Monday, December 19, 2011

I've moved!

If you want to continue to follow my awesome posts about running, baking and my (not so) crazy adventures - head on over to

xx Sara

Kitchen Sink Cookies

It's holiday time. Which means LOTS of baking.

Things got a little messy with the flour.

I don't know where in the world I would be with out this mixer.

I added pretty much every mix-in I could find in the pantry

And various other candy lying around the house...

The best cookies are formed with a cookie scoop, and a glass of wine never hurts the process.


Tomorrow I am getting together with a good friend of mine for Christmas cookie making/decorating, general Christmas festivities and lots of wine. It's going to be amazing. Trying to maximize our time, I made the sugar cookie dough ahead of time last night so it's really to roll out and bake. White going through the cabinets to gather ingredients I noticed the abundance of baking supplies and knew I had to make a batch of something to bake up right then and there. Besides I had all this butter already softened!

So I threw together the Nestle Toll-house chocolate chip cookie recipe, and added:
- handful of chocolate chips
- 3/4 bag of butterscotch chips
- 1 cup (more possible I didn't measure) chopped pecans
- handful of Hersey kisses, chopped
Mix these up really good and then added a drizzle of espresso concentrate. Aka espresso powder mixed into a small amount of water to make a thick syrupy liquid.

I was pretty hesitant about how edible they would be, after all I was just throwing ingredients together. But based on the fact that Ralph ate about six of them I'd say they turned out just fine.

What are you baking this holiday?

xx Sara

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Holiday Cheer

I am such a sucker for the holidays. I love everything about December, from the cheery music, to spending time with my family, and yes even braving the crowded malls in search for the perfect gift for each and everyone on my list. I'm a christmas-a-holic.

Now that we're living together, and you know, getting married and all, it probably makes sense to send out Christmas cards to our friends and family. It's not like we'd have to chase down addresses, we had the list from our invitations ready to go. I thought it would be cute to put a few pictures of us at our recent races and I whipped up this little beauty.

I know, we're cute. And we like running.

I hogged all the present wrapping this year... Ralph didn't seem to mind.

You can't wrap presents with out a cup of hot chocolate, whipped cream on top please!

And it doesn't start to feel like christmas until Ralph and I whip up a batch of red and green butter cookies. (apparently they are also called "spritz cookies")

Are you ready for the Holidays?

xx Sara

Friday, December 16, 2011

2011 Running Round Up

If I hadn't given myself a lot of time to reflect before writing this post I would probably say this was a really disappointing year in terms of running. If I judged my running only by my times I would say that I was a complete failure. Luckily I judge myself by much more than that, it just took a while for me to see it.

After last Sunday's less than stellar race performance I was really let down by the fact that another year had gone by without a PR. I realize that you aren't going to PR at every race, and than in the grand scheme of things it shouldn't be (and in reality its not) the only thing I care about. So what else do I care about? What else can I measure my year by if not time?

To answer this question I would have to turn to my year recap from last year. Unfortunately it's not posted on my blog so you'll just have to take my word for it. Once I re-read it, and really looked at where I was last year and where I am now I realized a lot has changed and I really have accomplished a lot. One thing I tell Ralph a lot is "If you ever feel frustrated that you haven't gone far enough, look back at where you came from. You'll realized you're a lot farther along than you thought." Maybe I should start listening to my own advice...

A little bit of my 2010 recap email to my coach:
"When I started this year, my goal was to just get back into shape. I had taken some time off to focus on my relationship and realized it had made me very lazy. I was mostly afraid that if I didn't get motivated I would end up like the before pictures on those dramatic weight loss stories in women's fitness magazines. I also needed to tackle this new found problem with difficultly breathing when I ran. I set my sights on four half marathons through out the year, to give myself reason and motivation to keep running. It was by chance that I stumbled upon Team Challenge while looking for a summer race, and my goals evolved to tackling the ever scary marathon."

And a little bit of his answer back to me:
"But if I had to single out one thing, it is this: I really like the theme of 'making it all fit'. You have a lot going on in your life right now, and fitting in workouts can be a challenge. The lesson here is: don't expect your life to suddenly get less complicated any time soon. If anything, it will continue to get more complicated (but for all the right reasons!). Thus it's a never-ending challenge, and learning how to adapt on the fly is key here."

After I read this I had a little bit of a mini revelation. If I had to say what I was most proud of throughout the year it would be learning to balance everything in my life, between work, my relationship, and running/working out. And when I say learn, I do not mean "I mastered". I mean I worked at it and worked at it and continue to work at finding a way to fit it all in. Sometimes that means that means running one or zero days a week (those are the weeks I am usually REALLY cranky...) but I try to make up for that by eating really well and/or light. Sometimes it means I have to put myself first, leave work at five on the dot and head to the gym. Sometimes it means planning a date night with Ralph that isn't running or going to the gym.

The thing with life is things are constantly coming up, and no matter how much you plan you never know what's going to happen. The most important thing is keep working at it and never give up. So what if you have one bad day, or one bad week? If you let the bad times drag you down you will surely fail. But if you keep getting back up, if you keep pushing back, if you refuse to give in, than you will will always be succeeding.

So maybe this year was not as much of a failure as I had thought. After all I am now a certified coach, I spent an amazing season with Team Challenge meeting wonderful people. I got to help them achieve their own goals as well as spent some time learning about myself. I never gave up trying to fit in running. Sure I skipped out on a lot of workouts but even if I hadn't run in a week, I still kept at it. I still laced up my sneakers and kept on going.
The fact that I have been able to share and teach so much this year really makes me feel like I am doing something good. Sure I may not be out there training 50 miles a week, I may not be PR'ing left and right, but I am running smart, training right, and sharing as much with others as I can. More people around me are seeking out my advice, and it's only a matter of time before I am working with paid private clients.

You're going to have to wait until next month to see what my 2012 goals are!

