A Fresh Spin on Things

One of my favorite bloggers and amazing sorority sisters, Danielle (aka T-Rex Runner) reported on her Instagram Stories last night that she was attending her first spin class in some time. She got to try out the new CycleBar studio in Greenville, SC, which is part of a chain of studios around the U.S.  Over the summer I finally took the plunge and went to my very first spin class, also at CycleBar in the Denver metro area, and boy was I in for a wild ride (literally)!

I wouldn’t particularly call myself an adventurous person. I am very much a creature of habit, and I plan out everything from my vacation leave for the next year (I kid you not, I have it all planned through July) to what I am going to wear tomorrow for work. It usually takes quite a bit of convincing, or at least a solid explanation for me to try something new. When I started running, it was because I had researched the benefits, training plans, and feasibility, along with recommendations from friends and family with detailed accounts of how they got started. Similarly when I started going to yoga sculpt classes, after getting the recommendation from one of my dearest friends and workout buddies, I had her explain the flow, the types of exercises and her own experiences with excellent precision.  I wouldn’t say I am a control freak… maybe more like a control enthusiast.

So when my friend, Samantha, came to visit over the summer, she being a certified cycling instructor, I made her go with me to my very first cycle class. I can’t lie, it terrified me. Maybe I had visions of that episode of the “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” in my head, or the fact that I didn’t even learn to ride a bike until I was 13 thanks to my neighbor, Lauren, but whatever it was, I assumed this would end me.

7729642_ellie-kemper-shares-what-you-dont-know_tb9823ad0
Seriously terrifying. This is how I die.

Everyone should go to their first cycle class with a certified instructor. It’s the best ever. Samantha showed me how to set up my bike, explained tap backs, the positions on the handle bars, the push-ups and side-to-side movements, and everything in between.  She even explained not only how to clip in, but how to unclip from the bike (which after an intense class with very wobbly legs is easier said than done).

2016-07-24-11-42-58
I don’t think I could have made it through that first class without her!

Cycling is such an incredible form of cross-training that has been essential in my marathon training plan.  Furthermore, cross training is a huge component for any runner, enhancing power, efficiency and very often speed.  It also helps prevent injuries by balancing the muscles you utilize.  Check out this awesome article by Runner’s World about the eight major benefits of cross training.  I know that for me personally the combination of yoga, sculpt classes, Zumba and cycling, it’s significantly improved my endurance and speed in running.

These classes typically flow between speed work and endurance (“hill” climbs). The higher your resistance, the harder it is to pedal, and it can mimic an actual hill climb.  The playlist is crucial to a good class. The songs themselves need to have a great and easy to find rythm that dictate the RPM (revolutions per minute). The faster the beat, the higher the RPM, and often lower the resistance. The slower the beat, the lower the RPM, and the higher the resistance. You get the idea.  A great class flows through these two ideas, and even better, can utilize one song to work for both concepts.

Since my first class back in July, I have begun cycling more, both at CycleBar, as well as StarCycle, another national chain of cycling studios.  The two are quite different in their approach. CycleBar is more about stats, technology, and a modern club-like atmosphere. CycleBar tends to be more about the community, skill-building, and personal experience. Both are amazing for different reasons, and both have given me an amazing workout. Depending on your preference, there is a cycling studio out there for you too! I definitely know this to be true, because I somehow managed to convince the hubs to join me (he too was a novice cycling class participant), and now he keeps ending up with the highest stats in the class!

What cycling studios do you like? Do you prefer your classes to be more about stats and competition, or to maximize your own ride?

The Race that Changed Me

I know, I dropped the ball a bit on posting this. To be fair, I did begin this post the day after the marathon, but as we all know, life happened. So here I am, not quite two months later revisiting my favorite race I have ever run…

So many people told me that it would change my life forever. They told me I would be hooked, and I would immediately want to do more. That crossing that finish line would be the beginning of something amazing, not the end. They were right.

135895-761-012h
Somewhat hard to tell, but the hubs and I crossed hand-in-hand!
2016-05-15 10.40.44-1
What an incredible victory.

I can now call myself a marathoner, and to say it has changed me would be an understatement. It’s been an emotional, time-intensive, not always pretty roller coaster ride. The amount of training, cross-training, food and time that went into this one day is almost comical to think of now. Did I mention food? Was it worth it? Ten thousand times yes.

To say I was lucky would be 100% accurate. To say I was well prepared would also be absolutely true. May 15th was the combination of both elements: a solid training plan and preparation, perfect weather conditions, ideal speed and pacing, incredible support before, during and after the race (both on and along the course), a wonderful and exciting home-town course, and the list goes on. The 2016 Colfax Marathon, for me, was the perfect race.

I know there are a lot of factors outside my control on race day. As runners, we know that every run is different and you absolutely cannot predict how you will feel throughout the race. I have thanked my lucky stars over and over again that I felt great, set a great pace that I was able to maintain for almost the entire race, and I experienced no real pain. Occassional discomfort is a given when pounding the pavement for over 26 miles, but I am grateful for no pain.

The week leading up to the race was amazing. I got in some last great miles, focused on toning and strengthening through Core Power Yoga Sculpt and Tone It Up workouts, tried to get more sleep and stayed on track with a good diet. The nerves definitely set in throughout the week, and by Friday it was all I could think about.

