Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Weekend Warrior

According to Urban Dictionary (which is a fantastic source of knowledge for today's 21st century young American, by the way) a "Weekend Warrior" can be described as a person who holds a regular job during the week which restricts their ability to party/go on trips/partake in awesome activities, and thus plans epic weekend adventures to compensate.

I started off 2013 with Ragnar Relay in the Keys. A little over a month later, raced (and PR'd!) the St Pete Half Marathon. Last Saturday I raced the Gasparilla 15K and kept my pace down to a very satisfying 7:48/mile. 

I was in the top 10% of my age group (technically top 4.6%, but who's really calculating that stuff out anyway) and am getting a fancy coffee mug as an award. 


This is actually the 5K one that I found a photo of and turned into 15K. 
My actual mug is in the mail. Thanks Microsoft Paint. 

There were, of course, ridiculously flattering race photos taken.

 I call this one "the claw". Check out my right hand. 
I was literally clawing my way to the finish line.

This is the one time on the course I saw the race photog so I painted on a plastic smile. 
This photo also reminds me that I twist my torso way too much when I run. 

Another case in point: My left T-rex arm. I should probably hide this photo from my running coach.

And this weekend? I will be in Tuscaloosa.
And there just so happens to be a half marathon on Saturday. In Tuscaloosa. 
And I am just about bat crazy enough to do it. As long as I of course sprinkle myself with holy water first.
(War Eagle.)

But really..... Who am I?! 

Between 2011 and 2012, I raced only two half marathons. Two in 2 years. Gasparilla Half in 2011 and the Iron Girl Half in 2012. I was so busy recovering from injuries and then training for my full marathons in San Francisco and Chicago that the half marathons (amongst most all other distances)  fell by the wayside. 

I am starting to really get into these short to medium distance races. 
It doesn't put such a toll on your body, your average pace makes you feel like a rockstar, and you can keep up with your regular training at the same time without major tapering. 

Plus, racing is fun! It's like speedwork, but you get a medal at the end!

And yes, during marathon training season, I am smugly saying that "medium distance" means anything less than around 15. Because I am a certified snobby brat. 

Weekend Warrior-ism also includes other awesome non-running activities, like going to polo matches and wearing giant southern belle hats with your friends and drinking champagne while stomping divots between the chukkers. 

The divot stomping photo you see above is from the good folks over at the Plant City Observer ... I'm famous in a small town, y'all. 

Spring (and all the fun activities that follow) is right around the corner.... I can feel it! 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Getting Down To Business

Someone once asked me how many times you had to run a race before it started to be all about what your time was, and less about running just to run.

My answer was simple - only one. 

Running is incredibly enjoyable for me, don't get me wrong. After your first race however, it almost becomes a game to see how much better you can do next time.

 And the next time. 

And the next time. 

And it becomes even more fun when you keep beating your previous times.

Basking in half marathon PR glory is a beautiful thing. It's been a week now since the elusive 1:44 graced my Garmin, and unfortunately it's time to move ahead from that and start figuring out what's next.

I'll be running the 15K in the Gasparilla Distance Classic this weekend. I've never raced a 15K and am pretty lost as to what pace I should be aiming for. I figure I'll just go for a little faster than my half marathon pace and see what happens -- thinking maybe around a 1:13 finish time? 
Who knows. 

 After that my calendar is fairly open. I may do the Iron Girl Half Marathon again in April, just because I'm a sicko and I love running bridges. 

Bring it.

Looking beyond that, I believe I can be marathon ready by May. There are a few races that have peaked my interest.... one specifically being The Calgary Marathon.

I love Calgary. Every time I've gone to visit, I've had an incredible experience. It is such a beautiful city and am pretty jealous of my sister Rachel living there.
In the summer months, at least!
While the marathon is definitely not a flat course and certainly not one I'd expect to PR on, I would get to spend time with Rachel. Plus the weather would be incredible!
If I were to do Calgary, I'd most likely take a few weeks off then get back into gear and get speedy for the Twin Cities Marathon in October - AKA The Most Beautiful Urban Marathon in America.

Hopefully I can talk my Uncle Dan into joining me! 

 With all these races in mind, it's time to get down to the nitty gritty and focus on my training plan.
I want a marathon time in the 3:40's. Barring any unforeseen injury, this WILL HAPPEN in 2013.
  I can feel it.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Wait...That Wasn't Supposed To Happen!

There will be a day when I can no longer sign up for a half marathon 10 days out, with no hard training to speak of, and go on and PR the race. 

Sunday was not that day. 

I am a huge ambassador of St Petersburg, FL. I love this city to it's core -- from the beautiful waterfront parks to the incredible art scene to the funky laid back vibe of downtown, I'm so proud to call it my home.

