Jun 30, 2011

Speaking of Naked

I'm talking about feet, silly.

I don't really have any beef with socks. In fact I just bought some sweet neon ones.

I've mentioned in passing that I had thought about trying to go the more minimal shoe route with the Nike Free's that I bought a while back.  Transitioning into a minimalist shoe is (should be) a slow process. It takes all kinds of new muscles in your feet and legs that you may never have used before, regardless of how long you have been running.

I've done a few short runs here and there with them but never followed through on transitioning over completely. Now that the Baltimore 10 miler is over and I don't really have any races slated I feel like it is a safe time to try them out some more. I'm not sure what made me feel like running without socks but I  decided to give it a shot.

I LOVE these shoes. They have a wide toe box that seems to hug my foot perfectly. I don't really know how else to explain the feel of these shoes than, natural. They just feel right.

I won't lie... running naked sans socks is liberating. It's all business and no fluff. I felt like a kid in summer who just throws there shoes on and goes out the door without a care in the world.... just looking to have some fun. I would never do this in my other running shoes because my feet would be made raw with all the rough materials that compose the shoes. In my Free's I ran a blister free 3 miles. My feet did get a little hot but I don't know if that's from the friction or the fact  that they were black and it was sunny.

An overall concern I have about minimalist shoes (especially given that the Philly Marathon is in late November) is that my feet are pretty sensitive to cold. I'm talking my toes turns white and they turn into nubs that I can't feel. So if these do become my training shoe of choice for the marathon I'll have to figure something out.

Until then I'm just looking to have some fun and if that means running with naked feet, then so be it.

Jun 21, 2011

Better Than Naked

Well, the race photos from the Baltimore 10 Miler on Saturday are posted. They turned out to be not as horrifyingly ugly as I expected.  I chose to wear my new North Face "Better Than Naked" Shorts because they are as comfortable as the name suggests.  It literally feels like you aren't wearing pants. They've also got about 5 small pockets lining the back side that make them super for stashing things for the long run. Win/win, right?

Wrong. Unfortunately, you will also look like you're not wearing shorts.

This should be an ad for body glide. Also, I need a haircut.

At least my stride looks pretty decent.

Jun 19, 2011

Race Recap: Baltimore 10 Miler 6/18/11

Friday night I did the typical pasta carbo-load. This ravioli from Whole Foods is to die for. There's a bunch of different flavor combinations but I opted for this once since it seemed like the safest choice.

 A little protein for good measure.

 Pasta + grilled chicken sausage + dollop of ricotta + sauce = amazingness

 We ended up leaving for Baltimore about 7pm and avoided all major Philly traffic by taking some serious back country roads. It was such a peaceful drive and we saved a ton of time according to the GPS.

The route took us on I-95 for the last 10 miles or so and there was a gorgeous sunset going on.

We arrived at the home of our family friend around 830. I unpacked what I needed for the morning and we sat on the deck enjoying the warm evening and good company. 

Saturday morning we headed out the door at 0530AM and arrived at the zoo (start) by 0600AM.  I was super thankful that we left early because (as promised by the race newsletters) parking and packet pick-up got a little out of hand as time got closer to the start.

Starting to line up. 5000 + participants

 I'm in there right behind the 1:15 sign. (Wishful thinking)

My goals for this race were as follows:

1. Finish
2. PR / Finish under 1:21:14 (8:07 min/mile)
3. Finish in 1:17:27 or less (7:44 min/mile)

Meeting goal #3 would indicate that right now I have the potential to hold the pace necessary for me to BQ (8:12 min/mile for 26.2 miles). I'll go into detail as I get closer to actual marathon training but here is the calculator I'm using from Runner's World.

It was a humid 75 degrees and the sun was just starting to come over the horizon at the start. I chose to put myself right between the 1:15 and 1:20 pace groups with my #3 goal in mind. The first two miles went well. How could they not? It was all downhill.