Day of the Week Cross Training Miles Run
Monday, 5/9/15 Yoga Sculpt 3.25 mile run
Tuesday, 5/10/16 Yoga Sculpt 3.65 mile run
Wednesday, 5/11/16 TIU Beach Bod, TIU K&K Slay, TIU Tush it Real Good, TIU Toned Arms 3.77 mile run
Thursday, 5/12/16 Yoga Sculpt 3.71 mile run
Friday, 5/13/16 Rest Rest
Saturday, 5/14/16 Rest Rest
Sunday, 5/15/16 RACE DAY BABY Colfax Marathon: 26.43 mile run

Thankfully my boss let us leave a bit early the Friday before the race, so I dashed over

Inspiring women and great friends make packet pickup even better!
Inspiring women and great friends make packet pickup even better!

to the Health and Fitness Expo, housed at none other than Mile High Stadium!! I met up with a few amazing Oiselle ladies whom I met through Instrgram to comemorate the event.  Their first marathon experience was the Colfax Marathon in 2015, so they have been amazing guides and friends to me throughout this process. I’d never been inside the stadium until that day, and the expo was located on the United Club Level. Walking through the expo felt like a dream. I sampled some awesome items from Clif, purchased a Colfax Marathon hat and half-zip, and claimed mine and the hub’s bibs and tech shirts.

SO delicious, and just around the corner from Mile High.
SO delicious, and just around the corner from Mile High.

After the expo, we of course took some epic photos outside the stadium, and then meandered over to Strange Brewing Company for a couple of celebratory beers. The Grapefruit IPA is absolutely delicious and I highly recommend it. This was just what I needed to calm some of my nerves, before heading off to Patxi’s for a delicious whole wheat salsiccia pizza and a glass of Meiomi.

The next day I did very little, which was absolute perfection. I started my morning with a relaxing breakfast and puppy cuddles. I sat down to watch

I am so lucky to have been able to surround myself with such an incredible group of runners!
I am so lucky to have been able to surround myself with such an incredible group of runners!

the highly recommended “Spirit of the Marathon” documentary, which follows the training journey of 6 inspiring athletes as they prepare for the Chicago Marathon. What I loved most is that the documentary focused on both elite athletes as well as regular runners of all ages, races, backgrounds, and experiences. Talk about a major motivator. If you haven’t watched this before a race, it’s a complete must-do.  I spent the afternoon doing a few quick errands, and then I met up with an incredible group of runners for a delicious dinner at Firenze a Tavola in the Highlands. The Pappardelle con Cinghiale with their homemade pasta and wild boar ragu was to die for, and made for the perfect carbo-load pre-race dinner.

Race day started at 3:45am for my morning wake-up call. I was able to sleep fairly well the evening prior, in spite of some seriously weird dreams (broken legs… yikes!). I had everything ready to go: my outfit, my water bottle and accoutrements, my shoes, my throw-away, and our gear check bag. The hubs and I awoke and assembled our items with groggy acceptance, and left the house at 4:35am.  Thankfully we live about 15 minutes south of the starting point at City Park, and could park easily on the south side of Colfax so as not to be caught up in the road closures.

Thanks Gary for such a great shot, and being an expert selfie-taker!
Thanks Gary for such a great shot, and being an expert selfie-taker!

We waited in the car for about 15 minutes before making the 15 minute trek to the northeast corner of City Park, near the Nature and Science Museum. We dropped off our gear check bag and met up with one of my runspirations and some of her incredible running friends, with whom I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to meet.

We were in corral F this year, so it didn’t take too much longer after the first wave to set off. Oddly at that moment I felt incredibly comfortable and sure of my journey. I knew the destination, and all that was between me and victory was 26.2 miles. Over the past 18 weeks I had put in over 400 miles, so this was just a drop in the bucket. I started off feeling great, though quickly realized a bathroom break would be in my near future. I’d been very determined to hydrate all morning, but the nervous bladder wasn’t feeling that.  So at mile 2 I dashed to the porta potties for the quickest bathroom break of my life while the hubs traversed onward.

So focused at the starting line up - Gary (aka the Hulk) was ready to go!!
So focused at the starting line up – Gary (aka the Hulk) was ready to go!!

The first 10K took us out of City Park and onto Colfax up until Speer Boulevard, at which point we ran through the firehouse and made our way onto the Cherry Creek Trail. At the base of the trail I experienced my first sighting with my best friend Tessa and her roommate and equally amazing friend Kristin. Kristin, I should mention, is a beast and a HUGE source of inspiration for me. She has run Boston twice and is a truly an incredible runner, and person. Seeing Tessa and Kristin there cheering me and all the other runners on at 6:30am meant the WORLD to me. After passing them I definitely teared up with love and excitement.

This section of the first 10K took us along the Cherry Creek and Platte River, and is my weekly training path. It felt like home, and was just the boost I needed. A little familiarity can go a long way. Tessa and Kristin biked down the other side of the trail to meet us again as we turned left from Cherry Creek to the Platte River. Best cheering squad EVER.  After passing Elitch Gardens theme park, we turned left towards the Broncos Stadium at Mile High. Running through major sports stadiums might be my favorite thing ever (um, hello Homerun for the Homeless 5K and Bolder Boulder 10K), and is just such an amazing feeling.

135895-503-020hAfter this point we ran out of the stadium, wrapped around the parking lot, and turned right onto Colfax again (appropriately named marathon, I think). This section was up-hill, but I was still feeling great so I kept on running. We eventually turned right to head towards Sloane’s lake, a great trail surrounding the lake on the edge of the Highlands. The west side of the lake has a perfect vista of the Denver skyline, which I first experienced my first year running the Rock ‘N’ Roll Denver Half Marathon in 2014. Around the lake they had the Chinese Dragon dancers performing for the runners. Tessa and Kristin popped up yet again, and it was at this point I started pacing Jared, a dentist from Florida who is also a Denver transplant. He and I ran together for quite a while, so we chatted it up.

