Saturday, December 21, 2013

Runner's Rambles: PSA for non-runners and runners alike.

I always try to be cautious when I am out for a run, and starting this streak has put me outdoors for more runs this winter than I would normally be willing to endure. Winter is generally cold and dark and gross, except for today which was 60 degrees in Philadelphia and coincidentally the first day of winter. Knowing that it was going to be warm today, I waited till I got home from work this evening to run.

I live on the corner of a very busy intersection, and it only took that first step out into the road to get my gears grinding tonight! I ran past a line of cars stopped at the stoplight, and the light turned green and the walk sign lit up just as I got to the curb, so I glanced over my shoulder at the cars, and trotted out when I saw it was clear. THEN a car pulled out and layed on the horn because I was presumably in the way. It is a good thing that I was raised as a kind Midwestern girl because I kept both middle fingers tucked out of sight instead of throwing up the double barrels, as I might have if I had actually been raised in Philadelphia, rather than Kansas City.

I was wearing reflective gear, a flashing light, only one earbud, and I crossed when it was my turn. I did not at all appreciate the treatment that I got from this person, and though it may have sparked a great 5k time for me tonight, I would much rather it hadn't been achieved in such a manner. I hope that all runners will follow safety precautions to keep both motorists and runners safe. Wear lights, reflective gear, and an ID band. Use sidewalks anytime they are available! When you have to run on the road, be sure to stay to the side, and run facing traffic to watch for motorists who may not see you. Make sure someone knows roughly where you're going and how long you expect to be gone, and ALWAYS be aware of your surroundings.

Motorists, please take a second to see that runners are people, not merely an inconvenience. I do my best to always stay out of the way, and I have just as much of a right to enjoy my neighborhood on a run as you do to drive down the road. Know that runners are not purposely trying to mess up your morning or evening by making you wait an extra couple seconds at a stop sign as we cross the road. We are just trying to live happy, healthy lives! Personally, I always try to muster the least painful expression I can manage, coupled with a wave when a car passes, and it wouldn't hurt to wave or smile back at me! But honking is often unnecessary, and hitting me would most likely hurt, so just be aware that there are runners in all seasons, and in general, we try to stay out of your way as much as possible! I am just asking for a little human courtesy!

This ramble was brought to you by Run Streak Day 11.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

I'M GOING STREAKING!

I know what you're thinking... She hasn't posted in forever! She must not be doing anything!... Well, you'd pretty much be right! I have only run a couple times since finishing the Philadelphia Marathon. I kept justifying my time off at first, but then I finally fessed up that it is has gotten out of control. And that is why I've decided that I'm going STREAKING! I mentioned to a co-worker that I was thinking of streaking, and he admitted that he had been thinking the same thing. He talked to our boss, and now he is getting a streaking contest organized at work.

And so it begins!
I thought about starting streaking when the Runner's World Streak started. They do a streak every year from Thanksgiving till Christmas. Well, I was still in denial at that point. I thought about it more and more, and then one of the women from the running group at our store was talking about how she is on day 700! I started thinking about it a little more seriously when I heard that because it just seemed fun. So if you haven't picked up yet, streaking is simply seeing how many days in a row you can run. You have to run at least a mile every day, and it can be inside or outside, but you just have to do at least one mile.

Now, of course, I hate running in the winter. I would gladly move to a place with no "winter" season in a heartbeat, but that just isn't in the cards. So my first goal for this winter was to run outside at least one day a week. After running today, I think I will be able to manage that no problem. I know winter just started, but I got a new windbreaker layer that I love, and I wore trail shoes and some Smartwool socks, and I was golden! Granted, I only ran a mile today, but it felt pretty good, and I know that I can hit ye olde dreadmill if I need to.
At least winter scenery is nice!

I know that one day does not a streak make, but I figured that getting into a routine before we start our friendly contest will hopefully ensure that I don't quit on day two! I also figured that putting it up here for some accountability would probably be good insurance for my streak. So bother me about it! And for the last piece of news, which is basically not actually news at this point, I signed up for the TCS NYC Marathon Lottery. And I did this fun little thing where I estimated a finish time two hours faster than my current time, but my current time isn't an accurate portrayal of what I think I can do, and I signed up for it due to peer pressure at work, and I want to be in the same wave start if I get in! Here's to hoping...and streaking!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Philadelphia Marathon Finisher

My alarm went off at 3:30 am on Sunday, November 17th, 2013. When it went off, my first thought was, "why in the world did I decide to do this?" I got out of bed, sleepily scrambled to get things together, and grumpily made my way to the car in my trash bag to stay warm. My sister was excited, and my husband was more than kind and supportive considering what he was doing and about to do just to be there for us. He even walked us all the way up to the corrals and watched us go in just to make sure we got where we were supposed to be without a hitch up to that point.

It was cold. Don't get me wrong, I know it could have been FAR worse for late November in Philadelphia, but it was what I had to deal with at the time, and it didn't feel great while it was happening. I asked Grace if would be a big deal if I just went back to the car to wait with Matt while she ran. I was only mostly serious... I was so scared standing around in the cold knowing that there were hours and miles standing between me and a warm shower. We wandered around looking for a warm place to wait, and we ended up running into two customers from the running store that I work at, and we talked to them for a bit, which took my mind off my impending doom.


As we waited around in a starting corral to run, I was both nervous and excited. We had agreed that we would each run at our own pace since neither of us was really trained and ready. As we passed the starting line, Grace turned around, tapped my bib, and said, "remember why." And we were off. I decided at that moment that I would need to just settle into a slow, barely-jogging 12 minute pace. I said to myself, "I can do this all day if I just stay at this pace." Then within the first 3 miles, I managed to pause my Garmin without realizing it, and break my headphones. Yep. That's Michelle Style. I didn't let it get to me though. I just turned my watch back on, stuck the earbud that I managed to fix in my ear, and I just tried to run at my own slow pace.

The first 8 miles were gravy. I felt great the whole way. Between 8 an 13, things got a little rougher because the lines for the porta-potties were so long, and I didn't want to wait for them to open up. I was straight up walking by the time I got to mile 14. I stopped for a bathroom break again once I found some without a line that weren't overflowing...which yes, some of them that I stopped to check were. And I walked the next two miles, and caught up with Matt during that time who walked with me for a bit. Around mile 19, I started crying as I saw my sister on the opposite side of the out-and-back portion of the course. We stopped to hug and congratulate each other on making it as far as we had and that point and reassure each other that we were going to finish.

When I hit mile 22, everything went downhill for me. I thought, I only have 4 miles left. That's nothing. But the pain in my legs was intense. My hips were aching so much that I wasn't sure I could put the force of attempting to jog on them anymore. Two things went through my mind at that point: 1) I can never have children because this is pain is probably my physical threshold. 2) I can't even imagine how much pain my grandma was in, and I felt for her more than I ever had before. My brother Joe called me just as I passed the 25 mile marker, that gave me the push to pick up speed slightly as Matt joined me to jog the next half mile before he sent me on my way to finish.

As I entered the finishing area, the announcer asked me what my bib was about, and I told him I was running in memory of my Grandma. He made an announcement about my grandma and reminded people that all of us have someone in our lives who inspire us, and it is great to remember those people. Just before I crossed the finish line, Mayor Nutter high-fived me and gave me a big hug as the tears were pouring out, and told me great job, your grandma is thankful and proud. Grace was waiting for me in the finishing area, and with tears in our eyes, we hugged and laughed, and cried a little bit more, and then hobbled our way down to take pictures and get food.

We made it. It was hard. I wasn't sure if I was going to make it at some points, but I finished. It took me FOREVER, but I made it. I am not sure yet if I will attempt another one in the future, but I know that I was nowhere near ready for this distance when I stepped out on the course, but I raised money with the help of several very generous friends and family members, and I made it to the finish line of a marathon before my 26th birthday and one year marking of my grandma's passing. In the end, the time doesn't matter. I accomplished all of the important goals. Thank you so much to every person who has supported me during the last 6 months as I trained, complained, quit training, complained some more, and went through a roller coaster that leads up to a marathon. I appreciate every single one of you!


