Moving and Mayhem

Well, friends, we’ve made the big move! After what seems like years (but is actually about 4 months) of talking about it/planning for it/packing/selling/buying, AJ and I moved into our new house this past weekend. We moved about two hours away out of the sweltering Midlands of South Carolina (just outside of Columbia) to the Upstate and are now living in lovely, minimum-of-five-degrees-cooler, closer to the mountains, wonderful, magical, Greenville, SC!

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Tiny stolen picture of my new city!

Thanks to the help of our truly amazing family and friends, we managed to get all of our stuff up here and unloaded in one afternoon. That is not to say that we got it all unpacked, obviously, as it currently looks like a box factory exploded in our house. T-Rex Mom stayed with us for five days and was such a huge help in painting many rooms of the house – and by huge help, I mean she did most of it. I have been working some pretty crazy hours lately and she likes painting, so it has worked out well. We have a long way to go in terms of getting the house where we want it, and we’re in the process of updating pretty much every room except the kitchen (which was already basically my dream kitchen), but we are making good progress. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day, or so T-Rex Mom keeps reminding me. Side note – AJ and I watch a lot of HGTV and they make home improvement look really fun and easy. Home improvement is not particularly fun or easy, at least in my experience.

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The master at work! Yes, she is painting directly over the wall paper. Yes, it worked beautifully. No, I did not get my skin coloring from her.

I have absolutely loved running around my neighborhood so far. I can run for miles and miles and never have to run on a main street, just going from one neighborhood to another. It is definitely hillier up here, but it’s rolling and I’m enjoying it! It also doesn’t hurt that the weather is a lot cooler. I’ve seen some improvement in my heart rate and pace, so that is coming along slowly but surely! I am already so much more excited about running just because of the slightly better weather and the great running routes.

In addition to that whole moving thing, I’ve also taken the opportunity to add even more stress into my life, because of course I have. Barre3 is opening a studio in Greenville in August and word got down to my Columbia studio that they were looking for instructors. My instructors in Columbia knew I was moving up there and really encouraged me to consider going through the training and certification progress, and after talking with the Greenville studio owner, I decided to do it! Suffice to say the timing is not ideal, as the studio opens at the end of August and I have to go to training next weekend while trying to fit in practice and studying with long work hours and trying to get settled into a house, but it’s something I’m really excited about. I’ve never really taught anything before, and it is a huge step outside my comfort zone since I’m not terribly outgoing and I’m definitely not loud, but I think it will be a great way to meet people, spread the Barre3 gospel, and of course, earn a little extra money. I am definitely nervous about going through the certification process, and I hope I can find my “voice” before all is said and done. I just want to get other people as excited about Barre3 as I am, so whenever I get anxious and freak out over not being the perfect instructor, I try to keep that goal in mind.

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Not related to barre in any way, but one of my many Craigslist projects – this is the before picture

Yes, you could definitely say things have been hectic around here, but I couldn’t be happier with the changes we are making and the way things are working out. It took a bit longer to find a house than we were hoping, but I’m thrilled with the one we ended up getting. I’ll be sharing some before and after pictures as we make updates and changes, so stay tuned! Oh, and if you live in Greenville and want to be my friend, please let me know, because I know approximately two people and I am married to one of them.

LEAVE A COMMENT: When was the last time you moved? Are you obsessed with HGTV and then disappointed to find out home renovation is not as fun as they make it seem?

A Tough Decision and a Training Update

Every year, I sign up for at least one fall marathon, and every year, I want to stab myself come July when it is time for training to start and I remember that it is 91,000 damn degrees  and humid in central  South Carolina during the summer. But yet, I never learn my lesson. Here we are, it’s July, training has begun, and it is the worst.

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No, but seriously.

Before I go into an update on how my heart rate training is going, I have a kind of sucky and surprising announcement. I am not running the New York City Marathon this fall. After a lot of careful consideration, tantrums, bargaining, depression, and the occasional rage spiral, I have made the surprisingly adult decision to cancel my registration and defer to next year. The reason for this has nothing to do with training and everything to do with finances. See, NYC is an expensive marathon no matter how you slice it. AJ doesn’t often come to races with me, but he was born and raised in New Jersey and spent a lot of time in NYC growing up, so he really wants to go with me. Even if we stay with friends, there are a lot of costs and logistics that unfortunately make the race impractical this year. We are closing on our new house on Friday (!!) and we are trying hard to pay off some debt we accrued during the home selling process (hello, surprise new air conditioner) and make some improvements to our new house. As much as it sucks, it is the right thing to do, and I’m at peace with it. I know I would feel very guilty if I did it this year, so I would rather wait until next year when the timing is better and I can plan more carefully. I booked my trip to Dubai before I found out I got into NYC, and I’ve been saving like crazy for that but realistically won’t have a lot of money left over for NYC.  Oh well. As much as I try to avoid it, practical adult decisions are occasionally required.

However, I still really want Route 66 to be my 50th marathon this year (if I can come up with the money for a plane ticket out there). I’m at 48 marathons right now, so I need to squeeze in one more before then! Fortunately, there are a few fairly local races in late October/early November that will require very little, if any, travel expense, so I’m picking between those right now. You know what that means? That means training is on, baby.

