Sunday, April 23, 2017

Boston 2017

I dreaded the Boston Marathon, there I've said it! I spent the two weeks before the marathon getting more and more anxious about the whole thing. Not the distance itself, I know I can run a marathon...but the hugeness of the race, the crowdedness of the expo, and the juggling of working out different peoples plans.  I also know people are going to be tracking me, which always makes me self-conscious when I run. Plus, truth be told I just don´t love big races, I am more of a 100 people running 30+ miles on single track trails type of girl. So, I am really really dreading this race!

Well, turns out I need not have dread it, the whole weekend was a blast and here is how it went...

Time to Fly! 

Saturday morning I get to the Pittsburgh airport, and as I get parked in extended parking and get on the shuttle I find out that I am on the same flight as my training partner. Kate and I are traveling together! Ya!!! This was also after finding out that Joe and I are also on the same flight. This trip is starting off pretty darn well!  Kate and I are very excited and we may have made snapchat video's on the moving sidewalks to send to our 3rd training partner who isn't along for the ride this time, we really do have fun no matter where we go. I am sure people were like WTF are those girls doing. hahaha. Well, we finally get all settled on the plane, and of course there is a mechanical error. AHHHH, we may miss our connecting flight. Then as we get off the flight to wait, the woman says "Who all is going to Boston?" About 8 of us raise our hands and she continues on "We are putting you on a direct flight that is one gate over and departing in 10 minutes." Double YAAA! Now we are getting there early. And as we get on the plane it is me, Kate, Adam, Joe, and a few other Pgh folk. The plane is only half full, so we get to sit all together and get double seats! Triple Yaa! Good JuJu for the weekend!

After a short and easy flight we get to Boston where I figure out the train system (thanks to a VERY detailed set of instruction from my friend Kim who lives there, Thanks Girl!) and I meet up with Nat at our air BnB where I enjoy a few glasses of wine. I am on vacation!  Then it's off to meet everyone for dinner. Nat and I thought we had it all figured out, however due to a little uncertainty with the silver line, we ended up walking a few miles and may have been 45 minutes late too, OOPS, sorry guys! However we were quickly forgiven by our friends as we chowed down on seriously delicious Italian fare. Mmmm, ravioli made with butternut squash and figs in a Gorgonzola sauce... friggin amazing! The food was exceptional, the company even better!
This is marathon #4 together! 
Ready to go! 

Sunday...It's EXPO time! But first the Runner's World Shake out run. Nat and I meet up with Joe and we listen to some words of wisdom from the great Bart Yasso, then do a nice and easy 3 mile run. While out we see Shalane Flannigan out running, I thought Nat was going to chase her down. hahahaha. When we get back to the Runner's World shop, we get bagels and water, as well as a really cool bag with all sorts of goodies from KT tape! I LOVE KT tape, so I am super pumped about this. And now it is time to expo. I really like a good expo, I love to walk up and down the aisles, looking at all the of different shops and vendors. Joe is buying a Boston shirt from every shop, or close too, and I am looking for the one I will actually wear. I also pick up a cute headband, you can never have enough headbands. Now its time to hit up the Pasta Dinner and get race day ready. By the end of the day I have walked 11 miles, oops.
The whole Boston crew post pasta dinner
**Side Note** If going to the Pasta Dinner, prepare to stand in line for a good 45 minutes.... but the pasta is good and plentiful!

Now onto the race itself: First and foremost, I knew from watching the weather that it was going to be H.O.T, so I knew I wasn't go to PR. I just wanted to run a nice chill race and have fun. So I got together with Joe and we discussed that that was his idea too. Go there, and if the weather gods shined down on us and gave us cool weather we would try to push pace, but if it was hot we would have fun and enjoy the process. An lo and behold, we leave the house at 6:35 am and it is almost 70*, easy goes it it is.

