The Santa Hustle Half Marathon. AKA the best race ever. Okay maybe that’s a stretch, but this surely was my best race yet.

Let me preface this by saying that I haven’t been feeling the holiday season yet. Maybe because it’s not even Thanksgiving yet, or maybe because other than a few small gifts here and there – I really haven’t started my Christmas shopping or decorating. When I entered the mall to pick up the race packets on Saturday, all of the volunteers were wearing elf costumes and there was holiday music playing. Honestly, despite the race name being “Santa Hustle” I had sort of forgotten that it was a holiday themed run!

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in limbo

11 19 2014.

These past three weeks have felt like limbo. Ever since I ran the Moose Pond Half, I’ve been waiting… waiting… waiting for the Santa Hustle Half. Being three weeks out means yet another peak week followed by a maintenance week and finally a taper week. This week is taper week.

Let’s talk about how I’ve been occupying my time while tapering. Spoiler alert: I haven’t been tapering.

Starting Friday, I decided to “hit the gym” (am I one of those people now?) with Darren. Somehow, I arrived 25 minutes before he did so I did 7 miles on the spin bikes before heading upstairs to do (drumroll, please) my first weight workout.

The word pathetic doesn’t quite accurately describe my current upper body strength. Since it was my first time using the weight machines, I sat down at the shoulder press, set my weight to…oh 35lbs (start low, right?) and couldn’t lift my arms up. At the time, I was mortified. In the end, I set it to 15lbs, did my 3 sets of 12 reps and moved on to another machine. I spent less than 10 minutes up there before moving on to the elliptical. Oy. My arms were dead to me the next day – so sore!

Saturday morning I joined up with my running store’s run group. This time successfully – I didn’t crash a crossfit class! The run for the group was 7.5 miles which was perfect for me! My goal going into the weekend had been 5 miles on Saturday and 9 on Sunday. (14 total) I figured that if I ran 7 on Saturday, I could get away with 7 on Sunday.

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That Saturday morning run was perfect in every way. It was 35 degrees. I wore my new Outdoor Research hat and my Champion gloves and warmed up after a mile or two. I ran next to a woman – Michelle – who was a great running conversationalist. I learned that she works for a nonprofit – which sparked some interest from me due to my history with Outward Bound.

Michelle and I ran all the way to Mackworth island together, where we split off. (3 miles) She had 8 miles planned for Sunday so she didn’t want to push it too much that day. I continued on to the Mackworth trail and circled around the island. It was beautiful. I had never been to the island before, despite living 10 minutes away, but I was astonished. You can circle the entire island, the path is a little bit over a mile – the whole time you have stunning ocean views. I think it’d be fun to go there and run trail repeats!

What I loved most about this run is that I got to meet an awesome new runner and talk to her for roughly half it, but I also got some time to run by myself. It was the perfect combination of a social and introspective experience.

When I got back to the apartment, I immediately began cooking. I had an Oreo cheesecake planned for Carly’s birthday celebration that night. Oh my goodness was that cheesecake delicious.

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Sunday I “slept in” until 7:30. I honestly didn’t do much all day. I did go for a 6.5 mile run and cooked an awesome beef brisket in the crockpot. I also bought some yarn, a crochet hook and followed youtube video instructions to make a scarf!

Monday I woke up and my whole body hurt. To be honest, I was afraid that my muscle soreness was a sign that I was coming down with something. (I feel like I’m past due; I haven’t been sick since last year!) With my half a week away, I really really really did not want to be sick. So I took the day off.

I spent most of the morning crocheting. I crocheted my way through two movies on Netflix and two cups of coffee – and finished!

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I also ate everything in sight. I managed to eat a slice of pumpkin bread, a smoothie, a bowl of cottage cheese and leftover brisket with sweet potato…all before noon. I was just starving. I started to feel a bit better around 1 so I went for a quick 3 mile run in the freezing rain. I actually loved it. Excited about my successful run, I decided to go to my spin class that night.

