What I Learned From My Last Half Marathon

I was blessed with incredible weather (low 60s and no wind) and a flat course during my last half marathon, and while these factors went into the 1.5 minute PR, there were a lot of things I did right and a few lessons I learned. Here are a few of them.

1. Eat a big lunch the day before a big effort.  

I am not a huge fan of gigantic pasta dinners the day before a race, but I do believe in big, carb-filled lunch. When I ran my last half last fall, I don’t think I fueled enough the day before and remember feeling tired and lethargic. I wasn’t going to make the same mistake.

This time around, I ate a gigantic smoked salmon club sandwich for lunch (read: salt and carbs). Casey and I went out to lunch and even though I really, really wanted the BBQ chicken sandwich, I opted for this carb-happy sandwich.

This was followed by a moderate dinner of eggs and toast. I had a protein muffin about an hour before the race, and Vega Sport at the start line 20 minutes before the race. I had a ton of energy and credit a lot of this to smart fuel planning.

2. It’s ok to start slow.

I ran the first two miles of the race with the 1:40 pace group – ie, 7:40 miles. The next few miles were closer to 7:35. Then 7:20. The final six ranged between just under 7 minutes and 7:15. Key learning? Easing into it works for me and I can make up the time.

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3. Run with a buddy, or make a new friend in the start line.

I usually run races with friends but was flying solo for this one.

I met my race buddy Haley at the start line when we both confessed we wanted to run a little under 1:40. We found each other around mile 4 and were attached at the hip the rest of the race. She pushed me during a few of the middle miles, we encouraged each other to keep going when we hit every mile. Overall, it was fun to experience the race with someone else, but I also know I wouldn’t have done it without her.

4. I need to work on my turnover.

Haley and I caught a pack of a few runners around mile 12, and with one to go, everyone seemed to change into the next gear. Except me. My legs struggled to pick up the pace.

I need to start doing strides at least one a week after medium runs to mimic this last part of a race. I used to be a middle distance runner, for God’s sake, I am off to find my kick.

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Whether a race goes good or bad, we can all learn a thing or two. What did you learn from your last race?

What I Learned From My Last Half Marathon

New Half PR (!!!!) and 5 Other Excellent Things That Happened Today.

This morning was epic. One of those races where everything came together at the same time. My training. My rest. My fueling. My pacing. The weather. It all came together big time for a big PR: 1:35:21. I’m a bit too tired for a full race recap so will save it for another day.

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Since I woke up at 5:45 a.m. for the race and it felt like a really long day which went awesome for the following reasons:

1. Our grocery bill was only two bags and $65.

A typical week at TJ’s runs us about $100. Lately we’ve been smarter about not cooking more than we need to. For example, if we had four burgers in a packet, we’d cook all four with the idea that the remaining two would be leftovers — more likely, we’d either eat more than we needed to or end up tossing the excess.

Because of our new approach, left in our fridge this week was a half jar of marinara sauce; two burgers; half a jar of enchilada suace, corn tortillas and a can of refried beans; and a half package of bacon = we’re eating pasta, burgers, enchiladas and BLTs this week.

I truly love being thrifty.

2. I went bike shopping and am 98% sure what I am going to get.

I finally made it to Kozy’s Kyclery and got the 411 on road bikes. Thankfully one of my home girls came with me so she could do the talking for me. I had no idea what to ask or what type of questions to get. My new friend Cody recommended a few bikes, and I am likely going to go with the Giant Avail 5.

It’s deemed as a solid entry road bike and at $659 (sale!) the price is right. Just need to take it for a test ride.

Side note: I am terrified to wear bike shoes.

3. I got to talk with one of my best friends for a whole hour.

My friend Katie was a bridesmaid in my wedding and my partner in crime in Chicago for two years. The summer of 2009 we had a Saturday night routine: Katie would come to my apartment, we’d drink 1-2 bottles of Riesling, then head out for a night of dancing or whatever else we felt like getting into. Another thing about Katie and me is that our birthday is one day apart so we ALWAYS celebrated together. Here is us turning 23 I think?

 

Katie is always up for fun and I have missed her like crazy since she moved away last spring. She recently moved to North Carolina with her boyfriend where they have a gorgeous house and an English Bulldog named Steve.

I am not one to talk on the phone but was so happy she answered and had the best time catching up.