How would you rate your 2011 running season? Did you have to deal with any set backs, was it full of achievements, a little bit of both?

xx Sara

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Kicking and Screaming

So apparently I am NOT as self motivated as I would have people believe. I mean come on, I'm only human. And I am working on it. But I do not adapt well to change.

It would probably shock some people, to hear about my lazy tendencies. But really it all has to do with timing and routine.

What am I a toddler who missed their nap time?? (well not far from it actually)

I have a routine. and I like it. I eat the same things every day, at the same times, and if I say I am going to the gym at 5 I will go to the gym at 5. If I say I am running 3 miles I (will most often) run those 3 miles. If I say I will do 20 minutes of weights, then I will, but if its not in the plan, not much can get me to change.

Well yesterday I was TOTALLY thrown off my plan.

I ended up having lunch out with some co-workers, and instead of my healthy chicken, potato, veggie combo that I had planned I acted on impulse and had a burger, fries, and the MOST AMAZING chocolate peanut butter shake that left me disgustingly full well into 5pm. I don't like feeling full, most times I only eat enough to be satisfied.

Nothing kills my motivation like a full stomach.

I lolly-gagged through the rest of the work day, really looking forward to getting home and working out. Except Ralph wasn't home when I got home so I had to wait for him, and I didn't change into my workout clothes because I wanted him to see what a cute outfit I had picked out that morning (what? We work out so often after work I feel like all he ever sees me in is yoga pants and a t-shirt). The longer I sat with my feet up soaking up every glorious second of toddlers and tiaras with out being criticized, the more the motivation drained out of my body. By the time Ralph got home I was a bit of a cranky mess. For me, workouts must occur within a certain time frame after 5pm. Too late and I get hungry, or feel like it's too late, or you know, another one of the dozen excuses I could probably come up with.

I almost didn't go to the gym. But he was already changing into gym clothes and I knew I would feel REALLY lazy if he was at the gym and I was home. (although that could be another hour of un-interrupted trashy reality TV time). Plus he wasn't going to take no for an answer. I whined about not wanting to go, and he laughed at me, and then I laughed at me, and then I got up and went.

And ok, fine. I'm glad I went. I'm glad Ralph can see through my immature tendencies and force me to do things against my will.

But I swear, 98% of the time I really am self motivated. Just don't go screwing up my schedule...

xx Sara

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Romp Romp Rudolph

Let's be honest folks, as much as I love running sometimes (...most times) I need an actual something to train for to motivate me to work out. Heading into the holidays I KNEW I would need to keep signing up for races to keep me in shape and not have to pass up any of my favorite christmas goodies. After my FAIL of a 5k race about a month ago, Ralph and I decided to sign up for a Reindeer Romp 5k for our December race. It was long enough after the half marathon that Ralph could race it if he wanted, and I felt like it was enough time to kick my butt into shape and get a better 5k time.

My good friend Katie had told us about the race, when she was asking for my advice about making THIS costume. The fact that she will wear something like this for a race is just one of the many reasons I love her. We ended up getting together last week and I helped her put it together (I love sewing a good lampshade costume!)

Pretty sweet right?

The race was at 3pm in the afternoon, which totally threw me off. Instead of staying in, eating pizza for dinner and getting to bed early like we usually would for a early morning race, we went out to dinner with Ralph's aunt and uncle and stayed up late watching TV. Instead of getting up before the sun, having coffee and toast and heading out to race, we slept in, and lounged around in the morning. I wasn't sure what to eat and when, and I wasn't getting psyched up as I usually get first thing in the morning. I almost forgot about eight different things on our way out the door, and I just plain didn't feel ready. Which was odd considering I had been training fairly well for the past few weeks, even fitting in long runs with Ralph on the weekends. We arrived at the race with plenty of time to warm up and I was finally starting to feel good, although VERY cold. Somehow we thought it would be a good idea to wear shorts. What, it's not always warm when the sun is out?? Oops...

Ralph and I pre-race. Yes we are major dorks and wore matching outfits.

As we stood with all the other runners behind the start line all I could think was "what have I got myself into?" I had headphones in to serve as a distraction and barely heard the gun go off. People started moving, and then we were racing. The course starts off with a little over a quarter mile down hill, which was probably not in my favor. I think it "helped" me get off to a fast start but before I even reached mile one my lungs hurt. The cold air makes my asthma act up almost just as bad as the humidity. I had never raced in such low temps and I was super unsure of how well the day would go. At least I kind of saw this coming. But it doesn't mean I was very happy about it. I was barely able to get a good breath and I had to make a decision. Do I keep pushing until I really can't breathe and risk needing to stop altogether? Or do I slow down, find Ralph and finish the race with him. I knew he was in a good place to PR, but I also knew how tough it would be for him since he wasn't used to running 5k's and feeling how hard he would really have to push to get there.

I didn't want to slow down. But I didn't want to have to drop out. I glanced back a few times to see if I could find Ralph with no luck and made the final call to stop and wait for him to run past me. I felt so stupid standing on the side of the road watching everyone run by. It couldn't have been longer than fifteen seconds but it felt like fifteen minutes watching everyone pass me wondering if they were thinking how pathetic I was for stopping before we had even ran a mile. I tried not to let it bother me, even though in reality no one probably even noticed I was there.

But when I saw Ralph, all the doubt fell away and I was just happy to be running with him. He, like me, had went out a little fast on the down hill and was now doubting his ability to keep pace. I couldn't push myself so I pushed him instead. When he said he didn't think he could do it, I told him he could. When he said he didn't think his legs had anything left I told him, of course they do. I told him put on your headphones, grit your teeth, hold on and keep pushing. The race finished up the same hill we had started down, and I watched him put himself in a zone and just power up that hill away from me. He cut more than a minute and a half off his old 5k PR. I am insanely proud, and I know he is too. Especially since his old PR was from before his knee injury and one thing that had been bugging him since getting back to running is wondering if he would ever get back to the speed he had before. Well he did. And then some.