Bus ride down! 
I had been very anxious about the whole morning process of Boston: so many runners, plus trying to connect with everyone, etc...well I need not have been. The BAA knows what it is doing! Gear check was a breeze, as was finding a spot to all meet. The bus loading was painless and so with just the right amount of time to get everything done we head down south to Hopkinton. We get there and head towards athlete village where we immediately jump into a bathroom line. This was smart decision making, because by time we got through it (and we picked a ¨short¨ line) it was time to line up. It is a wee little walk to the start, but not awful and we quickly get corralled.
Athletes Village

As Joe and I get line up in our corral, I immediately start giggling, Joe and I are lined up next to a caveman,  (Caveman Article) wearing a long black wig and nothing but a loin cloth. I see ass cheeks and bare feet. And I am not going to lie, I was 100% sneaking a peak to see how well covered the front was. *shrugs*, it couldn't have been comfortable. lol  Time counts down and we are off, down a very big hill. Hold back baby, no point in going out too fast.

There are aid stations every mile starting at mile 2, and since I know I have a history of heat exhaustion during races, I plan on using every single one. I also am going to take a salt tab every 5 miles with my gel. And that is exactly what I do, drink a Gatorade, two-three waters to pour down myself starting with aid station one and keep it up until the end. (Well, I quit drinking Gatorade around 20, my stomach was less than thrilled). We quickly found that everyone was cramming into the fluid stations on the right hand side of the road, so we stayed on the left and used the one .1 miles down on the left... a lot less crowded ,so much easier to navigate.
We did it! 

As we ran I was constantly awed by the sheer number of people running. You would look ahead (and with barely any turns you could always see a ways ahead) and there would be just a huge crowd of runners, a sea of bright colors and bobbing heads. It was almost overwhelming. And then you would look right and left and there would be spectator on spectator lined up on the roads, yelling, cheering, offering water/oranges/popsicles or beers to any runner who wanted it.

There were signs on signs, some funny, some motivating, and all appreciated. There were dogs and children, waiting for pets and high fives. There were open fire hydrants to run through, and several people who had out their garden hoses spraying down the runners. And of course you cannot blog about the Boston Marathon without mentioning the Wellesly girls scream tunnel, those girls are serious about their cheering! I saw a man stop and kiss at least 7 of them, me personally I am not kissing some chick on the side of the road (eww...I don´t know where those mouths have been), but it was entertaining and I very much enjoyed running through.

Around mile 16 Joe decided to scale back a little, the heat has gotten rough. So we say our goodbyes and I trudge ahead without him, but not alone as you can´t run alone at the Boston marathon. 

Now the other thing that has to be mentioned is the Newton Hills. I would like to start by saying, I am glad I train in Pittsburgh, those hills were totally tolerable thanks to a lot of miles on brutal hills here at home. I would also like to say that Heartbreak hill is not the hardest hill in the Boston Marathon....actually I barely noticed it after doing the ones before. That all being said, I was glad when they were over!

Coming into the finishers chute
The hills are over and now it is time to head towards the finish! As I come down towards the city I see my friend Kim, I was so excited and I truly saw her at the exact moment I needed to. It was mile 24 and I was getting tired, she gave me the boost I needed! So I get my shit together and head towards the finish. As I come through the city in the last mile I see 3 runners being treated by medics on the course, all laying on the ground. The sight brings tears to my eyes and I understand their struggle, especially being so close. As I come upon the finish through the crowds, I am again overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of support. I see a runner being helped across the finish (which ps: for anyone with nasty comments about how those people should be dq´d because they had help, go stuff a sock in it!) which again brings tears. Then I am across that infamous finish line! I have completed my first Boston Marathon. 
Across the line! 

The finish line is set up amazingly well, I wish other marathons would take note! You walk 20 or so feet and get a water, then another 10ft and get a Mylar blanket, then another 20ft for your medal and then all of the food and protein shakes. Everything moves smoothly and there are no jam ups along the way. I grab my gear check bag, change in the ladies changing tent and start to look for my friends. I find Joe first, then Anna, then Kate and Adam. Then we end up finding Nat, Alicia, and Marshall and we all head off towards the trains. Get home, get showered, pop the champagne, and now I am ready to go out and celebrate. As for the rest of the trip, well lets just leave it at I had a lot of fun!

Will I run the Boston Marathon again, I don´t know. I re-qualified for Boston in Boston, so if I want to go back next year I can. However, it is a very expensive trip and as much as I enjoyed the weekend, I don´t know that it can be a yearly thing. However, who knows....maybe I will win the lottery :-)
My Wingwoman and Training Partner
Getting Ready to Celebrate! 