After my enlightening first run with my heart rate monitor, I’ve been kind of addicted to the thing ever since. I have a love-hate relationship with the HRM. I love it because I know that I am doing a good thing for my body and that it hypothetically will help me to eventually run faster at a lower heart rate. I hate it because it makes me run so, so, so much slower than I am used to. Now, in theory, I don’t mind running slower. But to keep my effort level where it is supposed to be, we’re talking 12-13 minute miles right now, which is only possible for me to do if I alter my stride quite a bit.  Let’s be honest – it’s not like I’m some speed demon, it’s just not a natural running pace for me. There’s also the small issue of it being over 100 and humid pretty much every day here in central South Carolina, and there is very little shade. While running slower definitely does help with the overheating, it means I’m outside for a lot longer, which is basically torture.

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I seriously considered doing all my mileage on the lone quarter-mile stretch of shaded road because it is 102 and humid here in central SC and I just give up.

I will say that knowing that my effort level will be lower and that I won’t constantly feel like I’m going to die from exertion (heat yes, exertion no) means I’m a lot more upbeat about getting out and going for my training runs. It has also been nice to take the pressure off and not worry about pace, since I just have to do what my heart rate monitor says. Having read more and more about heart rate training and talking to people who have tried it, I know that it can take a really long time to see progress. As always, I like to trick myself into thinking I am a special snowflake and I will make progress in a quarter of the time it will take a normal person, but realistically, that’s not the case. SO, I’m mentally preparing for the long haul and I’m interested to see how marathon training goes. It’s not like I’m running any blazing times lately anyway.

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That awkward moment when not even the “Just Cry, Sad Songs” playlist is slow enough for your HRM pace.

One thing that I have found difficult about heart rate training is that I feel very awkward and embarrassed about running with people. I don’t want anyone to have to slow down for me, and it is a little weird to be running so much slower than I used to. I already used to run with people who were quite a bit faster than me so I had to speed up and they had to slow down for us to run together, but now it’s a whole different ball game. I’ve been a little anti-social with my running lately and I anticipate that it will stay that way unless anyone I know is just absolutely dying to go run for much longer than necessary in the blistering sun with me.

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One benefit of running with me is that sometimes I take slide breaks. Also, I wear colorful shoes.

While I have a felt a little pressure (from both myself and a general fear of missing out) to run faster, I’m determined to stick with HRM training. I’m proud to be trying something that could be really good for my body, and at the very least, give my heart and body a little break from so much physical stress. Perhaps a great fall marathon will be my reward!

LEAVE A COMMENT: Are you training for a fall or winter marathon? Which one?

Q & A with AJ : What my husband really thinks about my running

After seeing my friend Allie’s hilarious questions and answers post featuring her five year old twins and what they think about her running (and biking and swimming), I was inspired to ask my husband some questions. Now, I’m pretty sure I know what he thinks about my running (he thinks I’m nuts) but I was genuinely curious to know how much he had actually observed about the day-to-day details of my routine since he’s not the most observant person on the planet, bless his heart. I was pleased to find out that he understand considerably more about my running routine than a five year old, so that’s something. Italics are my own comments on his answers.

What do I eat before a run? Tacos.  Or healthy food, I guess. (I actually don’t usually eat before I run…but if I did, it would be tacos. Also, I do appreciate that he knows that I eat “healthy food” but I guarantee you he does not know what that healthy food consists of.)

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Someone please buy this for me immediately.

How far do I run every day? About 5 miles (Pretty close, although I don’t run every day).

What kind of running shoes do I wear? HOKAs, or as I like to call them, the grandma shoes. (Ok, but they’re like COOL grandma shoes.)

How many times a week do I go to barre or do a different workout than running? 5-6 times (Currently it leans towards 6-7…what can I say? I’m an addict. He wouldn’t know this because he is never awake when I leave the house, though.)

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Finally made it to the 100 class club at barre this week! Pic from my Instagram

What is my favorite race? Hatfield McCoy or Route 66 (Duh. Route 66 might have taken over just because I know and love so many people in Tulsa, but it’s close).

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It’s hard to compete with this one!

Why do you think I run? I think the short answer is to keep yourself sane. The long answer is it’s something you’re in complete control of and helps you settle your mind and also keeps your heart healthy. I think it’s evolved over time. (Bless his heart, he gives me so much more credit than I deserve.)

What injuries have I had from running? Can I just answer what injuries you haven’t had? Hip fracture, your back issues, various back issues, countless sunburns. (Ok, rude. First of all, I don’t think we can count back issues twice. Second, I’m not sure a sunburn counts as an injury. Third, he missed my tibia stress fracture. On second thought, I guess he has made his point.)

Do you like going to my races? That very much depends on the race, where it is,  if it’s football season, and if they give away free beer at the end. Your average race, no, but your average race is tough to spectate. (So basically, no, he does not like going to my races.)

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This is AJ’s actual marathon spectating face

Does my running make you want to run? Next question. (Ha!)

Let him say what he wants, but we both know the truth. The truth being that he doesn’t totally hate run-walking about 3 miles (and no more) once in awhile.

What have you learned from having a wife who runs? I’ve learned that the “I don’t have time” excuse isn’t valid for anyone who wants to run, and most people are amazed when you say you run marathons but half of them don’t even know how far it is. (Aww, how sweet! Also, we need a world wide race distance education program.)

 

LEAVE A COMMENT: Go ask your significant other, child, dog, or coworker all of these questions and then report back immediately. I found the answers so interesting!!

Well, That Escalated Slowly.

