Thursday, December 29, 2011

Try This: Pyramid Interval Workout

I hit the treadmill more often during the winter months, and I'm always looking for ways to keep things interesting.  Today, the interwebs suggested that I try a Pyramid Speed Interval Workout.  It's simple, and the time seemed to go much faster because I had to change the settings so often. 

Here's how it works -- the runner moves up and down a "pyramid," running at the hard interval for a one-minute segment, gradually increasing to a five-minute segment, and then working back down to a one minute segment.

My Workout
Warm-up: 5 minutes @ 10:54 pace
Interval 1 - 1 minute @ 7:30 pace
Recovery - 2 minutes @ 10:54
Interval 2 - 2 minutes @ 7:30
Recovery - 2 minutes @ 10:54
Interval 3 - 3 minutes @ 7:30 
Recovery - 2 minutes @ 10:54
Interval 4 - 4 minutes @ 7:30
Recovery - 2 minutes @ 10:54
Interval 5 - 5 minutes @ 7:30
Recovery - 2 minutes @ 10:54
Interval 6 - 4 minutes @ 7:30
Recovery - 2 minutes @ 10:54
Interval 7 - 3 minutes @ 7:30
Recovery - 2 minutes @ 10:54
Interval 8 - 2 minutes @ 7:30
Recovery - 2 minutes @ 10:54
Interval 9 - 1 minute @ 7:04 <------- A push, but I felt great after!
Cool Down - 5 minutes

The total time for this workout was 50 minutes -- far longer than I usually want to stay on the treadmill.  (I once did a 10-mile run on the treadmill - once - and only because my choice was that or missing a run because of a snow shower.) 

I'll definitely be adding this workout to my repertoire.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Lurking Around the Interwebs, II

I'm enjoying what's left of my time away from DC at my parents' house in Connecticut.  It's been nice, and I've gotten two great runs in so far since I've been home -- including a nine-miler that I did with my dad (!!!).

I'm in the process of drafting my year-end round-up, so things will be pretty quiet - as they've been for most of the month - on the blog until the weekend.

For now, Thought Catalog has an excellent post to prepare everyone for the coming of 2012: "...2012 is the year to let your freak flag fly.  2012 is the year to throw caution to the wind and just do you (or anyone else you would like along the way.)"

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Lurking Around the Interwebs

For your reading pleasure, here are a few of my favorite links from the past week:

Thought Catalog: My Run on the Treadmill as I Imagine the Girl Next to Me Imagines 

"...his iPod just fell on the treadmill and got launched behind him.  He's looking to see if anyone saw 
before he gets it.  We make eye contact. Awkward.  Super awkward...He'll never be the alpha male.


Mental Floss: Eleven Ways to Cheat While Running a Marathon

Including gems such as: Taking a bus, having someone run it for you, and trading off miles with your sibling


Runner's World: Of Gingerbread Men, Running, and Hubris

"The little old woman and little old man changed into shorts and technical shorts and frantically rummaged around for their running shoes and then ran after the gingerbread man, who as a barefoot runner had a clear advantage in such situations."


The Mary Sue: The Best Breaking Dawn Review You'll Ever Read

"Then the girl breaks in half and her husband chews all over her while she sleeps with her eyes open and her best friend falls in love with the baby and...wait, what?"

Okay, this one isn't actually related to running. But, c'mon, you have to admit that you climbed aboard the ROFL-copter.  No? Just me?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Jingle All the Way 8K Round-Up

I haven’t updated in a while - not because I haven’t been running but because I’m still working through a to-do list that seems to get longer.  Things should slow down a bit soon, so I’ll be updating a lot more about my next training cycle, which includes preparations for the GW Birthday Marathon in February (which I’m running as a relay with Stef and Max) and the Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Half Marathon in March.

Stef had the idea to run the Jingle All the Way 8K and host a delicious brunch after the race.  Three of us - Laura, Stef, and myself - decided to brave the cold and head down to Freedom Plaza for this morning's race.  

The race was delayed by about fifteen minutes, most of which was spent huddled with Laura and Stef at the start.  (At one point, the crowd started to sing Christmas carols at the start because, as we all know, "The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for al to hear.")  It wasn’t terrible, and, after seeing the disastrous start at the Run for Hot Chocolate in National Harbor, I counted my lucky stars that we only had to wait around for 15 minutes. 

Of course, standing in one place in the cold for that long meant that my toes were a little cold when the race finally started. I found running space quickly, but I can’t say that I felt my toes for the first two miles. I definitely started the race too quickly and ended up slowing down during the third mile.  During the last mile, I pushed through until I saw the finish line.

Personal Best: 43:36, Run! Geek! Run! 8K
Gun time: 47:31
Net time: 44:38
Average Pace: 8:59
Division: 104/383

I would have liked to set a PR, but I’ll have to try that at my next 8K.  My plan is to run easy and work on building strength so that I’m ready to start my next round of training.   

Saturday, November 26, 2011

December Goals

I've never been comfortable with the way time seems to fly these days.  Running the Philadelphia Marathon feels like it happened ages ago -- even though it was only last weekend that Stef and I went up to Philadelphia.  Maybe it's time to start planning my next running adventure.

I mentioned that I wanted to run a marathon in March but, after some thought, I decided that I want to set a goal to run a sub-2:00 half for that month.  My next task is to decide between Rock 'n' Roll USA (I'm only a little bitter that Competitor is the lead sponsor) and the NYC Half Marathon.

Before that, though, I still have one more solid month of running in 2011; I'm setting a few goals to help me finish this year as strongly as it began.

Run at least 25 miles each week.  I ran my 900th mile of 2011 during the Philadelphia Marathon, which means I need 100 more if I want to reach my goal of running 1,000 miles this year.  I'm looking forward to a few solid weekend long runs.

Strength train at least once per week.  I let this go in the final weeks of marathon training, but I'd like to get back in the habit of strength training at least once each week.

Set a PR during the Jingle All the Way 8K.  I ran by last 8K (in September) in 43:18...after pre-gaming the race with a quick 4-miler.  Since I don't plan to run all the way to this race, I'm curious to see if I can shave at least three minutes off my time.

Tentatively plan race calendar for 2012 and create training plan for spring races.  This one should explain itself.

I'm not going to create a training plan for December, which should be a welcome change.  My Daily Mile training log should be enough to keep my honest about running this month.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Philadelphia Marathon Race Round-Up

I was sad to miss The Game and miss the chance to catch up with everyone, but I had a great marathon weekend in Philadelphia.

Stef and I took MegaBus to the city;  it was a smooth ride, and we arrived a little earlier than expected.  From Penn Station, we took a cab to the Expo to pick up our race packets.

To be honest, I was a little disappointed with the Expo.  It might be that I've gone to so many of these that I'm starting to notice that the same vendors show up.  I did purchase two more Bondibands (I'm kind of obsessed with them) and a few more gels to take along on the course.  (Clif Shots were provided on the course, but, after trying some at the export, I knew that using the during the race would be a bad call.)

After the Expo, we continued our epic carb loading (which I'd been doing since Thursday) at Chili's.  For dinner, we went to Square 1862 for their $20.00 all you can eat pasta deal.  (Stef's friend Jeff is a host at the restaurant, and it was great to meet him.)  And, there was this epic pile of food in our hotel room.

 Runner's World recommended Swedish Fish as a carb loading food.  So, yes, we needed two bags.

Breakfast on race day was at 4:00 AM, and Stef and I started our walk to the start line around 6:00 AM. It was dark but surprisingly warm for that time of morning.  We dropped our bags at the gear check and then walked toward the corrals.  After Stef and I parted ways near the corrals, I found the 4:15 pace group and waited for the start of the race.