Boston was a great experience, one that I had the joy of experiencing with amazing friends who made the whole weekend memorable! And now that I have been there I understand the drive to go! So if you are working towards it, keep it up because it is 100% worth the work! As for me, I am going to take it easy for a little while. Get back in the gym, have a social life, you know...the things that go out the window while training :-)

Sunday, March 26, 2017

North Park Loops, UGH

Most people from Pittsburgh know about running loops around North Park, and quite a few of those most would agree that UGH is the best word to use to describe it. See, North Park has a wonderful lake that has a 5 mile on the dot loop around it. It has running and biking lanes, and *mostly* enforced low speed limits. It is used by a massive variety of people; walkers, runners, bikers, Rollerbladers, and everything in-between. Local races like to say it is a "flat course", which of course in relation to the rest of Pittsburgh may be true, however it is also a big fat lie. It is five miles of rolling hills, some with bigger rolls than others.  It also has this wonderful camber that has you running on an angle for all 5 miles. And whereas it does have some pretty scenery, you have seen it all after one 5 mile loop... so longer courses are often described by runners as quite boring. HOWEVER, it is very popular among race directors because they don't have to pay to close down roads and there is no course to mark.

So knowing that running loops at North Park is UGH at best, why in god's good name did I decide to sign up for not one, but two races out there...two weekends in a row....

Race One: JC Stone 50k- 6, I repeat 6, loops around that damn lake. Race Two: Just a Short Run Half Marathon (the next weekend), a 3 mile loop around the ice rink and then 2 loops around that damn lake.

So after doing these races here is how it rolled( pun intended for the rolling hills), broken down by each race.

Race One: JC Stone 50k put on by Lou D'angelo. Like most ultra marathons, it is friggin awesome when it comes to the the organization and the community of people.  There are aid stations at mile 2.5 and 5 each loop, so you have an appropriate spacing between stations and a great way to mentally break up the race. The stations are manned by enthusiastic volunteers who are ready to meet your every need. The finish line has pizza, beer, and a catered meal made by the fantastic Audrey (strawberry stuffed french toast and  home potatoes). It comes with a sweet medal and if you make top three, a fantastic trophy (more on this later!).

Now lets talk about these 6 damn loops.

Loop one: I am running with my buddy Dan. This is his first 50k, because in true Dan fashion, since he was running 15 miles with me, he went ahead and signed up for the whole thing. I caution him that going out to fast will be a MAJOR error, so we start at a nice and chill 8:30 pace. It is 20 degrees and foggy. Perfect 😀. The camber of the road is okay so far and Dan and I watch as all the lead dudes and a bunch of ladies come roaring past us. I hold Dan me Dude, going out too fast is a big mistake. And, truth be told, my legs are heavvvvvvvy. I am already starting rethink my decision to run this. Oh well, too late. I am here and going. I don't have a DNF yet... and today is not the day. We spend the 43 minutes or so of this loop chatting about random stuff, catching up on our training and races...we haven't seen each other in a few weeks. Aid station 1 comes and goes and then we are back at the parking lot. One great thing about his race is you run right by your car so you can grab anything you need. I have my stuff there, but don't need anything yet. Dan's girlfriend Cacie is there and cheering, always a nice boost!

Loop two: Dan starts asking how I keep the runners fog out of my mind. He is also now talking about how tight his legs are (he has been killing it lately with races and such). I told him to "suck it up  buttercup and lets go", and by lets go I mean keep it nice and easy with another loop at 8:30 ish (although truth be told it may have been more like 8:20 ish....but oh well).  Legs are getting less heavy, so that is good. Camber is okay so far. I am telling Dan about the art of "plinking" during races... When you "plink" someone is when you have picked them as a person to pass and then you pass them. Then when you do, you quietly *hopefully* say plink! Just don't get plunked! He just laughs at me, and we start playing the plinking game.  Once we hit the aid station at the half, Dan admits he is having some "issues". I mention Kate (our other running partner who is coming out) said she might be able to get there for the start of the third loop, Dan begins praying for Kate. However, once we get to the parking lot, sorry...No Kate. I tell Dan I can manage a loop just fine on my own, but he isn't hearing it. I believe the exact words were "No, I said I would get you to Kate and I will!" At this moment I realize what awesome running partners I have. Off to loop 3

