Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Accountability Tuesday: Birthday Edition!

Good morning and happy Tuesday, friends!

Today is my birthday!!!

Celebrating 31 with Matthew's family this weekend.

Ok, now that that's out of the way, hello! I feel like it's been forever since I've checked in and posted here. In reality, it's only been a week but it feels so much longer than that. 

The past few weeks have brought some MAJOR developments into my life. This blog is dedicated to one part of my world- running, training, and racing. And I promise to always keep it that way. But I'd be fooling myself if I didn't think that life events had a huge impact on my training. 

In the last 15 days, Matthew and I got engaged on the Disney Magic (yay!), Matthew's Nana passed away, and I found out- rather unexpectedly- that my position within my current employer will end in five weeks. To say it's been an emotional couple of weeks is an understatement. 

We've been celebrating and mourning and laughing and crying- sometimes all in the same day. Honestly, it feels a bit like we've been walking around in a fog for the last few weeks. But, some clarity has emerged- Life is precious. Life is short. A job is just a job. Hold on to those who love you and love them back with all you've got. 

The next few weeks will bring another flurry of activity as we will start wedding planning and I will continue job searching. I may not be able to post here as often as I usually do but I will make every effort to get an "Accountability Monday" posted every week. 

So let's quickly recap the last few weeks. I promise, I'll post tons more pictures from our vacation in the coming weeks!

On the cruise and in WDW-
Monday- 60 minute spin class and bike tour of Key West
Tuesday- 3 mile run on the Magic, yoga class in the spa
Wednesday- 30 minutes on the elliptical
Thursday- Castaway Cay 5k
Friday- Rest day
Saturday- Park open to park close: lots of walking!
Sunday- 3 mile run around Coronado Springs
Monday- Rest day

Tuesday- Rest and travel day
Wednesday- Rest day
Thursday- 15 minute walk around the neighborhood
Friday- Rest day
Saturday- Color Run with my family
Sunday- Rest day
Monday- 30 minute run with Matthew

11 days of vacation + constant traveling + family gatherings/holidays = lots and lots of out-of-the-ordinary eating. It's been a bit of a struggle to stay within my daily points plus target but I am just trying to make the best decision possible at each meal. I've been really trying to keep my emotions in check and not feeding my feelings with food- which is tough considering the circumstances. But I'm doing better today than I would have done a few years ago. Progress!

Disney food is superb. Especially on the cruise line!

143.6 as of 5/21/15
+2.8 since last weigh-in
-46.8 since January 2013

I'm totally ok with a less than three pound gain after an amazing, food-filled 11 day vacation. I'm glad to be home and back in my routine- hopefully the scale will go back in the right direction soon. 

So that's it- the last few crazy weeks in my life. I promise I'll check in here as often as I can.

Have a great week, friends!

I still can't believe we're engaged! :-)

Friday, May 15, 2015

Race Recap & Review: Pittsburgh Marathon

The day had finally come- the day I'd reclaim my status as "marathoner." Since incurring my stress fracture nine months ago (and having some other injuries along the way), I had been waiting to redeem myself. I so desperately wanted to complete my second marathon to prove to myself that I still was a strong person; that even though I'd had setbacks, I was still capable of running 26.2 miles and finish smiling.

I didn't feel all that strong Sunday morning. The first two days of this year's Pittsburgh adventure had gone so well and I'd had so much fun- I was worried that it would all come crashing down on Sunday morning.

I was going into this marathon under-trained and without my faithful running partner, Matthew. I knew that I could turn off at mile 11 and finish the half if I wasn't able to go the full distance. But I really, desperately wanted to finish the full marathon.

Back to race morning- Nathan, Gloria, Steff, and I piled into the car super early on Sunday morning. The race started at 7:00 am and we were parked and ready by 6:00 am. We were all meeting at Kelsey and Charles's hotel room- they'd won a staycation and were staying in the hotel closest to the start. After hanging with everyone for a bit, we headed to the corrals.

I spy the start line!

Chelsea, Brandi, Coach Jeff, Mandy, Steff, Lauren B., Me, and Natalie.