Thursday, November 14, 2013

#MemoryMarathonMiles

Ok, so my friend Sheila usually dedicates each mile of a race to a person who has inspired her, so I have decided to list 26 things that I learned, appreciated, strive to emulate, or received from my grandma.

1. My Dad: He is amazing, and I owe that to her on more than one level.
2. Humility: My grandma taught me through her actions that it is more important to focus on what can be accomplished rather than who is getting credit for the accomplishment.
3. Spiritual guidance: My grandma was a woman with very strong faith, and she showed me that you must have faith at all times and trust that God knows what he is doing.
4. Casserole: Catholics may be known for their fish frying abilities, but I'll take my grandma's Baptist casserole recipes over fish any day of the week. There are few things in life that can't be cured with a combination of egg noodles, a cream soup, cheese, and some sort of meat all baked to a delicious perfection.
5. Driving: My dad may have taught me to drive, but I am definitely my grandma's granddaughter when it comes to the road. "Now, Mister Jeep! You just stay in your lane!"-- My siblings and cousins will understand.
6. Patience: I only ever heard my grandma raise her voice at us kids once in my entire life, and trust me, we deserved it far more often than once.
7. Storytelling: My grandma had an excellent memory when it came to things that happened long ago, and she told me stories pretty much any time I asked. And anyone who knows me, knows that I will tell you stories all day long...literally.
8. Cardigan Love: Who doesn't love a good sweater or cardigan? Grandma did, and I definitely do!!
9. Staples: there are two things your house should never be without: Velveeta and Vaseline.
10. Cookies: They should always be made with margarine or Crisco. Real butter causes cookies to become flat and crispy. And don't spray the cookie sheet!
11. Strength: My grandma endured far more than most people could even fathom, but she was never bitter or angry. She just carried on with strength, dignity, and grace.
12. Integrity: She always did right by people whether they were strangers or family, my grandma treated them with the utmost respect while following her convictions and always doing her very best in all she did.
13. Acceptance: Number 12 is misleading... my grandma didn't know a stranger. Everyone you meet is family... treat them accordingly.
14. Bookworm: The only books I ever witnessed my grandma reading were devotionals and her Bible, but she worked in a library, and I loved going to work with her when I was little.
15. Reverence for the Past: Grandma took me on multiple memorial day trips to pay respect and show an appreciation for those who had passed and how they impacted her life.
16. Gratitude: Give thanks in all things. There is a reason for every thing that happens, and you don't need to always know what that reason is. Give thanks for what you have because there is someone with far less, going through far more, who is not complaining about their circumstances.
17. Forgive: Bitterness rots the bones. Forgetting is not always an option, but forgiveness is always an option, and though it may be hard at times, it is far better to release that burden from yourself by showing forgiveness.
18. Love and Live Fully: Life is precious. Yours and those around you. Live, Love, and be loved.
19. Pray.
20. Give: There are far greater rewards in giving than in receiving.
21. Focus: It's not about being the best. It's about doing your best.
22. Play your high cards first: Don't get caught with a ton of  negative points in your hand, and never pick up a large number of cards from the discard pile unless you can score more points than you'd be caught with if the next person went out. According to my grandma, I never actually beat her in Rummy... the one time I did, I looked at the score pad afterward, and she had accidentally written Noelle (my sister) instead of Michelle, so no record exists.
23. Work: Work hard, but do what makes you happy... it's not only about what makes you money.
24. Cobbler: Unlike pie, it only needs one crust, and it doesn't have to look pretty! And always double check your cinnamon to make sure you didn't accidentally grab chili powder.
25. Keep your promises: If you lose everything else, you'll still have your word, and that stands for something.
26. Move: Your mobility is fleeting, and you may be robbed at any time.

For anyone who wishes to cheer me on virtually, I would greatly appreciate the support! Starting around 7 am EST on November 17th , use the hashtag #MemoryMarathonMiles on Instagram or Facebook! (Yes, hashtags do technically work on Facebook now.)

A GIANT THANK YOU to all those who donated to my fundraising page! I have met my goal, but if you would still like to donate to support ALS research, you can visit my page!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Final Countdown

Ok, so it appears that I may have tapered about a month before the race. Oops. I've also been stress eating. Oops. I guess only time will tell how well the high-chocolate, low-mileage marathon training plan works out. I have also been feeling a bit nervous. I never really listen, but I tend to find out in the end that people were right in doling out warnings before I begin my crazy escapades, but that never stops me from automatically dismissing them once I find something new, and this marathon is no exception. "You'll be busy with other things," they said. "Wedding planning really can be pretty consuming," they said. "I'm not sure your ready," they said. "You're going to have to be dedicated," they said. There were so many warnings, and I thought they were all wrong. They were right, but I am still going to do it...and I will still finish.

I know that if I am going to reach my goal of finishing my first marathon, I have to put all the doubts out of my mind. I have to forget about the fact that I could only "run" a quarter of a mile when I started "running" three years ago. I have to forget any race I ever ran that sucked. I have to forget any training run that sucked. What I need to remember is why I decided to run a marathon in the first place. I am running in memory of my grandma. I remember the day. The turning point. I saw my grandma the last day she ever walked. It was July 4th, 2012. She was using her walker to walk that afternoon, and that evening she called me, but her speech was already hard to understand, especially over the phone, because ALS had already started robbing her. I didn't know what she was trying to tell me, and it wasn't until an hour and a half later that I found out she had tried to stand up, but her legs just crumpled underneath her. She had been calling me for help because she thought I was already on my way to her house. I wasn't. I have no idea how long she had been there on the floor waiting for help before she gave up on me and called my uncle.

I remember the last day my grandma hugged me and told me she loved me. It was September 11th, 2012. I came to visit that weekend for a family reunion. She didn't know I was coming. When I walked in her room, she thought I was a nurse at first because she didn't expect to see me. After a second, her face lit up, but she was so worked up that she couldn't get any words out, and she couldn't find her pen to write anything because most of her communication at that point was written; tears just started rolling down her face. I spent as much time as I could with her that week I was home. On my way to the airport on September 11th, 2012, I stopped to see my grandma one more time. I stopped to tell her goodbye. She hugged me tight, and then she didn't write it, she slowly and methodically said, "I love you," with her eyes locked on mine. I think deep down, we both knew it was THE goodbye.

I remember the day my grandma passed away. It was December 8th, 2012. It was my 25th birthday. We knew it was coming. ALS IS TERMINAL. There was no doubt from the beginning. She had been in constant pain. It's not as if I wanted her to keep suffering, but it is still the finality of that day that floods family members with such raw emotion. Grief. The thing is that there are so many reunions that my grandma had been waiting so many years to have that I am sure my 25th birthday was one of the best days for my grandma. She went home that day. She was beyond a shadow of a doubt the STRONGEST person I have ever known. I am running in memory of her, and THAT is what I need to remember.

I am still raising money for ALS research because I have not yet met my fundraising goal. Check out my page if you are able to help.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Marathon Roulette

I realized during this past week that I am not at all ready for this marathon. The combination of wedding planning, traveling, getting married, and changing jobs seems to have put a damper on my training. My wedding was amazing, and I love my new job, but my training has been a bit neglected. When I saw a short article on the Route 66 Marathon in my Runner's World I finally just got around to reading, I got seriously sick to my stomach. For a variety of other factors, it was becoming more likely that Route 66 just wasn't going to happen this year despite my signing up almost a year ago.