Last week, I decided to order a heart rate monitor. To be completely honest, I ordered it because I’m still trying to lose the stupid weight from last year and I wanted to make sure that my nutrition was realistic for the amount of activity I’m actually doing. While many food and fitness trackers like My Fitness Pal or Weight Watchers have algorithms to calculate the approximate number of calories burned during an activity based on your height and weight, they can be pretty inaccurate, especially if you’re in good shape and your heart rate doesn’t get as high. In that case, you would not burn as many calories during an activity as someone who is out of shape. So, I assumed that maybe I wasn’t able to lose the weight because I was burning fewer calories than the app was guessing and things just weren’t balancing out numbers-wise.

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I like precisely one salad.

I had no intention of using the HRM for training purposes; I just wanted to track my calorie burn. I couldn’t imagine that the information would be terribly fascinating. Imagine, then, the shock I received when I did my first “long run” (a whopping 10k, let’s not get too excited) since the Casper Marathon at what I thought was an easy pace. By easy pace, I mean the pace I do most of my runs at. My normal speed. Usually somewhere around 9:15 pace, give or take. Well, I kept checking my heart rate throughout the run and it was consistently between 185-189. Ummm… For those of you who know nothing about heart rates, that is really freaking high.  Depending on what measure you use (apparently, there are many), my max heart rate (the typical formula is 220 minus your age (29)) would be 191. That formula is notoriously flawed, but no matter how you slice it, a heart rate of 189 is not an easy effort. Now, I know my heart rate goes a LOT higher than that when I have trouble at races, but it’s not supposed to. And I also know that if you’re running at your max heart rate, that’s probably not an easy effort, even if you don’t feel like you’re dying, so I started looking into heart rate training.

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NOT IN ZONE – womp womp. At least my watch/HOKA combo is colorful?

I’m not going to explain everything about heart rate training here because honestly, my head was spinning while trying to absorb it all and I’m pretty sure I could not do it justice. So if you’re curious, here’s an article from Runner’s World that does a pretty good job of explaining it all. From all the resources I read, here were my three main takeways:

  1. I need to go a LOT slower. Like, probably 1-2 minutes per mile slower for easy efforts.
  2. I will eventually adapt and recover faster and be able to run faster at a lower heart rate.
  3. Training by heart rate can help prevent burnout and injury resulting from overtraining.

Maybe it’s just the fact that it’s summer and I’ll take any excuse I can get to run slower, but after the eye opening run over the weekend, I decided to test things out for an easy run yesterday. I calculated a ballpark figure to aim for with the following formula: (Max HR minus resting HR) x .70 + (Resting HR). For me, that comes out to about 151 beats per minute. Yikes!

I want to formally acknowledge, right here and now, that the speed at which my body can run with my heart rate at 151 beats per minute is roughly equivalent to how fast my grandmother can walk. I am not exaggerating. I felt like I was almost standing still. In order to keep moving at this pace, I had to put the saddest, slowest music ever on my Spotify playlist – think stuff like “My Heart Will Go On.” Seriously, my new running music is the same music you listen to when crying on the floor after a breakup. I had lots of time to ponder things on this little three mile jaunt, but mostly I thought about how exciting it was that my face would probably not be bright red when I got done running despite the fact that it was in the mid-90s and humid. It’s the little things, right?

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Didn’t quite hit my goal, but it’s progress, at least! #barelyinzone

Also, let the record show that heart rate training requires a lot of concentration, not unlike speedwork (except that the goal, at least in my case, is always to go slower). I was constantly looking down at my watch to make sure I wasn’t too high above the approved “zone”, although I’m going to be honest, this was more of a guideline for me. I just tried to keep my heart rate in the 150s because it was challenging enough to find a running pace that would allow that. I have no idea what my pace was for the loop, but if I had to guess, I’d say it was probably in the neighborhood of 11 minute miles. You know what’s not that great? Being out in the boiling summer sun for a second longer than necessary. I was right, though – no red face when I was done!

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Red face? No. Enthusiasm? Also no.

While I’m hoping for quick improvement, I know that this process will require some patience on my part. Many people see dramatic improvement in their speed and endurance, but it can take a couple of months. I did, however, have a lower heart rate during my barre class this morning, so perhaps I’m on the right track already. I am hoping that training this way will help me feel less burnt out and reduce my risk of injury, not to mention improve my heart health. Fall marathon training is right around the corner, and I’m determined to make this season a great one!

LEAVE A COMMENT: Have you ever tried heart rate training or thought about trying it? What did you think of it?

 

The Fair Weather Runner

Maybe you’ve noticed, or maybe you haven’t, but I have not written about running since the Casper Marathon. That’s for a good reason – I hadn’t run since the Casper Marathon, which took place on June 7th. In the good ol’ days (the 22 marathons a year days) I never took time off after a marathon. I didn’t feel like I “needed” to (although that’s probably not true) and I certainly didn’t want to. But, as you know, it’s no longer the good ol’ days, and things around here have changed.

I intended to take at least a full week off from running after the marathon this time. After all, training for NYC doesn’t start until mid-July, so there was no rush. I wanted to give my back ample time to heal from potential trauma from the race. Fortunately, I actually wasn’t sore in the days following the race and felt no worse for the wear. Given how much concrete we ran on during the marathon, I’m going to go ahead and attribute this to my HOKAs, because this would never have happened in my other shoes. Even though I was feeling good, I decided to still take time off for both my body and mind and intended to start back the following week. Well, as luck would have it, the temperatures shot up into the 100s (with humidity!) the following week, and if ever there is an excuse not to run, triple digit heat is it, my friends.