There were four, very large corrals. I was in D- the last one. Coach Jeff, Chelsea, Natalie, Lauren B. and I were walking back together and then decided to split ways- some of us were using the bathroom and some of us went to find other people before getting into the corrals. I don't know why, but I started bawling as we were saying goodbye. I was so scared. I hugged Lauren B. and she just looked at me and said, "you can do this." Matthew called me right before 7:00 and gave me another pep talk. He was out running his miles and he said, "I'm right there with you, every step." I was a hot, crying mess.

I made my way toward the corral. I couldn't get into it- there were so many people! I saw the 6:00 pace group in the crowd and decided to wait until people started moving to try and get to her. Eventually, I was able to squeeze my way through and get right next to the pace group. Our pace leader was Sarah and this was her 28th full marathon. There were about 12 of us that were with her as the race started. As we walked towards the start, she said that we'd be doing 4 minutes of running and then 1 minute of walking. We'd also walk up every hill and run down every hill- regardless of the interval we were on. She also stressed to us that she would be trying very hard to bank some time for the second half of the course- when it get's super hilly. She was a great calming presence to me and the rest of our group.

Check out that second half elevation.

Looking into the corral I couldn't get into.

Do I look terrified? Because I totally am.

Before I had time to digest that I was starting my second full marathon, we had started. I'll admit that the first few miles were tough for me. I usually run 1:1 so adjusting to 4:1 took about 45 minutes to get into a comfortable rhythm. As we ran/walked, we all chatted about who we were, why we were running, what we did for a living, etc. Sarah did an excellent job of distracting us from what was coming.

I love the first 10-11 miles of this course- you cross five bridges and see so many spectators and such pretty views of the city. Miles 1-6 for me brought a lot of left ankle and foot pain. I was thinking that if the pain continued, I'd have to drop back to the half. Luckily, around the 10k mark, the pain magically stopped. So weird. But I wasn't going to ask any questions, I just kept pressing on. I was so incredibly focused on this race- I didn't want to lose the pacer! I didn't even use my headphones once! As we all chatted, we learned that we had one marathon virgin with us- Adam- and that his longest training run was nine miles. Wow!

At some point, I saw Steff, Joe, Jimmy (Natalie's husband), and Robert (Chelsea's boyfriend) cheering from one of the bridges. Steff was running the relay so she had some time to kill. It was such a boost to see familiar faces! I also got to see Kelsey, Brandi, and my friend Becca as they were running the half marathon. Their words of encouragement really helped SO much during the first half of the course.

Mid-run selfies with Brandi! Thanks for taking this!

The first 11 miles of this course is run along-side the half-marathoners. Then after you cross the Birmingham Bridge at mile 11, the marathoners take a right (up cardiac hill!) and the half-marathoners take a left to head to the finish. As we entered this bridge, I felt great. The whole "walking up hills" strategy seemed to be working. I had very little pain at this point and still a lot of energy.

So many yellow bridges.

Bridges for days.

Love all the signs!

Adam getting a boost from some spectators with free power upgrades!

Seriously, how beautiful is this city?

The best way to see a city is by foot.

No turning back now!

After we turned off from the half marathoners, the course became desolate. Not only were we the last pace group, but there were just a whole heck of a lot less people running the full than the half. We slowly but purposefully walked up the hill into Oakland (it's a killer hill, people!) and made it to the top with some energy to share.

Somewhere near the middle of the hill.

University of Pittsburgh!

Oranges from spectators totally rock my socks.

Lonely little course.

We ran the next few miles (with a quick potty break) with the pacer and kept each other entertained by talking about other races we've done and other races we'd like to do. It was kind of sad how lonely the course was. You could see where there had been spectators but they'd left by then. It seemed like just the die-hard fans were still out there to cheer us on. The fuel stations ran out of food which was really crappy if you hadn't brought food with you. Also, we kept seeing these blue towels all over the road- apparently they had been handing them out starting at mile 14 because it was getting so hot out but we didn't get any until another station at mile 20. I really have a problem with a course not having enough supplies for the back of the pack. It's not like we were way behind pace- we were with the official pace group for the event.