The bottom line is that I am not ready for this marathon. Has that ever stopped me before? NO! My original goal was to finish a marathon before I turned 26. I made that goal immediately after finishing my first half marathon. After watching my grandma gracefully endure the losses she experienced due to ALS, I decided that I would spend 2013 being thankful for all that I have. When my grandma passed away on my 25th birthday, I decided that I would raise money for ALS research as I trained for and ran my first marathon. My grandma was a fighter, and she believed in me at all times. I am going to stick to the goals I set for myself, and I am going to be thankful that I am able to do this in the first place no matter how slow I am. The catch is that as of yesterday afternoon, I am officially registered for the Philadelphia Marathon! I have one week less to get my butt in gear, but one week isn't going to make too much a difference in the long run. (Haha. No pun intended.)

I still need to raise $110 to meet my fundraising goal, and any help would be much appreciated! Check out my page if you are able to help!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Call off the search party... I'm back!

Where do I begin? Well, Fall Marathon Season is well underway! It is especially awesome this year because I will be running my first marathon this fall. This fall also brought big changes for me as I married my absolute favorite person in the whole world earlier this month, which accounts for my extended absence on my blog. My training has been a bit sketchy for a few reasons, but I am trying to reconcile as much as possible to be on track for my November marathon. Oh yeah, I also chopped off all my hair, which makes my head soooo much lighter when I'm running, but it also adds to my psycho-factor when I'm running.

I have been having so many doubts when it comes to getting ready for this marathon. There are days when I think that I am really ready for the distance. There are also several days when I am painfully aware of how unprepared I really am. There are plenty of people and seasoned runners who would argue that I wasn't "ready" for the marathon distance to begin with, but I am running in memory of my grandma to honor the dignity and grace that she conducted herself with throughout her life even once she had lost the ability to walk or talk due to ALS. Other people and the little voice in my head can say I'm not ready all day long, but I will overcome because I am Helen's granddaughter. This is surely not going to be the best marathon anyone's ever seen, but I will finish.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Excuse me, but I am about to drop some knowledge.

I've been thinking. There sure is a whole lot of criticism of runners. I have mentioned before that I have struggled with the conversation with non-runners about how stupid running is, and how anyone can run a marathon. I was talking with a co-worker this week about the running tights controversy. Then today when I was running, I passed three teens who were walking down the street. I was minding my own business, this girl in the group started laughing at me. She made some snide remark that I couldn't clearly hear, but the tone of voice made it clear that she did not approve of something about my running. Maybe it was my running tights! Maybe it was the water bottle I was holding. Maybe it was my form. I don't know, but there are some things that I do know.

According the to CDC, 69.2% of adults in the United States are overweight or obese. Adolescents are broken down into categories, with 18.4% of children 12-19 years, 18% of children 6-11 years, and 12.1% of children 2-5 years old falling into the obese category. I don't know about you, but that sounds like a problem to me. I also happened to look up some numbers on running. Only 1% of the US population has completed a half marathon, which is the most popular race distance in the US at this time, and 0.5% of the US population has completed a marathon. That's right, the half marathon is the most popular distance, so even when you look at 5k and 10k numbers, still less than 1% of the population has completed a race of that distance. I know which statistic I want to be a part of.

Running tights. Here's the thing. Sweat and friction cause chaffing and irritation. You may not like my running tights, but here's the thing, I am out there doing something about the way my legs jiggle when I run, so anyone who has a problem with that can take a look at the statistics above and keep their comments and critiques to themselves. Running tights are made of a dry-fast or moisture wicking material. They also don't ride up like running shorts do, so therefore, they are the most comfortable option if a person with my body type is going to be running any kind of distance. I used to be pretty self-conscious about wearing running tights, but once I thought about it in the terms I just explained, I realized that I should go with function over fashion to make sure I would achieve my goals. So you know what? Sorry that I'm not sorry.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Holy Humidity, Batman!

Ahhh, I had an up close look at what the phrase, "it's not the miles, but the humidity that kills you," really means. Ok, so maybe that's not exactly how the saying goes, but I have never been so aware of how true that saying really is until I set out for a 16 mile run this morning. For the first 7 miles I just kept thinking that running shouldn't feel so much like swimming. The first onset of that, "Ehh, maybe I'll just quit," feeling was at half a mile. Yep. I didn't quit even though I pretty much wanted to every step of the way. My body just kept moving forward.

Falls Bridge over the Schuylkill River
I had a rough start to my run, and I tired to shake it quickly, but the issues to start off with weren't the biggest problem of my run. I started at Lloyd Hall on the Schuylkill Loop in Philadelphia. It is full of runners, walkers, cyclists, and the guy that I saw today who danced and shadowboxed his way up and down the path. I love passing by people who simultaneously put a smile on my face and make me look a little more sane. I looked extra psychotic today due to my discomfort. I only know that because any person who happened to actually make eye contact with me showed a change in expression that went from, "hello there," to "Should I call 911? Nah, I think she's gonna make it, and on the off chance that she is going to try to attack me, I think I can out run her." 

Matt's reward for waiting around while I ran
was this gem of getting to see me fall over
while I was trying to use a lamp post to stretch.
Turns out that they weren't kidding about blocking everything off for the Made in America concert. I turned around at the blockade, which I was actually a little thankful for because I decided that I should go ahead and use the public bathrooms at Lloyd Hall. Well, they are locked until 8 in the fall. It was not even close to 8 am. I used the nearby porta-potty, which had no toilet paper or hand sanitzer. Yeahhhh. It was a nice start. I also very quickly consumed a gel because I could tell that the weather conditions were really dragging me down. The only problem was that I had just eaten one when I got out of the car, and they were both caffeinated. That didn't turn out well. I was having slight heart palpitations and chest pain for the next 5 or 6 miles after that. 


Matt and I had a conversation the day before about how long it would take me to run 16 miles. Neither of us
was right, really.  Well, I thought it would take me about 3 hours. I was at 1:30:34 after finishing mile 8, which was pretty freaking good because I walked SO MUCH. Gah. I was just dragging. I was so annoyed that even though I was moving forward, I kept slowing to a walk. I just could not find a rhythm today, and I seriously wanted to give up. I knew that I could just run the last half, then I would prove Matt wrong, but that didn't happen. And although it didn't take 4 hours, it was way too close for my liking. At least I know that I could do way better in sightly more favorable conditions.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

To everything there is a season and a time.

I've been feeling fairly inconvenienced lately. I have been indignant almost when it comes to running lately. Training for a marathon takes a lot of time, and if I'm being honest, I haven't even been putting in as much time logging miles as I should be. Getting up early to run, going to work, not eating dinner in order to get in a solid night run, and then going to bed in order to repeat it all the next day has really been wearing on me. I feel like I can't do anything I want to do. Though the truth is that I feel good while I am running, and I feel better throughout the day when I've started off with a workout or run.

Today I was really able to feel the seasons changing. Granted, it is still a bit early for the changing, but it is happening nonetheless. The cooler mornings are allowing me to run a little later when the rest of my schedule allows, and I even saw leaves falling from trees today. They looked like bits of glitter shimmering as they fell to the ground, and it was absolutely, beautifully humbling. How can I be bitter about training when I get to witness this beautiful world?

When I went back out tonight, I was grumbling before I even got out the door. I didn't have water to take with me, I couldn't find my reflective shirt, I wasn't going to be able to go as far as I wanted to, and the list went on and on in my head. I played a podcast of an NPR program, and the topic of the segment just happened to be about helping others, which pretty quickly put me in my place. How can I be so upset about something I should cherish dearly? I ran past a nearby park, and I was reminded of how much fun I used to have running through the local park at night like a maniac with a group of friends playing Army Tag. Why have I complicated and sucked the fun out of something I love? Running and being active are amazing gifts that I can choose to use fully, or fully take advantage of. The trick is that every day, I need to choose the fullness that I want in my life.

Live fully. Live on purpose. Be thankful.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Are you afraid of the dark?

As a 90's kid, I would say that I am definitely afraid of the dark because that TV show was seriously scary for a 3rd grader. Now that I am older, I wouldn't so much say that I am afraid of the dark, but running before the sun rises or after it sets has definitely solidified the fact that I am apparently afraid of everything else. Now, I have had some cases for legitimate concern if you have read about my craziest week ever, but it turns out that I may still have some residual fear from that week and other experiences. So what is there to be afraid of during a run in the dark, you ask? Everything. I will spare you a long list, and I will just explain the three most frequent frightening experiences for my runs in the dark.

