Monday, May 31, 2010

Just A Small Town Girl

Sometimes I get so caught up in the bustle of the big city I almost forget to breath. Days are filled to the brim sometimes overflowing past my bedtime to get caught up on everything I have to do. Thank goodness for holiday weekends. And trips to my parents house, in the small town that I grew up in.

Friday could not go by fast enough, I did my best to get done as much as I could, but I was leaving at 3pm so we could get a head start on our trip. Boyfriend was driving, I was navigating. There is an interesting overall feeling to our car trips to New England. As we drive through New Jersey the trip seems fresh and we chat about everything from our future together to the weather to our plans for next weekend. The road ways are wide and industrialized filled with tractor trailers and weekend travelers. Thankfully we ran into zero traffic the whole way. I was literally crossing my fingers at some points just praying to not see a explosion of red brake lights. Our trip takes us to the tip of New Jersey, through New York, and then to the dark roads of Connecticut on our way up to Massachusetts.

It's always about halfway through the journey, usually somewhere just over the New York state line, that this sense of calm washes over me. After two or so hours Boyfriend and I are content to just sit and watch the world go by and enjoy the late evening sun setting in the distance. I am on my way home. It is as if my body knows where we are going. It tells my mind to relax, there is nothing to worry about because we are going home.

Home of course is not about a town or a house or an address. It is about the people. The most relaxing and assuring thing about going home is knowing that the people you are with accept you 100 percent exactly as you are. No matter how long it has been since you have been away. No matter what you have done in the past, or what happens when you are there. No matter how long you stay, or even that you have to leave, home is truly where you heart is. Now that I have done some growing up, my love for my family has grown so much stronger. They are the ones who understand me best, they are the ones who are most like me. When I arrive home that night my mom is still dressed in her running shorts and sneakers and we hug, as always it feels so good to be back. When I tell them I plan on running twelve miles in the morning they barely even blink, they would be more surprised if I said I was sleeping in.

For three days I wake up to bright sunlight and chirping birds instead of closed blinds, screeching horns and wailing sirens. On my morning runs I say hi to anyone that passes, although I usually know about half of them. Neighbors out in their yards greet me as I run by. And later at a friends BBQ at least two people comment that they saw me "jogging" this morning around town. I don't correct them and say I was running. I just smile and nod and say yes and they smile widely as they say "I thought that was you!".

My mom eats just like me. Or rather, as Boyfriend says, I eat just like my mom seeing as she has been around longer and my habits come from her. The fridge is stocked with fresh healthy ingredients, fruits, vegetables and yogurt, and there is always a fresh pot of coffee brewing before I even wake up. I am in heaven. But I don't take it for granted. I am always cleaning something or putting things away. For some reason when I go home I can't help it. I feel like it earns me my time to stay here even though I know I am always welcome. Although I long ago forfeited my childhood bedroom to my youngest sister, knowing there is always a spot for me on the couch is good enough. I quickly get used to a house full of people and adore that there is always someone around to talk to even if we are just laying around making fun or reality TV stars. Even better if there is a family party, which there was, and we all get together for a festival of good food, cold drinks, and hour after hour of laughter.

No matter how long I stay, it is never enough time. It has been seven years since we packed up my life in my mom's Volvo station wagon and took off for Philadelphia. I have plans of someday doing back but for now I live my life in two cities, four states apart. I sneak in one last five mile run with Mom and Boyfriend, before gathering my things for the long trip home. Mom of course doesn't let us leave with out taking some of her homemade carrot cake, a container of fresh sliced up watermelon and a bottle of red wine. I am happy to have made the trip, happy to be going back to my city life, but sad to be leaving the comfort and relaxation of home. Even as we drive away, towards the chaos of our day to day lives I began plotting when we can come back next.

xx Sara

Friday, May 28, 2010

That Dreaded Treadmill

Six mile stared me in the face all day long as I bustled though all my work. I couldn't wait. I even wanted it to be something hard. It was the longest weekday run on my calendar in a long time, but I was excited to hit 25 miles for the week after my Saturday long run. All month I have been struggling to get to 25. There were a few weeks of 19 and one of 24.

Just as I was packing up my things to head home, the dark clouds rolled in and I heard thunder booming outside. There are only a few things that sideline me from a run. Lighting is one of them. And where there is thunder lighting is not far behind. Thankfully I have been getting very smart when it comes to weekday workouts. I never leave the house with out my gym bag complete with all the necessities for a run indoors or out. If it rains, is cold, or I have to work late my bag is in the gym and ready to go. With the gym at my work I literally have no excuses what so ever to not get my workout in.

So there I am, face to face with the dreaded and terrible Treadmill. I am only feeling semi determined at this point. I know I can bang out four miles, but my planned six? Won't I want to gouge my eyes out by four and a half? I check my IPod battery life, and once I see it is half full I decide to turn on the radio and keep my headphones in reserve for the end of the run. That is when I will need it the most. I waste time doing lunges with weights, plank, and other random exercises from SHAPE magazine, putting off climbing up onto that big black monster.

Finally I realized the sooner I started, the sooner I would be done. Something I have been telling boyfriend a lot when we do our runs together is "When it hurts or get's hard just focus on the end. It may feel impossible now, but know that it is only temporary. You will finish, so focus on staying calm and working your way to the end." I took my own advise and just went with it. The radio was on in the background and I spend a good mile and a half if not two miles mentally putting together outfits for the next three weddings I have this summer. I thought about jewelery, shoes, hair-dos, and purses. Before I knew it I was two miles in. I spend the next mile staring at my feet and working on good form in my legs. Picking up my body through my chest (if that makes any sense). It's like pretending there is a string attached to your head and it's pulling your whole body up towards the ceiling. When I practice running tall I feel stronger than when I let myself slump. Almost as if I can feel myself carrying my whole body weight, but when I lift myself I feel lighter and moving foward (or in place) feels easier. After three miles I talked myself into finishing five.

