February: That Time I Remembered that I Actually Like Running

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I didn’t track too much of anything mileage wise in the month of February. Since I really started my training for Boston after the holidays, I can tell you that I’ve put in the miles and the effort but if you want to know mileage totals and paces…maybe stay tuned for next month. I had a rough time in January because it just felt so hard, but February was a turning point.

  1. I ran my first race since July and didn’t die.
  2. Running/training became a habit again, rather than a chore.
  3. My tempo runs started feeling less like an activity designed to inflict endless torture/frustration, and more like a solid workout.
  4. I used the treadmill entirely too much earlier in the month, but I got to finish the month running in shorts and a sports bra. In February. In Northeastern PA. Shorts. Sports bra.
  5. I got back on track with being Paleo-ish and got close to my racing weight again.

I run the Super Bowl Sunday 10K every year. this year, it fell on February 5th. I was just getting my legs back and didn’t think I could come close to the time I ran last year, which is my 10K PR. My good friend, Kathy, and her husband Darin were also running. Darin told Kathy that he wanted to beat us at the race. He even sent me a screenshot of his Strava with proof that he was averaging 6:50 pace for his own 10K time trial. I was shit talking right back, although I knew the reality of my fitness at this point. It’s a pretty hilly course, and I’m not much of a 10K runner, so I knew my PR was somewhere in the 41 minute range – only slightly faster than what he was averaging on his training runs.

My personal goal was the same as last year’s goal. Run this as a tempo run (especially good use of this race since it’s hilly and I tend to stick to flats for tempos) and average goal marathon pace, 6:45-6:50/mile. I also wanted to beat Darin, but I wasn’t willing to go out too fast and blow the workout. The race began, and I felt fantastic. I ran comfortable and relaxed, and I didn’t work too much harder than I had to. I ended up averaging 6:41/mile and running 41:34 – four seconds slower than my 10K PR. If I’d known I was that close, I would have picked it up. I’m not disappointed because I never expected to come close to a PR, let alone feel that good. Kathy finished a few seconds behind me (41:46) and Darin finished a few minutes after us 🙂 🙂 43:41! He ran a great race, but it was even better since we were able to remind him about how we beat him.

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(Darin is in black, and his twin brother, Derrek, is the one in blue!)

Since last spring ended and I got burned out, I was having trouble getting out the door to run regularly. I would find excuses not to go or to just do it another day. I kept remembering how last year it didn’t matter what the situation was – I got the run done. It was like I was on autopilot. There were weeks where my shortest run was 10 miles and I never once thought, “ugh, can I just do this another day?” Once I got back on the training horse in January, I had that thought that every single time I laced up my running shoes. The week after the 10K, that changed. I was getting ready to do a tempo run. As I headed over to the trail I use for those workouts, it dawned on me that I wasn’t thinking about the tough workout ahead, or trying to figure out a way to push it off. I finally felt like I was on autopilot again. Even yesterday, when I was leaving work and totally exhausted and had a long strength/track workout to do, I just got out of my car and did it, no hesitation. I like that feeling. I missed that feeling.

Another January/February habit I developed was using the treadmill (or should I say, overusing). I started to become a real baby about going outside. We’ve had pretty much the mildest winter of my existence, and somehow I found reasons to not run outside. We got one snowstorm, so there was that – but I always found a way to say it was too cold, too windy, too cloudy, too whatever. In January and the beginning of February, I think I ran more miles on a treadmill than I’ve ever run on a treadmill. I just went with it. If it was the thing that got me motivated to run again, great.

While I don’t like to use a treadmill often, I think I relied on it because I felt like I could control my pace and force my body into working harder than I wanted (dumb idea, I’m sure). This was especially helpful with the tempo runs. I had a rough time getting started with these. I couldn’t even touch the goal pace from last year, let alone try to go faster. I found if I used the treadmill, I would at least do it and not stop – because God forbid I accidentally reset the treadmill before it hit the one hour mark. It would be like the run never happened. This past week, not only did I do my tempo run on a different trail, but it was at a different time since I had to rearrange my schedule to accommodate a work trip. It was outside, and it was my best one yet. Ahhh, finally. I think making myself force the pace on the treadmill helped get my confidence and speed back (probably not the smartest strategy, but whatever).

I gained a few pounds over the holidays (as usual, but not as much as last year) and started to get closer to my racing weight again, which feels great. I spent a lot of time training for my upcoming pole competition (Atlantic Pole Championships in DC on 4/2!) both at the pole studio and on my home pole, but that’s all I’ll say about that for now 🙂 By the time I do a March recap, I will be able to share much more about that experience because the competition will be over! But here is a picture of my new pole in my spare bedroom (we haven’t renovated that section of the house yet so it looks a little scary):

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Other fun, non-fitness related things…I got my orchid new to bloom! I bought this little guy in July and I’ve never had any luck with orchids ever in my life:

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My husband and I cook Valentine’s dinner together every year, and this year was wonderful:

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Homemade crab cakes (I need to get that recipe out because they were freaking amazing), homemade tarter sauce, homemade mashed potatoes and seared strip steaks, asparagus, and homemade chocolate creme brulee with homemade creme anglaise. I usually do all of the cooking around our house but I love when we do a meal together, and we usually do this for Valentine’s Day. So fun.

We also finished our pantry, which is an addition off of our new kitchen! So much room for activities!!!!

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How was your month? Do you ever feel like you’re on autopilot with running?

If miles were run but they weren’t blogged about, did they actually happen?

Hello!!!!!

I didn’t really know how to start this post. Just diving right in seemed kind of lame. Like oh hey guys, sooooo, this is what I did last week…and the past eight months…

Yesterday, I posted a picture of my new running kicks, and I was overwhelmed by some comments and messages I received from some of you who missed hearing from me. It truly warmed my heart and motivated me to get a post out there. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to write – I have – but I just didn’t know what to say. First of all, I am really really really sorry I left you all hanging! That was pretty shitty of me.

Usually when you get radio silence from me, it’s because I’m injured and pissed off. This is not exactly the case this time. I came off of my Kentucky race on a HUGE high. I thought I was “recovering well” because I took like a week off and then started running some “easy, low, mileage”. I signed up for “just a few short distance, local races” and jumped almost immediately back into round two of Hansons in June. A month away from structured training was enough, right?

