Thursday, July 31, 2014

Back to Basics: How to Start Running

Last week, I got to meet a super sweet blog reader. Over coffee, we chatted about life, boyfriends, and of course- running. She had lots of questions for me but the biggest one was a simple one, "How do I start running?"

This conversation really got me thinking- how does someone start running? Even though I still consider myself a new runner, I've been running for over four years and honestly, haven't thought about those beginning days in a long time. So let's revisit them!

*Disclaimer: As you know, I'm not a doctor or running coach. I'm just a runner and any advice or tips I write about here are shared as runner to runner- not medical advice. If you are considering starting any kind of running or exercise program, please consult with your physician.

Before I was a runner, I was a walker. I would walk a few times a week- usually on a trail or track- just to try and lose a little weight. In January of 2010, my weight had ballooned (yet again) to 195 pounds and I was looking for some type of weight-loss program. At my local Y, there was a class I signed up for called "Y Fitness Challenge." It was once a week and involved a boot camp-like exercise class, food tracking, and workouts outside of the class. As part of the challenge's additional workouts, we were all encouraged to start running. I had no idea what to do.

The class instructor suggested that I start incorporating running into my walking for short segments of time. So, the next time I was on the treadmill, I upped the speed and ran for 60 seconds. Then the next time, I ran for two minutes. And then I increased to five minutes. You get the picture- in a few weeks I was running for 30 minutes at a time on the treadmill. And it was awesome!

Then I ran outside and realized that treadmill running and outdoor running are not equitable- it was much harder than running indoors! I was tired and felt like I had to walk- a lot. To be honest, it was defeating. It wasn't until about a year and a half later, when I found the Jeff Galloway method and ran my first 5k, that I finally started to feel like I could do this running thing. If I had to do it over again, there would definitely be some things I would have done differently. I've put together a short list of things I wish I'd known when just starting out. Hopefully this will encourage you to give this running thing a try!

  1. Invest in a good pair of running/walking shoes. I can't stress this one enough. When I first started, I was wearing whatever I'd bought on sale at Payless- yikes! Visit a running/walking specialty store and get fitted for a pair of quality shoes- they will make all the difference in your comfort and ability to keep running.
  2. Start out slowly. If you're already a walker, start adding small increments of running. Each time, try to increase the amount of time you are running. It's ok to start small and start slow- try to run at a pace that feels comfortable and sustainable. 
  3. Try walk/run intervals. Once you feel comfortable with some running, try to use pre-established intervals for walking and running. Intervals help increase endurance and lower the risk of injury. Jeff Galloway has some great advice on his website for using intervals in running. 
  4. Keep track of your progress. Something I wish I'd done when I started running was keeping better track of my workouts. Not only is this helpful in charting your progress, but it is incredibly motivational as you start to see how far you are able to run and walk. There are many apps out there that you can use or you can do it the old fashioned way and keep a journal. 
  5. Sign up for a race or set a goal. Again, this is something I wished I had done when I first started running in January of 2010. I think it would have kept me more focused and I wouldn't have waited so long to try a race. Having a race on the calendar gives you something to look forward to and something to train for. That alone can encourage motivation to keep going even when you don't really feel like it. Setting any kind of goal (run a mile, walk/run the 5k distance) will  help you to stay motivated which is something I know I struggled with when I started to run.
Bonus tip- Running is something that everyone can do. Most of our limitations are mental- we tell ourselves that we "can't" run or we "don't look like a runner." I said the very same things to myself. For years and years. Even though it's difficult, push those negative thoughts to the side, lace up your running shoes, and just get out there. I promise, it will be fun! 

QOTD: What tips would you add to this list? What do you wish you'd done/known about as a new runner?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Race Recap & Review: Quiet Valley Rooster Run

A few weekends ago, I ran the Quiet Valley Rooster Run with a bunch of my favorite people- Matthew, Sally (his mom) and Angie (family friend). A few months ago, Angie had expressed to us that she'd wanted to run a 5k this summer- her first- so we found this Stroudsburg, PA race online and signed up. Then we went to OBX in June and Angie ended up running a 5k there too. So, even though this wasn't her "first"one, it was still special and we were excited to run it with her.

