Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Bostons' Run to Remember Race Recap

I finished my first half marathon on Sunday in Boston!  Here are my stats for the race:

Place: 1139
Division Total: 200/1391
Gun Time: 1:53:41
Net Time: 1:53:05 
Pace: 8:38

Crossing the finish line!
Race Recap
The race started at 8am outside of the Seaport World Trade Center in Boston. I was extremely nervous at the starting line, which didn't go away even after I started running. During the first six miles, I had all kinds of thoughts of self-doubt going through my mind, so much so that I actually didn't pay much attention to my surroundings at all. Around mile six, I started to believe that I could in fact get through the entire 13 miles. However, at mile eight, I started to get really tired. From that point on it took everything in me to not walk. 
Me and my mom at the starting line (she did the 5 mile run).
It was really hot and humid and I stopped at three different water stations to chug water. Although I needed and appreciated the water, after stopping it was really hard getting started again. I also ate two separate packs of Gu, one which I brought myself and one that was provided at mile 8. I can't say the Gu made too much of a difference in my performance. 
At several points along the way, I saw several people really struggling, I'm guessing from the heat. One man was lying on his back in the street with his eyes closed and it appeared that someone might have been giving him mouth to mouth. Ryan said that 10 feet before the finish line, a woman collapsed and had to be carried away. Both situations are good reminders to listen to your body and not push your self to the breaking point!

For the last half mile, I was just so unbelievably happy to just be done. I found a bit of energy to pick up my pace and finish strong.

So happy to be finished!
Although I'm incredibly happy that I finished my first half  marathon and I was pleased with the time, I can't say that it was my best run. I've learned over the past few months that some days you have good runs and other days you have crappy runs... and most of the time there is just no rhyme or reason why. Sunday was just one of those days where my legs felt like sandbags, my energy levels were low and I never settled into the groove.
I can't blame tiredness, dehydration or the things I ate for my bad run, since I was well hydrated, had gotten lots of sleep, and had taken care to incorporate carbs into my diet the week leading up to the race. I do think that I can put some blame on not running enough in the two weeks leading up to the race. In fact, because I felt sick last week, I only ran once. I've learned over that past few months that I need to run at least three times a week for my fitness to be at its peak level. When I don't, my running suffers.
I think what bothers me most about the race on Sunday is that I didn't feel much of the competitive spirit that I normally experience when racing. For most of the 13.1 miles, I was completely fixated on simply getting to the finish line, that I didn't care too much about my time or working on negative splits. I think this indicates just how tired I was and is something I definitely want to do differently next time around. 
With all of the above said, please don't get me wrong: I'm incredibly proud to have finished a half marathon and am happy with my time. I can only hope that next time around, I will feel the strength, competitive drive that I did in the GW Parkway Classic. 

Future Training

So what's next? Well, first I have to heal these terribly blistered feet. For all of my race preparation, I forgot my running socks in Virginia and had to borrow my mom's for the race, which clearly didn't bode well for my poor feet.


I recently just signed up for the Thunder Road Half Marathon in Charlotte, North Carolina in November. My reasons for entering this particular race will be detailed in a post later this week, so stay tuned. 

I'm also looking for an early fall race and am considering the Wilson Bridge Half Marathon on October 2nd. I feel like I have to get a few more half marathons under my belt before I can commit to a full marathon.

I don't plan on signing up for any summer races, since the weather is already pretty unbearable (it's over 90 here today). I do plan to keep running three times a week to keep my mileage up so that come late summer, I don't have to start training from scratch. So you will continue to hear about my running pursuits throughout the the summer. If all goes well, you also will hopefully hear about me becoming a group fitness instructor! I definitely plan to have an active summer and to document it all here.

What are you your summer fitness plans?

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Pre-Race Prep

Last night, Ryan and I drove up to Rhode Island to spend the weekend at my parent's house. Tomorrow morning, we'll all pile into the car and head to Boston at 6am so that I can run my first half marathon. Although, I'm incredibly nervous for the race tomorrow, I'm feeling a lot better physically than I have been the past week.

This morning, I channeled by nervous energy into setting out everything that I will need for tomorrow.

I laid out the clothes I will run in: Under Armour shorts, an Under Armour HeatGear t-shirt, and my favorite Nike sports bra. I recently discovered Under Armour HeatGear and I'm in love. They wick really well and leave you completely dry no matter how hot it is. I prefer Under Armour shorts to the Nike Tempo Shorts that many runners wear. The Under Amour shorts simply fit better and are more flattering.

