Wednesday, March 28, 2012

5 years ago today......

......I did my first run. I did 2 miles as part of a military fitness challenge test. It took me a little over 22 minutes and I thought I was going to die. The run was part of an incentive program at the fitness center. I had lost about 50lbs and needed a new challenge so I decided to try the Military Fitness Challenge. 2 minutes of push ups, 2 minutes of sit ups, and a 2 mile run. The run was awful. I hated every minute of it and wanted to stop, but there was a car driving along side me blasting techno music and screaming at me while I ran. In the car were my friends and trainers, Erin and Tim. With a quarter mile to go, Erin hopped out and ran with me. I really felt like I was dying. My lungs hurt and legs didn't want to go any further, but with her by my side I crossed the line where my friend/trainer Jenine was standing holding the stopwatch and I finished the 2 miles.

So hard to believe it all started with a little challenge and since then I've come so far. I've run thousands of miles since then and completed more races than I can count. 7 months after that first run I completed my first half marathon and shortly after that I hit the 100lb. milestone. I never looked back. I said goodbye to the Fatty McFatterson and hello to a new me, a fitter and healthier, happier me. So, happy anniversary to ME and rest in peace Fatty!

This past week was a MAJOR accomplishment and another first for me(I'll get to it, but first let me tell you about the week leading up to the accomplishment). After running 18 miles AND a half marathon I was, for lack of a better word, JUNK last week. I took Monday AND Tuesday as rest days, then did a SLOW 7 miles along the Charles Wednesday. I attempted another 5 on Thursday, but we had a bit of a heat wave in Boston and it was over 80 degrees and my legs were still kind of angry with me from the weekend before. I made it about a mile and a half and stopped to walk. I did the 5 miles, but it took me well over an hour and I walked most of it. It was a nice day for a walk. I might have even got a little bit of a sunburn on my face.

So, Friday I decided to rest and do something I've been thinking about doing for a while. I bought a new road bike. My local bike shop (Foxco on Bridge St. in Dracut) was having a sale and I promised him that when I was in the market for a new bike I would go to him. I knew he didn't or wouldn't have the bike I wanted in stock, but I knew he would help me get the right one ordered and assembled in time for some spring training rides before my first triathlons of the summer. I had a general idea of what I wanted and how much I wanted to spend. He seriously hooked me up with my dream bike and a few add-ons to make it ALL MINE. It's a Specialized Amira Elite Compact carbon frame with Shimano 105 components. I'm in love with it and counting the hours until it's ready to ride.

Saturday morning I went to Ayer to run with Kim. We did a nice easy 8. Legs STILL a little angry and body just not happy. I felt ok during the run, but we averaged about a minute per mile slower than usual and it felt like we were running a minute per mile faster than usual. Everything about it just felt forced and difficult. It was windy and a little hilly. Just not great, but we finished it and that's about all either of us had to say about it. It was done.

Afterwards I went to the running store (Whirlaway on 110 in Methuen) and got some new shoes. I realized I had over 300 miles on my current pair and I bought them in the end of January! DAMN, that's a lot of miles in only about 8 weeks. After the running store I went to REI to get a few trinkets for my new bike. I had my dividends in hand and got a pump, computer, tire levers, small seat bag for spare tires - all for the grand total of 43 cents!

Sunday was the Eastern States 20 miler. It was in the 40s and rainy. So, here it big accomplishment....a first for me....I BAILED. I've done that race before in cold rain and it sucked! I have 8 weeks to go til my marathon and more than enough time to do one or two 20 milers and I didn't need to do one this early, I just registered for the race because I've run it since 2009. In looking back at my training log, I was a little overdue for a recovery week anyway and after 3 weeks in a row of 40+ miles it felt absolutely amazing to do ONLY 20 miles total for the week. So, I spent the day Sunday in my pajamas doing a whole lotta nothing and it was AWESOME!

Monday after work I did 8.7 along the Charles and it was like a whole new experience. I had new shoes and a well rested body. I felt great. I could have gone further, but I held back and decided there was no need to make up for lost miles, it's a new week and rest is just as important as running. I'm actually learning to listen to my body and not overtrain!

