Saturday, June 30, 2012

Half-marathon training update

I know, I know, I've been a terrible blogger lately! My sincere apologies. My schedule for the past 5 weeks or so has been alternating one week out of town, one week home, etc. In the midst of all my travel and lack of sleep, I manifested a fierce cold which eventually became a case of laryngitis and left me cranky and without a voice for several days. I am happy to report that despite the various obstacles I've encountered, I have remained consistent with my half-marathon training!

As I've mentioned before I am training with a Galloway running group. We meet at the ridiculously early hour of 7am every Saturday morning for a long run. A couple of weeks ago I completed my longest run to date - 9 miles!! We had 10 miles on the schedule for today but due to the insane temperatures happening on the east coast, they scaled it back to 8 miles. I chose to stay home and complete my miles in the comfort of my own neighborhood rather than run with the group today. This was partly due to the temperatures but also due to wanting to prove myself wrong.

See, on the last couple of long runs with my pace group I have found myself saying "I'm so glad we run together, I don't think I could do X miles on my own." That was not a line of thought that I wanted to get stuck in because I won't necessarily have my pace group at my side during the half. So I decided to show myself that yes, I can run X miles all by myself. I slept in this morning, if you can call waking up at 6:30am "sleeping in" and set off on a journey around my neighborhood. I've never run more than about 5 miles at a time around here so I had no idea where to go to fulfill my distance but the route I took ended up being pretty perfect.

During my first mile, my legs hated me. I feel that often the first mile of a long run is more difficult to get through than any "wall" I've encountered to date! After that I was cruising and I felt great. I had put on my "loudest" outfit this morning - a neon green tech shirt, black shorts and my hot pink Zensah leg sleeves. I knew it was colorful and obnoxious but I was shocked my how much attention I received. Maybe my fellow runners and walkers were delirious due to the heat but everyone had enormous smiles on their faces as they wished me a good morning and a great weekend. I have said it 5,000 times before but runners are just the nicest, most amazing group of like-minded people I've ever encountered. It was excellent motivation to keep going!

I kept an extremely (surprisingly?) steady pace for the first 7 miles of my run. By the time I began mile 8, the shade had escaped me and I was running in mostly direct sunlight. My water supply was also dangerously low and I was thirsty! I knew there was a water cooler on the golf course about a mile away from home and I am so thankful for that knowledge and for that delicious, cold water. I ended up walking the rest of the way home, trying to cool down and collect myself. Even with the water stop and the mile walk, it was my fastest long run to date! I ended up doing about 8.22 miles in 1:48:45. Awesome. It is so reassuring to know that it is barely July and I am already running 8-9 miles! By the time November rolls around, I should be able to go the distance of 13.1 without a problem.

Which leads me to an exciting announcement... I signed up for my second half-marathon! I know, I haven't even completed the first one yet. But I am confident that I will complete it successfully. Did I mention my second half has the name diva in the title, is run at the beach, provides runners with a tiara and a boa, AND champagne and a rose delivered by a firefighter at the finish line? I can't make this stuff up people. It very well may be the run of my dreams lol. It's the Divas Half-Marathon in Myrtle Beach and takes place on April 28, 2013. I can't wait!!!

I've got a lot more to share with you guys but it's a little more personal and I want to collect my thoughts before spilling my guts out. In the meantime, I have been nominated for blog awards by two fabulous ladies and because I'm a big party pooper I chose not to play along. However, I'm extremely grateful for the kind words and would appreciate if you would please pay a visit to Michelle and Melissa!! Thank you!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Racing for a cure and hiking for my health - Part 2

My apologies if I left some of you in suspense with my last post! I felt it was too long already and that I should split it in half. I was also exhausted and needed to get to bed!

