SCRR Spring Race Series – February 5k

Last Sunday, I joined the Steel City Road Runners for the first installment of their Spring Race Series. I’ve participated in several of these races in the past, in the summer and fall, with mixed results. The first couple were in the summer, and a few things really got to me: the heat, starting out too fast, and going into the race with unrealistic expectations. Fortunately the fall race went infinitely better.

Sunday was the Super Bowl, and Steel City decided to celebrate with a low-key 5k and tailgate food afterwards. Even though I had a 12 mile long run scheduled for Saturday, I decided to sign up. I told myself to just have a nice shakeout recovery run, instead of racing. However, the other voice in my head yelled “Ooooooh! A flat 5k! You should try to PR.”

I should back up a moment here and disclose the alarming yet awesome fact that I have yet to experience any significant soreness post-run this year. I’m officially six weeks into my training cycle for the 2013 Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon, which means my longest run so far has only been twelve miles. I’m aiming for a rather aggressive time goal – a full hour and thirteen minutes faster than my current marathon PR – so my training paces have increased over last year. I’m not walking during my runs anymore. I’m running my runs.

This is not to say I haven’t had some tough runs, because I have, but I’ve made it through them without wavering. I’ve shed some poundage, so I’m sure this has helped a bit, but my fitness level has greatly increased. This is definitely the fittest I’ve ever been in my whole life, which is an amazing feeling, but the pessimist in me is kind of waiting for the bottom to drop out on me.

Basically I’m saying that I’m not training the same as last year. I’m actually running less. I’m following a specific plan, which outlines that I must run three days a week. The other four days are flex days, which means I can do pretty much anything I want – including resting completely. Some days I’ve done this, other days I’ve doubled on yoga, spin and weights.

This combination has resulted in faster runs with less effort. THIS EXCITES ME. My SCRR coach has incorporated one long run per month being done at race pace, to help prepare for race day running. I’m worried about the longer race-pace runs, but I was able to do the last one, which was eight miles in the snow and slush, with no problem.

So, imagine my excitement when I woke up Sunday morning with no soreness from the prior day’s twelve miles. I decided I would run the race at whatever pace my body allowed, with the thought that if I felt good enough, I would run hard. Originally the race was going to take place on a rail-trail, but with all the snow Pittsburgh had gotten the day/night before, the course was now on paved, plowed, less-traveled roads. Yay!

I arrived early enough to sign in and help out with signing in other runners. At the beginning of the year, I became a “mentor,” which has mostly meant being a pace group leader for the Saturday morning long runs, and occasionally on mid-week runs when there is a large group. I try to help out in other ways with the club, because it’s really benefited me and I want to give back. It’s been pretty rewarding, being able to reliably pace groups while sharing my experience and knowledge.

Soon we were outside, standing around the starting line shivering, and, as always, I questioned my outfit choice. I always think I’m under-dressed, even though I know I heat up quickly. Without too much fanfare, I started my first 5k of the year with a group of around 35 runners.

Like usual, I started out too fast. But like, really really too fast. My first quarter mile was sub-8:00 pace. Oopsie! That wasn’t going to last. It felt good at the time, and it didn’t really seem that fast. I settled into a pace closer to nine minutes per mile and tried to focus on my breathing. I felt some tightness in my hips which seemed to loosen out by the end of the first mile. I looked down at my watch and observed that I had run that first mile in 8:49. Oh dear.

Mile two included a brief uphill to cross the river onto Washingtons Landing, which I knew was coming and had run in the past. Instead of slowing way down, I shortened my stride and powered up the hill around a 9:25 pace. There was a downhill onto the island, and as the folks in front of me slowed down, recovering from the hill, I let gravity assist me and sped up into sub-9:00 pace. I’m finding that this is getting a bit easier, which is awesome, because last year, I simply avoided hills.

I came back off the island, again powering up the hill and speeding down, and suddenly mile two was over in 9:08. Yay! This is when I knew that I could keep it up for another mile and earn a new PR.

It was like running in a snow globe.

It was like running in a snow globe.

My existing 5k PR was from October of 2011, on a hillier course, in Shadyside, before I had begun distance running. I recalled my average pace for this race had been 9:39/mile, so I knew all I had to do was keep under that pace for the next 1.1 miles. And keep under that I did – my last mile was 9:08. My friend Michael spotted me as I rounded the bend near the finish line and cheered me on.