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Me from May – September

At this point it’s probably appropriate to mention that I sold my house on Friday and AJ and I are now currently living with his parents for a month while we wait to close on our new house. That’s relevant primarily because we’re living in a different town about 20 minutes away from our old one, and I have absolutely no concept of running routes in this area. So my 30 minute run was a lot of weird experimentation and just running back and forth up and down streets and trying to figure things out as best I could. It will certainly be interesting for the next month, but fortunately, I won’t have to do too many long runs here before we move. I’m hoping to join a running group in our new city to make marathon training a whole lot more fun. I’m kinda over the long-runs-by-myself-thing at this point.

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Last day as a homeowner! Rocket and I moved in there together over 6 years ago and now we’re on the way to bigger and better things (with AJ too, but he wasn’t there when I bought the house so he doesn’t get to be in the picture).

Yes, I’m a wimp when it comes to the heat. I’ll push through it if I’m training for something, but if I’m not? Sorry, I don’t like running enough to have a heat stroke over it just for a good time. So, I told myself I’d run when the temperatures went below 100…and as a result, the first time I ran was yesterday. Yup. My first run was 3 weeks after the marathon. Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t been slouching – I’ve gone to barre classes at my studio six days a week, ridden my bike a few times, and gone to the gym to get on the stairmaster. But I think any runner knows that the only thing that truly simulates running is running, so I expected the going to be fairly rough. Training doesn’t start for a couple more weeks, so I set out for an easy 30 minutes with my main goal simply being for my body not to break down or overheat.

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How does anyone take a normal looking “overhead” selfie? No, seriously. Look at the size of my head compared to my feet. For this and more excellent photographs, follow me on Instagram.

The run was actually an amazing success. I held a decent pace (or so I think), I never had to stop and walk from heat stroke or exhaustion, and I enjoyed being out there. It doesn’t get much better than that, does it? I’ll be building my base back up and then slowwwwlllyyy easing back into marathon training in the coming weeks. Pray for cooler weather.

LEAVE A COMMENT: Would you rather run in the heat or the cold? Do you have certain temperature thresholds where you head inside to run on the treadmill or won’t run at all?

Don’t Quit Your Day Job

If you follow me on Instagram or know me in real life, you have probably seen some of the very strange photos I’ve posted while at work, leading you to ask yourself, “What does she DO?” Well, take comfort in knowing that you are not alone in asking yourself that because I can virtually guarantee that my friends and family could not tell you either outside of something vague like “she goes outside a lot and writes a lot.” Both of those things are true, but today I thought I’d give you a little peek into the other side of my life – the side that actually takes up the vast majority of my time and has nothing to do with running except when I’m fleeing from mosquitoes. We’re going to talk about my job! I promise not to make it a snooze fest and can virtually guarantee that you’ll learn something by the end, deal? Deal.

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Not to worry, more unflattering pictures of me are on the way! This one was taken during field work in southeastern Georgia during a combination rain storm and mosquito swarm – basically my worst nightmare.

Ok, so first thing’s first: my actual job title is Environmental Specialist. Pretty useless in terms of information, right? My job is a combination of three things: environmental planning (the writing part), field science (the outside part), and GIS analysis (the mapmaking part). The background of my position is that the National Environmental Policy Act was passed in 1969 and requires federal agencies to take environmental impacts into consideration when they are making decisions and requires that the agencies look for alternatives that will minimize impacts to the environment. That basically means that your state can’t just decide to build a brand new road anywhere they want without first thinking about the best, least damaging place to build that road. In order to prove that they considered different options and that the new project won’t cause unjustified damage to the environment, they are required to write a document that provides the evidence. That’s where I come in!

I primarily work on transportation projects like road and airport improvements, but we also occasionally work for the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy. The environmental documents that I write for these projects cover everything from impacts to natural resources, such as wetlands, endangered species, wildlife, and rivers to human resources such as historical resources, neighborhoods, socioeconomic data, and more. Impacts to both the human environment and the natural environment are weighed across many categories to determine which alternative is the best choice. Depending on how involved the project is determines the size and scope of the document. It may take me a week to write a small document or three to five years working with a whole team to write a large one! If you’ve ever wondered why it takes so long to widen that highway near your house that’s backed up with traffic, now you know – the environmental process takes a very long time.

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Sometimes it takes longer because we have to walk across sketchy bridges like this

In order to get all of the information we need for the documents, a big part of the work involves going out to the physical project location and flagging out all the wetlands, looking for endangered species, and assessing aquatic resources. That’s where all of my crazy pictures come from! I didn’t know anything about wetland science when I first started working in this field. I had no idea I would ever end up outside. In fact, I was hired strictly as a GIS analyst (making maps on the computer) when I graduated college. Then, my bosses figured out that I’m a decent enough writer and after that, they learned that I’m not afraid of snakes and don’t complain much when I’m in pain, so they sent me out to the field and the rest is history. I’ve now become pretty decent at identifying the different plants and trees and looking for habitat, but I mostly play second fiddle to the guys who do this full time and make sure they don’t get bitten by anything and collapse while we’re out there. I genuinely enjoy going out to the field when it’s below 85 degrees. Above that, not so much, but my boss doesn’t seem to care about my temperature preferences because it was over 100 today at the airport we were flagging. Oh well, better luck next summer.

