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!

LiveFit Trainer: Week 5

My second attempt at week 5 went much better than last week. I got in all but one workout (one leg day instead of two) and my nutrition was much better. I did have a pretzel at the mine 5k with Gem but really didn’t have too many cheats.

Baby bis and tris are coming out
My weight has stabilized in the mid-130’s but I can tell my clothes are fitting differently. My jeans are looser in the waist and tighter in the butt and thighs. Some of my fitted long sleeve shirts are starting to feel kind of snug around my biceps too. Overall, the changes are more subtle than the first few weeks but definitely there. I’m hopeful that, with three more weeks of adding cardio, I’ll really see some definition soon.
That’s really about all I have for week 5. So let’s hope some big things happen with week 6!

LiveFit Trainer: Week 4

It’s official! I survived Phase 1 of the LiveFit Trainer! So far I have been extremely impressed with the results. It’s not easy trying to eat clean and fit in 5 workouts a week but I’ve been doing it. I’ve even gone in blizzards and the polar vortex mess or whatever they’re calling it this week.

I wasn’t the only crazy at the gym!
The results for 4 weeks of training have been outstanding. I never expected to see progress this fast and it’s not just noticeable to me. Paul is seeing the changes and I just keep lifting more every time I go to the gym. It’s almost unbelievable!
I’ve gone up 50 pounds on leg press alone
And physically, the changes are visible and show in my measurements too. So here’s where I’m at as of the end of Phase 1!
Body Part          Start          Phase 1
Neck                 13.5            13.75
Chest                 33               33
Waist                 28               28
Hips                   38               37.5
Biceps               11               10.5
Thigh                 20               22
Calf                   13.5            14.25
Weight             137             134.5




And that’s all for now! As I move into week 5 I will be adding back more cardio with my weight training. Things are about to get more intense as I move into phase two and I’m really looking forward to seeing what happens as I continue to get stronger!

Live Fit Trainer: Week 3

This week was the first week of the program that I lifted 5 days per week. I also went from 3 sets of 12 reps to 3 sets of 10 reps, which meant going heavier. My extra day consists of a second leg day and I think I’m starting to see some results. So needless to say I am a pretty happy girl this week!

Pretty sure that’s a bicep beginning to show
My weight still hasn’t changed and I don’t want to take new measurements until the end of Phase 1. But what has changed is the weight I’m lifting. Some examples:
Leg Curl:
Week 1 – 50 pounds
Week 3 – 80 pounds
Leg Press:
Week 1 – 112 pounds
Week 2 – 160 pounds
Bicep Curls:
Week 1 – 10 pounds
Week 3 – 20 pounds
So overall, I am thrilled. I know the first few months of a strict program I will see big gains because of neurological changes. Your brain begins to tell your muscles to recruit more fibers for each movement and you make more neuron connections. It really has nothing to do with actually getting stronger but it’s the precursor to building the body you want.
Shoulders are beginning to get some definition
I’m also experimenting more with ways to make lean protein and veggies exciting. Thankfully Paul is an amazing cook. Here’s one of his recent creations for us:
Spicy Baked Cauliflower (and Tilapia)

1 Head cauliflower
4 Tbsp. coconut oil, melted
5 Cloves garlic, diced or pressed
Chili powder to taste
Paprika to taste
McCormick Fiesta Lime seasoning to taste

1. Preheat oven to 375* F
2. Cut the cauliflower into small florets and spread in 9×11 baking dish
3. Cover with melted coconut oil, garlic, chili powder, paprika, and fiesta lime seasoning
4. Bake for 30-40 minutes until cauliflower is no longer crunchy

And there you have it. My week 3 progress and a recipe! How are you holding out on your 2014 goals?

Live Fit Trainer: Week 2

This week was absolutely crazy. I did really well sticking to my nutrition plan the first half of the week. However, my new job is fairly demanding at the moment and getting to know a new team of people means happy hours and lunches out. I had soda three times this week, Chinese food one day, and some birthday cake too. So it’s no wonder that I’m still sitting at the same weight as last week.

Nailed my leg workout in my INB butterfly top and Altra Delilahs.

The good news is I did get all my workouts in again and I went up in weight on my leg press and leg extension. I did substitute some moves again when I didn’t have the equipment but overall I nailed the workouts! I also got some bonus points for moving the rest of my stuff into my new place and then remodeling the dining room.