Last night I did a super fast 6 along the Charles and met up with my friend Erin (yes, the same one from 5 years ago that ran the last quarter mile of my first run with me) and we celebrated. I felt amazing. We talked about all the crazy things I've done over the last five years. I never in a million years thought when I finished that run 5 years ago that I would be having dinner with Erin 5 years later discussing training for my 10th marathon. I wonder where I will be and what new crazy things I will have accomplished 5 years from NOW....

Monday, March 19, 2012

Run Strong.....mission accomplished!

So, after a rough run/walk Tuesday of last week I was feeling a little nervous. Maybe I'm overtrained, maybe this plant-based diet I've been trying is a bad idea, maybe my body is fighting some sort of infection, maybe worse, maybe I'm injured. All these thoughts raced through my brain and knowing what the next few weeks of my training plan looks like, I started to really freak out. I took it easy Tuesday and rested after my failed attempt at a run and showed up Wednesday afternoon at Kim's house hoping things were better and it was a brand new day.

I wasn't sure how the run would go or if I'd even be able to run. So, Kim and I headed out and I told her I'd just see how I felt and if it wasn't going well, she could continue and I'd just hang out back at her house with her daughter Ryann. Within the first mile I knew it felt totally different than the day before. I wasn't completely drained of all energy and I could actually run and hold a conversation with her. We weren't going fast, but I was running and I didn't feel like I was going to die. We did a nice easy 4 miles and when we finished Kim asked if I wanted to add on an extra mile. I decided to end on a high note and not over do it.

After the run, since it was Ryann's first birthday, we had pizza and the best homemade chocolate cake EVER! I had 2 pieces of cake. I think I even ate more pizza than Kim's husband Bill and he's a bottomless pit. I never order pizza so it was a super special treat for me. And it was really fun to watch Ryann dig into her birthday cake and look at us all encouraging her like, "Seriously?!? You want me to grab the cake? and that's ok?" She hesitated at first, but once she got a taste of the frosting she dug in.

Thursday I went for a run along the Charles after work. I did the 7 mile loop from work to the JFK St bridge and back. I was REALLY tempted to keep going, but the next bridge adds on almost 2 more miles. I probably could have easily done the 8.75, but I held back and resisted the urge to keep going. Thank God I did, it got really cold towards the end of my run and then it started raining. By the time I was driving across the Mass Ave bridge heading home it was pouring out. I would have been soaking wet, freezing cold, and miserable.

Friday, I took a rest day knowing that I had a really, really big weekend planned. I literally did nothing Friday night. I stopped at the grocery store on my way home for some junk food and sat on the couch watching mindless TV until I passed out in a puddle of my own drool. I friggin LOVE that. I had a busy week at work and a rough week of running and I just gave in to my body's overwhelming requirement for some rest. Before I passed out, I made plans to run in the morning with Kim and Shannon. I was doing 18 miles and they wanted to do half with me, so I agreed to run 7-8 miles and then run to Shannon's and meet up with them for the last 9-10 miles.

The alarm clock went off EARLY Saturday morning, granted I'm a morning person anyway and I'm used to it, but I really could have stayed in bed a little longer. I was meeting Shannon and Kim at 7:30 so I had to start my run at 6:00am. It was still dark out and I donned my reflective gear and headlamp and several blinking lights. I got out the door a little after 6:00 and started running. I hadn't run in the dark in a while and honestly it was a little creepy. Usually, it's quiet and peaceful and I enjoy it, but for some reason this time felt like I was the main character in a horror flick running from the villain. Luckily, the sun came up about 3 miles into my run and although it was a little chilly, the brisk morning air felt really good to run in.

As I headed towards Shannon's house and passed the 7 mile mark in my run I realized I didn't consider the time it would take me to run to her house after getting my miles in. I should have left a little earlier. I was going to be a little late. Not a lot late, just 5-10 minutes, but I hate being late and I didn't want them to worry. I got there and it was just a little past 7:30, no need to worry. We chatted for a bit and discussed which way to run and then off we went.