On the hill right before mile 4 the sun was directly at eye level. I remember thinking I was running right into the depths of hell. The mile 5 marker was half way around the lake and I started getting a serious side stitch. I grabbed some gatorade at the fluid station, poked at my side, slowed my roll, and worked it out.

Somewhere around the middle of mile 6, the 1:20 pace group had caught up with me and I winced a little inside. I held on with them for about a half a mile, which just so happened to be uphill (go figure). I got to the top of the hill with them and realized how unrealistic it was for me to try and stick it out with them for the rest race and not die. This is when I realized I probably wasn't going to PR and #3 was out of the question.

I grossly underestimated these hills.

For the next couple of miles I just pushed through. I started thinking less about killing my pace and more about not dying. I think that is a theme in my races; not dying. I looked around me and people were dripping sweat from every place imaginable. My face was probably a lovely shade of purple and I'm sure my stride and form were terrifyingly awful. I knew once we reached the 8 mile mark it was all going to be all uphill so I tried to mentally prepare myself as much as possible.

Not pretty

I made it up that giant mother f'r of a hill clif to mile 9 without stopping. I must have talked myself out of walking at least 46 times in that stretch even though it seemed that absolutely everyone around me was walking at some point. At the top of that hill is when I officially "hit the wall". I was out of juice and my quads were jelly. I have never experienced that kind of pain mid-race. That kind of pain in the quads is generally reserved for the day after. I was literally half a mile from the finish line and felt like I had nothing left to give. I stopped to walk. Twice. It kills my soul to admit that but that's how the cookie crumbled for me on race day. I've never walked any part of a race in my life. I only walked for 1 minute each time and it helped tremendously. I could not believe that I was a half a mile from the finish line and contemplating walking the remainder. I was beside myself. This couldn't be happening, I was unraveling physically and mentally. I pulled myself together and ran to that finish line on fumes of what was left in my tank.  

Note the faces of death, agony, and relief on finishers.

See the nice gradual decline in my pace? This is the exact opposite of "negative splits" or how you should run a race. Also, note the two pace drops for my walk breaks.

After crossing the finish line I grabbed a cold, wet wash cloth and some watermelon. I recall thinking during the race that I would never do this again. After a few bites of watermelon and some thought I declared that I will be running that again next year. I'm not just going to run the Baltimore 10 Miler next year, I'm going to kick it's f*%K#ng a**. BRING IT.

 Warm watermelon, yum.

Chip time: 1:24:06 (8:25 min/mile)
Overall 627/4199
Female 25-29 36/570 

I went back to home base to take a shower and a nap. Compression calf sleeves make a world of difference in recovery. My quads are pretty sore but surprisingly functional.

Dear Zensah, I love you. 

In retrospect I've thought a lot about some things regarding the race and my training:

1. I wonder if I had stuck with the 1:20 group from the start if I could have made it. Did I waste energy on the first two miles downhill or would the hills have gotten the best of me regardless?
2. I think if I had known the course was that hilly I would have trained on more hills. Since moving here I've done all my long runs on a completely flat strip. I can kill hills and I can kill distance but I apparently can't do both at the moment. 
3. I will never question a person walking a hill again.

This was hands down the hardest run I've ever done in my life. Ultimately, this experience has humbled me and provided a great source of motivation and growth. I can't wait to get back to it on Monday. Running, biking, lifting, healthy eating, and HILLS. I'm looking into selecting a marathon training plan this week so stay tuned. 

Jun 17, 2011

Race Day Preparation

Tomorrow is the Baltimore 10 Miler if you aren't quite caught up yet. We are staying with a family friend who lives just outside Baltimore tonight. It's only about 90 minutes from home but far enough that there is no turning back if I forget something race morning. The only other time I've traveled for a race was when I ran the NYC Marathon in 2009. I made list after list, checked them twice, and broke each section of my day into separate labeled bags.

I'm well aware that it's just a 10 mile race and not a marathon, but organization makes me happy. I like to have everything I might need or want so as to have no excuses for something to go wrong. I even have a list of what to do in the morning; which includes brushing my teeth among other things. Yes, I wrote a reminder to myself to brush my teeth. This is not something I would normally forget to do, ever... except on race day.

