Wednesday, June 30, 2010

My first half marathon

I’m back! And I’m now a half marathoner! Wait, is that a term? Whatever, it’s what I am. And I have a metal (and two black toenails) to prove it!


Let’s back up to the night before the race. I ran this race with Team Challenge for Crohn’s and Colitis. So if you’ve ever run a race for charity, you know how it all works.

There’s an inspirational pasta party that’s set up to pump you up and remember the cause. Everyone shares their stories, makes connections, and carb-loads before the big day.

After dinner I ran a few errands, got some breakfast from the grocery store, and went to bed. I had to be up at 3:45 a.m. so I got all of my race gear ready and passed out around 10.

When my alarm went off, I realized how crazy I really am. Who wakes up in the middle of the freaking night to go run a race? This girl, that’s who. And all you other crazy runners out there know exactly what I’m talking about.


Since I didn’t have a spoon and I was NOT about to pay room service a $4 fee to have them bring me one (are you serious??) I had to improvise. I bought some plain instant oatmeal, a banana, some coconut water and the all mighty Barney Butter. There was about a year where all I read about was Barney Butter, and for the life of me I couldn’t find it. So when I move out of Boston they finally receive it in stock? Go figure.

The verdict? It’s good but nothing to call home about. I will say it was definitely tasty, but I think it’s just that I like peanut butter better. And this little tub cost me nearly $7!

OK back to breakfast.

So it’s kind of hard to eat breakfast without a spoon, but I didn’t let that stop me. I made some oatmeal with the help of our handy dandy room coffee maker, used my finger to dump in the Barney Butter, broke my banana into little pieces, and basically drank it. It was quite the ordeal but it got the job done.

We got on the bus at 5 a.m. On the way over, I talked to my coach about my concerns with the course. I heard it was hilly and I wasn’t sure how I felt about not seeing the course beforehand. He told me he had spoken to a few other coaches who ran the course and said it was really not as bad as we were thinking.

“You have nothing to worry about,” he said. “You’ve been running for a while and I’m confident you’re all ready to do this.”


So this is the map of the course along with the hill grades. Believe me, this map does not do this course justice. These hills were h.a.r.d.

I lined up at the front of the pack only because my “running partner” wanted to go where it was less crowded. I was planning on lining up by the 10 minute mile pack because I didn’t want to go out too fast, but I figured we’d be OK where we were. The gun went off, and my partner Lisa and I started moving. The race had begun and all I could think was “Holy crap, this is what I’ve been training for! It’s finally here! BRING IT!”

This feeling lasted until we got to the first hill. That was only mile 2.

I pushed myself up the hill and told Lisa, “Shit, if this is what we’re up against, I think I’ll be slowing down sooner than I expected.” She laughed at me and said, “You’ll be fine.”

For the first 3 miles we kept around a 9:40 pace. I didn’t want to go faster since the hills were already showing their faces, and I knew I had a loooong way to go.

Now, let me explain that I had 4 goals:

  1. Don’t walk. No matter how hard it is, just jog your way through it. This was only because I was trying to prove a point to myself. I was running for Crohn’s and Colitis, a disease that has changed the lives of so many people, including Dennis. He didn’t have a choice, so I was trying to put myself in a position where I didn’t either.
  2. Run under 2:30. It was my first half, so I didn’t want to put too much pressure on myself. This was my “I’ll tell people I want to run under 2:30” goal. You know, the goal I’ll say out loud. My real goal was under 2:15 (or I should say, closer to 2 hours.)
  3. Not to burn out by mile 7. Every long run I’ve run, I’m good through mile 6. After that, it’s all down hill. I brought some extra fuel with the intention of Gooing up at miles 4, 7 and 10. I figured the earlier I start, the better I would finish.
  4. Enjoy myself. I spent so much time trying to push myself through the Cherry Blossom that I didn’t really enjoy the race. Last year when I ran the Boilermaker 15K with my friend Ann, we had so much fun. We chatted, we laughed, and we truly enjoyed ourselves. Well, until the last 2 miles of the race…when I bitched about how badly I wanted to stop.

