Monday, April 28, 2014

2014 Nike Women's Half Marathon Race Recap

The 2014 Nike Women's Half Marathon in DC is officially in the books. It was an absolutely amazing weekend and I'm SO glad to have not only completed my second half marathon, but to have done it with one of my best friends by my side :)

[Yes, this is a long post. You've been warned.]

Lianna, my college roommate, was a lovely hostess and welcomed me with open arms late Wednesday evening. We stayed up too late, but woke up early Thursday for our final pre-race run: a 5-miler around the city. Lianna headed to work and I spent Thursday touring the city-- can you believe it was my first visit? (Unless you count an hour spent on American's campus for a college tour). I saw The Mall, Washington Monument, and we even stopped to check out the White House on our run. Note to self: running around new cities is a great way to explore, and luckily this trip had plenty of that on the agenda.

In order to avoid the expo crowds, we planned to head to Georgetown Harbor as soon as Lianna got out of work early Friday afternoon. The expo (Nike calls it an Expotique) was bustling, but everything was very well-organized. We were in and out of the bib pickup tent within minutes, and the t-shirt pickup process (in a separate tent) was just as quick. One minor gripe is that you couldn't exchange t-shirts for a different size at the expo, you had to wait for race day. On race day, there were no signs about this and the info tent told us they didn't think we could exchange there, that we should've already done it. Luckily we stumbled upon the lost and found tent where they had extra shirts and let us swap!

This wall was activated by our bib chips, and your name would show
up with a positive mantra once you entered the vicinity-- so cool!
The main Expotique tent was a ton of fun, although it was pretty small as far as expos go. In a completely small world moment, we ran into a fellow Elon grad (there were a bunch of us running!) just a few minutes after we arrived. It was Evann's first half, and great to see a familiar face!

Obviously Nike was the main sponsor, the only other sponsors in the tent were Nuun (love!), Luna, and Paul Mitchell. Luna's booth had stations for runners to print custom cheering signs (so cool!), and Paul Mitchell styling students were on hand to style an array of really amazing braided styles for race day. 

Call me Katniss.

We even got to see Shalane Flanagan speak at the Expotique, just five days after her PR-setting Boston performance. Fun fact: Shalane ran the Boston MARATHON faster than I ran my first half. She told us to "embrace the butterflies" on race day morning, and it was so impressive to hear such a down to earth (but insanely talented) runner speak!

As I said previously, time was not the main concern of this race, but Lianna and I discussed our race goals the night before. She asked what my goal would be if I were running solo, and said my "easy" goal was a sub-2:20, my medium goal was a sub-2:15, and my all-out goal was a sub-2:10. We agreed to start slow (words of wisdom from my dad!), and then take it from there.

I definitely did not sleep well the night before the race, thanks to a combination of nerves and worrying that I'd forget something. But race day waits for no one! Lianna and I woke up bright and early (5:15) for a quick breakfast of peanut butter toast before heading to the race. We arrived and easily found our gear check, which was well-marked and not at all congested (thumbs up!). We then moseyed our way up to our corral, stretched, and snapped some selfies for posterity. Before we knew it, they were singing the start spangled banner, and we were ready to go. I'm pretty sure both of us had butterflies at that point, but there was no turning back!

Nervous energy, personified. Ready to run!
Miles 1-3 (Paces: 9:49, 10:48 [pee break], 8:41)
We started on Pennsylvania Ave, headed towards the Capital just as the sun was rising. Within minutes, we passed by our first marching band-- a great booster (not that we didn't have enough adrenaline!). We looped around in a big circle and then ran back west around the Tidal Basin and toward the Potomac. Lianna wanted to take a quick pee break and I know from experience better to just get it out of the way, so we did the fastest pitstop ever just before mile 3. We were definitely running speedier than I had planned, so I kept trying to get us to hold back and keep it steady!

