Category Archives: Blog

Blog Training

I don’t want to run. And even 3 miles feels like forever.

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I don’t want to run.

My alarm sounds, and my motivation to climb out of bed is 0%. Actually, if we’re being completely honest, it’s -1,000%.

The mileage doesn’t matter. Whether it’s 10, 6 or 3 — it all makes me go “ugh.” Not helping — my pace on all runs is stuck at 11 minute+ miles — slower than ever.

I’ve tried the “just go out for 2 miles” and the “just go out for 1 mile” … and all the other tricks in the book — ” ‘I regret that workout,’ — said no one ever,” tuning into music, focusing on one mile at a time.

I’ve been running for 3 1/2 years, and I’ve never felt quite like this. Sure, I’ve gone through individual runs or weeks where I wasn’t really feeling it, but I always powered through — and relatively quickly.

It’s been seven weeks since I dived back into running after a self-imposed three-week break around Christmas to give my legs — and mind — a rest. AKA, things I should have done after running my first marathon Oct. 9.

I have an inkling of what happened — I jumped back into running, and all other areas of fitness, too quickly. Four of those weeks I worked out 7 1/2 to 8 hours (yes, I double-checked my Fitbit stats just now) — higher than many of my marathon training weeks. I completed more strength, cycle and swim workouts in addition to my normal routine, which included one strength session and one yoga class per week on top of 4-5 runs.

I’d also stepped on the scale and realized my holiday indulgences hadn’t added 5 pounds — but 12. I wanted all that extra weight gone as quickly as possible — because now is never too soon.

At the same time, I also focused on dislodging bad habits I’d developed, specifically walking up somewhat-difficult hills instead of running (actually the best thing I could do, and I will stick with running vs. walking) and not skipping runs on some days my legs felt tired (I should have been kinder to myself).

It’s not surprising looking back that in the same seven-week span, I developed a virus that left me sleeping 15 hours a day and lower back pain that steered me to an entire workday spent on my couch — something that’s never happened before.

I ranted about my runs feeling so hard to my friend when we ran 5 miles on my birthday. I told her how my back injury seemed to develop: I ran 10 miles and the next day felt a dull ache (not entirely uncommon after long runs), but ran 4 miles, swam 20 minutes and went to a yoga class anyway.

She immediately honed in: “That sounds like overtraining” and “Kat, you did a lot of workouts in one day.”

I can’t be overtraining, I thought. I’m not running high mileage weeks. And I’ve always run the day after a long run and done yoga after. And yoga isn’t really a “workout” workout (Yes, I know it actually is). And I only swam 20 minutes, which isn’t a lot. And I’ve done similar strings of workouts before without “overtraining.”

The comparison game — to my own self — and the drive to ramp up my fitness quickly somehow developed into a beast in my brain.

It took a few days for my friend’s wisdom to sink in. As a result, I retooled my training plan — I’ll just focus on a 10K PR in May.

Then I talked to my trainer, and when he said I should stick with 10 miles for my long runs, even in 10K training, my heart sank.

It wasn’t until then that I fully realized I’d been looking for an easy way out instead of dealing head-on with the issue at hand — burn out, both physical and mental, and so early in the year.

Normally, this is part of the blog post where wisdom and wit combine into a solution, or at least some sort of light at the end of the tunnel. Except, I have no solution. I am living day-to-day and considering my runs in the same way.

I don’t know when I’ll get my running mojo back, but I do know it will return again — someday.

Blog

The Treadmill-Dreadmill Dance Runners Play and Why the Machine is Worth it

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“I want to stop.”

The treadmill display stared back, unwavering — 0.8 miles down.

“At least I’m almost to mile 1.”

After what seemed like five minutes later: “I’m only at 0.88?!? WHY is this going so slowly?!?”

A half mile later, I knew it was time to check in.

I am not a treadmill fan per se, but I tolerate what runners often call the dreadmill fairly well. I regularly log some of my miles each month on the treadmill, including many speed workouts. I definitely play mind tricks to get through the sessions — sometimes focusing on the mile I’m in, other times thinking of a regular route on the pavement that’s of the same distance and where I’d be at any given point in that route, and occasionally switching up the pace even if it’s an easy workout.

In early 2016, I spent about a month with the bulk of my mileage on the machine because of the weather, including an 8-mile long run the day after up to three feet of snow hit the D.C. area. I don’t care how dedicated you are — there was zero way to do a long run outside that day. (Fun fact: After running those 8 miles, I spent 2.5 hours digging out my car. That’s how long it took to carve out that small, single space at my apartment complex.)

