the weather… for home, not Shenango. *sigh* It was freezing and snowing. As we were waiting all the fast people started showing up for last minute registration. To top it off, Mr. Annoying from the Cold Man 5k showed up. I’ve never wanted to chick someone so much in my life!

I did a warm up run with some strides and realized we weren’t running the same course as the last race. I asked the race director quickly what the course was and he confirmed my fears. We were running a route with more hills and generally uphill. It consisted of a small loop which was less than a mile and then a large loop to make up the remainder. I was really starting to wish I’d stayed in bed.

We lined up and moved about 3 rows back to allow all the guys I knew were faster than me to start first. I lined up next to one of the women I know can whoop me usually. She was saying she was suffering from stress reactions in her shins so she hadn’t been running much. I was hoping I could pace off her to a PR or at least a good placement. But the gun went off and she was gone along with the woman who had lined up on the other side of me.

I held my goal pace perfectly for the first mile (7:58). Then we started up a gradual winding incline and I felt like I couldn’t pull myself together. My core felt hot but my legs were cold. My throat was okay but my lungs were burning. My leg turnover felt slow and my strides felt clumsy. Nothing felt right at all.

By mile 2 a few more women had passed me. I tried to hold on to Mr. Annoying but he was slowly pulling away. By the time we reached the third mile I knew a PR was out of reach and that even staying in the 25’s would be hard. Right then we approached the biggest hill of the course. I didn’t give up, didn’t walk, but I wanted to! My Garmin was beeping at me to speed up but I couldn’t. I finally reached the top of the monster and headed down the other side to the finish. I crossed at 26:20 and gave the race director my bib tag before I went over to the grass and threw a mini tantrum, complete with throwing my hat.

I have no idea what happened and I’m hoping it was just a bad day. My husband didn’t do as well as he’d hoped either, finishing in 22:19. We both got first in our age group but I realized when I looked at the results that there were only me and another woman in my age group (even though it was a ten year age group)!

Overall, I’m okay with the time. If you’d asked me a year ago I would have said a 26:20 5k was impossible for me. Now that I know I can do better than that I want to see just how good I can do. Hopefully the next one, in a MINE, will go better. Shane and I ran it last year and had a blast! Even though we don’t have a shot at an age group award with the caliber of the field there the even itself is just too neat to pass up!

11 Random Things

Porcelina over at Run, Live, Laugh tagged me so now I have to let the world in on all my crazy secrets!

Here is how it works:

1. Post these rules.
2. You must post 11 random things about yourself.
3. Answer the questions set for you in their post.
4. Create 11 new questions for the people you tag to answer.
5. Go to their blog and tell them you’ve tagged them.
6. No stuff in the tagging section like “you are tagged if you are reading this”. You (the blogger) legitimately have to tag 11 (or so) people.

My random facts:

1. I have four tattoos. I want more.

2. I love adventure and despise routine. All I ask of life is a challenge.

3. I love to read almost more than I love to run. Deciding between a book or a run can be the hardest decision I make all day.

4. I wish I had stuck out my first round of college getting a degree in Biology. I always wanted to work in genetics.

5. My husband and I aren’t good at event planning so we got married at the J.P. instead and then had a photographer friend take really awesome pictures in the park to make it look like we had a big wedding.

6. For some reason my dad was determined that I should have the middle name Altair. It is Arabic for ‘bird’ and ever since 9-11 I’ve been harassed by airport security every time I fly.

7. I work in Nondestructive Testing. If you actually know what that is without Googling I’ll give you a cookie.

8. I’m naturally brunette, almost black, but my older daughter is blonde haired and blue eyed. Makes me really wish I had gone into genetics so I could figure that one out!

9. I have watched every episode of Richard Scarry’s Busy Town at least three times. Thank you parenthood!

10. I only own 2 pairs of jeans. I spend all of my money on running gear.

11. I own the coolest weiner dog ever. She has one brown eye and one blue eye. Her name was supposed to be Lego but my husband changed it to Lily and my daughter gave her the middle name Eliza.

