Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Making it Fun

A couple weeks ago I made a commitment to myself to do the things that make me happy instead of depending on others to make me happy. While I do think that others can contribute quite a bit to a person's happiness, I think it is really important to be able to be happy when that person is no longer around. I haven't made any big life changes but I have been making small changes to focus on myself a little more.

How does this apply to training (since this is a running/triathlon blog, after all)? I'm still working on it. My coach sends me my workouts for the week every Friday and I do my best to stick to that schedule. Sometimes I have to rearrange workouts because I have other things going on and sometimes I move workouts simply because I do not want to do that workout when the time rolls around. If I am in absolutely no mood to swim but want to go for a run instead, I will check my schedule for the rest of the week to make sure that I'll be able to do the swim on a different day, and if I can then I'll run instead.

I train for endurance events because I like it. Sure there are times when I don't want to get out of bed on a Saturday for a long run but in the end achieving my goal and putting in the work is enough to make me keep training for these races. I am not a paid athlete and have no real obligations to train for anything. Nobody else is making me do these races or the training that comes with them.

With that being said I think it is absolutely necessary to make sure you are enjoying your training. Not all workouts are going to be enjoyable but do whatever you can (within reason) to make that workout fun. Yesterday I had a 3200 yard swim on the schedule and the only pool I had access to is heated to 86 degrees. Not ideal for lap swimming to say the least. By the end of the workout I just wanted to be done. I debated skipping the last 600 yards but instead did some drills and butterfly. When I reached 3200 yards I didn't want to get out because I was enjoying myself too much.

I'm not really sure where I'm going with this post but let this be a reminder to find ways to make working out or training fun. It's easy to get stuck in a rut, both in life and training, and finding new ways to spice things up will surely make a difference.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

A Change in Attitude

After the Nike Women's Half Marathon I  was looking forward to a few days of not running. I had trained hard for the race and my body was really feeling the effects of training. By mile 11 of the race my hip was really hurting and the pain only got worse once I crossed the finish line. I knew that the pain was not equivalent to an injury though. I just needed to take a few days off to rest.

On the way to a 13 min PR!

For the rest of the weekend and the following week my twitter feed was full of all the incredible races everyone's been having. All I wanted to do was run. I knew I needed the week off so I resisted but all I could think about was lacing up my sneakers and hitting the pavement. With extra time on my hands, I started daydreaming about the NYC Marathon this fall. I was still riding the endorphin high and wanted to fast forward to August straight through triathlon season.

Despite every intention to spend the summer training for triathlons I wasn't loving the idea. I just wanted to run, run, run. Well something (thank god!) changed my mind over the last week. I'm not sure exactly what did it, but I suddenly went from wanting to sell my hardly used road bike to planning routes that would best get my ready for my planned races. I was checking the temperature of the local lakes to see if there was any chance they were warm enough to swim in without a wetsuit (they aren't).

The past two weeks of training were a struggle. I was not motivated and questioning whether I really even wanted to pursue this triathlon thing. I have noticed that I do better recovering and staying motivated if I take a few weeks off after a big race to recuperate mentally. I think this might explain why these 2 weeks have been less than stellar.

Either way, at this current moment I am SO excited to start training. I am ready for new challenges and pushing myself beyond what I think possible. I am also excited for all the new adventures that come along with a new training cycle.

Who else is training for a triathlon this summer? Are you as excited as I am?

Friday, May 17, 2013

Strong Is Beautiful

Growing up I was known as a swimmer. The first thing people asked about when they saw me was how swimming was going. I was proud of my accomplishments as a swimmer but was even more proud of the person I was because of swimming. When I had to quit swimming I felt lost, like I didn't know who I was anymore. I went from being the girl who woke up at 5am in high school to go to practice and the girl who could do more pushups than all the guys at my school, to being a regular teenager.

All of the things that gave me confidence were suddenly gone. Couple that with a surgery that left me unable to exercise for 4 months with the weight gain that goes with no working out for 4 months, and I was miserable. I felt like someone else. I felt trapped. I started running as a way to try to gain back some semblance of my old identity. I wanted to feel like myself again and running seemed to be the only option left.