So. Much. Snow.

So less than a mile and a half into my 4-mile treadmill run after work I realized it was time to take a step back — not literally, for fear of falling off the machine — to examine what was happening in my mind.

“OK,” I said to myself. “What is so bad about this … and you can’t say everything.”

I thought about my legs — are they sore or tired? A tiny bit, I weighed in, but nothing significant. Did it take longer for them to warm up? I’ve spent several treadmill runs with tightness in my shins or calves for the first mile only for it to dissipate quickly after hitting that 1.0 mark. That wasn’t the case here, either.

I checked my breathing. It was definitely harder today than previous days, but I wasn’t out of breath at my easy pace.

I thought about my recent bout with a virus that left me sleeping for 15 hours a day and resulted in two days off work. Am I run down to the point I need a break? Maybe. Let’s be perfectly honest — my doctor probably would say yes. But I felt a lot more energetic by the afternoon that first day back at work.

What else?

“It’s hot as hell, like actual hell, there is zero air movement and I am actually going to die,” I said exasperatedly to myself.

That’s it. That was the issue. I realized I was wiping sweat away every two-tenths of a mile.

My work gym is nice, but there is one large fan for the entire cardio area that’s probably three times the size of my apartment. Basically, if you’re not right next to the fan, you don’t feel it. On top of that, most people apparently don’t like it. The gym staff turn it on each day, and someone usually turns it off.

Apparently I am the only person who relies on it. I usually come in and take the treadmill right next to the adjacent fan, shift it to point directly at my machine, turn it on to medium and enjoy a nice breeze that keeps me cooler, and clearly happier, for my entire workout.

That day, someone was on that treadmill, the fan was off anyway and I was stuck far, far away. Two miles in, I almost switched machines when the other one became available because I felt that hot. And then I almost tripped because it’s apparently hard to look 90 degrees to the right while running on a treadmill.

Then I took apart my earlier statement. Was it hot? Yes. Hot as hell? OK, probably maybe definitely an exaggeration. Was it so hot that I could overheat? No, and I had my water bottle with me if needed.

From that 8-mile treadmill run after the Blizzard of 2016.

I stuck with it. I didn’t die. I made it through those 4 miles and ended with a shirt far more soaked than if I’d been near the beloved (by me) fan.

I distracted myself with HGTV and reminded myself that a shower would immediately follow. I picked up the pace the last half mile. And, after I stopped, it was interesting to see the steady climb in my heart rate chart from the beginning to the end of the run — a clear indication of the effort when it feels warmer.

This is the treadmill dance a lot of us runners deal with, but beating that combination of boredom and downright loathing for the machine we come to depend on at times — even if it’s a love/hate relationship — makes us mentally stronger in the end, and it’s totally worth it.

Also, “Fixer Upper” helps, a lot.

 

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Blog

Hardest Thing I’ve Ever Done = Training for My First Marathon. What I Learned.

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In case it’s not been underscored enough here, on this blog, or elsewhere in the running community, training for a marathon — particularly your first — is not easy. It’s actually been the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

You’d think that statement might be reserved for race day itself, but early on in training, I realized race day would be a relative piece of cake — barring unlikely and unforeseen conditions — compared to the hours logged on the trail, the early alarms, the constant hunger, the feeling of always wanting a little bit more sleep, and most importantly, the mental aspect of it all.

Here are just a few of the things I learned in the 18 weeks of training.

Sleep

I’ve always been a big sleeper. I feel best when I get 9 hours of sleep. Marathon training cut into that at times, and at other times amplified it — a lot. I found there were more times I was in bed around 9 or 9:30, sometimes even in the 8 o’clock hour. And originally, I felt a relative rest day on Monday — with only yoga and maybe a bike ride on the plan instead of my normal short run — would feel like too little given I am off that day. Instead, as my mileage increased, I found I needed to sleep in the day after the long runs. After the 18 and 20 mile long runs, even with a nap the afternoon after completing them, I logged 12.5 hours sleep the night after. And, I needed every minute of it.

Food

I definitely felt the increased hunger everyone warned about early on. I was running 30 mile weeks regularly when I’d been more used to 20 mile weeks. At first, I tried to keep calories in check, thinking I could lose a few pounds during training. My friend Natalie made me see the light — that might not be the best idea.

I decided to stop trying to eat less than my body needed and try to remain relatively in line with what MyFitnessPal told me I needed on any given day, without stressing too much. I also ate more bagels that I have in a long time. I needed something solid after logging 6-8 miles before 8 a.m. As time went on, the hunger subsided. I no longer was constantly starving by 3 p.m. or by 10 a.m. if I hadn’t eaten that bagel. Sure, it’d still be more hungry than pre-marathon training at times, but nothing significant.