Looking back, the months that followed don’t surprise me in the slightest. I spent two years chasing a marathon PR and doing whatever I needed to do to make it happen. I suffered through countless injuries and heartbreak. I hired a coach, and then I stopped working with him when I got slower. I tried my hand at writing my own training plan before finally finding my jam with Hansons, which was an integral part of my success last year. It not only taught me to push limits and run harder than I ever have before, but it taught me to back off and understand what it truly means to run easy. This lesson alone has become invaluable to me this time around.

The catalyst for this whole hiatus was in early July. I ran the Belmar 5 Mile, and ran a PR for the distance (I had to look it up, 32:04) but I could have run it much faster. I felt outstanding, but my stupid calf cramped. If you’ve followed my blog for long enough, you’ll know that I’ve battled calf strains before and it never usually ends well. Luckily, a cramp was as far as it went physically, but it triggered some serious mental burnout.

For the first time in who knows how long, I started skipping runs. It was too hot, too hilly, too fast, too early, too late, too busy, too <insert any excuse here>. School started and I was in a wedding in the middle of September. I didn’t feel like juggling it all, so I just…didn’t.  I wasn’t logging zero mile weeks, but it was a big milestone if I racked up over 20 miles in any given week. Coming off of 85 mile weeks at the end of my previous cycle, this felt strange…and really, really nice. I didn’t miss it, even when all of my friends started posting about their fall races all over social media. I was hitting the pole studio almost every single day, so between running intermittently and frequent strength training, I felt good.

In the beginning of October, it dawned on me that I was scheduled to pace a 1:45 half marathon in early November. I spent the month of October “training” for this – running 3-5 miles a few days during the week, and a long run on the weekends. Race day came, I got the job done and had a blast. I went right back to my newfound slacker ways the next day, even though my intentions were to start ramping up my mileage in preparation for Boston training. As the weeks of minimal mileage passed by, I wondered if I would ever feel like training for a race again. The excuses to not run continued to pile up – including a bout with strep throat over Christmas week. I want to say I felt worried about my lack of running, but really I was more worried about my lack of interest in it.

But then, something happened. I still don’t know what it was. One morning, I packed my gym bag with running clothes, and somehow packed my lunch box full of healthy food, and it began. I don’t know what shifted my mentality, but since January 2nd, I’ve been “back”.

At first, it was a struggle. Every mile hurt. Every workout hurt even more. I took the focus off my pace and just focused on getting my endurance back. I started following the Hanson’s Advanced plan, but I’ve been much more casual about it. I don’t skip runs, but I’m not as neurotic as I was last year. I couldn’t tell you how many miles I ran last week – I haven’t been tallying them. I couldn’t tell you exact times from my mile repeats from last week, but last year I knew each one by heart, down to the second. I’ve been following it, taking it one day at a time. One mile at a time. One step at a time. And you know what? It seems like it’s working. I ran a 10K a few weeks ago and my time was almost exactly the same as last year (four seconds off), but I know I felt way better than I felt running that same race last year.

As far as my goal for Boston…well, of COURSE I want to nail a sub-3 marathon. Physically, my legs feel fresh and rested but my extended vacation from running left my endurance a bit shot. I mostly feel that my relaxed mentality towards my training means expecting to run a sub-3 marathon is both unrealistic and undeserved. People pour their heart, soul, sweat and tears into achieving this feat – the way I poured myself into my training last year. Physically, I am going through the motions but mentally, I haven’t been gearing up for such a big hurdle. My primary goal for Boston will be to run a PR for the course (sub 3:11), should all of the stars align that day.

So what else? In terms of our farmhouse renovations, we finished our kitchen and just finished our new pantry, and are almost finished with the laundry room. It’s been an exciting project, and having a new kitchen means I’ve been spending lots of time cooking. I’m back to my Paleo-ish ways for now, but I’ve incorporated some carbs (particularly since my recent obsession with homemade sourdough everything).

I got my very own pole for Christmas (you had to see that one coming from a mile away) and I’m currently training for the Atlantic Pole Championships. I will be competing in the “Championship Level 4 Senior Category” (apparently, being 33 is old in pole dancer years!). It’s the highest category you can compete in without competing in the professional division, which scares the absolute SHIT out of me. Compared to the little local pole-athon I participated in last year, this is a pretty big deal. My sister in laws are competing together in the doubles category. The competition is in DC on April 1-2. I compete on April 2nd! So, you know. 15 days before Boston. (What the actual fuck was I thinking.)

I probably won’t post too much on here about the competition until after it’s over because I don’t want to post too much about my routine (do you sense my competitive nature?). But I will tell you that I LOVE my song, and love what I’ve choreographed. The problem now is actually getting through the whole thing without stopping. The struggle is so real.  I am really excited, and I truly hope I can do it well because it is something that I’m really proud of and excited to share.

Sooooo…what about you guys? How are you? What are you training for?! Update me on your lives!!! I missed you!

Foodie Friday: Paleo Perfected Conquests

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I mentioned in my monthly wrap up that I found this gem at the grocery store checkout, and didn’t think twice about purchasing it. Cook’s Illustrated is my absolute favorite resource for all things food related. Their cookbooks are more like textbooks, and the test kitchen chefs try hundreds of versions of each recipe before coming up with their own, perfected version. I enjoy reading about the process and the methods they use to design their recipes.

My goal is to cook every single meal in this magazine in order to continue to develop my paleo cooking skills. I’ve mentioned before that I like to call myself “paleo-ish”. About 90% of my week (when I’m not cheating, like last week!) is paleo, with the other 10% is the “ish”. I can’t get down with subscribing to just one dietary label, for starters. I believe everything is good for you in moderation. I truly love paleo foods, so I don’t have a hard time following the lifestyle. But I still love my pizza, so there’s that. I feel better in general and have lots of energy when I’m on the paleo wagon, and it works for me.

This week, I tried the following recipes:

Garlicky Roasted Shrimp with Anise

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I love anise, my husband doesn’t. It tastes a lot like licorice or fennel, but anise isn’t fennel – anise and fennel come from different plants. In this recipe, you butterfly the shrimp and make a brine. While it’s soaking in the brine, you create a mixture of ghee (clarified butter, but I just use Kerrygold butter since it comes from grass fed cows), extra virgin olive oil, garlic (six cloves, YAS!), anise seeds, red pepper flakes, pepper, and fresh parsley. After draining and patting the shrimp dry, you coat the shrimp with the butter/spice mixture, and broil on a wire rack set over a baking sheet.

