Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Tapering for the GRE

I am two weeks away from my next big race, and my taper has begun.  Unfortunately, this isn't a running or triathlon race.  It is FINALLY time to take the GRE.  Yeah, that test I have been complaining about for six months. 

Every free moment I have, I am on my computer studying.  I am studying for school. I am studying for this test.  I am getting it all done so that I can apply to school in December.  I like to remind myself that less is more during this taper time, just like in marathon training.  I have been quick to let distractions take over my time in order to let my brain come into the big event well rested.  Distractions like:

Going for a New England fall bike ride during the calm before the storm...

Turning my new Altra Zero Drop shoe box into a second grade school project...

Blogging is also a welcome distraction as is reading everyone else's blog.  Unfortunately I have some big study workouts that I need to hit before my big day, so I better spend the rest of my creativity on writing my Abnormal Psychology paper and get back to work.  My race report for this event may not be as fun to read, but I am hoping it will be as successful as some of my most recent races.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Race Recap of Runner's World Half Marathon 2012

Finally, finally, I get to tell you about my race.  If you are friends with me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter, you already know the ending to my story.  But, I am still excited to tell you how it all went down on Sunday.

So Saturday, I spent the day with Amanda, Jess, and Elizabeth.

We drove the course in the morning where I managed to get us lost way too many times, but I think we all got a pretty good idea of what to expect for the race.  What I took from our course preview was that there was going to be a lot of hills and turns.

I also knew we were in for a beautiful race and I could wait to run it.  After seeing the difficulty of the course, I revised my expectations in my head.  Instead of a 1:35ish race, I was hoping to go under 1:38.  A 1:38 would be a huge PR so I was OK with it, and changing my expectations allowed me to relax a little.

On the morning of the race, Amanda drove us to the race start around 7:15.  We had no idea how traffic and parking would be so we got there early and stayed warm in the car.  We made our bathroom trips in the casino, no cold porta potties!  With less than 20 minutes to go we started walking to the start line and Amanda and I went on an easy 5 minute warm up to get our legs moving.

The starting line was CROWDED.  I tried pushing my way up as far as I could and ended up right next to the 1:40 pace group.  I wasn't planning on running with a pacer so was hoping I wouldn't be stuck in too much of a crowd.  Matt Long blew a horn and we were off.

Mile 1 was down a pretty nice hill.  I knew mile 2 was a pretty good uphill so I pretty much let my legs carry me at a fast controlled pace down the hill.  Mile 1: 7:01.  My goal pace was 7:15, so too fast.  Mile 2 was a pretty big hill and went right past Lehigh University's campus.  It was beautiful!  I was still feeling good, and hit mile 2 in 7:08.

From mile 3 until about 7/8, I felt like all I was doing was climbing hill after hill.  It was very draining physically.  Mentally, I allowed myself to slow down going up the hills.  I didn't freak out when I saw the pace slowing on my Garmin as I knew I had a lot of downhill on the second half of the course to look forward to.  Miles 5-6 was through a BEAUTIFUL neighborhood where RunningSkirts had decorated the porta potties pink.  There were quite a few hills in this neighborhood, and this is when I really felt like I was racing as I kept jockeying for position with a few people around me.  These were all of my hardest miles of the day and these were my splits:

Miles 3-8: 7:17, 7:12, 7:36, 7:27, 7:16, 7:34.

This race, I decided to follow my coach's instructions and take more gels than I am used to.  I took the first gel 25 minutes into the race and my second gel at around mile 7.  I was really feeling sluggish between miles 7.5-8.5, which felt like a long flat stretch but appears to have been slightly downhill.  Luckily the gel kicked in and once I hit mile 9 (7:20), I felt like I was moving at a normal pace again.

Mile 10 was the last big hill of the day.  I finally could feel the end in sight so decided to push myself going up the hill.  Knowing that Ashley, another blogger, would be at mile 10 also helped me to push hard up the hill.  This is also when I finally lost the girls I had been running with the whole time as my pace was no longer slowing.

Miles 10-11: 7:17, 7:19

At mile 11, I took a half a gel.  Yes, another one 2 miles from the finish line, but I was TIRED and was hoping that I could kick it up a little bit at the end.  After taking the gel, I tried my best to pick up the pace and hold it as close to my goal pace as I could.  (At this point, I had no idea what my total time was, my Garmin is set to see only the time of my current mile.)

Mile 12: 7:02

I felt fast at this point but also worried that I couldn't hold on until the end.  The Mile 12 mile marker was slightly further than I expected, but I tried not to let that upset me.  Mile 12.5 was going back up mile 1's hill.  This was not fun at all, but I was not going to slow down at that point.

Mile 13:  7:04
(So tired and focused on the clock and obviously let my form go.)