Weight

With the thinking about my food changing, my thinking about weight also needed to change. I realized that gaining a few pounds, so long as it wasn’t to a point it made my runs slower or made me feel sluggish, was not the end of the world. For the first time in a few years, I stopped weighing myself regularly. I am pretty sure I went at least four weeks or more at one point without stepping on the scale. Before this, I’d been weighing myself basically every day — sometimes multiple times a day. The only time I’d skip was if I forgot.

Marathon training also made me rethink what I consider my ideal weight. At one point a couple years ago, that ideal was 125. I realized I was exercising a lot more and upped that to 128-130 to 1) consider added muscle and 2) have a range instead of a single number. Still, I struggled — I always seemed to hover around 135.

Now, I realized maybe my body was telling me something all along that 135 is the weight that works well for me.

Wait until you’re really ready

I originally penciled in running my first marathon in the spring of 2015, which would have been one year after I finished my first half marathon. I look back now and wonder what I was thinking. I got injured, and that changed the sketch I’d made in my head for that spring, but even without that, I know now that I wasn’t ready.

I didn’t respect the distance and hadn’t even run 3 half marathons when I thought about doubling the distance. That injury sucked, but it also changed my plans, for the better.

Summer is hot, but you acclimate (to a degree)

I cursed myself early on in marathon training when I fully realized how many of the super long runs would need to be completed in the worst heat and humidity that D.C.’s summers offer. With half marathon training, I only needed to do 10 miles max for a long run, and even then not every where. Now, 12 miles was my dropback mileage and I needed to run 14, 16, 18 and 20-milers on the higher weeks. That meant more 5 a.m. (and sometimes 4:45 a.m.) wake-up calls than I’d care to recount. But I got it done. By early July I’d mostly acclimated to the worst the heat could offer, and it made my runs significantly less difficult, even though I would trade them in a heartbeat for the cooler temperatures of fall or spring. Still, there’s something awesome about getting to the end of summer and thinking 75-80 degree weather without a ton of humidity is great for a long run.

Running with buddies is a must

During my week 3 freakout, the universe sent me a sign. At the tail end of a simply horrible 13-mile run, I ran into two other women at a water fountain. We chatted a little, and I asked which way they were headed down the trail. Same way I was. I asked if I could run with them. Sure, they said. What pace are you doing, I asked, praying it was something doable. Well, we do a 4:1. Huh?

Turns out the 4:1 is a run/walk method of running 4 minutes and walking 1 minute. I still wanted to blurt out but what pace is the run part, but kept my mouth shut and kept up with them. I really struggled on that run, and we were heading back slightly uphill and with the sun totally in our face. It was definitely a bit faster that I was capable of on that particular run, but I kept up. At a stoplight where we needed to head separate ways, we exchanged numbers.

The next week I met up with one of the two women — the other wasn’t available — and that’s when everything started to go right. Running with friends is a huge boost. I’d always known that and loved running with other people, but if I needed to log 10-12 miles solo, I was OK with that too. I spent the rest of marathon training running with one of both of the two women I’d met that day.

Pushing my limits

More than anything, I learned I am capable of far more than I thought. One week, I needed to move my long run to Saturday instead of Sunday, and I realized I could log 50 miles for the entire week — a new record. I pushed through, and it felt great accomplishing that goal. I also felt a surge of energy and exhilaration at the end of my 20-mile long run, when I’d instead expected to super eager for the end of it.

Knowing when not to overdo it

Let me be clear. I missed a lot of runs during training. Or at least it felt like a lot to me. I didn’t miss any of the key long runs, but I skipped some of the shorter runs when I got sick, felt run down and needed to sleep in, or just felt too sore to complete the run on the schedule for that day. Instead of trying to make it up later, I let it be. It was hard, but it helped me get to the start line.

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What’s Next For Running + Resolutions for 2017

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It’s that time again. “New year, new you” slogans abound everywhere you look. And while there is something lacking in those sentiments (hey, what’s wrong with old me? answer: nothing), it can also be a powerful kick to get off the couch.

It’s been exactly two weeks since I’ve run, in a purposeful three-week break to give my legs some much-needed rest. And for the first week, I didn’t work out at all.

Now, it’s time to get back in shape, and drop the weight I gained in the past few months from relaxing on my healthy habits.

I’m sticking with my breaking from running, but next week I start two 10-week classes I’m excited about — cycle core and tae kwon do. I’ve obviously done spin classes before, but this is a dedicated class each week that I paid for, giving me more incentive to go, and also with the knowledge I can look to improve weekly.

