Saturday, September 24, 2011

It's the Little Things

Sometimes it's the simplest little things that make you realize all the hard work is totally worth it.

I've always liked how running helps me clear my head, and I like long runs even more since it's even more time for all the weird thoughts running through my head to sort themselves out. Green Lakes was quiet, peaceful and as always, beautiful at 8 am this morning. Even with the 70+ other runners, it was the perfect mix of supportive nods, smiles, good mornings and solitary running time.

At one point, running all alone on a stretch of road completely surrounded by trees, I saw a deer standing in the road about 20 yards ahead of me. It just looked up, stared me down, then calmly turned and walked into the woods. At other times there were beautiful views of the hills around Syracuse, leaves just starting to turn. I can only imagine how beautiful it will be 2 weeks from now when we hit the park again. I'm going to be sure to bring my camera.

But the one thought that made its way into my head and stuck there today, was how good I felt on this run. It occurred to me that this is what Kevin's running program is all about. Sure, the seemingly endless lists of people PRing are wonderful, and I'll fully admit to feeling my share of pride every time I crack another one or hear of someone else smashing one of theirs. But the way I felt this morning? Like I could run forever? This is why you put in your time day in and day out, week after week. When your base is big enough, strong enough that you feel really, really good out on a long run. It totally makes the hard work worth it. No crowd cheering at the finish line necessary.

Even when the elevation profile of said run looks like this:

Friday, September 23, 2011


It's time to talk about that mission to eat a little healthier I talk about in my bio.

It's not something I worry about constantly. I don't count calories, apples are my favorite food, I can't stand fried food (to the point it makes me nauseous just to smell it), don't eat red meat or pork, love veggies of all kinds and even tofu. Plus, although I like to bake cakes, I don't like the texture and rarely eat them.

Yet, I still have some really bad habits that I slip back into every once and a while that just make me feel gross. Namely, my snacking habits. I go through phases where I just feel like I'm constantly eating. It's been worse since I made the move home about three weeks ago. Just because there's more food in the house in general, plus the stuff I never bought myself that's here because I have a 16-year-old sister.

So after about a week of hating myself for the way I was treating my body, I finally sought out some advice from the one person I can tell these things. And what she had to say really made me stop and think. But as usual, she was right :)

I want to be clear about one thing. I wasn't given diet advice. I wasn't asking for diet advice. I still have no intention of counting calories or completely abstaining from anything I love. It's about being sensible and thinking consciously about the fuel I'm giving my body to get me through long days or work, coaching and working out. I wanted to form new habits before the old ones became a problem.

It turns out I wasn't eating enough at the right times, hence the snacking and the bloating feeling.

So I'm adding more protein and carbs at breakfast and lunch, so I'm fueled up for coaching and my workouts (which have had to move to the afternoons during the fall). Hopefully it'll also mean that I can eat a little less at dinner and not snack before bed. Which, in turn, I'm hoping means I'm not as hungry in the morning when I wake up.

I started this Thursday morning, by having egg whites, lettuce and salsa in a whole wheat tortilla. Oatmeal at 10, since I wake up too early to make it all the way to lunch without a snack. Lunch was greek yogurt, granola, grapes and an apple (which I know is not enough but it was what we had in the house!). Grabbed an apple and a half of a PBJ on my way out the door to coach. Dinner was this awesome kale, butternut squash and gnocchi dish that I have to share the recipe for. It was only one day but I definitely feel like these are habits I can stick with.

And I felt great. I wasn't hungry at work, and I had a great run. It just feels really good. I know this was all stuff I knew, but getting a reminder makes it easier to make smart decisions. Hopefully it sticks! I really don't want to fall back on those old habits, but that's why I'm putting it out here for all to see.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Fall Favorites...And Did Someone Say Marathon?

Things I love about fall: crisp mornings giving way to warm afternoons, bright blue skies, temps that call for runs in tights and long sleeves, pumpkin anything (lattes, muffins, you name it) and soup bubbling away on the stove on a Sunday afternoon.

It’s always a crazy time of year for me but I love being busy. It’s taking every ounce of willpower I have to fit 6 days of running in a week. Wait. Willpower is the wrong word. I want to run, and I’m full of fresh inspiration to get my miles in now that I’m set on this Marathon thing (and I’ve just decided that from now on that word should always be capped).

On another Marathon note…Tel Aviv Marathon? Sounds perfect for me. Flat, fast, in one of my favorite places in the world. But if I’m going to travel do I want to go somewhere I’ve never been? Or is the comfort factor a good thing?

