Race Recap: Cranford Jaycees Firecracker 4-Miler

Hope everyone had an awesome 4th of July! I know I did. :)

Yesterday, I ran the Cranford Jaycees Firecracker 4-Miler for the third year in a row. Spoiler alert…I pretty much bombed. Despite a start time of 9am, it was already approaching the 80s when the race started, and the humidity was absolutely ridiculous. I was drenched by the time I completed the first half mile.

cranfordfirecracker4miler

Allow me to rewind and say that, first, even though this race takes place in my town and right at the park where I do the majority of my training runs, I did not allow myself enough time to actually walk to the park. I left my apartment a bit too late, and by the time I had walked/run (VERY slowly) to the park and then stood in the never-ending women’s bathroom line, I jumped into the crowd of some 1,500 runners at the precise moment that the gun went off!

Unfortunately, it seems I didn’t guesstimate all that well in terms of starting amongst the the runners who share my pace, because I spent the first several minutes of the race trying to weave around slower runners and find an open stretch where I could finally exceed an 11 or 12-minute/mile! The race is usually pretty popular and crowded, but for some reason, I had an especially hard time getting into my groove this year, and found myself running on the sidewalks and apologizing constantly for bumping into fellow runners.

cranfordfirecracker4miler_4

As it turns out…it didn’t matter all that much. By the second mile, I knew this was going to be a less-than-stellar performance. I am still having the hardest time pushing my pace in the heat, and I had developed a cramp in my side (side stitch?) within the first 10 minutes of the race. I’m still not sure what caused it — it remained with me for the entire 4 miles — but since it couldn’t have been caused by going out too fast this time, I suspect it had something to do with something I ate, or possibly being dehydrated, or possibly having some kind of sodium imbalance (which is an issue I’m still working on trying to fix, thanks to you, my wise readers!). I even walked through the two-mile water stop to try to massage my side a bit (which usually works), but, no dice.

So, I pretty much ignored my Garmin and focused on the fun of it all. That has sort of been my M.O. whenever I end up running in a race that isn’t living up to my expectations. I’m not sure if it’s necessarily the best approach, but even though I’m definitely a competitive person and I always like to “beat” myself, running has ALWAYS been more to me than setting PRs. I know I’ll probably always be a middle-of-the-pack runner, but there’s still part of me that is just thrilled to be running just for the sake of running. I think that’s part of the reason I love my Sparkle Skirts so much…they’re a visual reminder that this is supposed to be FUN, and to try not to let my usual urge to beat myself up over everything take precedence over the fact that running is something I truly enjoy. At the end of the day, I feel pretty lucky to be able to do this after everything I’ve put my body through over the years!

Just in case you needed proof...it. was. HOT.

Just in case you needed proof…it. was. HOT.

As a side note, I was also sort of proud of myself for racing without capris (too hot!)…I finally seem to be coming to terms with my insecurities about those certain parts of my body (upper thighs, triceps, lower abs) which, let’s just say still contain a great deal of evidence that I used to be quite a bit larger! I would have never have felt confident enough with bearing so much of my thighs in the past, and body acceptance is just one of the many gifts that running has given me, honestly.

Even in the brutal heat and humidity, I still fared better overall than my previous two attempts in this race…no stopping to surreptitiously “tie my shoes” (read: catch my breath lest I drop dead), so to me, that’s a win! Also, if any residents of Cranford who may have been among the many people spraying us with hoses or sprinklers are reading this, allow me to take this moment on behalf of all of yesterday’s runners to THANK YOU! It was greatly appreciated!

cranfordfirecracker4miler_5

Anyway, my finish time was pretty atrocious (38:38), given that my average pace in shorter races as of late has been anywhere from an 8:30/9 minute mile, tops. It was made even worse by the fact that, as it turns out, the race wasn’t even chip timed! I’d estimate that it took me at least 30-45 seconds after the gun went off just to make it to the starting line, but all that was recorded was my gun time. I was definitely a little disappointed.

But, it’s all good. I have someone new in my life who forced asked me to sign up for yet another 4-mile race next week, the Woodbridge Run for Pizza (yes, that’s right, I’m running TWO pizza races this month!) so I’ll get a chance for redemption. Although, it will still be summer when I run next Wednesday, so, we’ll just see what I can do. :)

How do you deal with not living up to your race-day expectations?

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Weekly Workouts and 4th of July Racing!

Hi all! Sorry I was such a bad blogger last week, the days just sort of escaped me! But since we’re starting a new week (and a new month), I figure I’m due for a fresh start, anyway, right?

Photo credit: Christine "Hopper" Nelson

Photo credit: Christine “Hopper” Nelson

I already got a little bit of a head start on this week’s holiday celebrations; my hometown holds their fireworks the weekend prior to the 4th of July!

So, here’s what last week’s workouts looked like.

Monday (24th): Rest

Tuesday: 6 miles and Taekwondo class

Wednesday: 3 miles and Thai Kickboxing class

Thursday: 2 miles (this was supposed to be a rest day, but, I just got the urge!)

Friday: 8 miles and Taekwondo class

Saturday: Thai Kickboxing class

Sunday: Thai Kickboxing class

Total weekly mileage: 19 miles

I was excited to get in my longer run this week, and surprisingly, I felt better than I thought I would. I’m still not loving long runs in the summer, but since my strategy for the Dumbo Double Dare is purely to finish and, oh yeah, HAVE THE TIME OF MY LIFE, I’m taking them nice and easy. I think my body is finally adapting to the heat and humidity in general, because running didn’t feel quite as torturous this week, so that’s also a bit of good news!

Firecracker 4-miler, 2011

Firecracker 4-Miler, 2011

Since my piano teaching schedule lightens up A LOT in the summer, I’m able to get to my karate studio a bit more often for classes. So I’m finding myself sometimes working out twice a day…which I don’t necessarily think is a bad thing for now, but I know I’ll have to chill out a bit as Dumbo gets closer. Taekwondo is really an ideal cross-training activity for me because it forces me to stretch (good lord, how something can hurt SO bad and feel SO good at the same time, I’ll never know), but Thai can be really quite brutal on the body…and the last thing I need is an injury right now!

