Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Adieu to Summer

Tonight is the last night of summer, and boy, is it going out with a bang!  The skies were beautiful and clear during the day, but tonight we're having a crazy thunderstorm.  My apartment has a good view of the skyline, and I can see the lightning all across the city - very cool!

It's also the autumnal equinox, which brings the orange "harvest moon":

(of course, this is not the moon in Philly - I could see the moon earlier, but it's been replaced by lightning!)

Although the weather was more mid-summer than fall today, I thought I would savor the end of summer.  If everything goes well with my thesis project, I may not be here for another summer - so I enjoyed one of my favorite Philly summer treats, gelato.

This isn't just any gelato, either: it's from Capogiro, and it's a delicious mix of their watermelon, sea salt, and tarragon gelato flavors.  I first tried the watermelon and sea salt together last year, and I've been waiting all summer for a day when they would offer them together.  It's only fitting that the last day of summer would be that day!  The tarragon gelato made a wonderful addition - a little milder, herbal but smooth, and an interesting twist.

It's sad to think that this might be my last time to enjoy this treat - of course, I can have the gelato any time I want, but the watermelon is a seasonal flavor and won't be back until next summer.  I am excited to move on to fall, though - pumpkin spice lattes, here I come!

Race Update

Last weekend, I ran the ING Rock 'n' Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon.  I really wanted to PR at the race, and was feeling optimistic leading up to Sunday.  The race was tougher than expected, though, and it took a good bit longer for me to finish than I thought it would!  It just goes to show that every race is different - this time, a combination of eating too close to the race, a long time to the start line, and sore legs made me sluggish and gave me an upset stomach during the race.  I pushed through and stayed roughly on pace (14:02/mi) until mile 10.1, but during the last 3 miles, everything fell apart.  I ended up walking most of the end, and was mildly disappointed at the finish.

Goal time: 3:00:00 (13:45/mi)
Chip time: 3:15:11 (14:55/mi)

After a bit of brooding and feeling sorry for myself, I decided to get over it.  Even if it took me longer than I thought it would, I still finished a second half marathon.  I had fun during most of the race, and I gave it my all.  I can't be too disappointed in myself for completing something that I couldn't have imagined just last year!

Next time, I know that I need to step up the long runs - at least two need to be 10 miles or greater, and I need a few more over 6 as well.  Hopefully I can do it - the Philadelphia Marathon's half marathon is on November 21, and I've got a LOT of travel, lab work, and general life stuff going on before then!

Hope you all had a wonderful end of the summer - break out your sweaters, 'cause fall is coming!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

ING Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon: Race Intentions

The time has come: in less than 24 hours, I will be running the ING Rock 'n' Roll Philly Half Marathon.  The race is sold out, with the field at more than 18,600 people.  Compared to Broad Street last year, which had 26,265 finishers, it's a little smaller - but still a huge race, and sure to be a little crazy.

I made some time for the Race Expo during work yesterday.  This is one of the times I really love having the flexibility to just take off - even though most of the time I complain about working too much, it's nice to start an experiment incubating, leave for a few hours, and come back to results.

At the race expo, I got my bib number (22063, for anyone who wants to look me up later), as well as my bright orange official race t-shirt:

Of course, I won't be wearing that tomorrow - you should never run a race in clothes you haven't worn running before - but I actually kind of like the color and design, so I might wear it in the future.  I also picked up another shirt from the Brooks stand:

This one made me particularly excited, both because of the color and the more minimalist design.  I will definitely be wearing this one out running!

Today, I've been working on charging my iPod, camera, and Garmin, stocking my Camelbak with water (yes, there are water stops, but it won't be enough), and setting out my clothes.  I also got my gear drop bag ready with old flip-flops, a change of clothes, and towels.  I love how they gave us special drop bags - this way, I don't have to worry about losing a nice bag if my stuff gets lost.  Mimu likes the bag too:

I had to tell her that I can't actually take her with me in the bag - but she'll get to see me when I get back!

Race Goals

Ambitious Time Goal: 2:55:00 (13:22/mi) - this would be a 7.5-minute PR and would require EVERYTHING to go right.
Realistic Time Goal: 3:00:00 (13:45/mi) - this would be a 2.5-minute PR and is a realistic goal.
Minimum Time Goal: 3:10:00 (14:30/mi) - this would be 8 minutes slower than my previous PR and would be satisfying.  Of course, if something major goes wrong, the time goals will go out the window.