Miles 1-6 – Follow the Man with the Balloons

Thinking about the pace groups, I found it a little strange that all of the groups that I considered intended to run their race pace from the start of the race.  For the 4:15 group, this would be a 9:44 for the entire race.  (I also thought about the 4:00 pace group, but I'm happy that I chose 4:15.) Once our corral got up to the starting line, we were off.  I was a few steps behind the pace leader but even I was floating around an 8:30 to 9:00 pace for the first two miles.  I settled in to a 9:44, keeping the lead in my sight. 

Miles 5 and 6 went down Chestnut Street, which was a little narrow for 25,000 runners.  I lost the lead pacer just before the water station, which – with the narrow street – seemed more congested than usual.  But, these were strong miles and the crowd support down Chestnut was fantastic.

Miles 7-12 – University City and the Zoo

I was definitely in a groove here.  Mile 7 was the first incline of the race, but after training in DC, I was a little surprised at how little I felt this hill.  (All those runs to Maryland really paid off, huh?)  The second include was between Miles 9-10, which were near the Philadelphia Zoo.  This hill was a little harder but still manageable.  Miles 11 and 12 were the first piece of the Schuylkill River.  The crowd support was a little quieter here, but there were still a few people on the route cheering everyone on.

Mile 13 – Halfway!

This is where the Half-Marathoners and Marathoners split.  There had been signs along the course pointing that a split was coming, but it was a little rough seeing the finish line knowing that I still had 13.1 more miles to run.

Mile 14-18  -- When things stop being polite, and my internal marathon swears like a sailor

Mile 14 was cool.  I got there with about 2:20 on the clock and had a great view of the super awesome elite runners who were running toward the finish.  It’s always so humbling to watch elite runners, and it definitely helped me push to go forward here.  This portion of the race was on the other side of the Schuylkill so, again, not much crowd support.  At times, it felt a little lonely. But, it was nice to reach a point when I could count down the miles using single digits.

Miles 19-20 – Don’t Stop Believin’

I’d been wearing one earbud since I lost the pace group, which I was thankful for during the parts of the race where the crowd support was thin.  (I think that using one earbud is much better.  You can still ahve some music on the course but also interact with other runners and volunteers. )  At Mile 19, we hit Manayuk.  There were a ton of people out but the effects of running a marathon were starting to get to me. (Translation: It hurts, and it's still hurting!) Don’t Stop Believin’ came up on my playlist; it was so good, I listened to it twice. 

Miles 21-25 -- Shut Up and Run

This was the inbound route back along the Shuylkill.  Everything hurt and I would have loved nothing more than to throw in the towel.  But, at this point, the only thing to do was to turn the little voice in my head telling me that this was insane and run until I crossed the finish line.  I was thankful that there were a few more people on this portion of the course to cheer us on.  It's always super encouraging to have a total stranger that you can make it to the finish line.

The last 1.2 Miles – Eye of the Tiger

Once we were closer to the downtown area, the crowd support was amazing.  I felt great here and found an opportunity to pick up the pace.  I saw Stef and a few other friendly faces along the finish shoot, which also gave me an extra boost.  When I got close enough to the finish line, I saw 4:38 on the clock and made a decision that I would finish before 4:40.  Hooray for sprinting when your legs feel like cement! Bonus: This mile marked my 900th mile run in 2011.

Previous Record: 5:33, 2010 Baltimore Marathon
Gun Time: 4:39:39
Net Time: 4:39:29
Average Pace: 10:39

I think this is one of my favorite medal designs so far.

Of course, it would have been nice to finish in 4:15:00 but one of the things that I’m most proud of about this marathon is that I managed to maintain even splits throughout the race.  I do think that I started out faster than I should have at the beginning.  I’m also proud – and amazed if I’m allowed to say so myself – that, in the span of a year, I shaved nearly an hour off of my previous marathon time.  I guess that this goes to show what you can do if you are willing to put in the work.

Also: Major props to Stef for running her first marathon and finishing in 4:01! I’ll say this here and, if she’s reading, I hope she knows how awesome and motivating it was to train with someone who can and did kick my ass into gear on runs. 

So, what’s next?  A little rest and getting myself back into normal eating.  Now that I won’t be running as intensely, I can’t justify eating 3,000 calories each day.  I imagine that I won’t start running again until after Thanksgiving at the earliest, but I do hope to get some solid walks in and spend some time doing light cross training -- that is, after my legs and I resolve our disagreement about whether or not moving is appropriate.

I’m also running the Jingle All the Way 8K again in December (if you recall, it was a 10K last year).  Hopefully, I'll be recovered enough to set a PR.

Finally, I’m already thinking about which marathons I want to run next year.  On my list of potentials are the Suntrust National Marathon (DC) in March, the Prince of Wales Marathon (Alaska) in May, and the Hartford Marathon (Connecticut) in October.  My other crazy plan for 2012?  Operation Boston Qualify!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Fall Four: Weekly Round-Up (17)

Here we go!  Six days to go until I’m in the starting corrals at the 2011 Philadelphia Marathon.  I’m excited and anxious – but mostly excited to have a chance to kick major asphalt this year. 

My plan is to run easy this week, fuel properly, and mentally prepare for this weekend.  (P.S. My TGI Carb Night Recipes are likely going to return this week --- get excited!)

Week 21 – let’s do this!!

Monday – X-Train/Strength Training
Tuesday – 4 Miles
Wednesday – 3 Miles (easy)
Thursday – 3 Miles (easy)
Friday – Rest
Saturday – Rest
Sunday – Philadelphia Marathon!!! 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Fall Four: Weekly Round-Up (16)

I mentioned in my recap for the Race to Representation that I could tell that I wasn’t completely recovered from last week’s 22-miler.  My planned workouts weren’t any different than workouts I’ve done in previous weeks, but I could feel the miles and that I was off my game.  Then, there was the 5K.  By this afternoon, when I went out for an eight-mile run, I started to feel close to 100% percent and had a fantastic run.  (The weather today was perfect, too.) Things should go a little better this week.

Week 20
Monday: X-Training and Strength Training
Tuesday: Speed Work, 30 Minutes
Wednesday: 5 miles
Thursday: 3 miles
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 10 miles
Sunday: X-Train and Strength Training

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Race to Representation 5K Round-Up

The Women & Politics Institute organized the inaugural Race to Representation 5K on AU’s campus this morning.  Stef told me about the race, and we decided to run as part of training for Philadelphia. (Tomorrow, the tentative plan is to run six or seven miles.)

I haven’t really spent much time on the campus (outside of a few very hilly runs), but it was a beautiful location for a race.  The event was done really well, and it was a great way to learn about the work that WPI is doing to close the gender gap in political leadership.  The more I run races, the more I find that I enjoy smaller races as much as the races with thousands of runners on the course.  The organizers provided each runner with a giftbag and a great t-shirt.  And, I give the organizers major props for making registration so easy.  I actually signed up for the race after the online registration closed but getting the form to and confirmation from WPI wasn't stressful at all.  

The course was a two-lap loop around one of AU's quads.  This was my first race with laps, and there was the fear of being lapped at some point during the race by someone much faster.  The first time around, I tried to get a sense of the course to decide where I would pick up speed on the second go-around.  My goal was to run a sub-25:00 race, but I couldn’t get myself to run at pace.  I could tell that my body still (still!?) wasn’t 100% after Sunday's 22-miler, but I didn’t want to give up on my time goal and tried to push where I could.  I finished with a time that I knew was at least a few seconds faster than my current record set back in February.

Previous record: 27: 48, Love the Run You’re With 5K
Gun Time: 27:26
Net Time: 27:17
Average Pace: 8:47

I’m not actually worried about my time, but it would have been nice to run a sub-25:00 race.  Next time!

