White Christmas

It’s Christmas Day and I’ll run if I want to! My marathon training plan had me running 12 miles this weekend, but my running buddy sneakily signed us up for the Operation Jack virtual half marathon so I stretched this morning’s outing into 13.1 miles instead. It was nearly the same distance and the race was for a good cause. Plus, it gave me the perfect chance to wear my Christmas running shirt again and listen to my Christmas playlist before the holiday season is over. I must admit that I slept a bit later than I planned this morning, though. I intended to get up and start running right at sunrise, but I ended up walking out my door about an hour later instead. Good thing it wasn’t a hot day! In fact, it was really chilly in Los Angeles this morning, perfect weather for Christmas Day, so I had to wear my gloves and arm warmers for a few miles before I sufficiently warmed up. The storm that came through LA a couple of days ago covered the local mountains with snow for the first time this winter so it was actually a white Christmas in some parts of Southern California! I had a great view of the mountains during the first half of my run this morning and it was really beautiful. My last double-digit run before my marathon in two weeks (yikes!) went very well so I was happy about that. I was relatively fast and I didn’t get too exhausted. But when I got home I realized that I should have run yesterday when McDonald’s was open. Since they’re closed on Christmas Day I wasn’t able to have my traditional post-run breakfast of an Egg McMuffin and a Diet Coke. A travesty! My Nutrisystem breakfast sandwich just wasn’t the same. Luckily this is the only day of the year that I’ll have this problem. Running this virtual half marathon was a great way to start my Christmas Day. I didn’t accomplish much else afterwards, but I’m getting ready to go see “Star Wars: Rogue One” with friends in a couple of hours. I can’t wait! Merry Christmas, everyone!

P.S. There’s a nice cross-section of my nerdy Christmas tree on display in the above photo. BB-8, Elsa, Cinderella, Cookie Monster, and Mickey Mouse. Too bad you can’t see my Thorin Oakenshield ornament too!

20 miles

Today my marathon training plan reached its zenith when I successfully completed a 20 mile run. I was anxious about it all week since I’d never run that far before, but this morning I pushed all of my worries aside as I got ready to go. My usual running buddies were going with me so I knew I could count on them to keep me from being nervous as we racked up the miles. Since a storm came through Los Angeles on Thursday it was quite chilly this morning when we set out on the San Gabriel River path at 6:45 AM. The temperature was in the upper 30s so I had not just my arm warmers, but a pair of gloves too. These Southern California ladies were cold for the first few miles! I took the gloves off after about 2 miles and tucked them into my belt, but I wore the arm warmers for 6 miles, which is unprecedented. Much to my surprise I felt great during a majority of the run and I know the winter weather contributed to that. I guess the strict training plan that I’ve stuck to for the last fifteen weeks has really paid off! I didn’t even start to feel tired until after the half marathon mark which was a miracle. It did get a lot warmer during the slightly over 4 hours that it took us to finish the 20 miles (my average pace was 12:01 min/mile). I started feeling pretty toasty as I got near the end and the lack of shade on the river path didn’t help either. Luckily I kept the nausea at bay that plagued me as I wrapped up my 18 mile run two weeks ago. Diluting my sports drink and alternating between caffeinated Gu gels and non-caffeinated ones made all the difference. I’m glad I figured these things out before the marathon next month. Is the Walt Disney Marathon really only three weeks away? Holy cow! Looking back at the beginning of my running journey in 2013 I never would have imagined that I’d run 20 miles in preparation for a marathon. But here I am, with a completely successful 20 mile run behind me, and I think I’m just about ready! I’m excited!

Late 2016 resolutions

I only made four official resolutions in 2016, and my adherence to some of those has been less than dedicated. But that’s a post more suited to the end of the month when I admit how much of a slacker I’ve been over the last 365 days. Luckily I actually satisfied two draft resolutions that I made at the beginning of the year, but never seriously committed to. This happens so rarely that I wanted to take credit for these successes while I can!

New Year’s Resolution #5: Weight training/cross training
At the end of last year I realized that running had become my only form of exercise, and I wasn’t even doing that with enough consistency. Going to my weekly spin class (when I actually made an effort to get there) wasn’t really helping because I needed something besides another form of cardio. I knew that if I wanted to be stronger and overall healthier that I needed to diversify my workouts. Unfortunately this wasn’t something that I was motivated to improve on my own. Luckily in June my running buddy invited me to try a class at her gym and I’ve been going to a couple of classes every week since then. It’s amazing! Not only have I changed my body’s shape (a combination of diet and exercise), but I’ve also changed my body’s composition. Over the summer I got a fancy Withings scale that sends data to my phone and tracks my statistics in an app. Since September not only have I gotten lighter, but my muscle mass has increased and my body fat has decreased. I am so pleased with my progress and I hope I can keep it up in 2017.