For months I liked the idea of running more than actually running. I didn't know what I was doing and never saw any real progress. More importantly, I didn't feel like a runner. In my mind, to be a runner you needed to run something like 60 miles a week, have a BQ, actually know about running. Despite running four half marathons and one full marathon I still didn't feel like a runner. I felt like a poser probably because I was such a newbie, especially compared to the 10 years I swam for.

Over the winter I gained for weight than I would like to be carrying around. I spent months feeling like my confidence and ability was dictated by my weight. I had this idea in my mind that real runners were stick thin with hardly any body fat. Well that is not the body that I have. Even at my skinniest I am still not a stick. I remember at the starting line of the Nike Women's Half Marathon being surrounded by women who were super skinny. I felt like I didn't belong.

During the race was when it hit me how strong my body is. I spent 13.1 miles passing all of those girls who looked like "runners." When I crossed the finish line in a time that I had only dreamed about my mindset started to change. I started viewing my body as more of a way to achieve my goals rather than something that dictates how I feel about myself.

As part of my quest to find happiness, I started lifting again this week. As much as I love the endorphin high that running gives me, nothing compares to how good being strong feels. Not only will lifting help keep me injury free, but it will also improve my abilities as an athlete. More importantly, I want to feel strong again. Because strong is beautiful.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Finding Happiness

With how busy our lives are it's easy to fall into a routine, doing the same thing day after day, week after week, month after month. While having a routine can be great and bring with it familiarity and comfort, it can also lead to boredom and a loss of passion in your life. 2013 started out great for me, with trips to Florida & North Carolina, the start of a new training cycle, and just a fresh look on life. At the beginning of the year I was happy.

Once the semester started and work started piling up it became harder to find joy. I am a creature of habit and thrive off of control. I hate the unknown and not being able to control what will happen in the future. In order to fit in school, studying, my internship, training, my relationship and a social life I started planning everything. Down to what I would eat each day and when. I didn't leave any room for spontaneity.

I soon became aware of how miserable I truly was. I was treating myself like crap because I didn't think I deserved to be happy. I thought I was the reason when anything went wrong in my life. I blamed myself for fights, mistakes, you name it.

A few weeks ago I realized something needs to change. In the past few years I haven't gone after the things I love. I've given up hobbies and interests to please other people. I've let other people get in the way of my own happiness. What I've realized is that if you are happier as an individual, it will make you happier with other people. You can't expect to be a good girlfriend, sister, student, friend if you are not happy on your own.

So while yes, I do think it is important to try to find things that you enjoy doing with other people and doing the things that someone close to you wants to do even if you don't always want to, I think a key to being truly happy is to do what you love regardless of what others around you think.

Now that the semester is wrapping up and summer is upon us, I am taking the time to do the things that make me happy instead of waiting for someone else to make me happy. There have been far too many times when I've missed out on an opportunity because nobody else wanted to do it with me and so I bailed too. If you want to do something, do it.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Morning Workout Tips

Like most people, I struggle to get out of bed in the morning to go do a workout. I love the idea of getting my workout done before my day starts but in reality this doesn't happen too often. With summer and the warm temps that come with it right around the corner I thought it would be a good idea to address some of the ways I get myself out of bed when every fiber of my being would prefer to stay in that bed.

I would say the most important thing don't set your expectations too high when it comes to working out in the morning. At the beginning of the semester I had grand plans to get up and run before class every day. If I had the opportunity to run later in the day, even if running in the morning made the most sense, I would hit the snooze button. I love running in the evening so I'm always going to choose running then if I can.

I quickly realized that I had to be more realistic about working out in the morning. Initially I only did one morning workout a week and that was because the only time I could go to the pool was at 7:30 in the morning. Even having just one day of waking up earlier caused me to wake up a tad earlier every other day of the week too.

One of the ways I convince myself to workout in the morning is knowing that I get to sleep in other days of the week. I intern at Corrigan Sports on Monday & Wednesday, have class Tuesday & Thursday, and then Friday off. Since I already had to be up on the earlier side on Monday & Wednesday I found it was easier to set the alarm earlier on those days so I could enjoy sleeping in on the other days.

