Friday, October 12, 2012

Chicago Marathon recap - "I didn't know!"

I know, I know...I haven't blogged in two months and haven't said a word about my training. But I just had an AMAZING race, and I don't want to forget about it. I am still sort of processing what happened on Sunday. I smashed my goal to get a sub-4 marathon, and PR'ed by almost 19 minutes.

Let's see, where to begin? I guess I'll do a quick rundown of my training. Tired of stress fractures and suspecting "volume" (i.e. running too many times per week) was the culprit in last year's stress fracture (uh yeah, I ran the NYC Marathon with a stress fracture...), I decided to search for a different type of training plan. I had heard about the Runner's World book "Run Less, Run Faster," which relies on FIRST to guide its training. (FIRST = Furman Institute of Running and Scientific Training) The program is 16 weeks long and asks you to run three days per week and cross train (stationary biking, swimming, or rowing) two days per week. The three runs all have a purpose: key run #1 is speed, key run #2 is tempo, and key run #3 is long. There are also prescribed paces for each run, which are based off of your 5k time. Since my only 5k time is from my first race ever (29:24, what what!), I guesstimated that I could do a 25:20 5k and based my paces off of that.
Running three days a week was incredibly manageable - I think I missed a grand total of two runs over all 16 weeks and missed maybe four or five cross training sessions. The program suggests strength training as well, but I was pretty terrible at doing it throughout the training cycle. I did incorporate lots of planks and did P90X's Ab Ripper X moves about once a week to increase my core strength, though.

The first two-thirds of my training were tough, I think mostly due to the heat, but the last third was actually kind of magical. I found a new shoe to run in after the Brooks Ravennas were completely changed and no longer worked for me (I now run in Brooks Defyance) and I swear, as soon as I switched to the Defyance, I felt like I got faster - like I was running differently and better, somehow.

Training went well overall, I hit my paces (though definitely struggled with the speed workouts in the beginning - I had never done speed runs like the ones they prescribe in this program and they took some getting used to!), I ran hard, and I took care of myself (no illness and no injuries!). I came to Chicago hoping that I would get a sub-4 marathon - the flat course, my last 20-mile run at a 9:05 pace, and my positive frame of mind all boded well for this goal, but you just never know until you're doing it.

The night before the race (which was also my 28th birthday...yes, I ran a marathon the day after my birthday!), Shawna and I searched for inspirational running quotes that we could write on our hand or keep in mind when things got tough. We came up with a great list, and in the end Shawna went with "Run like it's the zombie apocalypse" on her arm, while I went with "Be fearless. Be relentless. Be limitless" (sort of like my "Think strong, be strong, finish strong" last year). This was somewhat inspired by my friend Zack who texted me the night before the race saying, "Don't be polite. Draw some blood!" (words to live by in a marathon!), and while I ended up wearing my arm sleeves on my hands for most of the race (after chucking my gloves a bit pre-emptively), I definitely repeated this phrase more than once throughout the race.
Shawna and me, ready to kick ass and take names
At the expo the day before, I picked up a pace tattoo at the Nike pace team station. I wanted to go for sub-4, so I selected the 3:55 tattoo. My Garmin got funky about four miles into the race, so I ended up resetting it and exclusively referring to the pace tattoo and the timer at each mile to know how I was doing on time.
My savior in the race
And now for the race...

Miles 1-4: 9:15, 8:47, 9:23, 7:50 (according to the Garmin). I made sure to look at the start clock as I crossed the starting line and knew that I passed it at around 35 minutes (something I'd refer back to at least 26 times throughout the race). I kept my pace relatively conservative, but the Garmin was telling me I'd already weaved an additional 0.1 mi by the time I hit the 4 mile mark (which I felt was incorrect and would potentially throw me off mentally for the rest of the race), so I decided to reset it at mile 4 and go from there (looking back, I suppose I could have used it just as a stopwatch since I ended up relying on the clock and the pace tattoo for most of the race - however, I felt the splits were wonky and I think resetting it helped with that). I saw a girl who was running around my pace and asked what she was aiming for time-wise (she said around 4 hours) so we decided to run together for a bit. I think I lost her around mile 4 though, because I started to fall into a rhythm and felt good going a bit faster.

Miles 5-8: 8:24, 8:51, 8:34, 8:20. Um, no, I do not know why I decided to run this fast. Perhaps the crowds in Boystown invigorated me and it wasn't quite so crazy-packed as it had been before. I can't really tell you what I was thinking at this point - I probably looked at my watch a few times and noticed it was a bit faster than what I usually do, but I also checked my breathing and it seemed relaxed enough (I usually do in for three steps, out for three steps in my long runs), checked in with my legs (felt good, and also cold...numb legs = less painful legs), and just kept going.

Miles 9-13: 8:43, 8:30, 8:36, 8:36, 8:47. I ran the first half in 1:54:57, a personal best for me in a race (previously I've run 1:57:44 in a race). I popped in my headphones somewhere around mile 8 or 9 since I don't know Chicago so didn't really know where I was at any given time, and I didn't think I'd know anyone on the sidelines cheering. Again, checked in with my legs and breathing and felt good so kept going!