Obviously SPIDER WEBS: I freaking hate running into spider webs. I am sure nobody enjoys it, but seriously? How can I hit every single one! I swear I hit all of them, but these don't help you when your are running. Fear can give you a pretty good jolt, like the time I almost got a bunny killed or almost got hit by a street sweeper! Those actually made me run faster after they scared the crap out of me, but not a spider web because you have to spend a minute or two standing there looking like a complete nut case trying to get the stupid thing off before you can start running again. You know what I'm talking about!

Privacy Fences: Ok, so maybe the actual privacy fence isn't all that scary, but what's on the other side sure can be! I was so startled by a small dog on the other side of a privacy fence last week that I actually shrieked a little out loud. The woman up the street watching her children play in the yard looked at me like I was crazy, but for some reason, when those little dogs rush up to a privacy fence barking when the sun is setting or has just set, it scares me more than usual. I guess it's just because you can't see them coming, but I have got to work on holding in the shrieks in the future to avoid looking crazy. It is very easy to zone out the world when I am running, but it is times like last week that I am reminded that people can see and hear me when I am running...it is easy to forget sometimes.

My hydration belt: It sounds strange at first, but I have been repeatedly scared by my hydration belt on a run in the dark...you could say that it has even happened more than once in a single run. How? Simple. Once about half of the water is gone, the sloshing of the water can tend to sound faintly like steps underneath the sound of your iPod. Seriously, I cannot tell you how many times my heart has skipped a beat and my feet have picked up pace because I suddenly thought that someone was running up right behind me when it was only my hydration belt.

But seriously, running the dark has it's perks, but there are also things to aware of. Be sure someone knows when you are headed out for a run in the dark, and a rough estimate of when you should be home if you aren't able to tell them where you'll be running. Even if you live alone, it is good to have a friend or family member you can at least text to let them know what's up. Don't forget that reflective gear or clothing is always a good choice in the dark, and make sure to run so that you are facing traffic to see what is coming towards you. Give a little extra time for cars to see you when crossing the road, and make sure not to play music so loudly that you won't hear someone or something coming up behind you. Run smart and stay safe!


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Racing Recap: Midsummer Night Series 5K

Hanging w/ Dad Pre-race!
I have finally done it. I ran a sub 30 5k race. I have no problem running sub 30 on a 5k run by myself, or with friends or family for fun, but I have never done it at an actual 5k race for some reason. (Note: I am not trying to imply that races aren't fun with that statement.) I have had a pretty good week in general, but I have been slacking some on my training lately because I have bitten off more than I can chew like I typically do.


So besides the new race time, nothing really eventful happened during this race. So instead I will share my usual thought process besides the Six Stages of Running that I have explained before. I'm not sure if I am the only one who does this, but hey, it's something to distract your mind from wanting to slow down or stop. I usually pick a person out, mostly at random, and I decide that I am going to either pace off them without letting up, or that I will pass them and run as hard as I can to make sure I don't let them get back in front of me. It's mostly at random because I usually try to pick old people, which tends to backfire most of the time, so I should probably rethink that.

Thanks for running with me Matthew!
The course for this 5k was a three loop course. I picked a lady to pace off of today about half way through the first lap. I waited until I got through most of the congestion of the start, fell into a steady pace, and picked out the nearest old lady in front of me. I lost her for a bit at the end of the first lap because Matt popped up next to me to tell me that I started out way too fast. He was right, but I ignored him, which also tends to backfire.

On the last lap, I could tell the woman realized I was pacing off her, and she didn't seem pleased. Then she pretty much left me in the dust. I'm not sure why she got so annoyed. I wasn't right up on her heels or anything, but I sped up a bit, and then she looked over, and I immediately saw a look of recognition and annoyance on her face. Then again, maybe she was just playing the head game I play when I decide not to let a random person pass me, only I was her random person. Who knows. Either way, I have a new official 5k race PR.

Exciting news: I am so happy that I am finally making the transition into a fitness related field. I will get to combine my passion for people and my passion for running! I was offered a job at a local running company, and I am so excited to begin this new journey. For a long time, I felt guilty about wanting to leave the education field because I have always wanted to do something that would make a difference in the world, but I have come to a realization. Leaving a mark on the world is all about the relationships you build, the way you live your life, and the way you treat people in general. I am grateful for all that I have learned during my years teaching, and I am grateful for the relationships I have built so far, but I am also excited to step onto a new path.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

True Beauty

Wow. Life really is amazing. Sometimes all a person needs is a leisurely walk on a beautiful morning to remind them how awesome this life really is. I have had a rocky week following my impromptu half marathon, with my busiest week at work so far this summer and the lingering weariness from a long run, but I knew that when I woke up this morning at 6 without the grumbling internal dialogue, that I was ready to have an amazing day. I took the time to sip my coffee slowly and really enjoy the moment, and I knew that instead of going for my usual long run today, I would benefit much more from a change of pace, literally.

I set out with the intention of going to walk laps around the nearby high school track, but when I got there, the chain was still on the gate. With the sun peaking out from the clouds and the crisp autumnal air awakening my senses, my eyes were opened to the beauty of the world around me. I resolved that 2013 would be my year of thankfulness, and with all the stress and craziness that has been surrounding me lately, I haven't been taking the time to look for the good and blessings in all situations.

I was reminded on my little walk this morning that it is all a matter of focus. I have not been practicing contemplative simplicity in my everyday life. And as much as I have been telling myself every morning to live on purpose, it seems as each day progresses, I let go of the purpose. I know that I am extremely blessed, and I am so thankful for all that I have been given in this life. God has been very good to me through his infinite grace. I am extremely thankful for the beauty of this life I have been granted, and I was reminded on my walk that I am also immensely thankful for the beauty of this earth that I am able to experience. I am thankful for my mobility because I know that not everyone is as fortunate, and I am thankful that I am able to experience all of these things one more day. We are never guaranteed tomorrow, so we need to be thankful in every minute of each new day.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Live on Purpose

I ran a half marathon this morning. Not a race, just me and 13.1 miles of road. No race adrenaline, no aid stations, no spectators, no porta-potties, no medal or post-race party waiting at the end. Yeah. Turns out that it is a little bit tougher mentally to do it that way. It makes me a little nervous with a 22 mile run ahead me without any of the race hub-bub. Yes, the actual marathon is 26.2, but then I will have all the perks of a race to give occasional breaks from the mental solace of running for that long. 

People always talk about the mental barriers and introspection that comes along with running long distances. 13.1 miles is the longest distance I have ever run, and today I finally did it all alone. Step one of mental training; check! I was sort of groggy when I first rolled out of bed, but I had my mantra for today, and I knew that I purposely set my alarm for 5 am. I purposely set out before the sun was up, and I purposely set out with a goal of 13.1 miles in my mind. It is time to live on purpose.

The great thing about running long distance is that you really have to examine who you are, and then determine who you are going to be. There are times in life, and in running, when you have to put doubt and your insecurities aside, and you have to believe in possibility and remember that you can do anything for 10 (or however long your endeavor lasts). It's a matter of shutting out the voice that says, "you can't." I hit the wall where the, "you can't," was getting louder and louder, so I walked a bit, and I texted Matt and my sister Grace for some encouragement. 