Lastly, don't be afraid to take a nap. Initially I thought if I took a nap it was negating the point of waking up early to get in a workout. If I was going to sleep in the afternoon I might as well just do the workout in the afternoon and sleep more in the morning. I found that on the days that I did my workout in the morning I had more energy throughout the day until I made it back to my apartment. And after a few weeks of getting up earlier I didn't even need that nap anymore because I was going to sleep earlier. It takes time for your body to regulate it's schedule so don't freak out if things seem out of whack at first.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Giving the 26.2 Distance Another Chance

I didn't make a big deal about it earlier, but on April 24 I handed an absurd amount of money over to New York Road Runners so I can run the 2013 New York City Marathon. I'm sure you know by now that the 2012 NYC Marathon was cancelled due to hurricane Sandy. I had already made the trek up to New York when I found out. Part of me was heartbroken while the other part of me was relieved. I had wanted to do this race long before I started running but I also wasn't adequately trained to run a marathon.

In the hours following the cancellation I debated whether or not to sign up for a different marathon. I hadn't put in as much training as I would have liked but I did build my way up to a 20 mile training run. I didn't want the training that I did do to be put to waste. I signed up for a marathon that was 30 minutes from my parents house and very low-key. The scenery wasn't ideal and I spent the entire day wishing I wasn't running a marathon.

After finishing the Harrisburg Marathon the last thing on my mind was running another marathon. I had always imagined myself running more than one but my first experience at the distance was so miserable that I couldn't bear to think about possibly doing another one.

Why, you might ask, did I sign up to run my second marathon a mere 12 months after my first marathon? The main reason is because I want to run the New York City Marathon. I love big cities, especially New York, and this has always been a dream of mine. I also have dreams of working up to the Ironman distance in triathlons and 2013 would be my last real chance to train for a marathon without it impacting triathlon training.

The last reason, which may be the most important one, is that I didn't train sufficiently for my first marathon in the slightest. I had no idea what I was doing and it showed on race day. I want to actually train for this race and then see how I feel about the marathon distance. I think the half marathon will always be my sweet spot but I want to give this 26.2 mile thing another chance. And after how well I did in the half marathon this spring I think I have the potential to take a big chunk of time off of my PR.

So on November 3 you can find me running the streets of New York City. I am terrified about running another marathon but I am also excited.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

What I Learned from Half Marathon #5

After my major goal races I like to spend some time to reflect on what I did right or wrong and what I learned from both the race and my training. These posts are primarily for myself so I can go back before my next race and be smarter next time, but they are also written with the hope that maybe they will help somebody else. As a somewhat new runner I love learning as much as I can from other runners. This post will consist of both tidbits from training and the race because I think both are equally as important.

1. The more I run the more I like running
When I first started training I was so scared of running 6 days a week. I quickly found out I loved running 6 days a week. Having only one day of not running made the day after my rest day feel like I was so rested. Running so often made my runs feel more like a necessary part of my day. My day wasn't over until I got my run in. When I dropped down to running 4-5 days a week I found I struggled more to get out the door.

2. It's okay to have a little fun during race weekend
When I got an invite from Nike to attend an Ellie Goulding concert the night before the race I'd spent the past 4 months training for I was torn. I wanted to go to that concert so badly but I wanted to have a great race even more. I knew the right thing to do was to spend the day resting. When I got an invite from Nike to meet Ellie Goulding after the concert I decided I didn't want to give up this opportunity. I spent the whole day Saturday wondering if I had made a really stupid decision that would cost me my race. In the end I think going to the concert was the mental distraction I needed.

3. Running with other people, especially during long runs, is invaluable
I do 99% of my training by myself and I'd say 90% of the time I'm okay with that. I've been finding myself getting more jealous when I see others running with their friends though. I did a few of my long runs with my dad riding alongside me and the time flew by. My class schedule didn't allow me to go to the group runs hosted by Charm City Run but I will definitely be taking advantage of them in the fall. Even a bad run with others isn't so bad. It sure beats a bad run by yourself.

4. The race isn't over until you cross the finish line
When the race ended up being much more crowded than I anticipated I almost gave up on my goal because I thought it would be too hard to recover from such a slow start. From the first mile up through mile 13 I thought there was no chance of running sub 1:50. With less then a half mile left I realized how close it would be. Crossing the finish line with no clue whether I had met my goal or not made it so much sweeter when I looked down and saw my time. I felt so silly for thinking it wasn't possible the entire race.