Porcelina’s Questions to Me:

1. If you could run any race, anywhere, and money wasn’t an option, where would you go?

First stop, Australia! I want to see a platypus and a koala and a kiwi up close! And eat vegemite too!

2. If you had one million pounds to give away, who or what would you chose to donate too?
Well, we have dollars here. I would spread it amongst the charities I love, like the IAFF Burn Fund!

3. If you had the chance to relive one instance in your life, what moment would you chose? Would you change anything about it or just re-live it?
The last time I saw my dad before he got hurt maybe? I’d like to ask him more about himself and take a few more pictures of us together!

4. Cats or dogs?
Both! And fish too!

5. What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
Marriage and love are a choice you make every day.

6. What was the last book you read?
The Help. I loved it!

7. What is your favourite go-to dinner when you need cheering up?
My husband is the cook in our house. In the winter I love chili and in the summer I love grilling out!

8. What is your life\running mantra?
‘As far as I can, As fast as I can’. It fits me to a tee! I’m always up to something and trying to see just how much I can accomplish in as little time as possible!

9. Sweet or Salted Popcorn?
Both please!

10. Have you had a ‘defining moment’ yet? If so, care to share?
Losing my father at the age of 11. It changed the whole course of my life and I’m sure I don’t even realize half of it.

11. What would be your perfect Sunday afternoon?
Long run followed by an ice bath, hot shower, and massage. Then maybe going to dinner and a movie with my hubby. A kid-free day is definitely the best present I can get sometimes!

Eleven questions for whomever I tag:
1. Did you grow up in the city, the suburbs, or on a farm, etc? What was it like?

2. How many siblings do you have?

3. How many children would you have if your resources were unlimited?

4. What would your career choice be if you could have your pick tomorrow?

5. Describe your dream home.

6. What is your favorite nail polish color?

7. If you could have a chef or a maid which would you choose?

8. What is your favorite candy?

9. What is your favorite shoe brand?

10. Do you have a smart phone or a regular phone?

11. Coffee or tea?

I tag:
Heather at Run Faster, Mommy!
Hope at Team Epton
Mallery at Inspired Training
And I’m out of time right now!

Where Athlete and Fashion Meet

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I’m NOT a ‘fastinista’. When running comfort is my biggest factor. When I find something that fits, stays put, and doesn’t chafe I stick with it. If it looks good then that’s just a bonus.

I must be beginning to soften in my old age though. I gave in and let my stylist take me from boring ponytail to stylish assymetric bob a month or so ago. I have to admit I love it! Then my biggest problem was how to RUN with something I couldn’t pull back.

Thankfully, BIC Bands came to my rescue! They’re site convinced me that this was the brand to try! Who doesn’t love a company that gives a portion of their profits to charity?!

“B.I.C. Bands gives back to those in need with every purchase!
B.I.C. Bands are headbands that will not slip~ (SERIOUSLY!) They are great for any workout, a trip to the coffee shop, going out with friends, work….
you name it, your B.I.C. Band will keep your hair looking FAB! They are headbands that stay in place and help others win their race!”

I tried them out and now I’m hooked! I even sported one to the office today! See?

If you want to score some BIC Bands you can enter to win them through mygiveaway that benefits the IAFF Burn Fund. I’ve got a DOZEN to give away!

Now if someone could just point me in the direction of a tutorial on office AND gym friendly make up? (And maybe a spray tan too! Can you say glow-in-the-dark?!)

Atlanta DNA

I’m pretty sure I’ve got it. No, not like the city. More like Charlie Sheen’s Adonis DNA but with a running spin. Atlanta is a character from Greek and Roman mythology. She refused to marry unless the suitor could best her in a race. She killed them when they lost but yet many still tried their luck (or finishing kick?). It wasn’t until the goddess Aphrodite decided to give poor, young Melanion some golden apples that Atlanta finally lost. Frankly I don’t believe a skilled young huntress and runner like Atlanta would stop to pick up golden apples that Melanion threw. What serious runner wastes time like that? But that’s another matter entirely.