After returning to Colfax for a short stint, we entered into Lakewood and again turned right to run through the Rocky Mountain School of Art campus and some Lakewood neighborhoods. Some hills reared their ugly heads, but thankfully Tessa and Kristin appeared just in time! At about mile 14 Jared and I parted ways so I could run up the hill into the quaint Lakewood suburbs. I walked for a bit to partake in my Vanilla Bean GU, and heard my name by a passing runner. My friend Dana was running the relay, which tracks the same course as the marathon. I was able to catch up with her for a short time and chat about her recent engagement and puppy, before dashing off as we turned east on Colfax.

The next section from mile 16 through 19 was spent fairly solitary but completely peaceful. The city was just beginning to wake up and there were plenty of people cheering along the sides of Colfax. And thankfully this entire section is downhill! Little victories. I flew down Colfax in a blur, and turned back towards Broncos Stadium. Prior to running into the stadium, the race team errected an actual wall just prior to mile 20 that you can literally hit.  Needless to say I did just that, and can thankfully say I didn’t hit any figurative walls the entire run.

Yeah, I was really happy... I couldn't stop smiling!
Yeah, I was really happy… I couldn’t stop smiling!
135895-1394-032h
Sam and I running through Mile High!

Finally we reentered Mile High, and it was here I met Sam, who was running his first marathon in 24 years. He and I ran together through the stadium, and after exiting Tessa and Kristin greeted us one more time (THEY ARE THE BEST). We turned back onto the Platte River trail and chatted about our motivations and what gets us through. His daughter was graduating that day, and he had determined to run Colfax for her.

After departing the Cherry Creek trail, Sam and I separated and I ran onwards up Lawrence Street to then make the final major turn onto 17th street. This would essentially take us back to City Park, where the finish line awaited. After crossing Broadway, 17th boasts quite a nice hill. I ran up half, walked the rest, and then kept on running. Honestly I could walk the hill faster than I could run it, and it was a fantastic stretch for the hammies. By this time I had less than a 5k left to go.

I began looking around at the people left around me, a mixture of the Urban 10 milers, relay participants, and the determined marathoners. Suddenly I looked to the right and there was the hubs! I arrived at the right time for us both, and we were able to finish those last few miles together. This, for us both, was perfection. Coming into City Park, I heard a shoutout and turned around to see my friend Perri, Dana’s sister, a transplant from the East Coast like me! She had finished the half marathon like a champ and gave me the last boost I needed. After turning a corner, Kristin showed up one more time on her bike, and just ahead was the finish!!

Crossing that finish line was one of the best moments of my life. Immediately a rush of emotion fell over me. I had never before had such an incredible race experience. I had never run this far in my life. And better still, I was able to cross the finish line with my best friend and love of my life. The culmination of thoughts, emotions and knowledge of success made all of the miles, all of the struggle and self doubt, and all of the times I wanted to quite worthwhile.

The best feeling ever.
The best feeling ever.

Throughout my journey, my girlfriends from the east coast continued to text me and virtually cheer me on. They were all tracking my time and sending me words of love and excitement. My family, too, texted me with notes of encouragement. The support I received throughout this entire process is undeniable and something I don’t think I will ever fully be able to express. When I think about what got me through, it was because of the love and dedication from each and every one of them.

As you know, food had become a major priority to me during my training. Honestly, it

Green chili smothered burrito... mmmmmm....
Green chili smothered burrito… mmmmmm….

also became a major thorn in my side. I had, however, been imagining for months my first meal post marathon. I really wasn’t sure how I would feel once I was done. I definitely was looking forward to food, but wasn’t voracious either.  After we picked up our drop bag, Robbie and I slowly moved towards our car. Tessa and Kristin met us at Benny’s, our favorite local Tex Mex restaurant in Governor’s Park. To say I ordered a burrito bigger than my face might be an understatement. The sad part is that I have CRUSHED this burrito in the past, but that day, I was only destined for three quarters of it. Oh well, it was delicious all the same.

After we drove home, the hubs and I got cleaned up and promptly passed out on the couch. The day ended with some incredible Cuban food, and an early bed time.  Recovery over the next few days was actually easier than I had imagined. By Tuesday I was completely back to normal and actually went for a short jog on Wednesday.  Since then I have participated in the BolderBoulder 10K, the Liberty Run 4 Miler, and the Sand Creek Half Marathon and still feel amazing. Is another marathon in my future? Absolutely!!  I am just not sure which one yet….

 

 

And Now We Wait

2016-05-08 08.57.14-3
Ready to run – can we go now? Please? Why must I wait??

Patience is a virtue I could probably do without. Waiting is definitely one of the hardest parts. I am probably particularly bad at waiting, given that I am a ridiculous planner. I have the next four months planned out, and probably some key weekends in the months following that. It’s what I do and who I am, and I love my calender for that reason. But having to wait for something you’ve been anticipating greatly for the past 18 weeks is especially hard. And I am growing more impatient by the second!

2016-05-08 13.07.32-1
My last few runs have felt really great leading up to the Colfax, so I am hopeful race day will be more of the same! I’m so thankful for the Highline Canal – my favorite training trail!

