Snow day!

Real snow (as opposed to just ice) doesn’t happen very much in Charlotte, so when the forecast was calling for a snowstorm this weekend, I wasn’t sure what we would actually get. Fast forward to this morning and it was the perfect snowstorm – because it’s been so warm, none of the snow was sticking to the roads, but we still got lots of snow sticking to the grass. So, I headed off to the Anne Springs Close Greenway to hit the trails for some miles in the snow!

 I started off near the dog park and did a lap around Lake Crandall
  The new bridge is looking good!

It was a really quiet, peaceful morning on the trails. In fact, I only saw one other person out for a run with his dog. The snow is already gone now, but it was certainly a beautiful morning on the trails!

February is here!?!

I can’t believe we’re already into February! January was packed full of activity and I didn’t realize just how much until I completed my calendar for the 30-day Ragnar Training challenge. Ragnar provided a calendar and asked everyone in the challenge to submit a picture of their completed calendar for a sticker touting their accomplishment. I’ve been playing with a lot of digital pictures lately on another project and decided to fill out my calendar digitally as well.

I definitely had fun looking for pictures to differentiate the things I did in January, especially the tongue-in-cheek nature of the 50’s woman cleaning to highlight all of my January Cure work. I ended the month having completed 9 of the 20 January Cure assignments, so that will certainly roll over into February before I can completely check that off my list, but it’s going to get done! I’ve also really ramped up my training as I count down the days (77) until the Blue Ridge double marathon. I ended up running just over 136 miles in January which is 50 miles more than I ran in any month in 2016. I’m still feeling really good on my runs, though the early mornings are a little bit of a struggle.

My biggest time suck over the last week was completely re-building the Charlotte Women’s Soccer League website. We’ve used a few different platforms over the past few years and had moved to a system that allowed us to handle all of our registration, team building and basically all of the league management electronically which was great for me and the team captains, but the website user experience wasn’t very good, especially for anyone trying to access the site via a mobile device. So, last weekend I started building a new website based off of WordPress and as of the wee hours of Friday morning, the site went live and is so much more aesthetically pleasing and easier to navigate for all of our existing and prospective players. It was definitely a love-hate relationship building that site. It reminded why I got into playing with computers in the first place and also why I decided that a career in IT was not how I wanted to spend 8+ hours every day.

Today kicks off my first long run of February with 20 miles on the schedule. Here’s to another great month of getting outside and getting stronger!

2016: Best 9 pictures

So this is more of an Instagram thing, but I had such a tough time narrowing down by top 9 pictures this year that I thought sharing them here along with some details would be a good idea, so here we go!

Apologies to Beth for cropping her out of this picture on Instagram, but alas, 9 pictures in a square means even smaller square pictures… We took this picture after we ran the Asheville half marathon together and it was the first of my back-to-back weekends in 2016 where I ran a half marathon on Saturday followed by a marathon on Sunday. Beth ran with me for the half and we took tons of pictures and just had fun running around in our St. Patty’s day attire. When I signed up for this race in 2015, people told me I was nuts, but I had a lot of fun doing both races and this only further embedded the idea of running an ultra in 2016.

In September I was able to visit Washington state for the Ragnar Trail Cascades race and we actually drove through the Cascades on our way to the race venue. This was just at a rest stop but had such amazing scenery that we actually stopped on the way to the race and the way back! Someone asked me if this picture was from another country because they couldn’t believe how blue the water was and I’ve certainly never seen anything like it.

In June, I got to meet Scott Hamilton who I’ve now had the opportunity to hear speak twice. I grew up watching figure skating and loved Scott Hamilton for the crazy songs he skated to and his infamous backflips. He is a terrific public speaker and has quite an amazing story about how he got into skating, leaving home to pursue skating full time and his “hobby for collecting life threatening illnesses.” Scott was a great speaker and was extremely willing to talk with anyone who wanted to chat – he even hung out in the hotel lobby as he was waiting for his ride and talked to our attendees the day after his speech. During his second speech with our company this year, Scott revealed that he just found out that his brain tumor had come back for a third time and I wish him all the best in his battle going forward. It was hard not to catch the optimism that he exuded from the stage and his positive attitude was very inspiring!