Miles 14-18: 8:17, 8:24, 8:30, 8:22, 8:32. Hello there, speed demon Margaret. I think somewhere around here must have been where I saw the 3:55 pace group (and passed them). I briefly questioned if that was a good thing to do, but decided that yes, yes it was. (And let's face it, "Stronger" and "Titanium" probably also came on in these miles, further pumping me up.) Somewhere around here I also realized that I could keep up this pace for as long as possible, then drop 30 seconds in pace if I had to (to 9:09 min miles) and STILL get a sub-4 marathon. Also in here I started telling myself things like, "You've run 12 miles so many times!!! You can do it! You've run 9 miles zillions of times! Go go go!" etc, pretty much at every mile marker. This area was where I realized that hey! I'm 8 minutes ahead of pace for a 3:55 marathon! Which means I could break 3:50!!!

Miles 19-23: 8:21, 8:31, 8:36, 8:36, 8:46. Here's where I started to slow down a little. I still felt good and I absolutely did NOT hit the wall like I did in NYC last year (where I had what I called a "runner's blackout" - not dangerous or dehydrated or on the verge of fainting or anything, but just in my own head and unable to focus on anything except putting one foot in front of the other). I can't say what I can attribute this to, but I did take gels about every 5 miles to keep up my nutrition and had a hearty bagel/pb/banana breakfast - plus Chicago is flat flat flat, so I think that helped with keeping the energy up, too.

Miles 24-26.2: 8:51, 8:49, 8:36, 8:12. I was WILLING my legs to go faster but they wouldn't have it for a couple of miles. I focused on maintaining a sub-9 minute pace and managed to keep it up. I also happened to hear cheers for me around mile 25 but was super confused because I thought I didn't know anyone on the course and I was definitely not wearing my name anywhere on me - turned out it was my friend Jessi! It gave me a little boost and I kept moving. I actually said to myself, "Omigod, YOU'RE GOING TO GET SUB-3:50!!!!!!!!!!!!" which really kicked me into gear.

I crossed the finish line and immediately checked my phone since I had signed up for text message updates for myself (exactly so that I could know my time right away). And that was when I saw this:
I immediately started sobbing and called my dad who was as flabbergasted as I was (maybe more?!). I said something like, "I didn't know! I didn't know! I didn't know I could do this!" and I'm pretty sure that just about everyone around me thought there was something wrong with me. No, it's not a BQ (that wasn't a goal of mine anyway!), but I surpassed my goal time significantly, I stayed positive throughout the race, and I ran my little heart out.

I really did NOT know what to expect going into this race - I improved by 7 minutes in the NYC Marathon, and I was going to be happy if I improved by another 7 minutes this time. But almost 19 minutes??? I did not expect that and did not know that it would even be possible for me to run a 3:4X marathon. As my old boss (who's a big marathon runner) put it, "It's really quite unusual." Later on I also realized that I'd run a negative-split race as well and set a NEW half-marathon the second half of the marathon (1:52:43!). I am still sort of in shock with it all, but I am SO PROUD of myself for this.

As you can tell, there was no wiping the smile off my face after this accomplishment:
Proud. Happy. Still standing.
Till next time!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Funny how things change

Four years ago I didn't really eat healthfully. And I definitely didn't work out. I sort of watched the Olympics, but mostly was interested in the swimming and Michael Phelps like just about everyone else. I didn't watch or care about any running events because I didn't know any of the people, I didn't really know any of the events, and I didn't run. The marathon wasn't even an item on my bucket list.

Four years later...I've run two marathons and am training for my third. I woke up today (a Sunday!) at 7:20am to watch the Olympic women's marathon. I missed the first hour but watched the last hour and was actually incredibly excited. Sure, like the last Olympics I didn't really know any of the runners (other than the incredible US women), but this time around, I am a runner and a marathoner.

Twitter on the left, marathon on the right.
Oh and it was also playing on my phone in case there were commercials.
These women are an inspiration. While I will never be an Olympic marathoner, it is incredible to watch them and see what you can achieve when you dedicate time, effort and a whole lot of guts to an event - not only on the day of, but in the preparation leading up to it. I might not have all the time in the world to train, but if I put in effort and guts into every run, workout, and rest day (yes, sometimes those also take effort and guts...), I'll be able to say that I did my best when I cross the finish line on October 7.

After watching the marathon, I had 10 miles on the schedule at marathon pace plus 15 seconds. I'm aiming to break 4 hours, so I wanted to stay around a 9:24 pace. It was so hot and humid out that I made a deal with myself: run 5 miles sub-9:24 and then you can run whatever you want for the rest. I did that - ran 5 miles sub-9:24, then ran 2 miles in the 9:30s, but then ramped it up again for the final 3 miles for an average pace of 9:20 over 10 miles. It wasn't the prettiest (literally, as I had to take off my shirt 2 miles in), but I'm pretty damn proud of today's run.

I chased that run with some Ikea assembly, which I did while watching the men's 10k (AMAZING race!) and women's triathlon - two other events I didn't care about at all four years ago. Yes, I've also watched gymnastics and swimming like I did in 2008, but it really struck me today how much things have changed in four years. Seems to me they are headed in the right direction.

During the marathon today, the announcer quoted Alberto Salazar who had said something that stuck with me, something that I think I need to have framed and put on my wall: "What does it take to be a good marathoner? The willingness and capacity to suffer." Well Salazar, just call me willing and capable...hopefully this will turn me into a good marathoner, too.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Has it really been two months?