It’s a super easy recipe, and has a ton of flavor. I used shrimp that was already peeled and deveined, but they recommend leaving the shell on. I love red pepper and thought that it was a little overpowering, so next time I’d adjust that slightly. I’d also consider serving this over a salad. I was boring and just made some roasted sweet potatoes, and really could have used another veggie on the side. But lazy. My husband loved it and had no idea that the delicious flavor he tasted was, in fact, anise.

Stir-Fried Sesame Pork and Eggplant

imageEveryone always says stir fry is soooo easy, one pot meal, blah blah blah. I do agree that it’s easy, but it makes a freaking mess! There was lots of chopping for this one (which I enjoy) but I was a little hangry when I was cooking so it seemed to take forever. In reality, it probably took me 35 minutes to get this on the table, which is totally fine.

It called for toasted sesame oil, which I thought I had – but I was out and just used plain old sesame oil. This dish was fabulous anyway, so I suspect it would have a richer flavor if I had the correct oil. Toasted sesame oil has such a bold, distinct flavor. Next time I make this, I’ll make sure I’m less hungry and have my pantry stocked with the correct ingredients. I LOVE eggplant but hardly ever make it. As an italian, I often think the only use for eggplant is to make something with lots of cheese, breading, and tomato sauce. This was a delicious use for a fabulous veggie.

Leek and Prosciutto Frittata 

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There’s a breakfast chapter at the end of this magazine, and I’ve been eating pumpkin custard for like the past three months. I was ready to switch it up, and this was perfect. I love leeks and prosciutto, and I love eggs for breakfast. I was concerned that the lack of cheese would make me dislike this, but nope. It was excellent, and really easy to make. It makes six servings, so I was able to put the leftovers in the fridge for a quick breakfast the rest of the week.

Latin-Style Chicken and Cauliflower Rice

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I like all of the ingredients in this dish individually, but normally I’d pass on a recipe that uses them all together. But I want to try all of the recipes, and this looked like a simple, one pot meal. It was easy, but it also required a lot of chopping/prepping. I wasn’t as hangry, so it was fine.

I’ve made cauliflower rice many times before, but this had a little twist – after searing the chicken, cooking the onion, blooming the aromatics (garlic, oregano, smoked paprika, cayenne, tomato paste), cooking the “rice” and finishing the chicken, you add chopped tomatoes and green olives. I LOVE green olives but would never think to mix them in with cauliflower rice on their own. It gets finished off with a sprinkle of fresh cilantro. My husband hates cilantro, and I love it. This recipe was great since you add it at the end, so I just didn’t add any to his. This dish was bursting with flavor, the chicken was cooked perfectly.

These are all recipes I would absolutely make again. I already have my eye on a few dishes for next week that I’d like to try. It’s nice to have a little extra time to cook at night and try new recipes – it’s the perfect way to spend my recovery!

Do you enjoy cooking? Have you tried any new recipes lately? 

Just Move

trail_raceSometimes, the hardest part of running a marathon comes after the race. This is especially true if the race went the way you’d hoped. You’re partially on a high from the experience, but you’re also in this weird place. You need to recover and will likely lose a bit of fitness in the process. It leaves you wondering if you’re ever going to be able to repeat that performance again – let alone top it. If it didn’t go your way, some part of your existence was devoted to marathon training for the past few months, so it’s almost like losing part of your identity.

In the past, this post- marathon phase was a tough pill for me to swallow. Two years ago, when I ran my previous PR, I jumped right back into training. How could I take a break and lose fitness? I was going to run another PR in the fall and run a sub-3 hour marathon. I didn’t have time for rest. My heart and mind were on board, but my body rebelled. The cycle continued over the past two years and I got the same exact result, time and time again. Further from my PR, injured, and frustrated. Finally, in November after my rough day in Indianapolis, I’d had enough. I took a bunch of time off, came back refreshed and finally capable of chipping away at my PR. So this time around, I don’t feel like I’m losing part of my identity at all.

I never truly embraced recovery before, and some may argue that I still don’t. I started running again this past week. I’m still frequenting the pole fitness studio. I’m incorporating easy strength training and got back on the MYRTL train to avoid future injuries. I’d argue that it’s different from what I did over the past training block. It’s active recovery, and it’s all on my own terms.

I’m not beating up my legs Hansons-style, and I’m only doing whatever I feel like doing. But I am doing something. I can’t help it – I’m not one for sitting still. Sure, I can camp out on my couch for days like a boss and set some serious PRs in a Netflix Marathon, but I don’t feel good after doing that. I did a lot of that from November through the beginning of January. When I started training again, I was miserable. I treated my body like shit, therefore I felt like shit when I got back “on the wagon”. This time around, I’m not following any kind of schedule but I am embracing “movement”. I’ve vowed to do something everyday, but it doesn’t matter what it is. I’ve decided that my theme for May is to “just move”. I can decide what that means everyday. No solid plans.

In the midst of active recovery, copious amounts of cooking, and couch time, I also began planning. I don’t think too much about fall races until my spring season has ended, but I have a good idea how I want things to go down. When I began my 50 state conquest, I started with small goals. Make it to double digits – check. Make it halfway – check. My latest conquest is to check off all states east of the Mississippi River. That means I’m looking for marathons in Wisconsin, Mississippi, Georgia and Florida.

I’ve weighed a bunch of options, and I’ve come up with a rough schedule. There are lots of shorter distance races planned as part of my training, but as for the marathons…the Southernmost Marathon in Key West in early October, followed by the Madison Marathon in Wisconsin in November! It’s still in the planning phases and I’ve got to make all of the necessary travel plans – but it’s looking like I’ll hopefully be checking off those two states next. Anyone interested in joining me? I’m traveling with my mom to Key West (we plan to visit some family in Ft. Lauderdale while we are down south) and with my friend/training partner, Kathy, for Wisconsin.somokw-logo-copy

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In the meantime, I do have a few late spring/early summer races on my schedule. First up is next weekend – but it’s a trail race! It’s the Jacobsburg 10 Miler. I’ve never run it before and I’m excited because I truly enjoy trail racing. I’ve stayed off the more technical trails (like the game preserve that I love dearly) to avoid falling, but now I’m ready to get out there again. I love trail running for building strength, and I run a few low key trail races each year.