The Colfax Marathon, Denver’s currently only marathon, takes place this Sunday. Come 6:00am MST I will be (hopefully) ready and raring to go! Since January when I committed myself to training for this race, it’s seemed like such a distant dream, and almost unattainable. With my longest training runs behind me, and the longest run of my life ahead of me, I just want to be in it and doing it.

The past two weeks have been a huge whirlwind of events and excitement.  Two

2016-04-24 16.58.53-1
We always discover new places when my parents visit – Sanitas Brewing Company was so good!

weeks ago my parents were in town while my dad attended a conference in Broomfield, Colorado. Work has been picking up with the semester ending and new student orientation sessions. I spent this past weekend celebrating one of my bestie’s birthdays by participating in the Homerun for the Homeless 5K, and I also celebrated one of my running buddy’s upcoming nuptials. Thankfully these have all combined to be nice distractions, but now that it’s the week of the race, it’s all I can think about.

2016-05-08 07.59.43
The Homerun for the Homeless 5k ran right through Coors Field, the home of the Rockies! This weekend I’ll be running through Mile High Stadium – home of the Super Bowl Champion Denver Broncos!
2016-05-08 08.56.33
Feeling good and cannot wait to crush Colfax!

I suppose it’s not a matter of whether or not I can do it at this point. I feel good, my body is strong, I am fueling it well, I could always use more sleep, I’ve incorporated cross training, and I have the miles in me. Now it’s just putting all the pieces together on race day. You never know what each race day will be like, but all you can do is prepare yourself as much as possible and stay positive. That of course doesn’t mean I won’t hit a wall or think about stopping. But it does mean I have to push myself beyond those negative forces and know that I can do it.

I am so blessed that I have had so many amazing people cheering me on throughout this process, from my closest friends and family, to complete strangers. Some of my favorite moments included a mid-week lunch run high-five from a random passerby on the trail, to finally meeting one of my Instragram runspirations for a weekend run, and all the moments in between.

ganrupl
And to think this is what I said to myself 18 weeks ago…

As I pick up my packet (and hubby’s too) later today, I think it will finally hit me that this is real. I’ve been a bundle of nerves all week, but knowing it’s happening will likely make me feel better. I cannot guarantee this Sunday will be the best race of my life, or even in the top ten. What I can guarantee is that I will try my hardest. I will strive to endure and cross that finish line. And no matter what, I hope to become a marathoner.

Day of the Week Cross Training Miles Run
Monday, 4/25/16 Rest Rest
Tuesday, 4/26/16 Yoga Sculpt 3.1 mile run
Wednesday, 4/27/16 Yoga Sculpt 3.14 mile run
Thursday, 4/28/16 TIU Band Workout, TIU String Bikini, Zumba N/A
Friday, 4/29/16 N/A 3.2 mile run
Saturday, 4/30/16 N/A 3.2 mile run
Sunday, 5/1/16 Yoga Sculpt 6.2 mile run
Monday, 5/2/16 Yoga Sculpt N/A
Tuesday, 5/3/16 Yoga Sculpt 4.1 mile run
Wednesday, 5/4/16 N/A 4.17 mile run
Thursday, 5/5/16 Zumba 3.64 mile run
Friday, 5/6/16 Rest Rest
Saturday, 5/7/16 N/A 6.7 mile run
Sunday, 5/8/16 N/A 9.94 mile run

Anyone else running a marathon this weekend? Any recommendations for a first time marathoner? What do you do to prepare for race day? What is your favorite post-marathon meal (can you tell I am always hungry?)?

Six Point Two to Get Me Through

It’s hard to imagine that the Colfax Marathon is in 16 days – just two and a half weeks from now. It feels like the last 15 weeks have simultaneously flown by and trudged slowly on. My 18 week plan is nearing its end, and I never thought I would really make it to this point.

2016-04-23 12.57.40-1
After finishing 20 miles, I felt like I could conquer the world!
Last weekend, one weekend off of my original plan, I completed my longest run to date – exactly 20 miles. What an incredible sensation to see double digits starting with a 2 on my Garmin. To say it’s been a long road would be incredibly accurate, and also quite literal. When I first began running in 2013, I could barely run a full mile without stopping, and it was well over a 10 minute per mile pace.  Now, I can easily run a 10k in less than an hour. To actually see and feel that kind of progress is just mind-boggling and humbling. Every step I take brings me one step closer to my goal.  And after May 15th, who knows what new goals I will set for myself.

Over the past two weeks I might have been a little overzealous. The weekend I was originally supposed to run my 20 miler Denver got a lovely spring weekend snowstorm. While the city itself didn’t get much accumulation, where I live we had 8 inches of snow and slushy-icy roads. At this stage of the game, I absolutely don’t want to risk it, so I had to forgo running that weekend. Instead I planned to fit it in the following weekend. Here’s the challenge: I had already planned to run the Cherry Creek Sneak 10 miler and was participating on behalf of CU Denver, my employer. It wouldn’t be good to back out, but how could I fit in 20 miles?

The rational answer would be to run the race, and fit in another 10 miles that day. Of course, it makes sense. Your body still gets 20 miles in a day, so it applies towards the mileage you need to complete. Well, why would I do something that makes sense? When I asked the hubs what he wanted to do, he said simply, “Why don’t we run 20 miles on Saturday and then the 10 mile race on Sunday?” 30 miles, one weekend. Challenge accepted.

There is something about hitting your longest run before the race that seems so surreal.