So since my week two update is pretty boring how about I share some awesome news?!

I’m returning as an Altra Zero Drop ambassador for 2014! AND Altra has dropped the new Olympus. It’s max cushioning in a zero drop shoe with the same foot shaped toe box you love. I can’t wait to get my hands on a pair ASAP!

INKnBURN is debuting new designs for 2014. Check out these new additions to the lineup! I am so stoked for the Drifting Petals pullover! Don’t forget to use code ‘saratoldme’ for 15% off when you create an account. (There’s no spam!)


So there it is! My first week in a new job. Finished moving. Remodeled a room. Did all four of my workouts. Failed at my nutrition plan. Overall I will take it and refocus on doing better for week 3!

A Day For Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving friends!

Today I’m doing my best to be thankful for what I have instead of looking at what I do not have. So here’s what I’m celebrating today:

1. My daughters. They are the reason I keep moving forward and bettering myself. Today it’s just Gem and I hanging out at home. The weather prevented us from going to see our family which brings me to my second item….

2. Friends. My friends hold me up, support me, and kick me in the butt when needed. Today another one of my friends had no Thanksgiving plans. So we’re making it a day of fun instead. We’ll be having shepherd’s pie, chili, apple pie, chocolate cake, and hot chocolate while watching Christmas specials and playing board games.

3. Family. Even though we’re scattered over the east coast now we’re still a family. I never would have made it this far without them.

4. The obvious one… RUNNING! Today I celebrated my health and ability by heading out at sunrise to run (post hole?) through the snow and ice in the park to meet my mileage goal for the year!

Despite the 17* temps, the icy conditions, and it being a holiday there were still three other crazies in the park. I struggled against the part of my brain that told me to go home, pig out, and be warm. Having others out there encouraged me and reminded me why I love the community that surrounds my sport. Hitting my mileage goal over a month early despite all the setbacks of the last three months was just icing on the cake.

I came home and bragged to Gem that I’d reached my 1,300 mile goal and she asked what I’d run in previous years. So I graphed it out:

I didn’t realize this was a PR or just how far I’d come in the last 3 years. I have to say it’s a great feeling and it made me even more grateful for my amazing coach who got me through my first hundred, a 50 miler four weeks later, third woman at North Coast 24 Hour, and a marathon PR. My daughters who are excited by mommy’s running adventures and encourage me in my pursuits. My family who cheers me on while secretly worrying about my mental stability. My friends who listen sympathetically and then tell me to suck it up and get back to work. My teammates at FitFluential, INKnBURN, and Altra who prove to me on a daily basis that anything is possible with a good plan and hard work.

I am so blessed this holiday season and I hope all of you are as well! Share with me what has made your year and your Thanksgiving special!

Ski Slope Scramble

I started my ‘new job’ two weeks ago only to be informed I was being laid off after 13 days. This put a squash on any racing plans I may have had for at least the next few weeks. I switched my focus to training instead of racing and began adding speed work to my schedule. Today called for a 10 mile long run.

The Greater Pittsburgh Road Runners Club came to the rescue with a $1 race like the one Shane and I hosted last week. I headed to Boyce Park after a late breakfast for the 10am run. I say run and not race because 5 runners showed up for all three distances, 2 miles, 5 miles, and 10 miles. We started out by walking up a ski slope to the start line. What a warm up!

walking up the slope

After a brief description of course markings we were off. Three runners were doing the 5 mile and one other plus myself planned on 10. We scrambled up and down the slopes and over the trails on the backside of the mountains. After two days of speed work this week, the last one being yesterday, my legs were protesting long before I hit the final brutal climb of the loop.

Ski Slope fun!
I made the not-so-fun decision to cut my run short but instead of finishing with just 5 miles I would tack on a tour of the 2 mile loop. I got some quick instructions since there would be no one else on that loop and headed out. The last two miles of my day went quickly and I saw lots of wildlife. Before I knew it I was making the final climb up the last ski slope again and I was done.
I stuck around to cheer the last two runners in, the 10 miler and the last 5 miler. Then I chatted with everyone for a bit before heading out. All in all, I’ll take it. With the elevation change and tough trail sections I’m sure this was equivalent to a 10 miler. It took just as long! Now I get to taper and relax for 6 days heading into the Baker 50.

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.

