Monday, October 27, 2014

Race Recap: Dirty Damsels Trail 10k

On October 4th, Ingrid and I ran our first trail race. It was the Zooma Women's Dirty Damsel 10k at Rosaryville State Park in Upper Marlboro, MD.

We signed up for this race just about a month ago, after each of us had been on only a handful of trail runs in our lives. We figured it best to set a goal and have something to work towards. So we registered, dropped big bucks on new trail running shoes and created a short "training plan". We ran trails together every weekend and track during the week to keep in shape. After 4 weeks of training, it was time to race!

This race was all women and was much smaller than a road race, as I'm sure any trail race is. We ran on dirt roads at the beginning and end but spent at least the middle 5 miles on single-track through the woods. We learned that it can be hard to get a rhythm at first because people are still figuring out their speed and it can take some time, or be awkward, to pass people.

I went into this race thinking we were taking it easy - as Ingrid was getting a cold and I had had stomach issues the week before. But Ingrid's "easy" turned out to be hard for me. I was pushing to keep up with her for the majority of the race, especially on the longer hills. I really learned how different trail running is from road running. It's so much more about muscle size and strength. And that girl has bigger and stronger leg muscles than I do... damn her.

We sprinted to the end, crossing the finish line at the same time. After grabbing some food and lounging in the grass, we checked the scores to find that we'd tied for third place in our age group, finishing in 1:01:11. I was pleased with this time, given that one of the first things I had to drill in my head about trail running is that you can't compare your times to your times on the road.

We left feeling high and ready for more. Bring on the trails!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


So this isn't the most pleasant view of my face - looking straight up my nose and all. But let's look on the bright side. At the sky and the smile. Because this post is about confidence.

Tonight I went to the first showing of a movie that my friend helped produce and direct. It was filmed in Antarctica (#penguincounters) and it was awesome. This friend is probably the most successful person I know at his age. I was talking to his mom (also my BFF's mom) afterward about working hard and being driven by a passion for what you do. I am a total believer that hard work and passion are keys to success. But I also believe that another key is confidence. For me, that is the hardest part. 

Believing in yourself is everything. Not just believing that you are good at what you do. But having the confidence to take a risk, no matter how large or small, and knowing that everything will work out and come out better on the other end. Let's all believe in our abilities, in our awesomeness and in our ability to take a risk and succeed. It's something I'm working on a lot these days.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Trail Running

I have often considered taking up trail running but I've been scared of wandering the woods alone in DC. I get paranoid. My best friend Ingrid started running trails with her boyfriend and telling me how awesome it was. So over labor day weekend, I set out in the middle of the afternoon to explore some trails near me in Rock Creek Park.

The verdict: trail running is awesome!

It's the running version of hiking. It is constantly exciting and varied. It is also really hard. It requires serious leg muscle strength, aerobic capacity and good concentration. It is easier on the joints, as long as you're careful with your ankles, and it seems to use more muscles than road running. It makes you feel like a Tarzan.

I am still a little uneasy about running alone in the woods. But I've realized that much of Rock Creek is well traveled by many other runners and hikers, especially on weekend days. And I have plans to trail run and train with Ingrid. I'm excited about this new hobby and I'm hoping to keep up with it. It is so awesome to spend time in the woods, in the middle of the city, and I hope that a thirst for trails pushes me to pursue new adventures and explore new places.

Happy trails!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Inspiration: Happiness is the Key to Life

My husband Joshua is in a master's program for Web Design and Online Communications. He is learning a lot of fun stuff and I now have adobe suite at my disposal. I am hoping to take advantage of this and have him teach me more design skills that I can turn into pretty things and inspiration for this blog.

This quote is just funny. But it's about happiness and I like it. So go forth with your day, your week and your life and do everything you can to be happy when you grow up!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Project Breakfast: Basic Chia Pudding

Up until a few years ago, I didn't know a thing about chia seeds. Then I read born to run and have never forgotten the author's theory that "if you're stranded on a dessert island and can only bring one thing with you, you should bring chia seeds because, eventually, they'll make you strong enough to swim home".

Chia seeds are a so-called super food that are rich with omega 3 fatty acids, protein, carbohydrates, fiber, antioxidants and calcium. I have bought into this for several years and eat chia seeds almost every day - usually sprinkled on my breakfast but I can not report any noticeable effect, good or bad, of the little seeds. Last week, I took it a step further and tried a simple chia pudding for breakfast. I combined chia seeds with vanilla almond milk and let it sit overnight in the refrigerator. In the morning, I added dates and almond slices. This was a good, simple recipe for a basic chia pudding breakfast. I am going to continue experimenting by adding oats, yogurt or other berries.

