Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Importance of Flag Day

Five years ago today, Brad asked me to marry him. It was a random week night and we took a walk after work to a park on Lake Michigan. It was lovely and romantic and saying "yes" was the best (and easiest) decision I've ever made.

It happened to be Flag day, so I always remember the exact date.

In honor of my husband and our nearly 13 years of couplehood, here are just a few of the many ways in which he has made my life so, so much better:

-He inspired me to lose weight and become active. Not because he ever had a problem with my body, but because I felt like he deserved to be with someone who was healthy and who took care of herself. In the years since my initial weight loss, he has inspired me to canoe in the wilderness, hike mountains, cross country ski, and run. Watching him train and compete in bike races, from crits at the Pittsburgh oval to 100 milers to 24-hour mountain bike races, has inspired me to train for and meet my own athletic goals.

-He got me out of my hometown. I never would have left the little town I grew up in, let alone lived in Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, and West Virginia, had I not met Brad.

-He has made me more independent. Brad has a low tolerance for people's bullshit, including mine. He calls me out when I'm being ridiculous, and has helped me to see that I can do anything I want to, and there's absolutely no reason that I need someone to do it with me. My mother can't even put gas in her own car, so I value this more than I can even explain.

-We share a brain. Whether it's from being together for almost 13 years or because we truly are a perfect match, I don't know. But we have the exact same sense of humor and sometimes freak each other out by thinking the same thing at the same time. It's awesome.

-He has introduced me to things such as Tom Waits, camping, and Predator. And for that I will forever be grateful.

Brad is 100% my best friend and I am still sometimes amazed that I landed such a smart, funny, handsome and all around awesome guy. Here's to a lifetime of Flag days to celebrate. XO

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Post HM Blues

It has been a week since I ran my first half marathon. My hips were sore last Sunday so I did nothing except eat Mexican food and drink a margarita with Brad. But already that evening, I was starting to feel the post-event blues.

"I'm kind of depressed that the half marathon is over," I told Brad in our kitchen on Sunday. "I don't have anything to work toward anymore."
"See? Now you get it! Sign up for another one!" said the man who races nearly every weekend from April through November, every year.
"Um, no."

But I have spent the last week thinking about what I want to do next. I love the feeling of setting a big goal and achieving it. All of those weeks of work actually led to something real. I'm not ready to commit to a marathon yet, but I don't think it's completely out of the question in my lifetime.

I think for now, I'm going to keep running (because, turns out? I like it) and try to get faster. I am running with a new friend, E., on Sunday. She is probably much faster than me, and I think that is a step in the right direction. My plan right now is going to be:

1 "track" workout per week (will probably be done on a TM sometimes)

1 fartlek per week

1 LSD per week

2 strength-training sessions per week

+other runs at my regular pace

+more protein in my diet

+run with someone faster sometimes (E. or Brad, if I can ever convince him to run)

Hopefully this will all help me get my average pace down below 10:00 miles.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Deckers Creek Trail Half Marathon

I did it! I set a goal that seemed crazy, and I achieved it. As a fat kid and non-athletic adult, part of me never thought -- even a couple of weeks ago -- that I would actually complete this race. I am ridiculously proud of myself and I'm already thinking about running it again next year.
I took Friday off from work because I knew I would be a ball of nerves, and I needed to get things ready for my trip up to Morgantown. Brad came home from work around noon and brought me a Jimmy John's veggie sub, my absolute favorite sandwich ever. He then packed up and headed to Ohio to race the Mohican 100 and I took Ilsa to the dog spa (AKA Shamrock Stables Boarding Kennel) and headed out.

I spent Friday night at the Clarion Hotel Morgan, which is a beautiful old historic hotel right in downtown Morgantown. There was a special rate for the half marathon, otherwise I would never have been able to afford it. I checked in, then walked over to Black Bear Burritos to get dinner. I ordered the Wing it! burrito to go, and took it back to my hotel room to eat. I drank a bunch of water, watched "I Love You Man" in bed, and then zonked out around 10:00. Do I know how to party or what?
On Saturday I woke up, ate my peanut butter on bread (no toaster), packed up, checked out, and drove to the Hazel Ruby McQuain park to pick up my race packet. There, all of the runners were loaded onto buses and driven to the trailhead in Masontown. I was so nervous during the bus ride. Luckily, I sat next to a friendly, chatty guy who has five kids and was running with his wife, both of them in Vibram Five Fingers! We talked about West Virginia, his shoes, and our training. He told me that I was more dedicated than most, for driving up from Charleston all by myself to do the race. Talking to this guy really calmed my nerves -- I never got his name or saw him after the race, but I hope he did well!

Once we arrived at the trailhead, I waited in line for a really long time to use a port-a-potty, walked about 400 feet down the trail to where everyone was convening, and soon someone yelled "Go!"

So I went.

I had previously committed to using the Galloway Method due to my injured foot. I ran through my first couple of walk intervals (even though Jeff Galloway says those are the most important!) and then settled into my 5:1 intervals. I firmly believe in the power of the walk breaks now. The first few intervals, I would get passed by people during my walk breaks. I would pass them again when running, and they would pass me during my next walk break, etc. But you know what? After about 4 miles, I never saw those people again. They were fading and I was speeding up.

The first 10 miles went by relatively quickly. I stopped at every water station (there were 7, which was awesome) and had water at one, Gatorade at the next. I had eaten 2 of my Powerbar Energy Blasts at mile 7, and that plus all the Gatorade gave me a little boost when I needed it.

Miles 11-13 were tough for me. They were on pavement (the rest had been wooded, dirt trail) and in bright sun. It was hot and my feet were starting to hurt. My right foot was cramping a bit, but my left arch (the injured one) was actually doing OK. I kept trucking along at my intervals. There was a high school rock band playing under a tent at mile 11. There was a water station and a hose spraying down at the trail at mile 12 -- that felt wonderful! A guy wearing a surgical mask rode past me on a recumbent bike with a boombox BLARING Will Smith's "Miami." Not sure where he came from.

Pretty soon I saw mile 13! There were a bunch of people cheering. I was almost there! I ignored my Garmin beeping for my last walk interval and ran right through the finish, grabbed a bottle of water from a volunteer, and went to stand under one of the hoses that were set up to cool people off. I took off my hat and got my hair nice and wet. Then I walked for about 1/2 a mile, ate a slice of pizza, and talked to an acquaintance, Shelly, who had also raced. Before I left, I drank another bottle of water and a bottle of Gatorade. It was HOT and I was pretty dehydrated.

I finished in 2:31, which I am really very proud of. My goal had been 2:45 and, with my injury, and I wasn't sure that I would even achieve that. This race was awesome. The course was beautiful, the volunteers were amazing, and the water stops were well-stocked and often.

Every mile -- every single step -- of my training, motivation, preparation, and race was done alone. Would it have been more fun if I'd had a friend to run with or someone waiting for me at the finish? Probably. But I did it, despite thinking that I never could or would, and I did it all. by. my. self.