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The best part of my job is when I find new animal friends like Mr. Charles the turtle. The second best part is when I make my coworkers take reluctant selfies with me.

The documents are accompanied by tons of figures, charts, and graphics that help convey the data in a more interesting and understandable way. Interesting fact: the documents have to be written at an 8th grade level because the public needs to be able to read and understand them so that they can comment on projects that have the potential to affect them. I love that aspect of my job because I enjoy the challenge of taking extremely technical information and putting it into terms that are not only understandable to the average person, but also interesting to read. In order to do that, we include a lot of maps of the project area showing various types of impacts, which is the final part of my job. It’s funny that the field I got my degree in is actually the area I do the least amount of work in, but it’s all still related.

So if you’re wondering why it’s taking so long to widen the highway near your house or build the new metro line that’s been promised, it’s probably my fault. And if you’re wondering if there’s any method to the madness in how government decisions are made as they pertain to the environment, I can tell you that yes, there usually is. I can also tell you that public opinion is very important in what I do, so if there is an upcoming project you hate or one you love, don’t be afraid to stand up and make your voice heard! It really does matter, and I promise you there is someone just like me near where you live that is reading all of your comments and responding to each one. I know because I have to do it too.

I’d be lying if I said that this is the career I thought I would grow up to have, because it definitely is not. I wanted to be a large animal vet until I found out I had to take physics. So while a few years ago I don’t think I would have said I’m living the dream, I can honestly say I genuinely like what I do. It is interesting and challenging and it’s never the same thing two days in a row. It’s nice to be able to get out of the office pretty regularly and hone a variety of different skills. Plus, I’m not afraid of snakes and am very useful for moving them out of the way when running with a group.

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Almost stepped on my buddy Floyd here. He was cool about it.

LEAVE A COMMENT: What is your job? Can your friends and family explain what you do?

Faith and Strength – Casper Marathon Race Report

(Sorry for the time between posts, lack of comment responses, etc….things are little crazy right now and I’m trying to keep my head on straight while packing all my worldly possessions and organizing the sale and purchase of houses! Bah!)

The 4:30 am wake-up call came bright and early on Sunday morning. “Faith and strength,” I thought to myself over and over again as I tried to calm my nerves and get excited about the day ahead. Patty, Kate and I donned our matching shirts and headed to the shuttles waiting to take us to the start at the Casper Events Center. We’re on a bit of an anti-Maniac gear kick lately (not anti-Maniac, just anti-Maniac gear) for reasons none of us can entirely explain, but I think we all felt a bit of nostalgia when we walked into the events center and saw all our friends decked out. Whatever, we looked super cute in our matching shirts.

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Don’t quote me on this, but I think 1 out of every 3 runners was a Maniac or Fanatic. Something crazy. There were a lot of us!

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You know we’re adorable

We were lucky to avoid the rain as the marathoners took off. Kate was planning on running much faster than Patty and I, so she took off and Patty and I settled into a comfortable pace. Neither of us was wearing a Garmin, but she had a watch and we simply ran at a comfortable pace and then walked a minute at each mile marker. With the race starting at 6:30, it was nice and cool in the morning and we got some beautiful views of the Casper Valley. Have I mentioned how much I love Wyoming? Seriously, go visit, it’s the best.

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Behold, the valley! And other runners very very very far away because this was a small race.

One thing we were not noticing, thankfully, was the altitude. I’m not sure if we had adapted in the past 48 hours or what, but Patty and I were feeling pretty good. It probably didn’t hurt that we were running on a beautiful course and having fun chatting with each other and other Maniacs we saw out there. The course did a loop around the events center and then ran towards town and along the Platte River on Casper’s extensive bike path system. Seriously, every time I go to a city that is smaller than Columbia SC (the big city near where I live) and it has tons and tons more miles of bike and pedestrian paths than we do, I get irate. GET YOUR CRAP TOGETHER, COLUMBIA. End rant. Anyway, it was beautiful.

There definitely were not many spectators out there on the course, but the aid stations more than made up for it. Our matching shirts were a huge hit. Everyone we passed yelled “there go the twins!” and some people were even observant enough to note that we had a triplet (Kate) at little further down the road. The aid stations were stocked with fruit, water, gatorade, and gu, and although there weren’t a ton of people out, they were certainly enthusiastic. One lady even told us optimistically at mile 8 that we were “almost there!” Ma’am, bless your heart, but no. That wouldn’t even work if we were half-marathoners. COME ON.

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Not almost there

The course had a few out and back sections, which are either fun or torture depending on where you are in the race. Around mile 11, it was pretty fun! It’s cool to see the leaders coming back and high five some of our faster friends. At this point, the course wound around a golf course for 3 miles. This portion of the race used to be run in the last few miles, and I could see why people would hate that. In addition to there being no shade, there are also even fewer spectators, so it is pretty lonely out there. I definitely agree with the decision to switch the course around! At mile 15, we stopped at the bathroom after leaving the golf course area and oh…there had been an incident, apparently. I mean, I get that our bodies do strange and sometimes unfortunate things during a race, but HOW do you manage to literally coat the bathroom wall with diarrhea and WHY oh God WHY would you not at least attempt to clean that situation up? Yeah, suffice to say that I was feeling a little nauseous after experiencing that. FOREVER UNCLEAN.