In July I took on my hardest marathon to date, running from the town of Boone to Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina. I’ve run The Bear for the last 4 years which is the kick-off to the annual Highland Games and originally I had planned to run this race for the fifth year and was part of the group that managed to shut down the registration site when it went live in February. After an hour trying to make the site work, I went over to the marathon signup and it was still open.. so I did the next logical thing and registered for the marathon instead! My first marathon was through the University of Pittsburgh’s campus and now I’ve done the one through Appalachian State’s campus too. I didn’t do as much training as I should have for this race and it definitely hurt, but I was able to do (most of) my lap around the track in front of everyone who had come to watch the Highland Games. I was met about 3/4 of the way around the track by the official timers who stopped me to give me my medal as they ushered everyone off the track for the games to begin.

In August, I was recognized by my company with a Values Award. It’s a competitive award where people are nominated by their coworkers and winners are chosen by a committee based on their daily behaviors and performance. It was an amazing experience to hear my accomplishments read aloud in front of my entire company, going on stage to get a picture with our CEO and COO, and being given an award. I’ve been with the company almost 9 years (!) now and I was really touched by all of the people who came up to me at the dinner to congratulate me or sent me emails afterwards.

In October, I got to check off one of my bucket list races by doing the Cane Field Classic. I found this race on one of the “top race lists” a few years ago, but the timing wasn’t right until last year. They offer a machete to anyone who completes all 3 race distances: 1 mile followed by 4 miles followed by 2 miles through the cane fields. The 2016 medal was a little less machete and a little more Rambo knife, but is still makes an impressive addition to my medal collection. I made a long weekend out of the trip and got to see a ton of different places in Louisiana, from Baton Rouge to Lafayette and down to New Orleans. It was a gorgeous weekend to get out an explore and I love using races as an excuse to explore somewhere new!

In October, I ran the Marine Corps Marathon with a great group of people who have adopted me into their running group. It wasn’t a great marathon for me, having to walk a lot due to some unexplained headaches, but the atmosphere was really good. This was my first big marathon, with 30,000 people running the marathon and while it was a little crowded at times, it was great to see everyone on that journey. Immediately after the race, many of these people said this would be their last marathon, but I’ve decided to officially join their run group this month and I’ve heard a few of them got into the Chicago Marathon for this year, so I guess only time will tell how many more races we’ll be able to run together!

Team 3 Y’alls and a Yinz made it 2/3 of the way through Ragnar Carolinas before the race was cancelled due to Hurricane Matthew. Our team survived pretty well through the rain and mud, but it just wasn’t to be this year. I’ve already committed to coming back and finishing the race in 2017 and I think at least a few of my teammates will be right there with me at the starting line in October. Our “team Dad,” Ben, was a huge help for our team, reminding us to eat and drink after our runs and helping to MacGyver our canopy to keep the rain out as much as possible. We ended up in 5th place overall in the ultra division and 2nd in the mixed division, so I’m excited to see what we could do in the full race. I’m also still very tempted to try to put together an all-female ultra team, but it may not be in the cards for this race.

This is the Ragnar SWAT (Sweaty, Wet And Tired) crew at the end of the Ragnar Trail Cascades race. This was my third race volunteering with Ragnar last year, but my first being around for the team picture at the end (the Loop Managers are always out on the course at this time). I’ve had so much fun meeting all of these people and can’t wait to kick off the 2017 season volunteering at Ragnar Trail Kentuckiana in April.

So those were my top 9 photos of 2016. This was a really hard exercise for me! I picked and replaced at least 20 pictures before finally coming up with these 9, but I think it encompasses my year really well. You can see my best 9 from 2015 here.