Anyway, our group had started to drop off. We had a core group of four of us plus Sarah. Around mile 16, we picked up Jaime- it was her first marathon and she was struggling a bit before she joined our merry little band. Soon enough, we were at mile 17- my absolute favorite mile. Single digits left! So far, so good. I was feeling great, keeping cool (I had brought a towel with me that I kept getting wet at the water stations), and wanted to keep going. Also, I kept finding dogs to pet and believe it or not, that kept me super motivated to keep running! In total, I pet eight dogs. It was glorious.

Hey mile 17!

Our awesome pace group! Adam is still smiling and that's a good thing!

We reached mile 20 and Sarah had us all share with the group why we decided to run our first marathon. It was a welcomed distraction. She also shared with us that these last six miles were going to use up all the energy we had left and she suggested we start focusing on the parts of our body that DIDN'T hurt, like our pinky fingers. It sounds silly but it totally works. I can't say enough how wonderful she was. Sarah was knowledgeable, upbeat, and so positive. She kept me going when my belief started to waver. Miles 20- 25 brought us through some thinned out crowds of spectators- Homewood was by far the best neighborhood we ran through. Although the popsicles at mile 22 in Friendship were AMAZING!

Popsicles for the win!

It felt like it took forever to get from mile 24 to mile 25. But I finally saw the mile 25 sign as we made a turn toward the Strip District aka "the death march." This stretch of the course was unbearably hot and offered absolutely no shade- and because it's so close to the end, it felt like it took so long to get to the finish. Around this mile marker I saw an awesome spectator with a sign that said "DNF is no longer an option!" It was true- I was so, so, so close to the finish!

I saw Coach Jeff around mile 25.75 and he came to coach me to the finish. I said goodbye to all my new friends from the pace group as I ran after Jeff. We didn't take anymore walk breaks and he was keeping me at a pace that felt like an all-out sprint. He kept telling me that our ohana was right up ahead and a few steps later, I saw them. Or rather, heard them! Lauren B. had a cowbell that you could hear all up and down the street! Tears sprang to my eyes when I saw all my friends standing there yelling and cheering for me. I am one lucky girl to have awesome people wait in the hot sun for over six hours after having already run their races! :-) Seeing them was the boost I needed to get to the finish line with Coach.

Big thanks to Lauren B. for this action shot!

And then suddenly the finish line appeared and we were across it! And I felt pretty damn good! I finished marathon number two in 5:55:09 crushing my previous marathon time of 6:32:30 by 37 minutes. Incredible!

Pittsburgh Marathon finishers!

Tastes like accomplishment.

I hung around at the finish area to see the pace group folks and to make sure that Jaime finished- she did. And she looked pretty awesome for having just completed a marathon! Coach and I went to find what food was left and it wasn't much. I got a bag of chips, a bottle of water, and a small bagel. After 26.2 miles, this was not even close to what I was hoping for from a race of this size/popularity. Last year when I finished the half, I had an entire bag of food (including giant Eat'n Park cookies!) to take home. This year, they were already dismantling the empty tables where the food used to be.

It was really kind of deflating to run an entire marathon and then finish to see folks already packing up. Not to mention, the finish line was sparse in terms of people. Last year, there were spectators three and four people deep watching the finish. Not this year. It was disappointing to say the least.

But, I had completed marathon number two- time to celebrate! Coach and I walked over to the finisher area to pick up our checked bags and our extra challenge medal- and to ring the PR bell! Then we all chatted about the course, how we did, and what was hurting. I had some pain in one of my toes- turns out I had a HUGE blister under one of my toenails- it is probably going to fall off at some point in the next few weeks- gross! But I've lost toenails before from running- I consider it a battle scar :-)

Before we said our goodbyes, we took one last picture. It wasn't until I was taking a shower later that day that it hit me- I'd finished another marathon. And I felt ok! And my feet were ok! And my arthritic toe was ok! I cried like a baby in the shower just thinking about all the set backs and craziness that had been going on in my life the last few months- but I still ran that damn marathon. And I cried thinking about how many wonderful people Matthew and I have in our life- people that support us and lift us up when we need it and just plain love us. I am so beyond thankful for my running ohana and this weekend my love for them just grew stronger.