I also be picking my personal training sessions, focused on strength, back up as well.

Then, after my three-week break with running is over, I’ll pick that back up — slowly but surely, with no races on the calendar until March.

Speaking of that race schedule, I’m looking to do fewer half marathons this year, probably ending around four or five, with a late fall marathon. I’ll also have some 10Ks thrown in (see goals below) and the Cherry Blossom 10-Miler in April.

New year, new medal wall.

Here’s a look at my resolutions and goals for the next year.

No drink January: This is a bit of misnomer since I didn’t start Jan. 1, and since I don’t plan to forgo all alcohol. But I do intend to take a full month off regular drinking, with the exceptions of if I eat out or go out with a friend. I have gotten into that bad habit many get into from time to time where you come home after a long-days work and want to wind down with a glass of wine or a couple beers, and before you know it, half a bottle is gone or you’re through more than half a six-pack. I also would like to lose the weight I’ve gained as quickly as possible, and this is a sure way to cut a significant amount of calories.

Lose 5 pounds by mid-February, 10 pounds by end of March: I plan to work hard and sweat a lot in the coming months to decrease the number on the scale as well as gain back muscle I’ve lost. I’m hoping that I can drop even more weight than planned in this time span, and gain more muscle so I feel and look better.

Run a 10K PR: My 10K PR has stood for awhile, and I didn’t even run a single 10K race at all last year. I want to work on getting faster this year and a 10K PR to beat the one that is from my first 10K ever seems like the perfect idea. I probably technically bested my 10K PR last year during my sub-2 half, but that doesn’t count!

Add second (or more) strength workout per week: Strength training is super important, and adding a second routine — the first being with my personal trainer — to my week should help a lot. I’ve also been looking at various DVD and book routines, so we’ll see where those take me.

Keep up with yoga: I fell out of a regular yoga routine in the fall with the big vacation out West and the Chicago Marathon. I’ve only gone a handful of times since October or November, and I’m really missing it.

Add old PT moves to post-workout routine: I’ve pretty good about doing a few stretches after every run, but I want to add more to the post-workout routine, especially the moves I was given as part of physical therapy when I was injured a couple years ago. They were great moves for runner-injury prevention, and I’ve been meaning to add them to my routine ever since.

Nix Splenda habit: Last year, I nixed my Diet Pepsi habit. This year, it will be Splenda. I use way more than I should each day on my cereal, and I’d like to cut it off completely. That would leave me with extremely limited added sugar/artificial sugar counts in my diet. I don’t eat sweets a lot so this can only mean good things for my body.

Use elliptical more as second workout: There’s less impact with the elliptical and it wouldn’t be hard to tack it on at the end of a run for a cooldown or before a strength workout as a warmup or just as a secondary workout for the day to help drop the weight more quickly.

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Blog

2016: Recap of a Crazy, Amazing Running Year

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Ten half marathons — most of them travel races. My first sub-2 half. My first marathon. A total of 1,000 running miles for the year — a new milestone. An incredible vacation out West.

Yes, I basically went a little crazy with my running and travel adventures this year, but I wouldn’t change a moment and still can’t get over how amazing 2016 turned out.

It all started when I found out I’d been accepted to be an ambassador for Rock ‘n’ Roll races, through their Rock ‘n’ Blog program. My plan to skip the local RNR race went straight out the window and I started hunting for more races I could add on. I ended up with 9 Rock ‘n’ Roll halfs.

Looking back at this blog, I called 2015 the year of travel because of trips to New York, London, Paris and Rome, with smaller travels to Chicago, Philadelphia and Virginia Beach.

In comparison, 2016 was the ultimate year of travel: San Francisco, San Diego, Chicago (twice), Virginia Beach, Philadelphia, Sedona, Ariz., the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and San Antonio.

I saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time, and went back twice more, experiencing the vast difference between northern and southern California. I fell in love with the West when my parents and did a 9-day tour of its natural wonders. I laughed at how crazy Las Vegas is, and spent hours with a smile plastered on my face at Harry Potter world in Los Angeles.

Along the way, I met incredible people everywhere — many just acquaintances at races or in the what feels like the 1 million airports I went through, but some will surely be lifelong friends.

One of my favorite acquaintances was a man I met in Los Angeles at the race who’s run 500 marathons, all in the past 20-22 years. And in terms of friends, there’s Steff — we first met briefly at RNR D.C. but didn’t hang out with until RNR Chicago — who I’m sure I will stay in touch with for a long time. She’s just one of the amazing runners I met through Rock ‘n’ Blog and I know I’ll hang out with others from the gang again for years to come.