Training through the holidays

It’s always hard to keep training on track when your normal routine is disrupted, and the holidays are a great example of this. Technically I started my Blue Ridge Marathon training plan the week of December 4, mostly because I already had Ragnar Trail Alafia on the calendar, but after that race, I promptly had a big old goose egg the following week. I was traveling at the beginning of the week and then trying to get everything ready to visit family for Christmas, so running fell to the end of my to do list.

This week has been a little bit better – I was able to do a short run on the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail on Sunday to start off the week. I’ve hiked sections of the trail, so I wanted to get out and see what it would be like to run on them, but winter weather has a habit of putting you on your heels. There was snow left over from last week, Saturday brought a mix of rain and snow and Sunday was warm, slightly rainy and had even more melt-off. I knew the trails would be sloppy, but what I wasn’t prepared for was the trail turning into a stream and mid-shin high standing water where the trails flattened out!

Over the river and through the woods!
This section required an off-trail detour, but I loved the colors of the leaves trapped under barely frozen ice.

Shortly after that detour, I turned around and headed across Route 30 to see if the other side of the trail would be any better, and at first it was. The woods were foggy with misty / rainy precipitation and it was beautiful, but eventually I ran into another major section of unpassable standing water and figured it was probably in my best interest to take my wet feet back home to get warm.

So, Sunday I only managed just over 3 miles on the trails, but I took yesterday off of work so that I could get some shopping done and made sure to keep some time for myself in the morning to get in a 5 mile run on the Great Allegheny Passage. Again, it was just around 32 degrees when I started, so I bundled up (maybe not as much as I should have) and headed out. I didn’t think about the fact that I was in the mountains and even though the sun had been up for almost 2 hours, that didn’t necessarily mean it would be above the tree line on the trail I was on.

The beginning of the trail

The trail is extremely flat and I had originally hoped to run to the Pinkerton tunnel and back, but the online maps didn’t quite line up with the actual mileage of the trails, so it would have been close to an 18 mile run to hit the tunnel and come back which was a lot more than I was interested in doing, so I just did a short 2.5 miles out and then back again instead.

My turnaround point

After I turned around, I took a quick detour off-trail to see the Cassellman River up close before heading back up to the trail to finish my run.

I did actually see two other people out on the trail as I was finishing up my run, but they were much better dressed for their winter walk – heading out in full winter jackets, scarves, gloves and hats. Really the only thing I missed on this run was my buff to take some of the chill out of the air I was breathing and better protect my neck from the wind, but I had my gloves and headband on and I did cheat and use a hand warmer for the run, but for the most part it worked out pretty well.

I didn’t feel great on this run – my legs just weren’t having it. I’m not sure if it was because it was so cold out or because it was just an off day, but I still got out there for some mileage, so I’m calling it a win!

Looking for some training help for the Blue Ridge Marathon?
The Blue Ridge Marathon and Fleet Feet Roanoke are offering two virtual training options tailored to help you conquer America’s Toughest Marathon (or half)!

  • Virtual half marathon plan: A 14-week program starting on January 16
  • Virtual marathon plan: A 16-week program starting on January 2
You can use the code TRAINSMART to save $5 off of either training program.

The fine print…
I am an ambassador for the Blue Ridge Marathon, so I have been given a free entry to the race of my choice (I’m doing the marathon) in return for promoting their events. I get emailed all kinds of details about specials for the race, including race discounts (use BRMFRIENDS to get 15% off), training runs, merchandise and other things runners might find beneficial. I will occasionally post on here or my Instagram account if there are things I think others may benefit from. I’ve never done this race before, but I’m looking forward to the challenge in April and will do a formal race recap (the good, the bad and the ugly) when I finish. 

Blue Ridge Marathon training – time to get started!

Even though I’m not quite done with my 2016 races, it’s definitely time to start thinking about next year. Taking on the “America’s Toughest Road Marathon” in 20 weeks means I needed to start planning! While I did pretty well on my training for the Backyard to Vineyard Challenge, I didn’t have a great execution of my training for the Grandfather Mountain Marathon and didn’t do much planning at all for the Marine Corps Marathon and it certainly showed. I’m still unsure about a lot of my race plans for 2017, but I know I’ve got this on my plate, so I’ve created a plan to get me started, especially through the holidays. I’m also planning to join an official running group again in January so that I will have some company on my long runs as the weather gets colder.

