A bit aboooot my run comuuute!

I’ve done a couple run commutes since I started my new Big Girl Job in August, and some people on my running forum were curious about it, so I thought I’d do a blog post about why I run to/from work and what I do to make it work. So onward!

Why I Run Commute
The first time I ran to and from work, it was out of necessity. I moved into a new place August 31/Sept 1, but since my lease didn’t start until Sept 1, I couldn’t get my parking permit until that day, so I had nowhere to park my car on August 31. So I parked my car at work, ran home from the office, and then ran back to work the next morning.

I decided to do another run commute this week (Wednesday night work to home, Thursday morning home to work) because it was a convenient way to get my doubles in. I’ve just started my marathon training again now that my calf is A-OK, which means doubles on Wednesday and doubles on Thursday. Running home from work means I get my run in a little earlier, because I don’t have to drive home, prep and head out. And running to work on Thursday nets me a little extra sleep because I don’t have to shower and drive to work after the run. Convenient!

My office is “only” 4-4.5 miles from my house, and there’s sidewalks the entire way, so it’s a safe and easy route to add into my routine. There’s no reason for me NOT to do it!

img_4745
Plus my commute route is really pretty. Just a perk!

How I Prepare to Run Commute
I don’t have a running backpack or anything, so my run commute takes quite a bit of planning ahead. Usually early in the week (Sunday or Monday), I make a large meal that I take into work through the week for lunches. This week, I’d made a crockpot of chili, so on Wednesday I brought two lunches to work, ate one on Wednesday, and kept the other for Thursday in the work fridge. I like to eat my chili with scoop chips, so I kept a bag of them at my desk at work. I also tend to eat breakfast at work, so I have a drawer at my desk filled with flavored almonds and dried fruit which I snack on through the morning, so no need to bring breakfast on my commute!

img_4767

Above are the essentials of my run commute (with a few essentials missing because they were too essential for the picture). As you can see, I’ve got a running outfit for running from the office to home: shorts, bra, shirt, shoes, socks, my Garmin. Then I’ve got a work outfit for post-run: jeans, moccs, bra, shirt. I leave that outfit at work overnight to change into in the morning. These are pretty simple.

Then I’ve got a small towel to dry off before heading to the bathroom to freshen up when I get in. I take with me the little pouch in the lower right-hand corner, dry shampoo, a hair dryer (not pictured), deodorant (not pictured), and Nathan shower wipes (also not pictured; they live in my desk at work). In my little work pouch, which I stuff in my bag every day, I have chap stick, eye liner, mascara, hair ties, bobby pins, among other things like ibuprofen, bandaids, floss… anything I could possibly need, basically.

In the work bathrom, I get into a handicap stall and wipe down with the shower wipes (I got a pack of 15 for $4.99 at my local running store) and change into the fresh clothes. Then I blow-dry my sweaty hair, use some dry shampoo, put on makeup and deodorant, and put my hair up. Then bam! Ready to work!

img_4747

When I run to and from work, I have to wear my Oiselle distance shorts. I love my stride shorts, but they don’t have big enough pockets. When I go to/from the office, I need to bring my car/house keys, my ID and a credit card, and my phone. All those fit in the distance short pockets no problem. Above is the commute outfit I wore from home to work on Thursday morning… looking pretty good!

img_4754
View from the morning commute.

Do you run to or from work? What are your essentials?

It’s been a while…

I’ve been pretty incommunicado on my blog since the marathon. I’ve heard rumors of  post-marathon blues/depression/funk, but I’ve never really truly felt it until this go around. While the race was fine — I wish I’d done better — I wasn’t really upset about it. I made up my mind pretty quickly to run another race on May 29: the Vermont City Marathon in Burlington. However, last week I firmly decided against it, and here’s why:

I needed a break.

Looking back, I trained hard August-November last year, then as soon as my hamstring recovered in mid-late December, I was back at it with 35-40 mile weeks, and shortly after I bumped up to 55 mile weeks in late January and never looked back. The fewest monthly miles I’ve run in the past 9 months was 110 miles, when I was injured/recovering last December. My legs need a break from training, but so does my brain.

img_2836Beautiful sunrises do help me get out the door though.

So I’ve been laying low. I’ve only been going to group runs for the last two weeks and keeping my mileage around 24-28 miles per week. It’s been hard because my heart just hasn’t been in it. I’ve been out in the middle of a run — doesn’t matter how far: 5 miles, 10 miles, whatever — and suddenly I just don’t want to be running anymore. I want to be at my desk getting work done, or in my bed taking a nap, or back home eating breakfast. After a few runs like this, I definitively crossed Vermont City off my “to do” list and decided I needed to take care of my brain before I could get back to running full steam ahead.

img_2889-1

Instead of running a million miles per week solo like I’m used to doing, I’ve been going to group runs — that gets me out the door at least — and I volunteered at a race last weekend instead of running it (see the lovely, neon yellow course marshal vest above!). I’m trying to reclaim my “happy running” feelings, but it’s been tough. I’m trying to be supportive of my other running friends, but my involvement on my running forum on MyFitnessPal has definitely tapered in off the last few week (sorry, MFPals!).

img_3075
Big group run of 13 x 1 mile hill repeats… we’re crazy!

I think what’s making this running funk even more difficult is the fact that I have so many major, real life stressors right now. I am meant to be finishing my thesis, but I defered my degree to September for a whole host of reasons. Primarily, because I really, truly, desperately need to focus on getting a job. I’ve been applying to jobs like a madwoman: jobs in Princeton, Philadelphia, D.C. and NYC. It’s just taking forever to hear back from anyone, so I’m in this awful “wait and see” limbo in which I can’t do anything  real world productive… like find a place to live, since my university lease ends June 30. Everytime these thoughts cross my mind while I’m running, my energy is zapped and I feel guilty for taking the time for myself when I should be working on applications. I know that’s silly, but that’s the way my brain is working right now. So I’m just trying to run enough to keep my stress level manageable.