The Primary Goal: Have fun!  Take it all in and enjoy the fact that I can run a half marathon.  I couldn't a year ago, and I might not be able to some time in the future, but right now I'm in good running shape and can do this.

Things I'm Looking Forward To...
- Waking up less than 2.5 hours before the race starts (instead of at 2:45 am like last time)
- Walking to the race from my apartment (it's about 1 mile away, and a good warmup)
- The palpable excitement in the air at big races like this
- Hopefully catching a glimpse of running "celebrities" like defending champion Ryan Hall
- Running a race that covers one of my favorite long-run routes, but having cheering spectators and bands along the route this time
- Finishing!!
- Getting the coveted medal and walking around with it, perhaps even to Lululemon for a massage (they are giving free ones to race runners tomorrow)

...and Things I'm NOT Looking Forward To
- A mess of people trying to get to the starting corrals
- Porta-potties and porta-potty lines
- Trying to pass slower people who drastically underestimated their finish time and ended up in an earlier corral
- Time clocks along the course reading >20 minutes greater than my real time due to a lot of people at the start (thank god for Garmin!)
- Chafing
- Sweaty porta-potty trips (totally gross.)
- The unbelievable soreness in my feet, legs, and - who am I kidding? - entire body that will come to me the second I cross the finish line

It's going to be incredibly fun, though, so all the negatives won't be so bad!

Hopefully at this time tomorrow, I'll be clean, in my PJs and some comfy slippers, relaxing on the sofa with a drink and the Eagles game (sure, I'd rather be watching the Vikings, but they're on at the same time and I'm in Philly).  Wish me luck!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Running Update

I've been running consistently for over 9 months now, which seems crazy to me - I mean, I must be a "real" runner if I keep at it for that long, right?  I had a brief flirtation with running last year but gave it up pretty quickly; this is the first time that I've really stuck with a workout habit.  And - shockingly - I love it!

So far, the races I've run this year are:

Get Your Rear in Gear 5K - March

This was a small 5K held in Philly, and was really just a checkpoint in my training.  It was a nice day, and still cool outside.  My goal was to run the whole 5K, and I did it - for the first time.

Official Time: 40:34 (13:04/mi pace)
Garmin Time: 38:45 (12:27/mi pace)

Broad Street Run - May

This was a HUGE race, one of Philadelphia's most famous.  It's one of the largest 10-mile races in the country, and I could definitely feel that when we were all lined up and ready to go.  I had just gotten over a nasty cold and was hoping to just make it through - on top of all that, the temp reached 90 degrees by the time the race was done.  It was hot and messy, and they had to turn the sprinklers along the course on to keep us from dying - but it was an absolute blast.  The course being mostly downhill helped, and my cold didn't bother me too much.  Definitely one of my most memorable races.

Official Time: 2:23:00 (14:20 pace)
Garmin Time: 2:23:00 for 10.09 miles (14:11 pace)

13.1 Marathon Boston - June

Compared to Broad Street, the 13.1 Marathon (bad name, I know) was a much smaller race, held on the grounds of Prowse Farm.  The weather was absolutely beautiful - sunny but cool and breezy.  Although it seemed a bit disorganized (it was the first year of the race, after all), I really enjoyed the enthusiastic atmosphere and friendliness of everyone involved.  I pushed myself through an extremely hilly course - much tougher than anything I trained on - and made it through at a much faster pace than I thought I would!  I'll always remember this one for the sweetness of my boyfriend, who walked to the central point of the course at 5:30 am just to cheer me on.

Official Time: 3:02:46 (14:00/mi)
Garmin Time: 3:02:46 for 13.29 miles (13:47/mi)

I've been training hard for most of the summer, even through the hottest parts, and I feel like I'm ready to tackle the next two half-marathons I have coming up.  The first one, the Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon, is this weekend - and if my long runs are any indication, I'm ready for it.  I haven't done as many long runs as I'd like, but the race is on a familiar course, and the weather should be great, so I'm psyched.  After that, I've got a bit of a break (we're talking 6-mile long runs, not a total break), and then I'll be getting ready for the Philadelphia Marathon's Half Marathon in November.  More detailed goals will be in the next post, but basically, all I want to do is feel stronger and faster with each race this fall.  I would love to PR at each one, especially with the weather getting cooler now, but I'll be satisfied with feeling good after each race.