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Since we all started at the same time, this was clock timed. According to my watch, I actually finished about 3 seconds sooner, but I will take this 1:36 improvement over my last 5k PR. I felt amazing! It was almost as though I had redeemed my former self.

Overall, I felt really good for the entire run, and not like I was overexerting myself too much. I ran hard and well. With the exception of the wind stinging my eyes with snowflakes, the weather was perfect. I left that morning feeling pride in my work, and positive that I could continue to improve as I keep training.

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My Abusive Relationship

So this morning was a bit historic, in my personal weight loss journey: I weighed in at 169.4 lbs. While this would horrify some, it thrills me. I’ve not seen the 160s since early 2007 – six years ago. For the past six years, I’ve weighed over 165 lbs. I do remember thinking that it was where my body just settled, at its own “happy” weight: no matter what I did, it would always bounce back to that number.

However, to stay under that “happy” weight, I was starving myself. And restricting food.  And exercising obsessively. Then binging, sometimes purging, and starting the whole process over again. I was obsessed with calories in vs. calories burned, not in the good way. I felt actual pride knowing that I hadn’t consumed food for days. It made me feel strong. I felt smugness towards others who “caved” and ate. Basically, I saw eating as a weakness.

Obviously, it’s not possible to maintain those sorts of habits – at least, it wasn’t for me. And I’m thankful for that, because I have no idea what sort of damage I was doing to my body. I was never very “good” at being consistent with whatever kind of disordered eating I was doing at the time. Who knows what kind of strain that was putting on my systems, the very systems that were keeping me alive, the systems that I purposely deprived of fuel.

I wanted a quick fix, and what faster way to lose weight than to simply remove “food in” part of the equation? To me, it was the only way to do it. Nothing else ever worked. In reality, I had never given anything a chance to work. If I hadn’t lost five pounds in a week, obviously it was impossible for me to lose weight at all, so I would give up. Never mind that I knew nothing about basic nutrition – it was all about calories and nothing else.

Over the years I drifted away from fasting and hit the total opposite end of the spectrum: overeating daily. So many poor choices in food, but I kept doing it. Along with it came debilitating depression – I was unable to do anything but go to work and overeat on the couch, alone, before going to sleep before 7pm. This introduced a new idea: which antidepressant could I get on to suppress my appetite? Even in my recovery attempts, I was still obsessed with food and how not to eat it.

This dynamic left me exhausted emotionally and physically. The way I felt about food and its direct relation to my body was literally all I could think about. When I walked to work, I was sure everyone was staring at me with pity and disgust. “Look how out of control she is,” I imagined people thinking. “She shouldn’t be out here.” I cringed every time I caught my reflection in a window. I hated sitting in an open area at work, or worse yet, in a meeting room, because how was I going to hide my stomach rolling over the waistband of my pants?

It took a long time for me to figure out that really, no one cared about my appearance. “No one is thinking about you – they’re thinking about themselves, just like you.” It also took me a long time to understand that I had to want something badly enough to make the sacrifices necessary to achieve what I wanted. I wasn’t going to reach my goal weight by eating Chipotle every night and then crying into my empty burrito bowl.

It took a therapist and the Couch to 5k program to help me understand how to fuel my body properly for what I wanted it to do. I learned how to recreate healthy versions of some of my favorite “bad” meals, and I began to look forward to being able to run for minutes at a time. My mood lifted, and I felt pride for reasons far better than starving myself. I was ready to end the cycle and stop abusing food.

My weight loss gradually ended after losing 20 pounds, when I began distance running. I felt justified in eating more than the average person, because I was running a lot of miles. However, I was still overeating, despite the mileage. My body makeup definitely changed, but I still had (have) a lot of fat to remove. After two years of the scale number bouncing between 175-185, and learning of a friend’s wild success on Weight Watchers, I decided to give it a try in August 2012.

As I’ve always done, I tried it out and was obsessed with it for a few weeks, then forgot about it. One of the big factors was the massive point values of some of my favorite healthy foods which seemed vital for running. Peanut butter, rice, oatmeal – all high in necessary carbohydrates, but also high in points. I hated to see that my daily points used were double my daily allotment. I decided I wouldn’t try to lose weight while marathon training – it would be impossible, I reasoned.