Here is my beginner Chia Pudding recipe:

2/3 c. chia seeds
2 c. almond milk
1/4 c. dried fruit
2 tbsp nuts
1 tbsp. honey

Combine chia seeds and almond milk in a bowl and stir. Cover and store overnight in the fridge. in the morning, sprinkle with dried fruit and nuts and drizzle with honey. Enjoy!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Being a Tarzan

Since I read Born to Run over two years ago, I have been into this idea of "Being a Tarzan". I often talk to Josh about being a Tarzan and I decided it's time to share this idea with anyone who hasn't read the book so I went searching for the passage...

The Tarahumara aren't great runners... they're great athletes, and those two things are very different. Runners are assembly-line workers; they become good at one thing -- moving straight ahead at a steady speed -- and repeat that motion until overuse fritzes out the machinery. Athletes are Tarzans. Tarzan swims and wrestles and jumps and swings on vines. He's strong and explosive. You never know what Tarzan will do next, which is why he never gets hurt. 

Your body needs to be shocked to become resilient. Follow the same daily routine and your musculo-skeletal system quickly figures out how to adapt and go on autopilot. But surprise it with challenges -- leap over a creek, commando-crawl under a log, sprint till your lungs are bursting -- and scores of nerves and ancillary muscles are suddenly electrified into action.

In the wake of my disappointing second marathon, I am especially into this passage. I love running but I love so many other things. Marathon training has it's awesomess - it can give you such highs and make you feel accomplished like few other things can. But it can also make you feel like that assembly line worker and make you crave new and different challenges.

I'm not trying to say that runners are assembly line workers. I know most runners cross-train and know the importance of stimulating different muscle groups. But if you have one sport and you look at all other workouts as an obligation you must fulfill, I encourage you to look at things differently.

Think of yourself as a Tarzan and you might start to enjoy those other workouts. Every time you lift weights, do a pushup or a burpee, or practice yoga, think about how resilient your body could become and how many nerves and muscles you may electrify into action.

I'm on a mission to be strong and explosive - for my body to never know what it will do next. I'm still looking for those vines to swing on though...

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Vermont City Marathon Race Recap - The Second Time Around

Photos by Josh Bassett Photography

Over Memorial Day weekend, I ran my second marathon. It was a learning experience.

My training for this race wasn't the best. I spent two weeks being really sick and unable to run, missing a crucial long run. Then I picked mileage back up too quickly and dealt with nagging IT band and ankle pain throughout the rest of my training. I did very little speed work and focused on getting my long run mileage in. Which is funny because I set a goal to finish sub-4 hours, shaving 13 minutes off my time. Not the smartest...

In my heart, I never really believed I was ready to finish this race in under four hours. But I didn't want to doubt myself, so I held on tight to that goal. I started the race with Simon, my cousin Katy's boyfriend, with the four hour pace group. It was a hot day and, during the first mile, I had a feeling that we were running too fast. But I remembered an inspirational running quote "clear your mind of can't" and I pushed that feeling aside.

Simon and I stayed with the four hour group until mile 13, maintaining about an average 9:00 minute/mile pace. Simon was having knee pain and, not having fully trained, never planned to necessarily finish the full marathon. He finished the half and then stopped, cheering me on to keep pushing. I was pretty instantly certain that I couldn't hold the pace much longer. I spent the next two miles desperately working to keep up with the pace group but I was hurting - and it was too soon to be hurting. We got to the infamous Battery Hill, at mile 15, and I watched the pacers slowly move further away from me. Josh was standing on the hill and cheered, yelling that I could push it and catch up. But I was still 11 miles from the end of the race and I knew I couldn't.

The rest of the race was nasty. I slowed down so much. My aunt Joann, running the second half, caught me and passed me around mile 18. Usually, this would give me a kick of adrenaline but nothing was helping me run faster or find more energy at that point. I was running over 10 minute miles, slower than I'd run all but one mile in my first marathon. Around mile 21, we hopped onto the Burlington bike path. It is a "slight downhill to the finish" according to the VCM website and it was a spectacular, sunny day overlooking lake Champlain. But I was totally miserable. At mile 22ish, I decided to test walking to see if that would give my legs new life. I walked about five steps while drinking water and, the moment I resumed running, I knew I couldn't stop running again. It was so much harder to resume than to just keep pushing.

