Monday, December 30, 2013

2013 Goals Recap

2013 is quickly coming to a close, which I'm both happy and sad about. 2013 was an awesome year for me on the running & triathlon side of things but I also went through a bad breakup and lost my dad. One good thing is that my dad was there for every single one of my high points throughout the year. It scares me moving forward but I wouldn't have achieved all that I did without his support and encouragement.

1. Sub 2:00 half marathon: Check!
2. Spend the day hiking in Patapsco State Park: Nope
3. Do at least one early morning workout a week: Close enough
4. Get INDS proposal passed: Check!
5. PR in the 5K: Check!
6. Train with higher mileage & hit a 50 mile week: Check & nope.
7. Run 1000 miles: Nope. Stupid knee injury
8. Sub 3:00 Olympic triathlon: Check!
9. 4.000 GPA: Grades haven't been posted yet but it's looking good!
10. Read 10 books: Working on book number 10 now.
11. PR in the marathon: Check!
12. Do a trail race: Nope
13. Complete the river ride alive: Check!

Some of my goals I achieved and some I missed the mark on. I would say I had a pretty darn good year overall. I find it hard to set goals for an entire year so some of them turned out not to be completely relevant. Stay tuned for goals and dreams for 2014!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Tips for Your First Hot Yoga Class

First off, I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday yesterday! I received quite a few questions about hot yoga so I thought it would be a good idea to do a post that covers what to expect in your first hot yoga class. Please let me know if I'm mistaken about something or if you have anything to add. I am not an expert, this is just based on my experience :)

What to expect: First, I want to say that every instructor and every studio is different. At the studio where I went class started off with in child's pose. After moving to a standing position the instructor asked us to set an intention for our practice that day and then we chanted three times. Then we moved into the flow for the majority of the class. Towards the end we did some more obscure poses as well as inversions and balancing poses. And of course savasana to close off class. [For all the newbies consists of laying on the floor on your back. You are supposed to relax and focus on your breath during this time. Often the lights are turned off and it is completely silent]. And of course, it is hot yoga so expect the room to be toasty. For bikram yoga the temperature is set to 105 degrees but for hot vinyasa yoga [which is what I went to] the room is around 95.

Do not underestimate the heat and take as many rest poses as is necessary. Don't be afraid to exit the room if it's too much, says Abby [physical therapy student and marathoner]

Acclimate by going to shorter hot classes first, hydrate well that day and during class, breathe, it's ok to rest, says Erin [ironman and yogi]

Don't be intimidated: There will be people of all experience levels in any given class. Yoga is a very personal practice and not meant to be a competition. That said, it can still be really intimidating to walk in your first day and see people with fancy mats, clad in Lululemon doing headstands. Everybody is a beginner at some point and most of the time people are so focused on their own practice that they don't even notice what you are doing. If offered, start with a beginner class and let the instructor know you are a beginner.

Suit up: Between the hot room and doing all those sun salutations you are sure to work up a sweat. Moisture wicking clothing is ideal so you stay cool and dry. One important thing is that you don't wear socks or shoes while doing yoga so footwear doesn't matter.

Girls: Most girls wear crops or tights and a fitted tank that's more tight than loose. You don't want a lot of extra fabric. While wearing something you feel confident in can only help your practice, there is no need to go out and buy anything crazy expensive, especially for your first class. Erin also advises wearing a headband to help keep the sweat out of your eyes.

Guys: I can't speak from experience here but the guys I saw in class wore basketball-type shorts with fitted shorts underneath and went shirtless. Any guys reading, feel free to jump in here!

Towel: I've said it before and I will say it again, you are going to sweat! A small hand towel is great to have to wipe your face or your hands off with. While I love a good sweat, I don't particularly like my face to be super sweaty. And when your hands are so sweaty that they are slipping on your mat it's time to dry them off.

Water bottle: You are definitely going to want a big bottle of water nearby! Swigging water is encouraged to stay hydrated. Don't worry about breaking pose to get a drink. There are no breaks in yoga so when you need some water just grab your bottle and drink up.

Mat [if you have one]: A mat is needed to practice yoga but don't fret if you don't have one! Most studios have mats you can borrow for free or rent for really cheap. Something I recently discovered is that there is more than one type of yoga mat. I have a traditional rubber mat that I really like. There is something called a towel mat that is made specifically for hot yoga that a lot of the more experienced yogis had. While my typical rubber mat worked fine for most of my hot classes, in one class that was particularly crowded I kept slipping and sliding all over the place. If you have a rubber mat you can either just use that or you can purchase a yoga towel to put over your mat to help prevent slipping.

Eats: If your class is first thing in the morning I would personally recommend skipping breakfast until after. If you want some calories in you choose something really light and if you need to eat a meal, try to eat it 2-3 hours beforehand.