And, in any case, I think I’m in a great place to run the Philadelphia marathon. Fifteen days to go…

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Tuesday Inspiration: Staying Honest

When you have a goal that is as huge as the marathon – it will “keep you honest.”  It’s not like a smaller goal that you can announce and then put off or fake your way through.  Once you sign up, commit months to training, and take your first step on race day – you better have done your homework.  The beauty of this is that it goes against 99% of the national tendancies of our culture that favors gratification without effort or devotion.  But is that kind of achievement ever as satisfying?  Linda Hill once told me that she loved the quote “There is no glory in training, but there is no glory without training.  In no way is this more true than in running.  --- Holly Digiovine

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Fall Four: Weekly Round-Up (15)

Okay, this is it – it’s time to get my taper on!

It’s been quite a while since I ran more than 20 miles, and I kind of forgot what that does to the human body/brain function.  Stef and I started at my apartment, headed toward Silver Spring, and down back through the trails into the city.  To be honest, I felt solid for the first 18 miles…well, I felt as solid as a person who’s running that distance can feel.  By mile 19, I was still able to run but moving and thinking proved slightly harder.

After the run, Stef and I headed out for burgers, which were so deserved and so delicious. I have not moved from my cozy position on my sofa since returning to my apartment and throwing on my PJs (it helps that there’s Sunday night TV).

So, here I am at Week 19 – the first week of my taper.

Monday: Rest (I may try to get in some yoga and weight training)
Tuesday: Speed Work – 40 minutes
Wednesday: 5 Miles
Thursday: 3 Miles, Strength Training
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 5K Race – Race to Representation
Sunday: 6 miles

Let’s go! 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Fall Four: Weekly Round-Up (14)

I felt great last week during training, even after running the Army 10-Miler and the Baltimore Half-Marathon in a little less than a week.  I had a great speed workout on Tuesday and a fantastic long-run on Saturday.  I'm down to the final four weeks.

Monday: 3 miles 
Tuesday: 5 miles
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: 50-minute speed session 
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 22 miles
Sunday: X-Train and Strength training

After this week, it'll be taper time.  Whoo! 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Baltimore Half-Marathon Race Round-Up

A year ago today, I was on my way back from running my first marathon in Baltimore.  I was tired.  My legs ached in ways that I didn’t know was possible, and I wanted to curl into a ball and sleep until my legs felt less like cement.

Still, I was hooked and running became a huge part of my life.

Yesterday, I went back to Baltimore to run the half marathon with Nicole, Jason, and Ned.  I hadn't planned on running Baltimore when I set my race calendar, but when Ned mentioned that he wanted to run the race in honor of Steve - who was diagnosed with cancer shortly after running the marathon last year - it became something that I wanted to do for our friend.

It was incredible to be back in the city and lining up for the race that started it all, and I was surprised at how much of the course – including the exact locations of each of the water stations -- I remembered.  I also remembered exactly where I felt like crap and where I wanted to give up but had no choice but to get myself to the finish line. 

The race went so much better than it did last year.  (My guess is that my progress as a runner and choice a race that was 13.1 miles shorter had something to do with that.) 

Being familiar with the course, I decided that the first few miles should be run at a comfortable pace (9:00-ish).  When things start to get hilly, I would slow my pace but exert the same effort until the downhill portions came; then, I could fly.  I stuck to my plan and made it up all of the hills with no trouble – at least compared to last year when my internal monologue was screaming for me to stop.

The wind picked up around Lake Druid, making things a little more challenging. It looked like I had plenty of time to pick up my first sub-2:00 half.  Around Mile 10, it hit me that I’d run the Army 10 Miler the previous Sunday and was nowhere near 100% recovered.  


It wasn’t a huge deal, but I started to feel the miles enough to slow down a bit.

Heading into Camden Yards, I ran into friends who had come up for the race (and post-race beer and crab cakes) before crossing the finish line.

Gun Time: 2:12:49
Chip Time: 2:05:48 (New PR)
Pace: 9:36 mile

I didn’t look at my times yesterday or compare myself to my previous race, but I just looked while I was typing this post and saw that this race sets a new personal record for the half-marathon.  I get that I’m training, but really?  Even though I ran a race six days prior and had nothing but hills for about three miles on the course?  Are you sure?

Okay then.  I'll take it!

Week 17:
Monday: Stretching, very light cross training and strength training
Tuesday: Speed Workout – 45 Minutes
Wednesday: 5 Miles
Thursday: 3 Miles
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 18 Miles
Sunday: 3 Miles (easy), strength training

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Your Daily What

I'm always impressed by women who are able to continue running during their pregnancy. I've been following this blog for a while and met a pregnant woman briefly during the National Half Marathon.

This news story from the Chicago Marathon is incredible:

As marathons go, Amber Miller's time of 6 hours and 25 minutes in the Chicago Marathon is not that impressive.  What is noteworthy, however, is that she was 39 weeks pregnant and gave birth to a daughter a few hours after crossing the finish line on Sunday, the Daily Herald reports. -USA Today

Thank you, Jane, for the link!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Fall Four: Weekly Round-Up (13)

I modified my training schedule for this week.  The original plan was to run the Army 10-Miler hard, take it easy during the week, and enjoy being back in Baltimore for the half-marathon.  Now that I'm running Baltimore with the intention of running hard (sub-2:00 half or bust, baby!), I'm going to do a bit more running this week than originally planned.  

Also, this week: My body is a temple!  Wine? Maybe one glass of red.  Beer? Nope.  Fruits and vegetables? Hell yes!

Monday - X-Train and Strength Training 
Tuesday - Speed Workout
Wednesday - 3 Miles (easy) and Strength Training
Thursday - 3 miles (easy)
Friday - Off 
Saturday - Baltimore Half-Marathon
Sunday - Off

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Army Ten-Miler Race Round-Up

Today was a perfect day for a race.  It was beautiful -- one of those fall days that DC only experiences for a two-week window before winter weather prematurely sets in.  Overall, I enjoyed this race.  The course started and ended at the Pentagon and covered a lot of ground along the National Mall.  There are a few complaints about the race that I'll mention below; I guess most of them are just what happens when there are 21,000 runners on a course.  But, hey, I guess the race organizers can only do so much when the field is that large.

Miles 1-3 (Bunch, Bunch, Bunch)
The race organizers split the race into three waves to help with overcrowding on the course.  Wave 2 (my wave) started the race at about 8:15 AM.  My plan going into the race was to run the first half of the race around a 9:00 pace and the second half closer to an 8:00 pace.  Out of the gate, I started at a 9:00 (perfect!) but completed the first mile in 9:22. Even with the staggered start, there simply was not enough room for runners to find good space early in the race.  (In fact, I spent most of the 10-mile race bumping into people or being bumped into.)

During the second mile, I floated around an 8:30 pace and, to be honest, it didn’t feel like I was pushing myself at all.  (Hooray seeing improvement!)  The third mile was a little slower than the second, which was fine since I didn’t really want to push my limits until the second half the race.  I talked to a few people on the course, and it was incredibly humbling to run alongside active duty servicemen and women as well as with those who were wounded in combat.  It was a great reminder of the sacrifices that many men and women (and their families) make to protect this country.

Miles 4-6

I thought that the course might thin out a bit by this point in the race, but I was still locked in a pack. I didn’t feel particularly speedy during this portion of the race and, by mile 5, I started to become a little frustrated by my inability to hit 8:00 miles.

Miles 7-9

The crowd support along Independence Avenue (Miles 5-8) was great.  Miles 8 and took us across the George Mason Memorial Bridge onto Rte.1 into Virginia.  It was eerily quiet, except for the sound of thousands of shoes hitting the pavement.  But, there is something appealing about that too.  I don’t think any description I write will do justice to the fact that this type of unity is truly special.  