This race takes place on the grounds of Quiet Valley Living Historical Farm- complete with employees in historical dress and animals. It was definitely a unique race! We arrived to the farm about an hour before the race so we had plenty of time to get our bibs and t-shirts and study the course map. Almost all of the race was on grass/trail and there were quite a few hills. After looking at the map, Angie looked like she wanted to kill us :-)

Soon enough, it was time for us to line up at the start. There were probably around 150 people participating in the race, including a man dressed in a rooster costume. We started off slow, following Angie's pace. She'd been walking and running nightly with Sally in preparation for this race and we wanted to make sure we stayed with her.

Almost like a Disney race, almost.

Looking strong at the start! Me, Angie, and Sally.

Let's just say this about the course- it was tough. Really tough. Parts of it were single track through the woods and there was a lot of elevation. I was pretty sure Angie was going to kill us when we were trekking up the insanely steep hill just after mile one :-) But, she held on and pushed through the pain to get up that damn hill.

Made it to mile one!

A little after mile one, Sally ran on ahead. Matthew, Angie and I chatted and worked our way through the rest of the insane course. It was really awesome to cheer her on as she powered through the miles- if there is ever a job where I can cheer new run/walkers during races, I would be set for life! Our awesome photographer got some great shots of us as we worked towards the finish line.

Deep in conversation.

We are getting there!

While tough, it was a beautiful course.

Almost there! Check out the incline behind us- yikes!

After we passed the mile three marker, Matthew ran ahead so he could get some finish line photos for us. Sally had already finished and was waiting there for us with Matthew's dad, Les. As we came down the last little stretch before the finish, we picked up the pace and crossed the line in front of our wonderful cheering section.

Kudos to Matthew for this amazing action shot!

Great (and free!) photo provided by the race. 

I can't describe how proud I was of Angie. Her dedication to finish that race- despite how tough it was- was so inspirational. Angie is the type of woman who would give you the shirt off her back, no questions asked. It was so awesome to see her do something for herself; to stand side-by-side with her as she accomplished the goal she set out to do. Her smile says it all :-)

After the race, we enjoyed some watermelon, courtesy of the race organizers. There was a table full of raffle prizes and each person's bib was entered into the drawing. I had my eye on some homemade dill bread but unfortunately, my number didn't get called. But Matthew's did! It was delicious.

We also got another cool surprise- Sally won in her age group! She got the cutest ceramic medal. Overall, it was an awesome little race. Challenging course, great organization, and a free entry into a fun raffle drawing. And of course, spending time with great people made the day that much better!

QOTD: Who's your favorite person (or people) to run with?

Monday, July 28, 2014

AM: 7/28/14

Hello and happy Monday!

If you follow me on facebook or twitter, then you already know- I had a big loss on the scale this week: 3.4 pounds! Your body can be super weird when you're trying to lose weight. Last week, I gained unexpectedly and this week I lost a heck of a lot more than anticipated- usually I only lose .5 to 1 pound a week. I'm really proud of myself for not letting a gain throw me off- the "old" me would have probably spiraled out of control and ended up gaining more. I think I'm finally starting to have a better relationship with food. 

In other news, I got a great treat in the mail- a Panera gift card from the Akron Marathon and Panera! As part of Team Panera, I got a gift card to help fuel my training. How awesome is that?! They are also sending a shirt for me to wear on race day- I'll post pictures as soon as it comes in!

Stats for 7/21- 7/27

Monday- 45 minute dance-cardio DVD
Tuesday- 45 minute speed workout at the track
Wednesday- 30 minute Pilates DVD
Thursday- 45 minute run
Friday- Rest day
Saturday- 5k race, 2.5 easy miles
Sunday- Rest day

13.5 miles total

Training note- I'm really trying for sub-10:30 minute miles for my portion of the Akron Marathon Relay so Matthew has been kicking my butt coaching me in speed work at the track. It's not my favorite but I know it's necessary if I want to get faster.

This week can best be summed up with two of my favorite foods: 1. Deep-fried Oreos/Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. 2. Panera Everything Bagel with Roasted Veggie Reduced-fat Cream Cheese and cucumber slices. Yum. Both are high in Points Plus Values but that's what I love about Weight Watchers- I can have them, track them, and still stay dedicated to my plan and lose weight.

I have also eaten three (yes, three!) watermelon (Matthew helped) and made a new recipe with spaghetti squash, feta cheese, tomatoes, garlic, and onions- it was delicious!

160.0 pounds as of 7/23/14 weigh-in.
-3.4 from last week.
-30.4 since January 2013.
-42 since heaviest: 202 in 2005.

All in all, an awesome week!