So where were we? Oh yes, the Wobble. If you were expecting to actually see the video of me dancing, I'm sorry to disappoint you! I've only seen it once myself and it's not in my possession. But that experience was oddly liberating for me. You see, up until a few years ago I had always been the wallflower. I hated attention and would do everything in my power to NOT stand out. I would sit on the sidelines at school dances or weddings because I was too self-conscious to put myself in a position where people might actually see me and pass judgement on me & my weight.

The older I get and the more weight I lose, the more I notice a change in my confidence (or my don't-give-a-fuck-ness). I surprise and impress myself every time I run a distance farther than the last and realize... hey, that wasn't so bad. I surprise myself in the middle of Zumba class when I catch a glimpse of my reflection in the window and think "wow... you're dancing and it actually looks good!" I used to be so overweight and clumsy and ashamed of how I looked that I wouldn't try new things or push my comfort limits. So for me to jump in front of a crowd of people and start dancing without even a thought as to what people would think or how I would look, that was a huge victory for me.

I've adopted a theme for my life in recent years and that is essentially to do the stuff I was too afraid to do, or didn't think I could do, back when I was at my heaviest. Achieving these small victories reminds me (better than any number on the scale ever could) exactly how far I have come, and for that I am grateful. In keeping with that theme, not only did I run a 5K on June 9th... I decided to go for a hike that same afternoon. I like to refer to this adventure as Bang & Alan vs. Nature. My friend Alan (from Sweating Until Happy) and I had been talking about trying a hike at one of the local parks and we finally made plans to do it. It was his first hike ever and I guess it was my first "real" hike since the only other trail I've been on is short and relatively flat.

I wore my ass-kicking shirt for our hike.
It held true: my feet did hurt & we DID kick major ass!
We set off that afternoon on an ambitious 7.6 mile hike in the woods, not quite sure what to expect. Let me remind you I had just run 3.1 miles earlier that morning!! I was nervous about the distance, even suggesting we could turn around if it got too difficult, but Alan shut that down right away. I appreciated his confidence and commitment to the challenge ahead, and I must say I couldn't have asked for a better hiking companion! The trail was considered "moderate" by the trusty map I'd snagged pre-hike and it definitely was not easy. Neither of us had hiking boots/shoes and that ended up being our biggest obstacle, as the ground was pretty uneven. I was hugely impressed by the handful of trail runners who passed us over the course of nearly 4 hours in the woods. It was difficult enough walking those 7.6 miles, I can't imagine running them!

We stopped here for a re-fuel and hydration break!
During our hike we saw frogs, lizards, snakes, hungry bees and fish! One of my favorite things was how quiet and peaceful it was out there. At times it felt like we should just be quiet and enjoy the beautiful surroundings. The last two miles of our hike were the most difficult. We were both pretty tired by that point and were unsure of how much further we needed to go. Exhaustion started to set in and I swear it seemed every 100 feet one of us (mostly me) would exclaim "I think we're almost there!" only to be proven wrong shortly thereafter. I chose this time to remind Alan (as he had asked me to) how excited he had been prior to the hike. We channeled every ounce of energy we had left and eventually found our way out of the trees and in to the parking lot, where we celebrated our victory with a high-five.

It was a difficult workout but one I would definitely do again... just with better shoes next time! Alan's account of our adventure differs (wildly) from my recollection but it was so entertaining I thought I'd share:

The End

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Racing for a cure and hiking for my health - Part 1

This week has been absolutely outstanding for me as far as being active. It was a difficult and busy work week and I am proud to say that I effectively channeled all of that frustration and stress in to my workouts. Monday and Wednesday are usually my easy run days but this Wednesday I tried a new route around the neighborhood and ended up logging 5.5 miles! Tuesday and Thursday are the nights I go to Zumba. I am trying to wean myself off of Thursday night Zumba in lieu of strength training or another cross-training workout but I am just head over heels in love with my Zumba class. I don't want to stop! So, maybe I won't.