Shannon and Kim started out like bullets out of a rifle and I reminded them I was not going to be able to hold that pace and would be a little further back. They were nice enough to hold back and run with me. I kept an eye on my Garmin, knowing how easy it would be to pick up the pace and run faster with them, but needing to keep my pace a little slower because I was doing a longer run. We did great, averaging exactly where I wanted to be, 30-45 seconds slower than my marathon race pace. We were close to done and Kim was doing the math and figured we would be a little short so her internal GPS map of downtown Lowell corrected our course and added on a little extra loop making it a perfect 18 miles for me. They ran a little further when I stopped to make their run an even 10 miles.

Splitting the run like that and finishing it up with the company of great friends seriously makes me remember why I love it so much. We stick together through thick and thin and help each other with tough training runs and celebrate successes together and pick each other up after disappointing performances. I hardly even felt like I did 18 miles. Could have been the endorphin high or mentally breaking the run into two smaller chunks. Either way it was great. Kim drove me home, dropped me off, I took my ice bath, and hot shower and inhaled everything edible in my house. I went to Trader Joe's to get a few things and ended up buying my body weight in chocolate treats.

Saturday afternoon, I took my friend Erin for her very first IKEA shopping experience. It's so overwhelming and exciting. I love that place. It's like Toys R Us for adults. I got a new night stand and some curtain rods and Erin got a new rug and a bunch of small home decor things for her new apartment. She couldn't beleive how much stuff they had and how inexpensive it was. I'm glad I don't live closer to Stoughton because I'd be there every weekend. We spent a few hours there and by the time we finished up and I drove back home it was already 7:30 at night! I chowed on some food for dinner (homemade sweet and sour tempeh with steamed broccoli and brown rice) and went to bed.
Sunday was the Historic Half of Quincy. I got up early again and ate a quick breakfast before hopping in my car and driving to the race. It was a lot cooler out than I thought it was going to be. In the 40s and sunny, I hoped that the temperature would climb a few degrees before the start of the race. I got my new RaceMenu singlet and wanted to run in just that, but I felt a little too cold. 40 degrees is so hard to dress for. I know how to dress for 50+ and 30 or colder, but I struggle with 40. I had a long sleeve shirt on and put my singlet over it.

Considering that I ran 18 miles the day before I had no expectations for the race. I just wanted to have fun and enjoy the course. I knew I wasn't going to PR and I definitely wasn't going to win anything. I just wanted to have fun. The race started and I tried to settle into a nice easy pace. I did the first mile in about 10 minutes and the second mile only a few seconds faster. Then on my way up the first little hill on the course my friend Andy showed up. We started talking and before I knew it we were doing 9:30s. We held that pace consistantly for the next 10 miles! I told him I'd try to hang until mile 10 and then if he wanted to race the last 5K he could. He stuck with me until mile 12 and pulled me up every single hill. It was a really tough run, but having good company made it go by really fast. I finished up the last mile in 9:15 and my official finish time was 2:04:35!!!!! Significantly better than I had expected thanks to my personal pacer Andy. And I'm really starting to believe that the RaceMenu hat I wear has special speedy powers because everytime I wear it I surprise myself and kick ass!
After the race the weather was absolutely gorgeous! It was sunny and almost 70 degrees. I sat on the ground for a bit near the finish and had some water and a banana and soaked up some sun. Chatted some more with Andy and some of his friends. My stomach started to growl a little at me and they didn't really have many options for me to eat other than bananas so I hit the road and headed home. I really should have eaten lunch and then crashed on the couch, but the endorphins were still shooting through my veins so I assembled my new IKEA nightstand, hung my new curtain rods, made some veggie and barley soup, did some laundry, AND THEN finally around 7:00 I sat down and relaxed. What an amazing weekend!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Will I ever learn???

I am really good at overtraining and wearing myself out. Last week I ran around downtown Boston after work for a nice 8 miler Tuesday, starting to get some speed back and averaging in the low 9's again. I felt really good. Wednesday I did my weekly Ayer run with Kim and we killed it. Super hilly loop finishing up one giant hill. I tell myself hills are good for you and I love them. Thursday, I did an easy 7 miles around the Charles River. It was ridiculously windy. I'm talking 50mph gusts windy. I felt like I wasn't even moving at some points. Still averaged a decent pace.