I’ve been slacking in my weekly training (let’s be honest, it’s nonexistent), my eating has been sloppy and I need to bring back cross-training. With so many races this fall – 8 races in 10 weeks – I’ve been going from one race to another and just trying to catch up with the rest of my life in between. It didn’t help that I caught the nasty cough that’s going around which stuck around for a few weeks after the Charlotte to Las Vegas trip. When just walking around sent me into coughing fits, I’ve spent a lot of time sitting on the couch with the dogs.

My goal will be to hit my training mileage each week and include at least two days of cross-training, focusing on core and stability. It’s going to require braving the elements this winter, but training in the south gives me a little bit of an advantage with more mild weather than other parts of the country.

Here’s to not following this advice in 2017!

2 years later…

Two years ago (technically November 25, 2014, but it was the Tuesday before Thanksgiving), I partially tore my ACL playing soccer. I didn’t get the official diagnosis until late January, but with my huge trip out west in June, I held off officially training for soccer until after I got back and targeted the fall season as my reintroduction to soccer. 8 focused weeks of rehab later, I was cleared to go back to playing full-contact soccer. Three days later, I was playing Sunday pick-up soccer and got a good hour or so in before I re-injured my knee. With just a week and a half before I headed to New Mexico for the Ragnar Trail Angel Fire (and then on to Oregon for the Hardesty Hardcore), I was back in the physical therapist’s office Monday hoping for good news.

Needless to say, the therapists were surprised to see me when I hobbled back in. I spent three days in rehab that week and another the next week. Luckily the injury wasn’t as bad as the first time and with the therapy, I was able to run both races. In the 15 months since I tried going to back to soccer, I definitely miss it. I’m still involved managing the Charlotte Women’s Soccer League, but it’s not the same as being out on the field.

I’ve had a few times when my knee has been sore after running, especially if the road is banked and the right side is higher for long periods of time, but for the most part, the only thing my injury has impacted is my ability to play soccer and my willingness to try things like trampoline dodgeball (where was this before I got injured?!).

I had been starting to do more running prior to my injury, but it has definitely impacted my training schedule. I used to play soccer 4-5 times a week, so I would never do any short “runs” during the week because I was always playing soccer and getting mileage and sprinting in that way. I still haven’t adjusted to not having scheduled games during the week to keep me active, so one of the biggest changes as I start planning for my 2017 races is that I really need to focus on my runs during the week. Just running on the weekends isn’t going to cut it next year.

Most of last year I did half marathons for fun and to explore new places, so I didn’t really push myself hard during the races, but running three marathons this year (especially the last two) showed me that I  need to focus more on my actual training and not just signing up for the fun races! I already know that I’ve got an early-season marathon (Blue Ridge Marathon on April 22) that promises to be even harder than the Grandfather Mountain Marathon I did this year. I’d also like to break the 2 hour mark in the half marathon. I came close when I ran the Scream in 2014, finishing in 2:03 and this year I did the Charlotte half marathon in 2:08. The Charlotte race hurt, but I definitely think if I train for a 2 hour half, breaking that mark is certainly within my reach.

I’m not sure what all will be on tap for 2017, but I’m ready to start planning!

Announcement: Blue Ridge Marathon Ambassador!

I’ve officially been chosen as an ambassador for the 2017 Blue Ridge Marathon in Roanoke, VA. This year’s races will be held on April 22, 2017 and there are multiple race options:

  • Foot Levelers Full Marathon
  • Foot Levelers Half Marathon
  • Anthem Star 10k
There will also be a newly created double marathon and a marathon relay, truly something for everyone!
This will be my first time doing this race, and after handling the elevation change at Grandfather Mountain Marathon in July (7,004′), I’m looking forward to another major challenge next year. This race boasts over 7,430′ of elevation change, including 3 mountains to ascend and then descend – Roanoke Mountain, Peakwood Mountain and Mill Mountain – and has the most elevation change of any road race in the US, hence the “toughest” road marathon status!
I’ll be posting more about these races and how I’m planning to train through the winter months for this early season race over the next 6 months. Ready to commit to one of the Blue Ridge races? Use discount code BRMFRIENDS for 15% any of the four race distances (10k, half, full, & double). Get registered today!