This week, I’m gearing up for the annual race hosted right in town where I live (and the park where I always run!): the Cranford Jaycees Firecracker 4-miler. This will be my third year running. The first year was my absolute first race ever (I skipped the 5K distance and went straight to 4 miles for some unknown reason), and the second year was my wake-up call.

4miler2012

Firecracker 4-Miler, 2012

I finished the race in almost the exact same time both years (and at over 40 minutes!), and last year, I had to ask myself whether or not I was going to commit to running and actually improving…otherwise, why waste the money on race fees? Just days later, I took a leap of faith and signed up for the Princess Half Marathon, and the rest is history!

So, needless to say, I’m hoping to crush my two previous times this year. I shaved 5 whole minutes off my time at the last 4-miler I participated in, but that race took place almost a year ago, so I’m anxious to see what I can do this July 4th! I know one thing for certain — I’ll definitely be more festively-dressed this year! (Hint: my race-day attire will definitely feature something sparkly…)!

I never, ever could have predicted that a holiday that used to be celebrated by stuffing my face with cheeseburgers and boozing in someone’s backyard would someday become all about waking up early to run a race! Who knew?!

Who else is racing this 4th of July? :)

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Weekly Workouts and My Gold Belt!

IMG_7827Hi all! How was everyone’s weekend? This Friday, I was FINALLY promoted to gold belt in Taekwondo — super exciting!

It typically takes me way longer to graduate to the next belt level than it should because my piano teaching schedule makes it hard for me to make more than one class per week. It can be a little bit frustrating to feel so behind…especially since all of the “grown-ups” I joined with are now at the green belt level, and I often have to take classes with kids!

However, I really do enjoy martial arts. Don’t get me wrong — it’s no running or anything! — but there’s something about the whole “mind-body connection” aspect of Taekwondo that really appeals to me, and the lessons in discipline really have trickled down into other areas of my life.

Meanwhile, Thai Kickboxing has helped me discover both my inner and outer strength, and taught me how to defend myself…which as a newly-single woman I think is always very important. Not that my recent dates have given me any reason to bust out my sick moves…yet!

There’s nothing that eliminates my stress like punching and kicking and elbowing and kneeing a wavemaster until there’s a puddle of sweat at my feet and my heart is pounding out of my chest, or working one-on-one with a partner to see how these techniques might just work in a real confrontation. I have to say, hearing classmates and instructors call me “the tough one” always makes me feel really good. I may have never been the “pretty” girl or the “popular” girl, but, today, I absolutely revel in being considered the “strong” girl.

IMG_7749Monday (17th): 6 milesIMG_7772

Tuesday: 3 miles

Wednesday: 4 miles

Thursday: Off

Friday: Taekwondo class and graduation

Saturday: 4 miles and Thai Kickboxing class

Sunday: 3 miles and Thai Kickboxing class

Total weekly mileage: 20 miles

I’m planning on getting in a long run today or tomorrow (most likely tomorrow, because I am SORE), since I once again missed out over the weekend! I figured I’d focus on ramping up my volume this week to compensate for being a little behind in my Dumbo training plan.

I’ve noticed that trying to juggle my addiction to both martial arts and running tends to pose a few issues when I need to be getting in those longer runs during half marathon training. I can only make Thai Kickboxing classes on the weekend, typically, which is when I really need to be focused on pounding the pavement.IMG_7829 And, let’s face it, neither activity is particularly gentle on the body, so when I don’t wake up feeling sore and stiff, I almost feel like I must be doing something wrong!

Trying to squeeze all of the martial arts classes I can into each week along with whatever runs are scheduled on my training plan really isn’t easy, but I’m trying to make it work!

Anyone else have a favorite fitness activity besides running? How do you juggle them both?

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Summer Running

Happy first day of summer, everyone!

Speaking of which, I have a confession to make. I kind of, sort of, don’t really like running in the summer.

There. I said it.

Last year, I began my Princess Half training towards the end of the summer, so while I had my fair share of long, sweaty runs, I was really ramping up my training in the fall. This year, since the Dumbo Double Dare is in California…in August…I figure I’d better get used to the hot weather!

Still, I’m having the hardest time “pushing it” on my training runs when I feel so drained. I’m doing everything I can to stay hydrated and fuel properly, and yet I pretty much dissolve into a sweaty, cranky mess by, say, mile 2. My energy just isn’t there.

Do I enjoy the abundant sunshine and longer days (i.e. more available hours to squeeze in my run)? YES! But why can’t I seem to make my body cooperate in the higher temperatures? I’ve never seriously trained for anything in the summer before, so maybe I just need to give myself more time to adjust (please, please tell me that’s the case)!

How fake does this smile look? SUPER HOT DAY!

How fake does this smile look? SUPER HOT DAY!

When I go out for a run these days, I find myself phoning it in a little bit. I’m taking more walk breaks than usual, and I’m resting on my “comfortable” pace. I know, I know, it’s probably OK to scale back your speed a little bit when the temperature soars, but I can’t help but admit that I’m just not enjoying my runs as much as I do in, say, the spring and fall. Or, heck, even the winter — I kind of enjoyed layering up and navigating the mounds of snow and patches of ice everywhere. It kept things exciting, if nothing else!

I have a few races coming up — the annual Firecracker 4-miler on July 4, which is kind of a meaningful race for me (if you care to find out why, here’s last year’s post!), as well as the Downtown Westfield 5k and Pizza Extravaganza towards the end of next month. Which, let’s face it, I run for the FOOD. Post-race pizza party? Like I’m really going to miss out on that.

I’m definitely trying to keep my eye on the prize — DUMBO! — but I’m hesitant to register for other races this summer because, to be honest, I don’t really want to. I just don’t enjoy racing in 75+ degree temperatures. Does that make me a “bad” runner? Am I just being a whiny baby right now?