So, after 20 miles in 3 days I took a rest day despite the gorgeous weather we've been having tempting me to run again. I knew I had a big weekend planned so I saved my legs for longer miles. Instead of running I decided to kill some time at the mall. Walking around for a few hours is a good active recovery, right? And retail therapy is always fun.

Saturday, Kim came to Lowell for our long run. We decided to revisit the 10.75 mile loop that haunted her from weeks before when we ran it and it didn't go well. This time it was a totally different experience. She OWNED it! The first 3 miles of the run are pretty much all uphill and it beats you down before you're even halfway into the run. I told her to ease into it and conserve energy for the entire run rather than going all out and leaving it all on the first hill. We started at about a 10:30 pace and then after we reached the top of the hill we settled into a comfortable pace just under 10:00. The miles were flying by and Kim was picking up the pace. It was a perfect day, in the high 30s maybe even 40 and sunny. Quiet and peaceful on the backroads through Andover, we made our way back to my house. Just a few more hills and we were home. Kim maintained a perfect pace for the run and even finished the last mile in a 9:19 UPHILL!!!
Here's the elevation for what we ran:
After the run Saturday I ran a few errands, cleaned my house, did some laundry, and then met up with a friend for late lunch at Life Alive. Even though we went there at almost 2:00pm it was still packed! Proof it's the best place in Lowell to eat. We hung out and chatted for a while and then walked around downtown for a bit. The day flew by and before I knew it, I was ready to pass out on my couch. I set all my clocks ahead and tried to go to bed early knowing that it would totally suck to wake up in the morning AND I needed to run 16 miles for my marathon training plan.
And this is what my 16 miles looks like:
Sunday I rolled out of bed and had a few cups of tea and some breakfast then headed out for my 16 miler. It wasn't bad. I expected to be a little slower considering the hard run the day before. I just wanted to feel good. I didn't care what my Garmin said for pace, I just ran by feel and kept a comfortable pace. I was consistant as usual and finished strong with the last mile being the fastest. Then I went to the grocery store and got my ice and some food. Did my ritual ice bath and showered before going to a party in the afternoon. I got home around 7:00 and crashed. Exhausted. The weekend went by so fast and I didn't even really get to relax like most people do on their weekends.

Monday came way too soon. I wanted to sleep in in the worst way. Mother Nature was tempting me too. It was 70 degrees and sunny in Boston and absolutely beautiful! I needed rest and recovery no matter how nice it was out. So, after work I met up with my friend Erin and we walked around back bay and then went to dinner at the Life alive in Central Square. We sat and talked for a few hours and then I headed home. It was an amazing afternoon. Perfect in every way. I even found a dime on the ground walking back to my car!

Tuesday, the amazing weather trend continued. I brought my running gear in and changed after work and headed out towards Boston to do the same 8 mile loop I did the week before. The first mile felt a little off, slow and sluggish and only about a 10:15 pace. Not awful but it's totally flat and I usually start out at a 9:30 pace in the first mile from work. Oh well, pushed through it and though, the first mile is always the hardest. I decided to run out along the marathon course and do an out and back instead of the loop, just in case I continued to feel off. I made it to the bump that goes over the Mass Pike right at mile 25 (only about a mile and a half into my run) and just couldn't go anymore. I ran out of gas completely. I turned around and cut the run short. Attempted to run again a few times but had nothing left in the tank. It ended up being a total of 3.5 miles by the time I got back to my car and it took me about 45 minutes! Today I'm suppose to run with Kim in Ayer and praying that I feel better, but I didn't sleep well because there was an insane thunderstorm last night that kept me up all night. I was having really strange dreams all night too. The thunder sounded like plow trucks driving by but there's no snow so I was really confused and then a flash of lightning lit up my whole house so I figured out it was a storm. I fell back asleep but was restless all night. I woke up and my heart was pounding. My resting heart rate was 70bpm! Yesterday it was 50bpm. Hoping and praying that yesterday was just a bad day and I feel better today. We'll see how it goes. I have a half marathon on Sunday. If it goes anything like last night's run I may have to DNF for the first time in my life.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

In like a lion.....