Alpha Fitness 5k

After the Laurel Highlands Ultra relay yesterday (where I ran 24.5 miles of brutal, technical trail) my plan was to rest, nap, hydrate, eat, and pretty much do nothing today. I had gotten home somewhere around 1am and by the time I showered and crawled into bed it was nearly 2. I woke up to Shane getting ready for a local 5k at around 6:30 and rolled right back over. About an hour later my phone wouldn’t stop ringing and I finally gave in and answered.

Shane begged me to come down to the Alpha Fitness Highway to Healthy 5k. There were only 20-some people there and he thought I could win. I told him he was nuts since I already had major mileage on my legs from the All Stars Week mileage game. I was just ready to go back to bed when the little voice in the back of my mind said, “Three more miles could only help your miles game team. You don’t have to race.”

So I threw on some clothes and my trusty Altra Torins. I didn’t have time to do anything with my hair so I added a hat as well. No phone, keys, water, or anything besides my cup of coffee. I walked out the door and jogged down to the path. I found Shane and we got me registered. I drank my coffee and fretted about the burning scrapes on my leg from yesterday’s relay tumble and the aches I’ve already accumulated this week.

The race started a few minutes late and I lined up right up front. So much for not racing huh? I know from past experience that sometimes just showing up is enough to win in a small race. So I went for it. The horn sounded and I took off with the front pack. There were two men and a woman just in front of me. The men were pulling away but the woman was running my pace. I pulled up shoulder to shoulder with her and just hoped to hang on.

Mile 1: 7:50

As we approached the turn around I could feel the fatigue of all the heavy mileage settling in. It didn’t seem to matter how hard I pushed or how fast I turned over my legs. There was just no power left in my toe off and my pace began to slip. I high-fived my husband, who was leading, and then turned back toward the start. I saw the third woman was about a minute behind me and that gave me enough of a rush to keep moving despite slowly losing the lead woman.

Mile 2: 8:30

In the third mile I would have walked if our friend, Jennifer, hadn’t been in third place and gaining on me. I kept glancing over my shoulder and she would be a little closer every time. The jolt of adrenaline would improve my pace for a moment and then my body would begin to shut down again. I told myself I just had to hang on for second place. I would never forgive myself if I let Jennifer catch me now.

Mile 3: 8:50

I saw the finish line ahead and I took one more glance over my shoulder. Jennifer was only 20 or so seconds back now so I pushed as best as I could. That ended up being 8:30 pace for the last .13 miles but it was just enough. Jennifer finished 8 seconds behind me.

Final time: 26:21

5th overall, 2nd woman, 1st in the 20-29 age group. I also won a gift card for a manicure and pedicure in the chinese auction. They only give awards for the 1st overalls and the first in each age group so I got a smaller trophy for my age group win. Shane won overall and got a huge trophy!

Just goes to show it’s all about who shows up!

Our friends
(Shane and Emory in the back. Me, Jennifer, Lukas, Melanie, and Carina in the front.)
Got trophy?

Treadmill Troubles

As a mom of two and wife of a night shift worker, not to mention Pennsylvania native, I am often confined to the treadmill. This week was the end of my poor hamster wheel though. *insert sad face here*

Between Shane and I the treadmill has survived 3,500 miles of pounding in just three years. Sometime last night it decided to expire. I called the manufacturer and took off the hood to access the insides. What I found was complete carnage. Our newly replaced drive belt is already fraying apart. The roller pins are bent, almost broken. The walking belt is destroyed and ready to break at any moment. And the electronics are going haywire. It only turns on every few tries and in between it flashes random numbers and words, even while in the off position.

 Little pieces of our new drive belt everywhere.
Bent roller and more shredded belt.
So now we are relegated to outside running or no running at all while we search for an industrial strength treadmill that won’t break our budget. Hopefully we will find one soon!
In the meantime, the outdoors is offering up challenges of its own. Oh boy!

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! 😉

Run Like Bigfoot is Chasing You!

This weekend Shane and I ran the Bigfoot Half Marathon in Kittaning, PA. It’s a small race and very low key. The price is good thanks to cotton race shirts and no finisher medals. I had a small hope that I might be able to take an age group award at such a small event.

Race morning I woke up about 10 minutes before we needed to leave. I decided to roll over and go back to sleep but Shane dragged me out of bed. I threw on some clothes, took breakfast into the car with me, and somehow managed to get us to the YMCA in one piece and with a little time to spare. We checked in and I hit the rest rooms and then we lined up to start. The 5k and the half marathon started together but there was roughly 125 runners total so it really didn’t matter.

