354. Random Thoughts Thursday

I could probably write  a separate post for everything here, and I probably should for content, but I don’t feel like it.  So instead I present you with a bunch of randomness currently on my mind.

Last weekend was quite the weekend for me.  It was full of all kinds of firsts.  I ran 16 miles for the first time (along with 14 and 15 miles along the way!) I shot a gun (multiple guns actually) for the first time ever, and I made homemade bagels for the first time. (FINALLY! I’ve only been talking about making homemade bagels for about 3 years now!) It was quite an impressive weekend really.

The boy owns guns and likes to go shoot them with his buddies. I have no interest in guns and even less interest in shooting them. Plus, I’m a disaster on my own; I don’t need to be a disaster with a deadly weapon in hand. But I know the boy likes guns, and I knew he would REALLY like it if I went shooting with him one day. So for Christmas I applied for my FOID card (Firearm Owners ID – It’s an Illinois thing. Illinois loves it some gun laws.) and gave the boy a copy of the application along with a note promising to take him shooting once I received my FOID. We finally picked a weekend and went. Honestly, I was surprised by how nervous, uncomfortable, and just plain scared I was to begin with. When we walked into the range, I would flinch or jump every time someone would fire a shot. I was on the verge of tears for at least the first 20 minutes simply because that’s how I most often react to the stress of nervousness/ being uncomfortable. Ultimately I had a good time. I would definitely go again but probably not anytime soon. Nik puts up with a lot of my ridiculousness (and my various kitchen experiments) so it was nice to do something that was really all for him.

I don’t know if I was feeling extra ballsy after my adventures with guns or if it was just fresh in my mind because I found a recipe when I was pulling recipes from old issues of Cooking Light and Vegetarian Times to add to my recipe binder, but I decided I was also going to make homemade bagels on Saturday.
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I used this recipe from the November 2011 issue of Cooking Light. I’m not sure why I waited so long to make my own bagels, but I’m glad I finally did this because these bagels were AWESOME! I stuck to the recipe pretty closely to make sure they came out right, but I did make a few minor changes:

  1. I left out the barley malt syrup because a) I didn’t have any and b) I didn’t feel like trying to track it down. The recipe says you can leave it out so I wasn’t worried.
  2. I brushed the bagels with egg yolk thinned with water. I also topped half of them with salt, minced onion, poppy seed and sesame seeds to make everything bagels.
  3. I only made 11. I had 6 that were about 3.5 oz and 5 that were about 4.5 oz. I could have cut down all the 4.5 oz bagels to make a 12th bagel, but I was too lazy.
  4. I baked for almost twice the suggested time. I cooked them until golden brown on top and hallow sounding.

I totally rocked my February Challenge, and I feel like a rock star for it.  If you’ve been reading my blog for some time now, you know how good I am at failing at my fitness challenges.  Last month, I killed.  I blew my goal of 175 activity points (which I increased about a week into the challenge from the original 150 points) out of the water clocking in at 212 activity points for the month.  I tracked 26 out of 29 complete days.  I did fall short on my fitness class goal only attending 4 out of 5 classes.  However, that was a scheduling failure rather than me blowing things off.  There are a pretty limited number of classes I can actually attend to begin with since I don’t get home until about 6 in the evening. When you account for my Weight Watchers meetings on Tuesdays, my darts league on Wednesdays, and my training runs on Mondays and Thursdays, I’m left with Friday, Saturday and Sunday for classes.  There aren’t any evening classes on Friday and I run on either Saturday or Sunday.  That leaves me one day a week to do classes and since there were only 4 weeks in February, well…getting to 5 classes wasn’t really realistic with marathon training taking top priority.  What’s important is that I didn’t fall short of the goal simply because I was being lazy.  So because I feel like my challenge was a huge success despite that, I’ve decided to go ahead and reward my successes.   I’ve deviated from my original reward plan though and ordered How to Cook Everything Vegetarian (the reward for my bonus weight loss goal) instead of the fitbook.  There is a method to my madness though kids.

The reason I went ahead and ordered the cookbook instead of the fitbook is because I’m following Michelle’s lead and going for a Meatless March.  Back in September 2010, I made the decision to stop eating animals.  I never proclaimed myself a vegetarian because I expected to eat meat again, and I have.  Lately though, I’ve been wanting to get back to a primarily meatless diet.  This seemed like a great way to do it!

