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.