Friday, March 30, 2012

Foodie Penpal: March

It is my favorite time of the month, FOODIE PENPAL time! You may recall in February when I introduced you to the Foodie Penpal program, well it is another month and another package!  I don't know about you, but there is something very special about getting something in the mail that was carefully packaged and addressed to you!
Long gone are the days of people picking up a pen and putting it to paper to send letters, so when the rare occasion arises that I receive a package addressed to me, I get very giddy inside! :)  So what is not to love about the Foodie Penpal goodness and getting a package!
This month's package was sent from Racheal of Running With Racheal. I can relate to Racheal's blog with all her great posts on running and prepping for races, plus she has some great pictures of delicious food. I have to be careful what time of day I read her posts, they always make me a tad bit hungry!

Racheal put together a great package of goodies that I have never tried, which I love!

I spy a food-goodie stalker! 

I wasn't sure I would like these but the sweet and spicy flavor is a great combo! 

YUM, can't wait to pour this over some yogurt!

How cute are these custom Thank You cards!

Fall can be tasted all year and I can't wait to bake some homemade bread and spread this over several slices!

Something Kansas is known for! This will be used right away! (Oh, do I see a full marathon medal in the background...that is weird, I wonder how that got there...)

Thank you Racheal for an amazing package of goodies! This was such a fun package to open. 

If you are interested in joining the Foodie Penpal Program, hop over to The Lean Green Bean to get more information. 
To see what I send my March Foodie Penpal, check out: The Life for Less