I was going along great. I had a rhythm. I was in the zone. And then out of nowhere a shooting pain attacked my left shoulder. OW! This is something that has happened to me a few times on longer runs, the front of my shoulder joint gets sore, and although the pain isn't that bad it drives me crazy because it won't go away. I kept running, hoping it would stop, I tried to massage it but I was so sweaty I wasn't having much luck. At first I was angry. I slowed to a jog and then a walk, stretching my arms out every which way they would bend trying to get rid of the pain. Slowing down helped a lot, but did I have the strength to keep going? Did I really want to erase three miles off my weekly total because of this? The weird thing about running is the higher you get in your mileage, the harder it is to reach that peak where you feel accomplishment. Three miles just didn't do it for me anymore. More determined than ever I cranked up the speed and found I felt much better. Maybe sometimes a little break is all you need. I resumed my prior pace, and settled into a comfortable form. Letting the words and music of the radio wash over my ears like a glaze I found that inner calm and charged forward.

I am not sure what came over me, or what let me to keep going. Maybe in all this training I have been strengthening my mind just as much as my body. I kept thinking about all my long runs, and if I have the patience to keep going on those I can do this too. Maybe I just wanted to run the mileage I said I would and not have to change it. Maybe I wanted to hit 25 for the week. Whatever it was I want to harness it, put it in a jar and have it for breakfast, because it was amazing. It was like my body was moving, and I knew it was moving, but I wasn't in control. Was I on auto pilot?

Once I hit five miles I figured I got this far what's one more. I knew it would be hard, and I want it to be over fast so I pulled out my secret weapon I had been keeping for just this occasion. Headphones. The best motivation I know is a loud beat and a sweet melody. I upped my speed to something I figured I could handle for one more mile, and treated it like a shot at the doctor. Don't focus on the pain. And I didn't. I focused on the music, the rhythm, the beat, the words, and before I knew it was over.

There is a special sense of pride reserved for running more than four miles on a treadmill. I can tell you without a doubt I went home happy last night.

xx Sara

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Hot town summer in the city

Super jazzed - one month until Boston 13.1 with Team Challenge! I still can't wrap my head around the fact that I am not only getting ready for another race, but I FEEL ready for another race.

The days continue to be an experiment in being flexible with my schedule and my miles. As long as I fit in an approximate mileage plus my long runs I am pretty happy. I don't know when I became this person who isn't so serious and rigid but I'm really beginning to like her. I hope she sticks around. I guess I just got sick of being hard on myself for missing three quarters of a mile or having to stop and walk or taking a day off to rest or if I'm sick. Why should I beat myself up for the little things I didn't do when there is so much more that I do do. While other people I know are spending their evenings on their couches eating takeout with their feet up and fat slowly collects around their middles, I am out running. I am making a choice to do something better for my self. In the end it all works out.

Tonight was HOT! Having been in the office all day long I had no idea what to expect when I stepped outside in short and sneakers ready to head home for the night. What hit me was like a wall of steam but Boyfriend and I were not going to let that keep us from our weekly three mile run. We made it through all right, it was hot and sweaty and for the most part kind of slow. Perhaps it was the slight overindulgence in pizza and a large M&M cookie at lunch, but even after a sweaty workout I was feeling kind of soft. I needed a burn. A challenge. And then it occurred to me. I had been thinking about doing the 100 push up challenge for a few weeks now but have never done the initial test, the one to see what level you start out at. So before I feed that fat kid in my stomach a heaping bowl of pasta and gravy I headed for some open space on the bedroom floor and got to it.

... and knocked out EIGHT (yes that's right I rarely remember to focus on upper body strength when I run so much) full pushups. I guess it's better than only one or two but I was really hoping for ten. No matter though because what I cannot accomplish today, with hard work and dedication I will be able to accomplish soon! Since they recommend you take a day or two off after your initial test I guess I will start week 1 day 1 on friday. I can't wait to see if I make any progress!

xx Sara

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

12 Miles and 2 Margaritas

Someone is very behind at their updates *hides head in shame*. But it has been a very busy weekend + Monday and Tuesday. So I guess instead of my usual lengthy writing I should try the cliff notes version? Damn. I am not good at making things short. I love the details!

One thing I noticed as I grocery shopped for salsa ingredients Friday night at about 8pm was that it was the night before a long run and I was not freaking out like I used to do. I hadn't been home yet, I hadn't eaten dinner yet, it was going to be a very long night but I wasn't freaking out about being in bed on time or eating the right things. I mentioned this to Boyfriend later that night in the kitchen while I chopped veggies and he concocted a delicious beef stir fry. I thought I had become more low key, or mellow may have been the word I used. He agreed but said I just seemed more confident. Initially I fought back thinking, didn't I seem confident before, but maybe he had a point. Whatever we chose to call it I was happy that I had found a way to make training and our relationship not only work but flourish. Through running, and my being able to share running with him, we have grown stronger. And because of him I can fall asleep on Friday nights before long runs with out all the anxiety and seriousness I used to have. I don't have to treat every long run like a hard core serious event to do it well.