5. 16 weeks is a long time to train for one race
For the first month of training I was insanely motivated. I went out of my way to make sure that I didn't miss a run and was loving every minute of training. The end of February and the beginning of March were kind of rough for me. The weather sucked and school was making it much more difficult to fit in training. I have never trained for so long for one race so I was not sure how to stay motivated for 16 weeks. At the same time I think the longer training cycle really helped and took some of the pressure off of trying to cram for a race in only a few weeks.

Training since January

6. I have a lot to work on when it comes to confidence
I ruined quite a few runs because I psyched myself out. I've been working on becoming more confident with my running and in general but I still have a long way to go. We'll call this a work in progress.

7. Long runs are not so scary
Going along with the confidence thing, I had a lot of trouble with my long runs again this training cycle. Just calling it a "long run" was enough to stress me out, even if the distance was something I could handle easily. After a few mentally and physically challenging long runs I had one that showed me running long can be enjoyable. I was relaxed and didn't worry about my pace. I finished that run with the biggest endorphin high I've ever had as well as the most running confidence I've ever had.

8. There will always be people faster than you. Don't let them intimidate you or make you think 
you aren't good enough
This is also a confidence thing. At the start of the race I was surrounded by people who looked so much faster than me. They looked like real runners. I was supposed to be in a slower corral but moved up based on what I had trained for. So many girls tried to tell me to go back to the slower corral though. I actually considered it before I realized I deserved to be there just as much as they did. I worked my ass off in training.

9. Be over-prepared
This is pretty self-explanatory. I can be a little OCD at times and brought everything I could think of for this race. In the end, I never needed something that I didn't have. Packing success!

10. Training will never go completely as planned. Expect setbacks
A few times during training I got all dramatic and thought I ruined my race because I missed a workout or didn't hit the paces I was supposed to. In the end this made me work even harder. Regardless, training will never be perfect. Bad runs are just part of the program. Accept them and move on. More importantly, don't let them dictate how the rest of your training goes.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Getting Ready for Triathlon Season

I'm still having a hard time comprehending that the Nike Women's Half Marathon weekend is over already. Part of me wants to jump into training again but part of me just wants to relax. I'm listening to that part of me and enjoying sleeping in and being lazy. I do have some big goals for the rest of the year and if I want to have a shot at achieving them I need to let my body recover properly. I also think I mentally need the break. Finals are starting next week and the last thing I want to worry about is having a hard week of training.

So today is Thursday and I haven't run or exercised at all since the race. I thought about going for a quick shakeout run but chose sleeping instead. I'm not sure if I will get in anything this weekend since I will be working at the Frederick Running Festival and will likely be on my feet almost the whole weekend.

With summer right around the corner, I have been starting to look at which triathlons I want to do. I got a road bike for Christmas and am excited to train on that this year instead of my hybrid. I'm not 100% into the idea of triathlon training right now but I know that will change once I spend some time out on the roads in Pennsylvania. I don't live in the best area in Maryland so I do all of my rides on the trainer until I'm home for the summer.

I mentioned a couple months ago some of the races I was looking at and although I have yet to register for any I am still planning on doing those same races. I will most likely not do an early June triathlon because the ones I found are either too expensive for what I would want to pay for a sprint or are too hilly. I am not a very experienced biker at all and besides being terrible at riding hills I am also terrified of them. I want to have time to work on hills rather than scrambling for the first two weeks I'm home trying to ride every hill I find.

I will be adding in additional races as I discover them or if I just feel like racing, but as of now my triathlon schedule is as follows:

June 24- York YWCA Ladies Y-Tri Sprint Triathlon
August 3- Culpepper International Triathlon
August 25- Keystone State Triathlon

Out of these races Culpepper will be my goal race. Even though it is a little farther away than I was looking for, it looks to be a great race and fits my schedule perfectly. And the other two triathlons are much closer to my house. The first one is barely over two miles away! These races are also more for experience, since I am still such a tri newbie.

Last year I did two triathlons and had two very different experiences at both. My first triathlon was around 2 hours away, was an Olympic distance and was on the hottest day of the year. I ended up walking almost all of the run because it was so hot and I was definitely dehydrated. My second triathlon was 30 minutes from my house, was a sprint, and was a cool day with rain during most of the race. I also had some bike issues and lost close to 10 minutes trying to fix my bike.

I don't know that much about triathlons but I am hoping to make some serious improvements from both training and my racing from last year. Triathlon training will also slightly overlap with fall marathon training once again so that will likely affect my training towards the end of July and August.