In other news…I officially lost my first full toenail (second toe, right foot)! I will spare you the visual, as much as I’m tempted to take a picture of it! No more cute pedicure for me, I guess.

But…is it wrong that I’m kind of feeling proud right now?

Is anyone else struggling with running in the heat/humidity? Who has warm-weather running tips for me?!

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Weekly Workouts and GLASS SLIPPER CHALLENGE!

Hope everyone had a fabulous weekend! I know I’m the WORST at keeping up with posting my weekly workouts, but here it goes again.

First things first…I may or may not have accidentally signed up for the runDisney Glass Slipper Challenge in February 2014! Honestly, I don’t even know what I’m thinking any more. I’ve completely lost it. I’m already registered for the Dopey Challenge in January, for crying out loud!

But there’s something about making my triumphant return to the Princess Half, my first half marathon, one year later for this all-new weekend challenge — the 10K and half marathon — that I found impossible to resist. So…I am IN!

glassslipperchallenge

Sporting my Princess Half gear to celebrate getting in to the GSC!

This week, I definitely threw myself back into training for the Dumbo. I can’t believe how quickly that’s sneaking up on us! I’m upset that I missed my planned long run this weekend, but I’m headed out for a six-miler today and then plan to start with some longer back-to-back runs this coming weekend in preparation for that lovely 10K/half marathon combo that awaits me!

Sunday (9th): Thai Kickboxing class

Monday: 3 miles

Tuesday: Rest

Wednesday: 5 miles

Thursday: 3 miles

Friday: 4 miles, Taekwondo class

Saturday: Thai Kickboxing class

Sunday: Rest; we took Dad to the Museum of Natural History for Father’s Day!

Plans for this week include keeping my mileage relatively high, and also, to stop being a big baby and to vary those workouts a bit! I’m still struggling with consistency when it comes to getting in speedwork — especially since the weather has been so HOT lately — so every week I pretty much start with a renewed promise to keep pushing my speed, at least a little bit!

However, I will say that I ran in some horrendous weather this week…I was caught in not one, but two heavy rain storms. You know…the kind that makes you feel as though you’ve  jumped into a pool fully clothed.

But I just kept right on going. A little rain (okay, a LOT of rain) isn’t going to stop THIS girl from logging those miles! That’s all that counts, right?

How were everyone’s weekend runs? Anyone else get caught in any less-than-pleasant running conditions?

 

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Getting Back to Business

731267-1049-0041sFirst, I want to apologize for being MIA for the past few days, and thank you all for your kind words and support with regards to the news I shared in my previous post. I really do appreciate all of your well wishes and words of encouragement, and they really have helped me a great deal in making this transition. I’m so incredibly grateful to be part of this community. So, thank you!

IMG_6948

I’d be lying if I said that my running has been a bit off schedule, at best. After taking on the Superhero Half Marathon last month as my third half over the course of six weeks, I decided I deserved a bit of a break. I was EXHAUSTED, and each race seemed to become a whole lot harder than the last. I’ve been keeping up maintenance runs — 3 miles here, 4 miles there — but my training plan has sort of fallen by the wayside.

However, my crazy half marathon streak did earn me acceptance as a Half Marathon Fanatic! Meet Half Fanatic #4358!734267_3145089682661_410711098_n(1)

Now I’m getting back to business, and have jumped right back on the training bandwagon to get my butt in shape for Dumbo Double Dare! I’m pretty much going to follow the same beginner plan as I did for the Princess Half Marathon (since we all know I don’t participate in runDisney races to set PRs), but I’m incorporating some back-to-back longer runs on Fridays and/or weekends to help gear up for running the 10k followed by a half.

As for cross training, I’m continuing with martial arts (Thai Kickboxing and Taekwondo) and cycling. I’m supposed to test for my gold belt (FINALLY) in Taekwondo this month!

Meanwhile, the thought of my impulsive decision to sign up for the Dopey Challenge is still looming over me. As thrilled as I am by the prospect of taking on my first full marathon — and, let’s be honest, scooping up so much runDisney bling in one weekend! — as the weeks pass, the thought of ramping up my training FOR REAL becomes more and more terrifying.

Deep down, I know this is something I can do. I know this is something I WANT to do. All I can do now is make a plan, get psyched, and hope my body cooperates when I begin my official training!

I also have to admit that I’m definitely toying with the idea of registering for the new Glass Slipper Challenge. Held on Princess Half Marathon weekend, the new challenge means I’d get to run the new Disney Enchanted 10K and the Princess Half Marathon (i.e. same idea as Dumbo Double Dare) in the same weekend. And, since the Princess Half was my fiHalfFanaticrst half marathon ever, I thought it would be pretty cool to make my triumphant return one year later to celebrate an anniversary, of sorts. It’s especially significant to me seeing as how I was CONVINCED that I’d never be able to finish my first 13.1!

But, of course, I realize it’s slightly INSANE to head to Disney World for for the Wine and Dine Half Marathon in November, the Dopey Challenge in January, and the Glass Slipper Challenge in February. Or…is it? :-D

What’s everyone training for? For all of you Dumbo runners (that sounds rude, but, you know what I mean!), how are you training?

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Running Makes You Stronger. Period.

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday weekend! The weather kind of sucked here in NJ (except for Monday), but I did get to spend some time in Atlantic City and catch a Third Eye Blind concert…I’ve been obsessed with them since middle school, and pretty much stalk them every time they come around!

It probably sounds kind of strange, but despite the fact that I’m a blogger and basically broadcast my life all over the Internet on a weekly basis, in “real life,” I’m actually a pretty private person. I tend to keep to myself, and have a hard time sharing my feelings with others…and that includes my family and closest friends. But I am a writer…so stick me in front of a computer, and it all just comes pouring out.

Still, writing this particular post is going to be a little difficult for me, and yet, I feel as though I can’t continue posting with my own special brand of candor and honesty here without at least mentioning that I’m going through a really tough time right now.

I promise, this will not be a “woe is me” kind of post. Instead, it’s something I need to share because it’s a major life change…and my personal weight loss and running journey factor directly into how I’m dealing with it all.