12 miles on Saturday went great, although the weather was a bit humid and warm at the end. I struggled through the last uphill but didn't beat myself up for it because I was so excited to be done. I had no time to sit and mull over my performance because as soon as we finished I was off to meet up with my college girl friends. We hung out for the rest of the afternoon making margaritas on the rocks, nachos, gabbing, gossiping and just being girls.

On my drive home I couldn't stop thinking about something we had discussed on that morning's run. White chocolate peanut butter. Here is one of the greatest things about runners, we love food almost as much as we love running. And not only that we love good FOR you food that tastes good. And when you run for hours at a time talking non-stop about food and training, I come home with a bunch of new food ideas every week. And this week it was peanut butter. Everyone knows that runners love nut butters. I tried to explain that to Boyfriend as we were on our way to Target to satisfy my craving. He didn't even know about almond butter (which I have yet to try but it's on my list) . While we wandered through the store in search of my treat he made the keen observation that I was pretty cranky. I guess 12 miles and 2 margaritas will do that to a girl who was craving peanut butter and chocolate. Now at first I had been advised this product was available at Whole Foods, but there isn't one close enough to me to warrant the trip, there was however a Target and so I was crossing my fingers. Tight. While we did not find any butters of the white chocolate variety I was so lucky as to get my hands on Archer Farms Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter. I was practically drooling the whole way home.

Let me just say that if you like chocolate and peanut butter you will probably want to eat this by the jar full. At least I do. You have to mix it up a bit, like natural peanut butter, and it's flavor is like a spreadable Reece's peanut butter cup. It makes a great breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner, or of course all of the above! Shortly after dinner however my long day caught up to me and I passed out on the couch.

Sunday was wonderful and lazy filled with sleeping in, eggs sandwiches and coffee for breakfast, hair cuts and food shopping. Everything an off day should be. And even better Boyfriend and I finally found the White Chocolate Wonderful and it every bit lives up to it's name. Not only that but I also got daring and bought myself a few cups of Oikos Greek Yogurt. I know what you're going to say I'm a little tardy to the party but I promise you not it's not that I didn't try. I just made the rookie mistake of getting the 'plain' kind my first time out of the gate. Now I have adapted myself to 'plain' regular yogurt, but 'plain' Greek yogurt is a little more of an acquired taste. This time I went for Vanilla and low and behold to my surprise I loved it. I am a changed woman I never want to go back to anything else again.

Monday was a pretty uneventful Monday. Too much work and not enough hours in the day. Four somewhat easy miles where I worked on keeping focus and form. As I warmed up every little thing was bothering me. The wet spot on my left sock, the tag of my sports bra, you name it it bugged me until I realized this is how I get at the end of my races. I lose focus and can't get my mind around all the little things that get in the way. So I started making up stories in my head, that always gets my mind off things. Before I knew it I was at a mile, than two, than three and then I was done and I felt great. I was staying at my place sans Boyfriend so I made my favorite quick easy meal - omelet - with spinach, tomato, onion, and cheese!

And then there was today. Today there was no new food, and no new running. There was however yoga in the morning during which I realized it probably is not a good idea to watch the morning news while doing yoga. Yoga is supposed to make my morning feel better. And once I shut off the TV it did.

Tomorrow is a running day, still deciding between four easy, four hard, or five medium. Only time will tell. And now that I am caught up on my writing I will catch up on my sleep.

xx Sara

Friday, May 21, 2010

Slow Going

On the schedule for yesterday was four easy miles. I couldn't be happier to have a nice easy no pressure workout to get through. And to top it off pizza night was coming a day early. Four easy miles + pizza = happy Sara.

Except last night was the one of the greatest events in a year of Lilly. No not the warehouse sale. Better. Employee sample sale! (Hey it's a hard job, someones gotta do it and this is one of the times it really pays off) Promptly at 3:55 we left our desks and lined up on the stairs to the commons with over sized pink shopping bags slung over our shoulders. And at 4 on the DOT we rushed the merchandise to shop! Pouring over boxes of samples I threw everything I could find in my size into my bag. After two rounds of shopping and trying on I sat perplexed on the gym floor trying to sort my purchases into 'keep' and 'put back' until my keep pile met my previously determined budget. It was then that I looked up at the clock behind me to see it was 6:45. WHAT? How in the world had I spend THREE HOURS shopping!?!

Seeing how much precious running time I had spend shopping (although well worth it) I grabbed my things and headed to the registers. I went over in my mind if I could fit in a four mile run. It would take me half an hour to get home. I still wanted to order pizza. I could afford to skip my run, I could also afford to do only three miles. I knew if I skipped I would feel fat and guilty (this is only for about an hour and then I would enjoy my but being on the couch drinking a beer).
After much internal debate I told myself to shut up, suck it up and run. At most three miles would take me half an hour and there was still so much glorious summer sunlight outside. Running it is.

I wasn't planning on running with my headphones, I never am, but I just wanted something to take my focus off the fact that I wanted to be eating dinner. I swear I meant to go easy. I always start out being exited to run easy. But then I think about my stride, I feel like no matter what my stride should not look or feel lazy. And when I focus on stride I just fly along until I am semi out of breath and have to make myself slow down.

Maybe one of these days I'll actually get the hang of this easy running thing.

12 miles with Team Challenge tomorrow!

xx Sara

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Feeling a little like, wow!