I signed up for my fifth half marathon yesterday.  The Rock n Roll race series was offering a Leap Day discount of $29 off any race.  I’m usually able to pass up a deal, but that’s a really great discount.  I decided to snap it up and registered for the Chicago Rock n Roll half marathon on July 22nd.  I was hesitant to sign up since I hate running in the heat.  (Really, I just hate the heat.)  But it was hard to pass up such a deal, especially when it would be an encore performance, and a chance to kick ass, of my very first half marathon.

Last week I decided to impulse buy a cast iron skillet, a cast iron grill pan and The New Rules of Lifting for Women off Amazon.  I haven’t used the skillet yet, but I’m a fan of the other two items thus far.

That’s all I’ve got for now.  Have a happy Thursday!

349. Marathon Monday: Week 6

Before we get to my marathon Monday post, I wante to let you all know about the raffle Cassie at Back to Her Roots (one of my favorite blogs at the moment) is hosting to raise money for the Avon Breast Cancer walk she’ll be completing with her sister’s in June. Go check it out, make a donation to an awesome cause, and get chances to win awesome prizes.

Cook for the Cure Raffle

Now, on to my post…

I don’t have much to say about this week’s training since I’m still in “familiar” territory so I thought today it would be fun to take a look back on how the hell I got to this point. I mean really, if 10 years ago you told me I’d be training for a marathon I would have laughed in your face.  Heck, if you’d told me a year ago I would be training for a marathon, I would have laughed in your face.

I was not a runner at.all. I was a swimmer through most of grade school and high school, and I absolutely hated running. My chief complaint during land work-outs was that if I wanted to run, I would have joined the track team. Sometime in college, or maybe it was shortly after college, I found myself a little bit envious of those people who would just get up and go for a jog. I still subscribed to the “run only when being chased (by something life threatening)” theory, but a tiny part of me secretly longed to be one of those runners. I’d try to go out running every now and then, but I would always end up going too hard, too fast, or too far. I’d be sore and miserable the next day and decide I just wasn’t cut out to be a runner.

I tried to find the exact date I decided to start the Couch to 5K program, but I couldn’t.  Truth is, as I’m trying to look back at it, I actually haven’t kept a very thorough record of my running history.  Maybe I should change that….

Anyway, I know it was sometime in early 2009.  It might’ve even been January or February when I decided running was going to be the drug of choice for my new healthy lifestyle and weight loss journey.  I started the Couch to 5K program on the treadmill at the gym, and I don’t even remember if I finished the whole program, but I remember bits and pieces and celebrating small victories along the way.  I remember how frustrating and difficult transitioning from treadmill to street was.   (Hard to believe how much I loved the treadmill back then considering how much I absolutely loathe it now!)  I remember celebrating every mile further I was able to run on the street.  I remember the indoor track at the Oak Lawn Pavilion being my summer in Chicago running “safe-haven.”  I was so excited the first time I ran 4 miles on the indoor track that August, and after my longest outdoor run that September.

I ran my first 5K in October 2009.  I was so terrified to even sign up for a race that my friend Sarah, who was my racing buddy until she up and moved to Austin on me, basically told me ‘Sign up, or I’m signing you up.’  Even after I was signed up, I was terrified of not being able to finish.  I buckled down and trained hard.  By the time race day rolled around, I was probably well enough trained to have run a 10K.  I had already run 5 miles.  I ended up having an amazing race that day and actually set a 5K PR that I didn’t touch for nearly 2 years.

That was also the day I spent an obscene amount of money on my first pair of “real” running shoes forever sealing my fate as a runner which is good because I also became addicted to races that day.  I ran the Girls on the Run 5K a few weeks later and the Santa Shuffle a couple weeks after that.

Less than 6 months later I was registered for my first half marathon.  As you may remember, that race wasn’t my finest moment.  My training was derailed by my personal life.  However, despite a less than stellar first half marathon, I was officially obsessed.  I quickly signed up for the Dallas 13.1 half marathon when Laura suggested it in November 2010, and since October 2011 wasn’t nearly soon enough, I went ahead and signed up for the Wisconsin Half Marathon as well.

Sure there are times when I’m totally disinterested in running, but ultimately, I love it.  To date I’ve run (at least) 15 races including 4 half marathons.  When I started running in 2009, I had no idea where it would take me and what it would teach me along the way. But in the last three years I’ve learned so much.  With a dedication and focus, and maybe a moment or two of temporary insanity, you can accomplish things you never thought possible.  I’ve got a long way to go to cross that finish line after 26.2, but I’ve come this far so why stop now?