2001

2001

My boyfriend and I have broken up. Out of respect for his privacy, I won’t go into all the sordid details, but suffice it to say that the outcome of our almost 12-year relationship (we were high school sweethearts) has been looking pretty grim for quite some time. We’ve been struggling with various issues for years, and this was honestly the only course of action that was left, unfortunately…I think ending things might even do us both a lot of good.

Since we lived together, it’s hard to say we’re “broken up” when I can sit in my apartment and still see a lot of his clothing and movies and books still lying around, or his posters hanging on the wall or countless framed photos capturing all of our happiest moments, from high school proms to college graduations to vacations and trips (including, of course, our various jaunts to Disney World).

2007

2007

It’s also hard for me because I’m still trying to wrap my mind around the loss of a person who has been in my life for over a decade. He has been there for me through it all…he was my shoulder to cry on when I lost my beloved grandparents, my support system when I began losing weight (for the final time) on Weight Watchers, my cheerleader when I saw my very first published byline in a magazine and crossed the finish line of my first race, the best friend I could always turn to for a laugh or to vent or to hang out and do absolutely nothing.

Needless to say, I am heartbroken. Anger, disappointment, shock, hurt, devastation, disbelief, sadness, rage…you name it, I feel it. I don’t want to be melodramatic, but obviously, this is the man I pictured myself marrying and building a home with and having kids with and growing old together. I desperately wanted all of those things…and I’d thought he was “the one” since I was 16 years old. But right now, let’s just say I have amassed ample evidence to suggest that he simply does not feel the same way about me. And maybe he never truly did. I don’t really know.

2013

2013

There’s nothing I can do about any of this except to learn how to cope. For the first time in my life, I have to learn how to be on my own. And I can’t help but think that there was a time in my life when all of this would have utterly crushed me. I used to hate the sight of my morbidly obese body, and had managed to convince myself that I was worthless. That I had nothing to offer the world. That I was destined to be miserable forever.

There was a time in my life when something would upset me — the bullies at school, a fight with a friend, a bad grade, you name it — and my first (and only) response would be to grab a handful of Oreos or dive headfirst into a bag of Doritos. Eating was how I coped with life’s disappointments, and it was the only thing that could soothe me.

Today, however, I know that no matter what happens — even something as devastating as the end of a relationship in which I’ve invested nearly half of my life —  I will survive. I know that I will be okay. And I’m convinced that running has a lot to do with that.

Losing 90 pounds (and, more importantly, keeping it off) has empowered me to believe that you can change your life, and that your health and happiness are worth fighting for.

My love of Thai Kickboxing and Taekwondo have taught me that, at heart, I amthaifront truly a fighter, and that I am disciplined and motivated enough to achieve anything I want in life.

But when it comes to running…that’s what forced me to realize that I am so much stronger than I ever thought possible.

Any runner knows that our sport can be just as much mental as it is physical, and training my body and my mind to endure 5Ks, then 10Ks, then half marathons — when I used to be someone who would avoid stairs at all costs, and found all of my personal pleasure from raiding the refrigerator — has proven in no uncertain terms that I am STRONG. I transformed myself from an overweight high schooler who physically couldn’t complete the mile in gym class to an adult who runs 13.1 miles like it’s no big thing. I slowly but surely changed absolutely everything about my life, and taught myself how to live as a healthy, active person.

And that’s how I know I can handle anything life throws my way. When life knocks me down, I know I have the courage and tenacity inside of me to get right back up again. I am not a quitter, and I don’t let anyone else dictate my sense of self-worth.

I do believe running has changed the person I am, both inside and out. After the years of torment I endured as an obese child and teenager to the countless failed dieting attempts to hitting rock bottom as a 265-pound 22-year-old, I feel as DSCF3043though running has given me and my entire journey a purpose.

I believe I was meant to discover running as my way of finally making peace with my body, and as a way to love and celebrate the person I am. I feel so incredibly grateful to have found something that fulfills me and gives me a sense of well-being — no matter what happens in my life, I know that I can always reach for my running shoes.

So, in conclusion…I’m going through a tough time right now. And it has hurt me. But I will not let this crush me.

After all…I’m in training. Three months until the Dumbo Double Dare!

Has running ever helped you through a tough time?

In what ways has it changed your life?

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RACE RECAP: Superhero Half Marathon

As many of you know, I will take ANY excuse to dress up (and run!) in a ridiculous costume. So when I first heard about the DSCF3438Superhero Half Marathon in Morristown, NJ, I KNEW I had to run it!

When it came to choosing my costume, it was no contest…I had to go with a Disney superhero, and race as an Incredible! I figured I need all the practice I can get for the zillions of runDisney races I plan to participate in, anyway. I scoured the Internet for weeks trying to track down red running capris, ordered a black Team Sparkle skirt (because, surprisingly, it’s one of the few colors I DON’T already own!) and I tried my hand at iron-on transfers for the first time (let’s just say…it did not go well) to make myself a sweat-wicking Incredibles shirt. I reluctantly cut two holes in an old, stretched out Bondiband to serve as my eye mask (AND keep the sweat out of my eyes), and then I decided to try racing in my new black Pro Compression socks for the first time, since they just so happened to go with the outfit anyway.

First things first. I woke up on Sunday morning to find that it was raining. I’ve never raced in the rain before, so I knew it would be…interesting. Based on some friends’ reviews of this race, I also knew going into it that it was going to be a somewhat hilly course, even though the race website described it as “mostly flat” — which I’m not quite sure is accurate. One of the course’s steepest hills had the paramedics stationed right at the top, for crying out loud! Trying to run to the top made me feel like I was actually IN a cartoon — you know, like when the character starts running and thDSCF3445eir legs are flailing around and dust is flying but they’re not actually going anywhere.

It was also a double loop course, which I’ve now officially decided I loathe…there’s something mentally unnerving about running past the mile 8 or 11 mile marker when you’ve only just started the race, and after I discovered everything the first loop had in store for me, I really wasn’t all that anxious to do it all over again!