I owe all of you a giant THANK YOU also! Your support was invaluable to me throughout training and throughout the weekend. Thank you for the texts, tweets, likes, comments, and double taps on IG. Thank you for believing in me.

And of course, this post wouldn't be complete without a shout out to my one and only love, Matthew. Thank you for calling me, texting me, and cheering me on. I would have never had the courage to get to the start line without your love and support. Thank you.

Pittsburgh was an incredible experience. The pace group was so fantastic that I think I'll be running with more of them in the future. The neighborhoods and the spectators were energetic and positive and really made the race so much more enjoyable. But this race wasn't without its issues. Running out of food on-course and providing such little food after the race to the back of the pack runners is not ok. Especially for a race that costs as much as Pittsburgh does.

I don't know if we'll be back next year. My instinct says yes. This weekend is great on so many levels- it's hard to say no to so much fun! But if we don't come back, I feel satisfied with what I was able to do on that tough course. Until next time, Pittsburgh :-)

Have you ever experienced a race that ran out of food on the course or after the race?

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Race Recap & Review: Pittsburgh Marathon Weekend 5k & Expo

After a long drive across the great state of Pennsylvania, I arrived in Pittsburgh on Friday May 1st right around lunch time; i.e. the worst possible time to get to a race expo- parking was insane!

Eventually, I found a spot and went inside the convention center to meet up with my running ohana! Some of these people I hadn't seen in over a YEAR so I pretty much sprinted up the steps to get to the second floor ballroom. This year, the expo was moved to a much bigger space and it was such an improvement. There was plenty of room to move around and plenty of vendors. Contrary to parking, getting around here was super easy. 

Love the official race merchandise area with the bridge!

Brandi, Chelsea, Coach Jeff, Lauren H., Me!
After milling around the expo, picking up our race packets, visiting shirt exchange to swap out sizes (thank you, Pittsburgh Marathon!), and getting taped at the Dick's Sporting Goods booth, we went our separate ways for dinner. Since Nathan, Gloria, and I were staying at Steff's, we went back to her house and later met up with Chelsea and Mike for dinner out in the suburbs. I had french onion soup, a wrap, and a beer- it was delicious!

Coach Jeff writing a good luck message for Chelsea's first marathon!

Loved all the race merchandise!
All the beers at Wexford Ale House. Yum.

The previous patrons had put googly eyes on the menu :-)

We called it an early night because we were all running the 5k in the morning as part of the Steel Challenge. We also had Steff's tweet-up at 7:30 am. Luckily, Steff (and Joe, her wonderful husband) only live about 15 minutes from downtown so it wouldn't be TOO early of a start. 

The next morning, Saturday, we were all up and out the door by 6:00 am to make sure we got downtown and parked before the streets closed. We stayed warm in the car until about 7:00 and then headed over to the tweet-up/meet-up. It was so fun to meet people that you only know from twitter! We all had a great time chatting and catching up. Our friend Natalie (that we'd met at WDW this year during Marathon Weekend) came out to cheer us on as she wasn't running the 5k. 

Look at all these cool people :-) 

Gloria and I had been chatting that morning about running this race together. Both of our plans were to take it easy because I was running the full the next day and she was running the half. She doesn't typically run walk but she decided that she'd stick with me and keep whatever pace I kept. We lined up near the back of the pack and just tried to soak it all in before the start. 

The gun went off and a few minutes later, we crossed the timing mat to start the race. We quickly settled into a nice and easy pace. This course is really beautiful- you get to run in and around downtown and over a few bridges. There are some rolling hills but nothing too terrible. I really love this course. As Gloria and I were running, we kept passing and then getting passed by Chelsea and Lauren H.- both of whom were running the next day. Great minds think alike and keep the same pace :-) 

Only 2.1 to go!

Headed over the last bridge towards the finish. 

Gloria getting lots of high fives and cheers!

Chelsea (white hat) and Lauren H. (awesome leggings) dominating the 5k. 

After what felt like a quick little run around the city, we were crossing the finish line! We got our medals, our post-race food (bananas, dole fruit squish 'ems, bagels), and then tried to find our friends. We ran into our friend Haley and grabbed the obligatory finisher picture. And then I just HAD to grab a quick picture with one of Pittsburgh's finest! I also called Matthew to check-in. Since he couldn't be in Pittsburgh for the races, he did his own 5k that morning- and rocked it!