Ok. Sorry about the tangent. This Picking A Marathon thing is consuming me. It seems like Such. A. Big. Deal. But really, why does it feel that way? I don’t think I’m being very picky, I’m fully committed to doing it, but nothing feels “right.” I keep thinking if I just keep looking I’ll find something better. But really? Better is anyone’s guess at this point. It’s too far out to know if the weather is going to be ideal, and everyone’s race experience is so different. One person’s too crowded could be another’s lonely.

Oy. So anyways. Back to the reason it’s been difficult for me to squeeze my runs in. (Difficult yes, impossible, no. I haven’t missed one yet. Success!) I’m up at 5:15, at work by 6:30. Leave the office at 3 and head over to the high school. Coach from 3:30-5:30. Monday and Wednesday I like to go to Boot Camp at 6. So I can squeeze in the first 10-12 minutes of my daily run between practice and Boot Camp, then I count the time we spend running during class, then I head out from Inertia at 7 to make up the rest of the time. Home by 7:30 to make dinner, shower and crash. It’s not ideal but it works.

It also means that I’m going to be floating my rest days around based on our meet schedule. I got really used to speed work Thursday, rest day Friday, long run Saturday and loved how I felt rested and ready to run on Saturday. Last week was perfect since we had an away meet on Friday. I’m hoping I might be able to fit 40 minutes in before our home meet this Thursday since it’s not till 5, which will mean I still get to take Friday as a rest day. So it’s all good. I’m learning about flexibility and there's no pressure right now since I'm not officially training for anything. It also makes me glad that I'll have from November to January to slowly increase my daily minutes without increasing my long runs. Then come January it’s officially Time To Get Serious, a.k.a. Marathon Training Time! I can’t wait!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Goals, Commitment and a Super Awesome Un-Recipe

I didn't do any writing this week, but I did do a ton of thinking.

And I'm feeling like I can say I have a rough idea of what my goals are for this coming year. I really have to look at a calendar and see if it is at all feasible, but this going to be the year of go big or go home. Either that or I just have no patience and a need to do it all.

In the past, I've never given the marathon much thought at all. If someone mentioned it, I'd say, "no way!" as fast as I could. But the hype around Boston Marathon registration week was enough to get me curious. I know they are dropping the qualifying standards by a lot for next year, but I was curious. I guess you could say I got bit by the BQ bug. So I plugged my most recent 5k time into the Runner's World SmartCoach app, added my weekly mileage and requested a moderate training plan. (I'm not planning on using it, it's just a neat app that will give you a fairly accurate estimate of how fast you can expect to finish based on prior race times). It spit out a 3:33:00. So I looked up Boston's age-graded qualification chart for the 2013 race, and sure enough, for 18-34-year-old females, you need to run a 3:35:00 to qualify.

That was all the motivation I needed. Just to know that I could be close, was enough to push me to try. I also have no doubt that thanks to Kevin's training, I'll be faster before I even start to seriously train. So barring any thing weird, my goal for my first marathon is going to be to qualify for Boston. Go big or go home, right? Kevin is pointing me towards an April/May race, specifically two over Memorial Day weekend. Vermont City or Ottawa. I'm heard good things from people who have done Vermont City, but Ottawa sounds great as well.

So a May marathon is on the calendar. But I'm going big this year so I think a half Ironman is going on as well. I'm leaning towards the Timberman in New Hampshire. It's late August, so it's enough time that I can still do Iron Girl and maybe one other, even after taking some time to recover from the marathon. I don't know. I also want to do Israman in 2013, and thought that having that be my first 1/2 Iron would be really symbolic and meaningful. Who knows? That one is still a ways away and there are a ton of logistics that go into that one. Including getting my bike to Israel and the small problem of training through the fall and beginning of winter.

Ok so those are my big rocks for this year. What's on your list?

Oh! And that Un-Recipe I promised? I'm currently obsessed and it's super healthy to boot.
Baked Tofu!
Drain and rinse a block of extra firm tofu.
Lay a towel on a rimmed dinner plate, set the tofu on top, then cover with another plate and something heavy on top (a can of pumpkin is perfect). Leave it for 30 minutes.
Mix up a marinade. I started with about a 1/4 cup of low sodium soy sauce, some Garlic Expressions Dressing and Peanut Sauce. (It was delish, especially with the sesame seeds we added before baking, but a little to salty for my taste.) There's a batch with Dino BBQ sauce marinating in the fridge right now.
You can use anything you like. Olive oil, salt and pepper would be good, too.
Let the tofu soak up the marinade for a least 30 minutes. (Overnight works, too)
Cover a baking sheet with foil and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Lay the tofu out on your baking sheet in a single layer.
Bake, flipping every 10 minutes (I'm not sure this is necessary but the recipe I reference said to do it), for anywhere between 20-45 minutes. It gets chewier and denser the longer you cook it. That's it!