Why yes, it seems that it has. I know all 10 of you reading this were waiting with bated breath for me to post something, and here I am! Posting! After two whole months (sorry about that). You see, the past two months have been busy to say the least. And I only got internet in my apartment yesterday after two weeks without it, which made it a little bit more difficult to post.

Quick June recap: June somehow now seems ages ago, doesn't it? Let's see if I can sum it up...

  • Went to a Figure 4 class that my friend Lisa (who used to work at Equinox and now is off at business school) put together, attended with a lot of friends and chased it with 16 Handles (natch). I felt like this class was better than the first time I went in May when Laura arranged a class, but my booty still burned like nobody's business.
  • My parents came to visit in mid-June. We did a lot - saw Clybourne Park, ate dinner at Red Rooster, brunched at Colicchio & Sons, walked the Highline, visited the 9/11 memorial, and walked across part of the Brooklyn Bridge. All in all it was an excellent visit filled with delicious food, fun times, and lots of walking.
  • Johnny Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls performed at my company's staff meeting. My 13-year-old self was freaking out. And yes, he played "Slide" AND "Iris." 
Johnny and me, chatting about
how awesome 1998 was
  • I visited Cape Cod for the first time in my life and I didn't want to go back to New York. I went there for my friends' wedding and it was really activities (boozy boat cruise!), gorgeous setting (a resort right on the water), a beautiful ceremony (perfect conditions, amazing background), and all around fun times ("Call Me Maybe" might have come on a few times...and we definitely ALL danced all night long). I also managed to eat my first-ever lobster roll AND run 8 miles with my friend Shawna (not necessarily in that order). It was week 1 of Chicago Marathon training and I still managed to get my run in! Woo!
  • Visited the Met with Lani and her husband and finally got to see Cloud City - we also enjoyed cocktails on the roof and wandered around the museum for quite some time. 
Cloud City on the roof of the Met
  • Ran my first NYC sports-bra-only run when it was blisteringly warm out. It made a hell of a difference - I stayed much cooler throughout the run. Shockingly, absolutely NO ONE CARED that I was running around NYC in my sports bra and shorts - SO surprising, I know! The worst part was when I most definitely saw Miranda Kerr running along the West Side Highway - I actually passed her on my way up and again on my way down. No matter how you slice it, seeing a supermodel run in just HER sports bra is gonna make you question why you decided it was OK for the world to see YOUR stomach...but c'est la vie. 
Embracing the sports bra run
That's it for June...July is next! Then I'll start talking about all things marathon (since I'm actually almost 7 weeks into training...). Till next time!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Don't stop get it get it

On Tuesday, I woke up at 5:46 a.m. I had to pee. That time happened to be a half- hour before my alarm was set to go off so I could throw on some clothes and get my butt out the door for a good morning workout. I got back into bed, willing myself to fall back asleep but...I just couldn't do it. So I got up. And I ran.

I've been in a little bit of a funk recently. I've been more or less working out pretty regularly (aside from that week when I went to Atlantic City for a wedding followed by a five-day trip to Nebraska over Memorial Day weekend...), but I am just a PLAN kind of person. I like following a plan. I enjoy ticking off the days once I have completed my scheduled workout. I love to see what will be on my plate for the next day and getting excited to kick that workout's booty.

Yes, it would be easy (too easy!) to make myself a plan during this "not training for a marathon" portion of my life, but what can I say, I like to make things difficult for myself. I love a good plan, but I also like deciding what I'll do that day on the spur of the moment, depending on how I am feeling. I think it's good to get a little distance from these PLAN PLAN PLAN times that marathon training often demands, listen to my body, and change things up.

(Speaking of, I'll be starting to train for the Chicago marathon in less than two weeks! And I still don't have a plan. D'oh.)

Anyway. On Tuesday I ran. It was a perfect morning. Perfect weather. An awesome day for a run. I thought I'd do four miles and didn't give half a thought to the pace I might take. I'd just go.

Turned out I was having one of my "speedy" days - also known as a sub-9 pace day. You could even call it an 8:21 overall pace kind of day. An "exceeding my expectations by going faster and longer than I'd planned" day. It was good. It felt good to go fast. I called it my "DON'T STOP GET IT GET IT" run (even though I, uh, did stop a few times for important things like hydration). Not gonna lie, I was pretty dang excited about these numbers:
Wait, what? 8:12?!
It was the sort of confidence-building run that I needed (even with the mini-breaks). Am I 100% ready to leap into marathon training? Uhhh no. But as this photo clearly demonstrates, I am an excellent leaper:
Taken at the Lauritzen Botanical Gardens in Omaha.
Did I miss my calling as a long jumper or what?
So I should probably just suck it up and jump in.

Especially since a summer full of mornings in Central Park like that one would make for a pretty amazing summer, if I do say so myself.
Central Park, I love you.
Marathon training begins in 10 days! Time to make a plan...

Monday, March 19, 2012

RnR USA Half Marathon Recap

This past weekend I ran my fifth half marathon. And it was awesome.

I started training for this race only seven weeks ago, after I took a month off from running due to a(nother) tibial stress fracture. I ran only three to four times per week (my max, after getting a stress fracture from running five times a week when training for the NYC Marathon!), and did P90X five or six days a week.