With my whole punch this year in the face goal, I’ve decided that I would try losing weight whilst training for the 2013 Pittsburgh marathon. Obviously it’s only three weeks into the new year, but I’ve been on plan (training & eating) the whole time. To see it working is so encouraging, and I’m going to stick with it. Unless I feel adverse effects on my training, I’ll be on plan until I reach my goal weight of 135-140 lbs. This time is going to pass anyway, and to be honest, I keep signing up for marathons. When else will I do this?

I did a lot of things wrong last year, and I want to do those things right this year. I want to have positive experiences, and I want to put the proper work in to ensure that the experiences will be positive. I want to line up on race day knowing that I did everything I possibly could to prepare myself for victory.

MY GOD THE TRIUMPH WILL BE GLORIOUS.

MY GOD THE TRIUMPH WILL BE GLORIOUS.

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2013 Races

I’ve updated my future races page… am I missing anything?? It’s going to be a bizzy, bizzy year. The races I’m most looking forward to are, in order:

  1. Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon – you know, for reasons like attempting a one hour, thirteen minute course PR. (last year’s recap here)
  2. Deckers Creek half marathon – because this was the best I have EVER felt running, ever. Read my 2012 recap here.
  3. Marine Corps Marathon – flat course, in the fall. Hopefully this will be my marathon PR.
  4. Rock ‘n’ Roll Pittsburgh Half Marathon – because I’m obsessed with this city and can’t wait to run through it again.
  5. Megatransect Challenge – a truly intimidating elevation profile, and 26+ miles to boot. A serious trail undertaking.

I’ve been participating in many group runs with my road runners club, Steel City Road Runners, and I’m finding it to be incredibly helpful. I kind of forget that I’m running mile after mile at a prescribed pace, because it feels more like a social occasion where I meet new friends and see new parts of the city every day. I will most likely try to join a pace group for the marathon in May, because that kind of camaraderie is exactly what this girl needs.

What is your favorite race, and why?

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2013, or the Year Lora Punches in the Face

So I got that handy-dandy “year in blogging” report that WordPress thoughtfully pulls together for everyone. Somehow it was less than stellar, since I only posted 28 times in 2012. 28 times? Damn, Africa, what happened? Remember the million times you said you’d post more and not totally suck as a blogger?

Anyway. I could make the same claim now, but I won’t, because what’s the point of setting myself up for failure? I will try to post more, but I won’t promise it. That’s too much pressure and too much disappointment when I don’t deliver the goods. One of my goals for this year is to stop setting myself up to fail.

I’m not sure that I like the word “resolution,” similar to how I no longer make myself “to do” lists. I feel that there’s too much of a negative connotation if I fail. Instead, I make goal lists. Sometimes it’s weekend goals (laundry, run, errands) and other times it’s long term, without a specified end date (fitness). I feel better about the list, it no longer stresses me out, and I feel okay if it takes me awhile to achieve everything listed.

Some of my goals for 2013:

  • Complete the Pittsburgh & Marine Corps marathons (primary); finish sub-five (secondary); finish close to 4:30 (tertiary)
  • Complete a number of trail races & hikes (primary); finish strong & run as much as possible (secondary)
  • Train hard and well for both marathons, incorporating strength & cross-training this cycle
  • Become the fittest I have ever been by trimming the extra fat & poundage (ideally 30-35 pounds, but we’ll see)
  • Write in a journal, just small things – record memories, because the one in my brain sucks
  • Record on paper the things that made this year amazing, as they happen, and place in a jar to be opened New Year’s Eve.

I’d also like to do the cliched things such as becoming more organized, but let’s be honest, working towards all those other things won’t make that easy. Still, 2013 will be the best year of my life so far, and I will work hard to ensure that this happens.

let's do this shit.

let’s do this shit.

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Dealing with Disappointment

Well, I’ve survived the first two out of my three fall marathons, and unfortunately that’s pretty much about all I can say about it. End post!

Actually, I can say a lot about it. Both races were extremely difficult, not enjoyable, and made me question ever running another marathon. They made me realize that I severely doubt myself and my abilities in distance running… and running in general.