When the Rock N Roll series announced it was doing an inaugural half marathon in St Pete in 2012, I was incredibly bummed out to not race it (due to injuries sustained from my first marathon in San Francisco). I love supporting the city and it's running community in any way possible.

Then 2013 rolled around. I knew I wanted to run it, however with a nagging piriformis issue I didn't get my hopes up and waited until after Ragnar to make sure I was going to be healthy.
 I'd barely done any speed work, my weekly mileage was still fairly low, and was just kind of going through the motions of running with no real goal in mind. But I still wanted to do it.

I finally signed up on January 31st, 10 days before race day. 
Procrastination, anyone?

The nice thing about this race was I had no expectations, which meant no real race week jitters. I thought it would be awesome to beat my previous PR of 1:48, but knew if I wasn't feeling the love on race morning that it wasn't a big deal. I just wanted to run in my city. And dance around to Sean Kingston at the end while I drank my free Michelob Ultra.
Priorities, people.

I went through all the typical motions of race prep -- wore flats, ate my customary pancakes for breakfast and pasta for dinner, chugged Nuun and Gatorade all day. 

Danielle, Christine, me, and Esther - Carbed up and ready! 

My good friend Esther was running and it was her first half marathon -- the excitement of the morning built as we met up and I saw the vibrant look on her face, ready to dominate! 

Race Morning

I love welcoming people to my crazy running world with open arms! 

I was in Corral 2, Christine was in 3 and Esther was in 5. We all hugged each other and went into our corresponding places, ready to take off. 

Starting Line 

As I stood there I decided to set my Garmin's virtual pacer to 8:12/mile. That would give me a 1:47 finish time, which was enough to PR. If that pace was going to push it too hard and make me crash and burn, that was OK...at least I'd know what I was capable of.

I told myself just to go with the flow and honey badger it. 
 You know....just not give a ____.

I looked down at my watch after the 1st mile, and my split was 7:43.
Way too fast, I thought. I wanted to push hard but those numbers were just asinine. 
(Or so I thought!)

By the 3rd mile in a half marathon, I'm typically in a good rhythm and any adrenaline that I had previously has worn off for me. But, I was still averaging an 8:05 pace.

Around the 4th mile I had begun drafting the 1:45 pace group. I enjoyed staying close to them, and it kept me motivated on keeping my form and my breathing in check. I'd look down at my watch every once in a while and see current paces beginning with 7, but brushed it off. 
If I was feeling good, I was going to keep going. No regrets. 

happy runner

 I had been practicing eating my Gu and drinking water without slowing down in recent training runs, and that helped immensely. I had no stomach issues, and was able to blow right through the aid stations.

After a while I did begin to wonder... why in the world do I feel so good right now? I shouldn't be feeling this strong. This shouldn't feel so easy. This shouldn't be happening.

By mile 10 I knew I was going to PR. By how much was still a question. The last 3 miles of a half marathon are where your true wit is tested, and with my sub-8 pace up until that point, I was venturing into uncharted territory. 
Had it been too much on my body? Would I disintegrate at the mercy of the 12th mile? 

I never looked down at my watch again until I got to the finish. 

By the 11th mile I was starting to get really excited. 
1:45 was an elusive time that I had once before only dreamed of achieving. Now there I was with it in my grasp. That thought alone carried me through to the finish. 
At some point I passed the pace group, maybe in the 12th mile? It's all kind of a blur now. 

Finish time: 1:44:24
Average pace 7:58/mile 

5K: 25:09 (8:05/mile)
10K: 49:46 (8:00/mile)
10 mile: 1:18:25 (7:50/mile)

I crossed the finish and ran over to Prateek. He shouted Congratulations! 1:45! 
I quickly corrected him in front of lots of people and said Nope, 1:44. 
That one minute makes a huge difference, y'all. 

I watched Christine cross at her new PR of 1:55, and then cheered on Esther as she crossed the finish line of her first half marathon at 2:15! 
We also caught up with our friend Danielle who ran the 5K -- it was her very first race as well, and she dominated! 

We stretched and relaxed in the finishers area, grabbed our Mich Ultras and jumped around to Sean Kingston. 

 Rum and Raybans, anyone? 

We soon decided food may be in our best interest so headed over to Fresco's for brunch. And mimosas. 


 Looking back, after crossing the finish line I was out of breath for only about a minute and still had energy left to spend. I think I could have gone faster.
 A good friend told me to not look at it that way, as it sets me up for the next one. 

Which is absolutely correct.

Now I know what I'm capable of. I know that I'm ready to tackle a tougher training program this year and am ready to push myself to numbers I never thought possible. 

 2013 is going to be a fast year, I can feel it! 

Oh, you're still here?!

You get the pleasure of viewing some of the worst and scariest race photos ever documented in the history of time.