I didn't expect much from this race. I mostly followed my training plan (a mix of Hal Higdon and Runner's World's SmartCoach), but I missed a couple runs (including one long run!), caught a cold, started a new job, and was coming back from an injury. I decided it would be a "fun run," one I'd run at least part of the way with my friend Christina (whom I had convinced to sign up as well...we had both originally signed up for the FULL marathon, by the way...), and one I just wanted to get under 2:06 (the time I achieved for my first THREE half least I'm consistent?).
Signs of spring on my last long run before the half!
Going into this race, I was feeling pretty chill. I didn't study every single detail of the course ahead of time. I didn't bring my own bagel to Christina's apartment. I didn't fall asleep with nervous butterflies in my stomach. I didn't even Google how to get from Christina's to RFK. In fact, I ate a giant burger and fries for lunch the day before the race, and a PB&J and banana served as dinner the night before. I didn't sleep enough (blame DC2NY for a late bus).

I was definitely winging it...and I actually think that might have helped me, in some way. I didn't have any expectations, there was no pressure. Once I got to the start though, a few little butterflies kicked in. The good kind though, the kind that makes me feel excited and a bit of adrenaline needed to get through that first mile, the kind that builds as you run mile after mile and propels you to the finish. It was just what I needed, right when I needed it.

If I'd run this whole race feeling kind of "meh" and unexcited the whole time, there's no way I would have made it through the entire race. I would have given up, said it didn't matter, and taken it easy the whole way. But luckily, that's not me. Don't get me wrong - I wasn't excited and having tons of fun the whole entire time...the first half was very tough for me. I thought about dropping out, about taking it easy, about giving up. But as soon as a turned on my iPod halfway through the race, I knew I was in it for the long haul and that I'd run the crap outta that race. Especially when a Girl Talk song (Oh No) came on and said, "Move bitch, get out the way, get out the way bitch, get out the way..." Yup. THAT really got my butt in gear.

You can actually tell from my splits - check out mile 11 - the moment when I realized that a PR was in reach was at mile 10. I hit the 10 mile marker at 1:30, and realized that even if I ran just under 10-minute miles, I could STILL get under two hours.
Half marathon splits
That revelation at mile 10 led me to an 8:09 minute mile in mile 11. Yeah, mile 12 is almost a minute slower (can I blame a hill there? Not sure...), but you can actually SEE when I realized that I could beat my PR of 1:58:59 (when I ran the Staten Island Half).

And PR I did. I crossed the finish line in 1:57:44, 1 minute and 15 seconds faster than my previous PR. It wasn't a goal I had in mind. I just realized it was possible, dug deep, and made it happen. (If only it were always that easy...) Every time I hit a hill, instead of cursing it, I thanked Central Park for preparing my legs. Every time I wanted to walk, I decided to run faster instead. I pushed myself. 

RnR recorded a few times along the way:
  • 5k: 28:37 (9:14 pace)
  • 10k: 56:31 (9:07 pace)
  • 10 mi: 1:30:19 (9:02 pace)
  • 13.1 mi: 1:57:44 (8:59 pace)
Was it the fastest I could have possibly gone? Probably not. But I got faster as it went on. And I am so incredibly proud of myself for running this race the way that I did, going into it with no pressure and shattering expectations I didn't even know could be there. I completely surprised myself.

And I walked away with a PR. Not to mention a banana, bagel, apple, yogurt, Snickers Marathon bars, chocolate milk (the very first thing I had to drink after the race - so good!), fruit bites, water, Gu, Gatorade and a heat sheet. Plus, a pretty sweet little medal:
First RnR race medal!
It was a great race, and I'm so glad that I did it. I'm even happier that I ran a race that I'm proud of, PR or no PR. I feel like I gave it my all, ran my guts out, and left it all out there. And I plan on doing it again and again in all of my future races.
Finish line in sight...determined face!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Falling behind

It's been over a month since my last post...I know, bad blogger! I fell a bit behind on P90X, but I took a week off, rearranged the schedule, and now I'm on day 63! (Except for two Kenpo X workouts I haven't gotten in. That's probably my least favorite DVD in P90X.) Nine weeks down - four to go!

I'm still really enjoying P90X. It's a butt-kicking good time, and I like the variety it provides. The only thing is that I've pretty much memorized everything that Tony Horton says, so I've started rocking out to the Pandora workout radio station instead of listening to Tony's stupid jokes. Way better, and it's giving me some ideas for songs that need to be downloaded for my running mix!

So what's been going on this past month? I've had some pretty good runs, both indoors and outdoors. Tempos, intervals, easy runs, long runs...I've kept on the goal paces for them and have mostly pushed myself, but haven't experienced that all too familiar burnout that can come with overtraining, which is great! I'm only two weeks away from the RnR half-marathon in DC - a race I'd like to do well in (i.e. under 2:06, my first half-marathon time), but I'm not gonna kill myself over PRing. My friend Christina and I are going to run for fun (like me, she's experienced some injuries during this training), which I think will be great! And the race is on St. Patrick's Day, so green beer will be a must following the finish line. Always a good thing.

A few weeks ago, I got to run with my friend Shawna, who really originally introduced me to running when we were in college. We went into it thinking we'd take it easy - we've both been plagued with injuries and didn't want to push it. My Garmin wasn't working so we relied on Shawna's for the majority of the run. At one point she looked down and said we were at an 8:45 pace - and of course, we didn't slow down. It was great to run with a buddy - I definitely need to do it more often!