The Finish Line

Once I cleared the highway, I started my final surge toward the finish line.  There was a slight incline toward the bridge, but I was in a great place.  (The crowd support in this area was the best.)  Weaving around runners was an added challenge – as it had been for most of the race – but I was able to do it without much problem.  I sprinted across the finish line, making an abrupt stop before hitting the wall of runners that were bottled-necked in the corral.  It took forever to move across the finish line to the celebration area. And, unlike most races where you’re almost immediately showered with water and bananas, the water station was an eternity away from the finish line.  (Okay, maybe not an eternity but when all you really want is water and a banana -- never mind. Oh hey, first world problems.)

Previous Record: 1:36:39, 2011 Cherry Blossom 10-Miler 
Gun Time: 1:51:32
Net Time: 1:33:10
Average Pace: 9:19
Division: 239/627

Instead of a medal, each finisher receives a commemorative coin, and I think it's snazzy.

Side A

Side B

Plans for Baltimore

Baltimore is six days away, and I had been going back and forth for months about my strategy for running two long races in one week.  To be honest, I think I didn’t run this race as hard as I wanted to or as hard as I could have.  But, this might actually be a blessing.  At this point, I've made the decision that Baltimore is going to be my hard race. More on that later.  

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Fall Four: Weekly Round-up (12)

Holy smokes, it’s October!

I missed last week's round-up.  To quickly fill you in, my first 20-mile run with Stef was fantastic.  (Who uses “20-mile run” and “fantastic” in the same sentence?) After the run, I thought about what it felt like to run that distance during last year’s training for Baltimore.  I was in shape enough to attempt to run 20-miles, but when I hit 20-miles I was done for the day.  This year, I felt like – if I had to – I could run more 6.2 miles and not really have a problem.  It’s so incredible to see my progress over the last year.  Knowing what I can do in a year is also motivation to keep working and improving as a runner.

Last week, I ran a total of 26 miles: three on Monday, four on Thursday, 15 on Saturday, and four this morning.  This week, my workouts will be more intense at the beginning of the week and slowly let up as the week goes on.  It’s hard to believe that the Army 10-Miler is next Sunday, and the Baltimore Half Marathon is on the following Saturday.

Monday: X-Train and Strength Training
Tuesday: Speed Session (I’ve been terrible about speed work lately)
Wednesday: 5 miles
Thursday: 3 miles
Friday: Off
Saturday: Off
Sunday: Army 10-Mile Race

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Fall Four: Weekly Round-Up (11)

Training is about to get (a lot) more fun.

Monday - Rest
Tuesday - 3 Miles
Wednesday - 6 Miles
Thursday - Tempo Run: 30 Minutes
Friday - Rest
Saturday - 20 Miles (!!!)
Sunday - 3 Miles

I don't know if this says anything about the person that I've become in the last year, but I'm honestly looking forward to my first 20-mile run of this training cycle.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Run! Geek! Run! 8K Race Round-Up

As marathon training goes, there is a cadre of coaches that recommends running shorter distance races as part of your training .  The idea is that running a race forces you to run at your peak and is a quick way to test fitness.  Stef suggested that we try running a race as part of our weekly long run -- sandwiching the race between easy runs before and after.  This morning, we hit up the Run! Geek! Run! 8K.  (Stef pointed out that this was an appropriate race for the two of us to run.  #runnerds)

Before the race, we had a very solid 4-mile warm-up.  Both of us envisioned running somewhere around 10- to 11-minute miles before the race, but we ran much faster than planned.  (My Garmin was off, but it only took us about 35 minutes to get to the start. Awesome!)

The race was a there-and-back loop along Potomac Park to Hains Point.  I've run the route twice for other races -- once for the Jingle All the Way 10K and once as part of the Cherry Blossom 10-Mile Run.  It's a beautiful  area, but it can be a little boring at times.  (One of the cool things, though, is that you can watch planes take off and land at National.)  When the race started, I focused on finding good space to run and settling into a pace that was both fast and comfortable.

In the end, I ended up surprising myself.  My first mile clocked in at 8:11, but I was able to maintain a sub-9:00 pace for the entire race.  I've had a couple of shorter runs during which I've been able to do this, but it felt fantastic to run this quickly an 8K.

Here's the breakdown --

Previous Record: 45:51, St. Patrick's Day 8K
Gun Time: 43:36
Net Time: 43:18 (New Personal Record)
Average Pace: 8:43
Division (Women 20-29): 32/121

After the race, we had an easy run back toward the metro, totaling 11 miles for the day.

I'm very proud of my splits during this race.  A few days ago, I read a post on Runner's Kitchen that, in my mind, sums up why I enjoy doing this:

"To consider that you are better today than you were yesterday or a year ago, and that you will be better still tomorrow or next week…That if you’re doing it right you are an organism constantly evolving toward some agreed-upon approximation of excellence. Wouldn’t that be at least one definition of a spiritual state?” -- quoting John L. Parker's Again to Carthage.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Fall Four: Weekly Round-Up (10)

Time to crank up Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer."  I've reached the mid-point of my training for the Philadelphia Marathon.

I'm very happy with my training.  I know I say this a lot, but things are going really well. I've made a lot of progress in these last few months.  I feel feel faster, and I have stretches on my runs during which I'm able to push myself to run at paces that would have seemed impossible last year.

Of course, when I think about my training and where I want to be by the time I line up at the start in November, I see room for improvement.  I mean, if a certain former governor of Alaska can run a sub-2:00 half-marathon, why can't I?  (Yeah, yeah. First Rule: You do not talk about Fight Club.  You do not compare yourself to other runners.)

I've got just about a month before I run the Army 10-Miler and Baltimore Half-Marathon.  For a while, I thought that the Baltimore Half might be my chance to run a sub-2:00 half.  But, as I think about it more, I just want to enjoy being in Baltimore and running in the race that helped ignite my love of this crazy sport.  It's during the Army 10 that I really want to push myself and crush my time from the Cherry Blossom 10-Mile race in April.

Over the next few weeks, I'm going to find the right balance of speed and endurance work.   I'm also  running an 8K this Saturday as part of my long run, just to test my speed.  

Week 12:
Monday - Rest
Tuesday - Tempo Run, 45 Minutes 
Wednesday - 5 Miles
Thursday - 4 Miles, Strength training 
Friday - Rest
Saturday - 15 Miles (including 8K race)
Sunday - X-Training, Strength training

Before I dash off, one last thing:

I was going to save this for my Tuesday Inspiration, but I think it's appropriate to post today.  To commemorate the 10th anniversary of 9/11, Runner's World posted a collection of stories about how that day affected the lives of 13 runners -- Remembering 9/11.  Each story is powerful -- a reminder of the events of a clear Tuesday morning.  As I read each story, I found a reminder to honor those who were lost by living each day to our full potential.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Rock 'n' Roll Virginia Beach Half-Marathon Race Round-Up

I’m back from a fantastic weekend at the beach with another half-marathon (and a new PR) under my belt.

I had been looking forward to this trip for a while. Besides the chance to trade a weekend in DC for a weekend in Virginia Beach, I was excited about traveling to and running a race with Stef, my training buddy and one of my closest friends.  (I can't imagine what this weekend would have been like without such fantastic company.) I was also excited about running a race in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series.

The race series is well known for lining its courses with live bands and cheerleaders. From what I can tell from the interwebs, runners have mixed feelings about these races. Competitor Group, which owns the series, often buys out local races and turns them into behemoths. The group is taking over the Suntrust Marathon and Half-Marathon in DC, which I ran this year, so I was especially curious to see what a Rock and Roll race looked like. I’ll admit that the experience did feel a little corporate -- it’s very clear that Dodge was a major sponsor of the Virginia Beach half, for example -- but I thought that the race was organized very well.

The Full Recap –-

I’ve decided that it cannot be a race weekend unless I run into some kind of problem getting myself there. I woke up early Saturday morning with plans to arrive at the train station by 7:20. With no Metro, I called for a cab at 6:45 – anticipating that it would arrive by 7:00. It should have been more than enough time. When the cab didn’t arrive by 7:10, I started to get a little worried and decided to walk to the main road and try to flag down a cab. I arrived at the train station at 7:30, printed my tickets, and did my best Home Alone impression through Union Station and boarded the train five minutes before it pulled out of the station. (The cab that I requested called me at 7:30 to tell me that it had arrived.)