You know those days where you are excited to run but you are not sure if your body is up to preforming at the level you would like? You may not be in pain, but something is just a little bit off? So you go out for your workout and think you are running pretty average, until you look at your watch and then Woah! the numbers don't make any sense.

That was today. I was excited for my five mile run since I opened my eyes in the morning. As they day dragged, or rather rushed, on I couldn't wait until 5pm. I headed down to the gym, did a quick abs and arms routine to really get my body warmed up and then headed out to Kelly Drive. I had no idea what kind of workout I wanted to do, but I wanted it to be challenging. 800's? tempo? Something inside of me wanted to find out what kind of times I could get for a mile though, so I settled on 2 x 1 mile at a comfortably hard pace. Whatever that pace was I would be happy but I was not aiming for a time.

Even as I started my warm up I felt like my chest was tight, and through that whole first mile I kept telling myself not to expect much today. Just go out and push harder than easy and I would be happy. After one mile I sped up, and it felt great. Using every muscle in my body, trying to focus on staying clam and not swinging my arms in front of my chest. After a quarter mile I felt miserable, the kind of miserable you feel when running hard, the good kind. I pushed on through the second quarter, and for a brief moment I wondered if I would even make it past 1/2 mile. Maybe I should just cut my losses, and change my workout to 1/2 mile repeats. But something inside of me snapped at that moment and I thought to myself, "no way am I changing this workout, common body pull it together, breath normally so we can finish this thing" I feel like I slowed down a smidge and managed to make it past the half, past the three quarters (Where I passed two very large ladies in lots of pink out for a walk) and after that my mind went blank. I went into auto pilot mode, I stopped feeling pain or discomfort and just moved forward in this smooth rhythmic motion right across the mile mark. I looked down at my watch, expecting to see something like 9:00 or 8:45 maybe. I know I was pushing hard but the majority of the time I felt like I was struggling. 8:00 stared back at me from the face of my pink Ironman Timex.

I'm sorry but I would like someone to come follow me out on my runs and time me from now on because sometimes I go out and I run these times that I'm not even trying for. Times that I don't even want! I'm not ready to run this fast again. I know it's only a mile, and it's a slow mile if that's all you're running. A really slow one. But I haven't run a repeat time like that since training for Hartford. My mind tried to wrap itself around what just happened as I trotted through my half mile recovery. Honestly I would like to know what people passing me must think about my recovery because it looks like the most pathetic running. I of course realize this is what it should look like. It should be slow, I should be gasping for breath because I just ran hard, and by the time it is done I should be feeling almost back to normal and ready to go again.

Right before the second mile I give myself a little pep talk. Out loud. Yes I realize this makes me look like a complete nut case but it works for me so whatever. I just tell myself, stay calm, strong, and steady, it's just one mile. One mile out of many, one mile out of 26 (thinking about the marathon) and it's no big deal I just have to do it and then be done.

So I take off once again and at first my legs are saying "yes this is wonderful we love going fast" but then my lungs pipe up and they are not enjoying the ride. "What are you doing to us girl? we can barely keep up with you will you slow down?" But I do not slow down. I pass the quarter, and then the half. The third quarter was the worst, I wasn't able to take a full breath the entire time. But once I passed into the last quarter I am determined to give it everything I have. I feel like maybe I will come in at the same time as the last mile, maybe I will be a little slower but at least I will have put in the best effort possible. And then I was done and my watch said 7:49*. I have no idea how that happened. Honestly. I thought it would be 8:15 or maybe 8:10.

Again I slowed to that ridiculous trot while I caught my breath and pondered what this would mean for Boston 13.1 coming up in a month. I was certainly in better shape than I thought. I don't know what I thought I would be slower now that I was for Rutgers. Maybe it's because I am still working my way up to 25 mile weeks (like this week!!) which is what I was running right before Rutgers. Maybe it's because I always doubt myself and how hard I am working. Or maybe it's because I am afraid that my asthma is never going to let me run at the level I was two years ago. But through all the maybes one thing is for certain. Today was a great run. Today I pushed myself and had a good hard workout.

Which means tomorrow gets to be an easy day!

xx Sara

*Because I am slow and never learned to delete stored workouts from my watch I timed this run with a full memory. Thus I cannot save and recall my interval, and my timing is not exact it is just what I remember from the quick glance at my watch. My time for the second mile could really be anywhere between 7:49 and 7:40 because all I remember is the 7 and the 4 but lets be honest here it's probably 7:49 so that's what I'm sticking with.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

When the boy is away the girl will... watch trashy tv!

Boyfriend is out of town for a bachelor party this weekend and I can do whatever I want tonight. So what do you think the first thing that came to my mind was? Cleaning of course, I am so predictable and also boring. Of course I will be catching up on all the good reality TV while I'm doing all the scrubbing, dusting and laundry.

Saturday morning started like usual, with the weekly long run at Valley Forge Park with Team Challenge. 11 miles went off with out a hitch, the rest had paid off and I had no pain what so ever. It was a beautiful sunny day, a bit of a breeze, but overall just perfect for a long run. I couldn't have asked for a better time. Everyone on the team is making great progress, we are raising a ton of money for a great cause and I continue to learn more about my self as a runner with every week of the program.

As soon as I got home though, I knew I needed to dedicate some serious time to my couch instead of diving head first into my chores like I typically do. I made myself a nice large glass of chocolate milk (my new absolute favorite thing) and then passed out for about two hours. Part of me felt a little guilt for laying around inside on such a gorgeous day but when I consider the fact that I was awake at 6:30 this morning I figure it's not that bad and it would make for a better day. There were so many things on my to do list but right now I needed rest.

