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I feel like there’s a chill in my bones and we’ve entered the part of winter where I forget what it feels like to have warm weather. My belief that the seasons do change has been suspended and I am wearing socks entirely too often, that’s for sure.

Last Week in Running

23 miles on the schedule last week – the 7th in training for the Pittsburgh Half. I hit all of my workouts this week, even though I had to modify some mileage, running more on some days and less on others. I ran 5 times and ended up over my mileage by a half a mile, coming in at 23.5.

Most of the runs were uneventful, with the exception of the long run on Saturday. It had started to snow when I arrived at the South Side for the group run, and I didn’t bring my Yaktrax because I didn’t even think about it and also didn’t really think the kind of snow we were getting would stay (those big fat flakes that seem like they take forever to actually fall down). Well, by the time we got going and crossed the Birmingham Bridge, it was really coming down and climbing the hill to Oakland? Slush monster mess. So for all 10.5 miles, we basically had no solid footing. So shooting for an 11:30-11:45 pace and coming in at 12:06 was actually pretty amazing, considering all of the stops for traffic lights and the fact that I think it was a cross country ski and not a run.

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I mentioned last week that I need to get back into yoga, and that’s definitely true. I’m feeling my muscles start to stiffen more significantly and I need the relaxation too. But I also need to add in strength training in a more significant way. It’s hard to fit in 5 days of running, 2 days of krav maga, plus yoga and strength. I probably need to force myself onto Pinterest to find some home strength workouts or check out some running bloggers who share their strength routines. Goal for this week!

Also related to running, I’m only $5 away from my first $100 raised for the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. Check out the module on the right or visit my fundraising page. I have a long way to go to get to my goal of $715, but every dollar counts!

Last Week in Eating

Sunday Mark and I celebrated 6 years to the day since we met by eating at Lidia’s. It’s one of our favorite places to eat – fancy but affordable, with great service and a really nice, warm atmosphere. We typically don’t diverge from the pasta tasting trio (three unlimited fresh pasta dishes brought to your table in warm saute pans), and we were not disappointed in our choice. I ate an ungodly amount of carbs and probably should have run 18 miles the next day.

I also made a great new dish this week – Creamy Chicken and Dumplings from How Sweet Eats. Delish and filling. And I’m glad I took the time to make it on a weeknight. As I was heating up leftovers at work, someone said, “those are big dumplings for Bisquick!” Well, that’s because they are not Bisquick. I will never understand how Bisquick and other baking mixes are supposedly such time savers, since you still have to add liquid. Plus they taste terrible. I’ll take my couple of dry ingredients and some buttermilk any day.

For some reason I also had a craving for my mom’s blueberry muffins (which are more like blueberry cupcakes without frosting than muffins, but that’s why they are so good). Plus we still had buttermilk from the dumplings earlier in the week. So I made some on Sunday, the coldest day.

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Hungry for muffins now?

Last Week in Reading

It was a good reading week, that’s for sure. Finished two more volumes of Fables as well as my audiobook, the third book in the Lunar Chronicles, Cress. But all of that was meh compared to a book I binge-read Friday night and Saturday after the cross country ski run. Wool by Hugh Howey. I was gifted the three books in the series for Christmas by my friend T (you will recall her as the marathon angel), and after finally finishing all the books I had out from the library, I turned to the Kindle.

With my Mister Rogers mug full of coffee, my Frostbeard Studios “Old Books” candle (most amazing scented candles on the planet) and my Out of Print library card pouch that I’m using as a case until I can make one (which I received from my Book Riot Quarterly box) – I sat down on Friday and dug in.

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Holy cow. I haven’t devoured a book like that in a long time. Yes, I got virtually nothing done that I should have on Saturday. But what a book. It’s dystopian, but so clever. The writing is so good, I wanted to swim in it. Don’t waste time looking up a synopsis or any other info, just go read it.

So now, I’m reading the second book in that series – Shift – on my Kindle. And also listening to Roxanne Gay’s Bad Feminist on audio in my car through Scribd, which I’m trying out for their audiobook subscription service. So far, so great!

Last Week in Randomness

I have been behind on sewing projects because I need new needles for my machine. In a fit of laziness, I tried to order some from Amazon, but then realized they would charge me twice the cost of the actual needles for shipping alone, since I’m exactly that type of lazy person. So after almost being stupid enough to pay it, I thought better of it and told myself to just go buy them with a Joann’s coupon. But now it’s cold and my laziness and cheapness are warring against each other. Going to make it to Joann’s, just probably not until this weekend.

Next up on the list is Mark’s t-shirt blanket, followed closely by a Kindle case and a child-size apron for my niece for her birthday, so we can bake together. She tells me that we make a good team, so we should probably be outfitted like one, right?