The train/shuttle to the beach was great. I sat with Stef, switching between chatting, reading (I finished The Help and appropriately moved onto Born to Run), and napping. When we arrived at the beach, our first stop was the Convention Center to pick up our race packets and check out the race expo. My only purchase was the most amazing headband that five dollars could buy.

After the expo, we walked along Atlantic Avenue, stopped for lunch, checked into our hotel, and headed to the beach.

I took a nap before dinner at Dough Boy’s, which had an all-you-can-eat pasta and salad special. I couldn’t have imagined ordering more, since the first helping was already more than I could eat.

On Sunday, the day of the race, Stef and I were out of our hotel at 6:00 AM (well before the sun decided it was ready to start its day) and picked up a shuttle to the starting line. One of first things that I noticed, speaking to the organization of the race, was that there were tons of port-o-potties.  This was a welcome change from a lot of the races I’ve done where you stand in line forever to tinkle before the race starts.

Stef and I parted the corrals. (She was assigned to corral five, and I was in six.) Going into the race, my goal was to break two hours, so I positioned myself as close to the front of my corral as possible.  As a point of strategy, I told myself that the only thing that I had to do was stay in front of the two-hour pace group.

I always get caught up in the emotion at the start of the race and run much faster than I should. I really shouldn’t be surprised that, even though I said that I would start the race slow and gradually increase speed, I floated around a sub-8:00 mile (Thanks Garmin!) at the start of the race before settling into a hard but doable pace. Occasionally, I would check to make sure that the two-hour pace group was behind me. By the third mile, it hit me that I may have started the race too quickly. (Oops...)  I slowed down and fell behind the two-hour group.

I ran the miles four, five, and six, closer to a 9:30 pace, hoping that I could pick up the pace again. I learned during these miles how much of a difference having crowd support can make. The first three miles were along the main strip of hotels, so there were people out cheering in addition to the bands and cheerleaders that RnR schedules; miles four through 11 (a significant chunk of the race) were through more residential areas/Navy barracks, so it was a little quieter – and maybe even a little boring.

My worst splits came during miles seven, eight, and nine. Around mile nine, I started to feel what a baby must experience when he can’t burp on his own. Let me tell you: it’s not fun. I slowed down a lot and ran (walked?) close to an 11-minute mile on one of my splits.  Clearly that was not part of the plan.  I couldn’t wait until the next fluid station, hoping that I could drink out whatever extra air was floating around.

Over the last three miles, I was able to pick up the pace again. The crowd support at the end of the race was perfect – lots of families were out to cheer on the runners and pass out ice pops and snacks. The last stretch of the race was long the boardwalk, and I wished that more of the race could have been along the ocean.  It was beautiful. I crossed the finish line, picked up water, my race metal, cold towel (best thing ever!).  Then, I met up with Stef for post-race photos.

Stef, who is much more of a baller, finished in 1:52!

My race by the numbers…
Previous Record: 2:09:33, National Half-Marathon 2011
Gun Time: 2:13:39
Net Time: 2:08:14 (New PR)
Average Pace: 9:47

I’m only slightly disappointed that I didn’t break two hours, but it does open up the opportunity to try to reach that goal next month in Baltimore.

After the race, Stef and I treated ourselves to brunch at Pocahontas Pancakes and Waffle Shop. The meal was incredible and much deserved.

Victory pancakes (and bacon and home fries because I could)!

I had great weekend, and I’m looking forward to some rest and relaxation before jumping back into training on Tuesday!

Week 11:
Monday: Rest
Tuesday: 3 Miles
Wednesday: 5 Miles
Thursday: 4 Miles
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 12 Miles
Sunday: 3 Miles

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tuesday Inspiration: Blog Roll

It's Tuesday, and I'm still feeling super charged after an incredible run this afternoon.  What better way to end the evening than with the return of Tuesday Inspiration?

The NikeWomen feed on Twitter linked to a Fitblr (Fitness + Tumblr...wait, really? Is that a real internet term or did someone just make it up?) today with tons of inspiring images -- like this one:

Submitted for your inspiration: Til I Collapse 


Monday, August 29, 2011

Crystal Ball

I have a confession: I read my horoscope weekly.

I don't think that there's any truth to horoscopes, but I do think that it's a fun distraction. It's more fun when the purposely vague description seems like it might actually apply to what's going on in my life. So, I giggled a little bit when I read this week's Shine prediction for Gemini:

"As for the weekend, you'll do best if you slow your pace -- burnout of one sort or another is a distinct possibility."

The stars must know that I'm racing this weekend. What the stars don't know is that I'm fully prepared to give this my all and am willing to work toward setting a new personal record. ;)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Fall Four: Weekly Round-Up (9)

My cold is lingering, but I was able to get in a few runs last week.  Tuesday was a little hard after a few days of not running, but I felt great on my long run with Stef on Saturday.

Training this week will be fairly light in preparation for the race this Sunday.  I'm so looking forward to this weekend!

Week 10:
Monday: Rest
Tuesday: Speed workout and strength training
Wednesday: 4 miles
Thursday: 3 miles
Friday: Rest
Saturday: Travel Day
Sunday: Rock and Roll Virginia Beach Half-Marathon

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Fall Four: Weekly Round-Up (8)

In training, you're bound to have one or more weeks that don't go exactly as planned. It looks like I've hit my first (and, hopefully, last) of those. Congratulations, Week 8!

Recap of this week:

I was in desperate need of a run on Monday and decided to go out and really push myself. The run was great! I ran through the National Zoo and up one hell of a hill before looping back to my apartment. After my shower, I started to feel a little weird – the way that I feel before I come down with a cold. I woke up feeling fine on Tuesday and didn’t really think that I might be sick until I hit the treadmill for a quick warm-up before strength training. About 10 minutes in, running started to feel more challenging than it should have. I didn't think anything of it and kept working through it.

Wednesday was the absolute worst. I was congested and pretty sure that I was going to cough up a lung. To be safe, I took a day off from running and went to bed early. Thursday was the same, and I started to feel a little antsy about not working out. Maybe I would try for a Friday morning run before work? That, of course, requires improvement on Friday. I took the day off in hopes that I would be able to run on Saturday.

I thought I felt better when I woke up on Saturday. I met Stef and we started our run through the zoo. Once we hit our first uphill stretch, my breathing was completely off and I started to feel winded. (This was less than two miles in.) Things started to feel okay, but I couldn’t have imagined going on for 17 more miles. Two miles in, we turned around and headed back to my apartment. I felt terrible about having to cut my run short. But, Stef reminded me that it was okay to miss a run to give my body some time to rest. After all, the marathon is still three months away, and we have plenty of time to run 18 miles (and farther).

After a very slothful Saturday, I hit the gym this morning. I started on the elliptical, which was fine, and did some lifting. I can tell that I'm not 100% better, but it felt good to do something other than sit on the couch.

Fourteen days to go until Virginia Beach! I probably won’t try to run again until Tuesday, and even then I’m going to take it easy. Here’s Week 9:

Monday: X-Train and Strength Training
Tuesday: 3 miles
Wednesday: 6 miles
Thursday: Tempo Run – 60 minutes
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 8 Miles
Sunday: X-Train and Strength Training

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Fall Four: Weekly Round-Up (7)

It's hard to believe that it's time to start the countdown to my first race -- three weeks until the Rock and Roll Half in Virginia Beach.  My travel is booked, and I'm so looking forward to heading down to the beach for a few days.

Here's the plan for Week 8:

Monday: 3 Miles
Tuesday: 4 Miles + Strength Training
Wednesday: 5 Miles
Thursday: Speed Workout
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 18 Miles
Sunday: Stretching and Strength Training

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Fall Four: Weekly Round-Up (6)

Hi folks! 