Hydration: Unlike eating, I recommend drinking a good amount in the hours leading up to class. Because of the heated room you are going to be sweating a lot and the last thing you want is to be dehydrated and dizzy during class. Chugging a bunch of water immediately beforehand isn't recommended but rather drink to your thirst. If you've had a lot to drink, go to the bathroom before class so you don't have to disrupt class.

Arrive 15 minutes before class begins, especially if it's your first time. This will allow you to get your mat all set up and ask any questions you may have.

IN CLASS: Again, I've only been to one hot yoga studio so others may be different. I can't emphasize enough that each instructor has their own style so if you don't like your first class try another one with another instructor. Most instructors will do a mix of doing yoga with the students and walking around checking on everyone's form. Some only walk around. Something to be aware of is that the instructor will correct your form is you are doing something incorrectly. For example, I have trouble relaxing my shoulders so the instructor will frequently come over and press down just a little on my shoulders. If you are uncomfortable with being adjusted just let the instructor know but generally speaking it will not hurt and is very normal.

Eat: It's a good idea to eat within an hour of following class or sooner if you skipped breakfast. Try to eat a high protein meal to refill muscle stores. I've always heard that food tastes better after yoga class, so eat up!

Hydrate: Just like before and during, it's really important to drink following a hot yoga class so you stay hydrated and can keep coming back for more.

Any tips you want to add? Have you done hot yoga before? Do you want to try it?

Sunday, December 22, 2013

My Week of Hot Yoga

Last week I was lucky enough to attend a hot vinyasa yoga class with a friend of mine as part of the studio's bring a friend week. I ended up going to 5 classes throughout the week.When I arrived Monday morning I didn't know that it was a hot yoga class but figured what the heck and tried anyway. I've done yoga before but not like this. I normally go to the classes offered at the local YMCA over the summer which are primarily stretching based classes. I have taken a few vinyasa classes on campus so I knew a little of what I was getting myself into.

The studio was super cute and colorful which was a nice change from the YMCA. Within a few minutes of walking into the room I was already sweating and starting to get pretty nervous. Monday's class was the closest to cardio I've ever come in a yoga class. I was barely in one pose before moving to the next. The first 30ish minutes of the class were spent doing sun salutation variations, meaning on Tuesday my arms were completely dead. The class was far more challenging than I was anticipating but I actually really loved it.

As expected, my arms felt like bricks on Tuesday. I was a little nervous about going to Wednesday's class given how sore I still was but I wanted to take advantage of the free class. For maybe the first half my arms were pretty useless but somewhere along the way they stopped being sore. Wednesday's class wasn't as fast paced but still pretty quick. I was expecting to be sore on Thursday but surprisingly wasn't.

The rest of the classes went really well with not much to note so I thought I'd mention a few things I discovered during the week I spent 8 hours doing yoga.

Every instructor is different. I went to 6 classes and each class had a different instructor. While the layout of each class was the same so much was different. The speed of the flow, poses, inversions, and even the way they tell you what to do is different. While Monday's class was fairly fast for me, I found after taking some slower classes that I actually really liked the speed. By moving so quickly I didn't have any time to think. At the end of class I was shocked that for just about the entire 75 minutes all I thought about was that class and what I was doing.

I had trouble zoning out during savasana. Normally I am able to quiet my mind and end up in a sleep-like state. It could be that I have a lot on my mind given everything that's happened but I just couldn't get to that place. I did welcome the few minutes of complete silence though.

We don't unplug enough. I am constantly glued to my computer or my phone for one reason or another. Sometimes it's necessary (for school) but mostly I like to read articles and interact on social media. I'm not saying I'm going to give up technology but I do think there is some value in taking some time each day to be completely unplugged. Even running doesn't make me feel unplugged because I bring my phone with me for safety reasons. No matter how much I want to I cannot check my phone during the middle of yoga class. I feel disconnected but in a good way. Like I am taking the time to completely focus on myself with no distractions. It's actually a really good feeling. You should try it.

My triceps, shoulders and feet were the most sore. The few times I've done vinyasa yoga I was sore for 1-2 days afterwards and normally my legs are the most sore. After Monday's class my triceps and shoulders were on fire. Like my arms got tired carrying my textbooks tired. I knew I was out of shape, especially strength-wise but I was really surprised how sore I was. Something else I was not expecting was that my feet were getting sore/tired during some of the balancing poses. On Friday we did a sequence where we started in eagle, went into airplane and then into half moon. By the time we got to half moon my feet were burning. I guess this means I need to strengthen my feet more?