Things were still going pretty well for me at this point, traumatic experience aside. We weren’t breaking any speed records, but we were definitely sticking to the run/walk plan and I was in good spirits. My back was holding up fine as well. That continued until mile 17.5 ish. I think we saw Kate somewhere around then, and she said the course was kicking her ass (she says this while being an hour ahead of us). Between miles 17 and 18, the mile marker suddenly seemed really far away. The impact on my back was starting to take its toll in a major way, and my form was reflecting it. So, Patty and I took a recovery mile at 18 and walked the whole thing. We were still making decent time up to that point, so I told her if she wanted to run ahead and break 5 hours, I understood. I didn’t want to hold her back if I had to walk the entire rest of the way, but Patty being Patty, she said no way. That made me want to try a bit harder to run, so from that point on I just did the best I could and ran until the pain caught up with me.

The course got oddly hilly from miles 19-22 ish, and the turn around point of the race was near mile 20. As we crested the top of the hill, we hoped to see the turnaround, but no…it was so far away and never seemed to get closer. The people heading back could read the looks on our faces and kept saying “I promise, it’s right there. You’re so close!” but those people were LYING because it felt like forever. Patty and I swore that we would not spread false hope to others and if they asked, we would just say nothing. There’s no need to be cruel.

We had another recovery mile around mile 22, and things were looking up. It definitely wasn’t going to be a fast finish and I didn’t feel awesome, but I was surviving. I was 4 miles away from the finish, and it was all going to be ok. Then I got to mile 24 and I don’t know if it was the altitude or heat or what, but all of a sudden I got incredibly dizzy and nauseous and felt like I was going to pass out. The closest thing I can equate it to is when you’re very drunk and the room is spinning, so you try and close your eyes but you still feel everything spinning. It was like that. I told Patty and she was really concerned, but I wanted to keep going. She said that we had 30 more minutes to go 2 miles and finish the race under 5:30, and that motivated me for approximately 90 seconds. Then another wave of dizziness and nausea hit and I was like “Yeah I’m gonna be honest, I don’t think 5:30 is going to happen and I really couldn’t care less.” Well, as it turns out, Patty lied,  because when we got to mile 25, we suddenly had 20 minutes to finish the last mile! I ran as much as I could and walked when I felt like I was going to pass out, which was more often than I would prefer. Finally, finally, finally the finish was in sight and we crossed it, holding hands, in 5:27. SUCCESS!

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And no blisters or lost toenails from my HOKAs! Hooray!

So all I wanted was to sit down. I didn’t care about water or food, I just wanted to sit down or lay down and not move. Well, as luck would have it, someone from the Casper Marathon race committee had heard I write for Women’s Running, so they came up to interview me literally within about 2 minutes of me finishing the race. She asked me what I thought of Wyoming and the marathon and I could barely string together a sentence. Feel free to watch my lovely thoughts (and grimace…wtf is happening with my face?) below – it’s only like 18 seconds.

 

Danielle Hastings after the Casper Marathon. Love her Blog!

Posted by Casper Marathon on Monday, June 8, 2015

It just so happened that we finished just a few minutes before awards were about to start. We have a lot of fast friends and had been fortunate to stay at the host hotel, where we had late checkout, so there was time to hangout and wait for everyone to get their awards. So we’re just sitting there chatting and then all of a sudden we hear “…and in third place for women age 20-29, Danielle Hastings!” (I had registered for the race before AJ and I got married, apparently. But yeah, so I FREAKING GOT 3rd IN MY AGE GROUP. I could not stop laughing. A 5:27 marathon and I placed in my age group?? This is my kind of event! And it wasn’t even like there were only 3 people in my age group, so I really did place!  I got a sweet hat and a toiletry bag as my spoils. Then we found out Kate got 2nd in her age group, which was awesome too! The best and funniest part to me was that my super fast friend Cade (who ran a 3:03 marathon yesterday, by the way, no big deal) finished in 3:28 that day and he got third in his age group at Casper, too. I told him I was going to title this post “The One Where I Won the Same Award as Cade” and I was only half kidding. But I mean really, you have to love small races for stuff like this. I owe this one all to Patty for pushing me! She doesn’t get my hat, though. I don’t win stuff very often.

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AGE GROUP WINNERS! From my Instagram

So here’s the thing about this whole weekend, especially with the age group award. Going into Casper, I really didn’t know if I would finish the race. I also didn’t know if I would ever run another marathon again even if I did. I had no desire to train for NYC. It seemed like the universe was telling me to give up marathons. But everything with this race and this weekend and my life right now is falling so perfectly into place. Whether there had been anyone behind me in my age group or not, it wouldn’t have mattered. It seemed like a sign from above that I’m doing the right thing and should keep doing it for as long as it is fun. I’ll be in our new city just in time to start training with a new running group for NYC. And look, I might never be able to train the way I used to. I might be destined to a lifetime of 5:30 marathons. I can’t pretend that I’ll never get frustrated with that or that there won’t be days when I think about taking a break for awhile, but for now, I’m going to keep going. I love the life I have built for myself and the amazing friends and family I have to share it with. And now that I have my embroidered toiletry bag, I see no reason to quit now. I’m travel ready, baby. Life is good.

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We don’t believe in going anywhere without matching

Reunited and it Feels So Good – Casper Marathon Race Weekend, Part 1

As you all know, I was pretty nervous about running the Casper Marathon. I debated dropping down to the half or even not running at all. One thing that was never up for discussion, though, was whether or not I would go to Wyoming. After all, my flight was already paid for and even more importantly, this race would be a long overdue reunion with two of my favorite people (running or non-running) – Patty and Kate! It had been too long since we have all done a race together and I miss them like crazy. It’s kind of funny how you can build such a strong connection with people you met during races, but here we are, lifelong friends!