Another slightly delayed post -- hooray! 

Training is going well.  I have no complaints, and I seem to be making some major improvements.  This morning, Stef and I met for a speed session: 6 half-mile intervals.  Again, my target pace was 8:30 but I managed to run all of my intervals well under that pace.  I even maintained a 7:50 pace for one of my intervals!

Here's the plan for Week 6:

Wednesday: AM Workout - 5 Miles
Thursday: 4 miles planned, but it might be a rest day
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 16 Miles
Sunday: 4 miles and strength training

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Finding Inspiration in Unexpected Places

I spotted this image on the sidewalk on my walk home from work.  It brought a smile to my face, and I couldn't wait to get home and change into my gear.

Inspiration is everywhere.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Fall Four: Weekly Round-Up (5)

I’m a little late with the weekly round-up.  Sorry folks!
Week 5 went very well. Stef and I met up last week for a chill 4-miler on Tuesday and a 15-miler on Saturday. Both runs were excellent! (Having such amazing company makes the miles fly by!)

This week’s workouts are off to a fantastic start. Stef and I met this morning for a speed session. Instead of heading to the track, Stef brilliantly suggested that we run half-mile intervals on a flat stretch between neighborhoods. (The first time I did a speed workout outside, I planned a route without factoring in hills. Most fun I’ve ever had doing a speed workout, let me tell you. This morning’s approach was so much better.)

My target pace for the workout was 8:30, which works out to 4:15 for each interval. Here’s the breakdown by split.

Interval            Time           Avg. Pace
1                        04:03           08:06
2                        04:07           08:14
3                        04:16           08:32
4                        04:13           08:26
5                        04:21           08:42
6                        04:05           08:10

Just to be clear, I’m not at all disappointed that I ran slower than I intended for two of the six splits. In fact, I continue to be amazed at how much faster I can run these days. A little over a year ago, running faster than a 10-minute pace was something that I could only do for a minute or two.

Here’s what I have for the rest of Week 6:
Tuesday: Speed Workout AM, Strength Training PM
Wednesday: 5 Miles
Thursday: 3 Miles
Friday: Off
Saturday: 10 Miles
Sunday: X-Train + Strength

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

500th Mile

I'm a little behind schedule on my goal to run 1,000 miles in 2011.  I slacked off a bit in May and June, but I don't think I'll have a problem reaching my goal now that I'm well into marathon training.

In celebration of running 503 miles as of this morning, I give you....

The Proclaimers!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Fall Four: Weekly Round-Up (4)

Over the last seven days, I spent just three at home in D.C. On Tuesday and Wednesday, my coworker and I traveled to Nottoway, Virginia to complete site observations for one of our projects. Then, on Saturday, I took a train to Boston to spend the weekend with my senior year housemates and people who probably should have lived in our house. It was so good to see everyone and spend some time catching up, reminding ourselves of the excellent time we had in college, and creating a new batch of stories to tell the next time we get together. (Seriously, guys, why don’t we do this more often? Like, all of the time.)

I plan to spend this week getting myself back into my usual routine. I love traveling, but it always does a number of my eating, running, and sleeping patterns. (It's been at least a week since I've cooked a meal for myself. I should really get back into doing that.) The good news is that I proved to myself that I am capable of getting out of bed super early to get my workouts in. Clearly, I should be able to do this more often – especially now that the temperature is D.C. threatens any attempts to safely run outside.

So, workouts:

I did all three of my running workouts on the treadmill last week, and all three focused on speed. On Wednesday and Thursday, I went for this:

Warm-Up – 5 Minutes

Intervals x 3
2 minutes at 5.0 MPH
2 minutes at 6.0 MPH
1 minute at 7.0 MPH
1 minute at 8.0 MPH
2 minutes at 7.0 MPH
2 minutes at 6.0 MPH

After Thursday’s workout, I decided that I was ready to increase each interval by 0.5 MPH – which is exactly what I did on Saturday (8 miles was not going to happen on the treadmill). I felt good after Saturday’s workout, which also included time on the stationary bike and strength work.

Also -- I took a look at my training schedule and made a few changes to allow for more speed work and more strength training.

Hopefully, things will cool down in D.C. If not, I’m going to start training myself to get out of bed early so that I can run before it becomes unbearable to do so.

Week 5:

Monday: X-Training and Strength Training
Tuesday: 4 Miles
Wednesday: 5 Miles
Thursday: Tempo Run 45 Minutes
Friday: Off
Saturday: 15 Miles
Sunday: X-Training and Strength Training

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Lady Business

Hey folks!

I'm unwinding from a business trip to Nottoway, Virginia and attempting to get my training schedule/life back in order.

Okay, so my life is never as out of order as I sometimes make it sound; more than anything, I just need to feel like things are progressing at a decent pace.

In the meantime:

Just in case you missed it, the NYT posted an article about the relationship between that oh-so special time of the month and athletic performance.  Check it out.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Fall Four: Weekly Round-Up (3)

Week 3 is done, and I’m moving to Week 4.

My training schedule needed a bit of rearranging this week while I was away on business. I moved my tempo workout to Tuesday (completed in a very swanky hotel fitness center), skipped my run on Wednesday, did my strength training and cardio workout on Thursday, ran on Friday (which is normally my rest day), tried a new route during my 13-miler on Saturday, and ran today (planned as a rest day this week).

There’s a clear lesson here – one that I’m starting to see applies to my life outside of running. Life happens, and it’s okay if things don’t go exactly as you scheduled. More later.

For now, here’s the training schedule for week 4:

Monday: X-Train and Strength Training
Tuesday: Speed Workout – 30 minutes
Wednesday: 5 miles
Thursday: 3 miles
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 8 Miles
Sunday: X-Train and Strength

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Fall Four: Weekly Round-Up (2)

I can’t believe it’s already Sunday. The four-day work week and my usual weekend antics helped the week go by quickly, but - as always - I wish I had one more day to lounge on the couch and stream episodes of Arrested Development.

My workouts went well this week, and I’m starting to rebuild my tolerance for running with humidity.  I need to figure out how to not be the sweaty kid at the end of all of my workouts.  Well, sweaty kid might be an understatement.  I should really work on not looking like I dived in a pool in my gear after all of my runs. 

I’m doing a bit of traveling over the next couple of weeks for work and for funsies, so I may need to move around some of my runs depending on the treadmill situation in hotels and how confident I feel running in new areas.

Week 3:

Monday – X-Train and Strength Training
Tuesday – 3 miles
Wednesday – 5 miles
Thursday – Tempo Workout, 30 minutes
Friday – Rest
Saturday – 13 Miles
Sunday – Rest

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Fall Four: Weekly Round-Up (1)

My first week of training is done, and it feels great to be back in training mode.  There were a few bumps this week, so I hope you can forgive me for whining about my first world problems while I walk through this week's workouts.

I had a really great session on Monday. For the first time in months, I increased the resistance on the stationary bike.  It was a little challenging at first, but it went well.  Then, it was onto working muscle groups that I have neglected for quite some time.

On Tuesday, there were threats of thunderstorms so I hit the treadmill for my three-miler.  Not too far into my workout, I remembered how boring treadmill running can be.  I also had some weird side pain going on, and my iPod playlist did nothing for me. Did I mention that running on a treadmill is boring? Anyway, my three-miler turned into a two-miler because I’m lame. 

Wednesday, I went back to Ladies Night after a very long absence.  I was excited to go back, and they organized a great route -- if only I wasn't such a fail. Although I missed a turn on the loop back, I ended up running farther than I planned (success!)