Then there was that vacation out West. Seeing the Grand Canyon is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, and I finally wore down the parents to make it an excursion to see a bunch of different places out there. The views there and in Sedona, Bryce Canyon and Zion were all absolutely amazing, and I’d definitely recommend a trip.

Shortly after getting back from that long vacation it was time to jettison off to Chicago for my first marathon. I still can’t believe what an incredible experience it was running 26.2 miles through the Windy City. It was the perfect day, with perfect weather and I enjoyed every minute.

I ended the year with three more travel races after the marathon — Los Angeles, Las Vegas and San Antonio. I could tell my body — and mind — was in need of a bit of a break, but I kept pushing forward and enjoyed the final days of running in 2016.

I finished up the year a few days before Christmas by hitting the 1,000-mile mark for the year. It felt like the perfect way to end my crazy year of running.

Here’s a look back at all my races for the year, with links to recaps.

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Gallery: My Year In Races for 2016

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Here’s a look back at all my races this year.

Blog Training

18 Miles, Feeling Good

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I ran my longest distance ever this morning. And I felt amazing.

After not feeling great Thursday, Friday and the beginning of Saturday — nauseous, dizzy sometimes, and extremely tired, fueled by PMS/PMDD — I was a bit worried about Sunday’s long run. I texted a couple running buddies and talked to my mom and eventually worked things out in my head.

By late Saturday morning, I felt like I was getting more back to my normal self. I’ve never been so happy to get a period in my life. I took a couple Advil PMs and was in bed before 9:30. I slept amazingly well.

I was a bit groggy when I woke up to my 5:15 alarm, but my attitude completely changed overnight. It was go time. Let’s do this.

One of the running buddies I’d texted the previous day was one of the two I was running with — Deirdre. I originally planned to do 4 solo before meeting up with her for a quick 2, then meeting up with the second running buddy, Allison, for the remaining 12.

Deirdre gave me a great idea that helped break up the run even more. She told me to consider doing 3 miles before, then 1 after all of us ran together or 2 and 2. That gave me a stepping off point Saturday night and Sunday morning to tell myself — you just need to run 3 miles.

The weather was great and it was clear from the start I’d do the full 4 solo. This run proved just how much low humidity — dew point at 59 — and slightly lower temperatures — start temperature in low 70s —  help me. There was a slight breeze, too. Starting from Iwo Jima was also great — I love that view and I arrived just at sunrise.

I got my 4 in, focusing on staying slow. Then I quickly met up with Deirdre for a quick 2 miles out and back. I got back to the car and it was time for a quick bathroom break, eating some gummies and a few pretzels — Deirdre’s suggestion to bring something salty.

I’d brought some Gatorade along and had taken a few sips during the first 6 miles, so I retopped that and topped off the water I’d drank, too. I finally added the two extra bottles to my  Fitletic water belt this past week, and taken it on two test runs to make sure the extra weight didn’t bother me and work out an additional bouncing issues — I ended up needing to tighten the belt a bit to make sure it didn’t move.

Then it was time to go again. 12 more miles. I miscalculated how long it would take me to do the 4, meet up with Deirdre, do 2 more, then meet up with Allison, so it was 7:52 by the time we set off.

I wanted to run around the tidal basin since I hadn’t done that in awhile, so we headed that way, ran around the monument then back toward Lincoln before going through Georgetown and hitting up Fletcher’s for a water refuel. We headed a little bit farther down the C&O — just to that bridge, then turned around to go back.

IMG_9734My legs, mainly my hip flexors, were feeling a bit tight the last 3-4 miles, but that was it — nothing serious. I felt strong and great and amazing. I kind of wanted to add on another two miles to finish at 20 for the day!

My watch battery died a little after mile 15, sadly. It lasted a good 8-9 miles from the first low battery beep before dying on me. I am sad I don’t have a full map to share. And I didn’t think to just turn on my Strava app when my Garmin died!

We made our way up from the Georgetown waterfront to Key Bridge, stopping for another water refill since we knew we’d have a little bit of a walk back to the cars.

We finished with a quarter mile on the bridge. I couldn’t believe how good I felt. I gave both my running buddies huge high fives and jumped a little in the air.

We hit up brunch after at Whitlow’s in Clarendon, then it was time for a glorious shower and a just as glorious nap.

What a great day.

If my 16-miler upped my confidence I can finish this marathon training, this run has amped that up even more. Up next (but not for a few weeks) is my next longest run ever — 20 miles — and the final one before the ultimate longest run ever for me: the Chicago Marathon.

