Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015: A Year in Pictures

Y'all. We are only HOURS away from 2016! Can you believe it??

2015 was a hell of a year.

A comeback from injury... then having two additional injuries... then marathon redemption in Pittsburgh.

Reaching goal and lifetime with Weight Watchers... then gaining a little back that I can't quite seem to get rid of.

Getting engaged... then losing my job... then starting a new full-time and part-time job.

Finishing marathon number two... then my first DNF (did not finish) in Akron.

2015 brought lots of life changes for me- some incredibly awesome, some incredibly crappy. But- that's life, right? There's an old saying that I find myself focusing on when the crappy stuff seems to be taking over: "If it weren't for the valleys, you wouldn't appreciate the peaks."

Instead of a content-heavy review, here's are some defining pictures from my 2015: the valleys, the peaks, and everything in between.

Finishing the Walt Disney World Marathon with my dad, cheering for Matthew and all the rest of our running Ohana, and spending time with our run Disney family was such a wonderful experience.

After dealing with excruciating pain in my left big toe, and being misdiagnosed with Gout, we finally figured out that arthritis was the culprit. Daily vitamins, activity, and yoga have helped me deal with this annoying injury.  

The Shamrock Half Marathon was special for many reasons including being able to run it with my younger brother Adam- it was his very first half marathon!

In the last few weeks of Pittsburgh Marathon training, my left ankle started to bother me- so badly that eventually I put myself into the boot for a few weeks. My doctors never did figure out what it was but [knock on wood!] it hasn't really bothered me since the marathon.

Team McShupp became officially official- Matthew asked me to marry him on the Disney Magic. I can't wait to marry him in 2016 :-)

At the race that started my running career (the Bel Air Town Run), I got a new 5k PR- 31:28. Just 90 seconds stand between me and a sub-30 minute 5k. #2016goals

Mid-summer was full of wedding planning and signing contracts... not so much running.

I finished my Weight Watchers training by the end of the summer and began working regularly as a receptionist at a local meeting.

Due to unexplained foot pain, I did not finish the Akron Half Marathon aka, the Blue Line. Total bummer.

Matthew and I ran the Rock and Roll Philly Half Marathon with our friend Cecilia and he paced us to her fastest half marathon ever!

We conquered the #stripatnight and finished the Rock and Roll Vegas Half- despite 50 mile an hour winds and cold rain.

Being surprised with a Christmas Disney Cruise? Probably my best December memory. All thanks to the greatest, sweetest, most thoughtful future husband in the world.

With 2015 almost completely in the rear-view mirror, I am looking forward to all the peaks and valleys 2016 will bring.

What was your most favorite "peak" from 2015?

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Race Recap & Review: The Great Race

On a Sunday in late September, the great city of Pittsburgh holds an annual event: The Great Race. It is a race that's sponsored by the city, extremely large (10,000+ runners and walkers), and is a point-to-point, meaning the race starts in one area and finishes in a completely different area.

Last year, I was signed up for this event but wasn't able to participate due to my stress fracture. This year, I was determined to get my revenge on this course and finally complete it.

And then my foot started acting up in early September. And I had my first DNF the day before the Great Race at Akron. Yeah- these races are back-to-back. Our wonderful friends put us up at their house in Pittsburgh the night of the Akron races- luckily Pittsburgh is only a two hour drive from Akron.

So the night before the Great Race I was debating a lot on what to do. Should I start the race with a bum foot? What if I had to stop- how would I get to the finish area? What if I walked the whole thing? Could I walk six miles? Would this hurt my foot even more? Was this a stupid decision to attempt this race?

I decided to make a game-time decision: I would make the call at race time. The next morning, race morning, I got up and dressed and joined Matthew and our friends for the short drive to Pittsburgh. We parked downtown and joined the ever-expanding line to get on the shuttles to take us to the start line. As we were walking, I heard someone yelling for "sparkly runner." It was a sweet blog reader, Elana! We chatted for a few minutes and grabbed a selfie. Then I went back to the end of the line with our friends and waited for our turn to get on the shuttle.

The never-ending shuttle line.

"Official" bus stop. 

Once at the start, we had some time to kill. There were a TON of people there and it was near impossible to get to the bathrooms- all of which had extremely long lines. So, I went behind this little brick wall :-) I credit my love of running with my ability to pee anywhere!

The starting line of this race is really odd; it is literally in a neighborhood. People were coming out of their homes, drinking coffee, and just staring at the thousands of people standing on their street.

Starting line before it got super busy...

...starting line with thousands of runners.