A cold eye towel during savasana is amazing. This was my first time experiencing this and I think it was because it was during a hot yoga class but as we were finishing our last poses the instructor placed a cold damp washcloth next to your mat. It was meant to be an eye towel but some people put it on their foreheads, neck or chest. I can't tell you how good it felt after being hot ans sweaty for 75 minutes.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Focusing on the Bigger Picture

After running New York I spent some time thinking about what I wanted to focus on in 2014. I knew I didn't want to run another fall marathon so I could turn all my attention to triathlons over the summer but my plans for the spring were up in the air. Initially I wanted to run a spring half and try to PR. When I started mapping things out I started to feel stressed. My knee was still bothering me but if I wanted to try to PR I would have to start building a base soon. Looking at everything I felt overwhelmed and that should have been my first sign not to do a spring half. I liked the idea of taking it easy in the spring and building a really solid base for triathlon training but I felt guilty about it. I'm not really sure why but I felt this pressure to run a spring half.

I haven't run in two and a half weeks and I am completely okay with that. I've been going to a hot vinyasa yoga class this week (post to come!) but that's about all I've been doing on the exercise front. Since I haven't run, I have no idea how my knee is doing. I haven't been foam rolling, stretching or doing my exercises so I probably haven't made too much progress. I am picking these things back up this week though.

I mentioned in my last post that I entered the lottery for the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler. Well I got in! I will be doing this race with my mom, my cousin, and his wife. Even though there isn't too much difference between running a half and a 10 miler I feel so much pressure lifted off of me having this as my main goal for the spring. I ran one 10 miler last spring and I definitely think I can PR but to be honest that isn't that important to me. Yes I like to race, and yes I'm going to run to the best of ability that day but I'm also going to be more relaxed with my training.

I just listened to an interview with Kara Goucher where she talked about being injured for so much of 2013. She says she was in such a hurry to get ready for the next race that she was training at a level her body wasn't ready for. This really clicked with me. I have some big goals for 2014 but I won't be able to achieve them if I don't let my body heal 100%. I don't like being injured but I need to think more long term.

For now I'm going to fill my weeks with fun cross training to enjoy the off season. I do want to start running again but I don't want to worry about not running fast enough or far enough. I'm going to do whatever I can now to get my body ready for what I want it to do come August and September. Right now the only running I want to do is trail running so that's what I'm going to do. I don't want to pay attention to anything other than how beautiful the snow covered trails are.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Change of Plans

I recently wrote a post about my plans for the spring. I was deciding between doing a spring half marathon or taking a longer off season and then jumping straight into triathlon training. That was before everything. Now I don't know what I'm doing.

I do know that I don't want to do a half marathon. Running races stress me out more than they should and more stress is the last thing I need. I also don't know how my knee is since I haven't run in two weeks. If I'm going to train for a race I want to be all in. I know I could beak my PR if I have a strong training cycle but right now I don't think my mind or body are ready for the kind of training I want to do.

As much as I want a new half PR, deciding not to do one in the spring has me feeling relieved. I want to enjoy training, which is why I'm going all in for triathlons in 2014. I don't know how to explain it but triathlons are more me. While I have running goals, the ones that get me truly excited are my triathlon goals.

I have a few races tentatively on my schedule that I will share when I know for sure which I'm doing. As of now the plan is to do a few shorter local road races to work on speed at the beginning of the year. My mom and I entered the lottery for the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler in April. I've heard incredible things about this race and my cousin and his wife will also be doing it. Fingers crossed we get in.

My big race for the spring will likely be the Columbia Triathlon. For the past two years I was too intimidated by rumors of how hard the course is to sign up, even though the race is only twenty minutes away. A few months ago I rode the bike course and loved it. It was not scary even in the slightest.

My dad was always my biggest cheerleader and never missed any of my races. We often talked about my goals and no matter how crazy they were he always believed that I could meet them. I don't want to jump back into racing and training before I'm ready but I don't want to sit out for too long either. I want to race for my dad and achieve all those crazy goals and dreams we talked about.

Thursday, December 12, 2013


2013 had a lot of ups and downs for me. While things in my personal life may have been less than stellar, I did have one heck of a year when it came to running [and triathlon]. I've been spending a lot of time recently reflecting on what went right for me this year and where I can improve. I thought it would be fun to participate in Miss Zippy's link up to do a quick recap of how things went this year.

Best race experience: The New York City Marathon. This was so much more than a race for me, and now after losing my dad it means even more. I have never been so miserable but still had so much fun in the same race. This was one of those races that makes you fall in love with your life. A close second was finishing second female at the Keystone State Sprint Triathlon. This is probably the race I am the most proud of. I really went for it and didn't hold back, and saw a glimpse of what I am capable of in the future.

Best run: My 18 mile long run. I ran some of it by myself but was accompanied by my dad on his bike for most of it. I ran at marathon goal pace and felt strong the entire way. Not only was it a run that I am incredibly proud of but it was the last long run I did with my dad. Even though he was biking, he was the perfect long run buddy. He knew how to motivate me when I was struggling in a way that no one else could. 