Miles 4-6 (Paces: 9:48, 9:43, 9:55)
Volunteers (who were all amazing, by the way) were passing out ShotBloks so we each grabbed a pack and took our first two around mile 5. Just like in my first half, the miles were ticking off so quickly! We were both surprised when we saw the 10K sign on the opposite side of Memorial Bridge as we made our way across, did a loop around the circle, and turned around to head back. We were in the ZONE (especially after passing a marching band playing Daft Punk!)--- but I knew we had a lot of ground still ahead of us, so I kept telling Lianna we needed to hold our pace steady to save some gas for the last few miles. I didn't want her to be mad at me for making us slow down, but I knew miles 8-11 would be when the pain started to set in. Plus, we still had the dreaded Hains Point ahead of us.

Miles 7-9 (Paces: 9:47, 9:51, 9:40)
I realized around mile 7 that we were on pace for a sub-2:10 if we could keep it up. I debated telling Lianna this for a solid half mile, afraid we might try to speed up too soon. I made her promise not to speed up, and told her how we were doing :). We agreed to hold the pace until at least mile 9, and then reevaluate.

We tried to spot Limey's family around the Lincoln Memorial, but they managed to elude us. We rounded a few corners and headed to the point. From reading last year's race recaps, I knew this would likely be the most challenging few miles. Hains Point is relatively remote, meaning very few spectators and the point in the race where we're past the halfway mark... but still with 5+ miles to go. To keep up our spirits (and to make up for the lack of spectators), we were our own cheer squad. We kept shouting positive mantras and kept on trucking.

Miles 10-11 (Paces 9:56, 9:54)
It was around this point that the reality of what we were doing really started to set in. I could see people around us slowing down, and I knew we were both starting to tire. Luckily, Lianna's family and boyfriend and his friend were right before the 11-mile marker, a great pick-me-up that gave us a burst of energy to keep us chugging. We passed the 11-mile marker and cheered: "Two more miles, two more miles!" 

Miles 12-13.1 <-- my watch actually had us at 13.3 (Paces: 9:51, 9:10, 8:35)
We went over a soft uphill (a relative term, after 12 miles of pounding), and past a DJ blasting Iconopop-- just the upbeat tuneage we needed! We headed into a tunnel that we had passed through near the start of the race. The same drum groups were in the tunnel, and their pulsing beats were just enough to help ignore the tiredness, the heavy breathing, the muscle fatigue. The bathroom break had messed up my timing (my watch auto-pauses), and the tunnel disrupted the GPS, but I knew we were going to be close to our goal. We emerged from the tunnel, rounded a corner and the finish was finally in sight. 

This was, hands down, the hardest part (for me at least). I could see the finish, I knew I'd do it, but I was so so worried my body was nearing breakdown point. Emotions were running high and I didn't want to disappoint either of us so close to the end. I chanted to myself "just keep pushing, just keep pushing"-- we were so close. We kicked as hard as we could as we closed on the finish line, even though it felt like we had nothing left. Together, we raised our arms through the final photo station and we were there, we were crossing the finish line, we did it!!!

I think there was a moment where Lianna both just looked at each other in complete disbelief that we were done, that we had conquered 13.1... together! We were awash in such a crazy combination of emotions: relief, excitement, exhaustion, pride! The race we had talked about since November was over! We grabbed water and a chocolate milk from the finishers' chute and stepped aside to stretch while I checked our results. Wouldn't you know it:

We conquered our biggest goal!! The coveted Tiffany's necklace was ours!

Running, followed by brunch with great friends, naturally:

All in all, the Nike Women's Half was an incredible experience, and even more special that I could run it with one of my best friends! As we reflected on the race throughout the day, we both agreed that this was about as close to a perfect race day experience as we could've hoped for. It was our first half marathon together, but I don't think it will be our last!

#WeRunDC... and we did :)

Goals Goals Goals

At the time this posts goes up, I'll be en route from DC to Chicago because some idiot thought it was wise to schedule and early morning flight the day after a half marathon and then go straight to work. Spoiler alert: the idiot is me.

Nevertheless, now that the Nike Women's Half Marathon is complete (recap here!), my life can briefly return to some semblance of normalcy. But, as I did last half marathon training session, I gained a few (3-4) lbs in the final weeks of training, thanks in part to an aggressive appetite but mostly to me making irresponsible food decisions. C'est la vie! Now, time to get my booty to the gym and get back on track  for summer. 