New Year’s Resolution #6: Fit into my old clothes
I’ve already written so much about this one that you’re probably tired of reading about it! In the past three months I’ve bragged about how some old clothes (and some new ones too) are now too big, and others are finally wearable again. As another example, today I wore a favorite blazer to work that I haven’t fit in to for about two years. And the jeans I wore with it have also been sitting in a box for the same amount of time. They are even a little big! My winter wardrobe is now much larger and I didn’t have to spend a dime! However, I have made a few apparel purchases over the last month as a celebration of my diet/exercise success. Clothes are actually fun when you don’t hate your body! My mom and I had a blast shopping in Tallahassee at Thanksgiving, my Cyber Monday shopping was heavy on clothing, and I found several other items for myself at the Ontario Mills Outlet Mall over the weekend. ‘Tis the season for consumerism! But it’s even more satisfying when I can easily wear items that I haven’t dared try on for years due to my weight. At this rate 2017 is going to be amazing.

Holiday running apparel

Last week I ordered a Christmas running shirt from my favorite company so that I’d have something to wear for the Holiday Half Marathon this Sunday. It’s a red shirt with a reindeer and Christmas lights on it – perfect, right? I knew I was cutting it a little close for delivery before the race, but I haven’t had any trouble getting apparel from this company in a short period of time. Unfortunately this has been the exception. As of this evening the shirt has yet to ship. There’s about zero chance it will arrive in time for me to wear it on Sunday now and I’m annoyed. I know it’s mostly my own fault for not ordering earlier, but what’s the point of getting a Christmas running shirt after my only holiday race weekend (5K on Saturday, half marathon on Sunday)? I guess I’ll stick it in a drawer for next year. (Yes, my running buddies and I have already started thinking about which races we want to run in December 2017!) The only Christmas-themed running shirt that I have in my possession is from a race last year and it has long sleeves. There is absolutely no reason to have long sleeve running shirts in Los Angeles. They are useless because it doesn’t get nearly cold enough here! Usually I wear arm warmers when I start a run on a cold morning, but I take them off after a mile or two when I’ve sufficiently warmed up. The climate is just too mild here to require full arm coverage for very long. So the big question is, what do I wear for my races this weekend? I’m thinking of wearing a shirt that says “Will Train for Chocolate” for the 5K (appropriate since I consume more chocolate during the winter holidays than any other time of the year), and then my “Frozen” Elsa shirt for the half marathon (snowflakes seem fitting for a December run). I know I’m over thinking this, but these are my last two races of 2016 and I want them to be great!

Week 13 done

This morning I ran 18 miles to close out week 13 of my marathon training plan. It was my longest run ever. Somehow I completed those 18 miles at an average pace of 11:19 min/mile, which is probably faster than I should have run (surprisingly, only a tiny bit slower than my half marathon PR time from last month). Those last two miles were really rough! I got up later than I originally planned this morning so I didn’t start running until right around sunrise (6:45 AM). This meant that I spent a lot of time out there while the sun was high up in the sky. Thankfully it was a lovely LA winter day with a high only in the 60s, but the sun still warmed me up considerably. I was running along the San Gabriel River so shade was hard to come by a majority the time. But I successfully completed my 18-mile run with minimal problems (thanks to my twice-repaired orthotics that I picked up from my podiatrist on Friday), and now I am much more confident that I’ll be able to cross the Disney World Marathon finish line without passing out. I have the Holiday Half Marathon next weekend with my running buddies, and then my last long run will be 20 miles the weekend after that. I am cautiously optimistic that I will finish this 18-week training plan and be completely prepared for the marathon in January!

P.S. My holiday celebratory activity today was fairly subdued – I watched last year’s Doctor Who Christmas special, “The Husbands of River Song,” while ordering some presents online. The presents were mostly for other people, but I also got some running pants from Lululemon for myself! I intended to put up my Christmas tree this afternoon, but I didn’t have enough energy after my 18-mile run. While lounging on my couch I should have worked on my Christmas cards, but that didn’t happen either. I’d better get my rear in gear soon because time is running out!

OC half marathon 2016

I’m on a plane to Miami right now where I’ll catch my flight to Tallahassee this afternoon. I paid for extra leg room this time around (worth it for nearly five hours between LA and Miami) so using my laptop is a breeze! Also, there’s an empty seat next to me so I don’t feel like anyone is looking at my screen while I type. I figured I’d take this time to finally write a post about a races from earlier this year that changed the way I run. It was a big deal!