When I woke up, feeling worse that before, I realized it probably was not the smartest idea to not have a little something to eat before my nap. The only thing I ate all day was an English muffin with peanut butter pre run, and then my chocolate milk. My stomach was not very happy and neither was my head, I quickly put on a pot of coffee, ate a bowl of cereal, 1/2 a banana and a glass of water. And then the cleaning could commence!

Laundry, cleaning out my closet, cleaning out the refrigerator, and looking for an apartment were all on my list of things to do. Finding an apartment feels like a part time job. I do not enjoy it. Probably because I am picky and kind of cheap. Every time I feel like I have found something that might have potential I find that it has bad reviews or a bad neighborhood, or *gasp* a tiny kitchen. I am a bit of a kitchen snob. So much so that I am seriously considering living in a studio apartment so I can have a nice kitchen. Hey at least I know what I like and need. Cooking makes me happy and I need a nice kitchen to be able to do so.

That was project number one. Project number two is cleaning out my closet which is making me quite sad. Over the course of my three year employment with LP I have amassed a wonderful collection of clothes. At the time I would by a few pieces here and there, but after my first sample sale, I clued in on the fact that sample size garments are sometimes the cheapest. I began buying a lot of size 6 things, even though they were a tad too big. About a month ago I realized I have been in serious size denial of how much smaller I've become since running consistently and not overeating to compensate for the exercise. Where as before I would say "oh I worked out tonight I can have extra ice cream", now I eat a lot less desserts and a lot more fruits and veggies. So all my beloved Lillys had to be sorted and tried on, deciding if it was going to go to the "give away" pile or back in the closet. On the plus side I guess I was making room for new Lillys! I also make it a pile of "to be altered" things, whether by me of a tailor. I may be a good sewer and fit clothes for a living but I don't have the time to fit my own things. My goal through all of this was also to clear off the piano/keyboard in my bedroom which for the past year has been serving as a shelf for all my clothes that didn't fit into my two closets or dresser. My name is Sara and I own far too much clothing for my own good.

Peppered in though all these housewife tasks was a good healthy does of iced coffee and reality TV via Hulu. The Hills, Real Housewives, etc. There is a bottle of wine chilling in the fridge as I write and shortly I will put on my Pj's, cuddle up on the couch with a glass of Riesling, something chocolate and just enjoy time to my self.

xx Sara

Friday, May 14, 2010

Rest today, Run tomorrow

This week was capital C Crazy. With Thursday's fundraising event forcing me to rearrange my schedule to three days in a row of running, plus work, plus the realization that I may have to find a new apartment or face a rent increase (hey I'm cheap I don't like giving away my hard earned pennies) I was a little worn out by wednesday. But I had a 3.5 mile run planned and it was going to be Boyfriend's longest run, so even though it was cloudy and cold I was going to suck it up and run. Until I got home and realized my sneakers were at work in my gym locker. And I have a superstition about running in old sneakers once I've had new ones for a few months. It was cold, and I was hungry, and Boyfriend and I decided to bag the run for the day and make dinner.

In the past this would have left me ridden with guilt. Erasing planned mileage off my schedule always made me cringe and think I was failing. Not strong enough or dedicated enough. Maybe I was just too busy or tired to feel bad this time but it didn't bother me in the least. Thursday, the day I would normally run I didn't even think about exercise. To combat the possibility of feeling like a fatty I ate really well all day long. Chocolate milk, coffee, and peanut butter toast for breakfast, salmon, cauliflower, and pasta for lunch, and the usual yogurt, apple, banana, and carrots for snacks. Did I mention I was wearing high heels for the first time in two months and my calves were not painfully tight by the end of the day?

The fundraising event with Lilly Pulitzer and Beth Dunn was better than I could have asked for. It was probably the most fun I have had raising money for Team Challenge. I even made a few purchases to add to my Lilly collection.

Today I feel great. Rested and ready for my long run tomorrow, no pain or discomfort AT ALL what-so-ever *knock on wood*. The thing I am coming to realize in life is that as long as you do the right thing 95% of the time you shouldn't be so hard on yourself if you have to change things around, skip a workout, or want to eat a cookie. The important thing is to always be happy, make time for everything. If I was strict on my running schedule I would have missed out on a fabulous event. Or worse I would have been that awful person who makes scheduling an event impossible due to unavailability.

I think one of the worst feelings going into a long run is not being rested. Feeling like I have to go to sleep at 8pm in order to even function for a 8am run. So far the summer is off to a great start. Or the spring is coming to a good end. Either way I am looking forward to 11 miles tomorrow. Who knows what I'm going to learn from Coach Jack this time.

As always if you want to donate to a great cause - visit my fundraising page HERE!!!

xx Sara

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

How the other half lives

I find it ironic that not even a few ours after writing about being a running minimalist that I am standing on the treadmill, headphones plugged into my ears, and Us weekly resting on the display in front of me. Wait, isn't this the same girl that is constantly saying "If you can read a magazine or book you aren't working hard enough?" Well before you get angry and call me a hypocrite let me start at the beginning.

I never planned on spending y evening on the treadmill, but mother nature must have been sick of being nice of me because she rolled in the rain clouds just as I was finishing up at the office. Thankfully I had brought my gym clothes to the office so I could change before my run. I grabbed my ipod, inhaler, and phone and headed down to the office gym. I usually start my gym workout with some kind of warm up/ weights/abs, all the stuff I know I should do more but don't have the energy to do after. This is where the headphones come in. They are excellent for getting in a rhythm and banging out a bunch of crunches and lunges.