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An oldie but a goodie – New Hampshire Marathon 2012!

The days leading up to the race actually turned out to be pretty crazy in a good way. Although I haven’t talked about it on the blog, AJ and I are moving and I recently accepted a new job (same position, different company). So, in the five days before the race, the following things happened:

  1. We received and accepted an offer on our house (much faster than we expected to sell it) and found out we have to be out in less than a month.
  2. I had my last day of work at my former company.
  3. I received complimentary upgrades to first class for my flights out west – my first time ever flying first class! They made me an omelette for breakfast. It was basically the pinnacle of my life.
  4. We are in the process of trying to find somewhere to live before we close on our house.

So, yeah. Lots of changes afoot. You could say it’s not the ideal time to be out of town, and it definitely was not, but I chose to look at it like these were all positive signs from the universe. None of these things, with the exception of leaving my job, were things I expected to happen any time soon, and yet they happened in the span of a week. That has to count for something, right? This race was either going to go awesome OR I was going to crash and burn in payment for all the great luck I’ve been blessed with lately.

After the glorious experience of traveling first class for free (thanks to hard-earned American Airlines elite status), I arrived in Denver and waited on Patty and Kate, who had both been delayed. They got in eventually and we had a lovely 4 hour drive to Casper! Seriously, the drive was gorgeous. Sweeping view of the plains, rock formations, and mountains in the distance. Have I mentioned before that Wyoming is my favorite state? It is.

Friday afternoon consisted of heading to the expo, which was conveniently located in the host hotel where we were staying. It took us 3 minutes to walk through the expo, and that’s only because we sampled some soup. Otherwise it would have been more like 90 seconds. Gotta love small races!

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At dinner on Friday night

On Saturday morning, got up early to head to a sporting goods store and buy matching shirts for the race (seriously) and then we went for a shakeout run through the city of Casper. It felt good to move our legs after being in the car the day before, but damn if us flatlanders didn’t notice the altitude! We were all huffing and puffing while chugging along at a 10 min pace, which didn’t seem to bode so well for the next day. We also ended up finding a veteran’s parade going through the streets of downtown Casper and stopped to pay our respects while simultaneously catching our breaths and trying not to panic about the thought of running a marathon with no oxygen the following day.

That awkward moment when you have to stop for a picture to catch your breath

The agenda for later in the afternoon called for a trip up Casper Mountain to see some waterfalls, which were really beautiful. We were able to look out over the valley, but there was some (minor) hiking involved. I did that in flip flops and a dress because I was unprepared, but at least I looked cute while not breathing.

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Worst hiking outfit ever

The night before, we went to dinner with some friends and discovered that they knew people who own a CHRISTMAS STORE in Casper. Now, you may not know this about me, but I practice Judaism. I grew up in a non-religious home that celebrated Christmas and I went through the conversion process later, but that’s a story for another day. ANYWAY, old traditions die hard and I still love Christmas trees and ornaments, and AJ is Catholic, so I buy Christmas ornaments every I go. So knowing that I was about to have an entire store at my disposal was pretty much more excitement than I could handle. I restrained myself when we visited on Saturday and only bought 3 ornaments, which was a victory.

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I may have a problem. Yes, I wrote on the ornament myself.

When we got back to the hotel, I headed to the “expo” to buy shot blocks and was immediately accosted by some of my most favorite Marathon Maniacs! It was great to see everyone after what seems like forever! These are people that I used to see every few weeks, and now it’s sometimes only once a year. Reconnecting with them made me realize just how different my life is now compared to what it looked like just a couple of years ago. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just different. We had a mixed group of Maniacs and normal people (ha!) for dinner, and I had a blast catching up with everyone and reminiscing. It was like the good old days all over again.

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Maniacs and Fanatics at dinner!

As I went to bed on Saturday night, I was reading “Think and Grow Rich.” It’s an old book about how to use the power of positive thinking to obtain various forms of wealth and achieve your goals, so I decided to try it out for the race the next day. I put my anxiety as far out of my mind and came up with a mantra based on the book: “Faith and strength.” I decided that I needed to have faith that my goal was achievable and possible, and that if I put all my energy into it, I would succeed. I needed to have strength to push through when the going got tough and remember why I was out there in the first place. I made the promise to myself that I would repeat that over and over and not quit until I had no choice, and when I woke up on race day, the first thing I thought was “faith and strength.”

To be continued.

Race Preparation Expectations vs Reality

With less than a week to go before the Casper Marathon, I’ve been working myself up into a frenzy, as I like to/am prone to do. There was a time when the marathon distance stopped scaring me because I did it so often, but that time seems long ago now. Now, I am a ball of nerves at the start line all over again!  It’s kind of funny how life works.

I started this training cycle out with enthusiasm but also the utmost respect for my body and a ton of patience. I was determined to build up my mileage extremely slowly, not put any added pressure on myself through speed or hill work, and just focus on building a strong base. As you saw through about 12 weeks of training logs, that’s exactly what I did. I took it slow and was patient with my body.

I expected that I would arrive to the starting line of the race ready to run healthy and relatively fast. Instead, I’ll be showing up half injured and be lucky to finish. This wasn’t the training cycle I had hoped for at all, but when I look back, I’m not sure I really could have done anything differently. I was diligent in my core work and strengthening thanks to my commitment to barre. I built up my mileage slowly, did not push my speed, and still saw steady improvements in my fitness. I cross trained on the bike and never ran more than 4 days in a week, and never more than 2 days in a row. I followed the plan.