Loop three:  The fog is still hanging around which makes for a really pretty setting. Dan, however is not a fan. and he is not feeling real well.  So of course this means I get to spend the whole 5 miles telling ridiculous stories about the shit I see at work and the the funny story of W and his trip to the vet  (my 85 lb Labrador LOVES the vet and turns into a friggin maniac when he goes). Every time we come upon someone running from the opposite direction or standing at the side of the road, Dan chimes in with a "Is that Kate?" "No Dan, that is not Kate".  "No Dan, that is a dude tying his shoes". This loop I have picked us up to 8 min miles and we are trucking along just fine. I am talking about my plan for the rest of the race. Dan's new mandate becomes "That is Kate's job". Literally, everything is Kate's job. Mile 4 of 5, Hallelujah, there is Kate. I think Dan might cry. She joins in and gives an update on where some of the lead ladies are. Not to far ahead.... hmmmm.  As we hit the parking lot at the end of the loop I quick stop at my car to restock my gels. Good to go. Half way done.

Loop 4: The fog is starting to lift, and I am feeling okay, however the camber of the road is starting to impact me. Especially since I made the grave error of wearing my Saucony Freedoms. They do not have the support for this race. Truth be told, by the end of this loop my feet are hurting pretty bad, especially my left foot. But oh well, it's running... it hurts. That is just a basic running truth. Kate and I have gabbed the whole loop and it flies by. Oh, and PS: We totes have passed the third place lady. I now have my eye on the prize! As we roll into the parking lot I stop to take salt tabs... my fingers are now the size of not so small sausages and with some recent low blood pressure issues, I know I really need to be cognizant of my sodium intake. 2 tabs down and off we go.

Loop 5: Well this is starting to suck. But we have picked up the pace and we have passed the 2nd place lady. One to go! We are rocking out some nice 7:50's and are now singing songs. Now, when I say singing songs I mean the ones special education teacher's sing.... the preposition song, the presidents song, the polyhedron song and a few more. I am quite sure that everyone around was either highly entertained or just thought we were nuts! Half way through the loop we come upon a guy who is struggling. He runs with us for about a half mile before he falls back, it may or may not have been because he probably wanted us to shut up. Two chirpy females when tired and sore may be a bit much. hahaha However, the time and miles are flying by. The bottom of my feet feel like I have been running barefoot and are extremely painful, but it is only one more loop. So I turn my own "motivational quote" on myself, Suck it Up Buttercup. 

Loop 6: LAST ONE!!!! Thank the lord, because my feet are killing me and my legs are sooooooo tired. As we cross over to start the guys tell us that the 1st lady is only 30 seconds ahead of us. Oh yeah baby! As we run past Cacie I hand her my hair tie that I forgot was on my wrist and with it being a little swollen from the need for sodium, it is cutting off circulation. No biggie, hand it off and away we go. Now at this point, I really would like that first place spot... so I tell Kate since she isn't too far ahead of us I want to slowly catch her. The goal is by the half way aid station. So we slowly start picking up the pace and sure as shit, we catch her exactly at the aid station. I tell Kate we are blowing through it, we have 2.5 miles to go. It is time to dig deep and get it done. So I tune into my race day focus, where literally I get this tunnel vision in front of me, I see or hear nothing around me, and I GO! I finish out the last 2.5 miles with 7:45 average miles. Cross that finish and THANK YOU GOD, I am done and not dying! My feet hurt and I am tired, but I am okay!

I get my trophy from Lou which is this incredible solid bronze sculpted plate that is GORGEOUS and we wait for Dan. Then comes the drinking of beer (I had bought good beers to celebrate Dan's first 50K) and then the food. Overall, it was a fantastic race and one I was very proud of! Not a terrible first race for the 2017 season. Now off to rest and recover. I have another one next weekend.

Race 2: Just a Short Run 1/2 marathon... IE: The Shit Show

Well, in case you didn't figure out from the title of this race, this DID NOT go as well as last weeks! My poor left foot is KT-taped for both my ankle and the not-feeling so great tendons on the top of my foot. Fingers crossed it helps! I really want to do well.