Total Weekly Milage: 16.0
Total Monthly Milage: 30.55
Total Training Milage: 46.55

344. Marathon Monday: Week 4

As I mentioned on Friday I decided, after much deliberation, I was going to go ahead and run the F^3 Half this past Saturday.  Let me tell you, I could not be happier that I went through with this race.  It was and absolutely awesome experience all around.

I had little to no expectations for myself other than to not hurt myself or relapse into sickness.  I’m happy to report I was extremely successful on both fronts.  In addition to not hurting myself, I actually had a REALLY great race, and I made a new friend!  I ended running with a girl who I happened to meet while standing in the starting corral.  We ran together and chatted for the entire 13.1 miles, and she was an awesome running buddy.  We even exchanged info so we can meet for lunch or coffee or runs in the future.  Running with someone > Running alone.  Always.  My official finish time was 2:43 which is not only better than I was hoping for (I expected to be right around the 3:00 mark.) but also just about the pace I hope to average for the marathon.

More important than my better than expected time though was the huge confidence boost I got when it comes to training for my marathon.  After Saturday’s race, I really feel physically and mentally ready to start training for 26.2.  I was definitely tired when I finished the race on Saturday, but I didn’t want to die.  I was starting to get sore, but I could have run another mile or two if I absolutely had to.  My new running friend was a great help too.  She was incredibly encouraging and helped instill more confidence in myself.

I honestly haven’t thought of the last two or three weeks as marathon training.  I also didn’t spend much time running the last two or three weeks.  Yes, I was sick for a good chunk of time this past month, but deep down I know I also milked that for all it was worth.  In my mind, the F^3 race was really the starting point of my marathon training.  I’d been training (if you could even call it that) for this half, and I had to get through that before I really started marathon training.  It was a way of letting fear, or lack of confidence, or whatever, take hold and mentally tricking myself.  I was delaying accepting the inevitable.

That feeling is gone now though, and for the first time since I signed up for the Wisconsin Marathon, I feel ready to take it on.  I feel like this is something that is actually doable, and I actually want to do it.  I’m excited for training rather than dreading it.  Someone remind me of this post in 5 weeks when I hate myself for thinking 26.2 was a good idea. 😉

Total Weekly Milage: 16.06
Total Monthly Milage: 24.06
Total Training Milage: 24.06

343. Oh Hai!

Hey there friends!  Some of you may have noticed I’ve been a little absent these days.  I have my reasons.  A big of them is that about this time last week, I was actively trying to not die of some horrible strep/ cold/ flu/ sinus infection/ Ebola/ virus of doom.  (And yes, I am one of those people that is more than a bit dramatic when I am sick.)   The sickness pretty much sidelined all my effort to run or work out, and I felt so horrible last Tuesday night I didn’t even weigh in.

This week I’m feeling much better.  I actually didn’t have a Weight Watchers (yet) meeting this week.  My usual meeting is at the church my mom attends.  This week is the parish retreat so everything that’s usually held at the church during the week (Weight Watchers, scouts, etc.) was cancelled.  My usual leader does a meeting a couple blocks from my office at noon on Fridays so I am planning to attend her meeting tomorrow.

I also ran this evening for the first time in 10 days.  It was a short and easy paced run.  I was trying to determine if I could/ should go ahead and run the half marathon I never actually told you all I’m signed up for on Saturday.  I was already doing the bare minimum as far as training goes, and combined that with the fact that I’ve been sick at least half of this month, I wasn’t entirely confident in my abilities.  I was also concerned about over-doing it and undoing all of this week’s recovery.  There was also that pesky 3 hour time limit that had me worrying.

After much deliberation this afternoon, I decided that the 3 hours time limit and under training aren’t good enough excuses.  I finished my first half in 3 hours, and despite my barely adequate training for this race, I’m still in better shape than I was going into that first 13.1.  As far as the making myself sicker goes, I’m feeling almost 100% again.  I decided I would run tonight and as long as I was okay, I would race.  I didn’t want to die so it’s on.  I’m also pretty sure it’s going to be on via 5 minute/ 1 minute run/ walk intervals.  Since I am under trained, I think this may be my best approach for a reasonable time and not injury myself or overdoing it.

So there you have it.  Saturday morning I will be running the Fucking Freezing Frozen Lake Half Marathon.  (And if we’re being perfectly honest here, my decision was at least 57.4% influenced by the fact that I want that finishers medal.  Seriously, click the link and check it out.)

338. Girl Will Run…A Lot

One year ago today I announced I would be running the Wisconsin Marathon and Half Marathon as my second half marathon.  Today I’m here to announce I will once again be running the Wisconsin Marathon and Half Marathon, but this time it will be as my first full marathon.