QOTD: What's your favorite "indulgence" food?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

365 Days of Blogging

It's hard for me to believe but this little blog of mine just turned a year old! I mistakenly thought my first post was July 26, 2013 but it was actually July 22, 2013 so this birthday post is just a few days late-whoops!

Running this blog over the past year has taught me so much; how to be a better writer, how to create things in HTML, how to write about topics my audience is interested in. It's also given me much more than I expected- mainly all of you, my readers! Interacting and connecting with each of you has been such a joy for me. Thank you for reading and for being so awesome and encouraging!

To celebrate this milestone, I've pulled together a top ten list for you- the top five most popular posts plus my personal top five favorite posts. Enjoy!

Most Popular Posts of All Time
(listed in order of all-time number of views- thanks, blogger stats!)

     5.  A Tale of Two 5ks
     4.  Because Where Else Would I Want to Turn 30?!
     3.  A "Real Runner" Reminder to Myself
     2.  WDW Marathon Weekend Day 5- The Marathon!

Drumroll please....the number one most popular post on is....

     1.  Character Photo Ops at the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend

Sarah's Top Five Favorite Posts 
(in no particular order)

Thank you again, readers. You all lift me up, keep me accountable, and are so crazily, unbelievably appreciated. Happy birthday,! 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Meet the #runAkron Team: Chelsea

Welcome to the third of four "Meet the #runAkron Team!" guest posts! As you might know from Lauren and Steff's posts, Chelsea has agreed to share some of her story here. Chelsea is a crazy-inspiring athlete who runs and bikes like a beast. And she's super sweet, funny, and incredibly gracious- an all-around awesome teammate :-) I can't wait to run Akron with her in just a few months!

Name: Chelsea Prior
Location: Pittsburgh, PA 
Favorite Race Distance: 10 miler
Races on your “Bucket List”: a marathon, but hopefully that will be crossed off in 2015!

How did you start running? 
One night in November in 2011, I just went out for a run. That night I ended up running just over 2 miles and loved it. I signed up for my first 5k, Turkey Trot 5k and after I completed that, I thought I could run a half marathon, so I signed up. I haven’t looked back since. 

What’s the weirdest thing that’s happened to you/weirdest thing you've seen while out on the road? 
Can’t say I've really had any weird experiences. I typically just put my head down and go. I’m not much of a runner to be looking around. [Sarah's note- she's not looking around because she's kicking serious ass! This girl is fast!]

I can’t run without...
My GPS watch. If I ever forget it, It throws me off like no other! 

What’s the best piece of running advice you've been given? 
I think the most important advice was to always have fun. People have told me all the time to make sure you do or do that, but when it comes down to it, if you aren't having fun, why do it? The advice I didn't get until my first big race was “don’t eat the Gu on the stick”. During my first half marathon, I finally realized that they meant by that, and don’t worry, I didn't eat the Gu on the stick. [Sarah's note- it's not Gu on the stick, it's Vaseline.] 

In the starting corral for a race you can find me...
On the side, headphones out and completed zoned out. I typically start in the middle of the pack. 

If you could go back in time, what’s one thing you wish you’d known before you started running? 
That is not an inexpensive thing to do! People always said, "Just run, it’s cheap and good for you." Let me tell you... it is not cheap. Shoes, clothing, races, etc. add up! 

When I’m not running, I’m...
Going to crossfit. I supplement my training with crossfit and recently added Olympic Lifting to the mix as well. When I’m not working out at all, I am traveling as much as I can for fun or for work. 

What’s your favorite post-race food? 
If I feel that I can eat, I will eat anything and everything handed to me. If it is available, I do like a nice glass of almond chocolate milk after a run. 

My running mantra is...
Hard Work. Dedication. Never give up. 

If you could run with anyone in the world, who would it be and why? 
My old self. I hated running and even though I played sports my whole life, I always tried to dodge the running. I wish I could go back and tell myself it was OK and fun to run and that it wouldn't kill me. 

About Chelsea:
I moved to Pittsburgh seven years ago after graduating from Washington College. I came out to Pittsburgh to coach rowing for three months and ended up falling in love with the city and everything it had to offer- so I stayed. Currently, I live in downtown Pittsburgh and love that I get to call this city home. When I am not off running a race or training, I am probably running to catch a plane as I love to travel. I now love that I can incorporate my running and love for travel into one. You can follow me on twitter @PghCityGirl.

Monday, July 21, 2014

AM: 7/21/14

Happy Monday!