Hopefully I’ll be back at it in 1-2 weeks with regular updates and a new zest for training, but for right now, I’m in a definite slump, and I’m just going to have to ride it out. I’ve got too much on my plate to even let myself feel bad about not running 50-60 miles a week again (yet) or for not even wanting to run most days. Plus, with all these rest days and low mileage, my legs are the peppiest they’ve been in almost a year. It feels great to get up in the morning and not hobble to my coffee maker!

I hope everyone’s spring–>summer running and/or training is going well!

5 (Atypical) Pieces of Marathon Advice

Going into my fourth 26.2 this Sunday at the New Jersey Marathon, I’ve decided to write up some of my advice that I haven’t heard/read over and over elsewhere. I’m no expert, but I know a lot of other people racing on 4/30 and 5/1 too, so maybe this can be helpful to other people who are also suffering taper crazies and marathon anxieties 🙂

Advice the First: Always bring an extra gel.
No matter what your favorite marathon fuel happens to be, no matter what, on race day, BRING AN EXTRA. You may think from your training runs that you know exactly how many gels you’ll need to go 26.2. But let me tell you a story.

When I ran the 2015 Philadelphia Marathon, I figured I’d need four gels. But I’d packed five in my overnight bag so I figured, “What the heck? I’ll bring the last one. Don’t want it to get lonely!” And this turned out to be a very fortunate decision when at mile 21 I ripped the top off my fourth gel and… nothing. It wasn’t open. The tear-off was just a little bit misaligned. So I angrily threw the traitorous gel aside and pulled out my fifth and EXTRA gel… and miracle of miracles!! Gel emerged! Sweet, delicious, life-giving gel!

Lesson: Always bring an extra gel. It may give you an extra boost or it may save you from a major crash when your final gel of the day betrays you!

Advice the Second: Lube. Everywhere.
Body Glide. Vaseline. Deodorant. I don’t care what you use. Spread it everywhere. I’ve finished three marathons chafe-free and let me tell you how. Vaseline in my arm pits. On my thighs. Slathered on my feet. Under my sports bra. EVERYWHERE. I’ve learned in the past that even if I don’t chafe during training, that extra 4-6 miles on race day can often produce unique and painful hot-spots later. Play it safe: lube everything.

On a related note to spreading stuff all over your body: sunscreen is good too. Highly recommend.

Advice the Third: Make a mantra and stick with it.
I have some mantras that I will think on repeat when the going gets tough. Some remind me to stay tall and (relatively) light on my feet. One of these is “Butterflies,” which I stole from Bill Rogers after reading his memoir. Also just repeating the word “strong” in my head helps.

Some are inspirational or encouraging. “You can do it.” “Why not me?” “Feeling good.”

And lately, a line from Hamilton pops into my head during the hard parts of a workout: “Hercules Mulligan, I need no introduction; you knock me down, I get the fuck back up again!” Since this marathon is largely redemption for me after struggling to run-walk and finish Philly last fall (after my legs started cramping intermittently starting at mile 15/16), this line gets me super pumped.

But honestly, in the final miles of a marathon, nothing beats (for me), simply muttering, “Fuck fuck fuck” to myself. Swearing is a special kind of catharsis that relieves the pain of 26.2 — even if only momentarily.

Advice the Fourth: Visualization is key.
Something that helps me a lot in the last miles of a long run or at the end of a hard race is visualization. I visualize coming across the finish line strong. I visualize the food I’m going to eat and the sweet, sweet blue G2 Gatorade I’m going to drink. I will also (and this may sound a bit crazy) visualize friends or family running with me, cheering for me just ahead, or waiting for me at the finish line. Thinking about people who are near and dear to me gives me a little extra push when I’d rather just give up, lay on the ground, and take a nap.

Advice the Fifth: Gear check/bag check is your friend.
I was texting with a running buddy the other day, and he told me that he has never once checked a bag for a race. I was shocked. And so here I am to tell you that gear check is your friend! Especially for a long race like a marathon, and double-especially if you’re going to be hanging around for a while (without access to your car/home) waiting for others to finish, before going to lunch, etc.

For a marathon, here’s what typically goes in my gear check bag:

  • A change of shoes (or at least fresh socks): By the end of a marathon your feet are GROSS and in desperate need of a change of scenery. I can’t wear flip-flops post-race without major foot cramps, so I usually go for my well-worn pair of Toms.
  • A jacket and possibly sweatpants: Depends on the weather, but I guarantee that once your sweat starts to dry and if you’re going to lunch in an air-conditioned restaurant, you’ll want something to keep you warm.
  • A change of clothes: Always a good idea to bring a change of clothes if you won’t be getting home or to your hotel for a while. Fresh clothes means less time sitting around in stinky, sweaty clothes feeling disgusting.
  • Baby wipes: Wanna go above and beyond in feeling fresh? BABY WIPES. Wipe that grime off your face, out of your pits, off your feet, etc. It feels so, so good.
  • Gatorade and a protein bar: Races give you bottled water and maybe a cup of Gatorade, but that is never enough for me. I almost always bring a giant bottle of G2 (or two smaller 20 oz bottles) to guzzle post-race as well as my own snack because I never ever feel like eating a banana, a giant pretzel, or a bag of chips after a race, but I can certainly stomach a chocolatey protein bar.
  • Money, ID, keys, phone: If you can’t fit these things in your shorts, you gotta have ‘em in your gear check bag for reunions, beer tents, and post-race food. I keep my keys on a lanyard, so I toss that in my gear check bag rather than have a key jingling in my pocket for several hours. Usually if my phone is going in gear check, I put it in a case and then wrap it up in my jacket just in case the bag gets stepped on. I’m never really worried about theft, just breakage, though I do try to keep the valuables out of sight.