Here’s a pic from last weekend’s Just A Short Run 30k

I lined up about 1/3 of the way back from the starting line to allow the faster 5k runners some space. I probably should have moved up a little because I was dodging people from the gun until the first mile marker. I had planned to hold back and make this just another long run but I started to feel competitive as I looked up the trail and saw very few ponytails. I also could see another runner that I beat by just a bit last week and I couldn’t help wanting to beat him again.

I ran with another woman for the first 4-5 miles. We were putting out a good pace, right around 9:10-9:20 per mile. I couldn’t help worrying that she would surge and I would lose her though. So I made the first move, left her, and caught my rabbit. I passed him just before the turn around and then gapped him by maybe 1-2 minutes. Counting women on the way to the turn around I was in 11th place but I could tell the 10th place woman was fading quickly. Top 10 sounded like a good way to start my day.

This is Shane’s bib, shirt, and medal but I’m too lazy to take my own pic.
As I approached mile 8 I started to feel the effects of all the miles and racing I’ve been doing. My will and my legs were fading but I was slowly closing the gap on the 10th woman. Just as I caught her the woman I’d been running with at the beginning blew by us. She had to be doing sub-9 minute miles. I passed the now-11th woman and increased my pace again but I couldn’t catch the new number 10.
I started to drag again as I approached the 10 mile mark and the woman increased her lead. At this point my rabbit popped up right behind my shoulder and scared the heck out of me! I hadn’t expected him to catch me but I was ready for some company. We stuck together through the last 4-ish miles and put the hammer down, laying down a 9:05 pace for the rest of the way.
I kept trying to catch the woman ahead of me but she kept her pace steady and maintained her lead through the finish. I managed to surge at the end and beat my rabbit by 7 seconds which was somewhat satisfying although I wouldn’t have held that pace without him so it kind of evens out.
Shane got a pic of me crossing the line
My official time was 2:02:14. So freaking close to sub-2! If only I hadn’t slowed down from 8-10! I was 31/44 overall and 3/8 in my age group so I achieved my dream of getting a medal. Shane was 13th overall and 2nd in his age group so it was a good day for both of us. I celebrated by doing 7.5 more miles after lunch to make it 20.6 for the day and then doing 15 more today. I’d say a 62 mile week is a good way to celebrate my first AG award in a half marathon! 😉

Just a Short Run

Ever since Shamrock Marathon I’ve been trying to figure out what went wrong and find my mojo again. I think I’ve come to the conclusion that it was just a bad day on a course that didn’t suit my strengths and there was really nothing I could have done to change it. Thankfully redemption was only two weeks away.

I wasn’t planning on doing Just A Short Run but my friend, John, told me he wanted to run with me. Since we had such a blast at Spring Thaw I decided to go ahead. It helped that my coach assigned me 20-25 miles for this weekend and I didn’t want to run it alone.

And since I don’t have pics from JASR yet, I’ll include the halfway decent ones from Shamrock that MarathonFoto FINALLY got uploaded….

Altra Floater
Just A Short Run is held every spring and has several distances: 5k, 8 mile, half marathon, and 30k. I chose to do the 30k since it would allow me to get the closest to my prescribed long run for the week. John and several of our other friends were also in it for the long haul so at least I wouldn’t be lonely.
The race started at 8:30am and I *just* squeezed onto the last shuttle bus from the parking lot to the boathouse in the knick of time. I grabbed my bib, stuffed my swag bag into my drop bag, and headed over to the starting line. I left my drop bag in a planter and lined up with John, his wife, our friend Mike, and 400 or so other runners for the 30k.
While Shamrock was still fun
We started right on time and John and I ran together from the start. I quickly realized we were going faster than our planned 10 minutes/mile pace but it felt good and I just didn’t care to slow down. The race starts with a mostly uphill 5k+ loop which we completed in 35:16 (this doesn’t seem right to me but I think it’s gun time, not chip time). After that we went out for three 5 mile loops around the lake.
John and I chatted and joked as usual. I felt pretty good and John said he felt surprisingly good considering he’d taken a pretty good tumble on his mountain bike last weekend. So we continued with our faster-than-planned pacing. First 5 mile loop in 49:45.
Our second 5 mile loop I could feel the residual fatigue from Shamrock and trying to amp my training back up. I decided to finish off this loop with John and then drop back. It worked out just fine with my second loop clocking in at 47:49.
The final loop I dropped down my pace and walked for about 5-6 minutes right off the bat. I took an extra GU, drank some extra water, picked up a Gatorade at the aid station, and got my iPod going. I lost a lot of time walking for so long but my legs felt practically normal again when I started running again. I walked most of the uphills on this loop but still made pretty good time. Final loop completed in 55:39 for a total time of 3:07:46.
I wore my new Altra tank for JASR
I crossed the finish line with plenty of gas left in the tank and felt ready to go out for my solo miles. I grabbed my medal and some Gatorade, caught up with John and our other friends, and then headed out to make it 20+ miles for the day.
JASR swag
I ran about 1/4 of the way around the lake from the boathouse to the traffic signal and then up the hill to the pool where my car was parked. From there I did two laps around the pool which were about 3/4 of a mile each. I didn’t push the pace at all. I stayed comfortable (aside from the fact that I had a giant medal crammed in my sports bra). and ended up with 22 miles in 3:49. I could have continued on to 25 no problem. In the end I was just bored and I wanted to go home and spend time with the kids so I figured 22 was good enough.
Happy Easter from Team Brunazzi!