The sun, Haley, Gloria, and Me.

Huge shout out to law enforcement for keeping us safe!

After we all finished, we headed back to the expo for round two of shopping and welcoming in other friends who had just gotten into town. Also, THERE WAS FRESH FRENCH TOAST! Seriously, whoever thought about bringing a hot plate to the expo and making french toast was a genius! Anyway, we wandered around a bit and then went to grab lunch at this very cute place, Hello Bistro. This restaurant was on the Kid's Marathon (one mile) course so we got to eat yummy food and watch hundreds of kids run by- a perfect afternoon! 

Best expo vendor ever.

Coach Jeff taking advantage of expo specials and signing up for more races.

Our crew of runners taking the escalator :-)

That night, Steff and Joe hosted a TON of our running ohana and some of their families for an amazing dinner. We had pasta and mac and cheese and bread and meatballs and cakes and strawberries and whoopie pies and salad and a whole bunch of other goodness. More importantly, we got to spend time together- and we even facetimed with Matthew so he could be there too!

Appropriate cake from Chelsea's parents.
I can't put into words how much these people and their friendship means to me. I was a bundle of nerves Saturday night. I was worried about the race, worried about Matthew's Nana, and just anxious. Hanging with my ohana was the absolute best thing I could have done. And then we got a 16-person selfie and my whole world was complete.

As fun as it was to hang with everyone, we had to call another early night. After getting everything together for the next day's races and planning when and where we'd meet up, we said our goodnights and goodbyes. I was still super nervous and wasn't sure what was going to happen the next day- I just focused on getting some sleep and trying to meditate all the pre-race jitters away :-)

So much love.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Jeff Galloway Says: How to Run Faster

Happy Monday, friends!

As most of you know, I'm quite the speed demon when it comes to running. Ha! I wish!

In this edition of "Jeff Galloway Says," Jeff offers some helpful tips for improving your speed. It sounds so simple: to be a faster runner just run faster, right? LOL. I wish it were that easy.

For me, improving speed means hill workouts, track repeats, and longer long runs. I'd love to try some of the tips he mentions in the following post- especially the water running!

Check out Jeff's tips below and you'll be on your way to running faster in no time!

by Olympian Jeff Galloway

Longer Long Runs

Increasing the length of the longest long run has produced the greatest amount of improvement that I've seen among my coaching clients.  Several surveys have shown more than 13 minutes of time improvement when runners increase their longest long run from 20 miles to 26 miles before a marathon.  Comparable time improvements are experienced in 10K runners and half marathoners when they increase their long runs above race distance as noted in my YEAR ROUND PLAN book that covers all the distances.  Long runs must be at least 2 min/mi slower than current ability, with liberal walk breaks.  The slower the pace, the quicker the recovery.  I suggest doing the long runs every 2-3 weeks.

Speed Repetitions—increasing the number

My runners have improved by an average of over 6 minutes in a marathon (3+ minutes in a half marathon) by increasing the number of speed repetitions to 14 x 1 mile for the marathon, and 14 x 800 meter for the half marathon.  I recommend that each of these be run 30 sec/mi faster than goal pace.  The recovery interval is a 5 min walk between miles and a 3 minute walk between 800's.  These workouts prepare one to maintain or pick up pace at the end of the goal race, instead of slowing down.  See GALLOWAYTRAINING PROGRAMS & HALF MARATHON books for details (www.RunInjuryFree.com).

Improve Running Form

Most runners I've monitored have improved several minutes in a marathon by fine-tuning their running form.  As the mechanics become smoother and within one's limits, there is a significant reduction in aches, pains and injuries.  The two best ways to improve form are water running and cadence drills:
  • Water running uses the same basic motion as when running on land, using a flotation device so that the feet don't touch the bottom of the pool.  When done for at least 15 minutes, once a week, the legs find a more efficient path through the water—eliminating extraneous motion.
  • The cadence drill is done for 30 seconds, counting the number of times the foot touches the ground.  This drill is detailed in most of my books.  I've found the key to improving speed on the mechanical side is quicker turnover.