I’m going into this race with a “race for fun” mindset. I really just want to get out there and run the trail. A friend asked me to do this race with her and I couldn’t say no. She ran her first race last summer before her wedding and loved it (the Race Street Run, remember that one?). On her honeymoon in Costa Rica, she was white water rafting and a tree fell on the raft (real life) resulting in a fracture in her tibia – which was the easy part of the injury. The blow caused compartment syndrome in her leg and she needed a double fasciotomy (literally sliced her leg open on both sides) to relieve the pressure. She could have lost her leg.

This happened in August, and the entire fall was a very difficult time for her. She started out in a wheelchair, then crutches, then one crutch – until she could walk slowly with no assistance. She returned to the gym in late fall, and began running again this spring. She ran six miles (the furthest she’s ever run – even before the accident) and wanted to do this race. There’s a five mile and ten mile option – she chose the five mile. She asked if I would do the race, so of course I signed up. I always wanted to run at Jacobsburg but don’t know the trails, so figured this would be a good way for me to explore. I’m not the best trail runner and this race is about my friend overcoming a significant injury and moving on. I’m looking forward to the change of pace!

What’s up next for you? Who’s recovering from a race right now?

Goodbye April, Hello Recovery!

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  1. Total run miles for April: 207
  2. Miles run, year to date: 1000.3
  3. Number of races in April: 5 (wtf)
  4. Longest run in April: 26.42 miles (too much weaving in Boston)
  5. Highest volume week in April: 58.1 miles

My mileage was almost 100 miles less in April due to tapering, racing and recovering. I was excited that I crested the 200 mile mark at all, and I’m on track to meet my goal of 2,500 miles for the year. I need to be at 1,250 in June. I expect to have a low volume month for May, but to start increasing mileage again in June. My mileage wasn’t as high in April as it was the over the past few months, but this month might go down as my best month of racing ever. I raced (or paced) every single weekend during this month. It began with winning a 10 mile road race, and ended with winning a marathon. I don’t think I could ever top that.

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Just like the past few months, I can truly say that each and every mile brought me a lot of joy. There were a lot of huge breakthroughs for me this month. The biggest breakthrough was running a marathon PR: a target I kept shooting for, but missed for the past two years.

While it goes down as one of the best months ever, April was a funny month for running. We had everything from snowy winter weather, to almost summer temps. The first week, I ran a 10 mile road race in the pouring rain. It was a minute off of my PR from March, but I won the race and ran on effort. It was a huge confidence boost just a few weeks out from Boston. The following week was spent pacing a half marathon in a snowstorm. It was my first time ever pacing the 1:40 group and I was nervous with the weather conditions, but it went really well and I enjoyed pacing that time. When Boston finally rolled around, it was way too warm. It resulted in a course PR, but still not the 3:05 goal I’d set for myself.

The Sunday following Boston, I paced the St. Luke’s half marathon. The weather was ideal, and I got to pace the 1:45 group. I really enjoyed pacing 1:40, but 1:45 is my favorite time to pace. St. Luke’s was my first ever race, so it makes me happy to be able to pace it and give back to the running community.

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I spent the week after St. Luke’s running easy miles in preparation of my final marathon of the season. I’m not going to lie – I felt a little burned out and was ready for some recovery. I didn’t look at my calendar closely enough when I was committing to these events and didn’t realize how close they all were to each other.

It was a rainy day in Kentucky, but I finally did it. After two years of trying everything I could possibly think of and failing, I broke my PR. I ran a 3:02:19 at the Kentucky Derby Marathon, and I was the first overall female! It was one of my most favorite days to be a runner, ever. Not just because winning a marathon felt pretty freaking cool. I poured my everything into training for the past two years and I finally had my day. I am still on such a high from that moment.

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With the racing/tapering/carb loading, I gained about two pounds back of the 13 I’d lost. I anticipated gaining a few pounds back over these past few weeks, and I felt really good racing at the weight I got down to. I also realized how much better I feel when I eat a certain way. I really love junk food, but over the past few months I’ve learned that I might like feeling better more. It’s a lot easier for me to have a cheat day, but get right back on track the next day. Moving forward through my recovery, I will certainly be more relaxed about my diet but I plan to continue my eating habits. It’s not even really a question anymore – it’s become my lifestyle. That was my ultimate goal from the start of that conquest.

Moving into May, I plan on still running easy miles but I’m giving myself some “rules”. Nothing over 10 miles, and no speed. Maybe I’ll pick up the pace towards the end of the month to get my legs moving, but there will be no track workouts or pace specific work until June. I’d like to get back on some real trails to do some trail running, and I’m eyeing up a trail race in late May. Mostly, I don’t want my focus to be on running. I want to spend a lot of time in the pole studio and work on strength. My pole competition is on May 21st, so I have the rest of this month to prepare for it.

In the pole world, I didn’t learn many new moves since I’m still preparing for the competition. Busting up my big toe right before Boston scared me a lot little, so I’ve been a little more intimidated of pole class. And rightfully so – it is a dangerous sport, and while I’ve benefited so much from building up that kind of strength, I also have to be mindful of the consequences. I’m not planning to back off or stop doing it, but I don’t have quite the fearless attitude I’ve had since I began the sport.

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I continued my ❤️ StrongBody Streak through April, but I did take a few days off surrounding Boston and Kentucky. I can see a huge difference with just a little bit of strength training. Although I plan to be relaxed with running throughout May, I will be focusing on strength training. Without racing, I can do actual “leg” days with weights and build some additional strength and balance.

Moving forward to May, I have a few goals – but mostly recovery goals!

  • Strength training – stick with my 15 minutes each day. Keep the emphasis on core/hips/glutes, but really pay some extra attention to legs now that my mileage and intensity will ease up.
  • Diet: Keep up the healthy eating, and cook every single recipe in this:
    imageCook’s Illustrated is my most favorite cooking resource. Their cookbooks are like textbooks. They don’t cater to any diet or lifestyle, so if I wanted to make a “paleo” version of their recipes, I end up tweaking it on my own. They came out with a magazine full of 73 Paleo recipes, and I almost passed out from excitement when I saw it at the checkout line in the grocery store. The authors realize that there are different definitions of Paleo, so they designed the recipes by adhering to the most strict paleo guidelines they could find. It might take me the whole summer, but I want to cook my way through it, cover to cover.
  • Pole Fitness: Compete in my first pole competition!
  • Cross Training: I want to get on my bike and get to some yoga classes this month. Maybe, if I get really motivated, I’ll get back in the pool.
  • Instagram some more fun pictures as the weather gets nicer!