Overall, I've come to love running - it's a great cardio workout, and I can definitely tell that I'm in better shape now than I was last year.  I can do a LOT of stairs without getting winded, and a quick jog when I'm running late doesn't make me all hot and sweaty - it's a huge difference from before.  I do want to change my workout plans a bit this winter, though - I haven't been focusing enough on strength training, and I don't think I'll get much faster or leaner without improving my strength.  And for a girl whose ultimate goal in starting to run was to lose weight, that's a big one - I want my running hobby to make me healthier AND happier with my body.  The winter will bring more yoga and more weights, plus a bit of TRX in the spring (thanks in advance, Elisabeth!)

So there you have it: my reflections on running.  More to come after the next races, for sure!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

New goals - fitness and otherwise

Strangely, unlike the rest of the world, which tends to get engaged during the spring (you know, the whole "love is in the air" time), many of my friends are either engaged or planning on it right now.  What is it about August and September that's so great for love?  Don't ask me - I'm too sweaty right now in the 97-degree heat to feel at all lovey-dovey.


I must admit that at first, I was all jealous.  I mean, I've been dating my boyfriend for almost 7 years - why can't I be engaged too?  Forget about the logical explanations - like the fact that we've been dating long-distance for almost that entire time.  I am just ready to be at that stage in my life already.  Soon, though, I came around to reason and realized that it's just not quite time, and that once we finally (FINALLY!) move in together next spring, things will happen much more quickly.  And I realized one more thing: this whole friends-getting-engaged thing is actually a blessing in disguise.

Yes, you heard that right.  It's good for me to see all the planning and work and stress that goes into a wedding now, while I'm still removed from the whole thing.  From watching my friends, I've learned a bit about wedding planning: for one, that you need to decide on a location first because that will dictate almost everything else.  The really important decisions are something that I will keep in the back of my mind for when I finally do get engaged.


But the best thing so far is actually watching my friends begin to panic about getting in shape for their weddings.   Already I've heard talk about having no more sweets, and working out more, and this is still several months in advance of their weddings.  I've learned a lot from these discussions: namely, that I don't want that kind of stress for the entire year before my wedding.  Although I know that I will still want to work out harder to look my best at the ceremony, I think now is a perfectly good time to start working on more ambitious fitness goals.

This year, my goals were to run a half marathon, and to hopefully lose a few pounds in the process.  There weren't very many detailed goals in there, because to begin again from not running at all was in itself a huge goal.  I am proud to say that I've smashed my running goal - one half is done already, and I have two more lined up for this fall.  I successfully went from non-runner to half-marathoner in 6 months - and I will hopefully be improving my pace in the next two races.  Unfortunately, though, I haven't been so successful on the weight-loss front - my weight has stayed pretty steady because of all the food I've been eating to fuel my running.  Yoga has helped me tone up a bit, but I have had almost no time for strength training with my running schedule.

Which is why next year's goals are going to be different.  Because I've already become a runner - yes, I do call myself that even though I only "run" at 13:00/mile pace on average - I should be able to maintain a decent base of 5-8 miles per week (one short and one longer run) while also improving my strength and balance.  Instead of training for endurance races, I'm going to stick to 5Ks for the spring, and spend some more time with weights, the bosu and balance ball, and maybe kettlebells or a TRX (edit: I will be trying out a TRX courtesy of A Jogger's Life in March!  Yay!!)  The real goal is to make myself more toned, improve my muscle mass, and make myself stronger and faster.  In the end, even though I'm not running as much, this should help me improve my running far more than my long runs do right now.  And if it helps me lose weight, even better - I'll have a jump start on this whole wedding prep thing, and being even 10 pounds lighter will make me faster and happier when running.

As for life goals?  Well, this next year is likely to be super turbulent - shifting from being a Ph.D. student to a postdoc (at a place so intense it's almost scary), moving in with my boyfriend in a different town, and making new friends come to mind.  My main goal is to just relax and breathe - I don't do enough of that.  Some things will be out of my control, and I'm going to need to just ride with it.  And enjoy the ride.