At the starting line, I decided that I was going to walk the entire race. I wasn't 100% about my foot but knew I wanted to try. Our friends spread out in the starting corral to what pace they wanted to run. Matthew and I said our goodbyes as he moved up towards the eight minute mile pacer. Gloria, Kelsey and I made our way to the back of the pack so we could start towards the last people as we didn't want to get trampled. My ipod had died that morning so I borrowed Steff's instead- I cued up her awesome running playlist and started my walk over the starting line.

Probably my favorite picture of the entire race.

Because I was worried about keeping up with the required pace, 14 minutes/mile, I was hustling that first mile- I think it was just under 13 minutes! Which was about my pace when I first started running five years ago! It was really, really difficult to NOT run. I was so excited to be racing and my foot was feeling great and it was so tough not to just break into a run.

But I didn't run. Instead, I was power-walking the crap out of the Great Race. I was lost in the new music and the surroundings when around mile two, this man came up and started talking to me. I took my headphones out and he said, "You walk as fast as I run! Can I stay with you a while?" Obviously, you know my answer- "Of course!" I said to him.

Jim became my new running buddy for the last four miles of the course. I learned all about his life (he's a professor for Pitt's medical school- moved here from the mid-west a long time ago), his wife (married for 30+ years), his son (studied art in college), and why he was running the Great Race. As it turns out, Jim was a runner for many years but eventually, his joints gave out on him and he could no longer run. He switched to cycling but in his mind, that doesn't compare to running- he runs the Great Race every year as his one running "indulgence." How cool is that?

I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed this race- Jim running beside me, me walking fast to keep us on pace, chatting and laughing as the miles flew by. Parts of this course were very familiar to me as I've run in Pittsburgh a few times now. I  knew some of the hills we'd face on the later part of the course towards the finish line. Even with the heat (it was crazy sunny and hot) and the hills, the course is beautiful and offers spectacular views of the city.

And there were greyhounds on the course! Just like during the Pittsburgh Marathon!

One of Pittsburgh's many bridges and river views.

As we neared the finish, I spotted Kelsey making her way up the last hill. I introduced her to Jim and the three of us headed towards the last downhill of the race.

Matthew had called me to let me know he'd finished and that he and some of our other friends were on the course waiting to cheer for us. As we neared the downtown area, I spotted Matthew, Coach Jeff, and a very pregnant Natalie on the sidewalk. You may recall, Natalie had run the Akron Half Marathon the day before and I had stayed with her (and Coach Jeff and her husband Jimmy) for the first part of the course and my relay leg.

Before I knew what was happening, Jeff and Natalie jumped in and said they were going to see us to the finish! My heart swelled with love for these people- especially soon-to-be momma Natalie as I can't imagine it's easy to run when you're seven months pregnant! Matthew snapped a few pictures and we rounded the corner to the finish line. Now, even though I said I was going to walk the whole thing, I may have ran in the last .1 mile :-)

Coach Jeff, Natalie, Me, and new friend Jim.

We crossed the finish line, exchanged emails, grabbed a picture, and then headed to get some post-race snacks and water. I also ran into Elana again and we were able to get a picture on my phone.

Smiling 10k finishers.

I always look creepy-happy when I meet readers in real life!

We finished in 1:21:34 with a 13:07 average pace. And I WALKED! I can't tell you the last time I'd walked that much- probably during Dopey training two years ago. Walking is a totally different mechanical function- it's definitely not the same as running six miles and it definitely feels different in your legs, back, hips, etc.

We found our running ohana, snapped a quick picture and then headed back to Steff's to shower and get on the road to home.

While it wasn't quite the comeback race I'd been planning, it was still awesome. I met a new friend, learned that I can walk a pretty quick 10k, and got to see my running ohana all weekend long- sounds like the definition of a great race to me. :-)

The crew. 

Have you ever participated in the Great Race or any other city-sponsored race?

AND- Merry Christmas Eve to all who celebrate! :-)

Monday, December 21, 2015

Accountability Monday: 12/21/15

Welcome to the second-to-last Monday of 2015!

If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram then you know that Matthew surprised me with a four night cruise on the Disney Dream last week! Isn't he just the most wonderful man?! I think so :-) Seriously, I think I might have the BEST future husband in the world- he's just so good to me. It was really awesome to be able to take a week off with him during the busyness of the holiday season and just enjoy being with each other and relaxing.

The beautiful Disney Dream, all decked out for Christmas.

So this accountability post takes place while we were cruising on the high seas! I'll probably write a more detailed post about our entire cruise experience sometime in the future. Sidenote, I was in Instagram "jail" all of last week- I could post pictures but I couldn't add captions or comments to my or anyone else's photos. I have no idea how I ended up in jail but it finally ended late Saturday night. If you see any posts without captions, that was why. So weird.