Keeping those things in mind, I’ll take you on the course with me.

Miles 1-4 were the testers. I figured if I could run this part slow and steady; it would prep me for the rest of the race. However, these miles smacked in the face something fierce. The hills began almost immediately, and I was struggling to keep up with Lisa. After the start of mile 3, I decided to stay behind. This is when I knew I would not be running this race in 2 hours. I was OK with this decision only because I knew what lied ahead: many more of the same hills. I’d rather slow it down now and finish with dignity than end up feeling like garbage at the end.

At mile 4, I took my first Goo (Ok, so I wanted to stay Au Natural, but I honestly didn’t have enough room in my bra to hold anything other than a few Goo packets.) Starting early was definitely key for me. This really helped get me through the mile 7 wall.

The first 4 miles were hilly but doable. However, my pace had dropped significantly. I was jogging my way through the hills and just trying to take everything in.

Miles 4-8 were just the beginning of the pain.

We were told this course had “rolling hills.” Rolling my ass. How about hill after hill after hill. That’s more like it.

I was feeling frustrated with the fact that people were speed walking up these hills faster than I could run. I passed a woman who blew by me with a power walk, so I joked with her and said, “Geeze, I should be following your lead!” She laughed and said “Just take big steps!” But I had a goal: no walking allowed! I just kept pumping my arms and pushing my way up the hills. I actually tried taking a picture of myself running up one of these hills but it was extremely unsuccessful. I wanted to send out a few texts along the way but that didn’t happen.

Mile 7: Goo #2. A downhill stretch helped break up the string of hills, and I thought this would be a good time to try making up some of the time I lost. My training coach had said that the best thing to do when tackling hills is to save your energy running up, then push yourself to make up what you lost running down. He said this was much easier than using everything you have on the hill, especially when the course is mostly hills.

I pushed myself through a stretch of flat/downhill, trying to pretend like it would actually help get me back on track. I passed by a little boy in a wheelchair cheering on with his mom. This was the first time I was happy to see a spectator.

Before I knew it, I was back to climbing up hills. It was this stretch, 10-12, where I thought I was going to die.

Not because I didn’t have the energy, not because I was hitting a wall, but solely because I was sick of hills. My God, when are they going to END? And since I had taken a glimpse of the map beforehand, I knew a massive hill was on its way and this scared the crap out of me. This was around the time where my mantra REALLY started to kick in.
“Dennis didn’t have a choice…Dennis didn’t have a choice…Dennis… didn’t…have...a …. Choice……” It was harder than I thought. Aren’t mantras supposed to help inspire you? Ha! Ok, it helped, but not as much as I hoped.

At mile 10, I decided to go for my last Goo. I knew the “hill of death” was around the corner so I figured I’d tackle it with lots of energy since I knew I’d need all the help I could get. I came to the start of what was a mile and a half climb and just decided to take it slow.

11 mile mark-are you kidding me?? Really? Yeah, this is bullshit. Seriously, this hill was MUCH HARDER than I thought. It was hell and I was struggling. This was the point where I knew walking was not an option: it was a must. I was barely keeping a 13 minute mile pace jogging, and just as before, I was getting passed by people speed walking. So, I decided if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Believe it or not, my speed increased by speed walking because, just as that woman before said, my large steps were covering more ground than my little tiny jog steps were.

At this point, another of my four goals went down the tubes, but I did the best I could given the circumstances. You gotta do what you gotta do to finish right?

I knew that our Team Challenge race coordinator was at mile 11.5 waiting to cheer us on and I was determined not to let her see me walking, so I walked until I could hear her screams (she’s very upbeat and had clappers, so I knew where she was.) I started running and slapped her five when I ran by. Luckily at this point, it started to flatten out…for about ¼ mile. Then, back to climbing (and cursing) I went.

Mile 12. This was a PR for me. Inside I was cheering but I had no one to share it with.

Only 1 mile left. I can do this. You’re almost there! DO IT!

Another hill. Holy hell really?