I also laid out the clothes I will change into after the race since we plan to walk around Boston: Nike Fit Gear pants, a top with a built in bra from Athleta and  Nike sweatshirt. When it comes to pants, I'm loyal to Nike Fit Gear because of how well they fit and that they come in short sizes.

In terms of food, I set out two Lara bars which I will eat about two hours before the race. I plan on packing one Gu in my belt, since I'm told there will be Gu given out at several different mile markers.

The other things I set out were my ipod, Garmin Forerunner watch, my Nike hat (just in case it rains), my belt to hold my Gu and possibly my phone, and some Gold Bond to prevent chafing.

The things that aren't shown but are vital to my routine before long runs is an antacid and coffee.

I'm also preparing by drinking lots of water and gatorade. I've had more carbs than usual the past few days and will have more with dinner tonight. All in all, I think I'm ready!

Back with the results tomorrow!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Pre-Race Feelings

If there is one word to describe how I’m feeling about the half marathon I’m running this Sunday, it’s apprehensive. When I signed up for the race in March, I was still on a high from the GW Parkway Classic, where my performance exceeded the expectations I had for myself. In signing up for the half, I imagined myself feeling completely prepared, super excited and looking forward to the challenge in the days leading up to the race. Unfortunately, this just isn’t the case.  I feel much more like a panicked student with a final exam coming up who hasn’t prepared nearly enough to pass.
In truth, I likely am prepared to run the 13.1 miles on Sunday, as I’ve been working hard since the GW Parkway Classic to build up my endurance (see workout schedule below). Unfortunately, I’ve been feeling under the weather all week, with a headache and nausea that won’t go away no matter what I do (and no, I’m not pregnant). This has thrown me for a loop and instead of doing two or three easy runs this week to build up my confidence, I have only been able to struggle through a painful 4 miles, where I felt like I was going to puke the entire way.

Total Miles
3.5 miles
4.5 miles (Hills)
4.47 miles
11 miles
5 miles
5 miles walk/run
12 miles
4 miles
3 miles + 21 minutes on elliptical
13 miles
3.5 miles
3 miles of intervals (1 min of 5mph 1 min of 9.0-9.5mph)
9.1 miles
6 miles
2.5 miles walking + 28 minutes elliptical
8 miles
5 miles
4 miles
1/2 Marathon!

Maybe this “bug” it’s just nerves? I must admit that because I ran so well in the GW Parkway Classic, I feel like a bar has been set for my half marathon. I’m anxious that if my average pace is over 8:30, I’ll feel like a failure, that my friends and family won’t think I’m a good runner, and that the race will be a disappointment to all who have come to witness it (my mom, dad, husband, aunt, brother and sister-in-law and nieces and nephews). I’m trying as hard as I can to re-frame my thinking and go into this race without putting too much pressure on myself. I know deep down that this race, no matter how fast or slow I go, will serve as an important jumping off point for races to come. And even if I have to slog through it, at least I burned some calories, right?J
Until Sunday….

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

My New Garmin Forerunner

On Friday, May 6th, I officially finished graduate school. With its completion, I have found a renewed sense of interest in running and in my overall fitness. The morning after delivering my final presentation, I ran nine glorious miles with Amy, followed by another four with my mom. That afternoon, I finally decided to buy the Garmin watch I had been mulling over for months. The decision to buy it was a good one :)

So far, I've run with the Garmin twice. The first time, I was so excited to use it that I bolted out of the apartment and forgot my ipod. I wound up running 9.13 miles all by myself with no music. I was supposed to run 14 miles, but my legs were dead at nine and I had no energy to push on (likely due to the fact that I literally ate five pieces of cake at work two hours before my run- I'm not kidding).

Time: 1:19:46  Distance 9.13
This past Monday, I ran six hilly miles and came home dripping in sweat, absolutely beet red and so proud of myself because I didn't stop at 4.5 miles when I wanted to. You see, I'm still getting used to the fact that as I increase my distance on the weekends, I also need to increase my distance during the week. I typically have no problem running 9-13 miles on a Saturday morning with Amy, but when it comes to running 5-6 after work, I have a hard time making myself do it. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Running is so much more of a mental challenge than many realize.