2016-04-20 08.46.11
 I’m really bananas for bananas… It’s a problem. A delicious problem.
It’s absolutely a mental game by that point. If I can run 18 miles and feel amazing, I can absolutely run 20 miles. It’s not much further, and what’s left is proper fueling, rest, stretching, and mental preparation. Going into the run, I knew I wanted it to be done, but more importantly, I wanted to feel good. I have been using Gu Vanilla Bean and Clif shot bloks during my runs, and that seems to get me through. I still daydream about bananas by mile 12 (if you don’t know, I have a banana obsession…), but it could be much worse. Thankfully I also have a great training trail, the Highline Canal Trail, which spans 71 miles across the front range and has an entrance conveniently 0.8 miles from my  front door. It’s also a great trail as it has very few street crossings, and some conveniently located bathrooms en route (wow have those come in handy). I won’t ever say that 20 miles is easy, but I completed those twenty miles with a respectable 10:34 pace, and generally felt good.

137049-905-001h
Cherry Creek Sneak time!
Now waking up the next morning and realizing I had to do half of that was another story.

130177-287-022f
Last year’s race was significantly soggier.
The Cherry Creek Sneak is an awesome local race that features a 1.5 mile fun run, as well as 5k, 5 mile, and 10 mile distances. When I signed up I assumed this would be the beginning of my tapering, so 10 miles made the most sense. The 10 mile race began first at 7:30am in the Cherry Creek area of Denver. I ran this race last year, and thankfully, there was no rain and the weather was true perfection. I arrived about 10 minutes before we were set to begin, which was perfect for this type of local race. Just enough time to get psyched, but not enough time for my legs to get cold and tight.

137049-611-029h
A runner on a mission.
I really love this course. The race begins just off of 1st Avenue in the heart of Cherry Creek, heads to the east towards Colorado Boulevard, and then veers back towards 1st Avenue to then connect with Downing Street.  The 10 miler takes runners through Cheeseman Park and has a decent stretch along 7th Avenue, before heading back down Downing and ending along 1st Avenue. The race went smoothly enough, and I finished in 1:41:33 with a 10:09 pace, which included a stop on course to take off my long sleeve cover up. In less that 24 hours, I ran 30 miles. The real victory? I can still walk (and run!) and I am not sore. I will take that, and dare I say, run with it.

 

137049-716-024h
Don’t you just love that feeling?
All that’s left at this point is another 10k between me and my (current) ultimate goal of finishing my first marathon. I really never imagined I would ever do one, nor could I have imagined the incredible work that goes into training for one. But here I am, a mere 16 days away. Just me and another six point two to victory.

Day of the Week Cross Training Miles Run
Monday, 4/11/16 Yoga Sculpt N/A
Tuesday, 4/12/16 Yoga Sculpt 4.2 mile run
Wednesday, 4/13/16 Yoga Sculpt 4.2 mile run
Thursday, 4/14/16 Zumbathon! 3.64 mile run
Friday, 4/15/16 N/A 3.61 mile run
Saturday, 4/16/16 Rest Rest
Sunday, 4/17/16 Yoga Sculpt N/A
Monday, 4/18/16 TIU Beach Bombshell, TIU Sunkissed Abs 3.2 mile run
Tuesday, 4/19/16 Yoga Sculpt N/A
Wednesday, 4/20/16 N/A 4.1 mile run
Thursday, 4/21/16 Tone HIIT Up, TIU Bikini Body Routine, TIU Bikini Arms 4.1 mile run
Friday, 4/22/16 N/A 3.69 mile run
Saturday, 4/23/16 N/A 20 mile run
Sunday, 4/24/16 N/A 10.07 mile run

How many miles has been your major goal? Ever attempted back to back long runs? What are your favorite recovery tricks? How is your marathon training going?

137049-526-036h
I cannot get over the crazy hair!

Capital Campaign: Run the Monuments

A few weekends ago I found myself in the heart of my old “hometown,” if you can call D.C. a hometown, of course. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. Or when in D.C., run around the monuments and pretend you’re in Rome. Whatever works, right? I had been really looking forward to an amazing 18 mile run around Washington D.C.’s scenic National Mall, the tidal basin, and all the monuments along the way.  Of course I am incredibly stereotypical and love the Lincoln monument, with the views across the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool and the National Monument standing majestically in the distance.  It really does feel like you’re on the set of “House of Cards” or something, and I can’t get enough of the history (however short our nation’s history is in the grand scheme of things).

Ameri-cuh! Source
Ameri-cuh! Source

While I lived in the D.C. metro area, I really wasn’t in to running. It seemed like a chore rather than therapeutic. What’s the point in running if you aren’t running to or from something? Well, obviously I have matured from that point. Or something… But regardless, I feel like I may have missed an awesome opportunity, minus the humidity, propensity for rain, and incessant bug population. Oh, and lots of tourists.

The main problem with continuing marathon training in another place, however, is you don’t really know where you’re going.  Before travelling to Naples, FL, I meticulously mapped out numerous run options before hand and checked in with my in-laws for recommendations.  With D.C., however, I had built in trainers (thank you, Ms. BakeNBurn and Justine!) with extensive knowledge of the area, terrain, and mileage.  Literally I just had to follow along (which can be dangerous when you resolve to do 10 miles and your friends want to push you to at least 12, it’s because they love me, I know…).

The morning started grey but turned into perfection!
The morning started grey but turned into perfection!