In May of 2015 I was registered for the Orange County half marathon, but ended up skipping it because I was still recovering from my knee injury earlier in the year. Of course I managed to get hurt again in early 2016, but much to my delight I was healthy enough to run the OC half marathon this year. However, I was pretty out of shape when the race rolled around in May. So in order to keep from being completely bored on the course for three hours I decided to run with one of my co-workers and her sister-in-law. They had modest expectations for their finish time so I figured I wouldn’t be holding them back. This was my first introduction to the Galloway Run/Walk/Run Method. Previously I only took short walk breaks about every mile, but that particular strategy broke down after the first seven or eight miles when I couldn’t run a full mile at a time anymore. That made the rest of the race pretty frustrating. But using the Galloway Method during the OC half marathon the other ladies and I ran for 1 min 15 sec and then walked for 40 seconds, repeating those intervals for the whole 13.1 miles. (Mostly. There were a couple of monster hills that we broke down and walked all the way to the top!) This approach to running was completely new to me and it took a while to get used to. Taking a walk break after only running a little over a minute felt really strange at the beginning of the race, but as the miles passed I was amazed at how well the Galloway Method was working for me. I didn’t hit the wall at mile 10 like I usually did during a half marathon, and after we crossed the finish line I actually still had some energy left which, for me, is unheard of. It was a remarkable outcome. My finish time wasn’t anything to be proud of, but I didn’t care. After that day I was resolved to buy an internal timer and join my co-worker’s Galloway running group. I loved it that much! It’s been over five months since then and now I use the run/walk/run method exclusively for my races and other long runs. Like my highly successful 16 mile run last Saturday. I know the Galloway method isn’t right for everyone, but it has worked wonders for me so I’m glad I got the opportunity to try it during the OC half marathon. The course was really beautiful too so I’m looking forward to running it again in 2017.

As a side note, there was one particularly funny moment before the race even started. After getting on the bus from the fairgrounds parking lot to the start line I realized that I hadn’t put any sunscreen on my legs! I slathered it on my arms in the parking lot, but I had completely neglected my legs below the hem of my running capris. So once I got to the start line I started searching through the crowd, looking for someone who might have sunscreen in their bag of supplies that I could borrow. I probably looked creepy, but I was desperate! It took a while, but I finally found someone who had a bottle of sunscreen out and was willing to let me use some. Bless that kind stranger! I would have had lobster legs otherwise!

Overcoming obstacles

This morning I ran 16 miles with my two running buddies. I had never attempted that distance before and I was incredibly nervous about it when I woke up this morning. Previously my longest run was 14 miles, but that was back in August 2014 when I was training for my first half marathon and it did not go well. It was a disaster, if I’m honest. It was too warm, I was unprepared (my stamina was lacking as was my electrolyte/nutrition plan), and the effort mentally defeated me. (Luckily that wasn’t indicative of my performance during the Disneyland Half Marathon a few weeks later!) Since then I’ve run more half marathons than I can count and my performance at that distance has improved immensely, but now it’s time to get out of my comfort zone if there’s any chance I’m going to be prepared for the Disney World Marathon in January. I started my 16 mile run this morning with some apprehension, but it turned out great! I must admit that in that last half mile I started to feel fatigued, but I think that was mostly a mental response to being so close to the finish line. Also, I had a little too much sports drink near the end of the run which made my stomach sloshy and a tad queasy. Lesson learned.

While I’m encouraged by the success of today’s long run, but that doesn’t mean it was perfect. The orthotic in my left shoe started bothering me at about the 12-mile mark. There’s some kind of imperfection on one of the edges and it caused a small blister to form on the outside of my heel. Nothing major, but I need to take it to my podiatrist and see if there’s anything he can do to fix the problem. As the runs get longer the blisters will only get worse, I’m sure. And speaking of blisters, before Halloween I started getting blisters on my big toes again. This was a major obstacle I had to overcome when I started running in 2013. Back then the solution was to consult a podiatrist, and subsequently, having custom orthotics made and wearing stability shoes. This time around I was stumped since I hadn’t changed anything about my footwear when the blisters started forming. I initially thought my shoes were worn out so I started running in a new pair, but that didn’t make a difference. Then based on some input from other runners, I tried some new socks in case my current favorites were shot. Again, no difference (but having new socks was still a plus). So I took the next step and went to see my trusted podiatrist, and he came through with a solution, as always. My orthotics are more than two years old so the padding was worn down and needed to be replaced. Luckily he resurfaced them within a day so I got them back in time for the Rock N Roll Los Angeles Half Marathon on October 30th. Since then I’ve had zero blister problems. That was a big relief. I didn’t want something as stupid as blisters derailing my marathon training. Hopefully I can handle whatever else gets thrown at me between now and January 8th. Only seven weeks to go!