Race in Shorter Events

Dropping down a standard distance or two can improve your mechanics for running faster and your ability to handle a higher level of oxygen debt.  On non-long-run weekends, during a half marathon program, try some 5K or 10K races.  When training for a marathon, race at the 10K or half marathon distance.  At first, the faster pace of the shorter distance may seem awkward.  But after several short races, you will adapt—especially if you do some speed training for the shorter/faster event.  These performance improvements can translate into faster times in the longer distances.  My book 5K/10K details the training and the racing strategies for these events.

Hill Training

The only way I've found to build strength for running is to run hill repeats.  On a moderate grade hill, start at a jog and pick up the turnover rate of the feet and legs as you go up the hill, shortening your stride.  Walk down the hill for recovery.  Don't sprint, and follow the other hill training guidelines in my books and at  www.RunInjuryFree.com.  The strength from hill training will allow you to perform better in speed sessions which will help you improve in your goal race.  You'll also run faster on hilly courses, during your races.
Save NOW and register for the JeffGalloway 13.1 and Barb's 5K.  Prices increases tomorrow May 2nd!  Don't let your readers miss out on these savings!
Register now at http://www.jeffgalloway131.com.

Listen and share this great podcast "JeffGalloway's Tips For Beginner Runners" with Mark Kennedy from Healthynomics!  From how Jeff got running to breathing while you run; it's all here!
Copyright © 2015, Jeff Galloway Productions All rights reserved.

Do you train to get faster? What works for you?

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Three Things Thursday

Good morning, friends!

I feel like I've been away from the blog for weeks even though it's only been a few days. After coming home from Pittsburgh late Sunday night, I've been struggling to get back into my regular routine- including posting here.

So here's what's been going on recently:

Runner of Steel.

I FINISHED MY SECOND MARATHON! Sorry for using all caps but I am just so beyond excited that I completed my second marathon- with a 37 minute PR to boot! I don't think I realized how much stress/nervousness I was carrying around with this marathon looming in front of me the last few weeks. I knew I was going into it under-trained and was really terrified of being swept or injuring myself again.

But I did it! I still can't believe it- this is a tough, hilly course and it was super hot on Sunday morning. I can't wait to recap both races of the Steel Challenge (5k on Saturday, full on Sunday)- I should have them posted by next week.

I also have to give a HUGE shout out to my running ohana- it was tough being in Pittsburgh this past weekend. With everything going on with Matthew's Nana and without having him to help me through the marathon, I wasn't sure I'd be able to focus on or finish the race. But my friends were there to offer a shoulder to cry on and a cow bell to cheer me on- I couldn't ask for better people in my life. Thank you, ohana :-)


That's right, in just two days Matthew and I are setting sail on our second Disney cruise! We will be spending the next few days cruising the seas with Mickey and then we are paying a visit to the World for Star Wars Weekend and Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival. We had so much fun doing this last year for my birthday that we decided to book another Disney adventure for this year's vacation/my birthday celebration.

Since we'll be out of cell phone range for a while, I am taking the opportunity to take a social media/blog vacation as well. My hope is to have a few posts ready to be auto-published next week so there won't be any interruption to the sparkle. But, that may not happen seeing how we are leaving in two days and I'm not even close to being packed :-) We shall see if I can get it all done!

MMMMM... S'mores.....

In other news, my weight is essentially the same. I lost .2 last week and gained .6 this week-which I'm totally ok with. Whenever I run a long run or race, I seem to gain a little. This past week I focused on resting my body to prepare for the marathon and this upcoming week will have a lot of rest days as well. I'm looking forward to a few days off!

I also tried something new after the marathon- a S'mores Frappuccino from Starbucks. Oh. My. It's layers of graham cracker-chocolate-marshmallow goodness in a cup. Go get yourself one of these- you won't regret it, I promise. It was simply divine! I heard that you can also get this served with an edible, COOKIE straw. Yum!

So that's what's being happening in my world these last few days. I am so ready for vacation and can't wait to share the experience with all of you when we get back!

Do you like s'mores or s'mores-flavored foods/drinks? Will you try the new s'mores frappuccino at Starbucks?