Yes, I’m extremely disappointed in my performances, but what I realized is that I can’t justifiably feel that way. What I’m actually disappointed in is my lack of proper training. I realized that I just didn’t do the work required for the positive, successful marathon performance that I wanted and expected. How could I expect to run a faster time without doing the proper speed work, strength training, paced runs, etc? And why did I continue to fuel my body improperly (hay Chipotle), all the while expecting my performance would somehow better itself?

It’s hard to articulate just how dejected I feel. I have friends around me congratulating me for completing two marathons in two weeks, and they’re right – it’s pretty awesome. I have two more marathon medals to add to my collection. I just wish I felt better about the experiences that earned those medals.

I’ve said this before, but my next training cycle will be done properly. I will not skip runs because I just don’t feel like going. I will not skip strength training because I’m sore. I will not “reward” myself with crappy food BECAUSE I’M NOT A DOG and it will slow me down in the long run (no pun intended).

The answer is simple: do the work. I absolutely have to do the work. I want to enjoy running, and I think that the only way to make that happen is for it to become easier for me. The only way to make it easier on race day is to work harder during training. If I want to be faster, I have to train to be faster. It’s not going to just happen – I have to make it happen.

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The Only Bee in My Bonnet

I’ve been a little busy lately. My life is consumed with marathon training. And, simultaneously, hating marathon training.

I’ve got three full marathons this fall, and one half. By the time I finish my last race on November 11, I will have been training for 366 days without a break. I will have run two half marathons, five marathons, one ultramarathon, and a bevy of other distance races in 2012. Needless to say, I’m a bit burned out on the whole idea.

I plan to take off the remainder of November and December from training. When I say “off,” I mean not adhere to a strict running schedule. I’m sure I’ll still run, but when I do, it will be because I want to, not because my schedule demands it. I hope to spend that period of time working out in other ways and losing some weight, once and for all. Hopefully when I take up training again, I will have less to carry and be healthier overall.

I’m considering running the Lt. JC Stone 50k UltraMarathon again in March 2013, and most likely the Pittsburgh Marathon in May 2013. If I decide to run JC Stone, I think beginning my training in January will give me enough time to prepare (god willing and the creek don’t rise). That will put me right into Pittsburgh training, post-recovery.

I want to love running again, and I think the best way for me to do that is to take a break from the strictness I’ve imposed upon myself. I’d like to spend more time with friends, hanging out, and not worrying about having that extra glass of wine, because I won’t need to wake up at 4:30am for another 20 miler.

I’ve also just joined Weight Watchers, with which I’m completely obsessed. I was tired of half-assing things, and watching my points (calories) has really opened my eyes to why I’ve been gaining and losing the same 8-10 pounds for the past 14 months. Enough is enough, I’m ready to start enjoying my life, and I’m ready to make a permanent change. My hope is to be at my goal weight by my 30th birthday in March, which gives me just over seven months to lose approximately 30 pounds. I say approximately, because I’m not sure if that’s my goal. My muscle mass has changed dramatically with running, so I may be happy at a higher weight. It will all depend on how I look and feel.

Sorry for falling off the grid lately. I’m going to try to be better about blogging, friends. I promise.

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I’m Kind of a Big Deal.

As a distance runner, there may come a moment when you just aren’t impressed with yourself anymore. You forget that you’re an ultramarathoner. That marathon you ran last month, which was excruciating at the time, seems like it was easy now that you think about it. A ten, twelve, fourteen mile training run sounds like nothing. “Only” training for a half marathon? What a relief!

Remember when you first started running? I do. It was only sixteen months ago. I could barely survive running for sixty seconds at a time. One mile seemed an impossible pipe dream. How would I ever work up to 26.2 and check “marathon” off my bucket list? And then somehow I did it in a year and suddenly I’m sitting here all unimpressed.

How exactly does this happen? How do we discount the distance that seemed completely ludicrous just the other day? Maybe it’s a self-esteem issue. “If I can do it, anyone can.” While this statement is usually thrown around to encourage others, it’s actually pretty self-deprecating when you think about it. Why not you? Why can’t you be special? Looking at all you’ve done, why don’t you consider yourself to be amazing?

The answer is simple: you are amazing. Not everyone can do what you do. Not just the distance, but the discipline. I think the discipline is even harder than the distance. The planning, the social sacrifice, the loss of sleep – all of these things happen when training for distance running. After a period of time, it becomes habit. It’s an everyday, commonplace thing. It becomes your life. And somehow, it becomes less special.