 

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3 Years Ago Today I Ran My First 5K. Now, I’m Training for a Marathon.

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Exactly three years ago today, I ran my first 5K.

I’d yet to run 30 minutes continuously outside, and wouldn’t accomplish that feat until my third 5K two weeks later. Yup, I’d not only signed up for my first 5K, but a full series of 5Ks — one each Friday for the first four Fridays in August 2013. Hey, puppies were involved.

Up until that point, I’d only run 30 minutes nonstop on the treadmill. And only a few times.

Outside running felt much harder, if not impossible.

That 5K series — the now sadly extinct Pacers Lost Dog 5k — is really the reason I am where I am today, training for my first full marathon.

The full 5K without any walk breaks, all 29 and change minutes, I ran midway into August 2013 simply was the start. It led to 4 miles nonstop and 5 miles and 7 and 9 and 10 miles just a few short months later.

By November that year, I felt ready to complete a half marathon, but none of the ones close to me worked with my schedule, so I left that for the New Year.

It shouldn’t be surprising, but after signing up for my first half marathon in April 2014, I ended up adding a new first 13.1 earlier than planned — in March of that year at Rock ‘n’ Roll USA, now called Rock ‘n’ Roll D.C.

Three years ago I laughed at the idea of running a half marathon, let alone a full marathon. After finishing a couple half marathons I still thought running twice the distance was insane. Then something changed.

I began considering running a marathon in the fall of 2014, but I got injured and quite frankly was not at all ready for 26.2 — my confidence needed a boost at the half distance first. Last year became all about that — learning to really love the 13.1 race distance, to not stress about it and simply enjoy the run.

There was an inkling early this year I was ready to train for 26.2, but it wasn’t until the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Francisco half that I knew for sure. I finished that run wanting more. And that’s despite it being a super hilly course.

At some point, I entered the Chicago Marathon lottery. From Googling, I realized there was a 50/50 or 60/40 chance of getting — pretty decent odds for a marathon lottery considering what the New York Marathon one is like.

Originally, my plan was to sign up for the Philadelphia Marathon. I liked that it was a late season race, meaning my highest mileage long runs would be in the hopefully cooler fall.

Nearly halfway into Chicago Marathon training, I’m happy I signed up for the race and excited for race day. But I am kicking myself a bit for not going with that later season race — hey, it’s hot!

I try to glance through Timehop every day, and I’m often reminded how far I’ve come. Just a couple weeks ago, the app popped up to show me that it wasn’t until July 2012 that I ran 20 minutes without stopping. And that day happened just a day after hitting the 15-minute mark for the first time.

To come that far in such a short time is simply amazing and a true show of how much your body is capable of — even if your mind doesn’t believe it.

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Blog Weight Loss

How I Lost 70 Pounds and Kept it Off for 3 Years and Counting

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In early 2011, I was tired of being overweight, so I started what ended up becoming a 2-year-long journey to lose weight. Ultimately I ended up shedding 70 pounds.

I wasn’t really chubby as a child, but I gained a bit of weight around puberty and even more after I stopped playing multiple sports in high school. I ballooned to nearly 200 pounds after graduating college. Shortly before my 25th birthday, I vowed to finally do something about it.

I took it slow and easy, adjusting my goals several times over the course of those two years before I finally felt I had found a weight that made me look and feel great. I found out a lot along the way and cultivated a love for running.

Now, I’ve run four 13 half marathons, four I’ve lost track of how many 10-milers and more than a dozen 5Ks and 10Ks along the way. Today, I’ve essentially kept the weight off — while my scale numbers have crept up a tad, I’m more fit and muscular than when I reached my lowest weight and the vast majority of clothes I bought then still fit. And, I’m still stunned when someone makes a comment about how small and fit I am now.

Here are 10 tips for dropping the weight and, perhaps most importantly, keeping it off for good.