Hopefully these are some tips that you haven’t read on every single running website and advice column. Do you have any good “lesson learned” stories? What other tips and tricks do you have for race day?

Don’t Get Me Started On Women’s Running Shorts…

This has been a blog post many years in the making. This post is about women’s running shorts, pockets, and my decade-long struggle with both. I have been running half-marathons since high school, and so I have spent the last 10 years watching the sports apparel industry slowly catch up with the needs of long-distance runners — heck, women runners of all distances!

To preface: I have huge legs. Like, seriously huge. And they’re basically all muscle. One of my friends recently told me I have “cartoonishly muscular legs.” My thighs are probably bigger than most of the thighs of the men I run with, and my calves are, simply put, gigantic. But make no mistake: I am super proud of my giant legs — seeing them at work in race photos is one of the greatest pleasures in my life — yet that doesn’t mean I don’t hate searching for shorts to accommodate them! On with the saga:

When I first started running, pretty much the only shorts I had and could find that were socially acceptable were Nike tempo shorts. It was virtually the only short anyone on my high school cross-country team wore. Sometimes longer, loose-leg shorts could be found, but it was mostly those round-edged tempo shorts. And I loathed them. Firstly, they always ended up bunched up above my inner-thigh chafe-zone and I had to keep pulling them out of a vagina wedgie every 30 seconds. Second, they also only had one tiny pocket in the liner that was house key-sized. I’m not sure who decided that was all the storage space women needed, but that was the standard for most of my high school running experience.

DSC03574
I spent a lot of this race pulling shorts out from between my thighs.

Then when I started running half-marathons, I switched to some Adidas shorts that were a bit longer — less ride-up, and if they did my thighs didn’t start a friction fire — and had a rear zip pocket. Yes, one single pocket. My dad had race shorts with 3 pockets, but the best women’s apparel makers had was a singular pocket. For a brief time, I wore men’s shorts solely for more room to carry gels and my phone, but they just weren’t as comfortable because they are cut differently than women’s shorts.

[I can’t find a good picture of these, which is sad, because I wore the crap out of them.]

At some point in college, I switched over to tight shorts because I was so tired of dealing with shorts riding up between my thighs til they looked like underpants. I wore tight shorts with 5-6” inseams because those were the only ones that didn’t roll up on my big ol’ thighs. However one problem with tight shorts is that if you were shopping at your local Dick’s Sporting Goods and not scouring the depths of Amazon.com: GOOD LUCK FINDING ANY WITH SOME GOD DAMN POCKETS. Because God forbid women have to carry things out on a run like keys or an ID! This was especially annoying as a college student because I had to carry a key and an ID card everywhere with me or else I couldn’t get back into my building post-run.

Then I found the perfect short: Saucony Ignite Tight Shorts. I’ve used and abused two (well-loved and miraculously long-lasting) pairs of these babies in the 2 years that I’ve been running marathons, and they are amazing. Long inseam, no roll, no chafe, big enough to hold my iPhone 4 as well as some gels, and by then I was using a hand-held bottle for on-the-go hydration so the rest of my gels could fit in the zip pocket on the water bottle. But sadly, I realized this spring that my beautiful relationship with the Ignite shorts had to end… why? Because I upgraded my stupid phone!

Screen Shot 2015-05-31 at 9.37.02 PM
But look how great my legs look in the Ignite shorts! I still love them and wear them on everyday runs.

One big drawback to the increasing size of cell phones is that they don’t fit in running short pockets, almost across the board. I hate running with a waist pack (tight straps around my waist make me feel, uh… intestinally nauseous) and I hate running with an arm band even more. But I like to have my phone on my person at races for immediate post-race texting and instagramming.

And so began my Spring 2016 Shorts Crisis Race Shorts Search.

Because I needed to put gels and my giant phone somewhere during my upcoming marathon, I tried so many shorts. I needed something to miraculously fit all my needs. And thank goodness for Running Warehouse’s fast shipping and generous return policy as well as Amazon’s super quick return-refund policy.

First I tried Saucony Bullet tight shorts. I tried these last fall actually before Philly (I ended up running in Bullet capris, with the amazing cargo pockets on the legs, but this was pre-phone upgrade when my iPhone 4 fit in the back zip pocket), and they were comically un-wearable. I put them on, looked hella cute and took a selfie, then went outside and ran .05 of a mile in them before I came right back inside to change because they had turned into underwear. Nothing makes you feel more like a cow/whale/other giant animal than having your thighs immediately gush out of a pair of shorts when you begin to move. Back to Amazon they went!

Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 3.40.27 PM
Looking so thrilled, obvi. Like I knew I’d be disappointed only minutes later.

Then this spring I tried Saucony Scoot tight shorts. I was optimistic when viewing them online, but when I got them I was disappointed. The back pocket was ridiculously small — smaller than the Ignite short’s pocket. I could barely fit one gel in Scoot pocket, and definitely not an iPhone 6. I was bummed because they were super cute, but they were not going to work for a marathon. Back they went.

Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 3.42.02 PM
Isn’t that print just to die for though?!

Then I tried Oiselle Toolbelt Rogas. I wanted so so SO badly for these to work. I love Oiselle. I run for a store-affiliated Oiselle team in a Oiselle singlet. The pockets were perfect: gels + phone fit in the back, and my ID and key could fit in the butt-cheek pocket. But then I tested them on a short loop around my complex and it was a no-go. I tried size 6 and size 4; the size 6 barely stayed up once I started moving, no matter how tight I cinched the drawstring. Then I tried the size 4 and I was almost too embarrassed by the fit to go outside. They were incredibly tight through the front, and the seam down the front made it look, uh, obscene. Major camel-toe happening. I tried them out on another complex loop anyway but again: flashing my butt at my neighbors, no doubt. Both had to be returned.

Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 3.42.50 PM
I wanted these to work so badly. LOOK AT THAT. 4 POCKETS!

And then I remembered that one of my favorite instagram runners, bridetoboston, loves Oiselle distance shorts, and I happened to have a pair of distance shorts that I’d gotten last fall to bum around in my apartment… so why not try those? I took them for a spin around the block, and they were surprisingly good for running. Sure, they ride a bit, but that can be cured by some Vaseline, and unlike other loose-leg shorts they never quite make it to underwear-shorts status. But the biggest perk is the pockets; I’d deal with any amount of thigh chub chafe for these pockets. My phone fits easily in the back zip pocket, and the side zippered pocket will easily hold a few gels among other things. I tried them on an 8 mile run the following day and they worked great. It took me a while to get used to air hitting my butt under the loose legs of the shorts after so many years of tight shorts, but the shorts made me feel fast, and once I was sure I wasn’t flashing anyone, I was in love.

Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 3.46.08 PM.png
Distance shorts in action at River Horse 6k! Loved them for the 10 mile run down and they were so light and airy during the race, I swear they made me faster.

So after many online orders, trial runs, and returns… my marathon shorts had been under my nose the whole time. I am excited to be wearing Oiselle distance shorts for my marathon on May 1. I’ll stuff my phone into the back pocket in a plastic bag along with my ID and some cash, put gels and chapstick in the side pocket, and lube up my thighs with Vaseline like crazy. But at least I can rest easy knowing I have shorts that will carry all my shit for 26.2 miles!

Pockets now seem to be way more common with women’s running shorts in the last few years — especially if you aren’t looking for tight shorts — and apparel makers have finally moved past just the house key-only liner pocket.  But as phones get larger and we start carrying more crap out on the run with us, apparel makers are going to struggle to keep up to make their pockets larger and larger. I am sure this will not be my last shorts/pockets crisis in my running career!

And remember, apparel folk: WOMEN NEED POCKETS TOO. I mean, really. We are shamelessly mocked for our huge, over-stuffed purses, and then we get the short end of the stick with running short pockets? Seriously?

Training recap: April 4-10

Last week was a great training week! Let’s recaaaaaap!

Monday, April 4: 3 miles easy
After my hard race the day before (see the Caesar Rodney race recap!), my running buddy and I decided to join our Monday morning group at 6:30 instead of 6, which meant 3 miles instead of 6 big ones. Which we were totally fine with after nabbing huge and leg-tiring PRs one day earlier!

Tuesday, April 5: Rest day
And skipped my core work…… oops.

Wednesday: April 6: 10 miles am / 6 miles pm
10 miles in the morning were frigid! It’s so disheartening to wear your winter fleece-lined leggings in early April. But then my afternoon run was nice and warm and my legs got to breathe in some shorts, so it was all good. Both runs rated 🙂 in my log.

Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 7.29.44 PM
The afternoon run was beyond gorgeous. Light breeze, barely a cloud in the sky.

Thursday, April 7: 7 miles am / 6 miles pm
Speedwork outside in the morning, but a misaligned hip made it a bit difficult. Ended up pacing decently and getting in a really fast final mile (thank you, down-hill mile!). Evening running with my Pacers group was great, and the hip was feeling much better!

Friday, April 8: Rest day
… and skipped my core work again. I think I know why my hips were all wonky!

Saturday, April 9: 22 miles long run
I decided to do my long run on Saturday instead of my usual Sunday so I could tag along with two running buddies on a point-to-point from just outside Princeton to New Brunswick on the tow path (see map).

Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 7.29.05 PM

It was a long haul, but it was good company, we managed to out-run the rain, and then we got burritos! It took ages to catch a train back down to Princeton, and I have taken few hot showers in my life that were more appreciated than this one!

Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 7.29.58 PM
And we stumbled across a Revolutionary War reenactment! It was worth a quick stop.

I got to try some new things on this run: Nuun Energy (lemon-lime flavor) and salt stick caps. I actual like the Nuun Active LL flavor better, but I’ll probably use an Energy one for my race because, you know… every bit of caffeine helps! But I’ve got to say, despite their huge size, the salt stick caps really helped. I usually get awful foot cramps after long runs and sometimes headaches. I took two caps (one at 7-8 miles, one at ~16 miles) and I had ZERO foot cramps post-run and no headache. I’ll definitely be taking 2-3 with me for race day.

Sunday, April 10: 10 miles recovery run
Not gonna lie… it was cold on Sunday morning, so I went to the treadmill and got this one done while watching a childhood favorite on HBO Go: Casper. It was a pretty good running movie — not too much to think about, but entertaining enough to keep my mind occupied. Running on the treadmill kept me going nice and slow, which is just what my legs needed after the long one from the day before. I also got to try out some compression calf sleeves and I liked them! I need to try a longer run in them before I decide if they are marathon-worthy, but I’m leaning toward yes.

Plus, this delicious pancake brunch rounded out my Sunday and training week… ushering in the 3-week tapering period. Totally worth the food coma I was in for most of the afternoon!

Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 7.30.35 PM

Total miles: 64! A new weekly mileage PR and my peak week for this training cycle!

Self-Sabotage Goals and How I’m Trying to Avoid Them

In my Run of the Mill 5k race recap, I mentioned that when I set race goals, I tend to self-sabotage the closer the race gets. For the ROTM 5k, this came in the form of signing up for the race with two very realistic, achievable goals: to run under 22 minutes (a ~20 second PR) and to place #1 in my age group; and then daydreaming even harder goals that left me unhappy with a solid race day performance.

As the race neared, my confidence (or maybe arrogance?) grew. When I signed up all I wanted a sub-22, but in the days leading up to the race I started to dream of 21:30… or 21:15 for a whole minute faster than last fall’s PR… or even a 21 minute 5k, a huge (and totally unrealistic!) improvement. I should note that I don’t actually train for the 5 kilometer distance and my training didn’t support any of this dreaming. On treadmill ladder workouts, I never practiced more than a 6:53 pace as my 5k pace. My mile PR is still in the 6:30s officially. Pacing 6:45 for a 21 minute 5k would take a miracle… and I was going to be running this race at the tail end of a 60 mile training week.

So instead of sticking to my realistic original goal, I had a mental image of crossing the finish line in a triumphant 21:30, and when I came in at 21:56 and first in the 20-29 age group — achieving both of my original goals! — I was a little disappointed in my performance. Despite hitting my goals and running a decent race, I couldn’t find it in myself to be happy about it.
Screen Shot 2016-03-29 at 3.14.33 PM.png
I should look much happier in this photo… I smashed my (original, attainable) goal!

And this happens to me far too often. Last fall, I ran a surprising 1:43:38 at the Princeton Half Marathon in early October. I’d done 10 easy miles the day before and expected to come in at 1:47 or 1:48, so I completely exceeded my own expectations when I snagged a 9.5 minute PR! But then, two weeks later as I toed the line for the half marathon at the Baltimore Running Festival, buoyed by my recent and surprising success, I wanted a sub-1:40. Even though I’d run a 20 miler one week earlier and my race was coming at the end of a 5 day streak (I usually don’t run more than 3 days in a row), and Baltimore charts a hilly, challenging course! In hindsight, sub-1:40 was way outside my reach, but I talked a big game to myself pre-race and was totally let down by my 1:44:24… even though it was less than a minute off the huge PR I set just 13 days earlier!

I have countless examples of times that I ran a race with an A+++ goal in mind, failed to reach this extraordinary (and overambitious) goal, and then felt disappointed in myself for a performance I should have been happy about.

Two of my best races in the last year have come from a totally opposite mentality. Rather than dreaming big, I kept my goals realistic and in tune with my training. Last spring I ran the Minneapolis Marathon thinking I could do 4:20… maybe 4:15 — which would have been a 23+ minute PR from my first marathon (4:43). I was then both blown away and overjoyed when I ended up crossing the finish in 4:04:39 — a 39 minute PR and a time that was beyond my wildest dreams. And I was smiling for days after my 1:43 at the Princeton HM, coming in 5 minutes faster than I had expected. In these cases, I set realistic goals, and when I surpassed those, I was full of pride.

And that is the mentality I want to have as I go about setting goals for my two big races this season: the Caesar Rodney Half Marathon on April 3 (this Sunday!), and the New Jersey Marathon on May 1. Rather than set crazy goals that I’d have to be having a miraculous day to pull off, I want to set goals that I have a real chance of meeting. And I don’t want to inflate those goals the closer race day gets!

So, considering my recent race and training times, here are my realistic and unwavering goals for my spring half and full marathons:

Caesar Rodney Half Marathon, April 3
Goal:
1:38-1:39:59 (7:29-7:37 pace)
I want to break the 1:40 barrier, and I truly think I can do it. A half marathon is the perfect distance for me to dig deep. I do 10 or 12 mile midweek runs every week, so 13.1 doesn’t feel like a foreboding distance anymore. The CR course is pretty flat in the first half, with a long stretch of uphill in the middle (about 2.5 miles), and then a long bit of downhill (3 miles worth) before an incline up to the finish line in the last quarter mile. This is pretty similar to the elevation chart for the Princeton HM, and I tend to do fairly well with hills. I am taking a cutback week the week of the race (my mileage in the 4 weeks leading up to the race has been 58-61 miles, and the week of the race I’m cutting back to “just” 40) so that my legs will be fresh and ready to race the morning of April 3.

However now that the week of the race is here, I can hear myself thinking, “But what about 1:35? How close to that could I get?” And I am shutting that down right away! I am not going to start daydreaming about super fast times. I am going to stick with my 1:38-1:39:xx goal no matter what, because I know that’s a time my training has set me up to run. And looking at the weather forecast, I’ll probably be running in challenging conditions (20-30 mph winds and about 40-45 degrees at the start if I’m lucky!), so it is best to keep my goal very realistic.

New Jersey Marathon, May 1
Goal:
3:26-3:32 (7:52-8:05 pace)
Last fall, I know I was in shape for a 3:40 marathon, had I not gotten injured 10 days pre-race. So this spring I want redemption in the form of a kickass BQ time. 3:32 would get me under the Boston buffer I hope — last year’s cutoff was 2 minutes 28 seconds under qualifying time (and was a record high). I am in much better shape now, both physically and mentally, than I was last fall, and I’m optimistic about how fast I can run a marathon, because lately I’ve been doing tempos at the end of my long runs and meaning to run 7:55-8:00 pace, but hitting 7:40s with ease. 7:45-7:50 seems to be a great cruising speed for me these days, but I don’t want to make a lofty goal of pacing under 7:50 for the whole 26.2. I think something in the 7:50 range will be challenging in the later miles, but achievable — plus I’ve never paced under 9:00 minute miles for a marathon, so I’d love to skip the 8:00s altogether! I’ve got a big taper in my schedule in the two weeks before the race, so fresh legs should yield fast results!

Does anyone else tend to make self-sabotaging goals, and how do you avoid letting it get into your mental game?

What are/were your goal races this spring and how have you gone about setting goals?

Training Recap: March 21-27

As weird and meh as my last training recap was, this week was the total opposite. All my runs were pretty darn spectacular, and it was one of those weeks that reminds me why I do this whole marathon training thing. So let’s recap!

Monday, March 21
6 miles at recovery pace with the Joe to Go crew which went about as well as a recovery run can go: slow, but felt better at the end than I did when we started. In the afternoon, I got my stability work in: single leg balances, single leg calf raises, single leg squats, lunges, squats, sit-ups, and bridges (regular, single leg and extended).

Tuesday, March 22
Rest day! Did my core work in the morning: sit-ups, leg raises, scissors, bicycles, clamshells, push-ups and planks.

Wednesday, March 23
10 miles in the morning, with lots of roving aches, but calf pain was gone! And the roving aches certainly didn’t hold me back. Typically my midweek long run is about a 9:00 pace, but this morning I somehow managed an 8:30 overall pace!

6 miles in the evening in some warm, windy conditions. Somehow ended up running 30 seconds per mile faster than I typically aim to do my afternoon recovery run, so I went to bed with fingers crossed that it wouldn’t affect my Thursday morning speed workout.

Thursday, March 24
8 miles of speedwork on the treadmill in the morning. Paced 8:11 overall, and I decided to try out a wave tempo workout, which I got from this post from NYC Running Mama. My “wave” miles were 7:44, 7:43, 7:41 and 7:40, so spot on! Vascilated between 7:20-7:30 for the half marathon pace half-miles and 7:53-8:00 for marathon pace half-miles. I thought I was going to die on the first wave, but by the last one,  I was feeling strong!

Screen Shot 2016-03-28 at 2.33.13 PM.png

6 miles in the evening with my Pacers store group. We went surprisingly fast and somehow my legs still felt really fresh despite running 30 miles over two days. Great way to end the double down midweek block!

Friday, March 25
Rest day! I did my core work in the morning: sit-ups, bicycles, Russian twists, modified Supermans, bridges, planks, push-ups, lunges and squats.

I did run ONE mile though to try out three pairs of shorts. I would run a lap around my apartment complex and then dash back inside to change shorts. I tried Oiselle Toolbelt Rogas (size 6 and 4) and must be between sizes; the size 6 barely stayed up no matter how tight I cinched the drawcord, and the size 4 felt like I was flashing my butt cheeks to my neighbors. Then I tried on a pair of Oiselle Distance shorts that I’ve been bumming around in for months, and they worked surprisingly well! I vowed to try them on my Saturday run. (I will probably end up writing a blog post about my shorts crisis which required the trying on of 3 pairs of shorts and dashing in and out of my building… sooner than later. I have a lot of opinions about women’s running shorts!)

Screen Shot 2016-03-28 at 2.27.46 PM.png
Tried the Distance shorts with my singlet… and then ordered a second pair in a color that matches a little better!

Saturday, March 26
8 miles with some of the Pacers crew down on the New Jersey Marathon course. We ran 4 miles up from the finish and back. We ran back to the finish against a headwind, which is probably going to be the same case for race day, so it was really good practice. Now I’ll have a clear picture in my head for pre-race visualization practice. I wore the Oiselle Distance shorts (with generous amounts of Vaseline, just in case) and they worked out great! No chafing, and plenty of storage: I put my phone in the rear pocket and could have comfortably put at least 3 gels in the side pocket. I felt really fast in them too, which is a bonus! I ended up pacing 7:58 which is pretty much ideal marathon pace, and my last mile was a 7:23 against the headwind… all good morale boosters!

Screen Shot 2016-03-28 at 2.27.56 PM

Sunday, March 27
16 miles, with the last 4 at marathon/half marathon pace tempo. Paced the first 12 nice and easy at a chatty 8:30 pace with a running buddy, and then did the last 4 miles at a 7:30-7:50 pace. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to pull off a tempo pace after running at race pace the day before, but I surprised myself by pushing to a 7:29 on the final mile despite some killer (short and steep) uphills on the road back to my apartment. 16 miles is sort of my favorite training distance — long, but not too long — and this was definitely the fastest I’ve ever run the distance, at just 2:13 and change. It felt great!

Total miles: 61 excellent miles!

All in all, this was a great, confidence-building training week. Every day was rated a smiley face in my training log. My right calf isn’t 100%, but it isn’t holding me back and it gets better every day with foam rolling and massage. I’m embarking on a big cutback this week; my last 4 weeks have all been 58-61 miles, and this next week will be just 40 miles, ending the week with the Caesar Rodney half marathon, which has been my goal HM all season. I’m really excited to see how hard I can run on Sunday!

(All pictures from my instagram!)

Spring Favorites!

I’ve seen some of these in the blog-o-sphere lately, and I love giving people recommendations — whether they want them or not — so I thought I’d add my spring favorite list to the fray now that spring is officially upon us!

Running Gear/Apparel

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 7.48.48 PM

Saucony Bullet Capris (List: $65)
These are the perfect capris for the kind of in-between weather we see during spring, and they’re my favorite training bottoms. The rear zip pocket is stretchy and can hold a gel or two, but the real bonus are the pockets on the side of the thighs which are super roomy (can fit my iPhone 6, if I wanted to run with it) and are great for holding gels and/or trash. They’re not too thick or too thin, so they’re a perfect choice for those days when you start a run at a temperature fifteen or twenty degrees colder than you finish it!

 

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 7.53.46 PM

Nike Women’s Dri-Fit Digital Dot Running Shirt (List: $40)
I spotted this shirt on Running Warehouse and was dissuaded by a friend from buying it… only to have this same friend surprise me with it for my birthday last week! I wore it out for a run, and I am certain it will become my go-to shirt for my midweek long runs since I’m starting in the dark again (for just a few more weeks, hopefully). The print on the shirt is made of a reflexive accent material, so without wearing a reflective vest, I’m still high-viz to the cars whizzing past me on their way to work. The shirt is comfy and stylish and is now part of my running safety apparel… double win!

 

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 7.55.06 PM

Nathan QuickShot Plus Flask (List: $20)
This has been my go-to spring time water bottle. Unless it’s much above 50 degrees, I don’t need a full 18 oz of water on the run, so I’ve been taking this little guy with me. 10 oz gets me through a 16-18 mile run just fine on a cool day, and the pocket holds my ID, apartment key and one gel or a baggie of dried pineapple (my between-gel snack for long hauls). I also have a larger 18 oz version that I take with me on warmer days or 20+ mile runs that holds 2 gels comfortably.