Well, some weeks don't end up the way we'd want them to. I gained 1.4 this week. I worked out, ate well, and ended up with nine weekly points that I didn't eat- which is rare for me. Usually, I eat all my 49 weeklies plus whatever APs I earn (about 25- 40 per week). 

There are some aspects of weight loss that we can't control. Sometimes for no apparent reason, the scale is a jerk; even when I try as hard as possible and it seems like I've done everything possible to have a week where I'll lose. 

It's crappy times like this that I remember what a wise woman, Suzi, once told me during a twitter #wwchat: "Don't let an unintentional gain lead to an intentional gain."  Basically, don't let this slip up lead to more of a back slide. So, with that phrase on repeat, I'll be continuing to count my points, eat healthy, and train like a beast for my upcoming races. 

Side note, if you'd like to experience one of the most supportive groups of people you've never met, please join our twitter #wwchat hosted by Dani every Wednesday at 8 pm. Just search #wwchat on twitter and you'll see us. You don't have to be a current Weight Watchers member to attend- anyone interested in talking weight loss and health is invited to join!

Monday- 30 minute run
Tuesday- 45 minute run
Wednesday- Rest day
Thursday- 45 minute run
Friday- Rest day
Saturday- 3.1 5k race, 2.75 tempo run with Matthew (he is a GREAT coach for my speed work!)
Sunday- Rest day

15.79 miles total

Since my Akron Marathon team is part of Team Panera, I've decided to try something new from the menu each week. This week, I ate the Chopped Chicken Cobb Salad and it was insanely delicious! I loved the avocado and the dressing on this salad. Also, I love that the way Panera's to-go boxes allow the sides and tops to be removed to create a square bowl! I also like that most of Panera's options are filling but not heavy- I can run after eating there and not feel weighed down.

Super yum.

163.4 pounds as of 7/16/14 weigh-in.
+1.4 from last week.
-27 since January 2013.
-38.6 since heaviest: 202 in 2005.

I'm looking forward to refocusing this week and hopefully seeing a loss next week!

QOTD: How do you come back from a less than stellar week?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

My Latest Running Wish List

That's right. All that stuff you've heard about running being cheap is a bunch of nonsense! Running should be the most affordable sport/hobby/obsession. After all, it requires no equipment except for a pair of shoes. But, as most of us know, it never stops at just the shoes. 

Check out the full comic about running your first marathon over at the oatmeal.

I have been known to spend a ridiculous amount of money on races, running shoes, tech gadgets, apparel, fuel, etc. and this training cycle will be no different. For this round of Goofy Challenge training, I've already picked out the tools I'll desperately need [not really but sorta kinda] to be successful. Ignoring the fact that I made it through Dopey training without most of this stuff, the following is my latest running wish list:

  • I tried on this pair of Altra Paradigms last night at Appalachian Running Company and I am definitely intrigued. The extra-wide toe box felt really awesome but there was still a great deal of stability and cushion in them. And for $130 (versus $170 for a new pair of Hokas), I think I could work these into my current shoe rotation.


  • I've heard nothing but rave reviews about Sparkle Skirts and I am anxious to try them out- especially on long training runs when I don't feel like wearing a fuel belt or a fanny pack :-) They have three pockets- one on each leg of the built in compression shorts and one large waistband pocket that can be worn either in the back or the front. Prices range from $65- 80 so it's likely I'll just be purchasing one for right now. The pattern I like the best is pictured here and called "Half Crazy" which fits perfectly, don't you think?


  • So, I don't even wear a watch but I feel like it's time for me to have a Garmin. Mainly because I'm tired of hauling my phone (and my Map My Run app) with me on every single training run. It's kinda a pain in the butt to carry it all the time. And I keep dropping it which I'm sure can't be good for the phone. I'd like to get a simple GPS watch that just records my mileage, pace, and route so I can keep track of my training. Appalachian Running Company has the Garmin 15 for $130. Not cheap, but not as expensive as some fancier models.


Over $300 later, I think I'll be ready for this round of training! And just for reference, that same dollar amount would get me around 12 sessions of therapy :-) 

QOTD: What about you? What's on your "running wish list?"

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Tips for Running/Walking in Summer Months

I don't know about you, but I am missing the polar vortex! These past few weeks in Pennsylvania have been brutally humid and hot. Which is fabulous for lazy days at the pool but not so cool for Goofy Challenge training. Ugh.

But, that's the blessing and the curse of summer on the East coast. Luckily, we only have to deal with it for a few months a year. Running can be hard. Running in the crazy heat and humidity can be really hard. So, what can you do to keep running or walking during the summer?