Tuesday's Zumba class was excellent. It was a free class to try to drum up more members and we ended up having almost 50 people that night!! It was truly a party and I was so thrilled to see some of those new faces come back for more on Thursday. This week our instructor, Katie, (re-)introduced us to a song that has made its way around the wedding and club circuit. At first I thought she was going to make us do the Macarena or Electric Slide but thank goodness it was neither of those. Nope, we learned a little something called the Wobble and I loved it.

Friday was my obligatory rest day and thank goodness I rested because Saturday was a whirlwind! I woke up bright and early to meet up with Knittnerd for the Komen Race for the Cure 5K. The weather was amazingly perfect when we arrived around 6:30am. We split up to choose comfy spots near the start line but there were so many people that I didn't actually cross the start line until almost two minutes after the race begin! Crazy! Prior to the race I had considered doing my 2&1 intervals but I didn't want to carry yet another instrument while running, so I just kind of went with the flow.

In my post-race delirium, I took a picture. Finish line (left) & Start (right).
Once I crossed the start line I tried to set a pace for myself. On my Monday run I had started off way too fast and really gassed myself by the end of my 3 miles, so I took great care to start off slow. I kept a nice steady pace and tried to take in as much of my surroundings as I could. Several of my family members have battled with breast cancer, including my cousin Lucy who sadly lost the fight two years ago. I took some time to reflect on my loved ones and tears came to my eyes as I read the statements on the backs of those running ahead of me. "I'm running for my mom." "In honor of my Aunt Cindy." "I have been cancer-free for 3.5 years."

It really resonated with me that we were all running together for this cause, for these people near and dear to our hearts, and for ourselves. Before I knew it, I saw the Mile 1 marker and I was feeling good. The split time was slower than I'd have liked and I decided to step it up a bit. Of course this is when the hills really kicked in. They were challenging but less so than the hills I encountered during my first 5K. I could tell that my condition has improved vastly in just a few months and this made me smile. It seemed there were groups of people cheering for us on every corner and this made me smile too.

I gave a thumbs-up to every single person who made eye contact with me. The elderly woman sitting on her front porch, a big SURVIVOR sign hanging behind her. The little girl with a water gun, squirting runners to cool us off. The woman with a yard full of pink ribbon flags, and the man with the sprinkler who actually THANKED me for running. That really warmed my heart. What brought me to tears for a second time though, was the church choir standing on the corner of one of our turns and singing for us. It was right around this time that I passed the Mile 2 marker. I knew I didn't have too much further to go but I was starting to get a little winded from those hills. I pushed through.

I kept cruising at my steady pace, for some reason expecting to see a 2.5 mile sign which never appeared (I have no idea why I thought there would be one). My thought was once I knew there was only about half a mile left, I would crank up my pace. By the time I realized I was almost at the finish it was too late. I started sprinting, which struck me as odd because I don't sprint. That became obvious to me as I rounded the corner with the finish line in sight and.. I had to stop to walk. Man that bummed me out. I took about 30 seconds to catch my breath and took off running again until finally I crossed the finish line. My official time was 37:44... 6 seconds faster than my first 5K. I have mixed emotions about it but mostly I am happy.

Post-race bananas! This made me almost as happy as the Wobble did. Thanks, Whole Foods!

After I finished, I walked around a little bit to cool down. Knittnerd and I had agreed on a meeting place for after the race but for some reason I went pretty much everywhere BUT there. I ended up wandering back to the finish line and caught her shortly after her triumphant finish. After the race we went around to check out the various booths and collect some swag. All of a sudden I heard a familiar song in the distance. My body started doing the moves I had learned just a few days prior... it was the Wobble.

I looked at Knittnerd and said (with a crazy look in my eye) "Can I run over there and Wobble?!?" She looked at me like I was insane and I took off and jumped in the crowd next to some attractive tutu-wearing dudes. I wobbled. We wobbled. People were looking at me like "what is this crazy white girl doing?" and for one of the first times in my life, I didn't mind. When the song ended, Knittnerd told me she had caught the whole thing on video and only then was I slightly mortified. Slightly.