I have to remind myself that there’s no such thing as “just” a four mile run. There aren’t any junk miles. My 5k PR isn’t slow. Waking up at 4am on summer weekends to get my run in before the sun becomes oppressive is serious dedication. Running five marathons in nine months is badass, and it doesn’t just happen. It’s something to be earned.

So you see, even though I have to remind myself of it, I’m kind of a big deal. And so are you.

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Farmer’s Market Saturdays – #013

After missing out on the second market of the season last week (just running a half marathon, LIKE A BOSS), I triumphantly returned this past Saturday. I was ready to stock up on more produce!

With my current marathon training plan, I will have to run on Saturdays. Since it’s summer and suffocatingly hot and humid, I’ve decided that I will need to do my Saturday runs first thing in the morning. It sucks getting up at 4am on the weekends and start running before sunrise, but I think it will be for the best because my body doesn’t seem to handle heat all that well. I was able to run my planned six miles, but I should have started earlier.

Needless to say, I was pretty beat by the time we hit the market. I decided that it would be mind over matter, chugged my coffee, and got ready to shop!

The Berry Patch had advertised on their Facebook page that they would have strawberries, and I was really eager to pick some up. I was worried that they would run out before I got there, even though we made it for the opening. I’m paranoid that way.

Brenda was also kind enough to let me try her new “oatmeal on the go”, which is oatmeal, chia seeds, yogurt, and red raspberries all mixed up in a jam jar.

It was the perfect treat for post-market relaxation (and post-run fuel). So cool and creamy. I’m not sure I’ve ever tried chia seeds before this, but they were a great way to sneak in some Omega-3s. I’m all about prepping food ahead of time so I can just grab & go, so I love this idea. Be sure to visit Brenda when you head to the market! She’s got tons of treats – pies, empanadas, oatmeal, blueberry lemonade – in addition to a bazillion jam/butter varieties and, of course, berries.

To my surprise, Sand Hill Berries had red raspberries out already. Thanks, mild winter!

I stocked up on some more (cute) carrots:

There were tons of beautiful flowers out again.

After I had spent all my cash, I came across fresh dill in pots. I will definitely be buying some next weekend – to me, the smell of fresh dill is hard to top. I need to research how to care for it, though. The extent of my herbal knowledge is restricted to basil and rosemary.

Speaking of rosemary, I need to buy some more of that too – can’t roast red potatoes without it! I also got tomatoes, zucchini, and yellow squash. It’s going to be roast-tastic.

I picked up a couple apricot-filled cookies from Steel Penny Cakes again, and one of them didn’t survive the ride home… again.

And now for the whole spread!

The rest of the day was spent cleaning and preparing my produce, eating some of it, cleaning the house, and other completely random tasks from a to-do list that was generated during an ADD attack. Another fabulous Saturday!

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12th Deckers Creek Trail Half Marathon

On Saturday, June 2, I participated in the 12th Deckers Creek Trail Half Marathon. The Deckers Creek trail runs about 19 miles in West Virginia, from Morgantown to Reedsville. This was a point-to-point race run beginning in Masontown and finishing in Morgantown.

I came across this race back before the Pittsburgh Marathon and after reading about the 800-foot elevation drop, I was in. I was more than ready to get a new half marathon PR, but I was especially ready to get my time under two and a half hours. This course seemed to be my best bet to make that happen.

WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

After my first half marathon, I bumped into one of my coworkers and his wife, Angela. Angela had finished the race a few minutes after I did, so we realized we had similar paces. Since then we’ve run a couple training runs together with the Steel City Road Runners Club, which I joined back in the fall of 2011. I immediately thought of her as a running partner for this race. We signed up after about ten seconds of discussion!

Unlike most races, I was really looking forward to running this one. Usually I’m a mix of anxiousness, dread, and I DON’T WANNA. The weather reports promised near-perfect conditions (for me): clear skies and a starting temperature of 55 degrees! Combine that with the downhill course and a running partner and I was on my way to a guaranteed PR.

I switched up my planned training pre-race: instead of running plus yoga on Wednesday and strength training on Thursday, I rested. So that meant three full days of rest before the race on Saturday morning. I wanted my legs to feel as fresh as possible.