First, let me tell you what NOT to do with a cautionary tale. A few weeks ago, I wanted to get a quick mid-week, 45 minute run in before my Wednesday Weight Watchers meeting at 6 pm. It was 86 degrees but with a high humidity level, the "real feel" was 92.

I started my run and felt great, keeping a nice steady pace of 11:30. I was warm but not too uncomfortable. Around the 30 minute mark, I started to feel nauseous. I slowed down to a walk and tried to ride it out. A few minutes later, I began to feel light-headed and the nausea increased. I had to stop. Sitting down on the curb, I hoped the feeling would pass. It did not. It intensified. So much so that I actually vomited and then laid down in the grass near the sidewalk.

Worried about my well-being, I slowly got up and started walking slowly back towards my house. I just tried to focus on putting one foot in front of the other and getting back inside to the air conditioning and a glass of water. Finally, I made it back safely. I was shaking.

After some cold water and a few minutes, I started to feel better. But it scared me. It hadn't felt that hot and I'd seen other runners/walkers outside- it didn't seem dangerous to me. But it absolutely was. Heat and humidity can be life-threatening when running or walking- it's important to be cautious when planning outdoor activities.

That being said, there are plenty of things you can do to protect yourself during the summer heat and humidity. The following is a list of tips that I have made based on my own personal experiences. I am not a physician and what's listed here is not medical advice.

1. Consider staying indoors. Treadmills and indoor tracks can be boring, but are a lot more comfortable (and safe!) than being outside in the sun and heat.

2. Stay hydrated! Your intake of water is important- not just during your run but every day. I try to drink at least 6-8 glasses of water a day.

3. Wear sunscreen. Often neglected, this one little thing can protect you from the sun's harmful rays and can help keep you cool.

4. Invest in technical fabric workout clothes. By wicking away sweat, tech fabrics help regulate your body temperature in hot weather.

5. Slow down. Jeff Galloway suggests that for every five degrees above 60, you should slow down by 30 seconds per mile. If it's 80 degrees, then that means slowing your pace by a full two minutes per mile.

6. Run early or late. Time your outdoor run or walk to be in the coolest parts of the day- either early in the morning or just after dusk.

7. Avoid blacktop if possible. Summer is a great time to head out on the trail. Not only are there usually a lot of shaded areas, but running on grass or dirt isn't nearly as hot as running on the black asphalt of most roads.

These are just a few of the precautions you can take to ensure a comfortable and safe outdoor workout during the summer months. Runner's World has some additional tips as well as this list from Road Runners Club of America.

QOTD: What would you add to this list? How do you stay cool during summer running or walking?

Monday, July 14, 2014

AM: 7/14/14

Happy Monday! 

Welcome to the second edition of Accountability Monday: a short post recaping my week with regard to running and healthy eating.

I hope you had a great week- I absolutely did.  We actually had an exciting weekend- we rescued a kitten from a storm drain in our neighborhood! During a walk Friday night, we kept hearing a kitten mewling but couldn't figure out where it was. We had heard that some of our neighbors got evicted and just let a momma cat and her four kittens go. Eventually we figured out it was coming from the storm drain. Long story short- we called the fire department and little "Buster" spent the night with us once out of the drain. He is currently living with another neighbor until we can get him (and his siblings) to a no-kill shelter in the area.

Top- Buster, after being rescued from the drain. Bottom- Buster (far right) and his kitten siblings.

I also had a great week with regard to training, nutrition and weight-loss. I finally got in some cross-training and I survived a weekend with family without feeling like I over-indulged.

Monday- Jillian Michaels "Ripped in 30"
Tuesday- 45 minute run
Wednesday- Pilates DVD
Thursday- 45 minute run
Friday- 50 minute walk
Saturday- 4 mile run
Sunday- Rest day

14.5 miles total

I've been trying some new foods this week. I bought Chocolate PB2- oil-free, powdered peanut butter- and spread it on waffles; amazing! Buddy Fruit has come in handy before my workouts- they are 1-3 points a piece and are super yummy. I also tried the grilled watermelon and kale salad at Longhorn Steakhouse- I'm not a fan of raw Kale. And I might have had a Sam Adams Seasonal at the Harrisburg Senators game :-)

162 pounds as of 7/9/14 weigh-in.
-1 from last week.
-28.4 since January 2013.
-40 since heaviest: 202 in 2005.