The morning of our run was windy and rainy, and I had worried that thunderstorms or excessive wind would prevent me from venturing out. Thankfully the skies magically cleared up just as we got into D.C. from Northern Virginia. I started my run expecting it to be chilly, rainy and overcast, and instead it was gorgeous! We parked along West Potomac Park, on the edge of the Lincoln Memorial. From this point you can run in so many different directions – towards the National Mall, the other monuments, the Tidal Basin, or everyone’s favorite: Hains Point.

We began by running (and Samantha biking) directly to the Lincoln Memorial. From there, excessive touristy photo-taking inevitably occurred.  We then continued along the outside edge of the Reflecting Pool (no bikes allowed on the main pathway), and made our way along the roadway surrounding the National Monument. What I didn’t account for is that because it was spring break for much of the country, and the cherry blossoms were in bloom that week, there were people absolutely everywhere! Sometimes I forget that D.C. is actually a tourist destination.

It was really the perfect day for a run around D.C.
It was really the perfect day for a run around D.C.

 

As we neared the Washington Monument and crossed over 14th Street, we veered

New grass could do this mall some good.
New grass could do this mall some good.

towards the National Mall. This is possibly my favorite spot in D.C. (stereotypical, I know), nestled between the National Monument and the Capitol Building, sprinkled with some of the world’s best museums (all of which are FREE!).  It’s hard not to fall in love with this city when you are walking through so much history. The mall itself is currently being renovated, with a new type of turf and drainage system – a long overdue repair, in my opinion. The mall was fittingly littered with sight-seers and tourists, as well as plenty of fellow runners and fitness enthusiasts.  I was naturally in my element.

Just cycling through the cherry blossoms. NBD.
Just cycling through the cherry blossoms. NBD.

We ran the perimeter of the mall, crossed back over 14th Street, and turned to the right side of the monument’s encircling pathways.  Finally we found a grotto of nearly perfect cherry blossoms! Most of the trees had shed much of their blooms by the time I had arrived, but this group was perfect. So of course Samantha rode her way through them and I got my photo op. I feel like each time I have returned in the month of April I miss the blossoms, so this pretty much made my day.

It's hard to beat this view (obviously I focused my attention on the monument...).
It’s hard to beat this view (obviously I focused my attention on the monument… Whoopsies!).
2016-04-01 12.44.00
The cherry blossoms in our little hidden grove were so spectacular!

We finally made our way back to the reflecting pool and met up with Justine at that point. I might have guilted/coerced/begged her to come run with me. Whatever the case, she joined along as we finished the run. We got a little side-tracked and ended up along the tidal basin overlooking the Jefferson Monument, but got back on course to begin the final stint of the run. And at this point, we had saved the best for last (do you sense a hint of sarcasm?): Hains Point! YAAAAAY!

Here’s my perception of Hains Point – it isn’t so bad. It’s a long narrow point in the middle of the Potomac and is wrapped with water on both sides. It’s scenic, flat, and a golf course runs through the middle of it. People either hate or love Hains Point. For me it was enjoyable because it was, as I mentioned, extremely flat, and offered gorgeous views with a nice, hefty breeze. Those who are on the loathing camp typically dislike Hains Point because in some circumstances it can seem rather boring. Almost every major race in D.C. uses Hains Point because it is easy for zoning purposes and gets more mileage with little hassle. I personally like that there aren’t that many people, significantly less traffic (almost none), and it really is an easy way to fit in more miles. Samantha, my fearless leader, feels the same way, while Justine could do without it. At Samantha’s suggestion/mandate, I ran down Hains Point and back, Justine begrudgingly yet oh-so-kindly came along for the first half before heading to the car. So what I thought would be about 10 miles turned into 12.31, and I am better for it. I tip my hat to you, Hains Point.

Okay, so I didn’t get in my 18 miles that day, but I did last weekend. Not quite the scenic 18

2016-04-09 07.54.38
I love running along the Highline Canal trail – the mountain vistas are fabulous.

I was hoping for, but my view isn’t all that bad either. With snow clouding this weekend’s forecast, I am not sure I will be able to fit in my longest run (I am hoping for 20-22 miles), so I may have to be flexible and move it to the following weekend. Thankfully I have 4 full weekends left of training, and that should give me a bit of cushion before the marathon on May 15th. EEEEK!  ONE MONTH!

Photo Apr 02, 10 04 27 AM
Classy ladies celebrate in the classiest of ways, with lots of wine!

The weekend itself was a wonderful success celebrating Christine, the beautiful bride-to-be! Saturday we spent much of the day meandering through Virginia wine country, with stops at Sunset Hills Vineyards, Notaviva Vineyards, and Breaux Vineyards. The wines were wonderful, and the company even better. Sunday we hosted the bridal shower, which was a gorgeously themed bridal tea brunch! Anytime you put tea and brunch together, it’s got to be amazing, right? We made lots of scrumptious goodies, had mimosas, and of course, tea. But nothing is better than celebrating an amazing friend as she nears her wedding day!

Photo Apr 03, 11 29 52 AM
The lovely bride-to-be!!

 

Here are the details for my training plan for the past two weeks. After returning from Virginia I listened to my body and took a much needed break. I was pretty tired after a busy weekend of celebrations, so it was nice to have time to focus on me. And getting plenty of rest didn’t hurt either. I think it helped make my 18 miles last Sunday so incredible. I felt pretty amazing throughout, which I am hopeful is a good sign for the road ahead.