So this race has a 5k, a 8.1 mile, a 1/2 marathon and a 30k. I am signed up for the 1/2 marathon and I have a time goal. I get there early (ish) and manage to nab one of the few parking spots left by the start, go me! I get my bib, shorts, and socks and get ready to go. The temperature is the exact opposite of last week, it is 60* and climbing. This is going to be tough! I hang out, chat with friends, and eventually go out to warm up.

My 2 warm up miles should have been my BIG RED FLAG! Man, my legs felt like they were made of lead, with blocks of concrete on the bottom. But no, I figure I just need to shake out the heaviness, I should be fine. I get lined and here we go!

Loop 1: This goes UP UP UP the big hill for a mile, then loops down around the ice rink and back to the start. A 3.1 mile loop. I go out with the lead pack... so far so good. I fall a little behind them on the uphill, NBD. I mean, I am a good negative pacer. I know not too push to hard up the hill, I can carry it on the down. Welp, it is true I ride behind the pack all the way through the 3.1 loop. We are rocking out in  the 7:20's .... And this is also about the time I realize, yeah... legs are still made of lead and there is probably steel reinforcers in those concrete blocks. But I am pushing!

Loop 2: So begins the looping of the lake,  the opposite direction from last weekend. Which means you go UP the "flat" course hills first. Yeah... 2 miles in... there is no way I can hold the pace today. Not only are the legs lead and concrete, it is also hot and humid. I am already down to short shorts and a sports bra and dumping water on myself because my body is heating up. My body is telling me NO, and I need to listen. So years of experience push their way through my stubborn competitive brain, and I listen. I slow down. I am not doing 7:20's anymore. I scale it back to the 7:45 range. Now, this just happens to also be the moment that I meet my new friend Bob. I see this guy whose face I recognize from Fleet Feet, so I inquire of him if that is indeed him. It is.  I have now met my running partner for the rest of the race. Bob and I power through the rest of loop 1, getting to know each other and sharing our life stories. ( I genuinely believe the best way to get to know someone is run with them, you have nothing to do but converse! I think I will start taking my first dates on runs... boom, perfect way to see if we click!). But anyways, back to the run. As we hit the back half of the first loop I am really feeling last weeks race and am thinking about slowing down a little bit more. Thankfully Bob had the same idea. Woohoo, I keep my new run friend.

Loop 3: Bob and I joke about stopping and only doing 8.1, but my stubborn competitive brain won't let me. I signed up for the half, I am doing the half dammit. So we trudge along. We continue to chatter away about life, talking about the things we have done and want to do, and we are both struggling. I feel like death, but I am trying to stay positive. I want this thing done but there is not point to being miserable. As we get around to the first aid station, Bob and I agree we are going to walk it, take a gel, and get Gatorade and water. At this point in time Joe and Brit (my long time running partners and friends) come through. Brit yells at me to get moving and I tell her I just can't. She offers me a salt tab (which probably seriously saved me for the rest of the race) and they keep going. I dump a few cups of water on my head and shoulders, take some Gatorade and off we go. We pick it back up and even though we are dying, we are still managing 7:50 ish paces. Not too shabby. We continue to gab away and I continue to douse myself in water. I can feel my blood pressure dropping, I know I need to get cooled off and get done with this race. Now, I know I have given up all hope of any sort of placing, I tell Bob I am bound and determined to get him an Age group award. We come upon the last aid station and he says he is going to walk. I  promptly tell him no he isn't because we have 1.5 miles left and lets go. I then tell him he can tell Bob S (the owner of fleet feet, his boss, and my good friend) that he has officially been bullied by Ambyr! **Although, I prefer the term "assertive encouragement". hahaha. ***

So we finish it out and keep a nice pace. We finish with a respectable 1:43. I make a beeline for the Gatorade where luckily I come upon Joe and Brittany who immediately notice I don't feel well and get me hooked up with Gatorade and a banana while I stabilize myself. I take five minutes or so, then my buddy Jon helps me over to the curb to sit. Am I happy with my time? No, I'm not. Am I realistic that I didn't recovery properly from my 50k and therefore shouldn't be surprised. Yup. Lesson Learned! ✓ But I got to see so many people I know and that in itself made it a wonderful day!

This race didn't go well, but I am hoping this gets my bad race juju out of the way before my next set of races comes up!