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How was your month? Any goals for May?

The 2016 Boston Marathon: Run Bold

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I’m just going to lead with this: no, I did not run a PR. And I’m okay with it! Let’s just get this out of the way so we can get to the storytelling, shall we?
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3:11:28. A far cry from the 3:05 I’ve been going on and on about. But based on the conditions, I am more than happy with it. Also, I never ran a 3:11 before. I’ve run a 3:10 and a 3:12, but now I’ve completed the trifecta. #itsTheLittleThings

You can train harder than you’ve ever trained before, and try your best to simulate race day conditions for a race. There are always unpredictable variables. It’s the nature of the beast. The marathon – that distance – is no joke and demands respect. Each year, Boston always reminds me of that. Even in perfect conditions, I never seem to remember how hard that course is until I’m running it. Even now, sitting here and reflecting on it I find myself thinking, well there’s so much downhilll…But there’s also uphill, and the late start. The New England weather always proves to be unpredictable, and it’s a crowded course.

It was a hot day, and I just didn’t have it. The heat got to me about a third of the way through the race and I backed off immediately. I know how long of a day it can be on that course if you don’t listen to your body. I was there in 2012 (90 degrees that day) and was happy to come in under the five hour mark that day. So without further adieu, here is my recap!

Saturday, April 16 – The Expo

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We shipped up to Boston around 7am, and headed right to the expo. I quickly found my bib and a free 26.2 Brew at the Sam Adams tent. My parents had given me the obligatory jacket as a birthday gift this year, so I didn’t have any other shopping to do.

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I headed over to the Runner’s World tent to see Bart and Kathleen (friends and neighbors of mine since RW is published in my hometown). I also found Bill, someone Bart had introduced us to when we all traveled to the Marshall Marathon together a few years back.

Quick side note about Bill: he was incarcerated for most of his life and running saved him. I’m not going to get into all the details but he is easily one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met through running. He ran his first 5K in shorts and a polo shirt, and with help and encouragement from Yasso he qualified for Boston just a few years after his release. Bill is an amazing person, and just published a book about his story, called Behind the Wall to the Boston Marathon 2016. If you are looking for a quick read, support him and check out his book!
imageThe expo seemed much crazier than usual this year, so as soon as I found my friends and snapped a few pictures, we headed out. We went to my aunt and uncle’s house in Brookline, who generously open their home to us each year. We hung out with them until it was time to meet some more Lehigh Valley friends out for dinner at a restaurant in Brookline called Hops ‘N Scotch. The restaurant was just okay, but the company was great!
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Sunday, April 17

We woke up when we felt like it, and I headed out around the Charles River for a three mile shakeout run. It was a beautiful day.

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I grabbed a coffee at Starbucks on my way back and got cleaned up for church. After mass, my aunt had brunch for us and we just hung out around her house. I took a nap in the afternoon and stayed off my feet as much as possible. We met my cousin for dinner at Pomodoro, an Italian restaurant in Brookline. I filled up on pasta and bread, and we were back at my aunt’s house and in bed before 9pm.

Marathon Monday, April 18

I woke up with my alarm at 4:30am and had a tiny headache. That worried me, but I ignored it as I made my coffee and got myself together. I went to the bathroom (always a stressful part of the morning. What if I can’t poop?) and refilled my coffee for the road. My husband walked me around the corner to the train stop near my aunt’s house. I take the green line into the city from Brookline – it’s super easy. As we arrived at the train stop, the train was pulling into the station so I was able to get right on.

I still had a slight headache as I got off the T. I took the train to Boyleston, as usual – only to find that I didn’t do my homework. They moved bag check a few blocks closer to the finish line so that you didn’t have to walk to Boston Common after the race. I hadn’t heard this and didn’t read my packet carefully enough to catch it, and got flustered. I was early for the bus and had plenty of time, but I had to walk about a quarter of a mile to drop off my bag. I walked with a guy from Indiana who made the same mistake, and chatting with him eased my anxiety.  Bags were checked, and it was time to go back to Boston Common to load the busses.

Everyone looks homeless in Boston because they don’t allow you to bring your gear to the start since the bombing in 2013. The outfits are pretty awesome and most people try to get something outrageous at a thrift store. All of the clothing at the start gets donated. If you don’t want to wear it racing, you are never going to see it again so you don’t want to wear something that you want back at the finish line. I raid my closet and find something I was going to donate to wear to Hopkinton. 
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I got on the bus and sat in the first seat next to a guy from New Zealand. One of the many things I love about this race is the chance to meet people from all over the world. His name was Aaron, and this was his first time in the US. Boston was going to be his third of the marathon majors since he already did London and Berlin. It’s a long bus ride from the city to Hopkinton, and sitting with him made it fly by.

We reached Athlete’s Village and I headed directly to a porta pot. Once the rest of the busses show up, the lines for the bathrooms are out of control. They have tons of bathrooms, but there are 30,000 runners hydrating for a marathon. It was 8am, two hours before the start of the race. I took a garbage bag that I brought with me and laid it out on the grass. I ate my breakfast (my homemade sweet potato waffles, Just Great Stuff powdered chocolate peanut butter, and a banana) and drank my water with a Lemon Tea Nuun tablet, and dozed off for about 45 minutes. I hit the bathrooms again since the lines didn’t look to horrible, and grabbed a small cup of coffee. I sat back down and got everything together: put on my iPod, got my watch ready, and stuffed my bra with my GU (one of these days, I will review the Lululemon Race Pack bra :). I stood in line one more time for the bathroom, and then it was time to start heading towards our corrals.

The Start

I walked to the start with a guy named Tom from Illinois. He was shooting for about a 3:10 (he ended up running a 3:22), but was worried about the heat. I was starting to get worried about the heat myself. In 2012, when the temps reached the 90s,  I remember sweating before the gun went off. Not only did I shed my throw away clothing pretty early this year, but I was starting to sweat on the walk over to the starting line. It’s about .7 of a mile walk from Athlete’s Village to the start. If I was sweating while walking at a leisurely pace, what was going to happen while running 26.2 miles?