Eventually, I got over the mental hurdle and just kept moving. I love the part of a long run when you realize that the distance you have left to go is minuscule in comparison to the distance you have already traveled. When that feeling finally kicked in, I looked down at my watch, and I realized that even though I was letting the mental block get the best of me for awhile, I was still going to run my second best time for the half marathon distance. Each day and each decision is a new opportunity to live on purpose.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Run, run, in the rain: Michelle Style

PSY may be picking up ladies and cracking pistachios Gangnam Style, but the really cool kids are running Michelle Style. Ok, so maybe crazy would be a little more accurate than cool. I have never gone for a run in the rain before tonight. That's right. I have been running long distance going on three years now, and I have turned home as soon as the rain started to fall every time until tonight. I did turn home once during my run tonight at the beginning, but that was only because Matt originally made me take my phone with me tonight, and when the torrential downpour started, I decided to book it home and drop it off so that I wouldn't ruin a brand new iPhone 5.

When I stopped in to drop off my phone, I realized that I didn't really have anywhere to put my keys because I took off my SPI belt, and the tights I had on today didn't have a key pocket. Matt and I briefly tried to come up with a solution to getting me back in to our apartment building that is locked, but none of the ideas we had really worked. Matt decided he would just throw on his old shoes and go for a run with me. I decided I would only run five miles instead of seven because I felt bad that Matt was running with me in the rain.

I am a fairly particular person. In fact, one of the reasons I decided to make 2013 my year of thanksgiving was because my family and close friends always comment about how I hate everything in the world. I don't really want to be viewed as that person, and I thought that I should spend more time being thankful and less complaining. Well, even though my family might say I hate everything, it just so happens that the two things I hate more than anything happen to be wet socks and rain. In that order. Top freaking two. Now you know why I usually turn home when it starts to sprinkle. Well, in true Michelle style, the first time I ran in the rain, I just had to go all out. Flash flooding and lightening accompanied my torrential downpour this evening. Yes, I realized about a quarter of a mile in that we were under a flash flood warning.

I didn't let it get me down. I ran my five miles in the downpour with water-logged shoes, a soaked white t-shirt, and a smile on my face. Even with the rain, the heavy shoes, and my terribly wet socks, I managed to run 11 minute miles. I even ran up the two biggest hills that I encounter on my regular routes. It may take a week for my shoes to dry out, but it was surprisingly fun. I don't know that it would be as much fun during the day with the threat of the sun coming up to kill me with the humidity, but for a rainy, flooded run, I'll take it!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

If at first you don't succeed, give up and try again tomorrow.

I have already admitted that I am a wimpy runner, but I sank to an all new level of wimpy Saturday. I'm talking stopping my run an hour early as I whimpered all the way to the car. I was planning to run about two hours today at a nearby state park. Matt even agreed to get up at 5 on a Saturday to go with me to help with hydration and motivation.

The problems started when we got there at sunrise, which the PA state park website lists as the opening time, and we found out that the gates to parking areas don't actually open until 7. On top of having to wait around for the park to open, I was already starting to get hungry. I could feel disaster setting in, but I kept trying to put it behind me.

Matt and I have been to this park before to ride on the paved multi-use trail, and I have been on the hiking trails with my friend Caitlyn, but this was the first time I have ever attempted to run there. I knew it was hilly, but I think I underestimated the elevation. I went in the direction that I thought would be easiest. I opted for several short steep inclines with some rest in between because I knew that the opposite direction would force me to trudge up the biggest hill of all. It really weighed on me, and I quit after one lap.

I was so defeated when we left the park. When we got home, Matt reassured me, and he told me that I could always go run Sunday morning. I usually do my long runs on Sunday anyway, so I finally decided that I had to just let it go. Tomorrow is always a new day, right? I got a little worried though when we didn't get to bed till 12:30 after visiting with friends. I knew right away that I had to get up anyway and just run. I got up by 5:30, and although I was a little slow getting around, I was out the door and running by 6 am.

I started out with hope because it finally rained overnight, and I was so thankful that it gave me respite from the punishing heat. It was also one of those rains where it wasn't oppressively humid afterward, so I just had to pray that the cloud cover would hold for my ten miler. The clouds held today, and I am glad to say that my resolve did as well! I had a great run, and I am thankful for that. I stopped after 7 miles to take a pit stop at 7Eleven, and Matt met me there to buy me a drink since I ran out of water. I spent the last 3 miles just praying and being thankful that I am able to run, that the weather was nice, and that each day is a new day.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

iTrack: How my smartphone stops me from making dumb decisions

Motivation is different for everyone. I write this blog as one tool to keep myself motivated. I have also learned that along with motivation comes honesty. Sometimes it can be hard to stay honest with yourself about how hard you have worked out or how much you have eaten, but with today's technology our phones are all too ready to be real with us if we aren't real with ourselves.

I ordered the UP band made by Jawbone about a month ago, but I am still waiting to start using it because I got the wrong size, and it takes quite a while to get through all the customer service stuff to exchange it, so I have been using the free app Argus by Azumio for the iPhone. It is the only app I have found so far that fits into my daily routine smoothly.

Argus tracks your steps, but it appears to just go by distance traveled. It will sometimes count steps in the car when I am in stop-and-go traffic, but I'm not too concerned about that part because more often than not, I end up setting my phone down at home or work while I am doing plenty of moving. You can also track your water intake, coffee, food, sleep, and workouts. 

I like the food diary that is compiled of pictures taken of the meals you eat throughout the day. I'm not big on counting calories, but just having that picture of a cheeseburger staring at me all day can sometimes be enough to deter me. I think the water and coffee intake trackers are ok, but not something that I necessarily need. If you struggle with getting enough water, then Argus might be good for you because a reminder message pops up if you don't track any water intake after a certain number of hours. I drink plenty of water though, so that isn't extremely useful to me. I'm also not a big fan of the sleep tracker because it has to be manually turned on and off. I never seem to remember to turn it off, and I wish that it would recognize that I'm obviously not sleeping if I am walking around, but I guess there are sleepwalkers! ;-)

The workout tracker is pretty cool as far as the running goes. If you don't already use the mapmyrun app or some other tracking device, then Argus might be for you. I love that it maps out exactly where I ran, and I like that it even turns itself on automatically unlike the sleep tracker. It also continues to count steps during a run. The only thing I dislike about the automatic running tracker is that the timer doesn't always stop right away when I am done, so it can tend to throw off the time a little. It can be turned on manually though, and then you have the option to stop the timer immediately. There are also other workout choices like cycling, weight training, swimming, and others, but all those are tracked manually by entering how long you engaged in the activity, so no cheating yourself by fibbing!

All in all, I like the Argus app, but I am excited to finally get my UP band whenever that may be. There are plenty of other great apps as well if you are looking to track your intake and output to take steps toward a healthier you!


Be a Do-gooder! 
Want to do good by others and yourself? Consider using the Charity Miles app to track your distance for one of their charity partners! Do a little good for you while also doing a little good for others!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Runner's Rambles: 5k why have you forsaken me?

So it may seem like I've gone off the map, but in all reality, I have been on the map...running. I have gone back to work, so it seems that until I get on a better schedule, or I get myself in gear to get up earlier, then my posts might be a bit sporadic for awhile. I have still been struggling with staying on my training schedule and getting up early enough to beat the heat, but this week has been good so far. I have already done one strength training session and logged 3 short runs this week. I've got another strength session on the books for tomorrow morning, which leaves me Saturday to sleep in!! Wow! No 5 am alarm. No snooze button...10 times in a row. No place to be! Ahhh, I can't remember the last time that I set myself up to feel good about getting all my workouts/runs in to be able to sleep in on a Saturday with no regrets.

I got up just early enough to run before getting ready and heading to work on Tuesday and Wednesday, and though I still need to wake up earlier to really beat the heat, I felt good that I at least logged the miles even if they were sluggish and somewhat uninspiring at the time. I was happy to have a morning off today because Matt and I signed up for a series of night races this summer, and tonight we ran the first one. Technically this is the second race in the series, but Matt and I were home in Missouri when the first race took place. I was a little sad to miss it, but it was nice to see my family, and I still got some good running in with family.