2016 Resolution #4 revisited

“I’ve already put all of the September through December training runs on my wall calendar at work so I have some idea of what I’m facing. Even though I don’t even have to start for more than four months, I’m still scared. Am I completely crazy for signing up for a marathon? Time will tell, I guess. If I’m lucky I’ll be a marathoner on my 38th birthday!”
4/22/16 webpage post

Remember how I resolved to train for a marathon in 2016? Well, as of this weekend I have completed nine weeks of the Hal Higdon Novice 1 Program! That means I’m officially halfway through my training. How crazy is that? That also means that there are less than nine weeks until my marathon in January. Yikes! I’m hanging in there so far, though. Surprisingly, I haven’t missed any of those runs that I diligently wrote on my calendar back in April. I may have flexed the schedule a bit to accommodate a couple of races (like the Avengers 5K this Friday morning) and other activities (like gym classes and movie nights), but my total mileage since Labor Day is actually higher than the training plan calls for. Not bad! That’s why I was so happy about being able to complete my 10 mile run yesterday while I was in Arkansas. I was a little worried about getting off track while I was out of town, but thanks to my understanding family I’m exactly where I need to be halfway through my marathon training. Not that I haven’t had a few struggles so far, but I’ll write more about that in another post. This weekend is going to be a little crazy with the Avengers race weekend at Disneyland, especially since I couldn’t stop myself for registering for all three races (5K, 10K, and half marathon). It’s a good thing I caught up on sleep while I was in Arkansas!

Running in Arkansas

In order to keep my marathon training on track while visiting family in Arkansas this weekend I ran 10 miles around Lake Fayetteville this morning. It’s a lovely spot, especially with the fall color starting to emerge this time of year, and there’s a 5.5 mile long paved trail that goes all the way around the lake. I ran the loop twice to get all of my needed mileage. It was quite cold (for this Californian, at least) when I started my run, about 42 deg, but it warmed up significantly during the two hours I was out there. I didn’t need my arm warmers for more than the first few miles. When I planned this trip I was a little worried about missing this weekend’s required run, so I’m really glad that I got it done while I was out of town. I’m flying home tomorrow so I have no excuses to miss any upcoming training runs. Darn!

Gator apparel

Written at LAX this morning:

I’m at the airport getting ready to fly to Arkansas. Why Arkansas, you ask? For Florida football, of course! I have cousins who live there (Razorback fans, but that’s OK) and they offered tickets to the game tomorrow if I could make it. How could I possibly refuse? It was a lucky break that I wasn’t registered for a race this weekend otherwise I would have been stuck watching on TV from the West Coast again. But this weekend, which is sandwiched between the Rock N Roll Los Angeles half marathon last Sunday and the Avengers race weekend at Disneyland starting this Friday, was surprisingly open. So I’m thrilled to be heading to Fayetteville, AR for the weekend!

In an effort to make my trip preparations as smooth as possible, I laid out the clothes I planned to wear today before I went to bed last night. My brain has trouble picking an outfit in the morning. It’s like writer’s block, but with fashion. Not that I’m fashionable, but that’s another story. But when I was throwing on my clothes at 4 AM (when my alarm went off it took me a good 30 seconds to remember why I was getting up so darn early) I changed my mind about which shirt I wanted to wear. I was obviously going to wear Gator apparel for my flight (that’s basically my wardrobe for the entire weekend), but rather than the one I originally selected, I grabbed something different from my drawer. I think I bought this particular shirt in Tallahassee at Christmas in 2014, but I’ve never actually worn it. I can’t believe it’s been almost two years! After I hurt my knee in January 2015 I put on some weight and the shirt was too small. Since then it’s just been sitting in a drawer, along with a number of other too snug shirts, on the off chance that I lost enough weight to squeeze myself into it. Thanks to Nutrisystem and a strict workout plan (and losing about 12 lbs) I figured that time has finally arrived!

See, yesterday I optimistically slipped on an old pair of jeans that I used to wear when I was at my thinnest (i.e., before the knee injury) and they actually fit. It was a miracle! Knowing what my scale read that morning I would have never guessed that those jeans would be wearable because I’m still 9 or 10 lbs heavier than I was back in early 2015. It seems my body is about the same shape as when I was 120 lbs, though, because the jeans fit perfectly. That’s a win for my boot camp/strength training classes at the gym, for sure. So based on my success with those jeans yesterday, this morning I was brave enough to try on the Gator shirt that still had the tags attached. When I slipped on the Gator shirt this morning and it fit and looked great it I was so happy. I’ve definitely made a lot of progress since Labor Day when I started my diet. And my clothing options have expanded too! My next goal is to get into some jeans that are a size smaller than my current ones, but that will take some more work. For now I’ll be cheering on the Florida Gators in my favorite orange and blue apparel!