It is great for snacking on (my sister and I finished a whole brick today), salads and I imagine it would be great in a stir-fry, too. We didn't have any left for that! I'm going to make a sandwich out of the BBQ version that's marinating now. Let me know if you try it and what you marinated it in!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

ARC 5K - Another Check Mark

I woke up yesterday morning to find an absolutely perfect day for a race. Gorgeous, sunny and not too hot, I was ready to run! I wasn’t planning on going out super hard, trying to win or anything crazy like that. I just wanted to know if I was fully back in shape after my break in May and how the triathlon training had affected my running. I got my answers. I’m definitely back in shape and the triathlon training made me stronger. I finished the ARC 5K in 21:59 (a new PR) and actually won my age group! I’ve never done that before so it felt really cool to be able to check off another secret goal (to win something).

The PR was what was really most important to me though. Not only had I taken a break right after my last 5K PR (Race for the Cure), but I also had someone pacing me through it. Ever since, I’ve wondered if I could have accomplished that 22:04 by myself. Did I have the mental toughness? Could I focus long enough? Yup, I did and I can!

Knowing that this race was just a test of my fitness, I felt no stress, panic or anxiety going into it like I normally do. At Iron Girl, Race for the Cure, Mountain Goat and even to some extent at the Teal There’s a Cure 5K, I was putting serious pressure on myself to perform, to place, to PR or even just to prove that Kevin’s training was working.

But what I found yesterday is that going into a race with no pressure, running just for me and just for fun, I’ll still see results as long as I’ve been putting the work. And that’s what matters. Yes, my inner competitiveness still comes out a little once I start running and I’ll pick someone up ahead to try and catch or pass, but starting relaxed is the key for me. As long as I haven’t given that race anxiety time to build before I even start running, I can use it to my advantage.

Yesterday was the first time I’ve ever run the ARC race. It’s never been on my radar before but a friend got me an entry so I figured, why not? It was a nice race (flat out and back), plus there is a half marathon also. The half starts 10 minutes before the 5K, so we got to cheer them on as they headed out. Then, timing works out perfectly as almost all the 5Ker’s are done right before the fastest guys finish the half. We got to see Kevin win the half marathon by more than 2 minutes! It was so cool to see. I couldn’t stay for awards but I heard he gave away his medal to a disabled child. That I wish I could have seen, so heartwarming!  

Friday, September 9, 2011

Pressing Restart

With my tri season over and nothing specific to train for, this week felt like a reboot. And it was exactly what I needed. The timing couldn’t have worked out better. I finished the Skinnyman on Saturday morning with a run that felt suspiciously like a tempo. Exactly the workout I’d missed during my taper. I filled in that last spot on my training log with a successful race and turned it in for a new one.

So I’m starting fresh with a new group of runners (um, hello, Thursday night group? Where were you yesterday?), a new training plan and some time to slowly build my mileage while staying healthy. Then it’ll be time to pick my new goal race. I’m torn. Half-Ironman? Marathon? 1:45 Half-marathon?

But it can wait. I’m running the ARC 5K tomorrow morning. Just for fun. No time goal this time. It’s supposed to be a perfect morning for a race. Then next week I have my volunteer spot for the Syracuse Ironman 70.3. I can’t wait. I wonder if I’ll get re-bit by the tri bug? If it’ll make me want to do that race next year? We’ll see. I’m just going to experience the environment and cheer on my crazy friends who made the commitment for this year. Win-Win. :)

Monday, September 5, 2011

A Bittersweet Ending - Skinnyman Race Report!

My tri season is officially over. And while it seemed to be heading downhill faster than a speeding bullet post Iron Girl, it ended on a really positive note with the Skaneateles Skinny Man triathlon. I went into the race well rested and not planning on racing too hard. I just wanted to have fun so I could end the year on a tri high. It worked! I was so much more relaxed than I was for Iron Girl. I can’t wait for next year and I’m already getting re-energized to plan out my training for the off season.

So Saturday morning Laura and I woke up bright and early (4 am!) and headed off to Skaneateles for the Skinnyman triathlon. A really nice volunteer we had talked to the night before said we should be there by 4:45 to get a good parking spot and a prime bike spot. Well needless to say we were the first ones there and they wouldn’t let us into transition right away. We waited around for a couple of minutes before we saw a few other people walk into transition, so we followed them in and got GREAT bike spots, right on the end of two different rows. Then we got checked in, body marked and went to spend some time relaxing in the car. 