I expected to run the Casper Marathon in a confident and relaxed place mentally. I eschewed my Garmin for this entire training cycle and only knew my pace when running with other people or at the end of a race. Although I didn’t feel good on every run, I could tell I was making progress throughout training. Today, I’m definitely not confident or relaxed.  I don’t know if I will be able to finish the race or at what pace.

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Have you had enough of the Kardashian/Jenner clan for this week? I thought not. You’re welcome.

I expected to run the race in my trusty old Mizunos, but in reality, I’ll be wearing my HOKAs for the first time! I’ve never run longer than 15 miles in them, but to be fair, I haven’t run farther than 15 miles this training cycle. I’m expecting to have a great, cushioned experience though. As much as I used to love my Mizunos, I’m really excited about taking the new shoes for a test drive! Interesting fact: I ran my first two marathons in Asics, but lost toenails. I switched to Mizuno Wave Nirvanas and ran the next 45 marathons in those. HOKA has big shoes to fill (ha!).

I expected to finish the marathon at a relatively fast pace for me. Although I didn’t know for sure, my secret goal was to run under 4:30, which seemed very attainable when I ran the half marathon in March easily at 2:01. I wanted to really stick to my training plan and see what I was made of. I wasn’t able to do that thanks to injury, so realistically, the marathon will be a very slow one for me. I’m counting any finish as a victory.

Because I had higher expectations for the race, I also expected to line up for the Casper Marathon feeling anxious and focused on my time rather than having fun with my friends. Instead, I’m going into it just hoping to enjoy the experience. If my back has a fit, I will not finish the race, and I’m mentally prepared for that. Hopefully, it will just be slow going as a result of being undertrained, and I’ll enjoy the day with my friends. That’s all I can really ask for at this point.

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Amanda will be greatly missed in Casper! But we had fun running together today.

I wish I could be more positive about getting ready for the race. In fact, I really am looking forward to going to Wyoming (it’s my favorite state) and hanging out with my long lost Tulsa friends! That part is great, but I can’t ignore the fact that I’m really disappointed by how my training ended up going, especially since I was being so careful and thought I was really taking care of myself. Oh well, live to run another day.

 

Officially a Convert

In what has become an unprecedented commitment to strength training, I, Danielle, the T-Rex Runner, have now been strength training (with actual weights) for 2 whole weeks. Thank you for your applause. Sad that two weeks marks an unprecedented commitment to anything, no? Whatever. During the two weeks, I’ve also done a treadmill speed workout several times that, dare I say, I have come to enjoy.

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No, really! It’s true! OK, maybe I don’t enjoy it, but I don’t actively hate it, and that’s something.

No, I still don’t know where most of the machines and weights in my gym are and I still am convinced that everyone notices me wandering around and they’re all like “Girl, bye.” True story: As of yesterday, I have actually started writing down the locations of some of the machines once I find them so that I do not lose them again.

Maybe it’s just because it’s something new and I’ve been into mixing up my fitness routine lately, but it’s been fun so far! I keep track of how much weight I’m using for each exercise and it is entertaining to see it increasing. While I’m not sure that I will ever be a total gym rat and only want to lift weights, you never know. Regardless, it is keeping fitness fun for me right now, and that is what matters! Well, that plus the fact that it’s helping my back, but you know what I mean.

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Does anyone else miss Maury or is that just me? Ahh, a simpler time.

Perhaps even more surprising than the fact that I’m almost enjoying weight lifting is that I’ve come to actually kind of like my interval workouts on the treadmill as well. Granted, they’re short workouts of just 30 minutes, so it’s not like I’m on there forever, but still…I normally hate both treadmills and speedwork so it is a bit odd to find myself enjoying a combination of the two. I’ve also bumped up my speed just a little bit, which is very satisfying as well. While I’m not sure exactly how speed work on the treadmill will translate into speed on the road (and I don’t intend to find out until summer is over, because summer is the worst), I’m proud of myself for getting my heart rate up a little higher than normal and breaking out of my comfort zone.

It was on one of these treadmill interval runs that I actually realized what a full-on HOKA junkie I have become. See, I had worn old shoes to the gym last week because I was just planning on lifting weights and had no intentions of running. I ended up feeling like jumping on the treadmill for a quick set of intervals – just 10 minutes – and holy crap did I notice a huge difference! It felt like I was running barefoot by comparison, and I was shocked by how much impact I felt in my most recent (still cushioned and previously very comfortable) pair of  shoes. I guess it makes sense that I never really noticed it before because I basically started running exclusively in HOKAs as soon as I got my Stinson Lites and I never switched back and forth, but wow. What a difference! It’s crazy to think how much impact I had been subjecting my back to without even knowing it.

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So it turns out I’m way too self conscious to take pictures of myself in a gym with actual people in it, so there’s a 90% chance you’ll just see this same picture over and over again. Or at least until I stay in another hotel. Sorry.

That’s it for me on the workout front for right now. I’m about 10 days out from the Casper Marathon and I’ll be writing a post leading up to that next week. In the mean time, I’m happy to be mixing things up and getting healthier!

LEAVE A COMMENT: Strength training – love it or hate it? Would you rather do your speed work on the treadmill or outside?