After a later night than I had planned, Luke and I set off to Morgantown around 5:15am. There were two waves of runners: 8:30 and 8:45. Angela and I were scheduled to start at 8:45, which meant that we had to catch our bus to the starting line around 7:45. We were able to find a parking garage right next to the registration area. I immediately headed to the bathrooms, which is now race-day habit: when you see a bathroom, use it even if you don’t feel like you need it. You always will and you are always glad later.

I picked up my bib and packet and we met up with Angela, who arrived about 10 minutes after we did. Once we had all of our necessities, we decided to go back to my car to hang out before it was time to catch the bus. It was a really beautiful area near the finish line.

In addition to my training, I also switched up my pre-race nutrition: for dinner Friday, I had a bowl of brown rice, and for “breakfast” Saturday morning, I ate a blueberry Luna bar. I can never stand forcing myself to eat that early, especially pre-race because I actually have to fight my gag reflex. Nerves, I guess. I also brought along two sample-sized LÄRABARS in coconut cream pie to eat pre-race. I had one while we were sitting in the car and the other on the bus.

Ready to go!

We boarded our bus around 7:35 and headed up the mountain. The ride was just long enough to give us time to feel anxious – it was interesting, everyone around us said basically the same thing at the same time. Runner brains think alike!

Finally, we reached the starting area. Our mission was to find the porta-potty line, because I had read ahead of time that there would not be very many at the starting line. There was rumored to be one around mile 7, but I prefer not to stop during a race if I can help it. We never did see that porta-potty, so I’m glad we didn’t rely on it.

As soon as we got off the bus, though, I saw a coworker from an old job so we stopped to chat for awhile. Bill said that he had run this course before and it was a great run. Mostly shaded, all downhill, but asphalt for the last three miles or so. We wished him luck and got in the porta-potty line. They were in a shaded area and we were actually cold! This was great news for me – that meant the temperature wasn’t going to be unbearable.

We made our way to the starting line, about 1/4 mile down the trail. I was truly struck by the beauty around us – Deckers Creek to our right, stone & mountain to our left, and a canopy of lush green leaves over our heads. The surroundings gave me a feeling of excitement – like something amazing was going to happen.

Something amazing… like PRs, perhaps? LET’S GET IT.

There were no starting mats, so I started my watch as I crossed the starting line – not with the gun. Angela said there was about a 15 second lapse between the gun and our actual starting time. We didn’t want to line up too close to the front of the field because we were hoping for a sub-2:30 time – fast for us, not so much for others. We wanted to stay out of the way of the speedy folks.

We began running at a pretty good clip, keeping it right around 11:00. Even though we know better than to start a race fast, we were feeling so good that we decided to just go with it and increased our pace to sub-11:00. We could actually see the downhill grade of the trail, which meant we felt it even more. Our pace was faster than it would have been on a flat surface, but our effort was less. My favorite kind of running! I’ve been so trained to expect uphills that I was holding my breath as we rounded each bend in the trail. Fortunately, all that greeted us was more glorious downhill.

The miles actually flew past, and before we knew it we had already gone through two aid stations. We decided that our strategy was going to be run the whole race, with the exception of walking through the aid stations to drink & refuel. Barring any unscheduled stops for porta-potties, injuries, stretching, etc., we would need to maintain an average pace of 11:24/mile if we wanted to reach our goal of a sub-2:30 finish. Since we had started off pretty fast, we figured that if we had to slow down later, our speed for the first five miles would be beneficial to keeping our total time down.

Around mile 5, we saw a woman up ahead of us taking photos – yay! I was not expecting a race photographer. I love when that happens – I always have photos of the start and finish, but for races where the course doesn’t allow Luke or my support crew to catch me mid-race, I always struggle with the race recap. Things are way better with pictures. With that in mind, we cheesed things up.

Angela is like, really really cute.

WERKIN IT

Seriously, we actually had this much fun pretty much the entire time. Our smiles are not lies! The miles continued to blow past us. Around mile seven or so, Angela was starting to feel some pain in her hips. We had banked enough time to stop for some stretching, but fortunately she felt good enough to keep moving.