Tom and I weren’t the only one concerned about the heat. We were in wave 1, corral 8 and lined up next to a woman named Emily from Scotland. She’d run a 3:07 in Tokyo but was injured. Like Aaron from the bus ride, she also wanted to run all of the marathon majors. She was hoping to qualify for Chicago (sub- 3:45) since she battling an injury and lucky to be running at all. She told me she trained all winter in crazy Scottish weather, like hail storms, and was a ball of nerves.

I repeated what Megan told me. Don’t breathe. Whether that meant a 6:50 pace or a 7:50 pace, I needed to be mindful of the conditions. After six years, I know this course well. The first time you get shade on the Boston course is when you make that left turn onto Boyleston Street – at mile 26. I was not abandoning my plan for a PR, but I was certainly preparing myself for a different race than I’d trained for. I know what it’s like to bonk on the Boston course, and ultimately that was what I wanted to avoid.

Miles 1-6

The gun went off, and I kept repeating my mantra: Don’t breathe. I also told myself that I was not going to go faster than a 6:50 pace. I suppose I should tell you my goals and thought process for the race. As the weather forecast developed, I had quite a few numbers to prevent me breaking down mentally if things didn’t go my way. It really helps take my mind off of the marks I missed if I still have something to shoot for.

  • Goal A: Sub 3:05- I’d trained for a 3:05. I also felt really strong and thought a sub-3 could be possible depending how I felt at the start of the race. That’s how my PRs always happen: I line up at the start and go for it. It was in the back of my mind, but I wasn’t willing to blow the whole race for a sub-3. The theme of the race this year was #RunBold, so I had to at least try.
  • Goal B: Sub 3:09- I might be able to get into wave one for next year if I could bring it in under 3:09.
  • Goal C: Sub 3:12 – This would be my fastest marathon since 2014.
  • Goal D: Sub 3:14 – This would be a course PR.
  • Goal E: Sub 3:35 – A Boston Qualifier
  • Goal F: Drink all the beer on the course and finish. If this were a 2012 repeat, I was determined to have a fun day and drink my face off with the Boston College kids.

My first mile was a 6:47 and it felt like I was walking. But that’s the name of the game in Boston – there’s so much adrenaline and it’s a net downhill at the start that unreasonable paces feel reasonable. I checked in with my breathing – don’t breathe. I wasn’t. I felt great. These miles felt really good, even though I could feel the sun really heating up. I thought, Holy shit. This might be the day. I took a GU at mile 5, and drank at every single water stop. I was taking in mostly Gatorade. I wanted to try to stay on top of my hydration. Miles 1-6: 6:47, 6:49, 6:46, 6:47, 6:51, 6:45.

Miles 7-9

I started feel a bit warm and uncomfortable, but my legs still felt good. I told myself to relax, and to make sure I wasn’t breathing. I slowed down a little, but as I approached the 15K mark I noticed that the effort was creeping in. I was worried I went out too fast because 9.3 miles into a marathon isn’t when you should be feeling effort. I didn’t panic, I told myself to relax and back off. Goal A was still not off the table if I backed off for a few miles, and I know the last 10K is a fast 10K if I can pace myself accordingly. Back off. Miles 7-9: 6:48, 6:53. 6:54.

Miles 10-13

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That was the end of my sub-7 minute streak, but I still held on nicely and felt really good through these miles. I had a good sweat going by this point, and the sun was relentless. My legs felt good, but I felt some general fatigue in my body, likely due to the rising temperatures. We hadn’t hit the hills yet, and I didn’t want to walk up Heartbreak. I took a GU at mile 10 and noticed it didn’t go down too easily. That normally doesn’t happen to me until after mile 20, so I knew something wasn’t quite right.

These are the miles where I think the course gets super exciting. The first 10 miles are great because there are quite a few spectators and the 10K is huge. When you hit mile 12 and see the Wellesley girls out in the masses kissing the runners, the energy is high. These were my favorite girls in Wellesley:

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I didn’t take that shot but I’m still laughing at how cute they were. For the record, they had on strapless shirts and little shorts and weren’t naked.

I think the course has some uphill grades in these miles because I always seem to lose some steam here, even with the crowds. Miles 10-13: 7:04, 7:04, 7:07, 7:09.

Miles 14-18

I came through the halfway point and it’s hard to explain what I was feeling. My legs felt like they wanted to just GO, but my body didn’t agree. I started to feel nauseous and didn’t want to drink anything, even though I was forcing myself to take at least one sip of something at every single water station. Around 14.5, I saw a sign that I vaguely remembered from my Facebook news feed that morning – it was Susan! I’d been following her blog since early fall and met her very briefly at the Runner’s World Half Marathon. I was so excited to see a familiar face on the course and yelled to her. It took my mind off of running for a bit.

I choked down another GU at mile 15. Part of the problem were my flavors: I LOVE the chocolate peanut butter and caramel macchiato, but I wanted something more refreshing since we were being baked alive. Not only was I feeling nauseous and a bit dizzy, but I realized something. I had to go to the bathroom. And it wasn’t just pee, or I would have just peed my pants (wouldn’t be the first time I did that – totally peed my pants on purpose during the bike segment of a half ironman once).

I wasn’t having stomach cramping or anything like that, I just had to go. I’d gone before the race started so I thought that if I ignored it, it would go away. It didn’t. I cruised through mile 17 and it was the first mile where I thought my pace was noticeably slower and I felt uncomfortable. I told myself I would stop at the next porta potty, which ended up being around mile 18. It was good timing, because it was just before I would hit the hills of Newton. I ducked into a porta pot and was out in record time. Miles 14-18: 7:05, 7:23, 7:09, 7:34, 8:03 (bathroom stop).

Miles 19-21

At this point, I could have achieved that 3:05 but I knew it would mean that the last seven miles had to be perfect. My legs felt like it was a possibility, but my body disagreed. I took the focus off my pace and knew I was likely looking at a Goal B or C kind of day, depending on how my body handled the heat and the hills over the next few miles.

These are the hilliest miles of the race. It feels like you start climbing, and it just keeps coming. One after the other, until finally you reach the top of Heartbreak Hill. At that point it really is all [mostly] downhill from there. While these miles are often not the easiest, the crowds make them so much fun. The amount of people that line this course to cheer on the runners is nothing short of amazing, and each time it keeps me moving up the hill. These were not my fastest miles, but I refused to walk and continued to pass other runners as I looked forward to cresting the hill.