Last week I had a great 8-mile run. I ran the entire loop of Central Park (yup, including running uphill on both Cat Hill and Harlem Hill!) and then some, and ended up with a 9:11 average for the run. I was pretty pleased, especially since I was aiming for a 9:30 pace. Plus I got to rock an obnoxious outfit (hot pink top AND hot pink compression socks!):
My running tights were in the this was the only option!
So I've been pretty on top of my workouts...except for this week (and one missed Kenpo X workout last week). I totally did not do my long run this week. Oops! The week of Feb. 13, I tried to get going on week 8 of P90X, but I found I was utterly exhausted and couldn't do it. I decided to move that week to another week, and have rearranged my workouts so that it works better with my half-marathon training. Sometimes I'm doing back-to-back workouts or morning AND evening workouts to get in the runs and the P90X workouts, but I am feeling a lot less overwhelmed with the "scheduled" workouts. On top of the workouts, I've been busy with after-work hangouts with friends, bridal showers, bachelorette parties, and more.

One more thing that's added to my busy schedule? I accepted a new job! Friday was my last day at a job I've held since June (I know, just nine months at that job, but the new opportunity was one I couldn't turn down), and tomorrow I start at the new place. I accepted it on Valentine's Day, so I celebrated appropriately...with friends and some bubbly!
My "I got a new job!" face
One more thing I've done in the past month?
Chicago Marathon registration confirmation!
CHICAGO MARATHON! I'm coming for you on Oct. 7! (Also known as the day after my 28th birthday.) Shawna and I are both running it - I was supposed to run Chicago two years ago, but I got a stress fracture that put me on the sidelines for two months. Shawna and I want to try to train some together and train smart - we have both had a ton of injuries and don't want to get injured again training for this one. We also want to make sure we get in some good strength workouts and cross training too. No injuries allowed!

I should probably get to bed...can't go into the new job looking exhausted and haggard! Night!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sickness and demon treadmills

This week did not go as planned. I was supposed to get in my first week of marathon training, wrap up week 5 of P90X strong, and hang out with my brother who was visiting. Instead, I got knocked on my butt by a terrible sore throat that woke me up long before my alarm did on Monday morning and only got worse as the week went on. I did manage to get in one run on Tuesday night (3 miles), before the chest coughs kicked in on Thursday, at which point I decided that running would need to take a back seat and getting healthy needed to be my focus. The doctor said it was a virus I'd just have to let that.

I spent a lot of time with these guys this week:
Cough medicine, tissues, Sudafed and OJ
Not to mention plenty of chicken noodle soup. I saw my brother for a bit on Friday since I was home sick, and on Thursday we treated ourselves to Shake Shack (that custard felt so good on my throat...the burger? Probably not the most healing dinner, but it is delicious!).

On my run on Tuesday, I was forced to wait in a very long line for a treadmill, so I took whatever one opened up first, which was not the kind I typically like to run on. (We all know we have our favorite treadmills...) I turned my iPad to my book (The Night Circus, so good!), set it to 6.0 mph, and off I went. Two minutes later, I wanted to die. I felt like I was running uphill, in the middle of the day, in 100% humidity. I somehow persevered through 1.5 miles, but I couldn't go any farther. I don't know what it is with these demon treadmills, but as soon as I switched to a different brand of treadmill, I felt like I was running on clouds. It was glorious, and I finished up the 3 miles easily.
My demon treadmill, by Precor
Does this happen to anyone else? Actually, I know that it does. My friend Lani and I have long discussed waging war on the demon treadmill. It's great because it makes you work harder, but it's terrible because you want the treadmill to spontaneously break throughout your run. I think it may have to do with the fact that it faces a wall so it gets little to no air circulation (even with the fans on), and someone suggested that perhaps I hadn't been properly warmed up, but seriously? I've hopped on a treadmill at 6am before doing anything else and had better runs than this one. I am going to be avoiding this demon treadmill at all costs in the future. Not worth it to me, especially when I can run on a non-demonic treadmill without wishing I could fall off.

Other than my single run this week, I did manage to keep up with P90X. I felt that it was easier on my body than running, and there was no cardio involved so my cough wasn't a problem. I took two days off completely, but today I doubled up with the workouts, doing Legs & Back and Kenpo X. I'm still really enjoying it, and while I'm not really seeing any visible improvements or changes, I do feel great overall and know that I am getting stronger. (I also held crane for even longer yesterday - woo!) I'm psyched to keep it up for two more months and see if there are any more changes! 35 days down, 55 to go!

That's it for this week... How about you, any demon treadmill experiences or tips for juggling sickness with working out?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Good news

I got some AWESOME news on Thursday morning. First, I waited for an hour in the waiting room, followed by some more waiting in the exam room. But it was soooo worth it! Dr. Metzl came in, asked what I'd been up to, poked around on my leg a bit and cleared me to run again! Six weeks was a long time to take off, but I'm glad it got me into P90X and taught me to be smarter the next time.

So did I dash off to Central Park the moment I was cleared to run? No, no I didn't. I somehow reined in my excitement and waited TWO WHOLE DAYS before running. I know, crazy. Thursday I was lucky enough to be invited to a free session at Pure Yoga, and I decided to go for an 8pm Forrest yoga class.
Description from the site:
Forrest Yoga is an inspiring yoga method that engages the core through strong abdominal exercises and builds flexibility, intelligence and strength. Forrest Yoga uses heat, deep breathing and vigorous sequences to awaken the senses, sweat out toxins, release emotions stored in body tissues and deepen connection to spirit. Erica's classes are fun and challenging, with special attention given to alignment and breath.
It was just what I needed after a busy week at work (yes, it was only a four-day week, but it was busy!). I really loved this class. There was a breathing method that I'd never done before (kind of closing the throat some and breathing in and out through the nose, so (as Erica put it) you can "hear the ocean"). During savasana, she asked us to look deep inside and allow words to float to the top. They did so for me, and it made me feel so relaxed and clear-headed. Like I said, it was just what I needed. Too bad I probably couldn't even afford a membership, but I'm so glad I can take advantage of these offers that they have from time to time.