The beauty of having the Garmin is that I'm truly able to track how far I'm going and how fast. Before, I used to estimate how far I was going by how long I was running. Typically, I would guess that for every 9-10 minutes I was running, I was covering one mile. I also used www.mapmyrun.com, which was probably pretty accurate, but completely time consuming. Now that I have the Garmin, I'm realizing that I'm a pretty bad guesser. Based on the two routes I ran with the Garmin, I was probably running further and faster in the past than I thought I was.

I'm convinced that with the help of the Garmin, I will continue to become a stronger runner. Now that I know how far and how fast I'm going, I think I'll be able to challenge myself in terms of both pace and distance. (I also think the price of the watch will give me a kick in the butt to get on the road when I'm feeling lazy). I'm already plotting my next running purchase... barefoot running shoes perhaps? I kid.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

I found a lump...

For the past two weeks, I’ve debated writing this post. But after talking it over with Ryan the other day, I feel like I need to share a very personal experience because it’s about such an important topic. So here goes…

Over two months ago, I found a lump in my right breast that was about the size of a small pea. Since I had recently visited the doctor and had a breast exam, I dismissed the lump because I wasn’t sure if what I was feeling was actually something abnormal. A month later, I felt the lump again. This time, I noticed that it was tender to touch. Not able to ignore it any longer, I made an emergency appointment with my doctor and had another exam. One appointment with the OB/GYN, one trip to the radiologist to have an ultrasound, and one appointment with a breast surgeon later, I was told that I have two fibroadenomas (benign breast tumors). Because fibroadenomas are not uncommon among women my age, the surgeon recommended that we carefully monitor the lumps instead of doing a biopsy or removing them. I will return to the doctor in three months for another ultrasound to make sure the lumps haven’t grown or changed in shape. And for the foreseeable future, I will have to monitor the lumps for growth.

When I met with the surgeon two weeks ago, one of the first questions she asked me was, “How did you discover the lump?” When I told her I found it by conducting a self-exam, she replied “Good girl!” and told me to keep doing the self-exams. I likely received this praise and advice because according to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, almost 70% of breast cancers are found through self-exams. However, what I find interesting is that there isn’t agreement among experts about recommending breast self- exams. According to the Mayo Clinic, “there is no good evidence that doing breast self exams will find breast cancer earlier than if you see your health care provider for exams and mammograms when recommended.” As a public health professional, I’m hugely in favor of using evidence to develop guidelines. However, in this case, I don’t care if the evidence is conclusive enough to warrant recommending breast self-exams. I will continue to do them, knowing that I could find something that may need medical attention in between yearly visits to my doctor. Having seen the havoc that breast cancer can reap firsthand, this girl isn’t taking any chances.

I am a very lucky woman. The lump that I discovered is not cancerous and will likely never become cancerous. And because I found it, my doctor will be able to monitor the lump and act early if there are signs of potentially dangerous changes. This provides both me and my doctor with the power to influence my health for the better (it also provides my mom and dad with the ability to sleep at night). 

From this experience, the best advice I can give is to ask your doctor if doing breast self-exams is right for you (and if so, how to do them and when to do them). You truly never know if such a conversation could help save your life.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

My Running Mojo is Missing

The absence of posts over the last week is due to a few reasons. First and foremost, it’s crunch time. I have two days to finish two papers and prepare for the presentation of my Culminating Experience (my thesis).  I also have been in Portland, Oregon at a conference for work. I ate the most delicious food on my trip by the way, even down to the sandwich I picked up today from a cute little wine shop at the airport.
But the real reason I haven’t posted since last Thursday is that I’m feeling burned out and uninspired by running. Just over a week and a half ago, I was marveling with Amy about how running 11 miles felt like a walk in the park. I was even starting to come to terms with the way my body was changing; instead of detesting the way that my legs have become “thicker” with muscle, I had started to becoming proud of how far those legs could take me.
Well, that was all very short-lived. My horrendous run last Thursday was followed up by an even worse 12 mile run on Saturday with Amy. The entire 12 miles my legs felt like sandbags. (On the positive side, Amy and I did run the entire 12 miles and didn’t stop to walk, so that’s something I suppose…). Since then, I’ve run twice. Both times on the treadmill and both times I wanted the run to be over before it had hardly even begun.  I’m dreading tomorrow’s run and I can’t bear to think about doing 13 miles on Saturday morning. All of the sudden running is a burden when it used to be a passion.
Folks, my running mojo is gone. I want it back, but I don't know how. Has anyone else gone through this? Any advice on how to rebuild confidence and make running fun again (besides a break from it)?