  1. Try a weight loss program: To get you started on the right foot, research different weight loss programs and groups. Pick one that is right for you. There are several out there, some of them controversial, all of them with their pros and cons. I used Weight Watchers when I started my weight loss journey, and near the end I switched over to MyFitnessPal for a simple, free way to keep track of what I was eating.
  1. Find multiple exercises you enjoy: Running is amazing — we all know that. But you need to find other activities you like to give yourself enough variety, particularly if you ever get injured. Try out a spin class or take your old bike out for a ride. Find a Pilates instructor you enjoy or go for a swim — every little bit helps you get toward your goal, and you may just find something you absolutely love doing along the way.
  1. Have a reward system: Have some sort of reward system, ideally one not based on a regular splurge day. It could mean simply giving yourself a huge pat on the back, having a small cup of ice cream at the end of the week or going shopping to buy new clothes to fit your slimmer frame. Find what works for you. I would advise against a “cheat” or splurge day each week that puts your calories well above what your body needs. It’s easy to make that into a cheat weekend, then week, then month and so on.
  1. Don’t go overboard in cutting calories: Diet is a key component in most weight loss plans, but don’t decrease your food intake too much. To lose weight, you need to eat less than what your body needs energy-wise each day. However, decreasing too much can put your body into starvation mode, decreasing your metabolism and conserving energy. Most experts recommend women never eat fewer than 1,200 calories a day. The recommendations for men typically trend a bit higher. (I would add that if you exercise, especially if you exercise a lot, you really need to eat more. The 1,200 calorie minimum would be for a day when all you did is sit on the couch (and even then it might be too restrictive!) — if you go for a 5-mile run, your minimum should be at least 1,700, for example (and honestly, that minimum is probably too low, too). MyFitnessPal is good about not suggesting you go below the bare minimum even when you add in exercise.)
  1. Consider weighing yourself more than once a week: This really depends on the type of person you are and can be controversial. Some experts recommend only weighing once a month. Most consider once a week to be a good goal. However, I found success with weighing myself multiple times a week — most often every day. I could see the little fluctuations where sometimes my weight would be slightly up from water weight or bloat, but because I was weighing so frequently there was never a week where I didn’t see some poundage drop, however little. (I would still recommend this, but at some point after keeping the weight off for awhile you need to consider weighing less frequently or throw the scale in the trash.)
  1. Everything in moderation: Cutting a specific food you love completely from your diet may not be the best idea. You could end up with intense cravings and may overeat. There really isn’t any specific food you cannot eat if you’re on a generic diet. It’s all about portion control. I find 100-calorie servings or lower-calorie snack packs to be particularly helpful. They even make them for things like ice cream. You can also try swapping out higher calorie foods for a lighter version — try using 1% milk instead of 2%, drinking light beer instead of a regular one, or eating reduced fat ice cream. Test out different products — not everything low-fat tastes great. (More and more research is showing that less fat isn’t necessarily better — make sure you check out how much added sugar and unpronounceable ingredients are on the label before switching to a food that touts it is “low fat.”)
  1. Don’t compare yourself to others: It’s easy to flip through a fashion magazine or see a photo of a supermodel and think, “I want to look like that.” But that’s not reality for the majority of the population, and sometimes the weight those folks are at is unattainable for them (hello, Photoshop) and others, as well as unhealthy. Figure out what weight you feel good at — you want to feel confident without always feeling like you’re depriving yourself. (Amen, and I am still working on this!)
  1. Occasionally splurge: Eating healthier meals will make you feel better both outside and in, but that doesn’t mean you should never even look at an Oreo again or go out to dinner at a nice restaurant. Have days when you aren’t particularly concerned about the calorie count — just make sure they’re not that often. For me, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter dinners were days I didn’t log into my calorie tracker or care about overindulging. You can also look for ways to decrease your portion size (such as only eating half that meal at the restaurant and taking the rest home) so that you can enjoy your favorite foods without going overboard and undoing your progress.
  1. Don’t get obsessed with a specific number: It’s extremely easy to have a goal weight and get a bit too obsessive about it. When the scale doesn’t read that particular weight, you find yourself fretting that you’ve gained a miniscule amount of pounds. Instead, have a weight range where you feel comfortable and healthy. A range of about 3-5 pounds works well for me. (I am actually still obsessive about this at times. It’s something I’m still working on).
  1. Add and keep up a strength training routine: Strength training is a fantastic way to build muscle and stay fit. It helps burn more calories after your workout, too. I originally started with a personal trainer after I had shed about 20-30 pounds mostly through dieting. I wanted to have someone I had to go to each week and work out with. Once I had that one exercise a week on my calendar, I wanted to add more.

Losing weight is never easy, and everyone is different. Find what you like, what motivates you and keep at it. (And don’t believe that because all the Biggest Loser contestants gained back weight that means you’re doomed from the start — the way they lose weight on that show is not sane or sustainable.)

I never thought I’d be where I am today, and yet here I am.

 

Blog Training

I Just Started Week 3 of Marathon Training and My Mind is Already Playing Games

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Running is 99% mental. Think positive, envision success and believe in yourself. I know all these things and yet just as I start my third week of marathon training, I’m already struggling, doubting, anxious.