I had planned for this to be my “just for fun” race, and I’m glad, because I definitely did NOT perform to my full potential (my chip time was 2:11). The fact that I’m still not fully recovered from the Long Branch Half Marathon combined with the rain and the hills and the fact that I once again (very STUPIDLY!) decided to attend my usual Taekwondo and Thai kickboxing classes in the days before the race did not exactly make for an easy 13.1.

However, it was still a lot of fun! I tried to relax into whatever pace I could manage (by the halfway point, I was completely ignoring my Garmin and just kind of going with the flow). I forced myself to chill out and enjoy the festive superhero costumes (I was secretly pacing myself with a Wonder Woman for the entire race!) and the not-so-festive rain and sticky humidity that was certainly keeping this race interesting, if nothing else!734267_3145089682661_410711098_n(1)

And it was great…now that I’m learning to give up the ridiculous notion that I can somehow magically PR in every single race, I’ve decided to practice learning how to loosen up and stop beating myself up and just enjoy the moment. After all, running IS supposed to be fun (sometimes)…right?

It was definitely exciting to see spectators’ reactions to all the costumes…they’re superheroes just for coming out to stand in the pouring rain to cheer us on, so I was sure to say thank you to everyone and give lots of high-fives! The kids especially seemed to enjoy seeing me as “Mrs. Incredible.” ;-D

My only complaint? (Other than the weather, I mean…which is nobody’s fault except Mother Nature’s). I registered for this race several months ago, and requested my t-shirt size on the registration form, as is pretty much the protocol. As it turns out, however, because I didn’t make the drive to Morristown (which isn’t horrendous or anything, but it’s still about 40 minutes away for me and really just didn’t seem necessary) the day before the race JUST to pick up my bib and t-shirt, I ended up with whatever was leftover on race day. I find that to be a tad unfair — I understand that those who register the day of a race end up with whatever shirts are leftover, but what in the WORLD is the point of asking us to request our shirt size when we register months in advance if you’re just going to hand shirts out to whomever happens to pick up their bib first? And they obviously didn’t order enough shirts in general because I heard the volunteers telling a bunch of other runners that their shirt size was completely “sold out”…but “here, how about a nice men’s size XL?” Absolutely ridiculous. I really liked the women’s cut, tech race shirts — for once, I knew I’d actually get some use out of my “free” shirt — but alas, the shirt size I requested was no longer available when I picked up my bib over an hour prior to the race…so I ended up with yet another too-big shirt that I’m never going to actually wear. Not cool!

The good news? Since this wasn’t a “push myself until I want to puke just to PR” kind of race for me, I had the opportunity to experiment with some new race day strategies. For starters, I’ve been trying to figure out what’s been causing my stomach cramping in the latter half of a race, and I’m happy to report that my DSCF3452stomach issues were pretty much nonexistent during this race. I know it could just be that I slowed my pace down a little bit, but I also tried a few other strategies: I tried taking in more Gatorade during the race, but I diluted it with water at every station (which I allowed myself to walk through, for once). I also ate fewer Clif Shot Bloks (and later in the race) in case they’re actually causing me some GI distress and I just don’t know it! Based on the advice of some of you far smarter runners, I also tried to focus on any sodium imbalances I may have been causing, and snacked on pretzels and tried not to OVER-hydrate in the day or two before the half marathon.

Also…I have fallen madly and deeply and HOPELESSLY in love with my new Pro Compression socks! After reading nothing but rave reviews on some of my favorite running blogs — and given the fact that I’ve been having nothing but foot issues lately — I decided to give ‘em a shot. And I am SO glad I did. I’ve worn them for a few shorter training runs, but this was my first time racing in them. I was having some leg issues during the race because I went in with them already feeling a little sore from Taekwondo/Thai kickboxing — like the GENIUS that I am — and my sopping wet sneakers didn’t exactly help with my usual blister issues,DSCF3462 and yet at the end of the race, my legs were feeling pretty good! Since I’ve heard they can help with recovery — and it took me several days just to be able to WALK after my last half — I decided to wear the socks for the rest of the day (after washing them…since, you know, the several other colors I ordered haven’t arrived yet!), and also sleep in them. I’m proud to report that while I do have a little bit of soreness today, given the fact that I practically ran up Mount Everest yesterday and my legs and feet are feeling this great means that Pro Compression socks are pretty much MAGIC socks…and I will never race without them again!

Does anyone else find racing in costumes as fun as I do? ;-D

superheromedal

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Liebster Award and runDisney News!

I know I’ve been kind of quiet for a few days. To sum up…I’ve been struggling to recover after my less-than-stellar performance in the Long Branch Half (more on that soon!)

But in happier news, I also want to officially announce that…

I WILL BE RUNNING IN THE DISNEY WINE AND DINE HALF MARATHON THIS NOVEMBER!

winedine2013I wasn’t planning on doing it, but you see, it seems the planets aligned and the universe told me that I really, really should run Wine and Dine. It’s my parents’ wedding anniversary, and my mom (also a Disney dork, like me) wanted to head back to The World with the family to celebrate…and it just so happens that their anniversary falls on the week of the race! So without stealing their thunder too much, I’m going to just ahead and do a half marathon real quick — I’ll be using my runDisney and annual pass discount to help us score deals on dining, room, and theme park tickets (not to mention granting the ‘rents access to the BEST AFTER-PARTY EVER at Epcot!), so they didn’t seem to mind too much. What’s also exciting is that my sister and I will also be registering to run the Jingle Jungle 5K — and it’ll be her VERY FIRST 5K! I can’t wait to play running coach. :-D

In other news, I was recently nominated not once, not twice, but THREE TIMES for a Liebster Award — which is basically a way of recognizing your favorite up-and-coming blogs — and I’m so grateful to be part of such an incredible community of running bloggers! Thanks Lori and Stacy from Once Upon a Run, Run Stretch Go, and Tina and Colby from It’s a Marathon AND a Sprint!