Not lookin too shabby for post-race!
This race was a 5k at a small park in a neighboring town. The course is a one mile loop that you run three times...obviously. I am still not sure how I feel about night/evening races after this. I felt like it took place at a somewhat awkward time, so I tried to eat at the right times to keep myself from starving, but I was unsuccessful. I did like that I was able to get a full night's sleep, and I didn't even have race jitters throughout the day. The jitters didn't set in until we were in the car on the way there, and I was suddenly in full-on irritated mode.

I am somewhat frustrated and baffled by the 5k distance for a race. I can run 3.1 miles under 30 minutes when I am doing a training run by myself, but I have never actually had a successful 5k race. I feel like they are for the extremely fast and the beginner. Granted, many people would consider me a beginner with my measly 2 years of running under my belt, but I don't think my 5k racing should be as terrible as it usually is. The worst part is that before today, I had never run a 5k race that I didn't end up walking at least part of. Again, training run by myself? Fine and dandy. 5k race? Suddenly I can't suck it up. Well today, I sucked it up, and I don't have the chip time yet, but I think we came in just over 30 minutes. (Neither one of us wore a watch...smart, I know.) And I think I'm ok with that time considering my history with this race distance, but I am still annoyed that makes me one of the slowest people in the race, and I just feel like I should be better than that at this point. Oh well, I have never claimed to be fast, and now I have a time to beat for the last race in this series on the same course.

Soundbite Side Note
On my long run last week, I listened to a podcast episode of To the Best of Our Knowledge entitled, "Born to Run." It was very fascinating, and I really enjoyed it. I am probably going to listen to it again to catch the parts I missed when my attention faded in and out as it tends to do on a long run, but I think it is definitely worth a listen. Check it out! 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Diary of a Wimpy Runner

To say that I have been struggling lately, would be an understatement. I didn't even make it out of the my bed, let alone my house on Sunday morning for my long run. I then spent all day Sunday whining about how I am never going to survive a marathon. I went to the gym on Monday, but I was still down on myself because I know I've been neglecting my training and not really enjoying my runs ever since I got back from my trip to visit family.

Today I was able to get myself out of bed and on the road. I decided that a slow, steady, podcast run was just what I needed to start getting myself back on track. After my realization that slow and steady is good enough, I knew that I just needed one good slow-and-steady. I can always count on a podcast of "To the Best of Our Knowledge," to pull me in and take my mind off of the miles that I need to log in order to just get them done. Those are not my speediest days, but I do enjoy them.

I know that I can log the miles. I know that I should log the miles, but I just haven't been able to make myself do that lately. I saw a quote that Runner's World had posted on Facebook that really hit home with me. I decided that I need to stop being a wimp. I saved the picture to my phone as the screen saver.  When I wake up in the morning when my alarm goes off, it is a little harder to ignore it and snooze when I see the quote asking if I am going to be a wimp.

I am supposed to be running this marathon in my grandmother's memory, but I have not been emulating her strength lately with my training choices. One thing that majorly contributed to my PR at the Delaware Half this spring was thinking about how my grandma went through so much more pain in her life than I was at that time, and she did it with dignity and grace. That is the whole reason I am doing this And on top of that, I have dedicated 2013 to be my year of thanksgiving. I should be thankful that I still have the ability to run because I know that there is a chance that I won't always be able to run. I know that my training will not always be easy, and there will probably be days when I don't feel like running, but I need to keep everything in perspective.

Don't forget to help me out in raising money for ALS research if you are able to! Thanks! Find out about my marathon training goal!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Gearing Up

Since it is getting to be crunch time with the whole upcoming-wedding-business, I have decided that Matt and I are going to do one active/healthy thing together each week on top of our normal exercise routines. The goal is to do something that is fun, but that is still keeping us active when we are just hanging out together. I have also adopted, somewhat unsuccessfully so far, the mantra; cravings are temporary, but wedding photos are forever. I was really thrown off my routine with our trip home, and I am having far more trouble with the bad food detox than I thought I would. I am also having trouble with my previous six meal schedule. Ehhh, c'est la vie.

Today was the first installment of Matt and Michelle's Mandatory Activity Time. We went for a bike ride at a local state park. Have I ever mentioned that I LOVE state and national parks? :) It's the first time we've been back to the nearby park for bike riding since the "day I got my bike debacle." And let me tell you, putting a bike rack on your car together for the first time ever is sort of its own form of pre-martial counseling.

After the residual bike-rack-annoyance wore off, I started to finally figure out, with Matt's help, how to properly shift my gears to make things less impossible for myself. There are some seriously killer hills at this place, and my quads were on fire. I finally figured out why there are shifters on both sides! The left one is for the front gears, and the right one is for the back gears. Low gears are not very powerful, but they make going uphill easier. Higher gears are more powerful, and better for downhill and flat ground. Matt helped me get it all sorted out. I think it is difficult for me in the same way that playing a piano is impossible for me. I just can't process that many things at once, but I am getting better!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Down the Rabbit Hole

Training for a marathon for the first time is enough to make anyone feel a bit like Alice lost in Wonderland. It seems as if you are on a journey that you don't really understand, and the people who try to give you advice all seem to be speaking in riddles. This morning, that feeling was amplified when I saw not one or two, but six rabbits on my run. When I saw the first one, I thought, "Well, rabbit's feet are lucky, right?" By the time I saw the third or fourth one, I knew that was just a little too much luck for one day, and it seemed as if they were instead saying, "You're late! You're late!"


Then I saw a turtle. When I ran with my brother last week I saw a turtle as well, and the animal symbolism changed again. I figured out that the story I was actually in was really the fable of the tortoise and the hare.
And the moral of that story is slow and steady wins the race. I just kept repeating the new but old mantra. As the temperature rose, and I started getting tired, I realized that the old phrase was wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. I don't know where that tortoise and that hare were racing, but it surely wasn't Pennsylvania, Delaware, or Missouri because I've been to those races, and slow and steady does not win the race.

I ran on, irritated, and I was not enjoying myself at all. I was irritated that I didn't wake up earlier. I was irritated that I didn't bring water with me. I was irritated that I was passed by an old guy yesterday, and I was irritated that we go around teaching kids that slow and steady wins the race when that is absolutely not true. Boy, I was on a roll. Then I realized that I was almost done. That's when it dawned on me. Slow and steady finishes the race. And sometimes, that's all that matters.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Family Fun Run

Last week I fell in love with running all over again. I took a trip home to visit family, and I knew that I would need to keep running while I was there, so I called up my brother and asked him to run with me while I was there. We put an 8 miler on the books for Father's Day, and I was glad I had a plan to hold myself accountable.

 Katie, Joe, Matt, Me
 (Big thanks to our favorite spectator, my sister Noelle, for taking the picture)
When we set out on our run that morning, I had so many doubts running through my head. I had left my good running shoes at my dad's the day before, it was muggy, and I knew there were so many hills on the route he had planned. It didn't take long though for us to fall into a good rhythm, and I had this amazing energy running through me. We carried on conversations about random stuff with little bits of "wisdom" from my brother mixed in. It was also the first time I really ran in my hometown. I was on the track team briefly in high school before I quit because the only event open was 2 mile, so I decided I had better things to do. It's funny in retrospect that I didn't want to run 2 miles.

The next day, I went on a small group run with my brother, sister-in-law, and fiance. It was so much fun! I think we all had fun...mostly. There were moments of laughter, and maybe a couple of irritated moments, but we stuck together, and we knocked out a quick 3 miles. We laughed as we caused some minor road blocks in our small town, we debated the smell of the local dog food plant, and we waved at all the passing cars. It was one of those runs that is simultaneously relaxing and energizing. 

If you are a veteran runner or just starting out, grab a few friends or family members and head out for a run. Short or long, it doesn't matter. Just get out there and have some healthy fun.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Out of Focus

"Contemplative simplicity isn't a matter of circumstances; it's a matter of focus."-- Ann Voskamp

As I went out for an evening run last night, I was just sort of off. Night time runs have a different set of obstacles than day runs. There is the heat radiating up instead of beating down, plus the bugs that go up your nose or in your mouth, and all of that is on top of having likely used up some of your energy throughout the day. I know some people love night runs because you can run the day away, and that would normally be the appeal for me too, but I didn't do anything yesterday, and I was able to stay on sidewalks that are cooler than asphalt. I did swallow several bugs, I stopped counting around 5, but that wasn't the problem either.