Yes, you read that correctly.  Please, take a moment to collect yourself and pick your jaw up off the floor.  Grab mine while you’re down there too please.

I know I’ve said it time and time again; I really enjoy the half marathon distance, but I’m just not interested in completing a full.  In fact, I’m quite sure the word “never” has left my mouth more than once.  I just couldn’t picture myself running for 5 – 6 hours straight.  (I still can’t actually.)  Then a couple months ago, actually it was the day I received the email announcing registration for the 2012 race was open, I started kicking around the idea of doing a full – particularly the Wisconsin Marathon.

I really loved the WI race last year: the course, the crowd (runners and non-runners), the scenery, the small size, the low cost, the bad ass medal, etc.  I couldn’t recommend this race enough to other runners.  I felt like the Wisconsin Marathon would be a great race for a first 26.2.  Michelle tried to convince me for a bit on Twitter, but I still wasn’t sold.

The Christmas happened.  The boy’s cousin Kira is a runner, and we started talking shop.  She’d been considering the Wisconsin Marathon, and just like before, I couldn’t say enough good things about it.  By the time we started talking about the race it was late and I’d had a long day, but I don’t think we ever actually discussed the idea of running the full together.  We talked about me potentially running that half again but not the full.  However, I continued thinking about our conversation.  The more I thought about it, the more I was seriously considering it.  The idea of running 26.2 miles with someone is less intimidating than running it alone.  So I hopped on Facebook and asked Kira what her expect pace and finish time were.  A few Facebook messages were exchanged, things started falling in place, and the next thing I knew I was dropping my $68 registration fee on Wednesday night.

I am incredibly nervous.  Truthfully, I’m not entirely sure my brain has actually accepted the fact that this is happening.  I’m still in holy-shit-what-have-I-gotten-myself-into mode.  I am also incredibly excited.  I have absolutely no expectations for this race.  My only goal is to finish without killing myself.

I’m currently working on my training schedule.  To steal Kira’s term, I’m “Frankensteining” together a plan using her plan, the Hal Higdon Novice plans, and the plan that the Runner’s World Smart Coach website put together for me.  My plan is to run 3 – 4 days a week. Right now I’m thinking I’m going to alternate 3 day weeks with 4 day weeks. If I run more than that I start to get a lot of soreness/ pain in my knee.  I also really hope to incorporate some solid cross training and strength training for this since that’s always the weak point in my training plans.  My goal is to focus on well-rounded, consistent training without overtraining.  Since my goal only goal is to finish without severe injury,  I definitely think strength training and cross training become key elements.  Kira and I are also planning to meet up for as many long runs as possible which I hope will really help keep me motivated and on track.

I do plan on tracking my training and progress on the little ole blog here, but I haven’t quite decided how.   In any case, things are probably going to get pretty running-centric around here for the next 18 weeks.

You have been warned.

337. 2011 in Review: Dedicated

Instead of setting goals or making New Year’s Resolutions last year, I followed Rachel’s lead and choose a verb.  My verb for 2011 was dedicate.  Honestly, my verb, much like many New Year’s Resolutions, fell from the front of my mind pretty quickly.  Despite the fact that it wasn’t at the forefront of my thoughts and actions, I do think it was lurking there somewhere in my subconscious driving at least some of my thoughts and goals.  I didn’t think I’d made much “progress” with it until I really stopped and looked back at the year.

In 2011…

…I wanted to dedicate myself to my health which I definitely did in the second half of the year when I joined Weight Watchers and started seriously working toward finally reaching my goal weight.  I finished the year feeling pretty damn good about my progress and myself.

…I wanted to dedicate myself to fitness and running.  Exercise and fitness is always my biggest struggle.  I set goals.  I flake out on goals.  I set high expectations, and fall short.  However, despite my many failed fitness challenges throughout 2011, I still feel like I did manage to truly dedicate myself.  In May, I finished the Wisconsin Half Marathon, crushing my PR by nearly 25 minutes.  In October, I finished Dallas 13.1 knocking another 10 minutes off my PR with a finishing time of 2:24:22.  Then there was my almost 5K PR in April, my definite 5K PR in October, and knocking out my goal of a sub-28 minute 5K a short time later.   I know all of these PRs are a direct result of my increasing dedication to training and fitness in general.  Even fitness challenge failures still have a positive impact.