To be continued...

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Half-marathon training begins with a Bang!

Three posts in as many days, I hope I'm not exceeding my blogging quota here! I am just way too excited to not blog about my morning. You see, it's barely after lunch and I've already done so many things today that were firsts for me!! It all began when I willingly woke up at 5:40am (aka the butt crack of dawn) on a Saturday. Those who know me know that this does not happen and for this reason alone I should probably have my head examined. However it was for a good cause, as today I began my formal half-marathon training program!

The program itself actually began while I was out of town but I jumped right in at week 3 and made myself at home. The running group uses the Galloway method of training and there are a LOT of people involved. I'm talking hundreds of people, here. The benefit to that is a) it must be pretty good if all of these people are a part of it, and b) they are able to break the group down in to tons of pace groups so you are running or walking with people your own speed. This right here was quite possibly my favorite part because my past attempts at running or walking with people always made me feel bad because our paces never matched up.

When I arrived at our location, I approached one of the group leaders who asked me what my race times were like. Since I only had my 5K to draw from, and because today's route was a hilly one, she said to be conservative with which group I chose and I ended up in the 12:00/mile group. Having never run with a group before I had no idea what to expect and I was super nervous that I wouldn't be able to keep up. Around 7am we were given permission to start running and the fastest groups took off first with about 30-60 seconds in between waves.

Once it was our turn, off we went. At first my legs were so confused, after only having run once in the last few weeks. I would say it took a good half mile (and a giant hill) for me to find my legs but once I did, I felt amazing. We had a decent-sized pace group, probably around 20 people and I enjoyed talking to most of those I encountered. Everyone was so encouraging and genuinely excited when they discovered this was my first time running with the group! As headphones are prohibited on our training runs, it was yet another first for me to actually enjoy a conversation with people while running. I was quite proud of myself that I even had the breath to do so! For the record, I wore only my heart rate monitor and I left my phone in the car. It was so liberating to run virtually "naked"!

The first couple of miles of our run were on residential streets but eventually we got to the greenway which was far more pleasant to look at. Just before the halfway point we had to run through a tunnel and as we were entering, another (faster) pace group had already turned around and was running toward us from the other end of the tunnel. With my sunglasses on it was virtually pitch black in that tunnel but as the two groups passed each other we all whooped and hollered and gave each other high fives. It was one of my favorite running moments yet! Just before the turn around we got to run over a bridge that crosses the highway. That was yet another cool moment, to see cars driving past beneath us (not to mention the wonderful breeze up on the bridge).

As we began to head back to our start point, some of the seasoned members mentioned that our 5-mile run was measured in "RW miles" (RW is the group/race director). Apparently he's not so accurate with the mileage and his distances are always further than anticipated. It was then I found out that we had just run about 3 miles and had another 3 to go. I didn't even feel tired, I was just so proud and excited about having the ability and opportunity to do what I was doing.

By the time we made it back to our start location, we had run 6.3 miles in just under an hour and a half. That is twice as far as the 5K I did a couple of months ago!! When I looked at my watch and realized what I had done, I was in disbelief. This was the farthest distance AND the longest length of time I have ever run in my life!!! I am truly so proud. Not only that, but I realized 6.3 is almost half... of a half! If I can run 6.3 miles on June 2nd, I can most definitely run 13.1 miles by November 4th. And, I was able to keep up with my pace group! In fact I'm pretty sure after some more consistent training on my part, I will be able to move up to a quicker group soon enough.

After the run we headed in to Capital RunWalk who kindly provided bagels, juice and an interesting presentation about running gear (you know me, accessory junkie). I had seen their new tech tees on twitter and my eyes lit up when I found a purple one in my size. I also purchased a GymBoss, which is an interval timer you can clip to your sports bra or belt. Since the Galloway program utilizes a run/walk method, I decided the timer would be beneficial to my at-home training (and way smaller/lighter than carrying around my iPhone). I am still beaming from the excitement of this morning. Who knows, maybe I'll become a morning person after all! Ha!!!