I kept playing over and over again in my head the things I have been seeing and hearing about a lot lately. I think that the tragedy in Boston has brought running to the forefront of peoples conversations temporarily, but the conversations went from outraged and inspired to do something, to apathy and downgrading. Honestly, I run for me. I am running in my grandma's memory this year as well, and even though I started out to prove my brothers wrong, in the end, I am running for my physical and mental health. However, it was really getting to me for some reason that I have seen people posting things and saying things about running being stupid.

I saw a comment saying that marathons are especially stupid because anybody can do it, and everyone just says, "I finished." There was a little more to it than that, but it just kept swirling around in my thoughts as I ran. I know there are a lot of people who think it's stupid that I run in general. I know people who think it's stupid that I keep doing it even though I am slow. I know other people who just think the marathon distance is ridiculous. I just kept thinking to myself, "What the heck am I doing?" I was starting to think they were right, and that I should just give up.

I eventually put it out of my mind, and then today I had a thought creep into my head. I realized that part of my year of thanksgiving in 2013 was to be a more positive person. And the specific comment on a social media site that was plaguing me? It wasn't even posted by someone I knew. Why did it even matter? Why was I thinking about that? I could have spent that whole run thinking about how thankful I am for all the amazing things I have! Why wasn't I thanking God that I have the ability to run in the first place? In the end, I know how much discipline it takes to train. I know how running has the ability to help me appreciate nature, mobility, and life. My focus was off. I shouldn't have been annoyed with the comments and conversations, and I definitely should not have let them get me down. I have so much to be thankful for, and running is one of those things. It's all a matter of focus.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

National Running Day 2013

I was so pumped at the beginning of this week. It was supposed to be my first week of my break, and I was so excited to get in some quality beast-mode time. On Monday morning, I pulled my hip flexor a little. I tried to rest up and do some yoga on Tuesday. There was a little bit of soreness still this morning, but I wanted to run so badly after taking yesterday to rest up. I started off with a little bit of stretching and walking and more stretching. It is a beautiful day here in PA, and I was ready to soak it all in on a short run.

I have two different 5k routes that start/end at my house, so I decided to run the route that I haven't really been running lately to shake it up. I also set out with my old school Timex sport watch since I already knew the distance, and I just wanted to run without constantly checking my pace on my Garmin. Sometimes it's nice to just run without a specific goal in mind.

I had a few hiccups along the way today. I had to deal with crews working on power lines and road resurfacing. And then there were the more startling encounters. I saw a little bunny as I was running, and when it finally saw me, it quickly darted back out into the road, but there was a truck right there, and I may have shrieked, "NO!" as they narrowly missed the little guy. I was so scared that the bunny was going to die, and I think the driver in the truck thought I was going to die based on my reaction, but we were both fine, and I pressed on. About half a mile later, I saw a street sweeper going down a cross street, so I slowed some, and then the driver waved me on. When I was in the middle of the street directly in front of the sweeper, it suddenly lunged forward scaring the bajeezus out of me, and I sprinted faster than I have in quite awhile. (Probably not since I got chased by a schizophrenic woman.)

All in all, I guess I owe a thank you to the bunny and the street sweeper for getting my heart rate up and my feet moving because I ran my first sub 30 minute 5k today despite the soreness in my hip flexor. I am just wishing I could run that in a race. I have never been fast, and I still don't claim to be, but it was nice to run sub 30 when I really wasn't even aiming for anything other than a nice run on a beautiful day. Happy running to everyone on this National Running Day and every day after that.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Runner's Rambles: Two weeks down!

It may seems as if I've been MIA lately, but spring is a busy time for people in the education field. Now that my program has wrapped up for the year, I am ready for a one month break from work! This means that I will have lots of time to really get in some quality training and blogging! I will even be doing some of my first running while traveling, which I am sure I will have some wonderful stories from. So how have the first two weeks of marathon training been going? Of course I will tell you!

Week one was easy-peasy. I had three short runs for the week, and I managed to fit all of them in. It was only 3 miles a day, but I didn't skip any just because they were short, which I sometimes talk myself out of a run when I'm being lazy. I did have to run one of those runs in the evening after I ate dinner, but I still made it out for the day. My long run during week one was only 6 miles, and it was the cushiest 6 miles of my life. I have the best fiance in the whole world. He has agreed to help me with my marathon training by riding his bike along with me for long runs when I just don't feel like doing it, or to help out with hydration and motivation along the way. I didn't really need him to help me for 6 miles, but he volunteered to come along anyway, and I am glad that I got such a nice start to my training.

Week two was a different story. The runs were still low miles, which in theory is easy, but it is apparently summer now. I have to face the facts after this week; it is just too hot to run after early morning. I will have to really get a schedule going to get some early runs in because it is just too hot. I waited till 8 or later to run my three short runs this week, and I regretted it every time I stepped out the door. I even waited till 8 to leave for my 7 mile long run this week. I slowly plodded out 3 miles and stopped. I decided I would head out for 4 more miles in the evening when the sun wasn't beating down on my back.

There were some good parts to my week two runs though. I left inspirational messages with sidewalk chalk because last week I saw a rude message about someone written on the ground near a school. I rubbed it out with my shoe, and I knew when I saw it that part of my "year of thanksgiving" would be using my attitude of gratitude to hopefully spread some cheer to strangers, I carried the chalk in a plastic baggie that I tucked into my SPI belt. I am hoping to leave messages every once in awhile when I run now. I feel like you never know when you might brighten someone's day. And with that, I say, "bring on week three!"

National Running Day is June 5th! I will be running! Will you?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Which came first? The Chicken (of the Sea) or the egg?

"I saw an idea on Pinterest," is usually the start of a downhill story; however, I managed to make something amazing from an idea on Pinterest for the first time last week. I saw the pin a long time ago, and I had originally pinned it for my sister, but it had been floating around in my head ever since. I have found this awesome, protein-packed, breadless tuna salad sandwich to be a Pinterest victory!

Small but mighty!
I first started by making this healthier tuna salad with plain Greek yogurt instead of mayo. Does it taste the same? No, but it doesn't taste bad. It just doesn't taste the same as mayo. I also added a tiny bit of spicy mustard to cut out a little of the tartness from the yogurt. Not up for the mustard, and don't think you can handle the full flavor of the yogurt? Then add two parts yogurt to one part mayo, and at least you are limiting your mayo intake. The next part is the awesome part!

Perfect lunchbox food!
After you have prepared your tuna salad with the yogurt, tuna, and other ingredients of your choosing, slice a boiled egg in half like a deviled egg, dump out the high-cholesterol yolk, and fill the middle with the tuna salad. The protein-packed "sandwiches" are awesome for a mid-day pick-me-up! I found two eggs to be far  more filling than I had originally anticipated, and they are great for diabetics or anyone who's cool really. ;) I am not diabetic, but I generally eat on a diabetic schedule, small meals every two hours or so, because my work schedule is odd, and I have found my metabolism is slowing as I age. This helps keep my energy up, and my mood up with a small, yet filling meal every couple hours.

And in the words of my friend Rachel, "You need to eat more protein!" This is her life code basically, and I am beginning to think she might be right.


Sunday, May 19, 2013

Memorial Marathon

When I was growing up, one of my biggest role models was my grandma. She was to me, the pinnacle of independence, courage, strength, and  grace. My grandma lived her life with a strong yet graceful dignity that I admire. After seeing her maintain those qualities despite losing the ability to walk and talk due to ALS, I know that I should always utilize the abilities I have because I could lose them at any time. I do value my ability to walk, run, and be active, so I know that I should take full advantage of those things. I also know that I should use the abilities I have to help other people. My grandma was always doing whatever she could to help others.