Overall, not a terrible weekend of races. Now I finish out the last of my few weeks of training for Boston, Then comes Pittsburgh and my yearly trip to Cleveland to pace a few weeks after that. So, I am ready to keep moving, and hopefully continue to make progress!

Monday, February 27, 2017

Making the isn't always easy

Oh man, do I owe some people some apologies. Like, a lot of people! 

I have always tried to be understanding when people have said they are too busy to train, but there has always been a small part of me that didn't understand and therefore just thought "Whatever, you gotta make time"....Well, let me say now. I Stand Corrected. Let me tell you why.

I have always been an "on the go" type of woman. I like to be active and involved in things, and therefore I have always considered myself to be a busy person.  Until recently I didn't realize how busy I could be. See, in the last few months my life has become a very delicately balanced juggling act. I spend my days as a full time Emotional Support Teacher, and this years case load has been epically challenging, with some of the roughest kids I have had as a group and with a series of tough situations one after another. It has seemed like the emotional weight of this year has been the worst of my career.

I also have the joy of being on the board for a non-profit, Pumped to Run ( which works with the homeless shelters in Pittsburgh to help the homeless residents get walking and running, to help them build confidence and perseverance. I have been on the board for a year now, and in the last few months I had the honor of being voted onto the Executive Committee. So that gives me an extra set of responsibilities on top of the ones I already had as a committee chair. I love every aspect of it, but the time commitment is real.

Then, because the drain of my job has taken it's toll, I decided I needed a change. I want to stay in mental health, and specifically I want to work with kids from tough home environments that are often discarded as the "criminals" or "thugs". So, I decided I wanted to go back to school to get my doctorate in clinical psych so I could do research to find a way to help those kiddo's. That meant, taking the GRE! Of course, I haven't done this stuff in 15-17 years, so that means I have to study. And I have to study hard.

So while doing all of this, I am also training for the Boston Marathon and Pittsburgh Half. Now, I could run an easy plan, but you know me... If I am in, I am in 100%. That means I am running the Pfitzinger advanced marathon plan that has high mileage and intense workouts. That also means, since I want to eat all the food,  I have to spend time prepping mass amounts of food to make sure my body is getting the nutrients it needs.

Now here is where I owe apologies. Holy crap, finding the time to do all of these things with 100% effort has really become a HUGE juggle and it is hard!  To be 100% honest, occasionally a ball has dropped and things have also had to take the back burner. For example: I am an avid believer in cross-training, well that definitely took a back seat and it wasn't until the last few weeks that I have been able to find a way to work it back in. Often that means a daily 10 minute at home workout with my bosu and kettle bells. or with basic materials I can find in my house. I also use my pull-up bar at work during my prep periods. It isn't a lot but, it is something. Once a week I have started setting aside 1-1.5 hrs at the gym for a lift and swim. I am trying to up to it to 2 times....but it may not happen.

My social life has also taken a big back seat. I feel bad for all of the invites I have turned down and things I have missed from just the sheer exhaustion of making it all fit, and doing everything I am doing to the best of my ability. Often my runs and my workouts are my social time.  However, I have been trying to work in some fun outside of that on occasion too.

So how do I make it all work... it takes some creativity. I study GRE flashcards while I wait for my running partners or while I am sitting in traffic. I try to go from one activity straight to another so that I can just power through it all so I don't hit the chair/couch and then get stuck there. I draft e-mails in my head while I am walking W, so that I can send them as soon as I get home. I manage to cook dinner, shower, and make lesson plans simultaneously. I foam roll at work in the mornings, while meeting with my team to discuss the plan for the day (they are just used to it....hahaha). Multi-tasking is the name of the game!

I have always prided myself on excellent time management skills, a skill-set that fortunately aids me immensely in all of this. I am making it all work, and as always will keep pressing forward to do everything I need to do! But I want to stop and acknowledge all the hard workers out there who also make it all work! PROPS to you! 

So the moral of this story, I get it a little more now.  So sorry to all the people I unknowingly judged, it is hard to make it all work. I can't imagine doing this all and having kids too. So to all my Mama and Papas out there, you are amazing!

I also want to give encouragement. I know sometimes it is hard and overwhelming, push through... it can be done! 

And hopefully here in the next 5-6 weeks I will have a little more time on my hands to do the things I want to do, like have a little bit more fun!