Fitnasty for Life

To recap last week's goals:

1) 100oz a day. YEP. Not to be TMI, but I consider myself fully hydrated before a race if I have to wake up to pee in the middle of the night. Mission accomplished.

2) No candy. CHECK. 

3) Run a happy and healthy half marathon with my beloved Lianna. CHECKITY CHECK. Find my 2014 Nike Women's Half Marathon Race Recap here!

ONWARD. Here's this week's plan:

1) Stay within calorie/points allotment. Admittedly, I gave myself a lot of leeway on the diet in the last few weeks because, simply, training makes me RUNGRY. It's a special type of hungry ;). Now that my training is over (for a short while, at least), it's time to get back on the wagon and stick with the plan!

2) Grocery shop and meal plan by Tuesday. A long day today doesn't have to knock me off my game for the rest of the week, so I'm committing to grocery shopping to keep my eating (and my dining out expenses) in check.

3) At least 4 workouts. Obviously I'm going to be taking today off, and maybe tomorrow too. But I've been sorely neglecting my bff Jillian, and I've got access to a great gym for free at work. No excuses if I want to start making progress on areas other than my running game!

What are your goals this week?

Monday, April 21, 2014

Just Another Manic Monday

Spring has finally sprung in Chicago (FINALLY). I was starting to question whether we'd ever leave the 40's behind, but it looks like we've taken a turn for the better. Evidence:

In other news, poorly-lit bathroom photos do not do the color of this dress justice, but it's the most beautiful bright purple and I plan on wearing it approximately 3289 times this summer.

Aside from the gorgeous weather, my weekend wasn't terribly exciting. It included lots of lounging, catching up on some work, apartment hunting, and completing my last pre-half marathon long run: a very-speedy-for-me 7 miles on Saturday.

Honestly, I have no idea where this run came from. I put it off basically all day on Saturday and finally dragged my butt off the couch around 5pm. My mind just wasn't in it, but the weather was pretty perfect, so I perked up once the miles started ticking off and I quickly saw that I probably had a 10K PR in me. I actually don't feel like I was pushing as hard as I could for some of the middle miles (3-5), which is encouraging to know I might've been able to run even faster. As I think I've mentioned before, my big bold balls-to-the-wall goal is to run a sub-2 hour half marathon... and I think I might even have it in me before the end of this year. To date, my fastest long-distance pace is 9:27 for an 11-miler, which would equate to a 2:03:30 half marathon. This coming from a girl whose fastest single mile in high school was a 9:02.


On with the goals!

Fitnasty for Life

How'd I do last week? 

1) No lunches out. CHECK.

2) 100oz of water a day. Eh, I probably nailed this 5/7 days.

3) No pop. CHECK. Wait, take it back, I had a diet coke at brunch yesterday. But no pop at work!

4) 10,000 steps a day! Errr, only nailed this 4/7 days. In my defense, Monday completely got away from me when I was in the office until 8:30pm. Definitely room for improvement here, though.

And for this week?

1) 100oz a day. It's RACE WEEK! No ifs, ands or buts about this one. 

2) No candy. I ate an embarrassing amount of M&Ms last week. Time to reel it in. 

3) Run a happy and healthy half marathon with my beloved Lianna. We've made a pact to run together, so time is not priority numero uno for this race. I'm just excited to run a strong half marathon in a completely new-to-me city (DC!), and to enjoy the days pre-race exploring our nation's capitol and having some fun on my mini-vacation. 

Your turn! What are your goals this week?

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Ugly Truth

I apologize for neglecting the linkup last week! But I'm baaaaaaaack.

Ready for the truth?

I ate pretty badly last week, and I don't really have a good reason as to why. Bad is still relative, because I'm not eating as poorly as I ate before starting this journey (which I'm only now realizing exactly how bad that was... I was probably eating 2200+ calories a day). But I made the mistake of buying chocolate wafer cookies because I thought I could control myself around them at home... and I was oh so very wrong. And then I ate Mexican food at work for no reason other than that it was there. And I ate pizza and tiramisu this weekend. Needless to say, it's time to get back on the wagon.