QOTD: How was your week? What keeps you accountable?

Friday, July 11, 2014

Friday Update: Team Panera!

Happy Friday!

Normally, I don't post on Fridays but I have some awesome news that just couldn't wait until next week!

You may remember that I'm running the Akron Marathon Relay with some of the coolest people around- Jeff, Lauren, Chelsea, and Steff as a part of Team #4PrincessesandaFrog. You might also recall that we interact with Akron on social media so much that at the Pittsburgh Marathon Expo, they had left us a little gift- #runAkron stickers.

Well, a few weeks after Pittsburgh, Andrew (communications guy for Akron), invited us to be part of a partnership between Panera Bread and the Akron Marathon as official "Team Panera" bloggers!

Racing AND Panera?! What could be better?!

So, what does being on Team Panera mean? It means that I'll be sharing more about my love of all things Panera here on my blog- specifically, how their menu assists in my training. I have been a long time fan of Panera due to their yummy food and great low-point options for Weight Watchers.

They also have a great menu and training program set-up for Akron, though you can follow it for any race. Side note- their training plans are based on some of Jeff Galloway's and Hal Higdon's plans and you know how I feel about those gentlemen.

I am thrilled about this opportunity and can't wait to share more of the nutrition side of my training with you.

QOTD: What's your favorite menu item at Panera?

Thursday, July 10, 2014

A "Real Runner" Reminder to Myself

While running the Summerfair 10k last weekend, I ran into an acquaintance- almost literally. The race had just started and everyone was trying to find their pace as we ran down the first part of the course. I heard someone calling my name and looked over to see this acquaintance. We waved hello and wished each other well in the race. My timer went off so I started my walk interval. She passed me.

A minute later, I started running again and quickly caught up to her. She looked over, saw me, and said, "Oh, do you have an injury? Is that why you're walking?"

I don't remember exactly what I replied- something about how I do the run/walk method and it's helped me complete lots of races. But I do remember exactly how I felt- pissed!

I wanted to get defensive and say something snarky. I wanted to roll my eyes. I wanted to tell her that she shouldn't judge what she doesn't know and that walking didn't mean I had an injury. But I didn't. Instead, I ran my race.

But I'm still thinking about her comment days later. Now, I don't think she said it in a way that was meant to be judgmental or mean. She knows me as a "runner" and I think she was genuinely puzzled as to why I was walking. I think I'm still angry about the comment because I let those words get to me- I let them creep into my brain and question whether or not I was a legitimate runner because I run/walk.

When I first started running, I ran all the way through. No walking breaks. And it felt good. When I started training for a half marathon, I looked into several plans and stumbled upon Jeff Galloway. I learned about his run/walk method and tried it out. And guess what? I loved it! I use it almost every time I run. It works for me.

So, am I a legitimate runner? YES! If you run, you're a runner. It's that simple. If I choose to walk an interval, that doesn't mean I'm not strong enough to run the whole way. It means that I'm moving forward in the best way for me. I've run 14 half marathons, countless 5 and 10ks, one full marathon, and completed the Dopey Challenge. I don't need to prove my runner status to anybody but myself.

But, if I could, I'd love to take my acquaintance  to coffee and chat with her about all the benefits of the run/walk method. I'd answer any questions she had and probably try to convince her to try it. And then I might gently encourage her to cheer on every athlete- no matter how they are moving towards that finish line.

By the way, here are my top reasons for using the run/walk method:
  • Feel strong throughout entire race/run.
  • Easier on knees/joints.
  • Gives running muscles a chance to recover.
  • Increases speed.
  • Decreases risk of injury.

If you want to learn more about the run/walk method, start here. And if you'd like some evidence on how taking a walk break actually makes you faster, you can check out this recent article by Runner's World. You can find more about my experience with run/walk as I trained for my first half marathon in this post. Also, I think it's worth noting that Jeff Galloway qualified for the Boston Marathon this year by using the run/walk method.

I'm a proud back-of-the-pack, run/walk, sparkly-skirt-wearing runner. I hope I'm still racing when I'm in my 80's, and if I keep run/walking, I'm pretty sure I will be. :-)

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Race Recap & Review: Firecracker 5k and Summerfair 10k

Who doesn't love a holiday race- or two?! This past weekend, Matthew and I got to race in the Waynesboro Firecracker 5k on Independence Day and then the Summerfair 10k on Saturday. Lucky for us, these races were close to home and the weather was perfect each morning- upper 60's, low humidity, and breezy.