Tuesday- Castaway Cay 5k, 35 ish minutes, Yoga on the Beach class
Wednesday- Group Cycle Class
Thursday- 30 minute run on Deck 4, no clue as to distance or pace :-)
Sunday- 4.29 mile run with Jen, 10:34 pace

One of the coolest things about cruising with Disney is the free classes offered by the Senses Spa and Gym. Everyday, there were cycling classes, yoga classes, ab workouts, etc. at no additional cost. There were some other classes (boot camp, etc.) that you could participate in for a fee. I liked the free ones just fine :-)

On Sunday, Jen and I kept what felt like a really easy pace- I figured we were running about 11:30- 12 minute miles. We were both shocked to see 10:34 as the overall pace as we both felt like this was an easy effort 4-miler. Hopefully this just means we are getting to be better and faster runners!

I call this "Bahamian Leaning Tree Pose." :-) 

Finishers of the Castaway Cay 5k and our frosty friend Olaf.

Food Find of the Week:
I made a similar dish to the one found here (Skinnytaste Cheeseburger Casserole) this weekend and it came out ok. Instead of pasta, the recipe I used called for sliced potatoes. It was definitely different from what I usually make and I'm looking forward to trying it again only using pasta this time. And adding pickles.

Who knows??

I did weigh myself on the cruise and I was up about 2 pounds from the previous week. I'm cool with that. There's a lot of eating and drinking on-board a cruise :-)

Non-Scale Victory:
Matthew and I took the stairs EVERY SINGLE DAY on the cruise, regularly walking from Deck 3 to Deck 14 and everywhere in between. We only took the elevator once and that was to move our luggage and to look at the inside of the elevator- there were Disney characters painted on the inside of the elevator shaft that we wanted to see.

Hello from Disney's private island, Castaway Cay!

Have a great week, friends!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Accountability Friday: December 11, 2015

Nothing like a little accountability to start off the weekend!

In short, my last week was pretty dang awesome. Weight Watchers revealed a new program (Beyond the Scale), I completed training in Dallas, TX to become a Weight Watchers Leader, and I lost 2.8 pounds- even while I was traveling, which is usually challenging for me.

So... about that new program....

I've actually been living with Smart Points and Beyond the Scale for about two months now (as Service Providers we got a sneak peek at the program) and I can honestly say that I think it's the best change Weight Watchers has made in a long time. I plan on writing about this a bit more in detail in the coming weeks but overall, even though I struggled at the beginning, I am super excited about this program and how it will benefit so many people.

Also, look for an upcoming post with all the fun stuff that happened at leader training this past weekend- in short, it was a transformative and developmental experience with some of the most inspirational women I've had the privilege to meet.

Future Weight Watcher Leaders: Rachel, Jennifer, Wendy, and me.

Saturday- 8 treadmill miles in Dallas, 12:08 pace
Sunday- Upper body weight circuit, planks, one mile run: 9:34 pace

Galloway's Princess Half Marathon training plan called for eight miles on Saturday and even though I had to get them done on the treadmill, I felt confident in getting another long run under my belt. And the next day, my legs felt so good that I decided to crank out a 9:34 mile!

But you'll notice that I've been a big-time slacker the rest of the week. On Sunday night, I ran up the opposite way on an escalator (long story) and I whacked the top of my right foot on one of the steps as it was coming down. Ouch. It's bruised and sore so I've been babying it all week. Luckily, there's only one mile on the training plan this weekend!

Proof of my fastest mile to date.

Food Find:
While in Dallas, a lot of our food was catered as part of the training. However, when we had dinner out on Sunday night, a bunch of us split a sweet potato cheesecake. And by split, I mean I'm pretty sure I ate half. It was completely worth the Smart Points though :-)

145.8 as of 12/9/15
-2.8 from last week.

Non-Scale Victory:
Yesterday, at one of the many work holiday parties, I successfully walked away from a tray full of cookies and didn't look back. Progress.

Happy Friday and Happy Hanukkah to all who celebrate!  Have a splendid weekend!

Friday, December 4, 2015

Five Things Friday: 12/4/2015

Hi friends!

I feel like such a bad blogger- so much is going on in my life and I want to share it with you but finding the time to write is impossible!

BUT- I did make a promise that I would post once a week until Christmas and I'm sticking to it. There are still tons of recaps I need to write (The Great Race, Philly RnR, Vegas RnR) and I'm looking forward to some time off over the holidays to write about all of them.