LiebsterAwardHere’s how it works:

  1. Write 11 random facts about yourself.
  2. Answer the 11 questions given by the person who nominated you.
  3. Create 11 new questions.
  4. Nominate 11 bloggers and mention them in your post.
  5. Thank the person that nominated you and tell the people you’ve nominated.

First, my 11 random facts:

1.) I take pictures of anything and everything. Constantly. I’m not a particularly skilled photographer or anything, it’s just what I do. I come home from vacations with thousands upon thousands upon THOUSANDS of pictures!

2.) I love polka dots. I’d say about 75 percent of the clothing in my wardrobe features some form of polka dots. You can NEVER have too many polka dot dresses!

3.) I collect snowglobes. I’ve had run-ins with the TSA on more than one occasion for forgetting about the “no liquids” rule and packing a snowglobe in my carry-on luggage. Having to pay $10 to ship a $7 snowglobe home from Las Vegas was NOT amusing.

4.) I studied abroad in college; I spent a week in Spain as a freshman, and then an entire semester when I was a junior. Fairleigh Dickinson University (my alma mater!) owns a campus in England, so we can choose to study there for a semester and then go on tons of awesome weekend trips, including Paris, Italy, Scotland, Wales, Ireland…needless to say, it was the best experience EVER.

5.) I’m completely obsessed with penguins. I had the opportunity to “meet” one at Sea World once, and it remains one of the most exciting moments of my life.

6.) I’ve always been fascinated by dinosaurs. When I was a kid and all the girls my age were dressing up their Barbie dolls, I was playing with plastic T-Rex figures. No joke.

7.) I kind of suck at swimming. A super secret goal of mine is to compete in a triathlon, and while the idea of taking on the running and cycling portion of the race thrill me to no end, I’m pretty much terrified that I’d end up drowning.

8.) I love horror movies. I have a ridiculous collection of them amassed by countless visits to street fairs/flea markets and used/discount DVD stores.

9.) I’m not a big drinker. Don’t get me wrong, I love a margarita or a glass of wine as much as the next person, but I don’t especially enjoy going to bars/clubs. It just doesn’t thrill me, and it never has…so you can imagine how incredibly popular I was during my college years.

10.) To say that I am a Type A personality would be an understatement. I’m ridiculously high-strung, obsessive about detail, and can’t survive without a schedule! I’m a HOOT on vacations (“okay, so after lunch from 12pm to 1:30pm, next on our itinerary is…”).

11.) My boyfriend and I have been together since high school. This November will be our 12th anniversary!

Now, on to the questions from the three bloggers who nominated me. First, from Once Upon a Run:

1.  If cost, time, money, etc were not a factor, what race would you most want to run? Every single runDisney race. Oh wait, I seem to already be doing that… :-D

2.  When is your favorite time to workout: morning, afternoon, or evening? I’m 100 percent a morning person, but I often have to squeeze in my run in the early afternoon.

3.  What’s your favorite tv show? Of all time? Gilmore Girls. Currently on TV? Probably The Big Bang Theory, The Middle, and Modern Family.

4.  What’s your favorite book? I’m a huge dorky bookworm and couldn’t possibly choose just one, but I love true crime and my favorite writer is Ann Rule.

5. What’s your favorite drink? (recipes please if you have it!!!) I looooves me a martini.

6.  Which is superior: cat or dog? I’m obsessed with dogs. Love ‘em. Can’t get enough of ‘em. I had to leave my dog (a Shih Tzu named Riley) when I moved out of my parents’ house, and unfortunately I’m currently residing in a “no pets allowed” apartment, but the second I move into a “real” house — at the rate I’m going, when I’m in my 60s — it’s canine time.

7.  Do you prefer appetizer or dessert? DESSERT! I’m something of a chocoholic.

8.  Do you have a teacher or mentor that made a big difference in your life? I always remember how my third grade teacher helped spark my love of reading and encouraged my knack for writing. I also took a few classes with an adjunct professor in college who was a freelance magazine writer…and that’s when I decided that I pretty much wanted to steal her life.

9.  Do you have a favorite local (non-chain) store or restaurant? I pretty much avoid chain restaurants like the plague, so, yes…MANY!

10.  What’s your favorite summer destination? Uhh, Disney World? haha. If I had a bit more moolah at my disposal, I’d be summering in Europe.

11.  If we came to your town/area, what’s the one thing that we would HAVE to do? Atlantic City, baby!!!

Now, from Run Stretch Go

1) What are you most looking forward to this week? My superhero-themed half marathon this weekend! I may or may not be running this race dressed as an Incredible… ;-D

2) What is your favorite running accessory? Oh no, I have to pick just one?! No can do, sorry! On my everyday training runs, I’d have to say my assortment of Bondibands, Spi-belt, and I’m recently becoming addicted to Pro Compression socks. For racing, gotta love my Team Sparkle skirts.

3) Beach or pool? I’m a Jersey girl…there’s nothing I love more than lounging around on the beach with my face buried in a book.

4) Best restaurant meal you’ve ever had? Where and what? For someone who loves to eat (and dine out!) as much as I do, this is pretty much akin to choosing a favorite child. My favorite TYPES of meals to go out for are Mexican and Chinese or Thai.

5) Do you still have a land line at your residence? Nope. Absolutely no use for it!

6) Favorite song on your running playlist right now? No way I can choose just one! Some of the songs I listen to pretty much every time I head out for a run are: 50 Ways to Say Goodbye and Drive By (Train); Poker Face (Lady Gaga); What Doesn’t Kill You (Kelly Clarkson); Magic (B.o.B); How Far We’ve Come (Matchbox Twenty); Don’t Stop the Party and Feel this Moment (Pitbull)…and, of course, can’t forget Gangnam Style!

7) Coffee or Tea? I am completely and utterly addicted to coffee. It is no exaggeration to say that I cannot function without it!

8) If you could make up a holiday what would it be? Hmm…Disney day? ;-D

9) Movies at home or in the theater? Theater because it gives me a perfectly legitimate excuse to eat dark chocolate raisinets…

10) What time zone do you live in? Eastern.