We rounded a corner to head toward the finish line and I turned off my iPod.  I wanted to enjoy those last moments.  Unfortunately, there was no enjoying as I saw the clock had a 1:35 on it (I knew I had at least a 10 second cushion.).  There was no way I was going to let that click over so I took off staring at that clock.  I saw nothing the whole way to the finish line but that clock.

Final time: 1:35:56

Altra Ambassador, Amanda, Kristen, myself, and Harold

Post-race I was walking around with a smile pasted on my face that you couldn't erase.  I had ran an almost 6 minute PR on a hilly course, hit my A goal, and negative splitted my race.  (48:07 and 47:49--not huge difference between the two halves of the course but this is huge for me)

I can not say enough good things about the entire Runner's World Weekend.  I had an amazing time there and am so sad my experience is over.  I needed a break from life this past week, and I can't believe I was so fortunate to have had my dream weekend be my break.

Thank you to FitFluential for allowing me to attend this weekend.  And thank you to Runner's World for hosting us bloggers and taking such great care of us. 

Sad to say goodbye to these ladies.

My fall season is complete and ended perfectly.  I will be resting for a few weeks and then finally begin marathon training.

**I was not compensated for any of my Runner's World Weekend posts.  I was provided a race entry into the half marathon, but all other expenses I paid for myself.  All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

What I Took Home from My Runner's World Weekend

Day 2 and 3 of the Runner's World weekend was running everything, and it was AMAZING.  Four days of non-stop running talk is a dream come true for this running obsessed girl.

We had a group run with Bart Yasso on Friday morning where I loved chatting with my new friends on an easy run around the town of Bethlehem.

Rainy group run.  
(Photo from Harold.)

Breakfast was provided by Altra Zero Drop Footwear and then we had presentations all morning from Altra and Icon Health & Fitness.  I don't think I could sum up all the presentations in one post so I am going to post some of the things I learned that I immediately took advantage of.  I plan on speaking more in depth about Icon Heath & Fitness and Altra once I have a chance to further make use of their products.  Although at this time I can say, I am loving my new Altra shoes.  We also received a few things from FreeMotion Fitness Apparel, another Icon company, and wow, I am very happy with their clothes.

(Photo from Harold.)

The founder of Altra, Golden Harper, spoke first to us about his company and the importance of running technique.  Golden's story included setting the world record for the fastest, youngest marathon, a 2:45 at the age of 12. He grew up in his parent's running store where he told us about taking apart shoes and altering them to allow for better running form.  He felt that a zero drop shoe was the key to better running form as it helped you to avoid heel striking and to run how we were meant to run.

Golden led a running clinic for us.  During my half marathon on Sunday, I constantly reminded myself of Golden's tips and I truly believed my running had already improved.  Golden believes in 4 techniques that allow you to be a better runner without even changing your shoes.  They are:

  1. Balanced Forward Posture--This includes a slight lean at the ankle and keeping your head up and your chest forward.  He mentioned that if you start feeling like you are losing your posture to throw your arms up in the air in order to return to the proper running form.
  2. Compact Arm Swing--This was the tip I took to the most.  I see my terrible arm swing in so many pictures.  Your elbows should remain behind your shoulders.  Your arms should not swing across your body at all.  Look at the elites and mimic their arm swing, it is probably way more efficient than you are used to.
  3. Proper Foot Placement--Land under a bent knee, and avoid reaching and over-striding.  Again, another tip I really focused on.  This will protect you from all sorts of injuries and make you more efficient.
  4. 180 Steps/Minute--Keep those feet moving.
After our Icon Health & Fitness presentations, it was time to for our private session with Shalane Flanagan!!!  I had almost forgotten about this as I already felt like I had taken away so much from the weekend.

Shalane was so fun to listen to.  She is such a real and sweet person, yet so incredible.  She told us a story about how she used to picture Kara Goucher's face in her head during tough workouts and now she and Kara picture Kenyans in their head.  During the women's forum that Shalane was a part of, she told us a summary of what went down at the Olympics.  I learned SO much from what she described.  She talked of putting herself mentally in a place where she was hurting but was pretty much on autopilot.  She pushed herself beyond her limit that day and finished in an amazing 10th place.  When she dropped to the ground, she literally could no longer move.  She used up every bit of everything she had that day.  

I am wearing my new FreeMotion top and Brooks shorts.

This speech taught me that running is hard for everyone, even the elites.  We all need to find it in ourself to push past that voice that is telling us we need to stop.  Shalane had said up until the very end she kept thinking she was going to quit.  She didn't think she was going to finish that race.  But she did.  Amazing.

On Saturday, I had the opportunity to attend Matt Long's speech, who was the Keynote Speaker for the weekend.  Wow, wow, wow.  I read Matt Long's book almost two years ago.  It is very inspiring.  But hearing Matt say it in his own words allowed me to take home an even bigger message.  