On Thursday, I did my tempo workout.  I looked forward to it, but hated that I had to waste an absolutely gorgeous day on the treadmill -- especially when only one of the three treadmills in my apartments fitness center worked...sort of. The newer treadmills – which have also just been repaired – have some disconnect between the belt and the main screen.  It would have been fine if I didn’t care about my pace, but I wanted to know exactly how fast I was going. The third treadmill shut off every 4 minutes.  This actually was fine because my workout consisted of five 3-minute repeats at 7.0 MPH, followed by a one-minute recovery jog.  It's much easier to count to five when the machine stops abruptly and you nearly tumble to the floor.

Saturday was incredible.  It started with a brunch at my apartment to watch the US Women's National team play Colombia in the Women's World Cup. I tried a few new recipes, and I think it went very well.  The USWNT won their game - which is always a bonus - and have secured a place in the quarterfinals. Whoo!! After cleaning my apartment, I took a long walk and then went out for a run before dinner.  It was one of the best runs that I've had in a very long time.  I felt fast again, and I was able to charge up several hills with little trouble.  

On Sunday, I completed my long run.  I decided to run a route that I haven't run since training for Baltimore -- the one that starts with running on an incline for three miles.  (The only good thing about running uphill for three miles is the promise of running downhill.) It was a little humid, and I need rebuild my tolerance for running in the heat.  Overall, it was a great run.

Onto Week 2:

Monday: Rest (Happy Independence Day!)
Tuesday: Speed Work - 30 minutes (Time to hit the track!)
Wednesday: 5 miles
Thursday: 3 miles
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 8 miles
Sunday: 3 miles

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Starting Out on a Journey

June seemed to go by very quickly, and it struck me how little I actually ran this month. If you’ve been following for a while, you’ll recall that one of my goals for this year is to run 1,000 miles. As of today, I’ve run 428 miles. I imagined that I would have more mileage at this point in the year, but I’m not worried since I know that I’m going to kick my training into high gear starting tomorrow.

Week 1 should be an easy transition back into heavy training:

Monday: Cross and Strength Training
Tuesday: 3 Miles
Wednesday: 5 Miles
Thursday: Tempo Run, 30 Minutes
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 10 Miles
Sunday: 3 miles
Total Miles (excluding Tempo): 21 miles

In other news, I can’t remember the last time that I cooked an actual meal at home. (Last week was a little crazy, and bowls of pasta with tomato sauce were the way to go most nights.) So, I tried a recipe that I picked up from Eat, Live, Run for a quinoa and black bean salad. I can’t say that I’ve also been my best at eating vegetables lately, so this was exactly what I needed this week. You can check out the full recipe here, but photos of food are never a bad thing.

The salad combines corn, red peppers, red onion, avocado, black beans, grapefruit, and quinoa.  The flavor combination was incredible.

 The vegetables and fruit are the first to go into the bowl for mixing.

 Followed by the quinoa and a lime juice-based dressing.

The salad keeps for about five days in the refrigerator, which is great because the recipe yielded more than I can ever consume in a few days.  Yum!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Happy Anniversary, Dear Blog! Let's Run Another Marathon!

It’s hard to believe that it was a year ago that I committed to running my first marathon. And, unlike my previous attempts to run 26.2 miles just to prove that I can, I actually went through with it.

I have you- my friends and lovely readers - to thank for helping me cross the finish line.

Writing about my experience and sharing this journey with you has been a motivating force that encouraged me to put on my running shoes and hit the asphalt. Thank you for taking the time to read my tl;dr posts and, for those of who talk to me regularly, listen to me blab on about my training and races. (Honestly, I still don’t know how some of you put up with me. Seriously.) Thank you for all of your page clicks and your comments. Thank you all for your words of encouragement.

Thank you for helping me to get through it all. And, for many of you, that goes beyond running.

It really does mean a lot to me to know that you're in my corner.

I think it’s appropriate that one year after starting this blog and my first journey to 26.2 miles I’m making my final preparations to start training for the four races that I’ll be running this fall. Over the weekend, I finalized my training schedule – all 21 weeks between now and the Philadelphia Marathon on November 20th. Knowing that I’m capable of making it across the finish line – even if it did take me five and a half hours the first time – my goal for Philadelphia is to finish (of course) and to shave an hour off of my time. I’ve also joked that it would be amazing if I could shave two hours off my time and Boston Qualify.

(To be honest, I’ve half-joked about this. There’s a part of me that wonders if I’m capable of a BQ. I mean, what else am I going to do this summer? Have a social life?)

When I trained for Baltimore last year, I did zero speed work and focused more on putting in the miles. My goal was to finish. That was it.  Strength training was also a rarity. (I some insecurities about using the free weights and strength equipment in my apartment’s fitness center around all of the large men. Happily, I’ve gotten over that and lift heavy objects with the best of them.) Omitting those things from my training last year definitely hurt me in the end, so this year, weekly tempo runs, speed workouts, and strength training sessions will be a huge part of my training.

I also made a mistake not running the second 20-miler that I scheduled. Maybe, just maybe it would have helped me get over that oh-so-special wall in Baltimore. It's completely my fault, though, between the poor planning and sheer ignorance that one should taper before a huge race. This time around – one of the perks of starting so early – I have two 20-milers planned with more than enough time to recover from my shorter races and taper before Philadelphia.

So, what does the race calendar look like?

As it stands, I'm committed to four races. I'm looking forward to all of these and the chance to run with friends and coworkers at each.

September 4 – Rock and Roll Half-Marathon, Virginia Beach
October 9 – Army 10-Miler, Washington DC
October 15 – Baltimore Half-Marathon
November 20 – Philadelphia Marathon

(Yalies, it just hit me that I probably won’t make it to The Game this year. We’ll see though, since I have a knack for making awesomely terrible decisions that backfire very quickly.)

Believe it or not, the first week of training kicks off on Monday. Once I start, I'll be posting more regularly than I have these last few weeks. And you know what that means? More inspiring people, more carb night recipes, more running misadventures, and - if all goes according to plan - more race recaps.

Ladies and gentleman, in the timeless words of Kel Kimble: "Aw, here it goes!"

Tuesday Inspiration: Falling in Love Is Like Owning a Dog

This is incredibly beautiful and needs to be shared. I'll just file this under "Non-Running Commentary."

Love and I have a very strained relationship. Very strained. The details are irrelevant, but I sometimes find myself wondering why I even bother. Thankfully, there are plenty of things all around to remind me that when Love and I settle our differences, it'll be worth every second.

This is one of those things.

an epithalamion by Taylor Mali

First of all, it's a big responsibility,
especially in a city like New York.
So think long and hard before deciding on love.
On the other hand, love gives you a sense of security:
when you're walking down the street late at night
and you have a leash on love
ain't no one going to mess with you.
Because crooks and muggers think love is unpredictable.
Who knows what love could do in its own defense?

On cold winter nights, love is warm.
It lies between you and lives and breathes
and makes funny noises.
Love wakes you up all hours of the night with its needs.
It needs to be fed so it will grow and stay healthy.

Love doesn't like being left alone for long.
But come home and love is always happy to see you.
It may break a few things accidentally in its passion for life,
but you can never be mad at love for long.

Is love good all the time? No! No!
Love can be bad. Bad, love, bad! Very bad love.

Love makes messes.
Love leaves you little surprises here and there.
Love needs lots of cleaning up after.
Sometimes you just want to get love fixed.
Sometimes you want to roll up a piece of newspaper
and swat love on the nose,
not so much to cause pain,
just to let love know Don't you ever do that again!

Sometimes love just wants to go for a nice long walk.
Because love loves exercise.
It runs you around the block and leaves you panting.
It pulls you in several different directions at once,
or winds around and around you
until you're all wound up and can't move.

But love makes you meet people wherever you go.
People who have nothing in common but love
stop and talk to each other on the street.

Throw things away and love will bring them back,
again, and again, and again.
But most of all, love needs love, lots of it.
And in return, love loves you and never stops.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Run with Dad 5K Round-Up

Let me start this post by saying that I am incredibly proud of my dad.