What I do believe is that I am becoming a serious local contender for 2012! I won’t be slaying any suitors (marriage kind of ruined that) but I sure hope to be beating more guys, and gals! My training has been pretty on point. I’m 9.5 miles short of my plan but I knew my plan was ambitious going in and I didn’t plan to still be racing every weekend throughout it!

To send 2011 out with a bang my husband decided we should repeat our New Year’s Eve race from last year (which I didn’t write a race report for!). The Harmony Silvester 5k celebrates the German New Year with a ball drop at 6PM EST which equates to the ball drop in Germany. I’m a lot more into this whole thing now that I work for a German company! I even thought about calling my boss across the pond and telling him happy New Years but I abstained.

Last year I ran this race in 30:56 and I remember thinking the hills were brutal. My husband ran it in 26:30 and he wasn’t prepared for the rollers either. This year was completely different. I went out with a plan. I wanted my sub-25 even knowing the hills were coming. I decided to run 8 minute mile pace the entire time. The first mile was dead on 8 minutes. The next mile the hills started to catch up to me again but I made it up on the downhills as best I could. Mile 2 split was 8:40. Whoops! I had a lot of making up to do in mile 3. I found the next gear and chugged along next to a guy who seemed to be running fairly easy. I’m sure he thought he was going to need his breath to perform CPR on my wheezing body any second. I kept pushing and the last little hill coming back up into the square got me. I started feeling that familiar churning in my stomach. Instead of pulling off to let ‘er rip I kept running but I couldn’t do an 8 minute mile uphill and hold my lunch down at the same time. Mile 3 ticked in at 8:20. I finished in 25:05. Still a PR but leaving those darned 6 seconds to be desired! Better luck next year!

I planned to start 2012 off right, with a cutback week. My husband had other ideas. He signed up for a new 5k on Saturday. I woke up feeling awful and tried to stay in bed. My ever-thoughtful husband decided that if I wouldn’t run with him then I should at least be his cheering squad. I volunteered pulling off timing chips at the finish chute and cheered my husband in to a new PR of 21:38. I’m starting to wonder if I’ll ever be able to catch him!

Sunday I woke up early despite not setting an alarm. I decided to sneak out for a 5 mile race in the park. My husband and I ran this race last year and, again, the hills were crazy! I finished in 55:33 last year. This year I knew my endurance was better so I aimed higher. I planned to run 8:20-8:30 pace until the last mile which is completely uphill. Mile 1 was 8:21, mile 2 in 8:11, mile 3 in 8:23, and mile 4 in 9:07 (whoops!). I hit the last long climb right after mile 4 and, unlike last year, I didn’t let it reduce me to a walk. I may have been moving slowly but I continued to run. Mile 5 took me 10:59 and if you look at the elevation profile I’m sure you’ll see why! Final chip time was 45:03! Guess I need even more hill training this year!

So here’s to bigger and better (and longer!) in 2012! In case you haven’t seen it yet my goal races for the year:
March 17 – Rock n Roll D.C. Marathon
March 31 – Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run
May 6 – Flying Pig Marathon
June 9 – Hatfield McCoy Marathon
August 25 – Baker 50 Mile Ultrachallenge (leg 2)
October 13 – Baltimore Marathon
November 4 – Marshall University Marathon

So I’ll see you on the road! Happy training!

Motivation, or the Lack Thereof

The holidays are in high gear and so is all the craziness that goes with them. I’ve been doing really well the past four weeks in training for the Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run. I haven’t skipped a run or even a single mile. Now, in week five, I’m facing a sudden mountain of doubts and a loss of motivation. It’s not easy to keep up with being a wife, mother, employee, student, and runner (blogging isn’t a chore so I won’t list it!). I’m fighting to write and mail cards, find the perfect last minute gifts to round out my shopping, bake some goodies, and our tree is still only half decorated. The bottom half at that because that’s all the higher my daughter could reach. Yes, I made my kid decorate so I didn’t have to!