Best new piece of gear: It may not be running gear but hands down my road bike. I got it last November but didn't take it outside until this year. I was never a big fan of biking and frequently skipped rides until I got this bike. Biking is freeing and exhilarating in a way that running is not. I went from cursing every hill I had to climb to seeking out the hilliest rides I could find in my area. One of the things I'm most excited about for 2014 is spending more time riding.

Best piece of running advice you received: Whenever I would get nervous before races or before a hard workout my dad would always tell me something about relaxing, not thinking, and just doing what I trained to do. I tend to get in my own head and worry about silly things I can't control. Learning to turn my brain off and just race was hands down the best thing I learned this year.

Most inspirational runner: I'm going to have to go with the lovely Robyn Humphrey. Robyn is a super fast runner but more than that she has such a positive outlook on life that is contagious. Robyn is supportive of every runner no matter their speed and is the perfect run club leader.

If you could sum up your year in a couple of words, what would they be? Meaningful. I know I'm in a different frame of mind because of losing my dad but everything I did this past year means so much more to me now. Everything this year had a purpose, whether it was setting a new PR, pushing out of my comfort zone, or  running a race I had long dreamed of doing. Looking back, having my dad at every race cheering me on when I least expected it means the world to me. [Once he showed up in the middle of the woods during a trail race and completely scared the shit out of me]

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

I Love You, Dad

Sometimes life is unfair. In less than a minute your entire world can be flipped upside down, leaving you feeling lost and alone. When you least expect it everything you know will no longer make sense.

A little more than a week ago my dad died of a heart attack. He was perfectly healthy. He ran a 5K on Thanksgiving. He was completely fine, until his heart stopped beating.

December 1 I lost my best friend. My dad was my rock, my support system. He was my biggest cheerleader in everything I did.

Right now it's impossible to think of how I am supposed to move on with life. My dad was an incredibly optimistic person and I know he wouldn't want me moping around. I want to be happy and remember all the fun times we had. At the same time, I feel guilty for being happy and going about my daily life like somehow it means I loved him less.

Right now I feel confused and numb. I don't think it has quite set in yet. Every single time the door opens I expect him to walk in from doing yard work or taking the dog for a walk.

Saying goodbye is too hard so I'm not going to say goodbye. Everywhere I look I see signs of my dad. I don't know why this happened and there is nothing I can do to make it better.

I don't know what to say when people ask how I'm doing. I'm certainly not good but I want to channel some of my dad's optimism. Life is wonderful and should be cherished.

I don't really know what to say even now.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Making Plans for the Spring

Just like in life, running has its ups and downs. I've run five times since the NYC Marathon and each of them left me feeling completely different. My first two runs weren't great but I didn't have any knee pain. I think the not-so-great feeling was more because of running a marathon and then taking two weeks off of running. My third run was so great with absolutely no pain. After finishing this run I was sure my plans for spring races were going to work out and everything would be wonderful.

Then I was stupid and ran a 5K harder than I should of. While I did not go all out, I still ran harder than my injured body was ready for. I woke up on Friday and various muscles in both my legs were sore. Muscles that have never been sore before. I rarely get sore from running period so I knew when I woke up that I'd made a huge mistake the day before. I took Friday off and tried running again on Saturday. While my knee didn't hurt, it was a little stiff and just felt off.

So now I feel confused and lost again. I like being in control of things and knowing what's coming in the future. I don't want to sign up for any races until I know that my leg is ready for it and can handle the training. I don't want to just complete anything. I either want to be racing or not there at all. In the spirit of being completely honest and not hiding behind my fear that I won't be recovered in time to do want I want to in the spring, I figured I'd let you know where I stand with things and what my tentative plans are.

Option #1: The Philly Love Run on March 30. This is a half marathon that everybody and their mom is doing. My mom included. I would really like to put in some solid training and try to PR. In order to give myself enough time to actually put in that solid training I'm giving myself until the end of the year to recover and get my leg strong. I'm going to continue physical therapy and try easing up more on my running in hopes that by the start of 2014 I will be ready to get back to work. I don't want to rush things and risk re-injuring myself so if things aren't back to normal by the end of the year I have a plan b.

Option #2: Nothing. If by the start of 2014 my leg is not completely healed yet or is not ready for hard workouts than I will not be running a spring half marathon. I might do some shorter races here and there but nothing serious. I will take the first few months of the year to get back to 100% and start triathlon training a little early. Having a really strong triathlon season is my main priority for 2014 and jumping back into hard training before my leg is ready is not worth it.

I don't have any triathlons planned yet but I'm looking at doing one in May regardless of whether I run a spring half or not. If I run the half then the triathlon will be more to see where I'm at and measure progress at the end of the season. If I don't run a spring half then I will be making the triathlon more of a goal race.