He kept talking about, Would You Have the Will to Keep Competing?  If you were in his shoes, would you have the will to keep on living.  We all have our setbacks in life.  I had a HUGE setback in mine last year when I lost my brother.  It wasn't easy for Matt to move on and be OK with living.  It took a wake up call from his mother to get him motivated to LIVE.  Matt talked about how you must have the will in you to keep going.  Matt moved on from his accident and completed the New York City Marathon and Ironman Lake Placid.  He is not the same athlete he once was, but he says he is a better person than he once was.  Matt Long is an inspiring man and I plan on keeping his message close to my heart if I ever doubt myself or think that my life is too hard.  I do have the will and know that my will is what will help me succeed in more things than just running.

Golden, Shalane, and Matt Long taught me many things, but that is only the start of what I took away from the weekend.  I am so thankful that FitFluential gave me the opportunity to attend the Runner's World weekend as I also met some amazing and inspiring bloggers that I now call my friends.  I loved talking to everyone and hearing their story.  I learned so much from you all and look forward to meeting you again at a future race.  I took home memories from a weekend that I would say was the highlight of my year.  

Monday, October 22, 2012

Runner's World Half Marathon Weekend--Day 1

To say I was excited that I got invited to attend the FitFluential blogger event at Runner's World in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania this weekend would be an understatement.  When I found out that I got to visit the Runner's World Headquarters and run their inaugural event, I was jumping for joy.  What I didn't anticipate was that the weekend was better than I could have even imagined.

I will probably be covering different things from the weekend throughout a couple posts.  I am excited to share everything with you all, but want to keep things as brief as possible so as to not bore you though I could go on forever.

I arrived in Bethlehem on Thursday night, checked into my hotel, and was handed my welcome goody bag.  I had only been in town for 10 minutes and I already had a bag of fun stuff including the new Runner's World Big Book of Marathon and Half Marathon Training book, two Sweaty Bands, Swiftwick socks, and cards for more free items that we could pick up at the expo. I headed to my room to meet my roommates and then we hopped on a Limo Bus to head to the Runner's World Headquarters.

I walked off the bus, full of excitement and nerves.  I had no idea what to expect but my weekend was finally starting.

We were welcomed by Editor-in-Chief David Willey.  Behind David Willey, in black, is the amazing, David Tratner.  David was the one behind bringing the FitFluential team to Bethlehem and who made our weekend so awesome.

We were immediately greeted by Bart Yasso and started meeting other Runner's World editors.  They invited us into their office where they had a great barbecue dinner set up.  I ate dinner with the Training Sr. Editor, Christine Fennessy and the Nutrition Sr. Editor, Joanna Golub.  Just as we were finishing eating, Amby Burfoot sat down at our table.  The excited runners in us were so excited to meet such a running legend.

They welcomed us to the Runner's World Weekend and introduced us to one of the weekend's sponsors, Altra Footwear.  We had a morning planned with Altra the next day, but that night they fitted us for own pair of Altra Zerodrop shoes.

And we did some more mingling and I met Mark Remy.

Finally, we were lead on a tour of the Runner's World office.  It was very cool to see where everyone worked and the behind-the-scenes of my favorite magazine.

All the Runner's World covers and below is where they storyboard the upcoming issue.  Sadly, they had just taken down next month's issue so we didn't get a sneak peak.

Bart Yasso was extremely excited to show us his office.

We ended the night outside the office where they had a fire set up to roast marshmallows, and then we headed back to the hotel for an early night.  We were warned of our very busy day ahead of us which would begin with a 7:30am run with Bart Yasso for a tour of Bethlehem and part of the race course.

Day 1 was over and our weekend was only beginning.  I will get Day 2 & 3 up as quickly as possible as well as my race recap as soon as pictures are posted.  Spoiler: My race went AMAZING!!!!!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

You Have to Slow Down to Get Faster

Do you give advice to people and then have a hard time listening to your own advice?  One piece of advice that I always give to people, that I truly believe in is: Slowing down will get you faster.

And I have listened to this advice for the past few years of running.  My long runs were always much slower than my goal pace for my marathon.  I always begged people to slow down on their long runs so that they can build their endurance.  This year I have been focusing more on heart rate training so my runs have been speeding up, but there is a reason for this; I am not speeding through my workout.

So this weekend is my last race of the season.  I am running the Runners World Half Marathon and I can't be more excited.  I am heading down on Thursday and will be participating in some blogger events throughout the weekend and then ending the weekend with the half on Sunday.  An entire weekend of running with other ladies who love running sounds perfect!

I don't have an actual goal for Sunday.  My main goal is to have a nice PR and to run as hard as possible.  I know what I am capable of, and I have a race plan.  I will follow my plan and trust that my time will be one I can be proud of.  My PR for the half marathon was this same weekend last year when I crashed and burned at the Baystate Half Marathon.