Day of the Week Cross Training Miles Run
Monday, 3/28/16 Yoga Sculpt 4.01 mile run
Tuesday, 3/29/16 Yoga Sculpt 4.02 mile run
Wednesday, 3/30/16 N/A 4.03 mile run
Thursday, 3/31/16 TIU Band Workout x 2, 100 jumping jacks N/A
Friday, 4/1/16 N/A 12.31 mile run
Saturday, 4/2/16 Rest Rest
Sunday, 4/3/16 Rest Rest
Monday, 4/4/16 Rest Rest
Tuesday, 4/5/16 Rest Rest
Wednesday 4/6/16 Yoga Sculpt 4.1 mile run
Thursday, 4/7/16 Zumba 4.14 mile run
Friday, 4/8/16 N/A 2.52 mile run
Saturday, 4/9/16 N/A 3.12 mile run
Sunday, 4/10/16 N/A 18 mile run

Where is your favorite place to run? Have you ever been able to run around D.C.? Who else loves running during their travels?

 

 

 

#SquadUp: Running Loves Company

Every person has someone who inspires them. In fact we all probably have many people who inspire us in different ways. For my running “career,” I owe that inspiration to three amazing ladies: Samantha, Justine and Christine. These are my back home gal pals, sorority sisters, and besties who spurred the inner athlete in me. When I moved to Colorado with my hubby in 2011, it was the first time I’d been “away from home” in 13 years. Although I moved with my family a few times while my dad was serving in the Air Force, I’d never been away from my parents, and truly it was the first time I was distanced from my closest friends. Robbie was definitely my rock during that time, but I still wanted to find ways to continue connecting with my besties back home.

10628307_10102960684925528_6500354312784570464_n
Yeah, that about sums them up!

That year all three of them were ramping up their running game. Samantha had been a runner in high school and was diving back in full force, Justine had already completed at least one marathon by that time, and Christine was working towards half marathons the upcoming year. These ladies were my runspiration. Not only did they transform themselves and their lives for the better, but they could share it together! And to be completely blunt, I wanted in on the action. I wanted to know what the heck they were talking about (PR’s, GU, Glide, BioFreeze, foam rollers, and all the other foreign terminologies). Runner’s World actually has a quiz to determine if you speak runner, and at that time, I did not. Even from 1,700 miles away, I still wanted to be able to connect with my girlfriends, and share in the new experiences they were having. It may not have been the best motivation, but it doesn’t matter how you get to the race, just that you have the courage to run it.

It’s not surprising that they all turned to running. The Washington D.C. metro area is among the top 10 cities in the U.S. for runners, according to Forbes Travel Guide and Active.com (as well as Boulder, CO, my first home in Colorado!). It makes perfect sense, given the numerous lengthy paths and trails, countless races, and the city’s scenic beauty and national landmarks. If only I’d really been into running while I was there!

I have been lucky enough to run a race with all three of these ladies before, the Nike

IMG_0612
#GoSquad at the Nike Women’s Half. These ladies have inspired my whole running “career”!

Women’s Half Marathon, before they discontinued the race in D.C. It was the first time all four of us had participated in a race together, and my first race in the D.C. metro area. To say shenanigans occurred would be an understatement to end all understatements. There were moments of skipping, Peep eating, and a lot of photo ops.

This weekend I will return to my former home to celebrate the wedding of my dear friend, Christine. In other words, #squadreunion. We

10629709_10103055813646808_6704285173683337009_n
The last time we were together celebrating a beautiful bride-to-be!

have an amazing weekend planned for the bride, from a winery tour through Virginia wine country to a bridal tea brunch. I won’t say more, because of course we are hoping for a lot of the elements to be a surprise, but it’s going to be fabulous! The other thing to consider is I am still training for my marathon, and that doesn’t stop even while traveling. Thankfully I will be visiting ladies who know the area, know the trails and have trained in this city for marathons of their own.

I cannot deny that last week was an incredibly off week in my training. I only managed to run a total of 15.1 miles, in part because of a blizzard that dumped 15 inches of snow in Denver in less than 12 hours, and also because

2016-03-27 10.03.19
Sunday’s run was not only shortened, but I had to forgo running on my usual trail. SO MUCH SNOW!

of work and personal issues. Even when I tried to fit in a 14 mile run this Sunday, my usual trek along the Highline Canal Trail was completely covered in ice and frozen-over snow. Needless to say I turned around after two miles in and finished my run on pavement. Every runner, every athlete, nay every human experiences an off week. It’s how we bounce back and not let it bring us down that defines us. So I am moving on and letting this week be a good one. Because let’s be honest, we are hardest upon ourselves. No one else is going to judge my progress or feel guilty about not fulfilling my goal except for me. So why carry that burden and let it affect the rest of my training? No one has space for that kind of mentality in their lives.

Furthermore, I am hoping that this week I will be able to fit in 18 miles while visiting in D.C. Weather is extremely permitting, with thunderstorms clouding the forecast. The weather gods may need a serious sacrifice… My friend, Samantha, has it all planned out and is going to bike along with me on the Mount Vernon Trail if all goes well. I am hoping to be able to run past monuments and the tidal basin, currently blooming with cherry blossoms. It would be nice to switch it up, and running at sea level doesn’t hurt either!

These days, though, I have many runspirations. My hubby is probably my biggest supporter and source of encouragement. He and I have been training together for the Colfax Marathon, and it makes the miles all the more wonderful to share them with him. He has been my rock and motivator this entire time. Often he will tell me, “I only started running because of you,” and I know it’s true. Better still is that is gives us another way to spend more time together. And I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

12185426_10104105038122548_2221573642444571185_o
Our second Denver Rock ‘N’ Roll Half Marathon together in October 2015.