I pushed through the first two days of this week and went to the gym despite not feeling any desire to do so. Today I realized I hadn’t gotten my coworkers anything and I felt guilty. So I skipped my lunch run and bought a pack of cards and some lottery tickets. I spent the remainder of my time filling them out and putting them in envelopes. I’m sure my coworkers are happy, at least one got a winner so far, but I’m angry and disappointed with myself. What a cop out! I could have bought cards and lottery tickets on the way home and done that tonight with a glass of wine while the kids slept. Now I’ll be trying to motivate myself to hit the treadmill instead.

I love running for a lot of reasons and the feeling of accomplishment after a run is not the least of them. So why am I so unmotivated? I’m not sure. Perhaps it’s the sense of impending failure. I’ve already attempted one hundred miles once and failed so why should this time be different? I’ve never failed at any other distance. I’ve always succeeded on the first try even if it wasn’t pretty. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m sacrificing forming relationships over lunch with coworkers to hit the gym instead. It’s also entirely possible that I’m really good at sabotaging myself for no good reason.

I’ve got 14 weeks left (and 4 days, but who’s counting?) to get my body and mind ready to run 100 miles. I know I need to put in the training. I’ve punished myself by running marathons and ultras under-trained. I know I can’t make 100 miles on my current fitness level. I also know that I want that buckle more than any other medal or trophy in my growing collection. It’s not about winning, it’s not about beating anyone except myself.

So I’m going to get out of my own head and just do it. I’m putting it out there now. Unless I am injured or VERY sick I will not miss a mile. I might rearrange the days within a week to meet situations that arise (switching long runs from Saturday to Sunday has happened twice already) but I won’t sabotage my chances just because ‘I don’t feel like it today’. I know tomorrow it will be easier to skip if I start today and the only runs I will regret are the ones I didn’t do.

If you don’t see a post from me tonight with 5 miles DONE please come track me down and drag me kicking and screaming out the door. Words of encouragement, words of eternal damnation in runners’ purgatory, whatever you’ve got for me, just throw them out there! I need every bit of help I can get!

Double Dip is Quite the Treat!

If you haven’t realized we’re a little crazy around here by now then you must be new (so welcome!). On that note, my husband decided he was ready for his first ‘double dip’, that is 2 races in 2 days. We signed up for the Cold Man’s 5k in Oil City on 12/3 and the Trot for Tots in Oakdale on 12/4.

I have been training pretty hard so I didn’t expect too much. You’re probably thinking that doesn’t make sense but, yes, it does. I feel like I’m walking a very thin line between training hard and over-training. I was hoping to PR, maybe get my sub-25 goal, and I had a vague hope that I could take third overall if I had a really great run (based on the last years results). I was pretty sure my husband had a better shot than I did at all of those things though!

I guess Christmas miracles do happen because we showed up at the Cold Man and I saw right away that there were few women who had that ‘hungry’ look most of the winners have. I saw quite a few young teens wearing highschool track gear so I figured they would probably crush me. I talked to one of them while I was waiting at the start line and she said she hadn’t been running much since the last track season. I felt a vague hope come back then. My husband wasn’t so lucky and the local super-runner showed up at the last minute.

Right around this time is when we were bombarded by Mr. Know-It-All. I guess these guys are everywhere. They’ve run 5 half marathons this year and lost 80 pounds in the last two years so they must have a corner on the running market right? This guy bugged my husband and I (and everyone around us) about our training methods, our mileage, our recent injuries, and everything else under the sun and then tried to tell us what we were doing wrong. I very calmly warned my husband that if he didn’t beat Mr. Know-It-All by a large margin I would happily beat him with a stick for subjecting me to this torture on a Saturday morning.