 

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last week at next gen house

This was a long but good week, where you feel like you do a million things but nothing that can be checked off your to do list. Ever have those weeks? I’m looking forward to a more routine week with more time at home and a quiet weekend. My 20 year old self would never believe that my 32 year old self just wants to be home most of the time.

Last Week in Running

I had 21 miles on my schedule this week, and I managed to nail each workout. Six weeks of training now completed, and I’m starting to fully adjust to a 5 day a week plan. Right now, I usually only groan about having to run on the 5th workout, which is good for me at this point. I needed to finish up some miles on the treadmill yesterday, and I was not feeling it. But I did it anyway, after adding these great shoe tags that I got for my birthday (courtesy of the bestie).

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Next week it’s back up to 23 miles with a long run of 8-9. This week the long run was to be 8, but I cut it to just over 7 because we were so slowed due to compacted ice on the trails. So many times we needed to just stop and shuffle, and it killed our pace as well as our motivation to get going again. I can now say I shimmied/ice skated all the way from Carson Street to the Point.

It’s also back to daily yoga for me. I missed more than a few days this week and my muscles feel it.

Last Week in Eating

We had several meals we had to eat out this week, but we still managed to make some meals at home. I made my best red chili recipe (All American Chili from the ATK Healthy Family Cookbook) and it makes a ton, so we had leftovers for lunches and also to freeze once we got sick of it. It easily reheats and is filling and flavorful. Yesterday I put a roast in the crockpot using a recipe for Italian Style Pot Roast from ATK’s Slow Cooker Revolution. The prep took awhile, but the whole house smelled delicious and it was really tasty. It had veggies and a sauce with it, so we shredded the roast and mixed it back into the sauce and put it over pasta. First time I’ve ever put a pot roast on pasta, but it worked!

Sunday we had lunch with friends, and I got to request the lunch as a belated birthday celebration. I requested a comfort food dish that my friend makes that I love, which includes potatoes and beans. And then Mark made me peanut butter cookies, which are my favorite kind. Especially when you make them even better by putting the heads of the Golden Girls on them (courtesy of the bestie, again).

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I picked Dorothy, since with the exception of her height, I’ve felt like her most of my life.

Last Week in Reading

Still listening to the third Lunar Chronicles book on audio during my commute. I finished The Chain (review coming this week) and am now reading the 15th volume of Fables, one of my favorite comics. Will probably finish 15 and 16 this week and start addressing the pile of books on my nightstand. And then there’s the Kindle. Ugh. Never enough time to read! (Though I’d never be satisfied with my available time to read unless I had at least 4-6 hours to do it a day. Basically I need it to be my full time job.)

Last Week in Randomness

Probably the coolest thing I got to do all weekend (besides hang out with my nieces) was seeing Garth Brooks in concert at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh on Friday night. What a wonderful show – probably my favorite concert ever. He sang so many of his hits, and it was a definite fan centered concert. Even with new music coming out, he focused on the songs of his legacy.

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It was great that Trisha Yearwood sang a few songs too – “She’s in Love with the Boy” was a favorite of my mom’s and my sister and I learned it from her. I love country music and have a lot of good childhood memories tied to it, due to my grandparents listening to country radio non-stop. Lots of verklempt moments at the concert, that’s for sure. I wish it could have lasted another few hours.

 

So tell me, how was your week? Which Golden Girl cookie would you pick?

 

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columbus marathon recap

Fair warning. This is long. I have a lot I need to record, so bear with me. And meet me here Thursday if you’d rather talk about vegetables.

On Sunday, October 19, I became a marathoner. 26.2 miles for the first time.

Now I know why people say they have a hard time describing the marathon experience. If you pick one select moment, you think “I was on top of the world” and if you pick another, you think “that was complete and total agony.” So which is it? Both. It felt like everything all at once – joy, pain, despair, happiness, agony, and triumph.

I came in to marathon weekend feeling pretty overwhelmed. I was sick earlier in the week and spent a morning in the ER, nearly in tears because I was terrified they’d tell me I couldn’t run. On Friday, the night before we were supposed to leave for Columbus, Vader got sick and had to go to the emergency vet. Thankfully he was better enough in the morning that we were able to go, and some wonderful friends checked in on him throughout the weekend.

We made it to Columbus for the expo on Saturday, and I had my first overwhelming moment when I saw this sign.

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I was, as Mark would say, verklempt. And also, sort of nauseated, to tell the truth. Everything about the expo was well organized – and they even had a Goodwill section where people could buy “throw-off” clothes to have at the start line to keep warm. I had already made a Goodwill run earlier in the week, but that was a fantastic idea.

Also at the expo, I picked up a couple of presents for myself.

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Yep, that’s a Christmas ornament. Mark and I will often get Christmas ornaments when we travel, to help remember our trips. I figured this was worth memorializing too. The tank is also incredibly comfortable (and ended up being somewhat prophetic, actually).

Saturday night, we met up with our friends who were running the full and half and spectating for carb overload. We had great sushi at a place called Akai Hana, and followed it up with a singular beer and some pizza back at the hotel. I’ve found that the sushi/pizza/one beer combo is best for my carb loading because it doesn’t upset my stomach too heavily. I will probably do that combo for my next longer race, for sure.

I had a decent night’s sleep for the night before my first marathon, but when my hydration alarm went off at early o’clock, I couldn’t fall back to sleep after I drank all my tea. (I drink a lightly caffeinated green tea before long runs. Works for me somehow.) So I laid in bed and tried to visualize having a really good day, but the fear was creeping in. I have long been plagued by visits from a voice that tells me I’m not good enough, particularly as a runner. Once the final alarm went off, I forced myself up and at em, and silenced the voice in favor of getting all of my gear on without forgetting anything.

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Let’s take a moment to talk about gear. I love how people always say that running is the best because all you need are shoes. Well, not me. I needed Body Glide and Kinesio tape, electrolyte chews and my heart monitor, my hydration pack, my shoes, you name it. I wore Walmart capris, my Beat the Blerch race t-shirt, and some arm warmers that turned out to be amazing by Oiselle. I basically wear Walmart and Target running gear, unless I wear a race shirt. I can’t afford LuLu pants or Athleta jackets. But the arm warmers were a last minute Amazon Prime purchase when I realized I would need covered arms, but didn’t want the heat of a second layer. And now I know why people like Oiselle stuff. They were amazing.

That brings us to the start line. Mark and our other friend A were biking the spectator route, so they left a bit later. The four of us that were running, took a brisk morning shuffle through downtown Columbus to get to North Bank Park and our corrals. The only really hard part about that was the full court press of the crowds as the corrals were closing, it still being basically dark outside. Oh and the fact that I was really nervous. I really tried to just think about it as another race and to not be thinking about mile 26 so early.

From our view in D corral, we could see the fireworks during the national anthem and the gun start for wheelchair athletes. Pretty amazing, actually. I was super impressed at the fireworks, but only got a good photo of the smoke afterwards. They did it all again as the elites took off, and then for the “regular people”. Sadly, by the time D corral moved into place, the fireworks were over, but the DJ was still blasting music.

I threw off my Goodwill hoodie, and we were off. The journey of 26.2 miles really does start with one step. If there had been a camera at the start line, I know it would have captured a smile on my face.

As with all races, it was crowded at the beginning, but our group did a good job of sticking together. The first few miles just flew by. I mean, FLEW. I can barely remember running them. I was mostly taking in all the stimuli and the big crowds of spectators, scanning the crowd for helmets, bikes and hoodies, looking for Mark and A. Around mile 3, the course ran parallel to itself, with faster runners already at mile 7 on the other side of the road from us. Man, that was actually pretty inspiring. I was scanning that crowd too, looking for B corral runners that I follow through blogs online, in case I could yell out a cheer. But pretty soon I realized I was going to have to make the first bathroom stop of the race, and I’d have to stand in a line. Ugh. We made a pit stop and went as quickly as possible. (I stopped my GPS at bathroom stops, to at least keep an accurate time of how long it took to run, as opposed to how long we were on the course.)

We knew Mark and A were aiming to be somewhere around mile 8, so we enjoyed just tooling along, checking in on our pace every so often to make sure we weren’t pushing it too fast, too soon, due to being so excited and amped. This race is sponsored by the Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, and each mile has a patient champion. They had a cheer station with their families for each mile, plus signs along the way with their photos and fun facts. Those were not only a great distraction, but a great reminder of how privileged we were to be running the race in the first place. My favorite was a little girl who wanted to be a number of things when she grew up, including a wheelchair dancer.

I don’t remember much specifically about those early miles, because I was just having a great time, looking at signs and hearing the spectators, checking out the lovely Columbus neighborhoods we ran through. When we got to 8.5 and saw Mark and A, we freaked out and ran over. Mark had made these surprise signs that he laminated and attached to the front of his bike at each stop, so he could use his hands to take photos but still have a sign up. He had three during the race, and they were all Star Trek themed.

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Personally, I think they were the most creative signs I saw all race, but I could be biased. (The polka ladies were a close second.)

Anyhow, the enjoyable miles just kept ticking by. By the time we got to the split, where the half marathoners went to the left to finish and we continued forward, we were talking with each other about how exciting it was to continue instead of turning to finish.  As we ran along downtown, we remarked at how well it was all going and realized that we were actually having fun. After a marathon training season that was very much not fun and for me, a meh racing season, this section of the race through the Short North was amazing.

But we were suddenly very alone, the larger groups of runners we were with all turning to finish the half. I think it was somewhere around miles 15 and 16 that I realized that when you’re a back of the packer doing a marathon, your field isn’t huge. And as your field decreases, spectators do too. So I will be eternally grateful to the spectators that stuck it out to keep cheering. Because this is around when my legs really started to feel what they were doing. My left leg started to bother me, which is odd, since I usually have problems with my right. It started to get stiff and sore, but we pressed on through the OSU campus on our way to the stadium.

And right before we got to the stadium, my left calf twisted and cramped, bringing me to a halt. I stretched it out and walked for a bit and made it into the stadium, which was a really cool experience, especially for someone who doesn’t care about football. We heard marching band music playing and kind of wished the OSU band was waiting on the field, but it was a recording. Just as soon as we got to the stadium, we were back out again and headed for mile 17.

Somewhere in here, we found an aid station with food, and I grabbed two orange wedges like they were manna from heaven and shoved them in my face like a ravenous wolf. The juice was running all over, and I recall someone saying it would make a good photo.

I was really happy to get to Mark and A again just before mile 18, and so appreciative that they made it, since this was the farthest point on the course for them to get to. I can’t understate how much seeing Mark every so often helped me. Strangers cheering is awesome, but having someone there for you who knows you just amplifies that support.

I started to really struggle with leg pain for the next 2 miles, and as I started to panic about my legs being crampy and tight and the voice inside wondered how I would get another 10K, my heart rate started to go up. Which as an asthmatic isn’t the best – it makes my chest clamp and tighten. My friend T turned around and told me not to panic – she knows it’s my tendency – so I put both my earbuds in and tried to focus.

But the voices. Those negative voices. At mile 21, I started to really let them get the best of me and began walking more, escalating the leg pain and foot pain as everything started to seize and stiffen. I could barely hear my music, the voices were so loud. Deafening. You are so slow. You are too heavy to run marathons. You don’t know what you’re doing. You’re walking. You didn’t train well enough. You don’t belong out here. Everyone else is already done. You’re holding your friends back. If it weren’t for you, they would be having a better experience.

My friends T and R essentially began mentally towing me at this point. I was running behind them, but they didn’t leave me behind. And this is where I tell you that you couldn’t ask for better friends than T and R. It’s a fact that they could have finished faster if they weren’t making sure we all finished together. But they were there for me silently and verbally coaching me forward when I had given up on myself. I don’t know how I could have finished without them, and that’s not hyperbole, either. Even though both of them would probably roll their eyes at this, I am blessed to have both of them in my life.

If I have one regret about this race, it’s that I mentally gave up and let those voices shove me headlong into a wall and keep me there. Yes, there was great physical pain that was no joke, and the entire experience had me verklempt in the way that you get when you’re trying to accomplish the impossible. But miles 21 through 25 were the ugliest part about running for me, and I am disappointed that I let that attitude take the wheel. (I also should have structured my playlist to anticipate that I’d need my best songs towards the end, but I didn’t have that kind of foresight.)

We saw Mark and A in between 24 and 25, and I cried when I saw him and tried to kiss him quickly and move on. He knew I was hurting and struggling and he whispered encouragement in my ear and said he’d see me at the finish. Somehow 6 minutes at a time, 3 minutes at a time, 2 minutes at a time, we got to 26.

And at 26, knowing there was just one more bend and two tenths of a mile left, we pressed on. Mark and A were in the spectator stands waiting for us and taking photos. We heard the announcer calling out names and I heard “Joanna Stone, Carnegie, Pennsylvania!” and threw my arms up in the air and ran across the finish line.

And there was joy.

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Hat tip to A for taking this photo. And that’s T, an angel with a hydration pack instead of wings.

After the finish line (where I recall shriek screaming, though I have no idea why), we were given our medal and space blankets by smiling volunteers. The volunteer who gave me my blanket and taped it shut for me congratulated me and I told her she made me feel like a queen, slinging that foil around my shoulders. We moved over to the side of the chute to immediately stretch because our legs were all in pretty rough shape. That’s what happens when you run for 5:52. My chip time was 5:56:24, so I’m counting that as my time, but that included 3 toilet breaks, so we were actually a wee bit faster.

After our finish photos, we grabbed our food bags and hobbled out to meet S, our friend who ran the half, and the boys. I recall hugging Mark so tightly and trying not to cry again. I shoved some disgusting potato chips in my face and a bottle of water and slumped at a table. One advantage of taking so long to finish is that the festival is pretty well cleared out by the time you’re done, so there’s lot of seating and no problems finding your family.

This left the PR gong ready for me to give it a whack.

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And then we hobbled as far as we could before we couldn’t walk anymore, and the boys returned on their bikes to the hotel to get a vehicle to pick us up. And it was over.

I can sit here now that it’s over and we’re home and be proud of myself – for the commitment I made to training, even when I really hated it. For pushing myself to the limits of what my body could handle – my body with all of its imperfections that still made it over 26.2 miles. I can also be fine with a race that showed the whole spectrum of what running can be – from the highest high to the lowest low.

 

The #roadtocolumbus took 6 months to travel. At the end of that road, I can call myself a marathoner.

 

 

triumph, indeed

Last week was, well, insanity. It was marathon week and everything seemed to be coming at me at once. Busy at work, a trip to the ER for a kidney stone and serious GI problems (for me), a trip to the ER vet with a sick cat (Vader) and a trip to Columbus. So busy that I missed writing about our CSA for the first time all season (I’ll catch up on two shares next week!).

I have lots to say, but for the moment, as I’m still in Columbus? There’s just this.

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Triumph, indeed.

 

wine glass half marathon recap

This weekend, I traveled with four other ladies to the southern Finger Lakes for the Wine Glass race weekend in Corning, New York. After some not so great race experiences this summer and the ups and downs of marathon training, I was really ready for a nice, solid race. And the Wine Glass Half delivered!

The weather was frigid when we started – in the low 30s. I didn’t bring my running gloves or any warmer gear than capris and a long sleeve tech tee, so standing out at the start line was pretty cold. As a point to point course, the half marathon people started halfway down the marathon course, basically next to a giant corn field in the middle of nowhere, but with a lovely view. With the arrival of fall, the leaves were all turning and pretty much the entire weekend we all kept repeating “wow, look at this view” everywhere we went.

Once the gun went off, like any race, the start was pretty crowded. There were no corrals or separations based on estimated time beyond the pacers, so it was a free for all. I started off a little too fast, though it also warmed me up enough that I was comfortable pretty soon. I settled into the pace I wanted to run the whole race – not fast enough to PR, but a solid time for the type of training I’ve been doing this summer.

I tried to be really present in the moment of the race, take in the scenery and be especially grateful for legs to run and how far I’ve come in training that I am able to casually run a half marathon with no nervous stomach or anxiety. I passed some beautiful horses, some pastures of cows (how much of a country girl at heart am I that I loved that I smelled cows TWICE during a road race?) and several farms. The course also went through some residential areas and a park, and was mostly flat. It was an interesting combination of rural race and road race.

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Around mile 8, my phone decided to reboot itself, losing my music and my GPS that was giving me my paces. So instead of “pulling over” and fussing with my phone, I just turned the music back on and finished the rest of the race without the GPS. Which in a way was quite freeing – just running by feel. But on the other hand, it made me lose time in those last 5 miles, because I finished with a lower average pace than I was carrying for those first 8.

For a rural area, I was surprised at the number of spectators and signs along the course, which I’m sure was especially nice for the marathoners. I love a good “No Time for Walken” sign with Christopher Walken’s face on it.

Like I said before, I was really ready for a good race. I was looking for that feeling I had when I raced last year – the excitement you get in the pit of your stomach when you round a final bend and see the finish, or when you realize right in the middle of the run how happy you are. This year’s running has mostly been challenge, with a distinct lack of actual fun. But coming across the final bridge in this half marathon, seeing the spectators increase and knowing the finish line was close, I finally got that feeling – the high that people talk about. For me it’s not a feeling of invincibility, but just a swell of happiness and pride in myself. A man who had finished the race was walking back along the course and looked at me and shouted “YOU LOOK SO STRONG! GO GET IT!” and I could have high-fived the guy.

I bolted for the finish in the last half mile – just all-out emptied the gas tank. I shouted something unintelligible at my friends who were spectating and just drove forward. I saw the time on the clock, knowing it was solid for where I’m at right now and was really pleased. It’s a great feeling to run across a finish line to cheers, knowing you gave yourself a solid performance.

In the chute after the finish line, we got our glass medals (Corning is known for its amazing glass) and headed to the most amazing post-race food line I’ve ever seen. Not only were we given a bag to collect our goodies, but we got water and chocolate milk, apples, cheese sticks, cookies, bagels, bananas and the kicker – hot chicken noodle soup and fresh pizza. That they were making right there! In the finish chute! I eagerly stowed the snack stuff in the bag an grabbed the soup and pizza and wolfed them down, sitting on the side of the road shivering on a spaceman blanket (the foil wraps they give you post-race when it’s cold). I thought I took a picture of them, but apparently I was too delirious with the delicious salt food in front of me.

All in all, it was a great race. The swag bags were solid too – we got a bag, a long-sleeve tech tee, plus a wine glass and mini bottle of champagne. All of the volunteers were very friendly and helpful. I feel like they treated the runners like royalty – and so did the town. The people we encountered in the shops and restaurants were all friendly and welcoming to runners – many of them having special displays or discounts for runners and spectators. Some of the restaurants opened at 5 a.m. to accommodate spectators, which was pretty nice considering the frigid cold outside.

I’d definitely come back to the area again – both to race and to visit. A good choice for a race during the taper, because it finally has me feeling something about Columbus – both excitement and nerves – the combination that I hope will propel me the last 6 miles over the finish in less than two weeks!

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columbus marathon training update: time to taper

When I started this whole marathon training thing, I think I secretly believed there was only a 50% chance I’d make it to the taper – the last couple weeks before the marathon when you begin to reduce your mileage and rest your legs in preparation for the big day. After all, I was coming off physical therapy for my IT band syndrome and some knee problems. I hadn’t even registered for the race when I started.

The trusty Camelbak. Which right now stinks of sweat.

The trusty Camelbak. Which right now stinks of sweat.

But here we are, less than 3 weeks out and I’m still doing this.

Saturday was my third 20-miler, and it was finally a successful one. The first one was a hot mess. The second one was going great until mile 17 when my right knee just gave out and I had to Oprah speed walk the last 3 miles. But Saturday was pain free as far as the knee goes. And the breathing was fine, too. Especially considering we ran UP BATES.

Yes, UP Bates, Pittsburghers. It’s not the steepest hill in the city, but it’s pretty significant when you’re on foot, launching you from the South Side riverfront up to Oakland. We had typically run in the opposite direction, getting up to the East End by a slow crawl up Penn Avenue. This time we did the 20 miles backwards, so we had to go up some stairs and run UP Bates. Plus we had to tack on climbing a bunch of stairs up to a bridge because of some trail construction. So the fact that my breathing held out during hills, in the sun, for 20 miles? I’ll take it.

I’ve officially run over 500 miles this year, which is a huge jump in mileage from previous years. I’ll fit in another 42 before the marathon. I have a half marathon race next weekend and it reduces from there. I’m hoping the half marathon is what I need to get pumped up about the Columbus race and start the adrenaline high that will push me those extra 6.2 miles over the finish line. Right now I’m mostly just tired.

So I’m trying to get excited about the little things. At the expo, I can buy a 26.2 sticker for my car. (Yep, I’m one of those people. I’m in it for the sticker.) And maybe get a real hanger for my medals, which remind me that I can do hard things. Mark will be there cheering in person, and lots of people will be cheering me on from home. I hear there’s a gong you can ring if you get a PR or finish your first marathon.

One more thing. I still need a few more songs to flesh out my playlist. It’s still repeating a bit at the end and I can’t have that. So give me your best songs that get you pumped up. Leave them in the comments or tweet me @nextgenhouse!

Beat the Blerch: running a virtual 10K

2013 was the year of the many races for me. I did a bunch of 5 and 10Ks, leading up to my first half marathon last September. This year has been different due to marathon training taking all of my physical and mental energy when it comes to running. Plus, I’m not as fast as I was last year.

So far in 2014 I’ve done three half marathons: Boston Trail, Pittsburgh and Montour Trail. (Montour Trail was such a horrible race it didn’t even deserve a recap.) I’ve done two 5Ks: Carnegie VFD and ElectroDash. (ElectroDash also being so horrible it didn’t deserve a recap!)

And this weekend, I did a 10K – a virtual one. Beat the Blerch!

The brain child of Matthew Inman, creator of The Oatmeal and of this epic webcomic about running, the Beat the Blerch races sold out so quickly that they added a second day, which also sold out immediately. So then they came up with the genius idea to create a virtual race so that anyone across the country who wanted to could play.

So a group of us signed up for the virtual race and headed out to our usual route to run a virtual 10K, complete with race bibs.

Just look at this swag bag we received. Hands down the greatest swag bag in the history of running. (The Pittsburgh Marathon has been dethroned.) (Also, the eggs did not come in the swag bag, obvs.)

beat the blerch

The shirt also has a birthday cake on the sleeve. The races in Washington state also had cake to eat – we got it on the shirt and in the lip balm. We got a Blerch stress squeezing toy, a bunch of bumper stickers and a magnet, some gummy bears and the cupcake lip balm, plus an awesome medal.

Doing a virtual race was more fun than I thought it would be, especially since we had Pamela’s afterward. It was fun to do a shorter distance and to get all the race stuff without the pressure and the crowds. I definitely wouldn’t want to do a virtual race for much more than a 10K though, since the crowds and the hype are part of what I enjoy about the big city races. And at this point I know I’m going to need some hype and some adrenaline to get me through Columbus.

But this was way better than traveling to Washington state – I got to Blerch with my friends at home!

With less than 4 weeks to the Columbus Marathon, just one more 20 mile run next weekend, followed by the Wine Glass Half Marathon and the taper!

 

 

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columbus marathon training update – 20 miles and an ugly cry

As of today, there are 55 days left until the Columbus Marathon. I am in week 17 of my extended 24 week training plan, I believe. To be honest, these are the dog days of training, and it’s only because of my type A, meticulous spreadsheet habit that I even have any idea what’s going on right now.

Last weekend was a big one for fitness at Next Gen House. Not only did Mark become a triathlete, but I had my first 20 mile run. The illusive 20 miles that everyone says is where the “wall” resides. I had always thought I’d run into walls running before, and I had somehow managed to Kool-Aid man through them and push. 

But I think those previous walls were only piles of rocks to step over, because for the first time this weekend, I ran straight into a concrete wall that knocked me over and made me ugly cry for the first time in the two years I’ve considered myself a runner. 

So that’s what a wall feels like.

I actually considered waiting to write my next training update until after I completed another 20(+) miler, you know, to make it seem easier than it actually is. But that’s not real. It doesn’t let you know how hard this is. Sometimes I like to think that if something is possible, it’s not really hard. I am admitting to myself that this marathon is an Everest for me. 

The run was from the North Side to the Waterfront and back. It was just a dream last year – it seemed like the impossible journey – so many miles. But we did it. First 10 miles were great. Miles 10-12 sucked all available energy out of me, and from that point on it was, well, awful. I was fighting tears for 12-14, desperately trying to talk myself out of a panic that would make my asthmatic lungs clench up. At 15, I asked my friend to please talk to me, if she had any available breath, because I couldn’t pull my mind out of its self-destruct sequence. (And to her eternal credit she did.) The voice that says “I can’t breathe, I can’t do this, I have come so far and am about to fail, 26.2 is impossible, I am a joke.”

For the last few successful long runs, I’ve been doing a 60 second walk break at each 2 mile increment. It’s done wonders for my heart rate. On this run, by mile 16 I had to go down to one-mile increments, and I finished 18 and 19 by walking at half-mile increments. 

When my GPS read 20, I slowed to a staggering walk and started weeping. Not just a few tears, but that ugly cry with noises that you didn’t know you could make. I don’t even really know why I was crying in particular. It was a huge release, probably of tension I had been holding in for, literally, hours. Probably days. Probably this whole training cycle.

I read a lot of articles and essays about bad runs – like the ones that make you physically drained or pukey. But I rarely hear about people who just weep when they are done with a bad run.

But after a few days have passed, I am ready to rise up and get those shoes back on and hit the miles this week. I actually have two step-back weeks in a row, each 13 miles, one with the Montour Half Marathon, which was my first half marathon ever last year. I have two more 20(+) milers to get that confidence back that I was flying on after a really good 18 miler. 

After all, one does not simply stroll up Everest (or Mordor). I’ve finally realized that it’s okay that this is really hard for me – the hardest thing physically I’ve ever done, and probably with the exception of grieving, the hardest mentally as well. While I watch a lot of really inspirational runners chasing their 8:30 or 9:30 averages for the Columbus Marathon, I’m chasing a 13:00 average. Yes, a lot slower, but it also means that I’m giving the run the best I can do for 4+ hours. I’ll be happy to finish Columbus in 6 hours – to finish at all. And that’s okay. 

This summer, I’ve run farther than I’ve ever run before, all over my beautiful, wonderful city. I’m wearing out shoes and burning through rolls of K-tape. I’m pushing my body and my mind and I know it will be worth it if I stick with it. The hard things always are.

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a triathlete lives at Next Gen House

The better half of Next Gen House is now a triathlete. You know I’m not talking about me.

Saturday morning, earlier than the crack of dawn, we headed up to Erie for Mark to participate in his first triathlon – the Presque Isle Triathlon at Presque Isle State Park.


It’s a sprint tri – you swim 0.35 miles, bike 13 miles and run 3.5 miles. This particular tri draws everyone from elite Ironman competitors to first time triathletes, and from what we gathered it was very well organized and ran like a well-oiled machine.

You know who else was a well-oiled machine? This guy.



He did awesome, and beat the time he was aiming for by more than 15 minutes. That’s just crazy.

I enjoyed cheering so much, particularly because I’m usually competing in most of the events I’ve ever gone to like this. So it was great to look people in the eye, especially during the run portion where they weren’t going by in a blur and were tired, and cheer and clap and encourage. 

I spotted this sign, the best one of the day. I bet it made whoever John is smile.


The weather held out and it wasn’t more than two hours after the tri was over that the sun came out and started baking everyone, so thankfully he didn’t have to do this in full sun. The conditions were ideal, except for maybe a stronger current than anticipated in the bay where they were swimming. 

All in all, it was a great event to spectate at and so fun to watch people give it their all. 

I was so proud of Mark, my heart almost burst out of my chest. I know how it feels to be dedicated to a training regimen and to be in the dog days of it toward the end where you’re not sure the event will ever come and you’re just plain tired. He stuck with it through the humidity this summer, in the rain and the heat and just completely knocked it out of the park this weekend. 

columbus marathon training update

I’m now less than 90 days out from the Columbus Marathon, so I thought I’d write a bit about my progress. 

I’m in my 12th week of training out of 24 weeks, which is a long training regimen for most people with a marathon. I stretched my training out for a variety of reasons. First, I came into the training with a recurring injury (IT band syndrome and poppy knee caps) and spent the first four weeks of my training also going to physical therapy. I decided to do a three-day a week running plan instead of running 4 days a week, because I thought it was more sustainable for me over the long haul. The longer training schedule also gives more time for pull-back weeks, where you rest your legs with less mileage in order to push upward in distance.

The last two weekends were 15 and 16 mile runs respectively – my longest runs to date. I will end up going to 20 miles and doing that three times before the taper and actual marathon. Yes, it’s mentally intimidating to think that I won’t ever run 26.2 until the day I get a medal around my neck for it, but I’m trusting in the wisdom of the Hal Higdon plans. Truly, if you’re going to train for any running event – from a 5K to a marathon – go with Hal. He got me to my first half marathon and I’m getting increasingly confident that he’ll get me to that finish line at Columbus.

Right now, I’m up to about 25 miles a week, with one hill day, one shorter, flat run and one long run. On Wednesday, I will cross 300 miles run this year so far, and more than 150 since training began. I really need to think about getting that map with push pins to show myself really how far those miles are. 

Physically, it’s been challenging for me, especially as we get in to the later summer, in this humid, soupy climate. For the first time since I started running in 2012, I’ve been slammed with the realization that I’m an asthmatic runner. Now, the asthma’s no surprise. I’ve had it all my life, and it’s amazingly well under control. But it’s because of that great control that I often forget that my lungs are asthmatic and they just don’t work like the lungs of someone without asthma. 

I came into this training 15 pounds heavier than when I trained for a half marathon last year, which also has something to do with it. But I am watching my heart rate closely on every run now, to avoid crashing. For me, once my heart rate approaches a certain level, there’s nothing I can do to get it back down long term except for stopping altogether. So I work really hard to keep the gradual increase of the heart rate over 3+ hours of running under control instead of letting it spike up.  

Marathon training is as much a mental endeavor as a physical one. I knew going into this that my pace was going to be that of the tortoise – slow and steady. I was not in peak physical condition when I started, and I’m not now, even in the middle of it. So I fight the mental pressure to be faster – especially when I see running blogs or magazines talking about sustaining paces of 8:30 as if it’s just normal. Which for some people, it is. But I am 4’11”, overweight and asthmatic. So really, the fact that I’m out there each week doing it is good enough for me right now. For a girl who spent time in an oxygen tent when I was little, running a marathon is like scaling Everest, no matter the pace.

Other positives of training? One of my friends that I’m training with makes some fantastic routes. For instance, last week we ran through the following neighborhoods: Millvale, Strip District, Lawrenceville, Bloomfield, Shadyside, Oakland, Greenfield, South Side (Works, flats and Station Square), West End, the Point/Downtown, North Shore and North Side. That’s straight up crazy. It’s kind of cool to visit places on a run you’ve never been even in a car. After living here for almost 9 years, it’s hard to find places I’ve never seen, so this is a good opportunity for exploration. 

It’s been nice to take a slight break from a lot of races. I’ve only done three so far this year (a 5K and 2 half marathons). During the training I will do one more 5K (Electrodash), a 10K virtual race (Beat the Blerch) and one, possibly two, half marathons (Wine Glass Half and maybe Montour Trail). 

It’s also hard to not get excited about the race itself, and I try to focus on that during the training. This is all for a reason – for that moment I see the finish line appear in the distance and know I’m yards away from probably the biggest accomplishment of my life. (Not because it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, but because it is the most impossible thing I’ve ever attempted.) I even named my Spotify playlist “Road to Columbus” to remind myself what this is all for. Each mile is just another mile down that road. (You can search for my playlist under that name on Spotify, but it’s uniquely me, thus probably not universally exciting for most people. Oh, you don’t listen to Starship during your long runs?)

You can follow my progress more closely on Instagram (@nextgenhouse) under the hashtags #yearofthemarathon and #roadtocolumbus. Let the countdown begin!