Viewer discretion is advised if you'd rather not ruin your image of me.

No, seriously. Do not continue on unless you want these images deeply embedded in your memory forever.

Hey, if you can't make fun of yourself, who can you make fun of?! 

 I call this one the "I want my mommy" face

 This is me trying to look focused, but instead looking a little gastrointestinally challenged

 Heavy mouth breathing means weird protruding cheeks which means embarrassing race photo moments

I call this one the "baby bird"... feed me!

I'm not certain what's more impressive here: my gravity defying braid, or my quad muscle bulging out of my left leg. Eww.

Can't get enough?! Need some more laughs? 
There are more amazing race photos of me for from the Chicago Marathon here

What can I say, I have no shame.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Winter Wonderland

Florida winters consist of shorts and flip flops with trips to the beach. It's a true blessing to not worry about ice storms and consistently bundle up with layer upon layer to keep yourself from freezing to death.

So why, do you ask, would two Florida residents leave 75 degree sunny weather for a midwestern state that posts temperatures at negative 12 degrees? 

Because of this.

There is a certain majesty and enchantment of being in the mountains that I can't quite put my finger on.

There I go! 

There is always a moment in the trip where I get inside my own head and completely freak myself out (FYI, when it's below zero degrees, tears freeze almost instantly), and this year was no exception. However, I was much more confident this year than in years past, and was even able to conquer a few blue slopes. 

Maybe it was my cool helmet that gave me the confidence boost. I mean, check out how awesome I look. How can you not be confident wearing that.

Prateek gets the gold star for bravery on this trip. At the end of our second day out on the slopes, he decides to do one last run on a blue trail he'd been eying. I was more than happy to wait for him at the lift below.
Apparently, he got to the top of the mountain, and that trail he'd wanted to ski was a black diamond for the entire first half and an extremely difficult blue the second half.

He got to the bottom of the mountain where I was waiting, and I was all Hooray honey! Looking good! and he was all OMG I JUST ALMOST DIED.

 Still a little freaked out

Needless to say, we hit the spa that evening for a little something called Aqua Sanitas.

It's 5 steps of relaxation.
According to the Allegria Spa, here's what it's all about: 
Modeled on ancient Roman baths and the origins of spa, Aqua Sanitas, or healing waters, is a self-guided water ritual. Alternating hot and cold temperatures will restore the body and promote wellness and inner peace.

The Five Steps: 
Evoking a natural spring, this jetted co-ed pool begins your journey. The water raises your core temperature, increases circulation, boosts metabolism and relieves sore muscles.


Continue the journey in separate mineral pools for men and women. Natural, healthy ozonation and salination systems are used to purify the waters.


A deluxe cooling rainshower provides an invigorating transition from the heated pools.


The experience of heat, steam and light promote a feeling of total immersion. The wintergreen scented steam will refresh and recharge your senses.


Infused with relaxing aromatic scents, this is a sanctuary for rest and quiet repose. Recline on contoured heated loungers in this serene setting.

Yadda Yadda Yadda.....

It was a welcome relief to sore legs after 2 long days of skiing.
I would also like to re-visit this spa after every marathon from this point forward. Let's make that happen.

Another favorite part of Beaver Creek? The S'mores happy hour.

We left Beaver Creek after 3 days there to head over to Vail. But not before we got in another action packed adventure -- snowmobiling. 

I had never been on a snowmobile, but it's kind of like a really fast four wheeler on snow. Prateek thoroughly enjoyed trying to buck me off the snowmobile on every bump and turn. He almost succeeded on more than one occasion.

 After we checked in at Vail Village, we got to our room to discover that we had been upgraded to a suite that was larger than most apartments I've ever been in.

It even had a fireplace. Is this real life?

Vail is much more vibrant and lively in comparison to Beaver Creek. Vail is the place you go to get some shopping/eating/pub crawling in. 

Shopping was fun. Prateek and I both found shirts.

This about sums it up.                 He definitely deserves this shirt after his black diamond 

I went on a hunt for new ski outfits.

We also hit up the Red Lion for Apres Ski.

The Red Lion: where drinks magically disappear. 

After a relaxing and wonderful 5 days in the mountains, it was already time to head back.

Many people say you're either a "mountains" person or a "beach" person. I never really thought about it much until this trip. I live in Florida, 15 minutes from some of the most beautiful beaches in the country, and am blessed to live on the open water of Tampa Bay with a dock and a boat. One would think that I am definitely a beach person. 

I'm beginning to think that might be a lie. 

The mountains demand humility, but yield so much peace in return. 
The valleys...the trails...the colors....the exploring...the waterfalls and wildlife and snow caps and clean crisp air...

I could very well be a mountain girl at heart.