 

Fuel/Nutrition

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 7.56.40 PM

Honey Stinger Acai Pomegranate Gels
I LOVE THESE GELS SO MUCH. They’re delicious and sit well in my stomach, which every runner knows is of utmost importance. The first time I had one on the run, I almost died of happiness. Plus, they don’t make my hands all sticky when I open them. I just wish I could find them locally and didn’t have to buy them in bulk!

 

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 7.58.03 PM

Honey Stinger Chocolate Waffle
I was skeptical about the chocolate flavor, but after trying one from my local running store, I bought a whole box on sale at Running Warehouse. They’re my go to option before my midweek long run when I need something quick and quiet (gotta respect the roommates’ sleep!) at 5:45 in the morning!

 

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 7.58.49 PM

Nuun – Lemon + Lime and Strawberry Lemonade
I always tried the Tri-berry Nuun and didn’t care for it (but oh how I wish I did!), so I thought Nuun just wasn’t for me. Nope! All I needed was sample tabs of different flavors, and I fell in love. I’ve been drinking Nuun in my water on high mileage days and while on my long runs. It’s tasty, it’s fun to watch the tabs dissolve, and the sodium content is great for replenishing on the go.

 

Podcasts:

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 7.59.24 PM.png

Another Mother Runner
Now I know I’m not the target demographic of this podcast, as a totally-single, definitely-not-a-mother, barely-an-adult young woman, but I am a runner, and these ladies know their stuff. I listen to their weekly ‘cast and have been binging through their back catalog as far back as 2012. Sarah and Dimity get me through my walks home from campus with a smile on my face, though I must admit I don’t listen on the run because I just can’t listen to a running podcast while running… run overload!

 

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 7.59.59 PM

Dear Hank and John
This is my go-to podcast for long runs. I like to listen to conversational podcasts while I run, and I’m a long-time Vlogbrothers fan, so this Vlogbrothers podcast is a perfect running podcast for me. It’s a perfect distraction on those long, arduous middle miles. It’s a perfect blend of learning new stuff and entertaining dubious advice.

 

What podcasts do you all listen to on the commute, on the run, whenever? I’m always looking to add to my list!

What gear are you excited about this spring?

 

Training Recap: March 14-20, 2016

To kick off my first training recap post, of course I had a totally atypical schedule.  I usually run Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, with doubles on Wednesday and Thursday. But last week I took Monday off and ran doubles Tuesday and Wednesday, then took a mini-vacation to visit a friend in DC on Thursday and Friday, then ran my usual miles Saturday and Sunday. But also last week I was babying my right calf after my 5k (see race report here!); the stiffer-than-usual shoes made for some really tight and painful calves all week. So, let’s recap, shall we?

Monday, March 14: Foam roll and core work (sit-ups, leg raises, scissors, bicycles, clamshell extensions, pushups and planks). That’s all, folks!

Tuesday, March 15: 6 miles in the morning. Splits all over the place and calves giving me problems with my shins and ankles. Not a bad run, but definitely not good.

8 miles in the evening, a hilly route that I was looking forward to because I was running hills from my usual long run routes, but coming at them from the opposite (and in many cases, more difficult) direction. It ended up being a challenging but strong workout and I surprised myself by pacing in the low 7:50s overall which was about 30 seconds faster than I’d anticipated.

Wednesday, March 16: 10 miles in the morning, legs dead and pace slow. Calves super tight. Foam rolled in the afternoon.

7 miles in the evening with the Pacers Wednesday night group. Ran a mile to the store, then 5 with the group, and a mile home. It was gorgeous weather, good company, and my calf felt okay after having just been foam rolled.

Thursday and Friday, March 17 and 18: Trip to DC! Drove down in the morning, spent a day and a half walking all around museums, then drove back Friday night. Very compact visit!

Screen Shot 2016-03-22 at 3.23.41 PM

Saturday, March 19: 7.2 miles. Beautiful, sunny, and legs felt fresh. Calves were still pretty tight and didn’t start to loosen up until 4-5 miles in. Spent the rest of the day in compression socks and gave myself a hard calf massage in a hot bath that evening.

Sunday, March 20: My birthday! The big 25! I ran 20 miles to celebrate. Calves felt much better after so much babying the day before. Ran plenty of hills. I could almost trick myself into thinking my calf was feeling totally normal by the time I got done. Another hot bath calf massage not too long after the run and compression socks all day. Wrapped up the day with dinner and dessert at Cheesecake Factory with some running buds.

Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 7.49.41 AM.png

I use a Believe training journal to log my runs (as well as Garmin, My Fitness Pal and Strava… I’m a data junkie!) and use a smiley face rating system. Most of my runs this week were small smiles or “meh” faces like this :/ My hilly route got a 😀 face, because it was a strong and surprisingly fun run. Should have done more core work this week. I am trying to get in the habit of foam rolling 2-3 times per week and doing my core work 3 times without fail. This week it just got away from me. But judging the way my back and hips were aching at the end of my Sunday long run, I really need to remember to get the core work in. It’s easy to skip, but it’s important!

About Me & About My Running

My name is Kristine, and among many other things, I am a runner. And since this is a running blog, let me give you a rundown of how my running journey up until my personal Running Renaissance (a time of my life that requires its own post to do it justice!).

As a kid, I always hated running. I’m not sure why. I loved riding my bike all around the neighborhood. I loved sprinting around outside playing games with my friends. But the twice yearly mile run in elementary and middle school? I hated it. The four laps around our gravel path at my elementary school — a thrilling adventure on my pink bike — was a drag when traversed by foot. The three laps around the soccer fields at my middle school was an intimidating set of rolling hills. One year, I gave up completely and “ran” the mile in 17 and a half minutes… I walked all but 2 minutes of that mile.

