Time Yourself

For the past few weeks, I’ve been debating back and forth about whether or not to invest in a Garmin (or other brand, doesn’t matter) running watch. I’ve been thinking about this for awhile and I’m still at a stalemate, so I thought I’d see what you guys think.

I’ve never been one of those runners who cares much about time. I’ve always been a pretty average/moderately fast runner, but I never worked hard at making myself quicker. I always ran just to…run. Recently though, I’ve had dreams of increasing my speed. It all started a few weeks ago when I PRed at the Shamrock Half Marathon. I liked setting a goal (albeit a very loose goal, but still a goal nonetheless) and achieving it. I realize that if I do interval training and apply myself, I can (hopefully) make myself faster. My marathon times have been pretty mediocre thus far: close to 5 hours for both, and I’d like to improve GREATLY upon that time for the Marine Corps Marathon in October. If I can run a 1:55 half, I’m thinking that I should be able to run a 4:30 marathon. Easier said than done, of course. It’s going to take some tough interval training and I will have to start paying attention to time during long runs. Which is why I’m thinking about buying a Garmin watch.

(Source)

Pros of buying a Garmin:

  • Can finally time myself and figure out what my average pace is/should be.
  • Improve on my speed for the marathon.
  • Be more accurate in my distances. Right now I use google maps, and perhaps this isn’t the best judge of running distance.
  • With that, I can try some new running trails since I won’t have to map them out beforehand. This would be great in marathon training since I tend to get bored of the one I do everyday.
  • Be more of a “real” runner. Don’t all the real runners have these things?

Cons of buying a Garmin:

  • It’s expensive! Ahhhhh!!!
  • Will I become one of those people who is constantly looking at my wrist during races? And the anxiety that comes with that.
  • Clunky, extra weight.
  • Waiting for satellites, I’ve heard fun stories about this.
  • Will it take the fun out of running?

The big con that I’m worried about is that last one on the list. Will it take the fun out of my favorite sport? Thoughts? Should I get the watch or not?

I’ve got some time to figure out if this is a smart investment for me. No better place to contemplate such things than here, which may or may not have happened this weekend:

Happy (belated) Cinco de Mayo!

Race Recap: Shamrock Half

Guess who got a PR on Sunday? If you guessed ME, then you got it!!

This past weekend, I ran my favorite race in the entire world: The Shamrock Half Marathon.

The weekend started out like it normally does, with me driving.

This race took place in Virginia Beach, which is about 4 hours from where I live in DC. Thankfully, my brother lives in the area, so I was able to hangout and stay with him. He also ran the race with me!

Once I made it to VB, we headed over to the race expo to pick up our bib numbers and t-shirt swag.

My brother commented on how many of the vendors/apparel were geared towards woman. It wasn’t until he pointed it out that I took notice, but most of the merchandise for sale was definitely for women. I wonder why that is: do women dominate the sport or are we just more likely to buy things?

Speaking of buying things, I bought this obnoxiously bright shirt at the expo to run in:

I really didn’t have any rationale in buying it other than I had a “huge urge to buy something extremely bright”. I sort of love it!

The expo took place at the Virginia Beach Convention Center which is just a few blocks away from the beach. Afterwards, we naturally headed that way. Unfortunately, it was chilly and looked like a storm was about to roll in. That didn’t stop me from heading down and sticking my toes in the ocean!

Yucky cold.

We headed back to my brother’s apartment for a Gatorade Party (that’s what we called it anyway) which included 2 liter bottles of Gatorade (we only drank half) and a pasta dinner.

He loves Gatorade!

Really, the only thing I don’t like about the Shamrock Half is how early the race is. This race has a 7am start time which just kills me every year because I am SO not a morning person. This is the 3rd year in a row I’ve done this race and every year I have been late for the start. Two years ago we made it just in time to hop in with the last corral and I had to weave in and out of walkers, which was annoying. Last year we made it into the corral during the national anthem, which left us no time to warm up. So this year, we were dead-set on making it on time. Luckily, my brother’s girlfriend, Jackie was nice enough to wake up at 5:15(!!) and drive us to the start line. This was the first year I made it with time to spare. Constantly improving!

Typically, I have some intense jitters on race morning. I’m not sure why, but this year for this race, I didn’t have any at all. I just jumped into my corral and when the gun sounded and we all took off, I just ran. It was the first time I think I’ve zoned out like that during a race.

I felt really, really strong during miles 1-6. I got to start out in the first corral and had to constantly remind myself not to worry about people passing me. When I saw the 1:45 pacing group pass, I decided to try to keep up with them for a bit even though I knew there was no way I could keep that pace the whole race (my half marathon PR was 1:57). I surprised myself when I was able to keep them in sight for just about 3 miles. I must have been really cruising!

When I passed the Mile 5 marker, I noticed the time read: 41:00 and I thought to myself, “If I can keep up this pace, I can PR easily!” Now I didn’t really share this with my blog readers, but I was secretly (and seriously) gunning for a half marathon PR in this race. I haven’t PR-ed…ever, since my first race was my fastest.

I really hit a strong stride through miles 6-9. My legs felt amazing and I was passing people who had passed me a few miles back in the shuffle. It felt awesome!

But then mile 10 happened. I could feel a huge blister form on my right big toe. I also realized that I had forgotten to apply anti-chafing gel in the morning, and I could feel it on my legs and on one specific spot on my left hip. Rookie mistake! I kept pushing through, right until mile 11. That’s when my arms felt tingly and then started to feel numb. I decided that I had run fast enough in the beginning that I could slow my pace down a bit. Miles 10-12 were extremely difficult and there were times where I thought about slowing down and just walking the rest.

That’s when I saw the clock at Mile 12. It read: 1:42:00. If I just ran that last 1.1 miles in less than 15 minutes, I had a PR! Easier said than done, of course. My legs hurt, my blister had popped right through my sock, and my arms felt like they were going to go numb and fall off my body.

When I rounded the corner onto the boardwalk and saw the ocean, I knew the end was near. I just kept pushing through and crossed the finish line with the clock reading 1:55:18! I had my PR!!

HORRAY!!

After the race, I found my brother (who also PRed in 1:25:44 — SAY WHAT!!!) and Jackie and we all headed into the beer tent for the after party.

Honestly, the after party is probably the reason that this race is my favorite! First of all, when you finish, they give you a finisher’s hat, a sweatshirt, and lots of food. There is a huge after party in a tent with awesome live entertainment. And since the race is sponsored by Yuengling, they bring in hundreds of kegs and all participants can get up to 4 beers…which, trust me, is all you need after running 13 miles!

I even had some energy left over to do the Cupid Shuffle!

It’s so nice being able to go out and chill on the beach with your beer in hand and live music playing.

Post-race meal courtesy of Red Robin (yuuuum!)

Yes, we ate everything on that table.

What a fun weekend! I can’t wait to do this race again next year, and maybe even PR again!

Aunt Cait and the Body Challenge

Indeed, you read the title of this post correctly. Remember how in my last post I said I had exciting family news? Well, I have been silently wanting to implode and tell everyone ever since I found out, but it was not my news to share so I had to wait until the right time. That time is now.

I’M GOING TO BE AN AUNT!!

My sister, Erin, and her husband, Robert, are expecting their first child! Her due date is late August/early September sometime. My family is super, super excited! It’ll be the first child for the next generation in our immediate family. It will be my mom’s first grand-baby and she is just bursting at the seams with joy. This also means that the poor kid will have to endure me as an Aunt. I’ve already warned my sister that I plan to be a “cool Aunt” and aptly corrupt their future son or daughter. Just kidding……kind of.

Congratulations to Erin and Robert!!

Whoo, now that I’ve finally shared that news, onto my next bit of news. Today, I joined my company’s Weight-Loss Body Challenge. It’s been difficult to maintain motivation to diet and exercise. And my motivation has certainly been waining lately. That’s when I found out that Discovery was doing a weight-loss challenge with a cash prize at the end. Sign me up, por favor!!

The cash prize pot for the first place winner is up to: $640! Second place is even getting over $100. I don’t really have any disillusion that I’m going to win this competition, but it would be pretty cool if I could get close and shed a few more pounds in the process. It aligns with my current weight loss goals, and there’s nothing like a little cash-money to help renew my motivation. It’s all about the Benjamins, baby!

I’ve already decided that if I win, I’m booking a vacation. To somewhere AWESOME!

I’m also thinking about signing up for the Marine Corps Marathon. It’s in October, it’s in my backyard, and I’m sort of itching for another long race to run. Thoughts?

March is for…RACES!

Legs, meet sun. Sun, meet legs. It has been far too long since you two have been acquainted, as is judged by my pasty-whiteness (beach trip, anyone?).

Welcome back spring, please never leave again. It had been far too long since I woke up to the sound of birds chirping out my open window, but this morning delivered just that. By this afternoon it was a perfect 65 degrees and sunny as could be and I was able to bust out the shorts for the first time since winter. It almost made my afternoon run pleasurable. Yeah, almost.

March is starting out on quite the right foot if you ask me. I’m hoping that this trend continues because I have races galore planned for this month! Okay, well just two actually, but that’s still quite a few for a single month. Let’s do a quick overview.

The Shamrock Half – March 17

Okay people, get pumped, because this is my favorite race of ALL TIME! Yes, that is quite a bold statement, but I mean it. This race has it all: it’s flat, on the beach, there’s beer (lots of it) and live music at the end, and they give you a ton of swag (finishers t-shirt AND hat? Yes, please!). What more could you possibly ask for? This year will mark the 3rd year in a row that I’ve run the Shamrock Half. I will be running with my little bro, who I’m sure will most likely beat me by well over an hour.

Last year I ran this race in 2:02:and-some-change with very minimal training. So, I’m hoping to run right around the same time [or beat it] this year. Although between you and me, my half marathon PR (which I set in 2008 during the VA Beach Rock ‘N Roll Half) is 1:58:17, so I’m honestly gunning for that, but not optimistic. I’m excited for this race though, regardless of the time I get, since it’s my first back since the marathon!

Monument Ave 10k – March 31

I can’t tell you how long it’s been since I did a 10k. Actually, that’s a lie. It can tell you. It was exactly 3 years ago in 2009, the last time I ran this race! I got suckered into running it with a friend of mine who then bailed at the very last minute (you know who you are)!

Yay for new running friends!

Just two weeks after I run the Shamrock Half, I will be heading to Richmond to run this year’s Monument Ave 10k. I’ve been itching to do some “shorter” distance races lately. I like the concept of training for a marathon, but in practice, it’s extremely time consuming and intense. Just as long as I have a race to train for (it doesn’t have to be a marathon), I’m completely content with running 4-5 miles a day. That’s why, when my friend Meredith informed me that she was running, I jumped at the chance to tag along!

Last time I ran this race I was dealing with some personal stuff and became a running FIEND, so I freak-of-nature PR’ed with a time of 0:50:18. I’ve done plenty of 6 mile training runs since and most of them haven’t even come close to beating that time. So, for this year’s race, I’m setting a more realistic goal of trying to keep my time under 1 hour.

What I remember about this 10k is that it was a pleasant 6 miles through the heart of downtown Richmond. A lot of college students (read: hipsters) come out of their apartments, drink, and cheer on runners. It’s a fun atmosphere and relatively close to home, both are wins in my opinion! Plus, I can’t wait to reunite with these two lovely ladies:

Aside from running my favorite races, my March calendar is beginning to fill up. Here’s are some fun things I already have on the docket:

  • St. Patrick’s Day, obviously!
  • My first Brazilian Steakhouse Experience
  • Joining a Body Challenge for work (what’s up, weight-loss goals?)
  • My first haircut in over a year. Ahhh! Haircuts give me anxiety.
  • And some exciting family news that I can’t wait to share when the time is right!!

Are any of you running races this month? What are your other fun plans for March?

The Post-Marathon Slump

What is the post-marathon slump, do you ask? My fellow runners can most likely relate to me on this. The post-marathon slump is a period after any race (it doesn’t necessarily need to be a marathon) where you take a physical and mental break from all things running. It’s like, “Hey, I just ran 26.2 miles, so I probably don’t really need to run again for another month or so, right?”

Wrong.

Yet this thinking prevails. At least it does for me. Ever since my marathon I’ve been struggling with finding motivation to run. I don’t have anything to strive for, so what’s the point? Since my big race, I’ve only run once and it was painful. It’s crazy how quickly I get out of shape! The 4 miles I did on Saturday morning hurt worse than the 26.2 I did last month. Okay, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but you get my point. There is a huge difference between my fitness level now and when I completed my marathon 3 weeks ago. All of my hard work is going down the drain. It’s kind of sad.