Here’s last week’s recap – on to a bigger and better week of training!  Have you ever had just incredibly off weeks when training? Who is your runspiration? Do you speak runner?

Day of the Week Cross Training Miles Run
Monday, 3/21/16 Yoga Sculpt 3.1 mile run
Tuesday, 3/22/16 Active Rest: 45 minute walk Rest
Wednesday, 3/23/16 Tone HIIT Up, TIU Coconut Core and Booty N/A
Thursday, 3/24/16 Zumba,  TIU Burn HIIT Up, TIU Band Workout N/A
Friday, 3/25/16 Rest Rest
Saturday, 3/26/16 Yoga Sculpt N/A
Sunday, 3/27/16 N/A 12 mile run

What Goes Around Comes Around

Everyone loves a comeback story.

giphy
Source

What a difference a year makes.  Imagine all the possibilities and all the experiences that can occur within 365 days.  I guess even more considering we just had a leap day.  This past year was a personal challenge for me, and while we all face challenges on a daily (sometimes even hourly) basis, it was a year that really tested my values and my passions.  I spent much of this past calendar year working two positions at work, and although I am not in a position to complain about financial stability, the gift of employment, and colleagues who helped keep me sane, it was a real struggle.  I am a perfectionist, sometimes to a fault, so not being able to give 100% to either job upset my equilibrium, and ultimately forced me to realize that I had to prioritize.  Unfortunately that meant giving up something I love – writing.  My blogosphere wasn’t the only thing to be left by the wayside, but at that time it wasn’t adding to my life.  Rather, it became a burden, an additional obligation, and that’s never what this platform was meant to be for me.  I knew it wouldn’t be a permanent change, yet I had to reach a point where I had the time to dedicate and the satisfaction of writing and sharing my thoughts and experiences.  Long story short, I think I am back.

2015-06-05 13.56.19
The gorgeous estate at Robert Mondavi. My favorites, however, were Quintessa and Schramsberg!

Many things have changed over the last eight months since my abrupt absence.  I am no longer working two jobs (HOORAY!!!), the hubs and I travelled to Napa, Maui, Las Vegas, Vail, and Naples, Florida, we kept on running (my love of running returned full-force this past summer), I completed 16 races in 2015, and this past weekend I completed my 10th half marathon with That Dam Run Half Marathon (and had my best official time of 2:09:18!!).  I am finally sub 10-minute miles on a regular basis, and running has never felt so good.  The summer was a whirlwind of visitors, yoga, sunshine and celebrating engagements and weddings.  Fall settled in

There's nothing better than a Maui sunset. Absolutely nothing.
There’s nothing better than a Maui sunset. Absolutely nothing.

nicely, and the winter so far has been beautiful and mild.  I’ve been baking like crazy (shocker), and have taken up photography (still a lot to learn but I am loving it so far).  The biggest news, I think, is that I officially signed up for my first ever MARATHON! There, I said it, the “M” word.

It’s been three years since I began my running journey, and I don’t know if I ever thought to myself when I started, “Hey there self, let’s start running so we can eventually run a marathon.”  But what motivated runner doesn’t at least once consider the possibility?  After two of my running inspirations (including my best friend Ms. BakeNBurn) ran the Marine Corps Marathon this past October, I knew it was only a matter of time before I succumbed.  During the month of December I simply couldn’t stop thinking about it, and finally, by mid-January, I committed.  I will be running the Colfax Marathon, Denver’s (currently) only marathon, on May 15th!

Get ready Colfax! This year I am coming for you with full force!
Get ready Colfax! This year I am coming for you with full force!

 

So now comes the fun part, the training plan.  My initial plan was a bit, well, ambitious.  After consulting my experienced friends and reading as much as I could find, I am settled halfway into my 18 week training plan.  My typical week consists of three runs during the week (usually between 3 and 4 miles), three yoga sculpt classes for cross training and leg work, one Zumba class for funsies, and a long weekend run.  I have incorporated a number of races throughout this time to keep me on track and in race day mode.  At this point I have run 15 miles, with 16 planned for this upcoming weekend.  Below are my weekly totals for the first eight weeks of my training plan:

Date (Monday) Week Total Miles
1/11/2016 1 22.23
1/18/2016 2 22.61
1/25/2016 3 23.53
2/1/2016 4 19.19
2/8/2016 5 13.27
2/15/2016 6 36.32
2/22/2016 7 24.27
2/29/2016 8 27.91
Two of the amazing women and runners I met through Instagram - also both signed up for Colfax!
Two of the amazing women and runners I met through Instagram – also both signed up for Colfax!

Over the past few years I have connected with some amazing people through the blog, Instagram, Facebook, etc. and have been lucky enough to not only meet them, but also train with them.  I am constantly amazed with the connections you can make and how those connections are made.  Thankfully there are so many people with a world of experiences, suggestions, and incredible stories to help me along this journey.  My biggest supporter, however, has been my husband. He didn’t even hesitate when I told him I wanted to sign up. He simply looked at me and said, “Well then, sign me up too.”

This guy keeps me going. I am so blessed to have the best hubby and training partner!
This guy keeps me going. I am so blessed to have the best hubby and training partner! (The handsome one, not the beaver!)

So here’s my hope, for myself and for this blog: to keep writing, to chronicle these experiences, to take whatever inspiration I can find, and to keep this party going.  Who’s with me?