Tuesday morning, I started a new scarf (yarn color pictured at the top of this post) and rushed off to work. I realized, as I showed up to run group that night, that in my rush, I hadn’t packed for run group. I had packed for spinning. (I had packed my bag Sunday night for Monday night spinning, but since I took the day off on Monday, I didn’t end up using anything in my bag. When I left for work on Tuesday, I just picked up my bag and left.) Luckily, I’m an overpacker, so I had everything that I needed except warm tights. Picture me running in bike shorts because that’s exactly what I did.

Fleet Feet was hosting a Mizuno representative so we all got to run in the new Wave Rider 18s. (Add that to my wishlist.) The run was actually better than I was expecting. Surprisingly, my legs were alright. My hands (in gloves!) and face were so cold though. We were running into a headwind for 2 miles to the turnaround, then 2 miles back. Once we reached the turnaround, we then had a tailwind and everything changed. Suddenly, I could hear something other than wind in my ears. My hands and face warmed up!

I ran next to fellow run group member Shawn. We talked about our jobs and hobbies and – most importantly – winter hiking. Shawn is a pretty experienced winter hiker. He was able to give me a lot of gear and apparel recommendations. I had a lot of questions and he was patient and answered them thoroughly. (I’ll expand on this hobby in a post, soon!)

Our splits were:
1 | 9:08
2 | 8:37
3 | 8:32
4 | 8:22
.1 | 7:01

Then the giveaways began! We all walked away with a water bottle and a night-running blinking safety light. There were a few giveaway prizes. I walked away with these Mizuno Breath Thermo tights! They’re made with this special fiber that generates heat from moisture (i.e. sweat) and keeps you warm! The benefit of this is so that you can wear lightweight apparel – to not weigh you down – but still stay warm! They’ve got gloves, shirts and tights that use this technology. I have yet to run in them, but I’m going to bring them to run group on Thursday and see how they work!

I arrived home to discover that I had a Quest Nutrition box on my doorstep! A few weeks ago, I entered (and won!) a giveaway for some Quest Bars. Much to my surprise, I didn’t just win Quest Bars. I won a bar of every single flavor plus their protein chips! I love these things. After hearing about them, I found them at Whole Foods. 21 grams of protein in a sub-200 calorie bar and 2-4 grams of sugar. WHAT? If you don’t mind the taste of whey protein (and I quite like the taste), these are for you! I’ll do a review of the flavors when I’ve tried them all!

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Then I made donuts. Maple frosted donuts.

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Guess who joined a gym? I did! And I definitely felt like a sucker at first. I always prided myself on being someone who didn’t need a gym to stay active. All we need to do is take a hard look at last winter to see how false that is. So I joined the gym. And I’ve been loving it.

When I walked in there for the first time on Friday, I felt like I had a huge sign with neon lights above my head that read, “Newbie.” I went straight for the treadmills because, well, I know how to use a treadmill. Darren showed up at the gym not even 5 minutes after I hopped on, so it was kind of fun to work out “together.” He went to spin on the bikes.

I chugged out 6 miles on that darn machine and it was hard. I figured it was a combination of:

  1. the gym being really really hot;
  2. being exhausted from the week;
  3. being used to a different kind of momentum and scenery during my runs – aka not being bored.

Regardless, I felt good about my Friday evening workout – I felt accomplished. I did like that I had more control over my pace on the treadmill and could push myself that way. I was running 8:00/miles for most of those miles and pumped it up to 7:40 for the last half mile! For dinner I had, you guessed it, a giant bowl of cottage cheese.