Wow, I can't believe it's been about two weeks since the last time I posted something. My bad. It's been crazy. Time is flying by. I wrapped up February with a little over 130 miles total. I got a head cold for a few days that forced me to rest more than I would have liked, but overall it was a good month.

The last few weeks have been full of fun and excitement. I had the annual meeting of my condo association which can sometimes be stressful and heated, but this year it went surprisingly well. The crazy guy was calm and collected, half the older people didn't even show up and we adjourned a little early just chatting about random things. Only downside I'm treasurer and chairwoman - it's a lot of work, but no one else is capable or willing to do do it. Luckily we don't have many bills and most people pay their fees on time. There is one resident that hasn't paid in a few months, but she doesn't even know her own name and her kids take care of her so I cut her some slack.

I got my first performance review at my new job and seriously couldn't stop smiling for several days. I called my mom and my Massachusetts mom on my way home from work like a little kid with a good report card. It's so refreshing to have a job I really love and work with people that appreciate me and mentor me and help me grow into my new role. One of the comments from a senior leader was "I wish I had several Alicia's on my team" the only real constructive criticism was from another senior leader basically saying I shouldn't be afraid to harass them if they have a deliverable or action item to follow up on. Still feels like a dream. I got a merit increase and a bonus that for only a 4 month review period is still more than any bonus I got at my previous job. I seriously won the awesome life lottery.
Anyway, the last two weeks have been a little less exciting on the running front. I had a cold and then a serious lack of motivation and a lovely snow storm on March 1st that threw a wrench in the works. My long runs have been going great. I've done a few 14s and 12s and this weekend I will do 16. It's the shorter mid-week runs that have me struggling a little. I really need to join a gym so that I can cross train because I'm kind of getting bored with running. I need to mix it up.

I LOVE my Wednesday runs in Ayer with my friend Kim and I really look forward to them. It's the other days running alone along the Charles river that have gotten kind of boring. I switch up the routes and do different bridges and sometimes run into Boston, but it's flat and I hate stopping at traffic lights. Just when I get comfortable and settle into a nice pace I have to stop and wait for the light to change and some intersections don't even have walk symbols so I just have to make a run for it and with my track record that makes me a little nervous.

The warm weather lately has made it pretty nice to run outside in Boston though so I can't really complain. It could be A LOT worse, we could have had a winter like last year and I wouldn't be running at all. This week the temperatures might even hit 70 degrees! I can't wait for that.

Last weekend was actually closer to normal for this time of year. Saturday morning we got a wintery mix of half snow half rain I like to call it "slushing" - it's soggy and cold and all around miserable to run in. Kim and I still managed a decent 10 miles through Ayer and Devens and Harvard (I think, I really have no idea where we were). There were some killer hills and by the end of the run my hip flexors were definitely feeling it. I was sore. Didn't stop me from getting up Sunday morning and doing my 14 mile loop though. MORE HILLS. I actually felt pretty good and negative split the run. That's pretty impressive considering mile 7-11 is one big never-ending hill then I get a break for a mile before the last 2 miles climb back up to my house. Looks a little like this: It's a brutal run, but I LOVE it. I ran the last two miles the fastest. Not gonna lie, I think it might have something to do with seeing some super fast guy run past me in the opposite direction and not wanting to get passed when he turned around.

I decided to rest yesterday even though it was about 40 degrees and sunny out and I brought my running clothes with me to work. I figured 31 miles in 3 days called for rest. Today I will get back out there and maybe try to find a new route and some more exciting scenery. I think I might run the marathon course backwards into Brookline and then loop back towards Cambridge across the river somehow. Maybe I'll just run and see where my feet take me.

Coming up in the next few weeks I have a half marathon, a 20-miler, a 5K, and a LOT of long runs. I'm really looking forward to my 16s and 18s, they are my favorite runs. Only 75 days until marathon #10!!!! Oh and I decided to do a stair climb event the day before the marathon for American Lung Association just to add to the challenge and make it a little more memorable and meaningful. It IS my birthday weekend afterall, but I don't want gifts, I just want people to donate to ALA so I can make a difference and do something really epic for my birthday.
Here's the link: