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!

Post Race Report: ZOMBIES!

I’m happy to report that I survived a zombie apocalypse this weekend. But only just barely!

On Saturday morning, Sarah and I ran the FIRST EVER Run for Your Lives zombie apocalypse themed 5k in the small town of Darlington, MD. A few months ago, I couldn’t stop talking about how much I wanted to try out an obstacle course race; because honestly, who doesn’t want to get a little muddy sometimes? Right around that time, Sarah found out about the Run for Your Lives race which not only had obstacles, but ZOMBIES too. Of course, this was right up my ally, so it only took me about 0.2 seconds to register.

This race was super unique and unlike any I’ve run in the past. Essentially, they gave us all a flag football belt with 3 flags. These flags signify your “life”. The zombies (yes, there were real people/runners dressed as zombies) were going for your life flags. If you lost all 3 to the zombies, then you finish the race as one of the undead. If you cross the finish line with one or more of your flags still in tact, then you finish alive and can brag to all of your friends that you are now fully prepared in the event of a full-fledged zombie attack…not that I would ever do that or anything!

As with any newbie race, this one had its growing pains. Picture this scenario: try to cram about 10,000 people, in one afternoon, into a town built for 3,000. I’m sure that you can imagine how this is going to play out. The website told us to show up 1-1.5 hours before our heat time. We did exactly that, what we didn’t anticipate was the 45 minutes of traffic trying to get into the parking lot, and the 45 minute wait for the shuttle to the start line. We totally missed our 9am start time, but luckily, everyone else did too. After about an hour of panic, we were able to run in the 10am wave.

The race itself was so much fun! Even though I knew I was running, it didn’t feel like it. I was way too distracted making friends and strategizing with my fellow runners about ways to avoid/defeat the zombies. Turns out that running from something really brings out the survival instincts in me. I banded together with groups of strangers and charged at swarms of zombies so there was less of a chance that they could get me.

There were 12 obstacles along the course: including a swim in a lake (brrrrr!), climbing haystacks, and scaling up nets. Although, I’d have to say I think the biggest obstacle we encountered was the MUD! It was thick. I’d imagine that trying to run in that mud would be comparable to running in a big vat of pudding. It was just impossible to get any grip or stability. Plus, it took about 45 minutes in the shower to finally wash it all off!

It was so worth it. There are already talks about doing this race again next year. Hopefully with a bigger group of people, and hopefully with less traffic. Great atmosphere, fun course, z0mbies and free beer. Does life get any better?

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?

26 miles later…

I’ve always been unconventional. This includes my running philosophy.

I suppose you could say that my running career started early. My sister was the star runner in my family, winning the Turkey Trot (our elementary school 1 mile race) when she was in the 5th grade. By the time my 5th grade year rolled around, she was determined to make me her protege. All I remember is that I whined, complained, and she literally had to push me across the finish line. I placed 11th in that race, which made me angry because the first 10 got a special award. I just missed it and in 5th grade special awards were!

After that, I poured a little more time and effort into training. I joined my middle school track and cross country teams and ran my fastest mile ever: 6:41! But I fell off the wagon once I got to high school. I focused more on organized sports (ie. soccer and basketball) because of the team atmosphere. It was an easy way to make friends, something I needed due to the fact that my family moved multiple times.

But soon enough, college struck. As did those dreaded Freshman 15. By a lucky happenstance (or perhaps some kind of subconscious decision), I had registered for a general health class (GHLTH 101 what up!) my first semester which required that I log a certain number of gym hours per semester. I made a plan for myself and dedicated an hour, three times a week to go to the gym. Instead of wasting that hour of my life drinking smoothies and sitting in the atrium, I decided to try my hand at running. I headed up to the indoor track, which appeared to be the least crowded part of our newly opened gym and started out by running a mile. Eventually, running just one didn’t seem like enough, so I upped it to two.

I’m sure you can see where this is going.

By the time my senior year rolled around, I couldn’t run less than 5 miles without feeling like a lazybones. Luckily, around the same time, my former roommate Rachel decided to get serious about training as well. Knowing about my running prowess, she asked me if I would sign up for a half marathon. I ran the Virginia Beach Rock ‘N Roll half marathon on one of the most humid days of summer. I was disgustingly sweaty and incredibly tired, but I was IMMEDIATELY hooked. I loved the atmosphere of races, the community of runners surrounding you, and that feeling of accomplishment while crossing that finish line. Plus, all the free SWAG didn’t hurt either!

Most recently, even half marathons aren’t cutting it. I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t even feel the need to train for the half anymore which is one of my main motivators for signing up in the first place. I completed my first full marathon in January 2011, and I have more planned for the future. I’ve signed up for the Philadelphia Marathon at the end of November and judging from the pain in my calves, I am definitely in the full swing of training.

But seriously, don’t ask me for running advice. I don’t have any. In fact, there is no real method to my madness. I know so many runners are hyper aware of time and pacing. Not me. I’ve never, ever timed myself. In fact, the first time I was actually timed was when I didn’t have a choice during my first half marathon. I finished in 1:57 and ahead of 92% of women runners. I suppose that’s around the time I realized, “Hey, I might actually be kind of good at this whole running thing!” Still, to this day, I don’t time my runs. At the risk of sounding like a total hippy, I just do what feels right. If I’m tired, I slow down; if I’m feeling great, I go a little faster. For me, timing my runs takes out the fun. I don’t really have a rhyme or reason (and I’m not even really sure why), but I could literally just run all day. I know my style is not “typical”, but it’s what works for me.

But I don’t love running all the time. And running is not my passion; it’s just something I do. Kind of like brushing my teeth. If I don’t do it, I feel disgusting and lethargic. So it’s something I do a lot. It’s not always easy, somedays it’s hard to get off the couch and hit the pavement. The mental challenge is half the battle, but it’s what keeps me motivated!