At this point I started to hear people really getting into it on the sidelines. “You’re almost there! You’re coming up on the end! Keep going!”

In my mind, I’m thinking, “Yeah right…that’s what they always say.” When I ran the Boilermaker, spectators were telling us we’re almost done 3 miles before the end. It’s all relative, I thought, and kept pushing through.

This is when I started seeing race finishers cheering us on.

“The finish is right around the bend, you’re almost there!”

Ok , maybe … maybe….

And then I came around the bend and it was like heaven: The clock.

This was the point where I just gave it everything I had. I sprinted through that last quarter mile like I was running a sprint race in high school. I passed by people screaming my name, and I bolted past 5 people at the end.

And as soon as I got through that finish line, I lost it.

Everything I had went into that race. 6 months of training, raising money, talking to people about what I was doing and why, and 2 hours of hell….all of these emotions put into one moment … it was so amazing and overwhelming. I just burst into tears like a 2 year old. Looking back at it now, it’s funny (and slightly embarrassing) but at the time, I was a mess.

I came around the corner to find my friend Elizabeth waiting for me. I lost it again. What a baby I am!


Thank you SO MUCH Elizabeth for getting up at 5 a.m. to cheer me on! You ROCK!

So let’s check my goals:

1. Don’t walk. Ummm, yeah, mile 11 did me in.

2. Finish under 2:30? Check. Official chip time was 2:22:21. The other time goals … well, yeah they went out the window at mile 4.

3. Don’t burn out by mile 7. I’m proud to say that my fueling system worked and I will definitely continue this routine from here on out. 3 Goos worked well for me.

4. Enjoy the race. Weelllll yeah, I did enjoy the race. I was pissed at the course but enjoyed the experience.

My coach said this race was the equivalent of running 20 miles on flat ground. Don’t tell me that….putting ideas of a marathon in my head….

So there you have it; my first half marathon recap.

I was a little sore Monday and Tuesday but I’m feeling much better today. I even went for a 3 mile recovery run and felt great.

What’s next? I’m not sure. I’m signed up for the Army 10 miler in October, but until then I have nothing to train for. I’m relieved but bothered by that at the same time. We’ll see what I stumble across in the next few weeks. Until then, it’s just time to run for fun.

Happy hump day!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Prepping for race day

It's Friday and my big race is Sunday. Needless to say, work has been nil for me. I've been giggling like a school girl all day, full of excitement for my trip back up to Boston for this weekend's festivities.

First things first-the US is playing at 2 p.m. Saturday so I'll be sitting at a bar (drinking water) watching the game. Most importantly, I'll be hydrating and staying off my feet. GO USA!

This week has been pretty uneventful on the workout front. I ran an easy 3 mile run on Monday afternoon, went for an hour walk on Tuesday (around the mall to stay cool) and another easy 30 minute run on Wednesday. That's it. I definitely did not want to burn myself out.
I really think I overtrained for my Cherry Blossom 10 Miler so this time, I'm hoping this rest will help.
Another thing-I've been slowly adding carbs to my diet all week. Tonight I will be making a gluten free pizza with my good friend Megan (from high school-she's taking me to the airport-I'm flying out of Baltimore and she lives 15 minutes away so it's just easier that way)
I've been doing everything possible to keep hydrated. Water and coconut water have been my 2 best friends this week (and green tea but that's a different post)
Did you know:

Coconut Water is More Nutritious than whole milk - Less fat and NO cholesterol
Coconut Water is More Healthy than Orange Juice - Much lower calories
Coconut Water is Better than processed baby milk- It contains lauric acid, which is present in human mother's milk
Coconut water is naturally sterile -- Water permeates though the filtering husk
Coconut water is a universal donor-- Its identical to human blook plasma
Coconut Water is a Natural Isotonic Beverage - The same level we have in our blood
Coconut water has saved lives in 3rd world countries thru Coconut IV
These are just a few things about coconut water that has made me a huge fan. I can go on for days.
Anyway, my game face is on. Time to get ready for Boston!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Spiedie season

The best part about having a grill is not having to cook. Dennis is the grill master and loves putting his talents to work behind our Weber charcoal grill. That’s right, I said charcoal. We like it better….ok…we couldn’t afford the one we really wanted….