Essentials bag:
HR Monitor
Gel and/or sports beans (to be decided on race morning)
Knee strap
Extra salty pretzels
-- note breakfast is in a separate bag not shown (banana, bread, pb)

Extras AKA the bag my mom gets to hold while she waits for my ass to cross the finish line:
-- note she will probably pawn this bag off on my BF to carry
Hat (becomes essential if raining or impending rain)
Calf sleeves (a hug for my calves after slaughtering them)
Luna bar
Hair ties

I've also packed two potential race day outfits... right down to the socks. Is anyone else as OCD about race travel as me? I know I'm not alone here. Did I miss an essential?! How about an extra?

Jun 16, 2011

Baltimore 10 Miler Playlist

I'm favoring runs without music more frequently these days but sometimes you just need a kick in the pants to get you through. Right now, I find having music on race day essential.

My race day playlist for Saturday (subject to change). Judge away...

Jun 15, 2011

Up and Over

3 Days! I'm excited and absurdly nervous. I didn't even know it was a relatively hilly course until the last few days. The elevation map was recently posted on the race website (see below). My biggest concern is actually the downhill start since I'll need to hold back to not blow my quads. This is going to be difficult since I already struggle with not flying out of the start. The last mile and half are going to be brutal, no doubt! At least I know what to expect. 

Baltimore 10 Miler

Below is an elevation map of my beloved Mountain Goat 10 Miler. This is the only other time I've run a 10 mile race. I finished the last 1-2 miles with the deadliest side stitch of my life, which I think is a result of not utilizing any of the fluid stations. I was still a big time noob to racing.... lesson learned. 

Mountain Goat 10 Miler
05/03/09 1:21:14 (8:08 min/mile)

I think I have a game plan and I definitely have goals but I'm not sharing because I feel like if I do then it will jinx me. Crazy? Yes. I suppose you have to be a little crazy to get excited about a race like this. 
I love Hills.

Jun 13, 2011


We are currently 5 days out from the Baltimore 10 Miler and obviously I'm checking the weather at least 4 times a day.

Thankfully the race starts at 7:00AM because it's probably going to be H-O-T. Don't get me wrong I love warm weather but there's something very different about enjoying 90+ degree temperatures while standing still and running at race pace intensity in it. I've been spending the better part of the last couple months acclimating to the heat and it's been going surprisingly well. My wheels historically fall off in the heat and I melt into a puddle of nothingness, but so far so good. As for rain, that's not really an issue so long as I remember to pack my hat.

What are the chances that it's really NOT going to thunderstorm on Saturday and this forecast won't change??

Jun 11, 2011


Another great excerpt from Kristin Armstrong's Mile Markers that seems appropriate at the moment. "Fear can constrain us and compel us, sometimes in equal measure. It can tether us to our past or catapult us into out future. It can force us outside our comfort zones, or it can tuck us in to our comfort zone and pull the covers up over our head. It can hurt us. It can heal us. It can warn us. It can wean us. It can propel us. It can stop us dead in our tracks and render us useless."

Excuse me while I get deep with you for a couple of minutes...

Fear has held me back from a lot.  I vividly remember my junior year of college asking my roommates to take me to the gym and show me the ropes. One of them was on the lacrosse team and the other the softball team and both had confidence and beauty radiating out of their ears (and still do). I had honestly never been to the gym once and I was just way too chicken and/or proud to be seen acting like I didn't know what I was doing somewhere. God forbid someone see me not knowing what I'm doing. I'm Meg Jones (that statement is much more meaninful if you spent college years with me). So there was no way I was just going to walk into the gym and be that vulnerable to criticism by my peers. I only asked a couple of times in passing but they were busy with sports and I was busy drinking beer and eating.