21 Day Fix – Week 1 (ish)

So one of my fellow soccer players had asked me to join her 21 day fix group that started in mid-July and I know I’ve put on a few pounds in my last marathon training cycle and that I really need to do a lot better with my nutrition (read: stop eating out for lunch every day) and do more (read: any) core and strengthening exercises as I get into my next marathon training cycle, so I decided to take the plunge and join the group.

My marathon was on July 9 and the 21 day fix started on July 11, so I figured that would be perfect timing. Two problems with that: 1) I didn’t order my Shakeology, DVDs and containers until too late, so I wasn’t going to get them until Thursday of that week and 2) it was all I could do to walk up and down the stairs in my house for several days after the marathon, so any extra workouts were totally out of the question. I also wasn’t mentally ready to commit to the full diet change – we had a work celebration for a project that I spent countless hours on earlier this year, so I was not going to turn down the free cake there and I had a tubing trip planned for that Saturday and I knew we would be having burgers, alcohol and various junk food on the river which was something I had been looking forward to, so I decided to use the first week to ease into healthier eating habits and then make the full commitment after the tubing trip.

My first week included a lot of cheating – cake, alcohol, PB & J uncrustables and various other sweets, but I started working more veggies into my diet and trying to stick to the portion sizes that corresponded to the containers I was supposed to be eating. According to the charts, I’m supposed to eat the following each day:

  • 3 cups veggies
  • 2 cups fruit
  • 3 cups protein (broken up into 3/4 c. portions)
  • 1 cup carbohydrates (broken up into 1/2 c. portions)
  • 1/3 cup healthy fats
  • 2 TBSP seeds / dressing
  • 2 tsp oils / nut butters
My coach gave me the breakdown of the portion sizes and I used this list of foods to come up with things that I knew I would actually eat. I’ve definitely been spending more at the grocery store in order to stock up on the things I’m supposed to be eating, but when I compare that to what I was spending to eat lunch out every day, it’s probably a wash.
The most helpful thing I’ve done so far is to portion out what I’ve bought from the store. After I do my weekly shopping, I prepare the fruit / veggies and put them into containers so that I can easily grab what I need for a lunch. I do the same for any proteins that I plan to take with me to work. I’ve been trying to sit down and plan out several days of food at once so that I don’t have to think about breakfast, snacks or lunch as I’m getting ready in the morning and that’s definitely been helpful. This week I also learned that if I want to make scrambled eggs, turkey & avocado for breakfast, I need to allow some additional time. I’ve never been one to get up before I absolutely have to in the morning, so the less prep work I need to do for breakfast the better. I think I’ll be sticking with the egg combo for days I’m not going into the office. I’ve also been eating a whole wheat waffle with some peanut butter on it and that’s super easy to throw in the toaster over while I pack the rest of my food for the day and eat on my way out the door.
One of the things I struggled with this week was being ready to eat dinner by 5:30pm – as soon as I get home from work, I’m ready to eat again. I’ve typically been eating at least 2 proteins, 1 carbohydrate, 1 fruit, 1 healthy fat and 2 veggies but I’m still starving by the time I’m done with work. I think part of the reason for this is because I’ve been saving 1 protein and 1 fruit for my “dessert” / post-workout snack and I haven’t been doing the exercises until around 8:00 or 8:30. I bought the chocolate Shakeology, so I’m not really ready for that first thing in the morning and I like having something quick and easy to eat after my workout. 
I’ve also been tracking all of the foods I’m eating in myfitnesspal. I put in my target calories and since it syncs to my Garmin, I can see what adjustments the Garmin makes based on how active I was for the day. So far, the 21 Day Fix Extreme videos that I’m following don’t seem to be making much of a dent on my step counter, so the Garmin isn’t catching a lot of the work I’m putting in, but I can certainly feel it! There are still a few of the exercises I haven’t tried because I made an impromptu decision to sign up for a half marathon 24 hours before the race started, so I skipped the leg workout for that night and did an extra arm workout instead. Plus, with the half marathon on Friday, I didn’t do a workout that day and took Saturday as a rest day too – there aren’t any rest days built into the 21 Day Fix program, which makes sense if you’re just doing it for 21 days, but that doesn’t leave room for other planned activities, so I’m making some exceptions where I feel it’s appropriate – I’ve got some big fall races on my radar and I’m not willing to do something that could hurt me in the long run just for the sake of finishing this program.
So after one unofficial week and one official week of the program, I’ve lost 2 pounds and 1″ from my waist, so I’m doing something right. I went ahead and chose the 21 Day Fix Extreme based on some talks with my coach, but honestly, I’m not really sure what the difference is between this program and the regular 21 Day Fix and I’ve found the workouts to be very hard – I haven’t been able to do any of them the whole way through without having to take a break, shorten the set or modify the workout (I’m looking at you pushups). I don’t have any other races or major planned disruptions on my calendar for the next two weeks, so I’m planning to follow the plan as closely as possible, at least for these next 14 days. Time to see how week #2 will go! 