Friday was Core Synergistics, which is actually a really fun P90X workout. I swear, the hour flies by, and my core was hurtin' the next day! Oh, and Friday was also game night at my friends' apartment.
Wine, boardgames and friends, what's not to love?
We played Cranium, Taboo and some other games I forget. There were probably 15 people there, and we had a great time. I hope we do it again soon!

Saturday was the day I finally made it to the gym to run a very easy 2 miles...but not before venturing into the snow to meet up with some friends and see the 3D version of Beauty & the Beast. Belle is one of the best Disney princesses (bookworm and brave? And can see inner beauty in a really mean beast? What's not to love?!).
Shawna, me and Katie, 3D glasses ready to go!
I don't think I got to see it in the theater when it originally came out, so it was fun to go and see it with friends. (And in case you were wondering, we were the only people in the theater who were not there with kids...)

Afterward, Shawna and I hit the gym nearby and I ran my first run in six weeks. And it was awesome. I walked a quarter mile, then ran 2 miles easy, going from 6.0 mph to 6.4 mph. I felt great the whole time, and wanted to go for longer, but knew it would probably be smarter to just go 2 miles. I was happy the whole time, and was just sooo happy to be back to running! Nothing felt weird, I didn't feel like I needed to relearn how to run, and I was just so grateful that I could run again! YAY!

Next up: a half-marathon on March 17. A week later, P90X ends (what will I do with myself?!), so till then I'm going to be running three days a week and continuing with P90X as usual. I think I'll be able to do both...fingers crossed!

Monday, January 16, 2012

P90X, Running, and Chili

I'm now three weeks into P90X, and have started week 4, which is kind of like the pullback week of marathon training. Instead of the strength workouts I've come to know and love, there are two yoga sessions, one Kenpo (kickboxing) session, two stretch sessions, and two days of a new exercise that I haven't tried out yet called Core Synergistics. From what my dad has told me, Core Synergistics is no joke. It looks tough, but I'm excited to switch things up this week!

This week marks another exciting (hopefully) event - my followup appointment with Dr. Metzl is Thursday, and I expect he will give me the go-ahead to return to running! I can't believe it's been six weeks since my last run...seems like much longer than that, but luckily I've had P90X to distract me.

With my return to running (and half-marathon in just under nine weeks - yup, I dropped down to the half for the DC Rock 'n' Roll race) but continuation with P90X, I've started to think about how I'm going to combine the two workouts. I want to do P90X over the 90 days, but I also want to run so that I can build up some mileage and avoid collapsing in the middle of the race. I feel that I've done a good job of keeping up my cardiovascular strength both by doing the P90X workouts and by supplementing them with workouts on the StairMaster, elliptical and treadmill, as well as spinning. Hopefully running will become a natural part of my P90X workouts!

If I've learned anything from previous injuries, it's that I can't take on too much volume. Running is going to only take place three to four times a week for the foreseeable future. I think that leading up to this race, I probably won't run more than three times a week - I'm just coming off of an injury, and I've got P90X to finish up!

My plan: If it's possible, I'd LOVE to do both workouts in the morning - just get them done for the day. But that's pretty unrealistic, so instead, I think I'll try to run Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. I'll probably try switching between running in the morning and doing P90X after work, and doing P90X in the morning and running after work. Long runs will be Saturday. Assuming I get cleared to run on Thursday (fingers crossed!), here's what that next week will look like:

  • Monday: AM 2 mile run; PM Chest, Shoulders & Triceps, Ab Ripper X
  • Tuesday: Plyometrics
  • Wednesday: AM 3 mile run; PM Back & Biceps, Ab Ripper X
  • Thursday: Yoga X
  • Friday: Legs & Back, Ab Ripper X
  • Saturday: Kenpo X, 4 mile run
  • Sunday: Stretch
Miles are guesses...I'll probably run this weekend too, just because I'll be able to!