That following summer I had an internship in New Jersey.  I can't really explain what lit the fire under my ass other than the day or two after I moved into my cute little apartment. I stood in front of the mirror and really looked at myself for the first time and was utterly disgusted. I think my entire life until this point I spent avoiding mirrors and reality. Reality was that my mesh shorts were far too tight and my size 12 pants were destined to tear at the seams. There was a gym literally 20 feet from my office and I had never felt so sure that this was my chance to do something with myself. I signed up with my roommate and we were religious about it. It definitely helped having a friend to go with because it made me more comfortable and that's what I needed to get started. I spent the whole summer as follows: breakfast, work, gym, dinner, bed. The internship was awful and New Jersey was miserable. I cried on the phone to my mom while I was stuck in rush hour traffic more times than I could count but it was a blessing in disguise and brought me to where I am today.

Truth is, I still tend to see myself as that ignorantly overweight girl with a chip on her shoulder and everything to prove because very few really know the me I strive so desperately to be. I feel like the person I spent the first 21 years of my life being isn't even on the same planet as the person I've become in the last 4 years. I'm proud of how far I've come and often frustrated that I spent so long getting here. I've got running to thank for that and the courage I had to step outside my comfort zone one day and get on a treadmill.... then the day I ran 3 miles, then 5 miles, then I signed up for my first 10k, then a 10 miler, and then a marathon. All seemingly terrifying adventures that I not only survived but thrived in.

Things that fear is currently holding me back from: attending a yoga class, going to the pool at the gym (I really desperately want to do this to get into triathlons), and joining a running group.  I'll tell you sharing this story is also scary, but I hope it might help someone else struggling with fear to get started and it helps puts things in perspective for me.

I don't want to be telling my grandchildren about that time I thought about joining a running group when I was younger, or the days when I wished I had done triathlons, or that time I almost qualified for boston but my glutes were too tight because I was too afraid to go to yoga class and be embarrassed for not knowing how to do a sun salutation perfectly. I also don't want to look back at wasted years I could have been doing these things, much like I look back on the first 21 years of my life. One of my new favorite quotes is "She believed she could, so she did" and it about sums it up for how I want to live my life.

Tuesday I'm going to a group meeting for a local running club. After the Baltimore 10 miler on Saturday I'm going to a yoga class and getting my ass in the pool. You have to start somewhere or you will get nowhere.

What has fear kept you from lately? I bet you can't wait to hear about my running group adventure. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't completely terrified of going and will try and come up with at least 37 reasons I can't before I finally do. Stay tuned.

Jun 7, 2011


I caught my little man, Marty McFly getting cozy with my bike last night. 
I would cuddle with it too if it was more socially acceptable.

Jun 6, 2011

Weekly Recap: 101 Miles

The big goal for myself this week was to put in 100 miles.  This idea didn't fully develop until at least half way through the week when the possibility of logging 100 miles with the power of my legs (cycling and running) seemed possible and only mildly crazy.  This is only the second week I've ridden my bike since we got them tuned up so this was a hefty goal for me. I think I've had the bike almost 3 years and put maybe 100 miles on it total before this season... but that's a story for another day.

Below is a picture of me from back in 2009 when I first bought the bike. I was in the middle of securing the velcro on my glove when the photo was taken and not actually posing like that, I swear.

Overall, my running times slowed a bit from heavy legs but I'm pleased with the times given a lower average heart rate and increased effort for the week. However, my legs and soul were completely trashed by the end of Sunday.

Ironically, Wednesday was National Running Day
I put in another round of speed work on Thursday which turned out to be a bit of a struggle for me. My pace felt less controlled than usual. My speed interval goal was 7:14 or less (5k Pace). I came in under on each lap but feeling and holding a faster pace is something I've got to work on more. I believe a long/quality tempo run is in order.

Splits: 7:06, 7:09, 7:11, 6:58, 7:07

Saturday I ran my long 10 miles and spent the rest of the day out and about on my feet. Sunday I had a 6 mile run and a 19.5 mile bike ride standing between me and my 100 mile goal. Most normal and smart runners realize that the day after long run is meant for rest but obviously I had made a scheduling blunder and there was no turning back.  My achilles were tight when I got out of bed and I was already a little beat. Any sense of reason I had was squashed by the obsession with reaching my goal this week. It was out of the question to push the goal to next week because I have a 10 mile race in 2 weeks and that would just be asking for race suicide pushing that many miles so close to race day. It had to be done.

I pushed through the 6 mile run with little difficulty. I was feeling a little slow but embraced it for what it was; progress and movement. I returned home and inhaled a Clif bar and some sour patch kids. I changed into my bike shorts and headed back to the trail. If you want to talk about not wanting to go for a bike ride or workout lets talk about how much I did NOT want to do this ride. I got my bike off the car and laid it in the grass. I threw my helmet and water bottle at it and and made some absurd grunting and huffing noises in the process.... Much like a teenager who has been told to clean their room and until they do their cell phone is being taken away. Get the picture?

Time on the bike usually flies for me and I don't think twice about how far I've gone or if it's about time to turn around. I love my bike. However,  this was a death march of a ride past mile 4. Had I passed myself on that ride and seen my face and posture I would have been concerned for my well being.

Evidently the Clif bar and sour patch kids that I had between the run and the bike ride did me absolutely no justice for the duration of the 20 mile ride. I was ravenous. Have you ever been so hungry and exhausted you were on the brink of vomiting? That was me.

The only thing pulling me through the last miles of that ride was the thought of an iced grande non fat latte with 2 pumps of mocha (essentially chocolate milk with espresso... perfect recovery combo) and turkey sausage and egg on a pumpernickel bagel. I literally bargained with myself to do the last 6 miles in exchange for a trip to Starbucks and Einstein Brothers Bagels.  I made the first stop at Starbucks successfully and headed up to the bagel shop. I got up to order and as soon as I finished, the words "Actually, we're out of --" started to come out of the employee's mouth and I cut him off with a "SHUT UP?!" as the word "egg" fell out of his mouth. I was devastated. He offered me egg white and I politely declined. It wasn't until I was out the door that my overtrained and under nourished rage began to show itself. I was irate. How do you run out of egg on a Sunday?!! I tried talking myself down with perfectly reasonable explanations as to how this could be possible but it was a fruitless effort. I collected myself and made a plan B.

I knew we had no good food at home that would suffice my hunger and enable me to recover properly so I had to stop at the grocery store. At this point I am stupid hungry. I literally can't think or park my car straight and a hazard to anyone within 300 feet of me or my car. I stopped at the small town grocery store by our place to pick up eggs and ham. This is the kind of store that everyone in town shops at and there are only 2 registers open (maximum) at all times. I stopped in the express lane and the woman who was currently being rung up had probably 15 items. Unfortunately, they were all produce items and the 16 year old cashier didn't have a clue what any of them were and had to look up each code individually. I thought to myself, this could not be happening. I moved over to the only other open lane and I think I scared the woman in front of me and the 17 year old cashier in this lane with the darts or rage shooting out of my eyes.  I made it home and gave my boyfriend very fair warning of my mood and that it was best to not talk to me until after I finished eating. He politely obliged, since after 4.5 years he has fallen victim to my hunger rage on a few occasions. I made some scrambled eggs with ham and had toast with goat cheese that we picked up at the farmers market yesterday. It turned out to be way better than any bagel I could have gotten and my rage eventually subsided to exhaustion and only mild hunger.

I must have made a calculation error somewhere before Sunday (surprise, surprise) because that 19.5 mile ride actually put me up to 101 miles total. I BEAT my goal. I think with a little rearranging of my schedule it wouldn't have been so completely killer on the last day. It would have still been hard, sure, but less soul sucking perhaps. Overall I'm incredibly grateful for having this experience. It was a incredible example of how I can do anything I put my mind to. I pushed through a wall more times and harder than I ever have before. I'll be stronger physically and mentally for it. Bring on the BQ!

If you really want something you will find a way.
If you don't you will find an excuse.

Now it's rest day and the next couple of weeks will be a little less intense with the Baltimore 10 miler coming up on June 18th!