4. I ate ravioli for Sunday dinner again. 

I know this may sound crazy especially since I am a runner, but I am not the biggest pasta lover. I think it’s because I associate eating pasta with being super full. But recently I discovered the fresh ravioli section at Trader Joe’s and found if I actually eat the portion on the package, I feel satisfied and happy vs. gross and overly full.

I am now on a mission to try every single ravioli Trader Joe’s offers — at less than $4 a package, it’s quite an affordable meal — and this week’s was Portabella Mushroom Ravioli. I served it up with polenta, peas, chicken and salad. Sunday night dinner done right!

5. Casey and I went for an epic walk.

One of my favorite things in the world is going for a long walk, and usually it is like pulling teeth to get Casey to go out and about with me. He says he needs a mission for his walk! So I will make up silly reasons to walk like I need a pack of gum from the Walgreen’s a mile away.

Tonight he PROACTIVELY offered to walk with me and we had the nicest walk through Lincoln Park and on the lake. As much as I loved Denver, there really is no place like Chicago in the summer.

Overall, it seems like things went my way today for the most part.

How was your Sunday? Another other PR’s out there?

New Half PR (!!!!) and 5 Other Excellent Things That Happened Today.

We went to the ball!

If you want to feel like a million bucks but only spend about a hundred I have some advice for you.

When Casey first asked me if I wanted to go to his grad school gala, I decided it would be just crazy to turn down an opportunity to get dressed up. I went to dozens of events with him while he was in school. Usually I ended up feeling like the awkward kid in the room, because I know approximately three people. That said the pros of getting fancy far outweighed the con of being awkward.

Last year a colleague turned me on to Rent the Runway and it is pretty much the best thing ever. The concept is simple: pick a designer dress from their collection, select two sizes and pop it in the mail using the envelopes provided 4 days later. I have some many “worn just once” dresses in my closet, this seemed like a way to pay the same price for something even more fabulous.

When the BCBGMAXAZRIA dress I picked arrived on Thursday, I realized I made a MASSIVE error. I picked just one size. The dress was ok, but I could tell I’d love it more if it fit a bit more snug.

RTR is known for its excellent customer service so the next morning I chatted with a stylist online. My dress wasn’t available in a my size, but I could pick any dress that was the same price as my rental, or pay the difference, and they’d overnight it for free. Crisis. Averted. And seriously, how amazing are they?

I ended up picking this Cynthia Rowley shift.

I am slightly conservative when it comes to necklines and I just love shifts for some reason. It hugged me in all the right places, was the perfect length and got two thumbs up from the hubs. For $50 plus shipping and insurance, it was totally worth the spend.

Another thing to do if you want to spend a little but feel like Hollywood is get your hair blown out. Yesterday at the office was a bit out of control stressful and having someone massage my head with shampoo and worry about making my hair looks great was the perfect way to calm down.

Here is a look at the finished product:

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Clearly the best part of the day was the getting ready part but the event was actually pretty great/less awkward than expected.

I had joked with Casey about buying each other corsages for “the dance” but decided it might be ridiculous. Thankfully Booth had us and all donating alumni covered and of course I made Case take prom style pics to send back home to mom.

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I stuck to my guns and only had two cocktails: a vodka soda during cocktail hour and a glass of red wine with our steak and salmon dinner. I honestly thing it made for a better experience. I focused on conversation and enjoying myself rather than when the bar opened and only one person asked me if I was pregnant.

The food overall was pretty standard banquet food but the star of the meal being the walnut and cherry salad. If only it had bleu cheese on it.

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Overall the night was a success and me and another gal decided to be sneaky and take some of the gorgeous flowers from the table home so that was a success.

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I am taking today off running and exercise because I decided to run that half marathon tomorrow. I am trying not to make a big deal about it but I kind of hope I run well.

Have you tried Rent the Runway? Any other secrets for fashion on the cheap?

We went to the ball!

My Favorite Running Apps

If I was stranded on an island and could only take a few items with me, I’d absolutely, 100%, without a doubt take my iPhone. I love it so much and am not sure how I ever lived without it.

Here is a list of my top five favorite apps for running

Spotify 

For me, Spotify has replaced iTunes and Pandora (except for the Pitbull station, which is my go-to for speed workouts). The reason I like it? I pay $9.99 a month for a premium membership and have access to 1M songs for free. It’s kind of like renting music.

My favorite feature is the ability to make playlists. With iTunes, I’d binge and purchase 20 or so before a big race so I had a solid line-up to get my through. Now, I just start and add to a playlist. 