As you can probably tell, I pretty much love P90X. (I even convinced my friend Summer to do Kenpo with me since she was staying with me for the weekend, and she loved it and found Tony Horton to be very motivating!) I've been discussing its benefits with my friends, so I'll share a few of the things I've been loving about it here, too:
  • P90X motivates me to get up in the morning. I don't have to leave my apartment and venture into the cold. I don't have to wear a zillion layers. I don't have to think about making sure my Garmin is charged, whether I'm going to be too hot or too cold on a run, if I have my headphones with me so I can watch the news at the gym, etc. I just get up, throw on some clothes (though I sometimes even do some of the less sweat-intense workouts in my PJs...), and pop in my DVD of the day.
  • I do a workout for at least an hour a day. Yes, I also walk to and from the subway, which ends up being a 2 mile walk per day. That gets me moving, but doing P90X means that I have a 1+ hour per day workout. When I did strength training on my own, I was pretty diligent about it, but I would do a full body workout for about 20 mins two or three times a week. With P90X, I dedicate a whole hour to a part of the body, which ensures an awesome workout.
  • I do a different workout every day. Legs one day, arms the next, yoga, plyo, the list goes on... Muscle confusion is one of the cornerstones of P90X. Each phase introduces new moves and workouts, which help to make sure you don't plateau. Trust me, you will not get bored with this workout!
  • I'm doing things I never thought I'd be able to do. I held crane for eight full seconds today - my previous record was zero seconds. When I first did Ab Ripper X, I could not do oblique V-ups. Now I can do them all.
  • There's always room for improvement. You can up your reps or weight, go deeper in the squat, hold the pose for longer, etc. I find that I can do new things with each workout, which is always awesome.
  • I feel awesome. I'm eating better and cleaner - I just don't really crave sweets the way that I did before P90X. I feel energized during the day. I feel proud of myself for doing these tough workouts. I generally feel pretty darn happy!
Just my two cents. Thoughts?

This weekend was a long weekend, which was great. Not only did I get a lot of sleep, but I also had a ton of fun singing karaoke and running around the city with a friend who was visiting. Today was very low key, but in addition to doing Yoga X, I also cooked a big old batch of sweet potato chili, inspired by Kelly at Meals for Miles

Recipe (very similar to Kelly's):
  • 1/2 T vegetable oil
  • 3 medium sweet potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 cup of frozen corn
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 2 T chili powder
  • 1 t cumin
  • 1 t salt
  • 3 big handfuls of spinach
  • 1 15 oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15 oz can of kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 28 oz can of diced tomatoes
Heat the oil in a pot and add the chopped sweet potatoes. Saute for 6-8 minutes, until tender. Add the corn, garlic, chili powder, cumin and salt, and saute another 2-3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, black beans, kidney beans and spinach. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes. Eat and enjoy!
Bright and spicy vegetarian chili
So delicious! So spicy! I love this chili, and I will be making it again soon.

I've got my first Core Synergistics workout in the muscles are already confused!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Bring it.

"Bring it" greets me every time I pop in a P90X DVD (along with the sometimes annoying but usually not that bad Tony Horton). I've now officially completed two weeks of P90X, the extreme home fitness program developed by Tony Horton. My fitness inspiration (my dad, who's in his 60s) bought it for me for Christmas and so far, I totally love it.
P90X is broken into three phases involving three weeks of intense training and one week "off" (but still looks tough!). Every workout is at least an hour long, and even on days when it's just legs or just arms, I still find myself sweating (even on days when the heat is off in my apartment).

My first two weeks have looked like this:
  • Monday: Chest & Back, Ab Ripper X - This involves a ton of pushups and pull ups. It's challenging for me, and I'm not even doing "real" pushups or pull ups. I'm doing most of the pushups on my knees and I simulate pull ups with a resistance band. Ab Ripper X is a 17-minute ab workout that makes you want to die
  • Tuesday: Plyometrics - Plyometrics is a lot of jumping around, getting the heart rate up. Admittedly, it's probably not the best for my injured leg, but it's only once a week so I think it's OK
  • Wednesday: Shoulders & Arms, Ab Ripper X - Shoulders and arms is different types of bicep curls, shoulder presses and tricep workouts. I use resistance bands for this one too, since I only own 5 lbs dumbbells and I don't think that's heavy enough!
  • Thursday: Yoga X - 90 minutes of yoga! 45 minutes of flow, and 45 minutes of yoga stretches. It's really tough, but I always enjoy it
  • Friday: Legs & Back, Ab Ripper X - Squats, lunges and pull ups galore! I don't find this day to be all that tough, but my legs are pretty strong after running so much and amping up my strength workouts before starting P90X
  • Saturday: Kenpo X - This is basically kick boxing. It's a nice change from all the strength, and I definitely work up a sweat doing this workout. It's not my favorite, but I don't mind it
  • Sunday: X Stretch - An hour of stretching. Much needed after a week of kicking my own ass!
Since there's no trainer to kick your butt, it's really up to you to make the most of it - up the reps, up the weight, push yourself. I can't run for another two weeks, so this has been an awesome way for me to feel like I'm staying in shape. My dad really benefited from it and improved over the 90 days, and I hope I can do the same!

I like it because it makes me do strength training, and at an hour at a time (and honestly, the workouts fly by)! Before starting this, my strength workouts were either done during Total Body Conditioning (which I stopped doing during marathon training...not smart!) or in a 20- to 30-minute workout I did on my own. One thing I don't like is that on the straight-up strength days, I don't get much cardio. Yes, I'm working hard, but I like to SWEAT.
I <3 Sweat!
So we'll see how it goes. I hope these next 76 days go by just as quickly!

Other than P90X, some other fun has been had this week. First, I received 96 ounces of Chobani in the mail, a giveaway I won from Megan at Runner's Kitchen!
Massive box with a massive styrofoam cooler and cold packs!
I've entered plenty of giveaways in my time as a blog reader, but this was the first time I won anything! Greek yogurt is a pretty darn good thing to win if you ask me. I don't know WHAT I'm going to do with all this Chobani, but I know some will be used for baking, and some will make a regular appearance in my day as a snack!