We’ll make due with the one we have…


Anyway, since the weather has gotten warmer (or should I say down right sweltering in Northern VA) we’ve been spending a lot of time eating off the grill…and I love it. Food just tastes so much better when it’s grilled, especially spiedies.

What are spiedie you ask? Well if you’re not from central NY you wouldn’t know.

According to Wikipedia

The spiedie (pronounced /ˈspiːdi/ "speedy") is a dish local to Greater Binghamton in the Southern Tier of New York State, and somewhat more broadly known and enjoyed throughout Central New York state.[1] Spiedie consists of cubes of chicken or pork, but it may also be made from lamb, veal, venison or beef. The meat cubes are marinated overnight or longer (sometimes for as long as two weeks under a controlled environment) in a special marinade, then grilled carefully on spits (if steel skewers are used, they are called "spiedie rods") over a charcoal pit.
The freshly prepared cubes are served on soft Italian bread or a
submarine roll, skewer and all, and sometimes drizzled with fresh marinade. The marinade recipe varies, usually involving olive oil, vinegar, and a variety of Italian spices and fresh mint.

And oh are they good.


Since we live near a Wegman’s (which is based out of Rochester, NY) we can find our favorite spiedie sauce


I would say 90% of what we barbecue includes this sauce. On veggies, salmon, pork, you name it. It’s THAT good. And it’s gluten free :)

On a sidenote: When I woke up this morning, I realized that in 7 days I will be in Boston running my first 1/2 marathon for Crohn’s and Colitis. This will be a very easy taper week with very clean eating and lots of water. Any suggestions of how I should train this week? Should I stay away from all running or should I do a few easy 20-30 minute runs? Should I stay away from strength training?

Happy Grilling!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

11 down…

On Saturday I ran the Crossroads 17.75K, a race that is part of the Marine Corps Marathon series. It was suggested by someone in my Team Challenge group and I was all over the idea. I decided to use this as a training run on a different level-racing situations are always different than training situations.

Let’s step back to the night before. My co-worker Nate (below) helped me set up a happy hour to raise money for my 1/2 marathon for the Crohns and Colitis Foundation (which is in Boston on June 27.) I pledged to raise $2800 and I have been struggling to meet my goal. We had an open bar where he and I guest bartended.


After a LONG day at work, we drove straight into the Georgetown part of Washington, DC for the 3 hour party. Since I knew I was running in the morning (the race started at 7 a.m.) I drank water while everyone else drank adult drinks. However, since it’s an Irish style pub, there wasn’t much on the menu that was gluten free, so my dinner was a garden salad with grilled chicken…essentially I didn’t eat any carbs which was a no-no.

After running around ensuring that no-one was left empty handed, I headed home at around 9:30.

(they were so good to me-I raised $250!)

I was so wound up when I got home that it took me another 2 hours or so to get to sleep…and was up at 4:15.

I had a bowl of overnight oats (1/2 cup oatmeal, 1/2 cup soymilk, 1/2 cup Greek yogurt) topped with 1/2 banana and some PB. I figured the carbs from the breakfast would help since I didn’t get many the night before. I filled up my water bottle with coconut water and squeezed about 3 tbsp of honey into a ziploc baggie for fuel. And I was off.

When I walked outside it was around 5:30 and it was already 72 degrees and grossly humid. Not a good way to start an 11 mile race.

I made my way through the crowd to the starting line and saw that the temp was hovering around 75*. The forecast called for 92 and HUMID, so I knew it was going to be a tough one. The first thing I had to do was remind myself that this is a training run: I don’t need to beat anyone, I don’t need to rush through anything. This is to prepare myself for the race I’ve been training for for the past 6 months. If you have to walk, walk. It’s not a big deal.

Good thing I put myself in this mentality because this race was hard. I mean HARD.