The combination of my grandma's influence in my life and the suffering she encountered at the end of her life have reinforced my determination not to give up on the goal I set for myself to run a marathon before I turned 26. My grandma was not some running junkie who would be pumped about my marathon endeavor, but she had a strength that I admire and channel, and she believed in me with a pride and confidence that most people, even myself, often do not. She was also a fighter since the day she was born. She was the only sibling born in a set of triplets to survive, and that was only the beginning of the fighting to survive that my grandma would do in her lifetime.

My grandma was so giving. She gave whatever she could, whenever she could, and she often did so silently. There were so many people my grandma helped, but when she died, my family learned even more stories from people whom she had touched, but that she had never spoken a word about to anyone. My grandma was selfless, in a strong confident way because to her, it wasn't important that anyone knew of the deeds she was doing. She just believed strongly that it was what should be done, so she did it. It may have been monetary, lending an ear, saying a prayer, or giving a gift, but my grandma had an eye for those who were in need or suffering, and she always stepped up to do what was right.

When I add all the factors together, I see the best way for me to honor my grandmother's passing is to run my first marathon before my 26th birthday and the one year mark of her passing which fall on the same day, while raising money to help those in need. I have set up a fundraising page in my grandma's memory through The ALS Association national chapter. I know that this is a tough economic time, but almost everyone can afford to give even a couple dollars. Please view my fundraising page, and don't forget to cheer me on as I begin my training for my first marathon this week.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Racing Recap: Delaware Marathon Running Festival

I had been nervous all week leading up to Saturday. On Saturday, the day before the race, we went to packet pickup. That was when nervousness started to turn into a self-pep-talk, hyper mode. I was impressed with all the race SWAG, and I bought a new shirt at the expo from RUseeN apparel. Their apparel is reflective, and I picked a shirt that says, "I'm slow. I know. Get over it." on the back, and a
little turtle sweating on the front. I am pretty pumped about it. After we got home from the expo, I called my running brother, and my "Anything for 10," sister. They both assured me that I would be fine.

When I woke up this morning, I couldn't eat. I tried to have breakfast, but it just wasn't happening. I had read somewhere that there would be pre-race carbs at the staring line, and I figured I eat something there. Funny thing about that, we had trouble finding parking at first, and somehow ended up on the highway driving away from Wilmington with about 10 minutes to start time. I was trying to stay calm so that I wouldn't stress out Matt while he was driving, but I must not have been very good at that since he kicked me out of the car near the start to go find parking on his own. We ended up finding each other just as the race was starting.

"Running for Grandma"
For the first few miles, Matt kept telling me that I should slow down, but I was feeding off the race energy. I knew there was a chance that I would regret it later, but my brother had advised me to just feel out the race, and ride the energy as far as it would take me. I am so glad he told me that. I was also thinking of my grandma, with today being Mother's Day. My mom wasn't always round, but my grandma was, and she was absolutely the strongest person I have ever known and probably ever will. I knew this was the first race I would dedicate to her with it falling on the first Mother's Day after her passing.

I was feeling great, and it seemed as if the whole race was going to be flat. The scenery was AMAZING! We ran along the river, through the zoo area, over the river on a neat bridge, and then it seemed as if they decided to put all the elevation gain in only one spot. Or so I thought at the time. I needed to pee so bad, but I just kept running as long as I could to get to the point where I would let myself stop to go. Matt convinced me to run ahead around Little Italy so that I could stop to use the porta potties on the loop back. He caught up right as I stepped out.

Matt's First Half
After that, I knew I needed to keep pushing because this was one of those races where I only felt how tired I was when I walked, instead of feeling refreshed after a break. I realized Matt wasn't right behind me anymore when he sent me a text message saying that he was cramping some, and that he wanted me to go ahead. I felt bad, but then he sent me a message saying that I was on track to PR. He wore the Garmin today, which I think also helped me. I knew after that message that if I wasn't going to stay with him, that I had to PR. And with his support, I felt the drive to push on and keep going when I was getting tired.

I started losing my resolve again when I rounded the corner at mile 12, and I realized Matt was right when he told me that there was a massive hill at that point. I had to walk again because I was losing my energy, and that hill was a beast. When it leveled out again, I started back into a run, and I finished with a PR 8 minutes faster than my previous PR. Overall, it was a great race, and I couldn't have done it without Matt, Grace, Joe, and all the spectators, volunteers, and even cops who cheered me on!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Talk about timing...

"When you are well prepared to meet the demands of a race, not only will your race probably go well, but your recovery should go smoothly, too."-- Susan Paul, running coach and exercise physiologist

This is printed at the bottom of this week's page in my running journal...yeahhh. It is race week, and I am suddenly reminded of how awful things went last year. I took a whole year off from the half marathon distance because of how terrible the race and recovery were last spring at the Joplin Memorial Run. Just reading that at the bottom of the page also makes every run I have skipped flash before my eyes. That includes the run I skipped today due to the spring downpour this morning.

I know that the quote is right, which I why I am so scared. I know that the race ambiance and course should be great. I have obviously never run the Delaware Running Festival before, but I can tell that the race directors take great pride in the event they put on. With this being the 10th anniversary, I know that it will only add to all the great things they normally have for the runners. This means that if the race doesn't go well, that I can only blame myself. And I NEED this race to go well. First off, I have one week off before I begin training for my first marathon! What the heck? I am about to train for a marathon! Secondly, I basically forced my fiance to run this race with me, and I really want him to love running, I would say as much as I do, but maybe I should shoot for half as much as I do, and I am banking on this race to convince him.

Ready or not, the race is four short days away. I will give a full report sometime after the race. I would like to say later that day, but there is a chance that all I will want to do is nap afterward. Then again, the race high might kick in for me to blog. Either way, in the near future, you can look forward to a race recap and the official announcement of the charity that I will be running for as I train for and run my first marathon.

Tomorrow also marks my two year running anniversary!! Happy anniversary to me! I didn't keep a running/mileage journal all year, but I have logged more than 100 miles just training for my race this weekend. You can read my one year recap if you are interested.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Running with Scissors

I have spent way too much money lately on running gear. At the same time, I have really been wanting either a medal hanger or bib display book. When I looked at one of my favorite websites, I realized that the cost was more than what I wanted to spend at this time. I also know that I will want to sign up for more small races this summer, but I am pretty sure that my fiance will have to remind me soon that we are still saving for our wedding if I keep spending money on race entries and running gear and whatnot. That is why I decided to spend my evening making my own medal hanger as my relaxing activity after our 10 miler yesterday.

I have never been all that creative or crafty. It is funny because people kind of expect me to be, or they assume that crafting would be my kind of thing, but the truth is that I suck at it. I had some projects from my 4-H craft class win some blue ribbons when I was a kid, but really, the teacher did most of the work over my shoulder as I sat quietly watching. It could be because I had a small accident in the flower arranging class the year before...there was a hot glue gun involved. And when I had to take mandatory junior high art class, my dad went to the teacher during conference night for a report. I think he mainly went to see her because my brother also had her that year, and he was....well...Joe. The teacher had other siblings from my family in the past, and she asked my dad why the talented kids weren't the ones in art class. She was more than right.

However, I think my project turned out better than I would have projected knowing my skills and ability level. I didn't get too fancy or anything, but I had some good, cheap fun. The best part is that Matt and I now have a place to hang medals. I didn't realize till afterward that it will be completely full in two weeks when we run the Delaware Half. Oh well! Maybe I will just have to extend "RUN" to RUNNER."

Make Your Own
Materials: Wooden letters, acrylic paint, scissors, old Runner's World issues, mod podge, and  small screw-in hooks.

Steps: Paint letters. Cut out scraps to decorate and lay on letters for placing. Mod podge on the clippings. Screw hooks in the bottom of the letters. Hang and display race bling.

Cost: Materials were under $10, and it only took about an hour to make.