…I wanted to dedicate time to myself.  I don’t think I did this in quite the way I intended when I set the goal a year ago.  When I set this goal I was thinking about taking time to sit around by myself doing nothing; however, I think I did even better than that.  Dedicating myself to my health and my running was dedicating time to myself.  I dedicated to my Weight Watcher’s meetings every week regardless of what was going on.  I dedicated myself to hours of running, usually alone, when I’d rather be sleeping or hanging out.  I dedicated myself to going to bed early getting adequate sleep most nights.  I used my commute “wisely” to read more than 45 books this year.

…I wanted to dedicate time to my blog.  This is one area I really do feel like I fell short.  I truly enjoy blogging, but I also find myself consistently struggling with it.  A lack of inspiration/ motivation to write, a failure to prioritize writing posts, and at time a complete disconnect with my purpose.  I feel like I’m constantly working and reworking my blog without ever really making progress.  I get frustrated because I feel like I should have figured it out by now, after 2 years.  There will be more to come on this though.

…I wanted to dedicate myself to growing up.  This is another thing that didn’t happen in quite the way I expected, but I feel like I left 2011 more mature and ready to really move forward into “adulthood.”  And honestly, I don’t think I could adequately explain myself much further on this one,  so I’m going to leave it at that.

Honestly, I haven’t made a ton of progress on my 2012 goals.  I wasn’t even sure how I planned on approaching them.  But after writing this post and really looking back at 2011, I think choosing a verb was a great plan which I intend to do again this year.  I’ll be back with my 2012 verb in the next week or so.

323. 13.1 Dallas Recap or Seriously? Another PR

Writing this recap was surprisingly difficult.  I sat down at the computer and the words to explain my feelings just wouldn’t come.  So instead I took to my journal and ended up with two pages of stream of consciousness writing that probably wouldn’t make sense to anyone but me.  It was a start though.

The Dallas 13.1 half was a far different experience than my previous half marathons.  For the first time, I went into the race feeling totally confident and prepared to run the full 13.1 miles.  My training had been complete and consistent.  I felt myself getting stronger, and I saw myself getting faster (hello multiple 5K PRs!)  As you may remember, I was grossly under-trained for my first half marathon, and I trained for my second one using 5 to 1 run-walk intervals.  I felt prepared for the Wisconsin half marathon, but I could not have run the entire thing. (Although running the entire race was not my goal anyway.)  This time around I knew I was ready to run. 

And run I did, I managed to achieve my goal (Mission 101 Item #88: done and done.) of running an entire half marathon.  I actually did end up talking a few walk breaks in the last mile.  I’m beginning to get the feeling that race organizers find it amusing to make the last leg of any race a literal uphill battle. The last mile of Dallas 13.1 took us up a pretty intense hill, and training in Chicago just does not prepare you for a hill of that caliber.  (I don’t care where you live; I would bet it’s not as flat as Chicago.  Therefore pretty much every hill is intense for me.) 

I also had my very own spectator in Dallas.  I’ve never had someone come cheer me on at a race before.  This time I had Laura there cheering me on the whole way.  I swear the girl was a ninja with a bike.  I’d look up and bam! there she was again.  It is an amazing motivator to hear someone calling your name from the sidelines, cheering you on, and making sure you’re doing okay.  You can check out Laura’s recap of the race from the spectator’s POV here.

At the end of it all, I finished the race with such a feeling of happiness and pride.  I was proud of myself for completing my first two half marathons, but this time the feeling of happiness and pride was just a little different.  I felt like I worked hard and really earned it.  My goal for the race was to come in under 2:30, and I managed to crush that goal finishing the race with an official time of 2:24:22, and my time even included a mandatory bathroom spot at mile 11.  (Mandatory as in, if I didn’t stop immediately I was going to have a serious issue.)  I knocked a full 10 minutes off my previously half marathon time.  I think this can be contributed to my efforts, both physical and mental, from the start of training to crossing the finish line.

I’ve always known running is more mental than physical, but this proved especially true during this race.  I ran with Laura’s cousin Jennifer for the first 5 miles or so before I pulled slightly ahead of her.  I picked pretty much the worst part of the race to pull ahead because shortly after, I encountered (the first) two substantial hills on the course.  Running these hills took a great deal out of me, and from that point forward, I was struggling against myself.  Physically I was kind of tired since, as I mentioned, hills are the devil I’m not used to hills, but my real issue was mental.  I was starting to defeat myself.  Running with others is a great distraction from mentally defeating yourself (as is seeing your personal spectator.)  Thankfully, I hooked back up with Jennifer shortly after mile 11 and was able to tackle that final mile and murder hill with her and her friend.

Overall, I could not be happier with my Dallas 13.1 experience. 🙂

P.S. Thanks to Laura for all the photos!