Today I thought I'd do something different: Five Things Friday! Lots of my favorite bloggers do a weekly post like this (Steff, We Run Disney, Kathryn, Chelsea, Lauren) and I always love catching up with their lives in short form!

While I can't say this will be a regular thing here at Sparkly Runner, it might make an appearance from time to time :-)

1. I fly to Dallas tonight! I may or may not have shared this but I recently was invited to become a Leader with Weight Watchers. Currently, I am a Receptionist and I really love it. WW is sending me to Dallas for Leader Training for a few days and I am so excited to learn more about my new role with the company.

Random Dallas skyline picture from Google Images.

2. There's only 11 weeks until Princess Half Marathon. Holy crap. Jen and I only have 11 weeks to get our poop in a group for this half marathon! Luckily, I've been able to get in MOST of the weekly conditioning runs and ALL the long runs so far. I'm following Jeff Galloway's training plan for this half because I trust his methods and I know it's doable even with my hectic schedule.

Jen and me at her first half, Divas DC in 2014.

3. I'm THISCLOSE to rounding out 400 miles run this year. Despite all my injuries, false starts, and general life craziness, I've run 391 miles in 2015- including three half marathons, one full marathon, three 10ks, 10 5ks, one 2 miler, one 12 miler, one 8k, and one marathon relay. 

I get by with a little help from my friends! Finishing the Great Race in style (Jeff, pregnant Natalie, me, and new friend Jim)

4. This is my last Christmas as a single lady. WHAT?!?!? Matthew and I get married in 169 days. Wedding planning is in full force at our house but we recently scratched off the last "big" thing- the cake! Cake tasting was probably my favorite part of visiting all the vendors :-)

Fingers crossed for more dipping in our collective future.

5. I bought this dress for $3.80. That has nothing to do with my fitness or weight loss; it's just a great deal (clearance at Kohl's). :-) And I really like the dress and needed an excuse to share a picture of it. I love shopping end-of-season clearance racks. 

Maxis are my absolute favorite. 

Have an awesome weekend, friends!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Giving Thanks

Happy day-before-Thanksgiving!

While I try to be grateful every day of the year, tomorrow is the official day that we celebrate all we have to be thankful for in our lives. I feel like this holiday couldn't come at a better time in my life.

These last six months have been full of changes; changes that are positive but still have caused some stress. Matthew and I are planning a wedding, I started a new full-time job and a new part-time job, I've been training for several half marathons with intermittent injuries and I've been trying to maintain and/or lose weight. To be honest, it's been a bit of a struggle. My old routine was great and allowed me to lose 50 pounds. Eventually, I'll find the right rhythm and I'll feel more in control of my life.  Eventually :-)

There's a saying I have in my office that I reflect on when feeling especially overwhelmed: "If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd grab ours back." So true, right?

My problems aren't even really problems. Yeah, I might get stressed out and frustrated and overwhelmed sometimes, but I am blessed beyond my wildest dreams. In honor of tomorrow's holiday, I've gathered up a short list of some of the reasons I have to be thankful this year, listed in no particular order:

I am so grateful that I have a job that allows me to make an impact on students' lives while working alongside some really amazing and wonderful people

Healthy, non-fractured feet, that allow me to run for miles and miles.

Family, and friends who are more like family, that I can always depend on.

Weight Watchers: a program (and job!) that helps me
make better choices and helps me reach my goals.

Meeting blog readers in person is such a cool experience! This blog has helped me meet
so many inspirational people: (clockwise from left) Elana, Liz, Cecilia.

This sweet boy brings so much joy into my life. I am thankful for our pup, Koda.

These people need no introduction. Our running ohana make me grateful every day.

This man, whom I get to call my husband, in just a few months. Words will never express
my gratitude for his love, commitment, and dedication to me and our family. He's simply the greatest man I know.

I have a lot of reasons to be thankful. What about you? What are you thankful for this year?

Friday, November 20, 2015

Race Recap & Review: Akron Marathon Relay

In February 2014, I got an email from a few friends (that I'd just met at Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend) asking me if I wanted to be the fifth member of their marathon relay team for the Akron Marathon. Of course I said yes- that was the beginning of our running ohana; the group of running friends that have become family. We met on twitter and now meet a few times a year at races across the country.

Sadly, I didn't get to run in Akron 2014 because of my stress fracture. I went along for the weekend and cheered on my friends, vowing to return in 2015 and run the blue line with two, unbroken feet. 

This year, I would get my chance. 

Matthew and I signed up for the half (on 9/26) almost nine months ago. At some point, Chelsea invited me to run the first leg of the relay with her team. The plan was to run my relay leg (5.8 miles), hand off to Chelsea, remove my relay bib, and continue on to finish the half. 