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!

Spring Thaw

Today was my last long run before taper. It’s hard to believe it’s almost over! Of course, then the real fun will begin. 😉

I signed Shane and I up for the Spring Thaw 20 mile race. This race has 10, 15, or 20 mile options and attracts around 1,000 people. It’s pretty large for a local race! It consists of 5 mile loops around North Park lake. This would be Shane’s one and only 20 mile run and my final run of 20+ miles.

I haven’t felt well the last couple days. A sore throat and some heavy fatigue left my workouts lacking. I somewhat gave in to the feelings of impending illness and cut back my scheduled mileage a bit. I figured it was better to have a good last long run than run every mile to plan and end up actually sick right in my taper.

I picked out an outfit to fit with the 40 degree temps and a breeze. My INKnBURN denim print pants and Sakura pullover with my Altra Superiors. For the exterior I had a light jacket, a hat, and gloves. I also put my Altra logo tattoos on the back of my neck since that was the only skin I planned to have exposed. And I was ready to go!

We picked up our friend, Chris, at 7:30 and headed to North Park for packet pick up. There was no parking at the boathouse where the race started and ended so we parked about a half mile away at the spillway and walked in. We got our bags, bibs, and shirts and I felt a little luckier when I got bib 111.

It was still pretty early so we chatted with a lot of our friends. One of our friends, Jason, agreed to run with Shane and help him get through his first 20 miler. I also ran into a few of our other friends, Allison, Louis, Mike and Michelle. Soon enough everyone started to wander out to line up. I lingered in the warmth until we were asked to line up. I lined up between the 9:30 and 10:00 pace signs.

Funny shirt

A few minutes later we took off. I started out conservatively and watched as people flew by on all sides. I had to keep reminding myself that I had to run my own race. Around 3 miles in I began to pick up the pace. Mike and his friend, John, also happened to catch me at this point. They were running around 9:20-9:30 per mile so I decided to stay with them for awhile. John was wearing a kilt and pretty soon the Scottish jokes and drinking songs were pouring out. It made the first loop very enjoyable. I crossed the 5 mile mark at 48:45.

I continued to run with Mike and John for the second loop. I don’t remember much except that the pace kept falling and I was surprised I was keeping up. We crossed the 10 mile mark at 1:34:28 and Mike was done. John and I continued on our own to the third loop.

Elevation profile

The third loop things were starting to get harder. I knew that I was very close to a 2 hour half marathon and I asked John to not slow the pace until we passed the 13.1 mark. We pushed through and my watch beeped the half marathon at 2:01:2x. That’s over an 8 minute PR! That accomplishment brought back some energy and I managed to keep the pace steady for the rest of the loop. We hit the mats for 15 miles at 2:21:41.

The last loop was the hardest 5 miles of my life. My brain said it was okay to slow down, my legs told me to take a walk break, but my pride said it wasn’t worth it if I threw away my great first 15 for a crappy finish. I kept pushing and I could hear John struggling beside me. The cheery banter of the early miles was long gone by this point. It was all we could do to move forward.