Since I had run yesterday, and was running again tomorrow, today's run was supposed to be easy. Correction, had to be easy. No room for over use injuries in my plan. As I was crossing the room for the treadmill the cover of US weekly caught my eye. If there is anything I am addicted to more than chocolate, it is celebrity gossip. I know it is terrible but I can't help it. I can get away with not actually buying any tabloids because my wonderful co-workers bring their mags (like this one) into the gym for my reading pleasure, usually while stretching post workout. This particular cover focused on the female leads of The Hills and how LA has "ruined" them. How could I pass this up - must read NOW!

And then I wondered, what is it like to read while running? I admit I have never actually tried to read on the treadmill, I just assumed you had to be running so slow you could not be working very hard, or you were not concentrating enough on your workout. I thought if people would just put down the magazines and do a shorter more intense workout it would be so much more effective. But today I needed something to slow me down so I set the treadmill at 4.5, 1% incline and started to run. And read. And boy was it hard! I had to keep glancing away from the pages or risk getting dizzy as I tried to follow bits and pieces of each story. There was a lot of page turning, and picture looking at-ing. I tried using my fingers to guide me along each line as if I was learning to read for the first time, I kept loosing my place and reading words out of order. Although I did manage to read about 95% of the article I wanted, and it did distract me during two and half miles I can honestly say I will not be trying that again. I stick by my original theory that if you are reading you are not working out hard enough. Even at an easy pace it was extremely difficult to not get dizzy and fall off.

As for the my theory on headphones, I find them perfectly acceptable for treadmill running. Anyone who has the patience to run 4 miles at a slow pace on a treadmill in an empty gym, in complete silence, in front of a mirror so the only thing to look at is yourself, running, is amazing. I am not that person. I still need a little Whitney Houston to help me keep my sanity.

xx Sara

Running in zen

When I read this Runner's World article on mediation when running, I realized just what a running purist I tend to be. There are a lot of 'trendy' running things I don't like to take with me, and headphones/ipod are pretty high up on the list. Of course we all have our moments of weakness, when a run with music to keep us going is better than no run at all. But most of the time I only want to hear my feet on the pavement, and the breath in my lungs. I don't like getting bogged down by STUFF and belts around my waist, bottles in my hand, bands around my arms, and stress in my mind make me feel heavy. When I run I want to feel light, and fast.

Take for example yesterday. Working in the fashion industry the days are a swirling blur of fittings, meetings, looking at patterns, writing comments and everyone wants everything five minutes ago. (Awesome post about what I do all day can be found HERE) Sometimes I can literally feel my head spinning as I compile a mental to do list, always adding more than I am crossing off.

But the moment I step away from my monitor and start making my way to the gym I can feel the stress tumbling away from me like falling rocks. Running is the only time when all you have to deal with is the distance in front of you. No phone calls can be returned, nor emails written. Dishes, bills, and the burdens of the household are left behind as you concentrate on each falling step. My breath may sometimes get short, and my legs may hurt but I am calm in the peace of mind that nothing else has to be done in this moment than keep putting one foot in front of the other.

It also helped that I was running in the amazingly peaceful and beautiful Valley Forge Park at sunset. The weather was a bit chilly but luckily I had a long sleeve tech tee. It was so strange to be running alone in the shadows on the same path that I usually share with a chatty group of runners early Saturday mornings. Climbing hills, rounding corners and gaining a little speed every now and again I took in the scenery keep a steady even pace. When I knew I was at the end I sped up a little, holding on until I was back in the parking lot. No matter how many times I run, that feeling of accomplishment and completion at the end is there every time.

Of course once I stopped I could feel some tightness in my outside thighs which I can only assume is my IT band. It only makes sense that the night ended with Yoga and stretching to easy my muscles.

xx Sara

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mothers Day

One of my favorite pictures of mom and me at one of her races. I may only be about 1 year old in this picture but whenever I look at it I think of it as proof I was born to be a runner.

It's hard to say for sure, but I have a good feeling that with out my mother as an example I would not be the runner I am today. If she had it her way I would have been a runner many years earlier, but she never gave up and let me develop at my own pace. Now that I am older and we have more of a friend relationship, she is almost always the first person I go to for advice, especially for running. She always reminds me that it's important to keep a healthy balance of running and other fun things.

I admire my mother for her incredible strength and determination to not only run as much as she did, but to raise a wonderful loving family at the same time. If ever there is a moment when I doubt myself, I think of my mom and all the things she had and still continues to do. When I ran my first half marathon, and things started getting tough I thought of her, and that brought me strength to keep on going.

And even though she has been through some set backs of her own she hasn't let it stop her from getting back in the game. When I told her I was signing up for another full marathon after (what I considered to be) a disaster and a let down a year and a half ago, she too did something incredibly brave and signed up for the half marathon. Her first long race in almost eight years. Together we can share in the journey of training and preparing for a race that both scares us and excites us at the same time.

Happy Mother's Day mom. You are amazing.

xx Sara

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Another lesson learned

It seems that every time I go out for another long run with Team Challenge I learn something new about racing, training, or just plain running in general. Today was no different.

When I showed up for our 10 mile run in Valley Forge Park I was disappointed to see dark rain clouds on the horizon. I would run in the rain no problem but these clouds looked mean, and full of lighting. The group was small so we all agreed to start out together and run one 5 mile loop, watch the clouds and if it stayed nice we would do a second loop. If we saw lighting it was show over. Rain jacket and baseball cap on I was ready and we headed out.