You want to know the worst part? It’s that despite everything, I have zero motivation to get out there and change. I know that I should. I read so many other blogs written by such motivated runners and I know that I should lead by example. But I’d much rather go to BDubs with my friends or catch up on episodes of How I Met Your Mother (best show EVER, for the record).

(source)

For me, exercise is an absolute necessity. It really isn’t an option. Thanks to my luck (or lack thereof) in the genetic lottery, I failed to inherit any kind of metabolism. It’s not that I think weight loss/gain has everything to do with metabolism, but how can you explain the fact that my male roommate (who doesn’t exercise) can eat the same exact thing that I do and stays super skinny while I blow up like a balloon? It’s just not fair. If I stop exercising completely, I gain weight pretty quickly. I may or may not do a longer, more detailed post about my (and my family’s) battle with weight and genetics, but I have yet to summon up the courage. This blog is supposed to be me exposed, but I’m not sure if I’m ready to be that honest with you (and myself) yet. Soon. Maybe.

I digress. What I really need are motivators for getting back into running. How do I kick-start this exercise routine again? Now that it’s dark and dreary out by 5pm, how do I muster up the energy after a long day’s work to go for a run?

I’ve already decided to sign up for another race. I’m going to run the Shamrock Half Marathon in March. But I’m worried that a half still won’t be motivation enough for me to brave the cold, and I’m not ready to run another full just yet. It’s a Catch 22 at its finest.

Have you ever experienced the post-marathon (or any race) slump? Any tips for overcoming it?

Philly in Photos

I promise, I will do a full race report eventually. BUT I just got back from Philadelphia, I just ran 26.2 miles, I’m tired, my feet hurt AND it’s my birthday. So for now, I’m going to take the easy way out and just post some pictures (I know they’re much more enjoyable than my ramblings anyway). What you should know though is that I survived and finished my second marathon in 4:52! BOOYAH!

Packet pickup

This is what I ran.

Pre-race cookie prep

Can’t take a trip to Philly without visiting the Liberty Bell!

Race morning (I think this face was supposed to be our attitudes towards running a marathon. Seems accurate.)

Our view

I wish I were a Kenyan!

13 miles in and loving life

My speed demon brother at mile 25 (he finished in 3:19…I think he’s secretly a robot)

An hour an a half later I made it to mile 25!

Marathon bling!

Our supporters!

The back of our t-shirts dedicated to Pappy

The marathon finishers!

Okay, so like I said, I will do a full race/weekend report sometime once things slow down a little bit (can you believe the marathon, my birthday AND Thanksgiving are all falling in the same week? GAH!) for me. It was a heck of a journey.

20 Miles!

I’ve pretty much been the worst blogger ever this week. But I swear, I have a solid reason. I’ve actually been training for my marathon. And training is hard work!

On Saturday, I ran 20 miles. Yes, you read that correctly. 2-0.

I was a little bit hesitant to run this distance because a) I’ve taken the last 2-3 weeks really, really easy and b) I fell last week on a run and was embarrassed really busted my knee. It was swollen for a few days and is a lovely array of colors but, alas, I have two weeks until this race so desperate times call for desperate measures. I honestly couldn’t have picked a better day for this. 60 and sunny? Talk about a runner’s paradise! So off I went.

I’d been dreading this run. All week I was looking for ways to get out of it; thought about going out of town, making plans on Saturday afternoon, or just “accidentally” oversleeping. But by the time Saturday morning rolled around I was actually excited (and nervous) to test my limits and see what my body could do.

My long runs always start out something like this: bright eyed, ready to go, invincible:

But around mile 18 I start to look more like this:

It’s around this time when I ask myself why I sign myself up for these crazy races. My knees hurt, my legs are heavy, and I have been sweating for approximately 3 hours. Gross! But I just keep pushing through with the help of this gal:

Say hello to miCoach! She helps me stay on pace. I know that there are a ton of apps out there for running, but I’ve found that this one is one of the best. It will track your workouts, you can sync it with your laptop, and use playlists from your iPod. It keeps track of my total run time, total miles, my pace, and my heartrate. I approve. I’m not usually big on timing my runs, but when I’m going such a far distance I like to make sure I’m hitting my marks.