And yet when it came to choosing sports to get me out of gym in high school, running was the first sport I chose. Fall term of my sophomore year I tried cross-country. That summer I skimped on my 1, 2 and 3 mile training runs, finding even the two mile loop around my neighborhood endlessly tiring — probably because I decided to go out and run them at the hottest part of the day, which can be oppressive in Iowa’s summer humidity. I did cross country for two years. I wasn’t very fast, I wasn’t competitive, and I barely tolerated it. But I didn’t want to take gym at 6 am, so I suffered through 7 mile run-walks in 90-degree after-school heat in August and froze on blustery, rainy October days. To say I liked running in those days is a gross overstatement… I tolerated it and I got okay at running two or three miles at a time, and that was good enough for me.

Screen Shot 2016-03-14 at 8.08.28 PMI spent a lot of my time in HS XC looking confused.

However when I began running, so did my dad. He quickly passed many running milestones: a 5k… then a Fourth of July 8k… then a half-marathon… and then in the fall of my junior year he ran his first full marathon at the Quad Cities Marathon. I was inspired and made the mistake of saying, “Dad, if you can run a full marathon, I bet I could run half of one.” And so he challenged me to train the next spring to run the half-marathon at the Quad Cities race the following fall. And even though I didn’t really like running all that much… I did it. I came home from runs in tears because it was too hot or it was too cold. I suffered through a pinched hip flexor and through multiple flare ups of my right IT band. I went out and ran as hard as I could and then suffered for miles on end. My dad pulled me along on 10 or 11 minute miles on my training runs… then went out the next day to run his own at a much faster clip. But still, I trained.

On September 28, 2008, I ran my first half marathon at the Quad Cities Marathon in a torturous 2:18:22. My dad was next to me every step of the way, urging me to keep moving, stop crying, etc. I remember being about 9 miles into the race and holding back tears wondering how I was going to make it through 4 more miles. Cheating my way through my training runs — cutting them short or stopping for long breaks in the middle — had caught up to me. But I finished. I earned my t-shirt, I got my medal… and I was hooked.

That winter, my family took a vacation to Disney World for the Marathon Weekend in 2009. My dad ran my second half marathon with me — this time in a much improved 2:06:45 — and then ran the full marathon the next day. We trained through brutal cold for that race. We slipped and slid over ice-paved bike trails and wore burglar-esque face masks. And it was all worth it to spend that glorious week in Florida wearing race medals around our necks.

And then that spring… we headed to St. Louis for another running weekend. My dad ran the full — per usual — and I ran the half. I had the ambitious goal of running under 2 hours, and I barely made the cut: 1:59:19! I pushed so hard that final mile that I almost passed out walking through the finishing chute. That was the first and last race that I chafed miserably; it was a rainy race, and I didn’t even know that my shorts had chafed the back of my thigh… until I got into the shower back at the hotel. I have never forgotten Body Glide or Vaseline since!

After I graduated high school, I decided to give cross country another try in college. I figured that with my half marathon fitness, I would be able to perform better than I did in high school. And that was true, but I also suffered quite a bit by upping my mileage too much too soon. I wasn’t able to do much of the summer training because of a nasty bout of bronchitis, so jumping from 15 mile weeks to running 5-7 miles 5 times a week… my knees and my shins were a mess by the end of the season. And I was still one of the slowest runners on the team. Needless to say, I did not go back.

That semester of cross country made me realize that what I had liked so much about running when I did half marathons was not necessarily the distance, but that I controlled when and how far I ran. I hated coming to practice unsure of what I had to do. When I was running half marathons, I found joy in designing a training schedule, mapping routes around town, and having complete control over my running. This is what I still love about running today; I’m a total control freak about it, and that’s okay.

But I didn’t give my knees time to heal from the injuries sustained during that cross country season. I suffered tendinitis in my left knee for years. I ran on and off, and then decided to give half marathons another go in 2012. I ran a local HM in May with an agonizing 2:21:53. I was horribly underprepared for it and I was ready to quit about 5 miles in. But I finished to the cheers of my college friends and my family, and I remembered what I liked about running half marathons: the medal and the sense of accomplishment… even if that half marathon felt awful, everyone else was impressed and encouraging.

Screen Shot 2016-03-14 at 8.09.45 PM.png
My dad and I pre-race.

Then that fall — fall of 2012 and my last fall semester of college — I went to Chicago for a semester. To ease the transition, I decided to sign up for a couple more half marathons, so that I would have something to look forward to when I got there and perhaps feel less homesick. And it worked! The weekend after I moved in, I ran the Chicago Half Marathon in a time of 2:06:26, a marked improvement from my May race time. Then I ran the Chicago Monster Dash in October in 2:09:15. I had been aiming for a sub-2 hour time, but I was thwarted by a recurrence of my tendinitis problems.

I graduated from college in 2013, and didn’t do much running for a year. I was tired of training through IT band pain, tendinitis pain, another pain in my knee from a crushed plica band (crushed during a pre-dawn run). I was tired of pushing myself through runs that always felt too long, too hard.

When I started college, I weighed around 120 pounds. By the spring of 2014, I was half a pound away from 150. Seeing myself at 149.5 pounds was a bit of a shock to me. I’d known that I’d packed on a few pounds my senior year and the year since I graduated, but I hadn’t realized I had gained quite so much. Through that year, I had  ran a few miles here, a few miles there, but I didn’t have any motivation. But as spring — and my 23rd birthday — approached, I decided to start running again. After I got accepted to Princeton for a Masters program in Near Eastern Studies, I picked out a few races that would fit into my schedule and decided to get off my butt, put my running shoes to good use, and lose a few pounds.

And that was when my Running Renaissance began.