The first 1/4 mile was uphill, and then we took a left into the woods and ran the next 4 1/2 miles or so in the woods. Uphill. On gravel. This was bittersweet since it was hot, so being in the woods was a nice shady run. But as you know, trail running is much different than road running so I lost a lot of time (and energy) from this.

When I got back on the road, the sun started beaming down on us and I started to get really hot. I made sure to keep drinking, and at every water station I stopped and got Powerade, but I was really getting drained. I broke into my honey at around mile 5 and stretched it out for the remainder of the race.

By mile 8, I started thinking I was going to die. Oh, did I mention that about 90% of this race was uphill? Yeah. It was awesome. But, again it was a good experience since I know New England is hilly and my 1/2 will not be flat.

By mile 9, I was realizing that a run-walk plan was going to have to take effect. The hills were brutal and so was the heat. I decided to run for 4 minutes and walk for one, which was the method I took during my 2 hour training run the week before. It worked, but I still didn’t think I was going to make it. Again, there were so many damn hills! Every time I thought I was done, another one came to slap me in the face.

And here was another issue: my hand went numb.

When I was in college, I pulled my shoulder out during an off season workout (I played soccer.) Ever since then, about once a month or so I wake up with a tingly arm. My arm will tingle all the way down to my fingers and it will stay that way for a day or 2 and then go away. My trainer in college told me it’s due to a pinched nerve, so I never thought much of it. However, during the race around mile 8, I realized I couldn’t feel my thumb.

I’m not going to lie-this really freaked me out. I started running with my arm in the air to circulate the blood flow and it seemed to be working but I couldn’t run that way comfortably. It took about an hour or so after the race for my arm/hand/thumb to feel normal again.

Anyway, after struggling through the woods and hills, my final destination: The Marine Corps Museum. This is where the race ended and I could not be any happier. I felt like such garbage after this race that I called my mom practically in tears and said, “I will not be running another long run after my 1/2 marathon for A LONG TIME.”

After begging the EMT people to get me some water (all I could find was beer!) I stumbled my way to the shuttle bus back to my car and drove home with my tail between my legs.
My stats? 1:57:30 with a 10:40 pace.

At first I was really disappointed by this time. After all, I ran the Cherry Blossom 10 miler in 1:31. How could it have taken me almost a half hour to run an extra mile? Oh yeah, those evil trails and hills may have had something to do with that—never mind the extreme heat.

Overall I’m very glad I ran this race. I woke up Sunday morning feeling like a million bucks! I wasn’t tired or sore or anything and I think that’s a good sign. I wish I could afford to buy the pictures that Marathonfoto took because they seriously say it all. But now, all I can say is bring it on Boston!! 13.1 or bust!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Gotta love a boss that runs

Yeah I know, I disappeared. I have no excuse. I spent so much time stressing out over my 1/2 marathon (June 27th!) and raising money for the Crohns and Colitis Foundation of America that I hated the idea of blogging. And I even hated running for a little while. But I’m feeling a little better, so I’ll spend the next few days filling you in on what you might have missed.

But first, I have to say that my boss rocks.


He’s been stressing out a lot lately and as soon as he walked in to work this morning, it was written all over his face. He’s moving and his wife is pregnant, and work has been insanely busy. He played down his stress level when I asked him how he was doing this morning, but by noon he announced he was ordering the office pizza for lunch (with a side note  to me- “and anything you might want” which I thought was funny.) At around 2:30, he got up , stretched and said, “I think I’m going for a run.”

I’ve changed my routine and have been running on my lunch hours, but today I got busy and figured I’d just run after work. But this was an invitation for a mid-afternoon run and it was just what we both needed.

We ran 3.2 miles in just over 30 minutes. We talked the whole time about work, life, the new house, the baby-on-the-way, and before we knew it, the run was over. It was the perfect way to get over the afternoon hump.

I have a race re-cap for you guys (Crossroads 17.75K,) some fundraising updates, and the final countdown toward my first 1/2 marathon. I’m sure you can’t wait!