Katie (in her AMAZING leg-lamp costume) and I post race.
It got REALLY cold really fast and I ended up putting on every article of clothing I had in my car.

I would be lying if I said I was happy with how I ran today. But I wouldn't be lying if I said I regretted running today. If I can't be happy with my own time, at least I can help someone else achieve a great time. Its been a really tough year for me running wise, but that is a whole new post in itself. Our races for 2011 are now over, and we're staring to plan a slew of 5K's for spring and some half marathons for fall. I guess I can't ask for a better race season, even if it wasn't my own. At least I get to wake up every day, and have the option of running.

Bonus: the running store that held packet pick up for the race
gave every participant a free pair of running socks.
Obvi Ralph needed neon yellow running socks.

Did you sign up for any holiday or winter races? How do you prepare for cold weather running?

xx Sara

Monday, December 12, 2011

Healthy Competition

When I first saw the email pop into my inbox I wasn't sure to feel offended or excited. My co-workers, all deciding they were in need of a heaping helping of workout motivation, had the brilliant idea to do a "biggest loser"contest in the office. But it gets better. Just having a contest was not enough, they had to make it worth more than their own well being (obvi...) and each add $20 to a pool that would go to the winner at the end of six weeks. And they added me to the email. On the one hand I guess it had a lot to do with the fact that I am always at the gym so why wouldn't I want to participate? But on the other hand, I am not looking to loose any weight. Tone up? Sure. Stay in shape through the gluttonous holiday season? You bet! But LOSE weight? Nope.

Why would I pay $20 to a pool that someone else will inevitably get to do something that I am motivated to do on my own every week? I didn't respond, but was oddly surprised by the number of people who were jumping on board. More so I was surprised at the TYPE of people who were jumping on board. Skinny girls, girls that didn't (in my opinion) need to be in a weight loss competition, never mind pay money for it. Of course to each their own and if that's the extra kick-in-the-pants they need than great. You know I am all for anyone working out and getting healthy. (for the record I am NOT into anyone turning to obsessive exercise and crash dieting. no. no. no.)

Coincidentally the very next week Ralph's group of friends also decided to start up a workout contest. But instead of doing a weight loss competition, which (I agree) unfairly skews the results to heavier people who have more weight to loose, they decided to log time doing exercise. You got points for the hours spend in the gym and the most points won. Simple enough. Clearly a system designed by a group of guys looking to get into P90X (90 min a day = more points = winning)

Everyone seemed super into it for the first week, and I hate to say I wondered who would give up after only a few days. But something really cool happened. I noticed my one co-worker L, who had always made mention of the fact that she wanted to get into shape but never took that next step, heading down to our office gym almost every night after work. After talking to her one day at work I realized not only was she doing this totally on her own (aka no one was telling her she had to go) but she was usually at the gym alone most nights (our office gym is fairly small and not too popular). Since I was trying to fit more gym time in my life anyways, I committed to joining her once a week. What I thought was going to be motivating her, turned into her also motivating me. For some reason I can totally convince myself to run ten miles and not stop once, but bring on the weights and abs and I get bored after 5 minutes. In a weird way, having her there made me accountable for my workout. I started showing her different exercises and we ended up doing a good 30 minutes of cardio and 30 minutes of weight lifting. It was great! (my abs have not felt this strong in, well, ever...). I doubt that she is doing this only for the competition, but if that was the push she really needed to get working out than I would say its worth it.

At the same time, I noticed that Ralph was more motivated to get to the gym, or if he was running out side to stop by the gym and do some weights or work on core exercises. Is it purely so he can win the contest with his friends? No. Is it a huge help to have the bragging rights that you've worked out the most that week? Sure.

I find it funny that my first reaction to all this was so negative. Maybe because I don't (ok I sometimes do, but I TRY REALLY HARD not to) judge my health and happiness by my weight. Or maybe because I am so self motivated to stay healthy (aka I am PARANOID of getting lazy and fat) so I don't relate well to this kind of contest. Add to the fact that in the running world everyone is so different with speeds and times I try to not compare myself others and what they are capable of and just focus on myself. But maybe a little healthy competition isn't really all that bad if it gives people motivation. I just hope they can make it last.

What is your take on the office weight loss initiative? Is it a good thing that can only help people get healthy and give everyone a dose of motivation? Or is it harming our self image to imply that EVERYONE needs to loose weight?

xx Sara

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Santa baby

Dear Santa,

This pink loving runner girl has been really REALLY good this year. I paid off my credit card (again), have been SUPER on top of budgeting for the wedding, have been making leaps and bounds with how flexible I am and totally working to "just let things go" instead of letting them get me all upset. To top it off I've done some kick butt coaching. And I've had my eye on a few things lately, that you know, if you just wanted to drop them by my house, well I would't complain.

Astro Wunder Under Crop
Because obvi I need more workout gear, and more pink in my life. Lululemon Astro Wunder Under Crop (WITH HOT PINK WAISTBAND!!!!

Stride Jacket
And obvi I need (yet another) pink jacket....
Lululemon Stride Jacket (in Paris Pink)

Personal Training Manual. And all other relevant study materials. Yep I want to become ACE certified by the end of next year... Just another thing to add to the resume of things-that-have-nothing-to-do-with-my-current-career.

Confession: I only wear ONE type of running sock. And they of course have pink on them (because let's be serious I really ONLY want the pink ones...). And of course you can never have too many pairs of socks. Even for Christmas.

I just think these look so darn awesome. (Pink Compression Socks)

What's on your running wish list this holiday?

xx Sara

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

For the love of Pinterest

For some reason, there are certain modes of social media that I just can't deal with right now. AKA Facebook. Yet oddly enough I have no problem blogging or tweeting away.