Today was a 13-mile run. I’ve finished 12 half marathons and at least a half dozen other long runs in the 12-13 mile range. I even did a 15-mile run once, just because I was having a good day.
Oh, and all my other runs so far in marathon training? Yeah, those have all been great — my legs have felt great, my lungs have felt great, pace has felt great.

Despite all that, I spent last night tossing and turning, unable to get to sleep. I focused on the alarm set for 5 a.m. to beat the heat, the fact that I was at my parents’ place — where I often have difficulty falling asleep (gotta work my way through that one at some point) — the thought of maybe I drank too much at a brewery I toured in the afternoon, that I shouldn’t have had that ice cream when I got home, that my stomach felt bloated and full and gross. My mind churned and churned and churned for nearly three hours of being awake in bed.

I ended up calling it quits after midnight, drove back to my place and didn’t set an alarm. I knew I could switch my Sunday-Monday runs around if needed, but what I needed first was sleep and to calm the hell down. I still felt restless when I got back to my apartment, so I drank some water and took an Advil PM. I finally fell asleep a little after 1, and woke up at 7:15. I drove back to my parents and hit the trail around 8.

I got the 13 miles in (more on how that went later).

If this was the first time this sort of anxiety-ridden night occurred, I could simply move on with my life, say sure it was the beer or I just had a bad night… but I had a similar, albeit not as bad night last weekend before my 11 miler. And it’s a pattern that occurred before — about 1.5 years ago — when I struggled through some half marathons. I finally got over that last summer, and now something similar is rearing its ugly head but instead of just a single race day, it’s trying to strike every single weekend during my long run.

Honestly, if it keeps up I won’t be able to make it through my marathon training. And that’s what scares me. I know I can run 11 miles or 13 miles or 15 and build my way up to 20, and yet I’m stuck.

My 13 miler went OK. There were moments where I started to feel not just doubt but panic set in, and I tried to calm those voices and just take it a mile or two miles at a time. It was 100% mental — my legs felt fine. It was hot and there was no shade on the trail. I focused on drinking enough water, and making that a new mark to run toward. Then I focused on my turnaround point — at 8.35 miles because I ran down the trail a bit of ways before going the other direction — where it was time for some fueling.

I started to feel good around mile  7 or 8. But then I hit the turnaround where the sun was now directly in my face and would be for 3.5 more miles, plus there’s a slight uphill going back versus the slight downhill going the way I had been.

As luck would have it, the running gods sent me a blessing. While I was refilling my water bottles a little before mile 9, I ran into two other ladies out for a long run and they were heading back the same way I was going. We chatted briefly as we filled out bottles and I mentioned I was marathon training and doing 13 and not feeling it.

I asked if I could run with them and they very kindly obliged and even said they like running in a three-pack versus two. The next 2.5 miles with them went by much faster. They also use the 4-1 walk method, something I’ve thought about trying, especially with the summer heat.

The run pace was a bit fast for me at that time given how hot it was, the zero shade factor, how little sleep I’d gotten and how far I’d already run. I stayed with them, but felt overheated as we were splitting ways, and went to spend a few minutes in the shade to recover before finishing the last 1.75 miles, which felt fine.

I hope that’ll be a little confidence boost that if I do get a little hot on a long run, I can find some shade and cool down enough to finish up. The other good thing is I got both of the women’s phone numbers, and I’m hoping we can start doing long runs together.

So what have we learned here? Well, one thing I left out was the mass of texts I sent to Natalie at midnight (thank God for East Coast / West Coast time difference) and then some more after my run. She helped me realize a few changes I need to make.

  1. Not focusing so much on my wake-up time. Marathon training is enough adjustment without throwing something else in. My normal wake-up time for weekday runs is 6 a.m., so I’ll just focus on hitting that or even 6:30 for now.
  2. Ditto for sleeping at my parents. I just need to be in my own bed, with my own nighttime routine for a while, even if it means spending time in the car driving somewhere to do my long run.
  3. Running with other people. I’d really been struggling with this one, but meeting those two other ladies on the trail and Natalie nudging me that Pacers does long runs made me realize I need to try this out. Part of the issue is while I’ve long known there are a variety of long runs offered by various groups in the D.C. area, most of them are on Saturdays… when I work. But the closest Pacers store to me — an 11-minute drive — offers a 7 a.m. Sunday weekly long run!

While I’ve come up with these three solutions, I’m still a bit despondent and anxious. On my schedule next weekend is a 15-mile long run. I know I can complete that distance — it’s only two miles more than my run today, but I’m worried I will be stressed, anxious and well, worried.