Nike+

Myth: You must have a Nike Plus watch for this to work. Not true. I don’t have one and use the Nike Plus app like a Garmin. It tracks distance, pace, time and calories burned with GPS, and a man or woman voice (you choose) gives you audio feedback (such as when you hit a mile) as you run.

My only wish? The man (or woman) rattling your mile splits. You can check them at the end but have to calculate them in your head during the run. I don’t mind too much though. Keeps the mind sharp!  

Electric Miles 

My mile logger. It syncs with Daily Mile and enables me to log runs and workouts on the go. Extremely user friendly. 

CorePower Yoga 

It’s not running but close enough. Even though I know the yoga schedule for two studios by heart, I still check this all. the. time. Is my favorite teacher (Lisa La) subbing? Is another favorite out of town? All the answers at my fingertips. 

Which running/fitness apps are your favorite? 

(P.S. All of these are free)

 

 

My Favorite Running Apps

Cleaning up my diet.

I have read a lot lately about the pro’s of clean eating and the con’s of processed foods quite a bit lately. It seems like the topic is everywhere. 

In it’s simplest terms, clean eating means avoiding overly processed, pre-packaged the refined foods. The focus is on eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and good fats. Here is a good list of foods that are part of a clean eating lifestyle.

There a number of benefits to clean eating. More energy. Decreased risk to diseases. An overall sense of just feeling better and more healthy. But on top of this, there’s a growing body of research that shows overly processed foods actually stimulate the brain in the same addictive way as drugs. 

I eat pretty healthy on a day-to-day basis, but there are lots of food in my diet that aren’t clean.

I eat a ton of processed whole wheat bread, lunch meat, granola bars and processed cheese. Hummus is another one on the banned list. 

Another clean eating no-no: aspartame. It’s in my coffee x3 and I’m known for sprinkling it on a lot of other foods. And while there’s conflicting research on whether it’s truly “bad,” I know in my gut I eat far too much.  

I don’t think achieve 100% clean eating is achievable. But what I can do is be more aware and make healthy swaps. I’m going to start with one meal and take a few weeks to clean it up. 

This week I started with breakfast. Instead of three Splendas in my coffee, I used one. Instead of a processed whole wheat sandwich thing with my veggie omelette, I had a banana. I don’t think the whole wheat sandwich thin is the hugest clean eating offender, but it was an easy swap.

I felt just as satisfied and pretty dang good about my choices. 

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A Few Other Note on the Day: 

  • This morning’s workout was a 10-mile run with 5-miles at tempo pace. My running buddy and I were feeling a bit tired from the weekend. Our tempo splits were 7:39, 7:38, 7:37, 7:25, 7:29. It felt hard but not over the top. I remember when we first started doing tempo that 7:30 sounded scary and felt super hard. We have come along way! Even though I was not looking forward to speed on a Monday, I’m glad it’s over and it sure made 10 miles go faster. 
  • I ordered Click Protein last week and had it for afternoon snack for the first time. Omygosh. It was so tasty and definitely gave me a boost when I was in the middle of the afternoon slumps. I am a fan. You should try it. 

How was your Monday? 

Cleaning up my diet.

No thanks, I won’t have another.

This past month has been a bit of a bender. First was Boston. Then was my sister-in-law’s college graduation. Then Denver. Then last night. (Saturday.) I feel like I’ve been celebrating a lot this past month, and the celebrations have somehow led to far too many cocktails, late-night snacks and hangovers. And I’ve had enough.

In college, I was definitely what you called a big drinker. Everyone was at my school. Thursday night was bar night, Friday night was usually a sorority/fraternity party and Saturday? Well you don’t stay in on a Saturday (at least where I went to school).

Image[A typical night out. Would you look at the size of those cans? How did I ever make it to the bottom. Also, I can’t even believe the things I used to do to my hair!]

After college things slowed down a bit. I learned very quickly that hangovers and work do not mix well so kept it to Fridays and Saturdays only. Fridays usually included me and Casey heading to a BYOB Thai restaurant, killing 1-2 bottles of wine and then drinking more while watching a movie at home. I would lay around Saturday and watch reality TV, slightly hungover, then rally for a another night of boozing that inevitably ended at a late-night diner, gyro stand, delivery pizza or burrito as big as my head. It sounds really gross, but at the time I was truly having the time of my life and couldn’t image why anyone would do anything else with their weekends.

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[My post-college roommate and me on a typical night out in Chicago.]