At mile 19 we came upon Louis walking slowly. I had expected him to finish long before me. I told him to help John and I get to the finish and that seemed to perk him up. He began to jog and then to run. Soon he was well ahead of me and I was pulling away from John. All I wanted was to finish so I could stop running. Louis finished 48 seconds ahead of me and John 23 seconds behind me.


My official time was 3:10:50 although that is apparently gun time and not chip time. I am absolutely thrilled with that anyway! I was 110/152 overall and 6/8 in my age group though so I guess I still have a lot of improvement to make ahead!

Week in Review: Week 8

Two months down already! I can’t believe I’ll be starting to taper for Shamrock in just another month or so! This week was a great week aside from the dog incident. I also got in some fun on the trails so I have some pictures to make this a little less boring.

Shane decided to jump a stream instead of taking the bridge

Monday: 4.5 miles of hill work. 10 minute warm up, 5 minutes at 8% incline, 2 minutes at 4% incline, repeat. Really happy with how much easier the hills are becoming! I actually forgot I was on 8% at one point and tried to increase it!

Taking a tree over the water

Tuesday: 50 minute tempo run. 7.25 miles. I actually didn’t feel like this was tempo effort. Guess I’m getting faster!

Sleep running? 🙂

Wednesday: 7.25 miles of 9:1 run/walk. Not much to say about this workout.

I took the bridge

Thursday: 6.5 miles including 8 x 400m repeats. I really surprised myself by being able to complete this one at the prescriped paces.

Shane stopped to do pull-ups during the run

Friday: This is the day I was jumped on by the dog. It should have been a repeat of Wednesday. Instead it ended up being 1.14 miles on the trail and 1.86 miles on the treadmill to make 3 miles total.


Saturday: 18 mile long run. I had to break up my long run because Shane’s parents were watching the girls. I ran 15 miles in South Park and then ran the 3 miles home from his parent’s house to our house.

Tiny Shane but pretty trees

Sunday: This was scheduled to be a rest day but since Friday got so messed up I went ahead and did 3.5 miles of 9:1 run/walk. It felt fine which I was pretty excited about the day after a long run!

Total: 50 miles in under 9 hours of running! Woah!

Counting Blessings

This week is going so much better than the last couple. I’m finally feeling the extra energy from training instead of feeling tired all the time. I’ve been catching up on housework and homework. I’ve even been playing more with the kids. And after the news about the shootings in Connecticut today I’m really glad that I have. I’m not going to rehash it any further than saying my heart breaks for the families and friends and everyone affected.

Ash squishing me on the couch a few days ago.
I’ve been thinking about how lucky I am this week and how happy I am that I have a perfectly average life. I have a husband and kids and dogs and mountains of laundry and homework and dishes. I also have the ability to run and lift heavy weights and give back to the community. I signed up to volunteer for a 5k race in a few weeks. The race is being put together by Team Odysseyand benefits the Children’s Neuroblastoma Cancer Foundation. Being able to give my time to help such a good cause feels very good and I hope it will make a small difference to a family affected by this disease.
Blessed to be able to move
As I finish up finals this week I can hardly believe that I only have 12 classes left! I can’t believe I’m going to have a ‘real’ degree before I’m 30. I also can’t believe I’m going to be 28 in less than 2 weeks! There is just so much going on that makes my life amazing.
 My living room transformed into a train station yesterday.
I love being a small part of wonderful brands and companies. FitFluential, INKnBURN, and Aquaphor have all touched my life and my training. And now I’ve applied to be an Altra Zero Drop ambassador! I’ll find out in only a few weeks if I’ve been accepted. (Feel free to tell them how awesome I am!) Either way I’m still in love with their shoes. I’ve been running in my Superiors more and more and I’m hoping they’ll be the shoe that gets me through my first one hundred at Burning River.
Altras in Action
I’m loving every minute of my trail runs. I feel stronger, faster, happier… I’m blessed to have a trail just out my back door to run on. For the kids, the dogs, my own mental health I appreciate having that crushed limestone right outside.
Happy trails….
Everything in life is really about perspective. And I’ve realized that everything hard about life is what makes it worth it. When my muscles ache, my lungs burn, my feet blister, my mind gets foggy with fatigue and trying to force knowledge into it, my hands dry out from dish washing, etc. I need to remember that life is worth living and celebrating every day. And I will choose to celebrate by moving, breathing, enjoying and even indulging a little sometimes…. like those cookies at the race meeting! 😉

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