So when friends of mine started talking about pinterest I was intrigued for about 2.5 seconds (I big pink puffy heart love photo inspiration) until I realized you had to link it to facebook of twitter. I'm weird when it comes to the internet. I like my privacy (yes I realize - I blog about my life what kind of privacy do I expect...) and I'm picky when it comes to what to share on the internet.

Anyways - long story short I thought I would be ok not joining this pinterest community. And then I started to realized how awesome/amazing/fun/inspirational it was. So I went back. And now I am OBSESSED. Oops.

Here are some of my fav pins when I did a search on running:

Are you on/obsessed with Pinterest? Where do you get your running motivation/inspiration? (mine used to come from running magazines).

xx Sara

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Question: How do you know when it's meant to be?

Answer: when you don't have to ask that question.

It sounds silly. It sounds like something that's not even worth saying because it should be so obvious. But then why do people every day ask that question.

"How do I know?"

This has come into play in my life a lot lately. Everything we have planned for the wedding is based on my feeling of "just knowing". If you have any doubts about

But what does this have to do with running?

Lately I have been coaching my friend Jason, as well as Ralph, and they both did AMAZING with their first goal race. I honestly couldn't be more proud of both of them and love building plans for their future race and running goals. This will be a whole new chapter in my coaching life. Instead of getting them to complete a distance we will be working towards improving performance at that given distance. They both want to improve their half marathon times as well as add some PR's to shorter races. I've gotten a few email requests for runners looking for a coach and I have begun to work on growing this into an actual business instead of just helping friends.

What I've come to realize is on those race weekends, when I am submerged into racing life, visiting expos, talking about training and race goals and paces I am SO HAPPY in a way I can't really describe. Talking about running, sharing my knowledge with other people, watching them succeed, that really makes feel like I am doing something that matters. I don't have to ask myself "does this make me happy" because it just feels right. And the more I do it, the more my confidence grows and the more I enjoy doing what I am doing. The more I know that I am meant to do this. It's not even a question.

Now that the wedding is almost four *GASP* months away I am also trying to get myself into the gym to do more "total body" type workouts. Lifting weights for my arms/shoulders/back, and working my core. Every now and then I have a coworker or two who will end up in the gym with me and ask for advice. What exercises should they do and how many etc. Can I show them what to do. Now I always start with the disclaimer of "I am NOT a personal trainer. I may look fit and love to workout but I learn a lot of what I do from magazines and the internet". But I don't mind giving out a few pointers, or at least my opinion on things. And I love that time as much as I love coaching.

I just love sharing my knowledge with others. I take for granted sometimes that my parents brought me up in a active and healthy lifestyle. Not everyone gets that, or has the right information or resources to make healthy changes. I love helping people see results. Or giving people tools to use in their own workouts.

I'm starting to realize I never had to ask myself "Should I pursue personal training?" "Should I make larger steps towards what I want to spend the rest of my life doing" I knew all along that this was the right fit for me, it just feels right.

Have you ever wanted to make a big change in your life and wondered if it was the right step to take? Or did you just know it was right because there was never any question?

xx Sara

Monday, November 21, 2011

My fiance is a 1/2 marathoner

Isn't he the cutest?
xx Sara

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Practice Run

It was dark. and cold. and really really really early. Ralph and I dragged ourselves out of bed, and began to get ready, going through the motions in a silent dance of sorts. It was too early for conversation, but we knew the routine. Pour coffee, make English muffins, get dressed in running gear, get shot blocks and Gatorade. In and out of the kitchen, in and out of the bedroom, each of us having our own order of doing things. I prefer to get breakfast first, and then get dressed. Ralph is the opposite. We take turns standing over the sink and eating so all the crumbs and drips of honey don't get on the floor, but we are too tired to use plates.

All our gear and ready to go!

Dressed, fed and ready to go, I pull out or bag of winter gear and we both select a set of gloves. It's not "ice on your windshield" cold, but it was "see your breath in front of your face" cold. We head for the car where I immediately crank up the heat. Obviously the coffee has not worked its magic, I do not feel chipper, or awake, but rather grumpy and sleepy. I know it will all be over in a few hours. I know I will feel such a sense of pride when it is done. I just hate this part. This part where you have time to change your mind. Where you can decide to just go back to bed. Thankfully I know Ralph is counting on me and I cannot, I will not, let him down.

warm hands and fingers are essential!

ready to kick some 13 mile butt!

My favorite thing about training for the Philadelphia Marathon and Half Marathon in all the years I have run them, is the race course is literally in our backyard (now that we have moved its a little more of a trip) how can you not train on the course? As a beginner runner, knowing every turn, every hill, every curve of the road really let me let go and enjoy the run more than if I was always wondering "what's up next?". So I promised Ralph one of the things we'd get to do this training cycle was run the course. And it couldn't have been perfectly timed with his first 13 mile run.

So here we were, at 6:45am on a Saturday, headed down to the art museum to run 13 miles around the city of Philadelphia. It was a quick drive with no traffic, and early enough to get a great parking spot. Now or never.

We had covered 12 miles two weeks before, I knew Ralph was going to do great on this run, but I forget how intimidating a new distance can be. Even just a mile longer, it is unknown territory. And the first time you do it, it can be the hardest thing ever. We started down the parkway, and headed east towards the river. Sidewalks were empty and there were barely any cars on the road but the sun had made its grand entrance and it wasn't long before we were both nice and warm.

Amazing view of the Ben Franklin Bridge around mile 2.5

I talked a lot. I usually talked a lot. But was we ran along Columbus, the sun rising over the Delaware river to our right, I noticed Ralph was very quiet. I finally get him to admit he is psyching himself out, and is nervous. "It's just so far" he says to me, meaning I've been describing the course and its all so spread out he can't imagine covering all this ground and being in one piece in the end.

We run from one end of the city to the other, and back again. Before we both realize we are at mile 7, making our way up our first hill. The course takes us through our old college campus and we spend the next mile reminiscing about all the things that have changed since we graduated. It was pretty smooth sailing for a while. But then we got to...

... the second hill. Now since I've ran the course before I obviously knew there were two hills. But I smartly kept this little bit of information to myself. Ralph was sure to find out about it once he got there so why worry him? That hill I think was the hardest part of the run. It's curvy and long and just about kicks your butt. At the top we slowed down a bit to recover.

The last three miles of the course are on West River Drive, and take you straight back to the art museum. It can be pretty boring, there isn't much to look at other than the side of the highway and the river. It all starts to blend together, and it was at this point that Ralph was really ready to be done. But he kept going. Kept pushing. And even when he said "no faster than this" and "I hope I can finish it" I made him talk about things to take his mind off of running, like the new fish tank he is setting up in our living room. Once his mind was distracted he picked up the speed and it was tough to reel him back in.

And then it was over. Just under three hours, not even 11am yet, and we had finished running 13 miles. I don't think Ralph ever imagined the day he would set out to do something like that. I for one was amazed, proud, and also pretty tired. I hadn't run since last weekends 5k.

13 mile finisher!!! SO PROUD of this guy!

Our plans to run errands in the city changed to getting breakfast from Wawa and heading home ASAP for an ice bath. It's funny how quickly you can turn someone on to ice bathing once they experience how much it helps recovery. And once you've done one, you'll end every run begging to sit in a bathtub of freezing water.

Around mile 11, Ralph said to me he wanted to focus on shorter distances after this half, that he didn't like all this time on his feet. And for a moment I remembered what it was like training for my first half marathon. The first time I ran 13 miles was SO HARD. I felt like I might not finish. I wanted to stop more than anything. Now I can almost breeze through it even after skipping 5 days of running. I told him I don't care what he does, because I honestly don't, I just want him to be happy. But I promised it gets easier. Just like he can now go out and run 3 miles like it's no big deal, there was a day when that was REALLY hard. It's all relative.

What's your longest training distance? Can you still remember what it felt like the first time you ever ran it?

xx Sara

Monday, October 17, 2011

The makings of a marathoner (and a 1/2 marathoner)

Don't quote me on the exact words, but I believe the conversation started something like this:

Sara: Jason, how'd you like to be my first trainee - you can be my guinea pig to see if I'm any good at this coaching thing. What do you say?
Jason: Sounds great!!

A month before getting certified as a running coach, I knew I needed a project to test my skills. Never one to charge someone for something before I'd perfected the craft, I would need an eager running looking for help in achieving their goals. Lucky for me I knew a few, and was able to convince my friend Jason to let me coach him to the finish line of his first marathon and to meet his later goal of finishing the goofy challenge (running the Disney half marathon on Saturday, and the Disney full marathon on Sunday).

And then a few months ago I started training Ralph for the Philadelphia Half Marathon in November. I stared a weekly ritual of sitting down with my coaching manual, reading, thinking, planning, making notes in my notebook and sending out weekly training plans. The more plans I made, the easier it felt, and the more I thought about things, the more I enjoyed really planning out the schedule, adding up the numbers, making everything work in j
ust the right way.

Over the past seven or eight months I have learned A LOT.

Ralph - First race since being injured last fall

Jason and his first EVER full marathon race bib at the expo

I have had to learn to explain myself, explain my reasons, motivate, inspire, encourage, become flexible in my approach, figure out what to do when others don't want to listen to what you have to say, and change the way you say things to better help others understand and hear what you are saying. My goals are not always others goals. I don't always agree with others goals and the struggle for me is to give the best advice I can even if its something I don't agree with.

But this is something I'd like to do for the rest of my life, and something I'd like to keep working at and keep making better. There were plenty of days where I just felt like nothing I said was getting through, and there were plenty of days where I was incredibly proud of the progress these athletes were making. When someone runs a given distance for a first time, it brings me back to my first years of running and how every week was a new achievement, a new something to be proud of. Finishing the race distance for the first time was always so emotional, all the days and weeks and months of training leading up to one day that you hope all goes to plan. I love being able to help runners see a new way of training, or when they hit a pace they didn't think they could achieve. I love when I figure out a way of explaining things so it hits home and I love when people are proud of their accomplishments, because at the end of the day I make up the plan but they do all the work themselves.

Despite all the ups and downs, I was an incredibly proud coach on Saturday watching Ralph give a great performance at his first race since injury, and watching Jason finish his first marathon. It's one thing to train and depend on yourself for the results. It's something else entirely to give someone all the right tools and hope they listen and use them to succeed.

Proud marathon finished and proud coach!

Have you ever given someone advise that they were slow to accept or follow? How did you change their minds? How do you inspire/motivate others when they are struggling.

xx Sara

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Race Report - Hartford 5K

Ralph and I post race

This year was supposed to be the year I was going to switch gears and run some shorter races. Focus on some 5K's and really see what I could do.

And then there was a wedding to plan.

And then there was the race I signed up for but never went to.

And then there was work.

And then there was all the traveling for work.

But somewhere a few months ago, I suggested to Ralph that we run a 5K during Hartford marathon weekend, and we could be around to watch my friend Jason who I'd been coaching for the marathon. It seemed like the perfect plan, and I would have plenty of time to train and run a race I could really be proud of. But even with another race on the horizon I couldn't get myself in gear to train for it. I was running along with Ralph as he trained for his half marathon, but I didn't feel all that fast. I was starting to become pretty disappointed in myself.

As we picked up our race numbers, and meandered through the expo, I was more excited for Jason's first marathon, and Ralph's first race after his injury, than the fact that I was actually running something for myself the next day. I didn't really take the race as seriously as I have in the past, I ate chinese food for dinner, and even had a few glasses of wine because it just felt good to relax.

5:30 am came fast, and in the dark morning hours I dressed in my regular race attire, and packed my race gear bag. It seemed so strange to be packing gear for such a short race. I was packing real snacks, and not worrying about having enough shot blocks or Gatorade, it was strange.

By the time we arrived, parked the car, removed our bikes (and parked mine - more to come on the reason for that later), and checked our gear bags, there was only enough time to do one of two things, warm-up, or use the bathroom. I know a million people out there are thinking "obviously use the bathroom" but no - I insisted we needed to warm up. I said farewell to Jason and his girlfriend and Ralph and I headed out for a 1 mile easy jog. With about five minutes until start we headed behind the line and I was regretting that not going to the bathroom thing. I enviously eyed up the people darting in and out of the port-a-potties all the while reminding myself one of my biggest nightmares is being IN THE PORT-A-POTTY when the race starts.

And then we were off.

I had no planned pace, I had no Garmin (I had lent it to Ralph), my plan was to run a pace that was somewhat challenging but manageable and see how it went. I had pretty low expectations, and if nothing else maybe I'd do bad enough to guilt myself into some real training. I swiftly began passing people, lost in thought, but looking back I couldn't tell you what I was thinking about. I was watching kids keep up with their parents, I was watching spectators cheer on the runners, I was concentrating on my pace making sure I wasn't pushing too hard. As fast as it had started, we were already passing mile 1. I glanced down at my watch to check on my pace, thinking it would be somewhere around 9 or 10. What I saw instead was 8:20. I was literally in shock but I kept going.

The second mile was spend wondering where this speed was coming from and trying to hold on to it. I hadn't run in maybe eight days. I had done virtually no speed work. And yet all the same I was pulling of mile splits that were close to what I had done when I was in the best shape of my life. As we approached mile 2 I wondered if I could hold on to this.

As I pushed through the third and final mile I started to feel that familiar nauseous feeling deep in my core and knew I had to back off just a little. As we rounded the last corner I saw that same uphill climb that led to the arch and had an instant flashback to my finish at the Hartford Marathon in 2008. As much as I wanted to push it, I couldn't do it. I let my pace in that final mile slow down to around 9:20. Despite holding back at the end I was surprisingly impressed with my finish. My final time was only about 1 minute slower than my PR from over three years ago.

A month ago I was looking over past race times and feeling a little bit sad. Almost all my PR's were over three years old. I had some great performances and since then have not had the time to dedicate to training. I was starting to wonder if my best times were behind me. Which is awfully depressing considering I am only 25, but something that maybe I just had to come to terms with. Until yesterday. Yesterday restored all the faith in myself that I thought I had lost. It made me want to run again, to race again, and I was finally for the first time in a long time, proud of myself instead of spending so long being proud of others.

Have you ever been pleasantly surprised during a race? Pulled off a performance you were not planning on?
How did it go?

Official Stats:
Time: 26:45
Overal Place: 311/1447
Sex Place: 100/885
Age Group Place 19/153

xx Sara

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Fall Indulgence

I know you wouldn't know it from last weekends amazingly warm temps - but it's fall! I think I love fall a little something extra because it's when Ralph and I started dating and we bonded over our love for everything pumpkin, from pancakes, to scones, to coffee, to beer, and chili.

Lately I have been spending a little more time on myself, and makes a world of difference in how I feel about myself every day.

Hair cuts (and head massages mmm...).
Recently Ralph and I found ourselves a new salon, and a shared hair stylist. Which I think is kind of adorable. My parents both get their hair cut by the same hairdresser in town, its like having a friend you never hang out with together. I used to neglect ever cutting or styling my hair. SuperCuts every six months or so, which only took fifteen minutes max for them to wet my hair and cut it, that was the extent of my hair care routine. But I have to say I love our new stylist. I have come to terms that it is worth the extra money to get a little bit pampered (head massage - instant stress reliever, hair cut, blow dry and styled) and having a great hair cut, as superficial as it sounds, makes me feel just a little bit more pulled together in the morning.

I love nothing more in fall than everything pumpkin flavored. Right now our office has AMAZING green mountain Pumpkin spice K-cups. I look forward to pouring it over ice every morning. Last week I whipped up an amazing batch of pumpkin scones that could rival Starbucks any day. I eased the pain of the Phillies loss with the cool taste of Sam Adams pumpkin beer. It's the right combo of spicy and sweet, and something that's around for such a limited amount of time how can I say no??

Sweaters and Boots (and new running clothes too)
I like to tell Ralph that "fall and I just don't get along" when it comes to getting dressed. It's not too hot, not too cold, I never feel like I have the right clothes, or clothes that make me happy, or make outfits. So this weekend I went on a shopping trip with a friend of mine and decided I could no longer keep putting off buying clothes while continuing to hate everything in my clothes. I made a few wise purchases, and then decided to CLEAN OUT my closet of all things I just plain don't ever wear. It felt refreshing to get rid of things I looked at morning after morning and just didn't want to put on. Even though I cleaned out a lot, I feel like I have more, because I like everything in my closet. Next I want to re-discover my own personal style. What do I like to wear (regardless of where I work).

Running for myself again
I love training runners, I especially LOVE training Ralph. But somewhere in the chaos of the summer I forgot what it was like to run for myself. To set my own goals, to go on my own runs and clear my head. Funny how I used to run alone on Saturdays and see all the couples running together and wish I could have that. Now I have that and I feel like I forgot to take a minute to myself. I tend to do that a lot, get wrapped up in what I think other want and I forget about myself. So starting this week I have resolved to run alone at least one if not two nights a week. Ralph and I will still do long runs together, and some medium runs (medium for him, short for me) through out the week. I think it will prove to be the right balance of together and separate, and give me time to think about what I want out of running.

What are your little (or big) fall indulgences?

xx Sara

Thursday, October 6, 2011

I feel like I have been in a wedding induced coma for the past nine months.

Oh wait, I kind of have.

It started small, a few magazines here and there, an appointment on a Saturday and maybe talking about stationary and decorations one or two nights over dinner. I was ahead of the curve, things were going great (they still are) and I was checking things off the list left and right. Venue - check. Dress - check. Photographer, DJ, florist, bridesmaids dresses, invitations, - check, check, check, check, check and CHECK! I was going full steam ahead and loving every second of it. I became obsessed with wedding blogs. I became obsessed with designing stationary, place cards, centerpieces, you name it I was sketching and planning it. I mean, come on, I did go to design school, I have a lot of pent up creative energy and what better output than a HUGE party to celebrate a new life with my favorite person ever?

Somewhere in the middle of all that, I decided, for a bunch of personal reasons, I needed to remove myself from Facebook. with that, somehow I ended up spending less time on twitter. I stopped reading running blogs and I was barely even running myself. My work life was getting crazy busy and I felt like I didn't have the time to write about anything worthwhile. And if I did think of something great to say, I just didn't feel like carving out a chunk of my day to write it. It was like I was becoming a bridezilla (in the nicest sense of the word) I was just all-consumed with the wedding. Now don't get me wrong - I understand it is "only one day" and it is really all about our life together and our marriage - I am totally on board with that. In fact I am SOFREAKINGEXCITED to get married because I love this man so much. But this weekend, as we crossed the last few major things off our list I started to realize I could finally have my life back for a few months.

My life. What was my life. What did I do in all this time before wedding craziness struck? I ran. A lot. And I loved it. And I wrote about it and talked about it and lived for it. I want that back!!!

I've had a lot of time to myself to think this week, and with that I've realized I want to re-embrace the runner in me. I want to resurrect my dreams from earlier this year of finally being in shape to run a 5k I can be proud of.

Have you ever had a life changing event or just the stress of daily life kick you off your path? How do you get back up and keep going - and why the heck does it take so long to realize I've been off track?

xx Sara

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Blazing a new trail

About four months ago, Ralph and I moved into our first apartment together.
About two months ago, he deiced he wanted to run his first half marathon and asked me to train him. Of course I was elated.
However as he gets more into running, I have noticed my own running mo-jo hasn't been hanging around too much. There are plenty of days where I just don't feel like lacing up my sneakers, and plenty of days where Ralph has actually just left me home and gone running with out me. While it is awesome to know he is motivated enough to run on his own, it is depressing to think I am loosing my drive. Right now the only thing pushing me to run is my fear of getting fat before the wedding - NOT an option!
So I've started to think - and what I've come up with is I feel stuck where we live. It is not a super safe neighborhood to be running through, especially this time of year when it gets dark pretty fast. There are no sidewalks outside of our complex, or trails like Kelly Drive to run to. At my old apartment, in fact at both of our old apartments it was as easy as lace up your sneakers and go. There was no driving to someplace, or driving home. Now if we want to walk out the door and "just go" it means running around the apartment complex. And I'll be totally honest. IT SUCKS. It's small, and there are lots of turns. I feel like I am always turning. Or stuck on a hamster wheel. It is not inspiring, it's not pretty to look at it, it doesn't let me clear my mind. And Ralph is there with me and we are always talking. (and sometimes arguing)

I miss the freedom I used to have to just go out and clear my mind. To think about things, even wedding things, or work things, or relationship things and just think and run, run and think. I love that Ralph and I have something to bond over, I love that he finally understands my love for running and I am SO AMAZINGLY PROUD of him for what he has accomplished so far. I just miss the way it used to be. And I never thought in a million years that would happen.

Has your life ever changed in a way that affected your running? was it a good change? Did you ever find yourself getting back on track?

Although yesterday I had quite an amazing run. There is a trail by our apartment that is long and flat and amazing, it just doesn't go through the best neighborhoods, so we avoid it. But Ralph is away on business this week so I decided the hell with it. I put on my (brand new!!) sneakers, threw on my BRIGHT orange running jacket (seriously best purchase I could have ever made) and headed out the door. At first it was strange to be running alone and outside the complex. But then I hit this great groove and just went with it. I didn't want to turn around and go home (except for the fact that things were starting to look pretty sketch). I will even admit I maybe starting singing to myself out there - don't judge it's like the "talk test" except I had no one to talk to so I just start signing a little bit...

While running together has proved to be a great routine and a good time to spend together to talk - I think maybe we should try running apart one day a week, maybe two. Just see how it goes.

xx Sara

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

workplace snacking guilt and reversing some bad habits.

I know I have taken an extended break on this blogging thing. In fact I have taken a break from a lot of social media as a whole, and truth be told it's been great. It feels fresh. Life has been crazy, planning a wedding has kept me constantly running around doing things. But this little thing has been nagging at me and I just had to get it out.

Working in an office of all women, someone is always on a diet, breaking their diet, promising to start a diet tomorrow, or talking about the latest fad in diet pills and miracle weight loss tips. It's mind boggling. There is also always someone bringing in the batch of brownies they made last night, or the cupcakes leftover from their daughters birthday party. I happen to have the misfortune of working dead smack in the middle of the snack zone, right next to the table where everyone likes to place their sweet treats.

With a little over six months left to the wedding, I am finally starting to take my healthy eating seriously. I have always had issues with wanting to not worry about what I eat, but at the same time wishing I could slim down in certain areas *just a titch*. The problem I've always had is never really having a goal of when or probably the motivation to really put in the work.
When I was training for races, it was all about running and nothing else. And I was so hungry I couldn't tell myself no. Winter set it, the running stopped, life got busy, work took over my life and I still couldn't tell myself no. I wanted that ice cream after dinner. I wanted that cupcake with my lunch. I wanted that cookie, or donuts, or whatever that my co-workers had brought in that was staring me in the face.

Did I gain weight? the scale would tell you no. I probably lost weight because I was loosing muscle. But I started feeling uncomfortable in my clothes. It started as just sometimes, when shopping and trying things on. I would leave the store depressed over one body part or another. Then a few times while getting dressed for work. I just didn't feel in shape, and I knew if I didn't start to make a change now, I would end up slowly progressing down this road of gaining a pound or two, here and there until I was one the "before" versions of the before and after segments of health magazines.

Now the thing that gets me in all of this, is if I so even much as mention anything closely related to the fact that I am "watching what I eat" (because I refuse to refer to it as a diet) at work, I get dirty looks from my co-workers. Yes I understand, I am not overweight, or fat by any means. I have a healthy BMI, I exercise regularly, and from the waist up I am mostly happy with the way I look. (it's always those damn hips and thighs isn't it ladies!). That being said, if I notice that I am starting to engage in some unhealthy habits why do I feel attacked when I try to correct my behavior. It's no secret that as you get older your metabolism slows down, so why would I continue to act in ways that will only hurt me later on in life? Why is it only socially acceptable for overweight people to be on a diet or try to loose weight? I'm not judging you for your habits, (ok maybe sometimes I do, but it's a bad BAD habit I am trying REALLY hard to break) all I ask is for you to not judge me for mine. If I am the only one who doesn't want to order pizza for lunch, just let me. Don't make comments about how I'll "just run it off later". That just shows how ignorant you really are. If I don't eat one of the brownies you slaved over to make from scratch last night, don't try to force it on me by saying I am already skinny enough.

I don't tell you NOT to eat a brownie because you probably don't need the extra calories. That would be rude.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


When I was a little girl, I was that classic "but it's not fair!", child. I would cry and pout and stomp my little feet as if it had any effect on the fairness of the world. It was always something small, probably not getting to go to the candy store or going out to play or staying up late. I just couldn't wrap my head around the fact that things don't always work out the way they should.

My dad would always say "Life isn't fair" or he would start to sing that classic line "You can't always get what you waaaant..." which for some reason only made me more angry.

Over the years I have gotten better about accepting somethings for what they are, fair or not. But somewhere deep in my core is the part of me that always wants to fight for what is right. Maybe it's because I work hard, I am determined and dedicated and I believe that with hard work should come deserved results. I believe that blood sweat and tears (or some combination of the three) should result in some form of reward even if it's only a "way to go" or "you did really well". Just something.

But the truth is, my dad was right. Yes. I just said my dad was right. I hope he's not listening... Life is not fair, or just, and sometimes it plain just doesn't make any sense. Bad things happen to good people, people are mean to people who work hard, and people who work hard may never see the results they aim for. And there is nothing anyone can do to change the way things work.

How's that for a cold hard reality check? And what does this have to do with running? I guess it's just something that's been on my mind a lot lately. It's something I've had to deal with since being diagnosed with asthma. I could ask myself a million times why it happend to me, or say it's not fair that I train so hard and that asthma will always hold me back. But the truth is that it could also be a lot worse. In the grand scheme of things I would say I have it pretty easy.

So I guess all I'm saying, while getting some much pent-up feelings off my chest is there is always a bright side. Even when things seem unfair, they could always be worse.

So yes maybe you trained perfectly for that 10 miler but the weather was cold and windy or too hot and humid and things didn't go to plan. Not fair right? At least you were able to run. You worked really hard for a promotion you never got? At least you have a job.

So what is it you think is never fair, or never goes your way? Come'on everyone needs a good "no-fair" vent.

xx Sara

Monday, April 4, 2011

All dressed up and nowhere to run

That's not entirely true. I have a few races coming up, The Blue Cross Broad Street 10 miler being one of them, the other being a half marathon with Team Challenge in June. But the first is more of a tradition and the second is as a coach. I really have nothing on my plate to actually "train for", but you know what? I couldn't be happier.

It took a while to kick start myself back into a running schedule, knowing I wasn't aiming for anything in particular other than staying in shape and keeping up with the fabulous Team Challengers every weekend. It's been tons easier to stick to the schedule with Ralph being out of PT and starting to run again (very very easy!) we're back to our regular schedule where certain nights we stay apart and go to our own respective gyms (I cannot WAIT until we live together *finally*).

Miracle of all miracles, mother nature finally brought spring to Philadelphia and sometime this morning it struck me that I can actually, dare I say it, run OUTSIDE after work. I was almost giddy getting ready. Shorts? what are those? T-shirts? what?

I decided to head out to Valley Forge and do one loop around the park. No set pace, although I did plan on using my lovely Garmin, just out for a nice run in the nice weather. It was probably one of the best runs I have had in a long time. The sun was setting, people were out walking, running, chatting and just enjoying nature. I even left my headphones in the car and focused on my thoughts.

As I passed over the rolling hills, watching the sun set, I was completely at peace with everything. I can't remember the last time I went running just because I wanted to, and not because I had a race to train for. In the past, when I became burnt out from running I gave it up all together. I had no motivation to keep going. It had become such a burden on my life I wanted to do other things instead. Now I feel like I have finally reached a place in my life where I don't have to have a race to keep me motivated. I don't have to worry about PRs and split times or speed work (unless I want to) or tapering. And I love it.

I got lost in the run, lost in my mind thinking about life, and the wedding and work and everything. Before I knew it I was almost done with the loop.

Running for fun, used to be something I said a lot when I was first starting out. I think some of that may have gotten forgotten amongst the finish times and competitiveness. My need to prove to everyone how fast I could be, and even prove it to myself took over. Today I got a little of it back. And I have to say I really missed it.

Even better than running with no plan? Breakfast for dinner!! When it's just me in my apartment I usually opt for breakfast-dinner, because it's quick, filling and delicious. Also because I never have time in the morning to make eggs.

Vanilla Chobani & honey w/ Nature's Valley maple brown sugar granola bar crumbled on top = AMAZING

Poached eggs and toast. Nomtastic.
(Chocolate milk not pictured - b/c I drank it too fast)

Have you ever taken a break from training and just enjoyed the run? Or do you need a race or a reason to train? Do you ever have yogurt for dessert as a stand in for ice cream? (ok I know I'm a little strange for that one...)

xx Sara