To be completely honest I'm really torn whether I want to run a half in the spring or not. I do want to chase a new PR but I find the training for only running to be more stressful. If my knee flares up and I have to take time off the chances of setting a PR might go down the tubes. On the other hand, if my knee flares up and I'm focusing on a triathlon then I can just give more attention to my swimming and biking. Also, I like that not running a spring half means I have more time to get back to 100%.

Any suggestions? I keep going back and forth on what I want to do, regardless of my leg. 

What races are on your calendar for the spring?

Sunday, December 1, 2013

York YMCA Turkey Trot 5K 2013

This is the third year in a row I've run this race and the third time I've set a new 5K at this race. For the past two years it's been the only 5K I've run so it's only fitting.

Since I haven't done much running since the NYC Marathon and am still in physical therapy trying to get my knee/IT Band/hamstring healthy and happy this was more of a fun race than anything else. Except it wasn't all that fun. It turns out running a 5K when you're somewhat out of shape at a pace that you really have no business running it won't be a whole lot of fun. It also isn't fun to positive split the crap out of any race.

While I love doing this race each year, the actual running part has never been fun. Every memory of this race, including when I did it back in high school with my swim team, include being in a world of hurt and on the verge of throwing up from the second mile all the way to 10 minutes post race. Why I continue to think the next year will be more pleasant is beyond me.

The short version of this race is that I finished in 25:31 for a 10 second PR. Some other race highlights include dodging little kids for the entire damn race, running uphill for at least two of the three miles, the dog who "sang" along to the National Anthem, and running with knee pain. The first mile felt really freaking good and I had no idea I was running that fast. If I'd known I would have slowed way down to avoid the crash and burn of miles two and three. Each mile was progressively more painful and I think I wanted this race to be over more than I wanted to be done running the NYC Marathon at mile 17 when my knee pain was at an all time high.

Lesson of the day- the 5K is not the ideal race distance for me. To be honest, despite everything this race is really fun and I will continue to do it every year. I would like to really race a 5K sometime though just to see what kind of time I could put up.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

I'm Exactly Where I'm Meant To Be

This is something I've found myself saying over and over again throughout the past year or so. There have been so many things that I would never have gotten to experience or been a part of if I was still living in Pittsburgh. It's not something I talk about often but I started college at the University of Pittsburgh. While I loved the school and the city, I didn't belong there. I was miserable and made the decision to transfer schools. I ended up at UMBC by accident, and to be honest I don't really like it here either. My issues with this school are a whole other story but no matter how much I dislike UMBC, being in Maryland has provided me with countless opportunities that I would not have if I'd stayed in Pittsburgh.

Over the past two months I have been questioning whether I made the right decision to leave Pittsburgh. I've spent a lot of time thinking about the decisions I've made and the reasons behind those decisions. Whenever I start to regret moving to Maryland I remind myself of the countless times I told myself that I was where I was meant to be. For awhile when I would say this it was because I was given an incredible opportunity.

Last winter I applied to be a college ambassador for the Nike Women's Half Marathon in DC. Although Baltimore is not super close to DC, it is close enough that Nike wanted to include students from the area to promote the race. The weekend of the race I got an email from my contact at Nike offering me an opportunity to meet Ellie Goulding, who was also running the race. That weekend I also got to meet Shalane Flanagan and Join Benoit Samuelson just by being given access to the VIP tent before and after the race.

Recently I have been having a hard time understanding why I am supposed to be here, in this moment. I think society and the media tell us that when things get hard we need to change our situation as quickly as possible and that will make us feel better. While I do agree with changing things and not dwelling on a bad situation, I also think it is important to learn from every experience, good or bad. If there's anything I've learned at UMBC its that you can learn a lot more from bad situations than from good ones.

I'm learning that, as corny and common sense as it sounds, life is full of ups and downs, and as much as we don't want to be in pain, sometimes these painful situations make us better people. Sometimes its okay to be sad, angry, hurt. Lately I've been making a greater effort to look for the lesson in every experience. I try to take the attitude that if I can learn from it, it negates all the bad things. Truthfully, it's not an easy thing to do.

This can apply to both life and training. We all have bad workouts. Once I get over the initial frustration of missing prescribed tempo paces I try to look at what I could have done differently. What was the cause of that bad workout. I might not always have an answer but I'll gladly take what I can to do better next time. It's about trusting the journey and knowing that things will work out at some point. Trust that whatever you are going through, you are going through it for a reason and make the most of that.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Guess Who is Running Pain Free!