I ran a 1:41:53 that day.  I was incredibly happy with my time but I was unhappy with how I ran.  I started out way too fast and I felt it in the last few miles.  The fear of crashing is something that I am afraid will hold me back on Sunday.  I have done one too many death marches and driving home from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania by myself after a death march does not sound fun.

So getting back to slowing down to get faster.  I met with my coach today for a swim lesson and we talked about my schedule until Disney.  The Runners World is not only my last race of the season but it also starts my required rest.  AHHH!!!

I am not one to take rests.  I hired a coach because I needed someone to tell me when to step back and rest.  My main goal in 2013 is to do an Ironman.  In order to get there I will put my time in on the road and shockingly it begins with time in my bed and doing nothing.

I, of course, questioned my forced rest.  (Around 2-3 weeks off, at least 1 week of nothing.) I mentioned I was worried about losing fitness, particularly in the pool.  And she told me I will lose fitness.  Obviously, this was not something I wanted to hear.  But she pointed out that in order to get faster this year, I had to start out by getting slower.  My body can't just keep going, going, going.  I have already done that and it ended up burned out and injured.  She says the rest will make me feel sluggish and craving my runs/rides/swims. I am a stubborn athlete who doesn't like to watch everyone around me doing stuff while I am doing nothing.  But, rest is what my mind and body needs. My DailyMile will look pretty boring for the next few weeks, but I promise, the miles will return.  Disney is just around the corner!  :)

Friday, October 12, 2012

It's Cold Outside

It is no secret that I hate being cold.  I will run in the winter, but I hate it.  I hate running tights, I hate hats.  I hate winter.

The temperature has been dipping these past few days in Massachusetts.  By no means is it cold yet.  I am still wearing shorts when I am running.  I will wear shorts the whole winter if I can help it.

Training for Boston last year, running during a storm.

But biking....that is a whole different story.  I have tried riding in under 40 degree weather and it is not fun for me.  My raynaud's syndrome goes into overdrive and my fingers and toes go numb pretty fast because of the wind.  Riding with numb toes is not fun.  Enter my new bike trainer...

I somehow got lucky and a doctor my sister works with offered her his barely used bike trainer.  My sister knew I had a winter of biking ahead of me and not a lot of money to buy a nice trainer so she jumped on it.  I was SO happy and SO thankful!

My trainer is a Kinetic by Kurt Road Machine.  I plan on having a review of the Kinetic by Kurt in a few months after I get some miles on it.  I did use it today for an hour.  It was a great workout.  It seems quieter than what I have heard most trainers seem to be and was pretty easy to set up.

I would say, bring on the winter, but I would love for some warm days to keep happening.  I am not ready to head to my garage for hours on end of treadmilling and biking.  But, at least I am ready.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Running Motivation

I love Social Media.  I have met friends because of my blog.  I have found products that I love to use and represent because of Social Media.  I have a job that I love going to because of my blog.

The one thing that has always been a hard part of being a Running Blogger for me is comparing myself to others.  When I am injured, I avoid DailyMile and Twitter because I hate seeing other people run.  Taking a marathon season off is so hard when everyone around you is running a marathon, and your coach is telling you it is time to rest.

But, yesterday, I lost my envy when I saw the progress of a fellow blogger.

I have been behind on reading blogs the past few months because of school.  I am still on Facebook and DailyMile so I have been watching people's training from afar.  Yesterday, I read Jessica's (Pace of Me) blogpost and I wasn't jealous.  I was SO happy for her.  In March, she ran a 3:34 marathon and now she is set to run a possible sub-3:20 marathon in a few weeks.  I have watched her training and have been so impressed with the miles she has been putting in.  But, I have been in my own little triathlon world, that I didn't realize what her miles and paces could equate to.  A sub-3:20 marathon.  That would be amazing and Jessica is showing people, or at least me that hard work really does pay off.

Jessica's training has also forced me to take a look at my training.  I finally started running more these past few weeks.  I have noticed that my average pace has dropped significantly over the summer.  Now, I didn't put the running miles in like many people did.  I took a different route this summer and it paid off.  My easy pace is now around 8-8:10.  Just over a year ago, my easy pace was just below a 9 minute pace.  Triathlon training has helped my running like I never imagined.

I know I don't have a 3:20 marathon in me, but my confidence is a bit higher for a few upcoming races.  I am running the Tufts 10k on Monday and then the Runners World Half Marathon in two weeks.  Ending the year with a few PR's would be pretty nice.  My goal paces for these races is really scary to look at on paper, but I know I can do it.

I encourage you to take a step back from your training and see where you are today as compared to a year ago.  You may not be as fast as your favorite blogger, but I bet you will surprise yourself.  Be proud of how far you have come.  I am so happy I took a step back because it has given me the confidence to push that much harder in my upcoming races.