I always think it’s the last 10K that’s fast. In reality, Heartbreak Hill isn’t over until you reach the huge blow up sign at Boston College that tells you The Heartbreak is Over (photo cred: Boston Globe). I look forward to that sight each year!

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Even though these are often the hardest miles in a marathon, these are my most favorite miles of this race. While the weather was not ideal for running, it was perfect for a bunch of college kids to be out drinking their faces off and cheering. That certainly makes it all a whole lot more fun for the runners in the last miles of the marathon. I begrudgingly took a GU at mile 20 even though it was the last thing I wanted. What I really wanted was a beer – and there are usually people handing it out on that course – and I couldn’t FIND ONE! I drink beer around that point every year and with the way I felt, it would have been a welcomed change from the sugary drinks and GU. Miles 19-21: 7:25, 7:46, 8:08 (the top of Heartbreak – whew!).

Miles 22-26

I came around mile 22 and I heard someone scream, “GO ALLISON!” It took me a few seconds to realize I was Allison, and they were cheering for me. I looked over my shoulder and saw a familiar face and yelled back to them. It was my friend Missy’s sister, Julie, and her husband Tom. They live up there and somehow picked me out. It took my marathon brain about a mile to figure out who it actually was.

My legs were still moving and weren’t too fatigued (thank you, HANSONS!) but my body was tired. The best way to explain how I felt was almost like I was in a fog. I was aware of everything going on around me and I was enjoying the crowds, but it was like I was watching it on TV or something. It was the strangest feeling. I continued to feel nauseous and dizzy, so I took a GU at 20 and again at 23 to help me through that final push down Beacon street. I came through mile 24 and saw my husband, Ashley and Mike out cheering.

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I knew they were standing on the left side of the course. I can never remember exactly what mile they are positioned at, so I usually start running down the left side and focusing on the crowds after mile 22. Since I was feeling foggy and dizzy, having something to focus on really helped keep me moving. I spotted them, and it perked me up. About a half mile later, I saw my Uncle Dennis cheering for me. I was almost passed him when it registered: oh hey, I know him! 

That last mile and a half was really like a blur. I crested the last “hill” (really just an incline on an overpass) and passed the infamous Citgo sign. I felt like I was going to pass out but knew the finish line was so close. I spotted the “One Mile to Go” sign, put my head down and focused on just putting one foot in front of the other without tripping. Miles 22-26: 7:26, 7:24, 7:48, 8:00.

Mile 26.2

The thing about Boston is, when you make that right onto Hereford and turn left onto Boyleston, it doesn’t matter what you feel like. I glanced at my watch and knew today, the only PR I would run was a course PR. It was good enough for me. I turned the corner and, oh, could that finish line be any further away? It didn’t matter. As much as I wanted to reach it, I also didn’t want it to be over. This is the moment I wait all year for. This is my happy place. My runner’s high. There was nowhere else in the whole world I’d rather be. Even in less than favorable conditions, I was sad that it was about to be over. Last .2: 7:12 pace.

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I crossed the finish line and walked out of the way, off to the right side and squatted down. There are medics everywhere waiting to help the runners, so one of them (Jamie) made a beeline over to me and asked if I was okay. I told her I just needed a minute, but as I stood up I started to fall over so she grabbed my arm. She wanted me to get in a wheelchair but I said I just needed to walk, so she held my arm and walked me to the medical tent. I sat for a few minutes because I really thought I was going to puke. A few minutes earlier, I was finishing the race and unbelievably hot, but now I felt extremely chilled and had goosebumps.

She got me a water (the last thing I wanted) and made me drink a bit of it while asking me questions to get me to talk and see if I was coherent. I really think I just needed a minute because I stood up again and still felt foggy but I could walk. She walked me over to get my medal, and I grabbed a Mylar blanket. She finally felt satisfied that I could handle it on my own, so I headed to gear check. I changed into some dry clothes, but I was still chilled. I was chilled for the whole train ride back to Brookline and until I got into a hot shower. Not sure what that was all about since it was so freaking warm all day long.

I am extremely proud of this race. It wasn’t the race I trained for, but it also wasn’t the conditions I’d hoped for. That’s the nature of the beast when it comes to marathon running. You spend months training and hope that every variable works in your favor. There are so many variables you can’t control and can go wrong. I might be good enough to run a 3:05 or faster when the conditions are favorable. I am not good enough (yet) to run it when something is not going my way.

I don’t say that to sound negative, because really I mean it to be positive. While the past 18 weeks of training were focused on a specific pace that I did not run, I can say that it undoubtedly prepared me for less than ideal race conditions. There was a time where those conditions would have caused me to finish the race in whatever I could manage, and simply dream of the day I could run a 3:11 in good conditions.image

Despite my best efforts to run a PR, this still ended up being my fastest marathon in two years, and my fastest time I’ve ever run in Boston. A lot of people asked me if I was okay, but how can I be unhappy with it? I am beyond grateful that I was healthy and able to make that trek from Hopkinton to Boston for my sixth consecutive year. Being part of that field is a privilege and something that I will never take for granted. A PR would have just been icing on the cake. I left Boston on Monday after the race, and my heart was full of joy.

 

For most people in Boston this year, the race was a struggle. It was a hard day for everyone – not just me. Is it bad that I take some solace in knowing that we all struggled? It’s not that I want to see anyone struggle, but I’m glad we all struggled together. It demonstrates the strength and resilience of our incredible running community, something we take pride in. We are bold. We are strong. Boston Strong! 

 

Any good stories from Marathon Monday?

Boston Marathon Training: Hansons, Week 17

I started the week a little cranky because my toe was still bugging me. As the week went on, it finally started to feel better. It’s still sore and slightly swollen, but I guess my voodoo magic is helping. Or maybe it’s just healing. Either way, I’m feeling a lot better about it. Maybe the toe injury came at the right time. I was on a pretty huge high from my training this whole cycle, and I was pretty heavy on the mileage. It might have caused a bunch of anxiety and made my past few weeks of running a bit less enjoyable. It is also likely that without it, I might not have taken my taper quite as seriously. Just looking for the silver lining and trying to keep a positive attitude.