11) Best tip for becoming a faster runner? Ah, if only I had the secret to this. In my experience thus far — and this is coming from someone who pretty much hates doing speedwork! — I’ve improved my speed through consistency. As soon as I started training for my first half marathon and running on a more consistent schedule, I couldn’t believe how much faster I could run!

Lastly, from It’s a Marathon AND a Sprint

1. If you could have one super power what would it be? The ability to run real, real fast? :-D

2. Would you rather have free Starbucks for life or free iTunes? STARBUCKS. Hands down.

3. What is your earliest memory? I have vague memories from my first Disney World trip at age 4, but unfortunately, even earlier memories from being bitten in the face by a German Shepherd when I was 3 and needing stitches…on Christmas Eve! I love dogs, but to this day, I’m scared of German Shepherds.

4. What has made you laugh the hardest? Anytime someone mocks my laugh (which, to be fair, is rather…distinctive). For some reason, I find someone imitating my laugh to be endlessly hysterical.

5. If you could have lunch with one person, living or dead who would it be? Walt Disney, of course.

6. What is your biggest disappointment? You know, if I was just a few (okay, several) inches taller, I may never have had a weight problem… ;-)

7. Top 3 Favorite Cereals. Go! If you’re talking about the cereals I actually eat on a regular basis, I’m a Kashi girl. If you’re talking about what I would eat if I didn’t necessarily care about consuming a nutritional breakfast, then CAPTAIN CRUNCH!

8. What song would play during the opening credits of Your Life, The Movie? Something from Hanson! My fave!

9. If you were a dog, what breed would you be? Haha, this is a good one. A boxer? You know…since I love kickboxing? Or a greyhound? Since, you know, I like to race?

10. What is your favorite movie line of all time? Movie line? Not sure. But my favorite movie is The Little Mermaid. And Star Wars. (I’m not a geek AT ALL.)

11. What is your favorite blog post you’ve written? The recap of my first half marathon!

Okay, my turn! Here are my 11 questions.

1.) What are some of your hobbies (other than running, I mean)?

2.) What’s your favorite song of all time?

3.) What do you do for a living?

4.) When and why did you start blogging?

5.) What’s your favorite animal?

6.) What’s your biggest pet peeve?

7.) If you won the lottery tomorrow…what would you spend the money on?

8.) What’s your favorite color?

9.) What’s your favorite season/time of year?

10.) If you could eat one food every day and still never, ever get sick of it…what would it be?

11.) What are some of your favorite ways to stay fit (again, other than running)?

And now, for my nominees. Here are just 11 of the many, many, many AWESOME blogs written by incredibly inspiring runners I follow on a regular basis.

1.) Stephanie at Now I Run

2.) Amy at Writing While Running

3.) Rachel at Runner’s Tales

4.) Kim at Barking Mad About Running

5.) Erin at A Storybook Life

6.) Jodi at 13.1 Miles to Disney

7.) Katy at Running and Singing in the Park

8.) Lena at The Beginner’s Runner

9.) Lauren at Lauren’s Glass Slipper

10.) Emily at Keep Running Keep Writing

11.) Andrea at I Run for Donuts

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RACE RECAP: Long Branch Half Marathon

Yesterday I ran half marathon number 3, and I have to say…it was not easy.DSCF3344

As you may remember, I ran my second half marathon just two weeks ago, and crossed the finish line in a very unexpected 2:03. I was absolutely elated with my time (2:05 was my “best-case scenario” time goal). It was a beautiful day at the Jersey Shore, I was feeling strong, and in what seemed like moments after the start of the race, I was placing a medal around my neck.

So I sort of expected a similar experience this weekend when I ran the Long Branch Half Marathon for the first time. Once again, it was a BEAUTIFUL day at the Jersey Shore. But this time, I struggled. A lot.

Let me rewind a bit. On Saturday, I headed down to Monmouth Park Racetrack for the expo, where I picked up my bib and did a little a lot of shopping. I was trying to spot Kim from Barking Mad About Running, who also ran the half and was volunteering at the expo, but didn’t get to see her, unfortunately. I was disappointed that arriving at 10:30am on Saturday meant that the majority of the women’s shirts that I wanted were sold out in my size (interestingly enough, my spectators later informed me that they were all re-stocked for sale on the day of the race…not cool!). But I did manage to get some official merch, along with some super cute tees and a 13.1 magnet from Bay Six, a new fuel belt from Hippie Runner, and, of course, I spent lots and lots of time at BondiBand shamelessly digging through piles of headbands and carrying on about how much I LOVE them — prompting the woman at the table to ask when I was going to come work for them. (The answer: ANYTIME! CALL ME!) ;-D

2013-05-04 12.20.40The race was slated to begin at 6:45am SHARP for half marathon runners on Sunday, followed by the full New Jersey Marathon at 8am. After making the drive to Monmouth Park on Saturday for the expo in a solid 45 minutes, I went ahead and allotted an additional FULL HOUR to our morning commute  for the traffic that I knew was going to back up along the several lights leading into the racetrack.

So my sister, BF, and I piled into the car at the ungodly hour of 4:55am to make our way to the park…and I am sorry to report that I would have missed the start of the race completely had we left just five minutes later.

We arrived before 5:45am, but the traffic to get into the park was absolutely insane, and it took a solid 45 minutes just to make our way into the parking area. I proceeded to make a mad dash for the port-a-potties (because I know myself enough to know that I will NOT stop during a race), and stood in a line that appeared to be about a mile long. The race day security was no joke, either; I completely understand the heightened security, but I know there was some frustration about not being able to carry even a small purse.

Meanwhile, it was now approaching 6:45am, and the announcer was calling the start of the race. I figured I had a few extra minutes since I was in Corral C, so I didn’t worry too much — I had no idea then that the corrals were being released within seconds of each other. It was finally my turn at the port-a-potty, so I did my thing and then ran like hell to the starting line…only to discover that the corrals were now gated, and my corral was next to start. Another frustrated Corral C runner broke through the barricade, so a bunch of us followed, and it was IMMEDIATELY time to start running.