Soon we came upon the paved portion of the course, which meant less than 5k to go! Unfortunately, after having crushed limestone under our feet for the last 10 miles, we felt the pounding of the pavement immediately. This was also the portion of the course that was not covered in a canopy of trees, so the sun was beating down directly on us. Again, after ten shady miles, this was tough to get used to.

We had a road crossing just before mile 11, and I was ready to finish hard and strong. I increased my pace to sub-11:00 and slowly left Angela behind. I felt bad, but she told me to go on ahead if I felt strong enough, so I gave it a shot. I passed quite a few people in the last two miles, something I was not expecting. I was also vigilant of running the tangents of the trail – basically running the shortest distance as the trail curved. This way I wouldn’t be running extra distance that could negatively affect my finishing time.

I began seeing runners walking towards me, cooling down or returning home, which meant I was close to the finish line. Then I heard the cheers and bumped my pace even faster. I ran sub-10:20 for the last quarter of a mile.

I can see the clock and I’m about to burst with happiness…

2:40 minus the 15 minute delayed start time equals A NEW PR!!

Here comes Angela!

I was a little disappointed in my official time, because my watch time was more accurate (20 seconds faster) since there was no starting mat. Either way, dramatic new PR! 2:25:19.83. That’s eight minutes faster than my previous best half marathon time! Angela blew hers out of the water, too. I finished 490/563 overall, and 77/87 for my age group.

We wandered over to the food & post-race festivities, ready to relax and refuel. Everything was set up in an amphitheater looking out onto the Monongahela River. We grabbed pizza, Gatorade and water and finally sat down to rest.

My splits were pretty decent for this race – not consistently negative, but pretty good. You can see the miles where we slowed down at the aid stations.

We did it! We’re awesome and we know it.

I was hesitant to say it during the race, because I didn’t want to jinx anything, but this was truly the best I have EVER felt while running – racing or training. I felt strong, no major aches or pains, an amazing running partner, beautiful weather, no GI issues – this was simply a perfect run. For the first time in a long while, I felt incredible… invincible, even. It was an all-around amazing experience.

“And in that moment, I swear we were infinite.”

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Farmer’s Market Saturdays – #012

The last Saturday of May welcomed the return of the Ligonier Country Market! To say I’ve been looking forward to it since the fall closing day is not an exaggeration. I missed having my Saturday morning ritual: supporting local farmers, seeing vendors who have become friends, and just feeling good about the whole experience.

The day started early, because I like to scout the vendor booths before the opening bell sounds. That way I get a jump on coveted produce, because they sell out really quickly. I picked up my best friend Meghan and we prepared to to some damage!

We experienced a pretty mild winter in western Pennsylvania, so there was much more produce available than opening day of last year’s market. I was pleasantly surprised to find so much! I was prepared to ooh and ahh at the pretty flowers but ended up buying a lot of vegetables.

I picked up some carrots and beets from Fortiter Farm:

So far I’ve only juiced the carrots and beets, which was a first for me, and it turned out pretty tasty. I’ve read that juiced carrots and beets are really good for cleansing the liver, so I figure you can’t really lose. I’m also hoping to roast up some, if the heat ever breaks.

We stopped by to say hello to Brenda at The Berry Patch and of course, to pick up a raspberry pie. I originally thought I would take it to a picnic I was attending later in the day, then decided it was all mine, then decided I would probably overdose so I ended up taking it to the picnic. It was for the best, because the slice I had was ridiculously sinful. That pie would not have lived for long in my house. I also got some of Brenda’s blueberry lemonade, which is always a refreshing summer treat.

I snapped up a new basil plant, some asparagus, salmon, and an amazing apricot-filled cookie from Steel Penny Cakes. Their booth was set up right next to the vendor from whom I bought the asparagus, and I felt bad that our line was encroaching on their tent. I decided to buy a cookie to kind of make up for this… AND MY LIFE WAS FOREVER CHANGED. Seriously. I usually buy an apricot roll from the Pitaland booth, but I think Steel Penny Cakes wins out on the apricot deliciousness. That cookie didn’t survive the ride home.

DOESN’T THIS LOOK DELICIOUS? … oh.

Meghan found some beautiful daisies to brighten up her place:

Here’s the whole bounty I brought home!

It was a perfect opening day for the market (albeit a bit hot): there was cheer in the air and veggies all around. I’m so glad it’s market season again. Here’s to many more!

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