I was actually surprised at how well this run went. I plowed through the first 14 miles like they were nothing. There wasn’t even any pain in my legs until around mile 18 and even then they just felt tired and heavy but I knew I could keep going. I was surprised that my body felt so strong even after taking some time off. I guess it’s true that a little rest does a body good.

I was really sore and tired afterwards. So the rest of my night was spent doing this:

Now we’re talking.

If anything, this run has given me more confidence to run my marathon in 2 weeks. I’m feeling much better about it now as opposed to even last week. Bring it on Philly!

Finding Motivation

It’s not always easy finding motivation to run. Yes, I run marathons on occasion. While I adore the excitement, hype, and sense of community surrounding actual race day, I have more of a love/hate relationship with the training that comes before it.

I would be lying through my teeth if I said that everyday I am excited to run. I would also be lying if I said that everyday I actually do run. Sometimes my legs hurt, sometimes I’m too tired, sometimes I just flat out don’t feel like it. Sometimes I can go weeks months without running at all and be completely okay with that.

This hits me hard especially after I’ve trained for and completed a large race. I’ve talked to many of my runner friends who experience the same phenomenon. After such an important goal is accomplished, the motivation to keep pushing just vanishes. In my mind, I justify it as “rewarding myself” for working so hard and accomplishing something so great; but in a reality it’s just an excuse for me to be lazy. Lazy habits don’t die easy. Getting back into running after any time over a week is hard! After my last marathon I didn’t do anything for 2 months. I went from being able to run 8-10 miles on a daily basis to barely being able to finish 3! It’s amazing how quickly the body forgets.

Recently, I’ve been struggling with finding motivation. Weather has a huge effect on my running habits and current weather patterns in DC have been less than cooperative for my marathon training endeavors. Oh, how I miss the days of college with our indoor track at our brand new gym! Gym memberships are sort of WICKED expensive! Regardless, due to the incessant rain since the beginning of September, I have been slacking. Majorly!

With my next marathon rapidly approaching (November 20th!!), I need to get back in the swing of things. I need to rediscover my motivation.

So, I’ve been thinking. What exactly is it that motivates me? What are those things that really make me excited about running?

  1. Friends – Running with friends is always WAY more fun than running alone. In general, I always try to sign up for races with friends. It makes the experience of races that much more memorable and sometimes makes for a fun weekend getaway. In fact, I’ve actually met some of my best friends through running which is pretty amazing! Of course, having a training buddy doesn’t hurt either. It’s harder to convince a friend that you don’t want to run that 21-miler on Sunday than it is to convince yourself.
  2. Weight – This is sort of embarrassing to talk about, but seeing as this blog is for getting things out in the open, might as well get this one over with. I’ve never been “overweight”, but I easily could be. My family has a long history of obesity. Many of my relatives and extended family ARE obese and I definitely have the potential in my genes. I am honestly, truly terrified to turn out that way. My weight has flucuated over the years, but for the most part running is a great way the only way to keep it at bay.
  3. Strength – In general, I just FEEL so much better after I run. In college, I realized that the only reason I even venture to the gym at all is so that I can get that natural high once I’m done. I love how my legs, core, arms…hell my whole body feels so much stronger after a good run. I have an exponentially higher amount of energy which powers me through the day.
  4. Food – I’m aware that I don’t have the best diet in the world. Running is one of the ways that I can eat what I do and still maintain my weight and energy level. I’m hoping that I can take this one off the list soon.
  5. Mental Clarity – Whenever I’m having a bad day, the very first thing I do is lace up my running shoes. Everyone handles stress, trauma, and sadness in their own unique way and my way is running. Concentrating on something physical that my body is doing takes my mind away from all of my mental aliments. Running is my “me” time and I use it as a time to sort things out in my life.
  6. Finish Line – I remember crossing the finish line at my very first race. I was so excited to get there that I sprinted right on through it! Once that baby is in sight, your heart starts pumping faster and your legs suddenly feel stronger. Seeing that finish line is like confirmation that you’re going to make it and that all of your hard work has not gone to waste. Even in training, I like to picture crossing that finish line.

So, I guess that time has come. Time for me to hone in on those specific motivators. Time to get training! Yeah, we’ll see how this goes.

How do you get motivated? What sort of thing gets you off the couch and hitting the pavement?