After a few minutes my nerves got the best of me and I couldn’t sit still any longer, so we went to set up our transition areas and stretch. The time leading up to the race went pretty quickly after that. Luckily our new friend the volunteer had let us in on a little secret—the hotel across the street from the transition area has a back door that they leave open. It leads right to a very, very clean bathroom that never had more than two people waiting in line. Score one for the Sherwood! It may have been my first ever race experience where I didn’t have to use a porta-potty (or wait in line to pee in the woods. Yes. You should ask me about that some day.). Hallelujah!

So if clean bathrooms are a part of the equation, then point to Skinnyman. Getting the race started on time? Not so much. They started funneling everyone into the water at about 7:25, and the first wave was supposed to go off at 7:30. I think it was closer to 7:45 before they got us started. So my wave didn't go off until about 7:55. And the water was cold! Cold and really, really choppy. No white caps, but close. I was nervous, but the prospect of a current to help propel me forward on the way in was nice. So yea, the swim was tough, but nothing terrible. I just kept reminding myself that this was fun and to just keep swimming. did a great job on the swim. It was a well organized race overall, but the swim was above and beyond anything I’ve ever done. There were tons of buoys, so you never really lost sight of where you were heading next. They also had plenty of kayaks and even divers under the surface to make sure nothing went wrong. It made you feel very safe. I was much more aggressive on this swim than in the Iron Girl. I didn’t let anyone take advantage of me and I used my legs a lot more (which really helped keep people off of me!). Before I knew it I was back on solid ground, thanks to the super helpful volunteers who were there to give you hand so you didn’t slip coming up the stairs out of the water. Time: 14:53

The swim to bike transition was my fastest ever: 1:30! The fact that the transition area was smaller and the distances were shorter definitely helped, but I was definitely quicker in drying off and getting my shoes on. Race

Heading out for the bike I had a hard time getting clipped in, but it didn’t really matter since there was a long no passing zone from transition until we made the turn onto 41A. I was stuck behind a woman who was pretty slow and it was hard to stay behind her once I got clipped in. I flew past her as soon as we made the turn and started pushing to build up some speed. I felt really, really winded. Not swimming for the last two weeks before the race had really done a number on my fitness. And that bike course is steep! There were definitely a few places (like right smack in the middle of some of the steepest hills) where I all but gave up. Smallest gear, MPH at about 7 or 8 and cadence at practically nothing, but it never lasted long. There was a guy I kept trading back and forth with, which kept me from completely giving up. That and seeing my computer register 39 MPH on a downhill. That was pretty cool. Soon enough we were making the last turn back on the West Lake Road and heading for home. Time: 45:10. A full 4 minutes faster than I ever did the course on our Saturday morning rides! The only problem was that I almost forgot to slip my feet out of my shoes before I got the dismount line. Luckily I managed to do it pretty quickly and even heard someone call out how cool it was that I was barefoot! I guess that’s what I get for not practicing transition at all since the Iron Girl. Whoops!

I knew going into this race that I really wanted to run strong. I practically sprinted out of transition, before remembering that the first mile was uphill and I should probably save something for it. My first mile was a little slower than I would have liked (8:28), but I made up for it on the second (7:30). There were some weird things going through my head on the run. Things like running hard enough to puke at the finish line (thank G-d that didn’t happen, I HATE throwing up!). I passed a few coworkers and even my 8th grade English teacher on the run. She told me to go ahead when I passed her for the third time and that she was proud of me. So cute! As we came down the last hill about a quarter mile from the finish I started to pick up speed. I had found another gear and all the sudden felt really great. I noticed a guy up in front of me and decided I was going to out kick him to the finish. Kevin, you’d be proud! He heard me coming and started pushing, but I was able catch him. We were locked in a dead heat coming up to the finish but I pulled ahead of him just before we crossed the line. I was sprinting so fast I was afraid I was going to fall flat on my face. It felt like my feet were barely touching the ground. The spectators loved it and the photographer from Brightroom was laughing as he clicked away. I can’t wait to see those pictures! My run time was 24:50. I was a little disappointed but super excited to find out I had finished in under an hour and a half! 1:27:13 to be exact.

I wound placing 3rd in my age group! I was super happy with that, especially since I had really fallen off the training wagon for the two weeks leading up to the race. I even got a glass. It was pretty cool to see Lisa and her relay crew take first of all the relay teams. Way to go girls! Then I headed back up to the finish line to watch Laura finish her first tri! Despite the mountain bike and never having done the open water swim she did it and surprise! She’s still talking to me and we’re still friends. Our parents were making me think that might not be the case. She just might not listen to me so quickly the next time I come up with some crazy idea for us to do.

Ok. Holy wow that got long. I'm gonna have to finish adding pictures tomorrow. I’ve got a 5k this weekend, but them I’ve got to sit down and figure out my off-season training. I want to go to age-group nationals next year. Anyone know how you get into that?