There’s a lot to be proud of him for, of course, but on Father’s Day, I added finishing his first 5K to my list.

I was reminded that I am my father’s daughter Sunday morning when we cut it very close for our arrival to the starting line and both of us were super stressed out about it. (I, at least, have cut it close multiple times so knew that the only thing you can do is get there and dash across the starting line before the cutoff.)

We made it across the finish line about a minute after the official start in the race and caught up with the pack fairly quickly. Once we were in a good place, I let my dad set the pace and call the shots when it came to taking walk breaks and stopping for water. The course started at a track at one of the local high schools and followed its cross-country trails. It was absolutely beautiful.

On the loop back to the finish, my brothers and mom managed to take a few fantastic photos of my dad in action. I think he was pretty tired at the end, but he pushed himself and we crossed the finish line together.

The race by the numbers:

Gun Time: 32:06
Net Time: 31:08
Average Pace: 10:12

Gun Time: 32:05
Net Time: 31:07
Average Pace: 10:12

Clearly, the next step is getting my dad to train for a marathon. I think he's ready!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Global Race for the Cure 5K Round-Up

Every race is personal.

I’m no where near the fastest person on the course; I run sub-8:00 miles in my dreams -- and, even then, it’s a miracle. Thankfully, I don’t race to win prizes or fame. Every race until today has been about proving to myself that I can push myself physically and mentally. Every race has been about competing against my previous self and about improvement. I had some of those thoughts going into the Global Race for the Cure. But, this race was personal for another reason. For the first time, I was racing for something else.

In one of my training updates, I mentioned that there was a post that I was struggling to write about my decision to run this year’s Race for the Cure. I continued to struggle, and I never finished it. The post – which is still labeled “Draft” – is about my maternal grandmother, who passed away in 2009 after being diagnosed with breast cancer. I have so many feelings about her, and I found it difficult to put them in writing in a way that did her justice. To put it simply, she was incredible, and losing her was difficult. Even two years later, it’s a little hard to go back to Connecticut and know that she won’t be there.

I ran this race in honor of my grandmother – in honor of her selflessness, in honor the support that she provided all of us, and in honor of her love. I ran this race in the hope that, very soon, we’ll be able to detect and treat breast cancer in its earliest stages – before it takes the women – and men – that we love. I ran this race to raise money to fund screenings, treatment, and education programs for under-served communities. I ran because I still have the chance.

I was out of bed at 6:45 -- once again confused as to why I was awake that early while stumbling around to make a quick breakfast and stab myself with safety pins while trying to attach the largest bib I've ever seen to my clothing. I took Metro to Chinatown and jogged down to the starting line just in time for the pre-race ceremony. The race organizers were so kind as to put pace signs along the runners start, and I nestled myself between the 8:00 and 9:00 crowd.

Once the race started, I quickly learned that the pace markers apparently didn't matter. I started to get just a bit frustrated when I realized that I would have to weave around runners and walkers -- walkers -- who didn't intend to move anywhere near the speed their position in the pace groups led me to believe. Then, I thought that my frustration wasn't in the spirit of the day. Instead, I did my best to find running space and settled into the race.

The course was a there-and-back loop along the National Mall.  Other than the beginning of the race when I sprinted at times to give myself enough room to pass, I maintained a consistent pace. When I started to feel tired and hot, I thought of the reasons that I was out there -- which was more than enough to keep me going.

I didn't care as much about setting a record this time, but here are my stats from the race:

Previous Record: 27:48 (Love the Run You're With 5K, February 2011)
Gun Time: 28:41
Net Time: 27:34
Average Pace: 8:53
Best Mile: 8:48 (Mile 3)

After the race, I walked back toward the metro and had an excellent interaction with a construction worker, who was obviously hitting on me. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn't engage -- and I'd probably roll my eyes and give him the "Are you serious?" stare.  But, there were happy endorphins to enjoy so I decided to chat while I waited to cross the street. (My internal monologue is in italics.)

Construction Worker (CW): You're out exercising this morning?
Alisha: Mm-hm.
CW: That's good. That's really good...that's how you keep that body! (He motions an hour glass figure with his hands.)
Alisha: WHAAAA? Okay, it's going to be one of those interactions. Just smile and nod. I like to keep in shape.
CW: I bet your boyfriend is really happy with you!
Alisha: Yep. Good. Letting him think that you have a boyfriend -- even though it's a total lie -- will end this conversation.
CW: (laughs) You don't have a boyfriend, do you? (Maybe I hesitated?)
Alisha: Uh...I do have a boyfriend! And, his name is George. George Glass.
CW: I bet he's happy. Is he happy? I bet he loves you.
Alisha: I hope so.
CW: Good. Keep up the exercise and keep that body. It looks good!
-The light changes-
Alisha: Well, have a good day! Did that really just happen?

It was kind of flattering to have someone compliment me -- even though it fell on the side of street harassment. But, whatever, I was in a good mood.  Mr. CW, I'll give you that one.  The next time, it's the death stare for you.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Happy National Running Day

Happy National Running Day, everyone!

Alright, so I’m technically a little under two hours until the end of the celebration of the joys of running but – as our quiz mistress says – “Better late than pregnant.”

My workout today didn’t go entirely as planned. With gross weather (It's so hot; milk was a bad choice) and plans for the early evening, I decided to hit the treadmill for a speed workout instead of going to the Ladies Night run. I started with a warm-up at 6.0 MPH and then increased the speed to 7.3 MPH, which has become my hard-but-doable pace. The first 800 meters were okay, but I started to feel tired and reduced the speed to 6.5 before taking a walk break, completely stopping at 2.5 miles. My guess is that diving head first into a speed workout after a five-day adventure to Connecticut – during which I really only ran once – wasn’t the greatest idea.

I’m not at all worried though, even with a race this weekend and the Run with Dad 5K in a few weeks.  (By the way, I'm super excited for June 19th.  Not only will I get to run with my dad during his first 5K, but I'll get to go to CONCACAF Gold Cup matches at RFK!)  It’s been really nice to take a break from heavy training, and I’m confident that I’ll be able to get back into my groove very soon.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Non-Running Commentary: Twenty-Four

I spent my 24th birthday weekend at my parents’ house in Connecticut. There was something nice about waking up in my bedroom at home – away everything in DC – a year older and, with any luck, a year wiser.

In the weeks leading up to my birthday, I started to feel like I'm starting to get “it.” Broadly, “it” is what it means to be a twenty-something and how these years will affect the next phase of my life. “It” is knowing that it’s okay that I’m not reaching certain milestones in the exact order that I planned as a child dreaming about what life would be like in my twenties. “It” is understanding that I don’t have to be on the exact timeline as others in my peer group. “It” is finally starting to accept the person that I've become – personality quirks and all -- and understanding how I can continue to grow.

There were moments of 23 that felt like absolute train wrecks. (Then again, doesn’t everything feel like a train wreck after a night of debauchery? Or maybe those were just the little construction workers in my head.) There were also so many joyful moments and so many moments of which to be proud. (It may have taken me longer than I planned, but I did manage to get myself across the finish line of my first marathon.) There were moments of confusion and moments of wondering if I’m on the right path. And, there were moments of confidence and knowing that things will be okay if I’m willing to put in the work and keep the big picture in sight.

I discovered new interests and passions. I figured out what I need from my relationships (platonic and otherwise), and I learned what I can offer in my relationships with others. I met incredible people, formed new friendships, and strengthened existing friendships. I saw that I could push myself physically in the same ways that I pushed myself mentally and artistically at various points in my life.

So, for Age 24, I only hope that I am able to experience greater personal and professional growth, become a more efficient runner, enjoy the many friendships that I'm so blessed to have, become closer to my family, enjoy new experiences, continue to to do the things that I love, and make the most of every moment.