I’ve cut it close before, but I NEVER want another race day experience to begin this way…stressed and aggravated is no way to begin a 13.1 mile journey!

Of course, I had my sights set on beating my previous half marathon time of 2:03. I knew that only two weeks had passed since my last race, but I knew I had it in me to push just a little bit harder. My foot issues (which I have conclusively diagnosed as tendonitis) have been subsiding in the last week or so, thank goodness, but I tied my shoelaces loosely so as to not cause any flare-ups during the race. Little did I know that something so seemingly insignificant — SHOELACES, for crying out loud — would be among my downfalls in this race.

photo 3In miles 1-3, I was feeling good. I spent some energy weaving around other runners, but there was definitely room to run (not the case at Runapalooza, unfortunately), and I found my stride right around an 8:45 pace for those first miles. But then came mile 4, and I started to feel a little…off. Though I wasn’t experiencing any of the pain that I’ve been dealing with in my foot, I could feel some discomfort in my left shoe, so I allowed myself to pause for the briefest of moments to tug at my socks and adjust my sneaker.

If it was just my stupid foot that was the problem, I could have dealt with it. But overall, I just wasn’t feeling that great. By mile 5, I knew that this was just not going to be my race. My legs felt heavy, I felt tired…and the miles ahead of me seemed endless.

The course took us through a variety of back roads and neighborhoods in the towns of Long Branch, Oceanport, and Monmouth Beach. Though I know Hurricane Sandy ravaged the race’s previous course along the boardwalk — and that race organizers overcame enormous obstacles in re-routing the course and being able to hold this race at all — the scenery just wasn’t that exciting (also, there were several giant hills that I wasn’t expecting!). If it weren’t for the AWESOME spectators, I don’t know what I would have done — I kept pausing my iPod completely to feed off their enthusiasm (I still don’t know how I rudely ignored the cheers from blogger pal (Writing While Running) and fellow Jersey girl Amy…sorry again that I missed you!)

When I reached the halfway point where the half marathon relay runners were switching off, I spotted Emily, who blogs at Keep Running Keep Writing and whom I know from our former shared post at New Jersey Monthly magazine. I was really struggling at that point, but I was so happy to see her and all of the relay runners and spectators at the 6.5 mile mark — some of whom gave me shout outs for my Team Sparkle skirts! — and they infused me with the energy I needed to take on the second half of the race. I waDSCF3338s shocked to see that my sluggish 9:30 pace was now back to around 9:00 for the next mile or so.

The energy was short-lived, however. Now not only was I tired, but I was POSITIVE that I had an enormous blister forming on my left foot…I refuse to allow myself to walk during races, but I begrudgingly let myself stop for moment to re-tie my shoelaces. It helped a little bit, but unfortunately it was too late.

I spent the final miles of the race playing every mind game I could think of to ignore my aching, blistering feet. The cherry on top of it all was that my usual stomach cramping was back in full force by mile 10 — now I know it’s not just a coincidence, and I’m determined to figure out what is causing it.

Meanwhile, I kept telling myself to just keep doing the best I could, not every race can be a PR, enjoy the moment, look how far you’ve come, blah blah blah, but there’s part of me that still couldn’t help but be disappointed in myself. Old habits die hard, and I am the textbook definition of a perfectionist…and once I knew this race wasn’t going to result in a new PR, I felt defeated and discouraged. I could not wait for that finish line.

In the last two miles, we did have the opportunity to run along the beach — I had already seen the Sandy devastation during Runapalooza, and did my best to ignore the sight of the torn up boardwalk — and there’s something about being near the ocean (or any body of water, really) that really does soothe me. So while I was dead tired and ready to rip my sneakers off and throw them far, far away, I sucked it up anDSCF3380d forced myself to enjoy this moment and be proud of myself…and thankful that even though it wasn’t my best performance, I was still so very fortunate to be doing something that I love.

And then the finish line was finally up ahead, I was handed my medal, and all of the pain and frustration of the previous 2 hours, 7 minutes, and 9 seconds (my official chip time) just faded away.

Oh, and when I reunited with my sister and boyfriend, I finally did rip off my sneakers…and proceeded to find the most disgusting blood blister (never had one before, but a Google search definitively confirmed my diagnosis) you could ever imagine on my left big toe. It is GROSS.

Overall, the race was well organized and I, of course, had an amazing time…but basically this is all a long-winded way of saying that you learn a whole lot from a race when you fall short of your expectations!

1.) First and foremost, when race organizers say get there early, THEY. MEAN. IT.

2.) Perhaps it wasn’t the best idea to register for three half marathons over the course of six weeks. D’oh.

DSCF33873.) I need to work on my pacing. In my last half, I went all out in the beginning and then crashed and burned a bit at the end. This time, I tried to be more conservative in the beginning, and then various factors prevented me from picking up the pace in the final miles…so I just got slower, and slower, and slower.

4.) It’s time to figure out what the hell is causing me stomach issues every. single. time. I race! I’m currently using Clif Shot Bloks as my fuel, as many of the gels I’ve tried cause nausea. The blocks don’t seem to bother me during long runs, but I’ve recently been experimenting with Honey Stingers gels (delicious, BTW…I LOVE honey), so I’ll have to see if I need to make a switch.

5.) More hill training and speedwork. NO EXCUSES!

6.) Rest means REST. In the week prior to my last half, I did very little running (or anything, really) because I was trying to rest my foot — and I ended up feeling fantastic during the race. Last week, since my foot was feeling better, I was desperate to “make up for lost time” and I’m sure I ended up over-training — which would explain my sluggish performance yesterday. I need to get better about tapering and not pushing myself too hard in the days before a race.

7.) Most importantly: I cannot — and will not — PR at every race. So I need to stop being ridiculous and realize that I’m not a robot and that sometimes, I just have to accept that I’m doing my best and be happy with it.

How do you deal with race day disappointment?

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