Thankfully, mother nature was on our side today and she pushed the clouds off somewhere else. It was pretty hot and humid but not a drop of rain, and the sun even poked it's head out at the very end. As usual, because the runner to mentor/coach ratio is something like 1:4 I felt like I was surrounded my my own little coaching entourage. About halfway through our second loop we begin chatting about weekly mileage and speed work and learned some interesting things about putting together a training schedule. In the past I have started from scratch before every race. I set my sights on finishing one race and nothing else. Building mileage and working on speed at the same time takes it's toll on a body though, and roughly two months before each race I felt like I was in the best shape of my life. By the time race day rolled around I felt burnt out. This would lead to taking of months after a race and starting from square one again.

It was Coach Jack's advice of building endurance at first and then adding speed work at the end that really made something click in my head. I know that I made it through two marathons so far, but how had I gotten to this point if I was doing so much wrong? Asthma, and unrealistic goals were already in the pot and now peaking too early was thrown into the equation. No wonder I quit running for a whole year. In the height of my training I was working my way up to 50 mile weeks all while doing mile and two mile repeats, tempo runs, and hills. Long runs on weekends. I thought I was being hard core, and intense. Now when I look back on it I think I was being a little bit crazy.

The more I run this year, the more I learn. It feels incredible to be able to run one race, recover, and come back strong and ready to run another in a month and a half. So what that I am not going out and giving my all for every run. At this point in my life I care more about not burning out that rushing my way to a delicious PR. There will always be another race as long as I run smart.

xx Sara

Friday, May 7, 2010

If the government trusts me, maybe you could.

I love quotes, and I love the movie Top Gun. It seems that my past few runs could be ever so appropriately titled with quotes or songs from that movie. So here we go.

Wednesday - "I feel the need, the need for speed"

My weekly Wednesday workout with Boyfriend was the first since both of our races. We haven't found another 5k in the area to sign up for, so I thought it would be fun to do some speed work and get Boyfriend used to the feel of a harder pace on real ground and not the treadmill. I picked 3 x 400 repeats w/ 400 recovery on West River Drive with 1/2 mile warm up(it is usually far less crowded). Now this whole coaching thing is new to me so I am always worried that I'm doing something wrong with out realizing it but the whole workout was an overall success. We started out nice and easy, picked up the pace for a quarter mile and then took our sweet time recovering. I was pleased, but Boyfriend was frustrated. I couldn't understand why until I realized this whole running/training process is still new and maybe even though I try to explain a lot I hadn't done a good job explaining intervals/repeats/speed work.
"It's supposed to suck" I tell him. "It's supposed to be hard and you hate it but in the end it makes you stronger, am I making sense?"
He nods his head yes although I am sure he cares more about being done than anything I have been saying.
I try to remember my first time ever doing speed work with Larry. I had no idea what I was doing. I just went out with him and ran, when he told me to run fast I ran fast. I remember I even took my Ipod with me because I didn't think I could run fast with out it. I also remember singing to myself "someday my prince will come" because it was the only thing that came to mind at the time. I know that the only reason I was proud of myself was because Larry told me I was doing well.
So no matter what I made sure to tell Boyfriend the same, which was easy because it was true. When you first start out it is easy to feel frustrated in all the unknown. The encouraging words of someone who has been there before are often the very thing you need to build confidence.

Thursday - "Take my breath away"

At the beginning of the week I was excited to get back on my feet, but by Thursday I was ready for a rest day. My legs were starting to feel tight and sore, but I reminded myself this was all part of the process and I would be fine. I decided to go out for an easy for miles, meaning I leave my watch at home and don't focus on time. Of course once I have gotten out there and ran about a mile I feel great and am coming up on my first hill of the trail. It is a tiny little bump of a hill but an upward grade non the less so I decide that every hill will be run twice as hard. Normally I hate hills, but there is no watch and no rush to be home and I feel like giving a little extra something. My whole body feels great as I pick up speed, but almost at the top I start to feel out of breath. I slow down, enough to catch my breath and keep going. But at the next hill, it happens again. And the next, and the next until I am at my last hill, and the turnaround point for the trail. I give it everything I have, my whole body feeling great, except my lungs. They are just not on board with the rest of my body and by the time I reach the top I am literally gasping for breath, unable to get a decent breath. Again, I am forced to slow down until I feel better.

Damn you asthma, why can't you just leave me alone. I don't know if it was the pollen, or my medicine isn't doing it's job or what but I know it is more than just being out of breath from running hard. By now I have been running with this condition enough to know the difference between being winded, and asthma symptoms. My body has more juice left in it but my lungs just say no. Thanks a lot.

Thankfully I was able to finish the run at a decent pace and still feeling good. But it was a lot of slowing down to catch my breath that reminds me of my symptoms last fall. All I can do is take it day by day at this point. See how things go, if they stay the same or get worse I go back to the doctor. If they go away I wait until my next appointment in August. Hopefully they decide to go away, that's my vote anyways. Hear that lungs? I'm asking you to please get better. I swear you'll thank me for all this running when we're old and you're still in good shape. K thanks.

xx Sara

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Difficultly Moderate

When I was sick last week I emailed Coach Jack to get a second opinion on my stuffy head. He advised I enjoy my time off and run when I feel better. This was easier said than done, and the longer I went without running the more I craved it. Deny it all you want, running is an addiction of the worst and best kind.