Grandfather Mountain, here I come!

For those of you following my Instagram posts, this isn’t brand new, but I’m officially signed up for the Grandfather Mountain Marathon! It’s advertised as one of America’s toughest marathons and after looking at the course, I understand why! Over 2,000′ of elevation gain, with the second half having the worst of it. 

I spent two years living in Boone when I went to grad school at Appalachian State University so I know the area and I’m really excited about this race. I got to do my first marathon around Pitt’s campus and now I can check off App State too! 

Time to change course?

I’ve been sticking to my overall plans to do marathon #2 on March 14 in DC, but I’m definitely starting to rethink that plan. This weekend was my first real step toward that goal, with a 16-miler on the schedule. The weather for this weekend was supposed to be pretty lousy with rain on and off all weekend. My plan was to go out Saturday morning, but after an awesome game night with some friends on Friday, I just wasn’t feeling it, so I figured I’d push it off a few hours and see how I felt in the afternoon. Short story – not any better, longer story (don’t laugh): I think I overused my abs by laughing so hard Friday night! Every time I tried to move, my abs hurt! So, I spent most of Saturday on the couch and while I definitely thought it was muscle-related, not sickness-related, I didn’t even think to take anything for the pain until about 8pm last night (which cleared it up pretty quickly), so yesterday was spent not doing anything and not really eating anything because every time I moved my stomach hurt. 

Fast forward to this morning and I still planned to do my 16 mile run today, especially because when I woke up, I felt fine. I grabbed a bagel and some peanut butter crackers and headed to watch some soccer games before coming home to prep for my long run. I got my hydration pack ready, stocked up on GU and more crackers and headed out into the drizzle to do my 16 miles. I started with my 4:1 ratio and while I wanted to stick around 11 minute miles, I decided I would just run by feel and see how things went. 

Mile 1 – 11:05
Mile 2 – 10:49
Mile 3 – 13:34
Last .31 – 17:06

Woof! The wheels just fell off today and I’m not sure exactly why. I’m sure that the lack of food yesterday had a lot to do with it, but some of it is lack of motivation too. Last year at this time, all I focused on was getting out there every week to get my miles in, but this time around, I’m just not there right now. I ended my run after 3.31 miles, but since I was 3.31 miles from my house, I turned around and enjoyed the unseasonably warm weather with a long walk back to the house. I came home and took a nap and I feel better tonight, so I’m not ready to scrap the marathon just yet, but I’m running out of time for training (just under 10 weeks to go) if I want to get past the half marathon distance and still come in under the time limit (5.5 hours).

So the next few weeks will be trying to figure out exactly what I want to do in March. I definitely want to do another marathon at some point, but the question for now will be is this the right time?