Coach Jeff, Steff, her husband Joe, Lauren, her husband Mark, Nathan, Lauren H., Natalie, her husband Jimmy, and a bunch of Coach Jeff's "old guy running group" friends all planned on making the trip out to Akron, OH. Lauren and Mark ended up not coming out and we definitely missed them!

We all arrived in Akron on Friday afternoon and visited the expo. While this is a small expo, they did have some nice stuff. The hotel we stayed at was just a few blocks from the convention center (expo) and start/finish line so we were able to go back and forth all day.

Nathan, Coach Jeff, Me, and Matthew

This race offers a pasta dinner at the expo on Friday night and we all decided to go that route for our pre-race carb load. It was $20 per person and included pasta, salad, vegetables, and cheesecake. I think we'd definitely do this again- it was quick, easy, and tasty!

My right foot had been rocking all damn day. I'd had an x-ray the week before but no MRI so I was trying to take it easy as I was still suspecting a stress fracture. After the pasta dinner, I laid out my clothes for the race the next morning, keeping my fingers crossed that my foot would behave and let me finish the half marathon the next day. 

The crew.

Did I mention that Natalie was 7.5 months pregnant?!

Race morning. I got up and get dressed. Matthew got up... and immediately went back to bed, feeling super sick. He was feeling awful and running a fever- definitely not in any running condition. Heartbroken, he headed back to bed, reluctantly agreeing to skip the race due to illness. 

My foot was already bothering me but I met up with our ohana in the lobby of the hotel. Together, we walked up to the race start and got situated in the corrals. Steff was gunning for a PR so she started at the front of A. The others made their way to the relay stations or other corrals. Coach Jeff, Natalie, Jimmy, and I agreed that we would start together and hopefully stay together the whole race. And of course, no babies would be born on the course! :-)

We look pretty good for 7 am!

Our group of four started slow and steady. We did three minutes running, one minute walking. We chatted and ran and walked and laughed and the miles flew by. However, my foot kept hurting. It was a dull ache right in the area of my stress fracture. Soon enough, I saw the first relay exchange. I had been debating off and on the entire race of continuing to complete the half or to just cut out at the relay exchange. 

Hands up if you love running with friends!

I made the incredibly tough decision to stop. I handed off to Chelsea and watched her, Coach Jeff, Natalie, and Jimmy keep running. I stood there watching them and sobbing. I considered jumping back into the race for probably 10 minutes after they ran past me. I stood there at the relay exchange feeling super sorry for myself and blubbering on and on about my failure. 

After trying to call Matthew (he was still sleeping), I called my Dad and sobbed to him for a while. I knew this was the smart decision. Anytime there's pain, you should back off. But it still felt like utter and complete failure. I walked back to the hotel to check on Matthew. Luckily, he'd been able to get some sleep and was slowly starting to feel better. 

A very quick shower later, I went out to the finish area to get my post-race snacks: pizza, beer, chocolate milk, chips, etc. They had quite an awesome spread! I met up with Steff, Nathan, and Chelsea and we chatted for a while. 

Then we went back out on the course to cheer for the finishers, including looking for Coach Jeff, Natalie and Jimmy. 

Jimmy and Natalie trucking along towards the finish.

I ran/walked with Natalie and Jimmy until just before they entered the stadium and the final little section of the race. Coach Jeff had gone back on the course to run in one of his friends completing the full marathon. We got back into the finisher's area in just enough time to see Joe (Steff's husband) finish the marathon relay. 

All smiles for Joe at the end of the blue line.

Captain Chelsea's a popular gal with all that beer ;-)

Akron Marathon Relay Team 2015

While I'm disappointed I wasn't able to run the half marathon course, I did feel some sense of redemption by getting to run the first leg of the marathon- what I should have ran in 2014. 2014 was the year of the DNS- Did Not Start. 2015 brought my first DNF- Did Not Finish. At some point in every runner's career, a DNS or DNF will happen. This was mine. Looking back and knowing what I know now (that my foot is fine) makes it hard to not beat myself up about not finishing the half. But, I made the best decision I could with the information I had at the time; I can't ask myself for anything better than that.

I can't say enough great things about the city of Akron or this race. Well-organized from the expo to the starting corrals to the finish line party. The shirts, medals, and post-race food were all really high quality and made the whole experience feel very runner-focused. In short, this is an awesome race and I hope we keep doing this one every year. 

#runakron fans

Have you ever had a DNS or a DNF? How do you cope with the negative feelings it brings?