At the end of the week, I paced a half marathon. I do this pacing gig every single year and it will get a post of it’s own. This year, I had a lot of anxiety over it for a few reasons – and my toe was one of them. Maybe it started to feel better after the race because it was like a weight was lifted. Who knows! Either way, I’m heading into my final taper week before Boston and I’m getting excited.

Here’s the pace guide I’m using:

Marathon Goal –  3:05
Marathon Pace/Tempo Runs –  7:03/mile
Recovery Runs – 9:11/mile
Aerobic A/Easy – 8:36
Aerobic B/Easy – 8:01
Long Run: 7:42

Monday, 4/4:  6 Mile Easy Run + Pole Fitness  + Core/MYRTLs

SIX! SIX MILES! SINGLE DIGITS! OHMIGOSH.

But really, I was still cranky. I was coming off the high of my race but still having issues with my dumb toe. The weather was less than ideal – drizzly, windy, chilly. I put off running as long as I possibly could. I ended up on the Penn Pump trail, which I really want to like but can’t seem to enjoy. That was my third try running there. No mas.

Headed to pole, which was one week post toe injury. The first thing we were learning was something where you do a backflip off the pole from a brass monkey. Love brass monkeys, love the idea of flipping, but after last week’s ordeal I said, “I’ll save that one for April 19th”. I learned a few really pretty new moves that I thought looked like something I could control. That was the problem with last Monday’s move – I’d never done anything like it so I didn’t know how to safely bail out of it. The moves we learned stemmed from moves I’m comfortable with, like this pretty Janeiro split variation (I love me a good Janeiro):

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After going home and preparing dinner, I still needed to do some core work so I did the bare minimum but got it done. I did my regular bridges, hip drops, planks, and leg raises followed by MYRTLs and NTC’s Core Strength workout. That one is only seven minutes long.

Tuesday, 4/5: Track Workout: 2 mile warm up, 6×1 miles (@ MP -10 seconds/mile) w/400 meter recoveries, 2.5 mile cooldown (12 miles) + Core/Strength/MYRTLs

THE LAST TRACK WORKOUT! 17 weeks of Hanson’s track workouts: Boom.

My toe was feeling marginally better so I decided to attempt the workout. I went in with full understanding that I might have to back off or stop. Hansons gives you the option of doing anywhere from 1.5-3 miles for warmup and cool down. I’d been good about doing the full three miles on both ends for most of my training. In light of my taper and my toe, I decided to cut it down. It was my last track workout and I wanted to make sure my muscles were warm, so I still felt like I needed two miles to get moving. I can’t end on a .5 so I did 2.5 for the cooldown to make it an even 12 miles.

The goal was to run 6×1 at marathon pace minus 10 seconds per mile. The first time I did this workout in week 11, I did it on the treadmill and set it for 8.8 mph (6:48 pace). This time, I went outside and my splits were 6:42, 6:36, 6:37, 6:44, 6:46, 6:45. I want to tell you I felt great doing the workout, but I was ready to be done. I was tired and it was windy. I didn’t wear gloves and my hands were numb! But I got it done, and that’s all that matters.

I went home and did core, MYRTLs, and NTC’s Runner Strength and Balance workout. I had an easier time with the lunges this week. If I wore my sneakers, it didn’t bug my toe at all.

Wednesday, 4/6: Core/Strength

One word for this day: GLORIOUS.

I already knew there was no pole class for me. I had adulting to do. I know I mentioned before that we are in the process of remodeling our farmhouse and are doing the kitchen, but haven’t posted much since. We had to go appliance shopping, so no pole. I got on my yoga mat for some abs and NTC’s Alpha Abs workout.

These are some of the “before” shot as we demo’ed the kitchen:

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…and where we are now! Don’t mind the missing light bulb 🙂

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For the door on the right, we had a glass artist make us a stained glass window, and my husband installed it and made the trim pieces. image We had the cabinets made, but my husband did the install. He’s done all of the work himself. I run, he builds!

Thursday, 4/7: Tempo Run, 13 miles w/10 miles at marathon pace + Pole + Abs/MYRTLs 

I wrote a whole post about my last tempo run, but in a nutshell: I shortened the warm up/cool down to the minimum to accommodate the taper. 1.5 miles on both ends of the 10 miles gave me 13 for the day. I hit my paces and had a great run:

My splits were: 6:50, 6:42, 6:46, 6:49, 6:48, 6:39, 6:45, 6:48, 6:45, 6:55 for a 10 mile time of 1:07:47, average pace 6:46.

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Headed to pole and ran through my competition piece a few times, and then home to do some core work – MYRTLs, bridges, hip drops, leg raises, and planks.

Friday, 4/8: 6 Miles Easy + Core/MYRTLs

No pole class since I was headed to Lancaster for the pasta party for the Garden Spot Half Marathon! No, I wasn’t racing it – I’m a pacer for that race. I headed to the D&L Trail in Northampton. Other than the super windy weather, it was pretty uneventful. I headed to Lancaster, and the race director sets up the pacers with the pasta dinner and a hotel room. I got to my room early, did some MYRTLs, core, and NTC’s Perfect Alignment before bed.

Saturday, 4/9: Garden Spot Half Marathon (13.1 miles) + Core/MYRTL

I pace this race every year and usually pace the 1:45 group, but this year I was asked to pace 1:40 (7:38 pace). It was an appropriate pace for my last long run given my training cycle, so I agreed. But then my toe happened, and I got a little nervous about the pace. I did it, and I’ll do a whole post on it soon. There’s so much to say about the crazy weather and pacing a new time! I will leave you with this, though:

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Yep. April 9th. Real life.

I got home from Lancaster and after some rest, did my MYRTLs, core, and NTC’s Core Stability. I also got a Boston-ready gel manicure from my sister in law:

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Sunday: 4/10:  Easy Run, 8 Miles + Core/MYRTLs

Met Megan for an 8 miler on the Plainfield trail. It was supposed to be an easy paced run, but we were chatting away. It was gorgeous out, and I looked down when we were ready to turn around and saw our pace. Oops, a little too fast – that seems to happen when I run with her. I really enjoy running with her and the pace comes easy. I wish she could run Boston with me! At the end of the run, our pace was 7:18. I need to take resting serious this week. I went home and cooked up a storm to prep for the week, and then did some MYRTLs and core.

Who else is in taper mode and loving it?

♥ Total ♥ 58.1 miles ♥