Waynesboro Firecracker 5k
This annual race celebrated it's 17th year with over 500 runners in attendance. Matthew and I signed up on the day of the event for $22 each. There were options for cotton t-shirts or tech shirts for an additional cost which we elected not to do. We have tons of race shirts :-)

On our way to the race, we stopped at a McDonald's to use a real bathroom. There we ran into friends from Team #runDisney that we had met at WDW earlier this year- small world, right?! Scott and Susan live in the Harrisburg area and I hope we will see them at other races around Pennsylvania.

The race started right on time. The course followed some neighborhood roads for the first mile and then an out-and-back on Main Street. It was absolutely gorgeous to be running on the 4th of July. There were lots of spectators and waving flags.

Red, white, and blue.

Runners at the starting line.

I just love flag-lined streets on the 4th of July.

Patriotic mile markers!

Main Street in small-town America. It doesn't get much more 'merica than this.

I crossed the finish line in 34:22- not bad for an easy 5k. We each grabbed a bottle of water and headed to the car. There was a fair/festival going on but we didn't participate. We ended up having a low key 4th- pool time, dinner out, and local fireworks. After all, we had an early wake-up call the next morning for the Summerfair 10k!

It wasn't quite Disney, but it wasn't bad either.

Summerfair 10k
On Saturday morning, we ran the 4th annual Summerfair 10k. This is free event- that's right, a FREE race! How cool is that?! It was held in Carlisle, PA, adjacent to Dickinson College. This race is part of an overall series of events, Carlisle Summerfair: family-friendly events offered to the public at no cost.

This event offered two options- a 5k or a 10k. The courses ran the same first mile, the 10k went on it's own for a mile, and then rejoined the 5k for mile three. Then the 5k split off to finish and the 10k completed another loop of the course. There was a water stop at miles one and four. Both races started at the same time.

I'd guess there were about 100 people participating- including one of my students at the university, a colleague, and a fellow Weight Watcher from my Wednesday meeting. I think I'm officially a PA resident; I've started seeing people I know at local races :-)

Course map.

Nicole (SU student) and me before the start.

Matthew looking ready to conquer 6.2.

The race started without much fanfare as most local races do. There wasn't chip timing, so I started my Map My Run app when I started running. I decided that I would keep my headphones out until later in the race because honestly, I was afraid of getting lost!  This was an open course with just a few volunteers and once the 10k split off from the 5k, I felt like I was all alone on the course. Luckily, the course was well-marked with spray paint on the ground. However, I know how I "zone out" when I'm running with music and I didn't want to miss any of the markers.

Course markings directing us to make a turn.

Mile and course markers.

So, the first three miles were without music. And I have to say, it wasn't terrible! I actually enjoyed just listening to what was going on around me and being able to regulate my pace without music. Also, I started out way, way too fast. My first mile was 10:44. Miles two and three were 11:33 and 11:26. I have got to work on that first mile and slowing the heck down!
After I started the second loop, I put my headphones in. Since I'd already run the loop, I sort of knew which way to go so I felt more confident listening to music. Miles four and five were 10:57 and 10:50. A little after mile four, I passed a guy who had been in front of me the entire time. As I'm running past him, he says to me, "You make this look easy!" And honestly, it felt easy! At that point, I knew I had just under two miles left and I was kicking it up a notch to try and run negative splits. With that comment in mind, I just kept booking it down the course. Around mile five, I passed ANOTHER dude! It was so awesome! I love that run/walk keeps me strong until the finish and strong enough to pass folks in the home stretch.
I turned the corner towards the finish and checked out my time- it was only 1:07. My 10k PR is 1:09:30. So, I was pretty excited to see that time. However, my distance was a little short. When I crossed the finish line, my Map My Run app said I'd run 6.07 miles in 1:09:17. I think the course may have been short but either way, I think I still would have PR'd if I'd run the extra .13 miles. And besides that first mile, I ran negative splits- yay!
This last little bit of the course was beautiful!

Happy 10k finishers!

Love to see the numbers decreasing.
For a free race, it was awesome. Well-organized, nice and flat course, and two water stations. It would be nice to know if it was a full 6.2 mile course but even if it wasn't, it still was a really great event. And the price was right :-)
Overall, it was a fantastic holiday weekend full of races, fun, and freedom!
QOTD: How was your holiday? Did you run over the weekend? As part of a race or on your own?