Fast forward to two years later when I began training for my first Chicago Marathon. I joined the Chicago Area Runner’s Association’s Summer Marathon Training program, and with long runs Saturday at 6:30 a.m., drinking on Friday was not an option. At first, I loathed my sober Friday nights. But by the end of the training, I secretly looked forward to them. Though Casey was very sweet to join me on many Friday nights, I started to enjoy the ones on my own, too. I could clean my apartment before the weekend began and watch shows he has zero patience for, like Yes to the Dress.

As the years have gone on, I go out even less and it’s a different type of out. Instead of the infamous “all-you-can-drink” parties I frequented in my early 20s, “out” now includes dinner with another couple followed by a few drinks elsewhere.

Image[Casey and I recently during on of said nights out.]

Despite the change in scenery, we still get out of hand. I’ve never been good at knowing my “limits,” so having one too many still happens. And lately more frequently than I’d like. To be clear, I don’t have a drinking problem. I just think I can drink more than I can and I don’t pay attention to how much or how quickly I am slurping them down.

To be perfectly honest, I don’t even really like drinking anymore. I definitely don’t like the hangovers. But I also don’t like how it makes me feel in the moment. I get tired and hungry and get anxious. Should I have another one? What should it be? Am I as drunk as everyone else or lagging behind in pace?

So why do I still do it? It’s a cultural thing. My friends drink, I drink. Makes sense, right?

I woke up this morning and realized for the first time ever that I actually have a choice. I don’t have to drink… as much, or at all. I’m not sure why it took me so long to realize this. Just because x, y or z are happening doesn’t mean I have to partake. I can have fun without booze and I actually think I have a better time when it’s not involved.

So I made a decision. For the next month, I’m stopping at one… two max. I told Casey about my plans and while he’s supportive for the most part, he also flagged some big things going down: a black tie gala this Friday, a friend’s wedding next Saturday, a birthday party I’m planning for a friend in early June. But you know what? I actually feel more excited about these events knowing that booze will be taking a back seat. I’m not stressed knowing that I’m going to feel tired and exhausted. I’m excited to take in the experience.

I’m looking forward to seeing how this little experiment goes. How the world looks through a sober lens. I am telling myself it is just a month and I can always go back to old ways. But they say saying “no” gets easier every time, and I have a hunch once I get comfortable saying “No thanks, I don’t need another” and “I just don’t drink very much anymore” will get easier with time. I secretly kind of hope so at least.

This was a little serious so ending with a photo of the dinner I made tonight. Cheese ravioli with turkey sausage, marinara with fresh basil. Side of polenta topped with mascarpone cheese and also a side of salad (not pictured). I am actually a good cook when I put a tiny bit of effort in.

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No thanks, I won’t have another.

I am in love with pre-workout energizers

You guys. I have found a new miracle drink and you have got to give it a try.

I have always been a morning exerciser. I used to be able to bounce out of bed and just go… not so much anymore. I snooze a few times. I dabbled with drinking coffee before runs but didn’t like the side effects. Something had to be done.

After reading raving reviews about pre-workout energizers from Angela and Rhi and discovering Vega Sport Pre-Workout Energizer is sold at Whole Foods, I made a b-line to the nearest store, bought a few sample packets and will never look back.

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Vega Sport Pre-Workout energizers are designed to give you a boost/more energy during the workout and increase endurance, overall performance and focus. It’s made with plant-based ingredients and it’s fairly low calorie (plus).

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I just mix one scoop with 8 ounces of water 20-30 minutes before exercise. Stir a few times; let it set to make sure it dissolves, then stir one final time.

Vega Sport comes in two flavors – Acai Berry and Lemon Lime. Both taste just ok and they don’t smell weird. It’s a means toward an end, folks.

Here’s what happened to me after using pre-workout energizers and why I will probably never do a morning workout without them again:

  • I felt significantly more awake 15-20 minutes after taking Vega Sport compared to coffee or no fuel. Like, wide awake.
  • I was chomping at the bit during a warm-up before a speed workout. The speed workout still felt hard, but I felt ready to go.
  • I definitely feel more ready to go mentally. It could be placebo effect but I’ll take it.
  • These were easy on the tummy. For someone who doesn’t typically eat before exercise, this is definitely a  plus.

I get mine from Whole Foods. It’s also sold at GNC, The Vitamin Shoppe, Vega Sport’s website and several other online retailers. Just type the product name into Google shopping.

From here on out, my life will be split into two clear phase: before pre-workout energizers and after.

Have you tried pre-workout energizers? Dare I ask about the powers of recovery drinks?  

I am in love with pre-workout energizers