Have you ever participated in a running group or race training program?
What was your experience like?!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Home sweet freakin' home (my whirlwind tour of two cities)

Time to catch up! I am so glad it is Friday and it is storming outside so I have every excuse to stay in and relax. This will be my first weekend at home in over two weeks! A couple weeks ago I attended a work conference out West and scheduled some extra time for sightseeing. It was awesome (and exhausting)! I finally got to see what In-N-Out Burger is all about and I ordered my burger animal-style... twice in one week (oops).

It is a canyon and it is grand. I felt like I was on a movie set.
A coworker and I took trips to the Grand Canyon (oooh) and Red Rock Canyon (ahhh), and of course we spent one afternoon/evening on the Vegas strip. We walked in excess of 4.5 miles that day, which is great because I was super bummed to find out that the hotel fitness center had extremely limited hours which did not work with my conference schedule. I ended up getting creative one day and swam laps while coworker shouted study questions at me. I even did some pool running, which I'm pretty sure looked really strange.

The water show at the Bellagio always makes me think of Oceans Eleven.

My favorite excursion was the tour we took of Red Rock Canyon. It's offered by Scoot City Tours and I highly recommend looking in to them if you're ever in Vegas or Sedona. We got to drive around in 2-passenger scooter cars!! OK, I let coworker drive because his eyes lit up like a kid on Christmas morning when we got in the scooters. Plus, I was more than happy to enjoy the sights and take the photos! It was the most beautiful, funny, relaxing morning I have had in a while and it was awesome.

Look at the scooter cars!! Look at the view! How could anyone not like this?!

After an exhausting week out West I flew home, spent one night in my bed, woke up and got in a car en route to New York for a family wedding. The exhaustion continued! Having grown up in NY I was excited to return home to some of my favorite foods that just don't taste right outside of NY - pizza and bagels. Oh, the amount of pizza and bagels I ate! I tried to balance out the rest of my meals with salad and other light fare but I definitely indulged on this trip.

The wedding was completely awesome. I have never been to a wedding where the bride/groom's family rivaled the craziness of my own but this was a match made in heaven! At one point half of the wedding guests were wearing bonnets crafted from their dinner napkins and the bride's brother was hanging from a chandelier. I seriously can't wait to see the pictures. While in NY I fully intended on running around the neighborhood at least two of the five days I was in town. That never happened but I did dance my ass off at the wedding. I have noticed a trend now, at the past few weddings I've attended, where I completely miss the arrival of dessert and cake because I'm still on the dance floor. It's a pretty good trade-off actually!

Look, a squirrel!
After a LOT of time (50+ hours!!) spent sitting down over the last two weeks and having eaten a lot of delicious food, I was sure I had gained at least five pounds. Last night I committed myself to going to Zumba and being active. I showed up and chatted with my Zumba friends and waited. And waited. And waited. Twenty-five minutes later we finally received word that our instructor was sick and class was cancelled. SO disappointing!

By that time it was 8pm and I knew the sun would be setting shortly. I went home, jumped out of the car and went for a 2.2 mile run. A few minutes in to the run I realized I was still wearing my (completely unsupportive) Zumba shoes instead of my running shoes but I kept going. It felt good to finally be active in a way that was familiar to my body. I have really missed running over the past couple of weeks and I have noticed a difference in my body and my attitude when I do not run.

Today is my Friday Weigh-Day and when I stepped on that scale this morning I nearly fell off in shock. Not only had I not gained five pounds, I actually LOST 1.6 pounds! What the what?! Not that I'm complaining... Tomorrow begins my half-marathon training and I will be waking up at the butt-crack of dawn on a Saturday. This both upsets and pleases me. We shall see how it goes but I'm extremely excited to be part of such a large running group. More updates to come, enjoy your weekend!!