My legs felt like lead. My paces were slower than ever and there came a point when I wasn't even sure I'd PR. And then there came a point when I didn't even care. But eventually I got to that point, near the finish line, when you can hear the crowds and you know that you're so close to the end. I dug deep and picked up my pace just slightly. I crossed the finish line in 4:11:04, a PR of a little under two minutes.

Looking back, I am really glad that I set a PR, no matter how small. But I also think I'm really lucky that I did. I was not well-trained to finish a marathon in under 4 hours and I ran a purely stupid race. The last few miles, my pace was somewhere between 11 and 12 minutes/mile, much slower than I ever run, and upwards of three minutes/mile slower than I ran the first half of the race. That is called "positive splitting" and it is exactly the opposite of what you're supposed to do to run your fastest. I hit a wall too early, had a lot of lactate build up in my legs and slowed down significantly. I was disappointed for sure, but I knew that I had to take this race for what it was and learn from it.

The rest of the day was a fun celebration with my family, complete with lots of pizza, beer and frisbee games. It was a happy day and I acknowledged that finishing a marathon was a huge accomplishment, no matter what. But I don't plan to run another marathon for a while. I'd like to focus on fun, shorter runs and just have fun doing the things I love (running and so much more).

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Inspiration: Your Health is Wealth

On Sunday night, at dinner with my parents, we talked about how lucky we are to be in good health. This is an obvious statement but I think it's something that many of us, including myself, take for granted too often. Today, on the one year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings, we've been reminded how suddenly a person's life can change and how important it is not to take anything for granted.

I got a little bored on my treadmill tempo run this afternoon. I had chosen a machine right at the front of the gym so I could watch the rain pour down out the window - but I regretted not having a TV view or music in my ears. Then I remembered the news coverage I'd overheard in the locker room about victims of the bombing. About their prosthetic legs, the months they spent in surgery and the hard battle they're still fighting to recover. I realized how lucky I was to be pushing my body and sweating during my lunch hour.  Surely, there were too many people out there who would give anything to be in my shoes on that treadmill. So I changed my attitude and had a blast.

Today, and every day, let's be reminded to appreciate and embrace good health, if we're lucky enough to have it.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Until the next 26.2...

It's funny... I left off my Vermont City Marathon (VCM) recap with "Until the next 26.2..." and apparently I wasn't kidding. I left you hanging for eight months and here I am picking back up while training for the same marathon a second time.

The 2014 VCM isn't until Memorial Day weekend but the fact that I'm running it is an important piece of information as I pick back up with this blog. Training for it is a big part of my life and it will motivate much of what I do for my health and fitness over the next two months.

Since this is my second marathon, I felt confident in my ability to run it and was a little less committed to my training early on. I was also nervous about increasing mileage too quickly and getting injured. I had spent the fall and early winter focused on getting a new husband, walking around Europe together and then settling into life as a married couple, which didn't change much. Either way, running was not a high priority of mine last fall and I probably began marathon training with too few recent miles under my belt. I've dealt with nagging IT Band syndrome, ankle pain and was sidelined for a few weeks (one week completely off, three until I felt 100%) with a bad cold and cough.

These disruptions have motivated me to try and take very good care of my body for the next two months. And forever. I am working hard to incorporate effective strength training, stretching and cross-training exercises. I am also eating better, while still maintaining an "everything in moderation" motto.

I hope to share with you the ups and downs of training, as well as new exercises, activities and foods that I try. It's go time!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Back to Blogging

It's pretty weird to begin a blog post for the first time in eight months. Before I could type the first word, I had to look back at all the posts I've done since Bike America to see where we left off. Sadly, there weren't many.

A lot has happened since I last posted and since I last posted regularly. I am a married woman now. There are things I could try to catch you up on, most notably my wedding and honeymoon, the most perfect days of my life. In time, I may do some flashbacks but, for now, it's time to move forward.

I have found myself busier at work since I started a new job in August of 2012 than I was pre-Bike America and that, coupled with wedding planning, made for less time to spend blogging. Now that one of those things is through, I feel ready to reignite the passion that I once had for this blog. I would like to be more deliberate about the things I share, focusing on living a fit, healthy and happy life.

There will be lots of sweating. I hope you'll join me!