Since the New York City Marathon 3 weeks ago, I have ran 3 times. I ran twice at the track at school and once with the Lululemon run club. Although I've been able to run, my knee is still not back to 100%. I don't have any pain while running but there is still a little tightness when doing some of my physical therapy exercises and stretches. I have seen a lot of progress though, which is all that matters.

On Friday, my therapist and I discussed my injury in a little more detail as well as how to proceed in the future. I'm not a doctor so excuse my lack of technical terms and inevitable mistakes. We think the problem is that my hamstring is both tight and weak. I don't know if I pulled it or if it built upon itself but when the hamstring became messed up for a lack of a better term it put a lot of pressure on my IT band. My therapist explained that a lot of hamstring injuries manifest themselves as IT band issues. Then because my IT band become so tight, my quad was overcompensating and causing my knee cap to track out of alignment.

I know it sounds complicated but the human body is complicated. Because there was no specific injury it is hard to know exactly what is going on but this is how we're treating it. Right now I'm going to therapy twice a week but will be reducing it down to once a week after Thanksgiving if everything keeps continuing in the right direction. Most of what I do can also be done at home so I'm also doing my stretches and strengthening at home. Because I've been asked, we are working on stretching the hamstring and loosening up the IT band as well as strengthening the hamstring and the glute. My abductors are really weak so we are going at them aggressively. All of this strengthening and stretching is also helping my running form (my knees buckle in a lot when I run).

Right now I'm only supposed to run about three miles. I am going to therapy today and am going to hopefully find out when I can run more frequently and/or for a longer duration. My first run was okay but not perfect. Towards the end my knee started getting tight. My second run was mostly good except for one huge hill we ran down. It was my first time running outside in the dark and I actually loved it. I think being with a group helped. My third run, yesterday, was great. It was SO cold outside but I bundled up and braved the temps. I ran for thirty minutes with no pain or discomfort!

Fingers crossed things keep heading in the right direction!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Butternut Squash Fall Salad

I made this salad earlier in the week and absolutely loved it. The apple and pomegranate seeds really offset the warmth and fall flavors of the squash and lentils. After being asked about this recipe a few times I decided to go ahead and share it. Let me know what you think!


1/2 cup cooked lentils (I used a precooked package from Wegmans)
1/2 Granny Smith apple (chopped)
1/4 cup Pomegranate seeds
1 cup butternut squash (I used a precut container from Wegmans)
Parsley as desired
Cracked pepper as desired
Lemon juice as desired
2-3 handfuls of spinach


1. Toss butternut squash with olive oil and cracked pepper
2. Bake butternut squash at 400 degrees until soft (about 30 min)
3. While squash is baking, prepare other ingredients
4. Toss all ingredients in a large bowl & mix
5. Enjoy

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Embracing the Off-Season

After two weeks of doing next to nothing I am starting to get a little restless. Since the marathon all I've done is physical therapy and the occasional swim. From January through November I was training for something with no more than a week break. While I didn't feel burned out at all while training for the marathon, my lack of desire to do anything since it means I needed this break.

Because I am someone who loves having a schedule to follow, the idea of an off-season is not completely thrilling to me. I find it really hard to actually head out for a run unless it's on my calendar. At the same time, I realize the importance of taking some time off from hard training for both my body and my mind. And to be honest, I don't really want to be in hard training right now. I am so sick of swimming and counting down the days left until Christmas break because it means my PE class will be over and I can finally take a break from the pool.
One of the delicious creations I made

The good (and bad) thing is that my knee is still not back to 100% yet. I have been going to physical therapy for a week and a half and have already seen a lot of improvement in both strength and flexibility. On Monday, I even ran for 8 whole minutes with no pain! I have been cleared to start running again but no more than three miles. I have no desire to really do any more than that right now anyway.

So what's my plan for the rest of the year? To not have one, of course! Except that's not entirely true. First and foremost I am going to continue physical therapy until my knee is as good as it can be. I am going to take running one day at a time but hopefully get back to being able to run somewhat regularly. I haven't entirely decided what I want to do in the spring yet but it likely will involve running and I want to have a decent base before jumping into back into training.

Aside from running I want to get back into strength training. I want my muscles to be strong and healthy when I decide to start training again and now is the time to do it. I typically just wing it in the weight room and wander about with no direction. As fun as this sometimes is, I think the way to make the most out of doing strength training is to have a plan. I don't have a plan yet so if you know of any good strength plans send them my way!

I am completely swamped with school work for the next four weeks so working out will not be my priority. I actually like that my off-season matches up with the end of the semester because then I have more time to study and prepare for finals.

PS. Tomorrow I'm going for my first post-marathon run. Wish me luck!

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Thrill of the Race

This past weekend something occurred to me that I probably already knew about myself, it just hadn't really hit home yet: I like to race. This statements has two meanings.

1. I like to do more races than less races
2. I like to compete

In 2012 I didn't do that many races and they were pretty spread out over the year. Although 2013 started out slowly, I did a lot of races (for me) between June and September. Racing more often taught me how to race and that a race is only a race. There will always be another one. I did five triathlons over the summer and I didn't really put any extra importance on any of them. I trained for the season, not for a specific race. This let me take more chances and race each race harder I think. If I went too hard on the bike and blew up on the run it was a lesson learned rather than ruining the single race I trained all summer for.

Triathlon #4 out of 5

This fall I was planning on doing less races simply because I needed to turn all my focus to the New York City Marathon. I needed to get in those long runs. As you all know, neither the races or the long runs really happened thanks to an annoying knee injury. But in the seven weeks between my last triathlon and the marathon I realized how important frequent racing is to my training. Racing lets me test my fitness and see what kinks need to be worked out before race day. It also keeps me on track and motivated. When planning my 2014 race schedule I'm already looking for extra races to do.

Not all race pictures can be this cute

I think the most important thing that racing more frequently taught me was I that I like actually racing, not just participating. This may not be something important to some people but it changes the way that I mentally go into a race. Even if you are chasing a certain time on the clock I still think that is different from competing against the people around you. For me it actually lets me ignore the time on the clock. I am able to just put my head down and go hard. This also means that I like triathlons better than running races.

First female out of the water

I am well aware that if I lived in a city or was doing bigger races I would not be finishing nearly so close to the top. But to be honest, I don't care. It isn't the fact that I can say I finished second female overall. It's not about bragging rights. I can't know this for sure but I really think I went faster at these races because I was racing. If there's a girl running me down you better believe I'm going to do everything possible to not let her beat me. For me it's all about the mental aspect of the race.

First female across the finish line

Along with doing more racing I am also planning my 2014 schedule to have more challenging opportunities to really race. This likely means it will be a mix of smaller and larger, and shorter and longer races. I like variety and I like a challenge. And for the people who have asked, no I do not know which races I am doing yet. I have a list that is all but finalized but I'm not committing to anything until I get my knee healthy and strong.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Marathon Will Change You

After I quit swimming 3 years ago, I became enamored with the idea of running a marathon. I loved how strong and dedicated runners seemed to be (and are!). More than just being a runner, I wanted to be a marathoner because I'd heard so many stories of how the marathon can change you.

I ran my first marathon a little more than a week ago and to be completely honest it was a huge letdown. I was supposed to run the New York City Marathon and when that got cancelled I should have just called it a season. Instead I ran a marathon that I didn't want to and had a pretty miserable first marathon experience. While I think the Harrisburg Marathon is great, it was not what I wanted in a race this important to me.

I remember waking up that morning and not even one part of me wanted to run a marathon. Not a great start. Now that some time has passed I have fonder memories of that day but for awhile afterwards I felt disappointed about the whole experience. I didn't feel proud to call myself a marathoner because in my mind I quit on that day. I gave up when things got tough and I was ashamed. I'd had this grand imagination of how that day would do down but I was ultimately just let down. And it was all my fault.

After having such a rough experience I really didn't want to run a marathon this year. The only reason that I did was because it was New York and even that was a hard decision to make. Going into training all I wanted was to have a better experience than last year. I wanted to prove to myself how much progress I had made and that last year's race didn't define me as an athlete.

When I got injured and all goals when out the window I almost pulled out. I was terrified of having another bad experience and I didn't think the beloved NYC Marathon deserved whatever negative things I would inevitably have to say. Because I had already payed I decided to run the race and make it as far as I could.

As you know I made it the whole 26.2 miles. I had absolutely no expectations for this race and I think because of that I finally had the life changing marathon experience I had so strongly wanted. During those miles in Brooklyn when I was high-fiving every little kid and dancing with every band, I had the most fun I've ever had during a race. And during those last few miles in and around Central Park I felt like the athlete I wanted to prove to myself that I was.

Somewhere over those 26.2 miles I found the strength I had been lacking over a rough past few months. My personal life has been a complete mess and leaving me question everything but for 4 hours and 35 minutes on November 3 none of that mattered. Actually from the minute I woke up until I went to bed my life was absolute perfection. I was reminded that everything I thought I wasn't, I am.

Running the NYC Marathon with 50,000+ other runners and over 2 million spectators reminded me how amazing life really is. New York is the city of dreams and it helped me remember mine. I never expected that a race could change me so much but it did. The New York City Marathon was the race that showed me that no matter how hard things may be I can always find the light and chase my dreams. They are worth it. I am worth it.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Marathon Recovery & a Knee Update

It's really hard to believe that it's already been a week since I ran the New York City Marathon. Despite having some really solid triathlons over the summer, this will go down as my favorite race thus far. I don't have any intentions of running it again next year but I know that I will run it again sometime. It's that amazing.