With Broad Street last Sunday, I knew I should take at least one day off for rest after such a long run, which made Tuesday (yesterday) my first REAL day back on the ground since before Rutgers. I had gone on a few walks and jogs and even a decent run on the treadmill but I hadn't felt that burning feeling in my lungs and legs in a while. Nothing was going to get in the way of my run, even mother nature knew to give me a good day. That morning I awoke to a cool crisp breeze slipping into my room coaxing me out of bed even earlier than usual.

No lie the first thing that came to my mind was "I get to run today" followed by a nice big smile. There is nothing I love more than waking up to nice weather, early enough to get some stretching/ yoga in before work. All day I could barely concentrate, distracted, waiting for the clock to hit 5 so I could get home. I impatiently sat through 45 minutes of traffic all the way home, practically ran through the door and began getting dressed. I had a mini panic attack when I couldn't find my inhaler, and then quickly remembered it was in my race bag from Sunday. (Note to self: Need new race day bag - post race banana got squished at bottom of current bag and insides are all sticky)

Ever since a bad speed workout a few weeks ago, I have been upping the amount of asthma meds back to my original doses. I had slipped up when I wasn't running so hard because I felt fine, but now I wanted to push harder and I didn't want any excuse to hold me back. So in addition to albuterol before running, I take Flovent in the morning, and at night (when I remember) So far I am finding this combo works pretty well, and I'm just playing it by ear for the next few weeks so see if it continues to work. For now as long as the shortness of breath comes only when running I assume I just need to condition myself more.

Even as I headed out the door I didn't yet know what kind of workout I wanted to do. The only thing I knew is I wanted a challenge. I chose a route that had some little hills, and contemplated running hard on the hills. I thought about doing tempo but I like to time myself for that and I wasn't sure of any mile markers along this course (Note to self: remind Boyfriend of this when pleading my case for a Garmin). Finally I settled on one of my favorite workouts, a negative split out and back. Easy to accomplish just run faster on the way back than on the way out and you have a successful workout. So I stared down the street, early evening sun in my face, cool air in my lungs. It was so freeing to take those first few steps, no pain, no discomfort, just movement. I forced myself to hold back, because my first instinct was to just fly. It was incredible just to feel every muscle working.

Keeping a steady pace, my mind kept looping back to the fact that I was out running and feeling good. I didn't much care about my pace, just that it was a level between easy and moderate. I started to wonder, if intervals are moderately difficult what could I call today? Moderate? That just sounded boring. I wanted it to have more words. Moderately medium? Oh like that was a whole lot better. It wasn't easy, that's for sure. I was definitely struggling for breath at some points and slowed down a little bit even though I didn't want to. I passed a few runners who looked like they were struggling. Whenever this happens I want to reach out and high five them, or say something like "keep going you can do it". Most times I keep my mouth shut because I don't want to startle/scare/freak anyone out.

Before I know it, the trail I am runing comes to an end as intersects with a main street and I start to guess my time. I have not been looking at my watch the whole run and I decide if my time is 20 minutes (for two miles) I will be happy. Forced to stop and wait for the green light to cross the street I cheated and glanced down at my wrist. Fifteen minutes and change with roughly a quarter mile to go. Shit. I hoped all the people waiting at the bus stop were not offended by my random out-loud cursing. Thankfully it is the city of Philadelphia and I don't think they noticed. The light turned green and charged on, turning around almost at the same moment that my watch read 17:00:00. It was that moment that i realized I had almost definitely miscalculated my mileage. I know I don't run that fast, even if I do, I don't run that fast after two weeks off. Never the less I turned around and headed back home.

I started noticing how much more fluid my running had felt today. Back on the path I tackled a small hill and realized it was easier than usual. Even with my distance being shorter than I had wanted, the sheer fact that running felt easier is success enough for me. Easier except for my lungs. It was during this second half of the run that my chest became really tight and even though the rest of my body wanted to run faster my lungs very stubbornly said no. I was forced to slow down at a few points until I could take in a whole breath, but as soon as I did I sped up again. The second half of the trail isn't too bad, until you get to the end and there are several stretches of uphill. At one point it intersects with a small parking lot and I watched a couple ahead of me trotting up ahead of me. Had it not been for them I probably would have slacked on that last little bit, but my inner competitive monster took over and I ran ahead of them. There was one last traffic light to stop for and I let myself catch my breath before the home stretch. In the past I used to be that weird jogging-in-place girl at traffic lights. I was afraid if I stopped moving my feet I would never get started. But at this moment I needed the rest. A cyclist pulled up behind me and tried to make polite conversation about the gorgeous day, there was not enough in me to respond so I just nodded. I watched as the light turned yellow for the crossing traffic, bent over with my hands on my knees as if bowing low to the ground to get a good push off start. The light turned green. I took off. My legs felt detached from by body my lungs gasping for any little bit of breath they could get and then as fast as it had started it was over, I hit the end of my route and I was done. Ok so maybe it was a little more than a moderate run.

Later that night I checked my mileage on I was right, it had only been 3.68 miles and not 4 like I had thought but I was happy for having pushed myself and maybe a little relived that I didn't gain some magical speed overnight. As much as I dream of being fast I really enjoy seeing my week to week progress. Sometimes it is what brings me joy out of my running. When all the hard work pays off and you improve your time, even if by only seconds. If I woke up tomorrow and could suddenly run 8 minute miles I would almost feel sad that I missed all the time and work that took me to that point. Another day another run.

xx Sara