The Lean Green Bean

Monday, March 26, 2012

10 tips for completing your first marathon

Well, it has been a over a week since the big day. I am slowly coming out of my post-marathon depression and I have started walking normal again. While training for a marathon is no easy task, there is something about consuming yourself so deeply in something and having it all end in success. It is bittersweet and leaves you wanting more!
I learned so much while training and learned that there are a TON of resources and people out there ready to help anyone that wants to take on training for a marathon. It is amazing to see another runner's face light up when you tell them you are training for your first marathon. They start to rattle off about their first experience and begin to list of their tips for completing. The running community is truly a community that wants to spread the love and the marathon community is always eager to bring in new people. So as a newly inducted member of the marathon community, here are my personal tips for training for your first marathon.
  1. Find a reason-You will need motivation. This is not an easy thing to do and there will be many times that you want to quit. MANY. You will need a reason that is big enough to always bring you back to your training. When work days get long, when life gets in the way, when injuries creep in, when doubt rears its ugly will need to go to that reason time and time again.  Whether your reason be linked to fundraising or a cause that is close to you, or if your reason is that this will be the one thing that you will do for yourself and no one else, find out what that reason is early and remember it.
  2. Listen to your body-There is no perfect training plan for getting ready for a marathon. You can google training plans and find hundreds of them, but those training plans should only be a framework that build into something that works for you. It is impossible for a training plan that you download online to take into consideration your current running base, your fitness level, your strength, your injuries, your schedule, your nutrition, etc. If you listen to your body, it will tell you what is working and what is not. If long runs every weekend are leaving you injured and depleted, maybe you need to switch to interval and strength training.  Your body will tell you what works best. Don't force it to do a training plan that you worked for someone else and don't give up if your body tells you what you are currently doing is not working.
  3. Clean up your diet- Every fitness/running coach I have ever met has told me the same thing, You can't out train your diet. Meaning, don't expect to eat that double cheeseburger, french fries, and large soda and then go run 20 miles the next day. Do some people do it? Absolutely.  But why put your body under more stress then it needs. Running a long distance or pushing yourself through a hard workout takes a lot of energy and you should be using that training time to push yourself as hard as you can. Give your body a break by giving it the fuel it needs to perform at its best.  If you are putting clean, nutritious food in your body, it will thank you by doing what you ask it to you and quite simply, your body will amaze you when you least expect it. (oh, and yes, this may mean skipping out on a happy hour or two...hey, I didn't say this was easy, right?!)
  4. Don't do this alone-I mentioned earlier that the running community is hungry to get you in and running with them! Whether it be joining a running group, getting advice from a trainer, getting consultation for your shoes, or just telling your friends and family what you are doing, getting other people involved will help tremendously! Some advice will stick with you through your entire training plan and others will not, but talking to people about what you are doing and getting their input may make the difference between finishing and not finishing. Why run in bad shoes if there is someone willing to give you free advice on shoes? Why take that 20 mile run alone when you can do it with a group that often has volunteers to provide you water and food? There are so many resources, many of them completely free, that you should take advantage of.
  5. Plan for roadblocks- There will come a time in your training where things don't go the way they should. You may get sick, work may send you out of town, you get injured or life just gets in the way.You have to anticipate this will happen because if/when it does, it will totally throw your training plan off and you will head right to the Internet to search for a race later in the year. While you should honor any serious injury or event that throws your a curve ball, if it is not serious, don't let it derail you. Take the time you need to deal with it, don't fret about losing a few days of training and start all over again when you are ready. Everyone will have roadblocks, it is how you deal with them that determines the finishers. 
  6. Find your zone-You know that feeling where you know you need to go work out, but the couch and TV are just calling your name? Well, that pretty much happens to me every day! But then I start to think about getting into my zone I immediately want to throw on my shoes and get there immediately. Your zone may be a long run outside or hitting the weight room at the gym. My zone was speed training on the treadmill. I have never really liked treadmill workouts, but once I got comfortable doing speed intervals, I found myself loving it. I love putting in my headphones, turning up the music and doing a workout of 8x400 sprints. I love seeing how fast I can push myself and love the side pain I get when I am done. That is when I am in my zone and that is the feeling that gets me in my workout clothes each day. 
  7. Get good gear- One of the great things about running is that you don't need much. Running shouldn't be an expensive hobby, but having the right gear can set apart a good run from a run gone bad. Let's not talk about shoes here because there is big debate about whether shoes are even needed, but I suggest getting a few quick dry tech shirts, a good pair of running pants/shorts that will carry you through long runs and will sit just right, and a hydration belt or camel pak. When you run for prolonged periods of time, the smallest quirk in your clothes will cause you the most irritation.  Avoid cotton and avoid trying to look like you just stepped out of the latest fitness magazine. (Comfort > Appearance!) Be prepared for your clothes to be soaked with sweat and smelling like you just put in some serious hours of work!
  8. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate- I was fortunate to not have trained during the summer when the temperature is high, but I learned the hard way that you still need to hydrate in cold weather. Your body is going to lose a lot of liquid and you have to be very aware of your efforts to replenish it. Dehydration is dangerous and could leave you really sick. If you are thirsty, you have waited too long. You should be carrying a water bottle with you at all times, even during the week when you are not training. Stay away from sugary beverages because water is your best friend during marathon training. Don't ever lose your best friend.
  9. Cross train- If all your do is run, you are only ever working the muscles that move you laterally and never strengthening the muscles that support you being upright for that amount of time.  You will quickly get injured if you are not focusing on getting stronger overall. Lift heavy things, spend some time on a yoga mat, go for swim, do something besides running and do it regularly. Come mile 22 when people are dropping like flies, you will still be running because you put in that extra time to cross train. Trust me, your body will thank you before, during and after your race.
  10. Laugh at yourself- If you take yourself too seriously, this may be the most torturous thing you have ever done. You will screw up, I promise. There will be mistakes and moments of shear embarrassment, but the best thing is that the world goes on and you wake up the next day to start all over again. You will carry on to the next milestone and if you can laugh at the ups and downs on the way, I guarantee that this experience will be one you actually enjoy and remember for the rest of your life. 

Have you ever trained for an endurance event? What are your tips?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Rock’n’Roll National Marathon Recap

Oh..I’ve been waiting for a very long time to write this post. And when I say a long time…I mean years! As you know, I am not much of a runner and have actually spent most of my life really hating running and never thinking it was something I could do. So years ago when the idea of running a marathon entered my mind, it was a bit crazy and far from reality. I am a person that likes to set goals and work really hard to achieve them, but a marathon was a bit different for me. It wasn’t something I could study really hard for or work extra hours, it was something that required that I take myself out of my comfort zone and do something that only I was responsible for achieving. While there was much studying that went on and quite a few extra hours of work that went into training, it took determination and good ole’ sweat to reach this goal.
This time last year I was struggling to finish a 5k, but with some planning and focus on overall physical health, I slowly upped my miles.  From  5k, to a 10k and then to running 2 half marathons, the path was getting clearer. After my amazing PR during the Annapolis Half I knew the full marathon was within reach.  The Annapolis Half was in November and the next full marathon in the DC area was the Rock’n’Roll National Marathon. I was warned that training for a marathon during the winter could be really hard, but I didn’t want to lose the momentum I had built up and decided to go for it.
You can read about my training journey through these posts:
So overall, I would say I got serious in my training beginning in January. So 10 weeks later, here I am ….at the starting line of my first marathon.

The race did not start until 8 am, so I was fortunate to have plenty of time in the morning to get some breakfast and spend some time on the foam roller.  I hopped in my car around 6:15 am and drove to my friend’s house where it was easy to park and take the metro into RFK Stadium.  The metro opened early, but I think all 20,000 of us runners got the metro at the same time! How many runners can you fit in a metro car?? Apparently hundreds! It was a snug ride! I arrived at RFK Stadium by 7:00 am and checked in with my TNT team. They had a few motivational words, but after that we were on our own. I didn’t have a bag to check, so I sat in the grass and tried to take in the moment.  It was great to see all the different faces that were getting ready to embark on the same race as me, but the longer I sat there, the more nervous I was getting. The butterflies were certainly making themselves known in my tummy so I decided it was time to make my way to the corrals.  All the waiting was making my nerves run high, so I tried to stretch and talk to the people around me and before I knew it, the national anthem was being sung and the first corral was let loose. They did a really good job of spacing out the corrals and leaving about 3 minutes between releases. So my group didn’t actually make it up to the starting line until around 8:15.
I decided not to listen to any music for the first few miles. I wanted to hear all the lives music that makes Rock’n’Roll races so legendary, so I got my headphones ready just in case, had a brief moment of panic that I was wearing the wrong shoes and tightened and re-tightened my hydration belt and waited for the starting gun. There was a guy standing right by me as a spectator with a sign that read  only 26.2 miles to go....” Ugh..oh boy. That was the moment when I thought to myself, what did I get myself into!
Finally, our corral was released and I was off!  The crowd stayed pretty thick as we made our way down to East Capitol Street. I looked down at my garmin and I was clocking a 8:50 pace. WAY too fast for me. So I tried to slow down but kept finding myself trying to stay with the crowd and speeding up. I think this went on for about the first three miles. 

I saw this friendly and welcoming face at mile 1. What a great way to start the race. I am confident that this was the best sign I saw all day! J

We ran by Union Station and made our way past the Washington Monument and up 14th street. By that time, the crowd started to thin out a little bit and I was able to find a comfortable 10:00 min/mile pace.
The crowds were great and music was even better! I remember thinking to myself that this is actually going to be fun!  Before I knew it, we were running into DuPont Circle and the crowds got to be really heavy! There were so many people and it was so loud and crazy! I loved every minute of it. I even saw a few familiar faces among the large group of people.

The biggest incline of the race was right after mile 6, so I was mentally prepared for it and told myself to slow down and not exert too much energy, but before I knew it the hill was over and we were on flat land. It was really nothing to write home about….just a little bitty hill.
So onwards and upwards! The miles started to tick by, the crowds were still heavy and I was feeling great. It really felt like my legs were on cruise control and they were just going to go until I stopped them.  I was conscious to stop at every water stop and Gatorade stop. The weather could not have been more perfect. It was a sunny 70 degree day, I really could not have asked for better weather.
As we neared the 13 mile marker, the half marathoners spilt off and the full marathoners kept going. There were a lot of half marathoners! So once they were gone, it was wide open space for me.  I was so lucky to run into my friend Beth and her husband Jason at mile 13.1 not only because I love seeing people I know in the crowds, but because she had food for me! I was HUNGRY! In my past long runs, I really didn’t have an appetite for food while I was running but this run was different, I needed food! Luckily she was prepared with the perfect fuel and filled replacement water bottles for me to speed off for the remaining 13.1 miles.
The second half was much quieter than the first half. The streets were not as fan-filled and the music was spread out a bit farther. So I strapped in my headphones and put on some of my favorite tunes. Nothing like good music to get me going!  The miles were passing and I was still feeling great! No aches or pains,  my legs just kept cruising!

Around mile 19, I found Beth and Jason again (aka “the best marathon fans ever”), got another snack and as I was leaving, she yelled “see you at the finish line!”  It was hearing her say those words that made me realize that I was actually going to do this! Just 7 more miles to go!
Up until this point I had stayed pretty close to the 4:25 pacer group but they pulled ahead of me after mile 19 and I just tried to keep them in my line of sight. I didn’t take any walking breaks but would slow down if my legs got tired and would pick up my speed when they felt ready. Around mile 22, I felt what some would call “hitting your wall”.  My legs felt heavy, I saw people dropped out like flies, and the sun felt like it was baking me.
But I kept my legs moving, dug down deep and found the strength and motivation to just keep moving.  One of my TNT coaches was waiting for me at mile 25 and was so full of energy and excitement that I couldn’t help but feel that same energy. He kept saying..”you are going to do this, you are there!!”  And he was right, after running a few minutes with him, I rounded a corner and saw RFK stadium, the finish line. While it still far away, the end was in sight.
The last stretch of road was long, quiet and hot. I wanted so hard to run fast. I pushed and pushed and tried to get my pace under 10:00. I reached for every ounce of energy I still had and used every bit of it. I thought of all the things that got me to mile 25 and all the people that supported me along the way. I thought of the people that couldn’t be there but would have been cheering me on anyways.  The mile marker 26 sign was in full view and so were the crowds. People were cheering loudly…I saw my TNT team and got high-fives from them all. 
And there it was…the finish line. They called my name out on the loud speaker and I couldn't help but laugh and cry at the same time. I was finished! I actually completed a full marathon! It was an emotional moment for me. So much work and determination had lead up to the moment and for about 4.5 hours, I was able to forget about everything else in my life and focus on me and my running. It was the best feeling in the world and the runner’s high was certainly there. I took a second to collect myself, was given my finishers medal and quickly finished two bottles of water.
There was a medic from the John Hopkins Medical team that walked over to me and for a second I thought he was going to tell me I didn’t really finish 26.2 miles and was going to ask for the medal back, but he came over to ask how I could be smiling so big after running 26.2 miles. He said he had treated a lot of sick and sad looking people today and was so surprised to see someone smiling so big.  So he let me keep my medal and congratulated me.  Whew!

Wow..what an amazing feeling. There is really nothing like it. Despite the length of this post, I don’t think I will ever be able to describe what Saturday meant to me. There are so many levels of accomplishment and triumph that finishing that race brought to me. It was so much more than just running 26.2 miles, it was actually starting something, training for it, and despite the injuries, life distractions, and sense of doubt, I still did it.  Me..the person that hates running!
I am still in awe of what happened and while I know I can never recreate the feeling of completing my first marathon, I am eager to start training for my next race and accomplish whatever life puts in front of me next.  The marathon was such a big part of my life for the past few months, so I am a bit sad it is all over and I don’t have an event sitting in the horizon, but I now walk a little bit taller knowing I am part of the small percentage of people that have ever completed a marathon.
Oh, and I have to share with you my post race indulgant treat....Capitan Crunch Milk Shake...yes, it does exist and it is heaven in a glass...esp. after running 26.2 miles.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Race Day Preparation

Hard to believe that race day is only 3 days away. It has been awhile since my last post so I thought I would catch you up on how my training has been going!
The peak of my training happened the weekend of Feb 25th. I ran 20 miles! I feel as though I am still recovering from that run, it was certainly tough! While it was tough, it felt great! I even sprinted the 20th mile.

I always learn a lot about myself on long runs, but this one taught me a lot about myself and a lot about distance running. For example, it was a COLD, 30 degree day and for the first 3 miles, it was snowing and extremely windy. I had layered up, but still felt pretty cold for most of my run. Well, being cold doesn't necessarily mean that your body is not sweating and needing hydration. When I completed all 20 miles, I went back to my car and you would have thought I jumped in a pool and swam around in my clothes. I was dripping with sweat! Gross..I know. I had 3 layers of clothes on and each layer could have been rung out and still be wet. Even my "water proof" jacket was heavy with sweat.  Ok..I think you get the picture, but I was so surprised at how much I was sweating yet I was still so cold. Unfortunately, since I was so cold, I didn't feel the need to drink my cold beverages as much as I should have and felt the effects of dehydration soon after my run. While I did my best to finish off a Gatorade, I was feeling sick all weekend and couldn't stomach much of anything.  So, lesson learned! Drink regularly! Even if you are not thirsty!

So finishing 20 miles was an amazing accomplishment for me and I am still talking about it weeks later! But the real challenge lies in the run that will take place this Saturday! Marathon day!

How am I preparing?
Well...believe it or not, no real plan in place for race day prep. After the 20 mile run, I had some aches and pains that required me to take it easy for a few days but after that, I have done a few interval run workouts, yoga sessions and Crossfit WODs. I am trying to keep the workouts light and do just enough to get my body moving and stretched. I am also trying really hard to get 8 hours of sleep in a night. I could certainly do more but 8 hours is the goal!
Food is something else I have been focusing on. I might have finished off a small pint of ice cream last weekend, but I enjoyed every bite of it and I am sure my body is storing it away for mile 24! :)  I have been focusing on eating clean and snacking on nutritious goodies throughout the day.
Eggs for breakfast every morning. (Egg cupcakes change things up a bit)
Work day snacks

The daily green smoothie. This one had a banana, spinach, frozen blueberries, coconut milk, a tablespoon of coconut oil and tablespoon of flax seed.

yummm..look at all those healthy fats!

And here is what race day fuel will be! Real fruit, water, Gatorade, and fruit puree. I prefer these over gels. They go down easier and don't have lots of processed ingredients. And they just taste better!
 So activity, rest, and food cover the major elements of race day preparation, but of the many pieces of advice I receive from those that have been there and done that has been that most of this race will be a mental game. My training has gone well and my body is ready to do what I will it to do, but it is my mind that may be putting up a fight. Come mile 20, when the bands are not playing and the crowds thin out, my brain is going to tell me I have done enough and should probably just call it a day and hop on the finish line shuttle. (yes, there will be a finish line shuttle for those that want to quit mid-race) So what do you do when all the negativity enters your thinking and you start to rationalize quitting being the best option?
Well, I obviously don't have the answer to this question because I have not been in the situation to run 26.2, but here are some of the suggestions that I have received:
  • Envision the finish line. Close your eyes and see it coming closer with each step.
  • Imagine someone you have lost, some that is close to you or one of the cancer patients you met during the long runs is running besides you. They are running the last few miles with you and want you to finish.
Please comment and leave me other suggestions! I will need them!

Here is what the rest of my race day week of preparation looks like:
Tuesday: yoga
Wednesday: Crossfit WOD
Thursday: Bib pick up, expo shopping and light run
Friday: lots of foam rolling and stretching, a big steak dinner, +10 hours of sleep (hopefully!)
Saturday: RACE DAY! Race begins at 8 am

The weather on Saturday is suppose to be a high of 72 degrees! Perfect running weather. For those of you in DC, I will be wearing a purple TNT short sleeve shirt and bright green calve sleeves. Yell really loud if you see me! For those of you not in DC, I plan to update my facebook status when I stop for water breaks, so check out facebook to see where I am during the morning.  With this being my first marathon, I don't have an expected finish time, I just plan to go out, have a great time and cross the finish line. There will be live bands at all the mile markers and lots of people on the street to cheer on the runners! I am looking forward to a really fun experience!

Ready or not...the shoe laces will be tied and I will be at the starting line come Saturday.

26.2 miles or bust....!