Monday, July 7, 2014

Accountability Monday: 7/7/2014

In an effort to keep up with the goals stated in last week's post, I present a new Sparkly Runner series- "Accountability Monday"- a quick recap of the last week with regard to Goofy Challenge training, nutrition, and weight-loss.

12.8 miles this week.
Three workouts- 3.7 humid, gross miles on Wednesday, 5k on Friday, 10k on Saturday.

No long runs yet so no new experiments with food.
Finished the holiday weekend with 9 Weekly Points remaining which is pretty damn awesome. (If you're unfamiliar with how the Weight Watchers method works, you can find out more here.)

163 pounds as of 7/2/14 weigh-in.
-2.2 from last week.
-27.4 since January 2013.
-39 since heaviest: 202 in 2005.

Overall, it was a great week. The races were super fun and I managed to negative split the 10k- which is a goal I've been working on for what feels like forever! The weather has also been pretty cooperative and strangely cool these last few days- low humidity and temps in the mid-70's. However, it's supposed to creep back up into the 90's this week so that may affect my running and force me onto the dreadmill- yuck!

QOTD: How was your holiday weekend? 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Goofy Challenge Training: Week 1

Tuesday, July 1 marked the starting date of the official runDisney Goofy Challenge training program! As you might recall, Matthew and I decided to take on the Goofy Challenge this year for several reasons and we are looking forward to another six months of training to get us back in marathon shape.

However, we spent the first night of training a little differently this year: painting! I had booked us a Paint Nite for 7/1/2014 without first realizing that it was the official start date of our training. However, the painting we completed was called "Beach Run" so that counts for something, right? This was our first experience with Paint Nite and I can guarantee that we'll do another- it was so much fun! If you're not familiar with these events, let me give you a simple explanation. You go to a bar/restaurant (usually a private room) and are given a canvas, brushes, and paint. Then you follow the instructions of your artist/teacher and after about two and a half hours, you have a painting to take home.

While I don't think anyone will confuse our paintings with a Rembrandt anytime soon, we had a great time, learned a few things about paint, and created something cool.

I think we paint an awesome beach. Mine is on the left; Matthew's is on the right.

Though these look like potatoes, they are actually flip-flops.

That shadow was the most difficult part about this.

Finished product! 

Even though we missed the official start, we are well on our way to conquering Goofy! We've downloaded the schedule to my google calendar and printed out a calendar to help guide our training through our summer/fall race schedule. Also, we've been scheduling our long runs to incorporate my dad's schedule- he's running the WDW Marathon as his first 26.2.

Weeks 1- 6 with scheduled races included.

Weeks 7- 14.

Weeks 15- 22, when training gets serious.

Weeks 23- 28 including my favorite weeks of training- taper!!

Just like last year, our ultimate goal is to get to the starting lines of all three races (we're doing the 10k for fun!) healthy and happy. This year, I want to focus more on nutrition. During Dopey Challenge training last year, I maintained (and even gained a little!) and wasn't at the weight I'd wanted to be by January. Since Dopey, I've lost 15 pounds. I think I've been able to focus more on my eating habits these last few months because I hadn't been training for any "big" races. I hope I can maintain this loss and hopefully drop a few more pounds before my second marathon. I'm amazed at how much better running feels at 163 pounds vs. 190 pounds. I'd also like to try and train with more "real" foods and wean myself off of gu, gels, etc. I'm hoping that with fruit, nuts, and other "real" foods I'll be able to stay fueled for the long training runs of this program.

Also different from last year, I have a time goal for the marathon. Last year, we finished in 6:32:30. This year, I'd like to finish in less than 6 hours. This means that I'll be taking a little over a minute off each mile- which I think is doable if I train at that pace. However, finishing is the true goal and I won't be disappointed if I don't meet that time. Plus, I get to cross the finish with Matthew AND my dad- how cool is that?!? Who cares what the clock says? :-)

I'd also like to do a better job of documenting each week of training. I get a lot of great questions asking about how I train for these events so expect to see more posts dedicated specifically to Goofy Challenge training.

For this first week, I ran 45 minutes on Wednesday (3.7 miles) and will complete a 5k on Friday and a 10k on Saturday. Look for the recaps of those races coming next week.

I'm really looking forward to training this year and even more excited to share this journey with you! Writing about my training keeps me much more accountable than I ever could be on my own- thank you for reading and for all your encouragement! And please share the goals/race training you are working on in the comments- let's support each other :-)

QOTD: What goals are you currently trying to accomplish/what are you training for?