The number one question that people keep asking me is how my knee is doing. The answer is that I honestly don't know. It hurt pretty badly during the race and it hurt pretty badly after the race on Sunday. Monday and Tuesday my quads were really and sore and I had the typical trouble going down the stairs but nothing out of the ordinary. Since Tuesday my hips have gotten really tight but no actual knee pain.

One of my favorite signs from the NYC Marathon

Before the race I took 2-3 (I don't remember exact duration) weeks off running to try to light my knee heal as much as possible. I did a lot of swimming and biking to help stay in shape. While I do think that taking that time off helped, it certainly didn't fix everything. I made it to mile 9 before experiencing any pain at all, which is a lot farther than I was expecting. Although that gives me hope, running so many miles in pain did absolutely nothing to make my knee better.

I took this entire last week off of running and am taking this next week off too. I swam twice last week but kept it super easy with the intent of solely shaking out my legs. I will do the same thing this week before hopefully trying a little easy jogging next week, depending on what my physical therapist says.

Sporting my finisher jacket to class

Yup, I'm doing PT to try to take care of this once and for all. I've had similar knee issues in the past before I started running which means it is not as much of an injury as a biomechanical problem. Plus the rest and cross training for a few weeks didn't really do anything. I started PT on Friday and will be going twice a week for about a month to work on stretching and strengthening my leg.

After doing some strength tests it looks like the issue is a combination of a super tight IT Band which is causing my quad to do more work which is putting a lot of extra stress on my knee. My exterior rotation was by far the weakest, which doesn't really mean much to me but it's nice to know what is actually wrong.

Because shopping is the best marathon recovery

From all my years of swimming and dealing with shoulder injuries I know which pain is okay to swim through and which you should stop for. I also know what exercises to do to keep my shoulders happy and healthy. I have no idea about anything with my legs. I think it is really important to know your body's strengths and weaknesses, especially for when you get in the weight room. I'm hoping that going to PT will help me get a better understanding of my body and how to deal with similar issues should they arise in the future.

I also got a massage on Saturday which really helped. It was a deep tissue massage but it was not a sports specific massage. My lower back, ankles, and of course my legs were feeling the aftermath of the marathon the most and it felt really good to have them worked on. This week I will be hopping on the foam roller to keep loosening things up.

So not a ton to report in the way of progress but at least I'm heading in the right direction. I have some really big goals for 2014 that I can't chase if I'm not healthy.

Friday, November 8, 2013

NYCM: Opening Ceremony & Expo

About a week before marathon weekend I found out that a spot was open to represent the United States in the marathon opening ceremony. Although I knew absolutely nothing about the opening ceremony at the time I gladly took the spot.

To rewind a little, my dad and I arrived in New York around 12:30. My uncle lives on the upper west side and he was letting us crash at his apartment for the weekend so after arriving at Penn Station he headed to his place. We unpacked before wandering down to Columbus Circle for the opening ceremony. Along the way we stopped for lunch at this cute little restaurant that had smoked salmon & goat cheese pizza. Delicious!

Our walk was around 2 miles but it was really nice out so it was a really enjoyable walk. We made it to Columbus Circle around 4:30, with the opening ceremony starting at 5:30. We took in the sights for a little before parting ways so I could line up with the rest of the representatives from the United States. Although we were waiting for a pretty long time it was really fun. We met and talked to so many people from around the world who were just so excited to be there.

Each country was announced and walked in one by one right in front of the finish line. By the time the US made it to the finish line area the energy was outrageous. Everyone was on their feet dancing and jamming. After each country was called in, the pros were announced. I ended up getting high fives from Meb, Amy Hastings and last year's winners. Even though they were all racing on Sunday they were up for a little dancing and picture taking with runners. It was so cool seeing them there as it made them seem so much more real and normal.

I left the event beyond ready to run this race. I love when there is so much energy that it gets you pumped up for the rest of the weekend. After the opening ceremony my dad and I walked back up to the apartment, stopping for dinner along the way. It's no secret that I love New York and this is why. I love walking and exploring my surroundings.

Saturday morning a family friend picked us up and drove us over to the Javits Center for packet pickup. When we got there around 9:30 I was able to just walk right in but when we left the line was out the door and down the street. There was plenty of security and they were checking everyone's bag before entering.

Luckily it didn't take long before I picked up my bib and shirt. We walked around and explored the expo for a little but didn't want to stay for too long since the race was the next day. I only ended up getting two Sparkly Soul headbands. There was a jacket I really wanted but they were all sold out.

After the expo we spent the rest of the day relaxing, with a picnic in Central Park and a delicious pasta dinner. Before I knew it it was time for bed. I was so grateful we gained an extra hour of sleep but still went to bed around 9:30. Up next, 26.2 from Staten Island back to Central Park!