Friday night I went out to dinner with four college friends. We wanted to go to Tertulia, but the wait was two hours so we went to Extra Virgin instead. It. Was. Delicious. I have no pictures, but we had some pinot grigio and a delicious bread basket. For dinner, I had the pistachio crusted goat cheese salad with roasted beets, endives, water cress and a Granny Smith vinaigrette, along with a side of Brussels sprouts. YUM. I hope I can get back there again to try brunch!

Yesterday was pretty great, too:
59 degrees and sunny?! Amazing. I may have slept till 12:30pm (P90X really wears me out!), but I got up and walked across the (very crowded) park to get to Trader Joe's to pick up the fixings for curried cauliflower soup (which I made today - delicious!). 

And today? Today I went to Madison Square Garden for the Professional Bull Riders season opener. My friend Jessica has a discount for it, and since another goal I have for this year is to say yes more, I decided to give it a shot. 
Jessica and me - flannel shirts for PBR!
I'd heard of a few other friends going to it and heard that it was really fun, so I figured, why not? Jessica managed to convince her sister and our friend Allison to come along too, so we had a good little group.
Bucking bull
It was SO much fun!!! I never expected to have so much fun at a BULL RIDING event, but this was really something else, and not something I would have EVER done otherwise. 

It was a great week overall, and I'm also looking forward to another week - my friend is coming to visit and it's a long weekend! 

Have you ever done P90X or other "extreme home fitness" workouts? What did you think of them?

Sunday, January 1, 2012


Happy New Year!!! I kind of can't believe that 2011 is over -- it was a big year, with lots of travel and exciting changes.

In February, my family took a 2 1/2 week trip to China, Thailand and Hong Kong. These were all new countries that I got to tick off while visiting my brother who's teaching English over there until July. We visited during Chinese New Year, which was awesome. We went to Beijing, Dali, Kunming, Phuket and several islands around Phuket, and Hong Kong.
Chinese New Year fair in Beijing
Me in Dali
An island somewhere off of Phuket
Long tails off of an island
My brother and me at Victoria Peak
As you can imagine, it was pretty much the best vacation ever.

The next big event of 2011 was running my first marathon on May 1 along the C&O Canal in Maryland. It was an exhilarating experience, and I worked my ass off to run a 4:13:12 marathon.
Super excited!
Even better? I trained injury-free for 18 weeks. Yes, two of those weeks were spent in Asia, which probably didn't hurt in helping me avoid injury, but it was pretty great to train for a marathon and never have an injury. Next time I hope I'm as smart as I was then...

After the marathon, I took a trip to Seattle and Portland with Lani and Emily for our annual trip. We met when we transferred to the same college at the same time, and now we take a trip someplace new every year.
Pastry from Piroshky Piroshky near Pike Place
In 2008 we went to South Dakota and Wyoming, 2009 was Vegas, southern Utah and the Grand Canyon, and 2010 was Boston. We're hoping that we can make 2012 an international destination (even if it's just Canada) for the fifth annual ELM trip.

In June, I started a new job and geared up for more marathon training. I didn't blog at all in June, but I took Core Fusion classes for two weeks through a Gilt City deal I got. It was a nice change from running all the time, but come July I was ready to train!

(Most of my pictures from the summer involve sweaty pictures of myself that I've already posted here, so I'll spare you...)

But I fit in some fun, and in July my friend Jennifer (who lives in Zurich) came to visit. It was so fun to show her around my city and spend time with her. I saw Sufjan Stevens in concert, ate crabs in Maryland, and went to Coney Island for the day. On the running front, I ran Summer Streets, took many pictures of gorgeous sunrises, and drank a lot of coconut water.

In October I turned 27 and PR'ed at the Staten Island Half Marathon, finally running a sub-2 hour half marathon and clocking in at 1:58:59. Before I knew it, November 6 was there and I ran the New York City Marathon, PRing in that race with 4:06:31.
Sweaty and happy
As you've read, this was pretty much the best day of my life. I absolutely loved this race, and I plan on finding a way to run it in 2012. I will definitely be doing the 9+1 program again this year for guaranteed entry into the 2013 NYC Marathon.

After the race, I treated myself to a 10-day adventure in Europe, stopping by London and Zurich (Part 1 and Part 2) and squeezing in a couple of runs there as well. When I got back, I found out that I had a stress fracture and have put running on hold (only 2 1/2 weeks to go till I can run again!).

But just because I can't run doesn't mean I can't stay fit. The doctor said I could do absolutely everything except run, so I've been hitting the elliptical and StairMaster, spinning, and walking on the treadmill for cardio, and taking yoga classes and doing strength workouts as well. Just last week, I added P90X to the mix and so far I'm loving it (though we'll see how I feel in 83 days...). 

And as for my goals for 2012? (Yup, goals, no resolutions here.) 
  • Finish P90X - this will happen
  • Run a sub-4 marathon - ohhh how I would love for this to happen...
  • PR in the half marathon - it'd be icing on the cake!
  • Be totally injury-free all year - I know what I did wrong, and I know how to avoid injury in the future
  • Do 9+1 - this shouldn't be a problem
  • Go to a new country/state - already planning my 2012 adventure! Spain? Portugal? Somewhere else?
  • Go to the Astoria beer garden - this has been something I've wanted to do since I moved to New York. I WILL do it this year!
  • Explore as much as I possibly can in New York - see new things, try new things, meet new people
There are probably more, but I think this is a good place to start! 

I hope you all had a wonderful 2011. Mine was pretty great, and I think 2012 is going to be an awesome year!