The other ugly truth? My achilles issues from last fall/winter are flaring up again. I completed my scheduled 12-miler on Saturday with Lauren (rewarded with brunch, per usual). But when I went to complete Sunday's 4-mile recovery run, my achilles was having nothing to do with it. I couldn't stop limping through the run, and it wasn't really improving as I kept going, so I called it a day after half a mile. I'm worried about the half, but my taper starts this week so I'm Ibuprofen-ing 'round the clock and trying to listen to my body.

Onto more positive things that are more in my control: this week's goals!

Fitnasty for Life

1) No lunches out. If you follow me on Instagram, you know I was a meal-prepping maniac last night due to the aforementioned of-the-wagonness from last week. Lunches for every day this week are ready to go, no excuses here!

2) 100oz of water a day. Hydration nation... T-2 weeks until race day and I want to focus on healthy habits now.

3) No pop. Ugh. I just need to make this happen.

4) 10,000 steps a day! As I've mentioned before, this isn't always easy on my non-workout days, but I need to focus on getting up and moving around during the day (even if it's just a lap around the office).

You'll notice there aren't any running-related goals on here because... well, I don't know what my running schedule is going to look like this week. I'm hopeful that I'll be able to get in at least 3 runs, but my priority is getting to the start line in as good of shape as possible. If that means limiting my running in the next 2 weeks, so be it.

Have you ever dealt with achilles issues or injuries so close to race day? Any advice?

What are your goals this week? Let's hear it!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Weight for It

Weigh In Wednesday

Last Week's Weight: 162.2
Current Weight: 162.8
Change: +0.6
Total Loss: -60.2

I ran home from work yesterday with my friend Lauren. We only had to run 4 miles, but neither my brain nor my body was into it. 

+1,000,000 brownie points to Lauren for trying to make pleasant conversation on our run home from work when all I did was point out every restaurant along the way and try to convince us to stop there.

+10 bonus points to me for making a food pun within a story about how much I talk about food. 

If it's not obvious, I've reached the stage in half marathon training where all I want to do is eat everything. ALL. THE. TIME. My calorie and daily intake is definitely higher now that I'm pushing through higher mileage each week, and, admittedly, my eating was pretty crappy all weekend. This week I'm trying to really focus on quality foods and not let the extra eating become and excuse for extra froyo... too often :) Balance, right?

Lastly, sorry for being MIA lately, but thank you thank you for all of your kind words on last week's One Year Blogiversary post-- it means so much to me! I promise I will return to regularly scheduled programming... soon!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

On One Year

One year ago, I decided to finally take the plunge and start a silly little blog that I didn't expect anyone to read. I had just hit the 30lbs lost mark (officially leaving the 200's behind) and I was ecstatic with my progress on Weight Watchers. I loved reading about the journeys of other bloggers, and I was inspired that maybe, just maybe, my own story was worth sharing. 

I didn't have a pretty layout (let's be honest, still don't), I didn't reallllllly have experience with keeping a long-term blog, and I didn't tell a single family member or friend about my blog because I was still scared of talking about the cold hard truth about my weight. Instead, I carved a safe little niche among [former] strangers in a space that I had previously only observed from afar... and you let me in. 

Since then I've had good weeks and bad weeks. I've trained for and completed my first half marathon, but I've failed to meet goals I've set for myself, too. I've gained weight and I've lost weight. I've discussed my successes and I've shared the aspects of weight loss that are still a challenge to me, even almost a year and a half later. And I couldn't possibly be more grateful for what changes this past year has brought.

I'm stronger than I've ever been in my life, despite the occasional missteps along the journey. I know my strengths, but I am still very much working on the weaknesses. Whether you've been reading all along, or whether this is the very first post you're seeing, I wouldn't be where I am without you. The accountability, the camaraderie, and the friendship; I am truly grateful for your support.

Cheers to one year friends, and many more to come!