Mercifully the race director began a speech about not getting shot on the wooded trail (thanks hunters with no common sense) and avoiding direct collisions with the returning faster runners. I listened with half an ear as Mr. Know-It-All gave his input on each point (“Take off your reindeer antlers now!” *giggle giggle*). I guess I had good motivation from my urge to get far away from him. The race director shouted go and I took off like a bullet… for about .2 seconds.

The people who lined up at the very front? All walkers. Sigh. I dashed up a grassy hillside and ran along as best I could until I was past them all. Upon returning to the trail there was one of the young track girls in front of me. I decided I would just try to stick to her and maybe, just maybe, I could take second or third afterall. Imagine my surprise when, maybe a half mile out, she suddenly grabbed her side and came to a dead stop! I’m never happy about another runners pain but I’m pretty sure she just went out too fast and got a side stitch so I gladly passed her.

But then I realized, to my horror, that I was first woman! This early on it had to be a mistake! I began to worry if I was going to have a marvelous and awe-inspiring blow up that would leave me walking the last mile. Right about this time Mr. Know-It-All passed me. That was the motivation I needed right there. He’d already told me he averages a 23 minute 5k so I knew I wasn’t going to beat him but I sure as heck wasn’t letting him annhilate me either! I latched on to a group consisting of Mr. Know-It-All, a man running with two little boys (YES! See my post on Running with Kids!), and a few other men.

The man who appeared to be the father of the younger boys seemed to be struck by a side stitch as well. He suddenly pulled off to the side and yelled for the boys to continue without him. Those little boys KILLED it, super fast! As we approached the turnaround I saw my husband and he told me there was no one for at least 100 feet behind me. I was losing the group but I told myself I could hold it together for the last half. The volunteer at the turnaround shouted 11:57 as I skidded around the cone and then he said, “You’re the first woman.” I almost died right there as all the doubts crowded back in again.

I heard footsteps behind me as I neared the two mile mark and a man pounded past me. I breathed a sigh of relief as soon as I saw it wasn’t a woman but I started to really freak out because I was losing it by this point. I should have been easily making my sub-25 goal but the third mile seemed to take FOREVER! My legs felt like lead, my lungs were dry, and my throat was on fire. I couldn’t escape the feeling of panic that told me the second woman would be creeping up on me any second. I didn’t like the feeling of having a huge target on my back!

As mile 3 came to a close I knew I had it if I just pushed. I risked a glance back and the second woman was about 30 seconds behind me. My husband was yelling at me from the finish line and the clock was nearing 25 minutes with every tick. I wanted to cry as I watched it tick past that mark I’ve been working so hard to break! My official time was 25:10. To be fair, I can’t complain, it’s still a 22 second PR and I got my first overall award out of it!

My husband wasn’t quite so lucky. He missed a PR by about 10 seconds and ended up 9th overall. He did get first in his age group though and he beat Mr. Know-It-All so I didn’t have to whip him when we got home!

Overall I’m surprised how it feels to win. It’s a little bit hollow. There was no real competition, no last minute sprint to the finish. I don’t feel like I really ‘earned’ this win. Maybe it’s just the super-competitive side of me but it honestly just doesn’t feel real. I showed my trophy to my mom and then tucked it onto the shelf in the basement and went for a 9 mile run to process what had just happened.

It actually felt a little bit ‘better’ to lose on Sunday at the Trot for Tots. I was sore and stiff and exhausted after my 12.1 miles the previous day. I went out at ‘normal’ pace for a 5k and just did my best to maintain. My competitive drive even kicked up a bit at the end and I tried to out-sprint a woman at the end. It didn’t work with my dead legs but I tried anyway! And the trying, the really working to beat myself and someone better than me, felt good! Really good! I finished just under 27 minutes and 11th in my age group, a pretty ‘slow’ time for me now but something I never would have imagined doing a year ago.

All in all, it was a great weekend! And as cliche as it sounds, I’m really glad I finally understand that it’s not about ‘winning’ so much as trying make myself better than I was yesterday. The joy is not in beating everyone else. It really is about beating myself. Whoever would’ve thought running would make me wax philosophical? Maybe I’m getting soft in my old age!