Saturday morning I woke up early and decided to join the Fleet Feet running group at the Marginal Way store for their 9am social run. I sat and sat and sat in the parking lot, waiting for others to show up. There were a few empty cars in the lot, and the store didn’t open until 10, so I figured the meeting point must be around the back of the building on the Bayside Trail. Lo and behold! There were probably a dozen people running sprints from pole to pole. I fell in line – slightly confused about the workout and had been expecting a distance run – and ended up following the group INTO the building. It took me a few minutes before I realized that I just crashed a Crossfit class. Oops! Out of embarrassment, I ran out of the building and just kept running.

I was hoping to run 8-10 miles with a group of people, but instead I found myself running all alone around Back Bay and it was windy. Like, nose-running, cold face, hold my hat down – windy! For lack of an actual medical term for this, my butt hurt. My right buttcheek/hip has been bothering me since mid-week. I’m not sure if it’s a pulled muscle or if I’ve just overcompensated for a muscle weakness somewhere else. Regardless, I felt like every stride of mine had a certain “swagger” or booty strut. Which is bad. It’s not how I normally run. So I resolved to stop my run after circling Back Bay and making it back to Fleet Feet. It ended up being 5 miles which was a surprise! My average pace was 8:18! Holy heck what? That was a surprise. I’m starting to wonder if all of the “cross training” (spinning 2x/week, running faster on the treadmill, abs/core work 1x/week, dining room yoga 1x/week) has been paying off. 8:18 isn’t remarkably fast for me. I can easily do a mile at that pace. But 5 windy, hilly miles? I’m proud!

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When I got back to my apartment, Darren and I walked to Crooked Mile for our weekly coffee and bagel which was a much-needed source of carbs. For some ungodly reason, I decided I was going to go to the gym and try out some of the other machines. I spent nearly 45-minutes on the stationary bikes – cranking out 15 miles! Then I moved onto the elliptical for 3.1 miles (25 minutes). In hindsight, I realize that I basically exercised all day. I wasn’t planning on it, and it certainly wasn’t about “burning calories” or “fitting into jeans” – I was honestly just intrigued about the machines!

I zipped over to Whole Foods and found this gem. It’s delicious. It’s the best almond milk I’ve tried to date. Go buy some.

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I sat down to a lunch of cottage cheese (I have a problem, don’t I?) snuggled on the couch with my kitty and watched the Mindy Project for like…two hours?

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Soon enough it was time to head out and celebrate my friend Rachel’s birthday. An evening of hibachi! Yes, please. It was really funny – we told the chef that it was Rachel’s birthday, but he seemed to think that it was Bethany’s birthday! He lit a few things on fire and offered a piece of flaming SomethingOrOther to Bethany as a birthday gift. Either way, it was a blast. When Rachel and I were going to school in the area, we made hibachi a regular thing. Okay, maybe we went like 3 times a year tops, but it was definitely our thing. I was so happy when Rachel invited me to celebrate her birthday with her at Fuji.

Sunday came along as Sundays often do. I got up at 7:30 – I seriously don’t know how to sleep in – ready for the day to begin. Darren left to spend the day with his family and I…hit the gym. (I realize how bad this all sounds.) My intention was to run 9 miles – according to Hal Higdon’s half marathon training plan. We’re two weeks away from Half Marathon #2!

I hopped on the treadmill, started up the first episode of Serial (seriously – go listen to this!), and started my run. Not even a mile into it I realized that I was beyond hungry. I developed a cramp as well that didn’t go away for 3 more miles. It just wasn’t a great run. I had been so used to long, surprisingly wonderful Sunday runs that this negativity really threw me for a loop. I figured that since I had spent so much time working out the day before, this was my body’s way of telling me that I need a rest day. My body’s always right. I stopped after 6 miles (exactly when my podcast episode ended) – which I should be proud of, but instead feel like I “gave up” when I should have done 10 miles – and went over to the stationary bikes. I had a much better time on the bikes. I spent 30 minutes on the trainer and watched The Parent Trap. What a throwback!

I left, gobbled a Quest Bar and set out to buy my sister a birthday gift, which I did, but not without picking myself up a new shirt!

I had been waiting for this day for months and months and months. