Turkey Trot recap and more

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Sleep is wonderful.

I say this after a week of Emma being sick and getting 2-3 hours of sleep every night. Luckily she is doing much better and is back to her happy self.

One of my favorite things about having a toddler is an excuse to eat the other half of the box of mac and cheese.

Mmm.. lunch

Mmm.. lunch

When Emma isn’t feeling well, she doesn’t nap well either… therefore my Turkey Trot recap is a little late. It’s hard to justify taking an hour to write a blog post when your kid is crying and sneezing and in need of snuggles. Anyway, here’s a quick breakdown of our Thanksgiving tradition:

If you live anywhere on the east coast, you might recall that we got a pretty bad snow storm on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving.

I took this photo when the snow had just started to fall. We got anywhere from 8-12 inches by Thursday morning.

I took this photo when the snow had just started to fall. We got anywhere from 8-12 inches by Thursday morning.

Luckily the snow tapered off by the early morning hours, but we were still unsure if the race would be cancelled. The storm had knocked out cable and internet, and since we’re temporarily staying with my mom (and she happens to live in a black hole for cell service) it was not easy to keep track of updates. But somehow… after about 5 minutes of waiting for the page to load on Thanksgiving morning… I read that the race was ON!

The roads getting to the race were okay, but it took us much longer than usual to get there safely. Traversing through the slushy streets while pushing/ carrying the stroller took some careful choreography. Thank you steeplechase for giving my the confidence to hurdle large puddles. My feet managed to stay dry until the race.

We didn’t have much time to warm up before the race started, so we left the kids with my parents and got started. By the time we finished, there was just enough time to take off some layers and get to the start.

"We need a pre-race picture!" I was in the middle of putting on my gloves here... we're all like, gah!

“We need a pre-race picture!” I was in the middle of putting on my gloves here… we’re all like, gah!

So, we’re huddled in next to two people dressed like bacon and behind one of the worst smelling dudes ever. Finally the race goes off and I immediately feel terrible. I was in front for the first 400 meters or so, but that was only because I started in front (was I supposed to line up BEHIND the bacon?!)… In the next half mile or so, five women passed me. I tried to keep them within my sights and forget that I felt bad.

First mile: 6:00 (not ideal, but not horrible)

The course is an out and back, which is my favorite type of course for a 5k. Somewhere between the mile marker and the turnaround, I passed two women, so I was in fourth. A little after that, one of the women caught back up to me, and we ran together for awhile. We exchanged some friendly words of encouragement that I don’t recall in detail.

Second mile: 5:45 (11:45 total clock time)

I passed the second mile marker (*which is completely unreliable because every year it says I run a super fast second mile, and horribly slow third mile, so I’ve decided that the markers are off) and started to push a little harder. I was now running alone in fourth place, but I passed several men in that third mile so that kept me going. I didn’t feel great, but I was confident that I could still run a solid 18:30 if I kept passing people and running hard. Then I saw two women up ahead, and was a little bummed that I wouldn’t be able to make up that much ground in the last half mile.

Third mile: 6:xx (18:20-something)

The end of the race goes around in almost a complete circle and then turns right down the final straight away where you can see the finish line. When I passed the third mile marker we had just turned onto that final street and I saw that my goal of 18:30 wasn’t going to happen today. Then, I realized “Sh!T” (I frequently curse to myself during races, but usually it’s only in my head) I’m not even going to get under 19. So I hauled it across the line, and luckily got in just under 19 in 18:59 officially. Small consolation, but I’ll take it.

My sister Steph and I (pictured above in the pre-race photo) won the sister-sister division for the second year in a row.

Are you running any holiday-themed races? I’m running a 5k next Saturday the 20th called the Holiday Classic 5k. I’m thinking of dressing festively for this one!

I just looked up from my feverish typing and realized it’s seriously snowing right now. I need to unpack my treadmill… we’re in for a long winter.

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Weekend festivities

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First off, it was time for a haircut. I really don’t even remember when I last did that… maybe the beginning of the summer?

Fantastic "before" look complete with headband to keep things under control

Fantastic “before” look complete with headband to keep things under control

I had to return a coat before my appointment so I actually really tried hard to not look like I just rolled out of bed, but it obviously didn’t work. Anyway, two hours later…



The girl that shampooed my hair was all, “You have so much hair!” Obviously that’s why I’m here (is what I wanted to say), but I just said “yeah” or something like that. This was the first time since I was a kid that I can remember having to stand up to get my hair cut (when my mom cut my hair and I had to stand on the back porch and hold as still as possible- that never went well).

The rest of the weekend included a track workout (8 x 400 meters) with three of my favorite workout partners. My 400 times were pretty consistent, around 80-82, except for the first one (93- guess I wasn’t warmed up yet) and last one (76- got my ass handed to me, thanks B). Also read this interesting article on cool downs the next day and pondered my current cool down routine. We followed that up with a birthday celebration for Pete that consisted of two of his favorite things: wings and football.

Almost pulled out a win with these two cute cheerleaders

Almost pulled out a win with these two cute cheerleaders

I don’t have a photo of the cake from before, but I was pretty proud of myself for trying something new. I made a “zebra cake” with chocolate frosting. The recipe from the back of Hershey’s cocoa is the best freaking chocolate frosting I’ve ever had. I seriously had to hold myself back from eating it all with a spoon. I’m not very domestic when it comes to baking, but I’m working on it.

Happy Birthday, Pete!

Happy Birthday, Pete!

I also did an easy 10 mile long run this weekend. The early part of this week will be all easy runs in preparation for the Turkey Trot 5k on Thursday morning. I just found out that we have a winter weather advisory for Wednesday and Thursday and we may get 9 inches of snow!

Are you running a Turkey Trot this week? Do you have any fun family traditions for Thanksgiving?

Our family tradition involves running the Troy Turkey Trot every year, then going out for a quick bagel breakfast, followed by a day of cooking and eating everything in sight. Here’s my Turkey Trot history, full of many ups and downs over the years: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, and I Quit.

Coach’s Corner: 5k tune-up workouts

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It’s almost Turkey Trot time, which means it’s time for some final tune-up workouts. Lately I’ve been doing speed workouts on Saturdays, mostly because it works best for my schedule and I have bonus workout partners to keep me motivated.

This past weekend, I did one of my favorite 5k workouts: 5 x 1000 meters at 5k race pace with 400 meter jog recovery. The science behind this has to do with the amount of time you spend running at your VO2 max. You should aim for intervals that take between 3 and 5 minutes at your VO2 max (or your 5k race pace).

After a 2.5 mile warm up, I ran my first 1k in 3:46 feeling very relaxed and focused. I jogged a lap and ran my second 1k in 3:45. At this point, I assessed how I was feeling a decided to push a little harder on the next interval. This is usually how I race my 5ks as well. I ran the next two in 3:35 each. The second to last 1k was starting to get difficult, and I felt myself breathing pretty hard. On the last interval, I went as fast as I could, and crossed the line in 3:25. I finished with a (very slow) 2.5 mile cool down. I evaluated how I did, and decided that I could have run the first two about 5 seconds faster.

This workout is a great confidence-builder and helps you to visualize your race at the same time. After the workout, you should take a look at your times and review how you felt throughout the workout. Did you run too hard in the beginning? You shouldn’t feel lactic acid in your legs until at least the halfway point of the workout. Was the pace too easy? If your last interval (the one you finished as fast as possible) was much faster than the rest, then you probably could have run the first few intervals a little faster. There is a lot of useful feedback you can take from this workout and use for your race.

Some variations of this workout are: 4 x 1200 meters at 5k race pace with 400 jog recovery, 5 x 4 minutes at 5k race pace with 2 minutes easy running in between, 6 x 800 meters at 5k race pace with 400 meter jog recovery. Always run that last interval as fast as you can, and visualize yourself powering to the finish line. Also, if your Turkey Trot is a 10k, you can double the number of intervals and run them at your 10k race pace (and shorten the rest a little if you’re feeling adventurous).

Good luck!

Winter running, part one.

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Technically it’s still fall, but according to the thermostat it’s freaking winter already. It’s been a long time since I’ve had to think about how to dress for cold weather running, so I’m working on getting used to that. So far, I’ve been overdressed almost every time I go out. For example, today:

Before. Way too many layers.

Before. Way too many layers.

It was about 32 degrees when I ran and I wore: a tank, a long sleeve with thumbholes, a very thick fleece jacket, and a windbreaker-type running jacket on top. On bottom, I wore a pair of long tights (Go Joggings, which are extra long and cover the ankles). I also wore a scarf, wool headband, hat, and gloves. After about a mile (which is almost completely uphill and takes me ten minutes on a good day), I stopped to take off the fleece jacket and scarf I was wearing. Luckily I was pushing the stroller so I had a place to store my extra layers. I ended up keeping everything else on for the rest of my run, which was only six miles today. So I ended the run like this:

After. Perfect layering for the weather.

After. Perfect layering for the weather.

I kept both the headband and hat on because my ears get cold if I only wear a hat, and my head gets cold if I only wear a headband. I know there are winter running hats that have ear flaps, and I will probably have to invest in at least one of those this winter. Anyway, I’ve decided to start recording what I wear and the temperature/ conditions for each of my runs in my training log until I can get it right. If you’ve been hustling through the winter for years, this probably isn’t necessary. But if you’re new to running or haven’t trained in the great white north in awhile, it might be worth the extra effort. Emma made the trip with me today in hooded fuzzy pajamas, a hooded North Face snow suit that also covers her hands and feet, a blanket, a quilt, and the weatherprooof BOB cover. I think that combo will work for temps in the low 30s. I haven’t taken her out in temps much colder than that, but the treadmill is always an option for very cold, snowy days.

Warm and cozy.

Warm and cozy.

Life and stuff (and some real talk)

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Well, the tornado that is my life has finally calmed down for a few hours so I figured I should at least start writing about everything that has been going on.

In August, we decided to put our house up for sale and move to NY. The end of summer was a blur of home improvement projects combined with first birthday party planning. We went on a family vacation in Corolla, NC for Labor Day weekend and when we returned there was a for sale sign in our front yard.

Keeping the house spotless for showings with a toddler and a messy dog was a challenge I wasn’t quite prepared for, but within a few weeks we had an offer on our house. If you’ve ever bought or sold a home, you probably know that there are good days and bad days, and lots of uncertainty. Although there were some stressful moments, we were able to close the at the end of October. Now looking back on it, we were so freaking lucky to sell our house that fast. I almost can’t believe it happened.

I took this photo as we drove away. Our first little house.

I took this photo as we drove away. Our first little house.

So, we’ve been here in NY for the past two weeks. The first week was a blur of just trying to unpack and organize the things we would need, and taking care of all of the boring details of closing accounts and opening new ones. We both started new jobs (more on that later).

And now, here’s the real unedited truth. Living out of boxes is frustrating!!! I can never find what I’m looking for. I have a problem with exclamation points, and I’m really trying to work on that. I miss running in my old neighborhood in Virginia.

I took lots of photos on my last run around the neighborhood, but I'm sure it will be burned into my memory anyway.

I took lots of photos on my last run around the neighborhood, but I’m sure it will be burned into my memory anyway.

It’s cold and all of the leaves have fallen off the trees already, but I think I will get used to it (I hope). Watching the New York City Marathon was so inspiring, even the little ones got in on the action this year! And dang, it looked cold at the start.

Cheering for the runners!

Cheering for the runners!

But, I will leave on a positive note. Thanksgiving is coming soon, along with one of my favorite races, the Troy Turkey Trot. I did my first speed workout since the Mohawk-Hudson Marathon on Saturday and felt great, and I’m excited to race a fast 5k in a few weeks. It’s an out-and-back flat, fast course and a family tradition that I look forward to every year.

Running in the moment: How to start and finish your race when your training hasn’t been ideal

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My race this past weekend (ok two weekends ago) was such a fun experience. No, I didn’t PR or win any prize money like I had envisioned back when I started training this summer… but it was still a great race that enjoyed from start to finish. The weather was perfect, I had great company for the first 20 miles, and my post-race margarita was one of the best I’ve ever had.

I know there are lots of people who have found themselves in a similar situation. Maybe you missed training due to work, travel, family, weather, or something else. Maybe you considered bagging it but didn’t want to lose your entry fee. Maybe you lost motivation at some point and your training has suffered. There are a lot of things that happen between when you sign up for a race and when you line up on the starting line.

So, there are a few thoughts on how to make the best of your race experience.

1. Try something new. I know, gasp! How dare we defy the old running adage. Well, you can find ways to mix it up without committing a major running crime like racing in brand new shoes. Get some funky laces, wear some bright shades, or even try out a new outfit (just make sure you wear it once in practice before the race).

2. Start off with a slower pace group than you originally planned. Sometimes running at a slower pace in the beginning will help you feel good longer and allow you to push the pace toward the end. It’s a great way to run a fast time, and even if you don’t get your PR you may still surprise yourself and run faster than you expected.

3. Take in the crowd. If you’re usually in your own head during a race, take this opportunity to soak in the support from spectators. I dare you to not get a little pumped up when you high five the local high school mascot. He probably got up at 5 am just to don that ridiculous suit and cheer for you.

4. Race your way into shape. A race can be a great training run and an opportunity to practice your pre-race routine and race strategies in an optimum environment. Choose another goal race in a few weeks and use this race to practice fueling, hydrating, and running part of the race at your goal pace.

5. Plan your post-race celebration. You earned it.

Never Forget.

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My memories of that day and what followed are, of course, centered around my team and running because that’s what I lived and breathed at the time. When the first plane hit the tower, I was getting ready for my 9:30 class and my roommate Suzie shouted out the news to me. I remember watching the footage with the rest of my roommates, then writing a status on my instant messenger along the lines of “A plane just crashed into the World Trade Center”. I didn’t fully grasp that it was a terrorist attack until I got to my first class. At some point I left to go to the bathroom and ran into a girl in the hallway who explained the rest of what had happened. My professor would not, however, let us go home because she thought her class was more important than this terrible tragedy. I’m not kidding.

I had another class after that, but that professor cancelled to let us go home. Since many of the students at James Madison University are from northern Virginia, and a lot are from the NJ/NY area, everyone was worried and wanted to call home. This was a time before everyone had cell phones, and it wasn’t so easy to reach your loved ones. I did have a cell phone, so I tried to call home several times to make sure everyone was okay. My family is from upstate NY and my dad travelled a lot for his job, so I was worried there might be a chance he had been in Manhattan. Luckily I did get through and got to talk to my parents and my sisters. I remember my sister telling me that one of the planes that hit the World Trade Center had flown toward Albany (where we are from) and that the terrorists had used the Hudson River to navigate towards New York City. That gave me chills.

I don’t remember much else in the late morning/ early afternoon, but I do remember when we all started showing up for practice. My coach knew we would be upset, but he explained that running would help us to deal with our emotions more than cancelling practice would. He did give us the option of individually deciding whether to practice, and one of my teammates chose to take the day off because she hadn’t been able to get in touch with her family. The rest of us hopped in the vans and made our way to Masanetta Springs for a classic Coach Rinker cross country workout; long intervals, hills, short rest, no mercy. It was exactly what we needed at that moment.

We had a really good cross country team that year, and were ranked #12 in the country. A few weeks later, we travelled to Roy Griak in Minnesota, which would be our first experience flying anywhere since 9/11. I know I was scared of everything and everyone, and that was a common sentiment at the time. We showed up at the airport hours ahead of time. So many things had changed; there were all these things we couldn’t bring on the plane, you had to show your ID to everyone, security eyed you up and down. The biggest worry was our spikes and whether we could bring them in our carry-ons as we were always made to do (along with our uniforms). Anyone who has ever run track or cross country knows that’s a requirement in case your luggage gets lost!

The race itself went really well for us as a team. I got chills again on the starting line, seeing all of the teams with their multi-colored uniforms, all newly emblazoned with American flags. I actually remember tearing up a  little bit, which was something pretty rare for me at the time. I used to be really good at holding it together and then channeling all of my feelings through my workouts. In fact, that year was my best year of running by far, and I think some of it was due to my need to deal with life and the post-traumatic stress from September 11th.

I didn’t actually see the ruins of the World Trade Center until January. We were on our way to the Armory for an indoor track invitational. I remember being excited about the meet because I was in really good shape and my coach had put me in the mile, a race I almost never got to run. I was deep in thought when we crossed the bridge and I saw the Manhattan skyline for the first time since the terrorist attacks. There were two giant holes where buildings once were. Something about seeing that actually made it real to me. I got a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach and burst into tears. It made me so angry that that had happened, and it filled me with pain and fear.

We stayed in New Jersey, but the sky over our hotel was gray and full of dust even that far away from the World Trade Center. It was quite a long process of trying to clean up the rubble left behind. When I got on the bus on the morning of our race I was not feeling great, and seeing the skyline again was a harsh reminder. Somewhere on that bus ride I made the decision to not be angry anymore. I really took a  moment to just think about what had happened and appreciate how our country had come together during such a difficult time. I was overwhelmed by feelings of pride and patriotism, and I decided to take those feelings with me and let them carry me through my race. I remember starting in the back and feeling awful for the first few laps, but somehow I worked my way toward the front. When I heard the bell ring to signal the final lap, I suddenly got the feeling that I was flying! I sprinted the last lap with all I had, and I ended up winning and setting a new meet record. Truthfully I was happy that I had won, but it didn’t really matter to me. I just wanted to run my cool down with my teammates and get some good New York pizza.

I learned an important lesson from all of this, which I guess is my point for writing about it. My coach was right: coming to practice was far better than going home. Your team is there to hold you up when you’re going through hard times together. I’m reminded of that every year on the anniversary of September 11th.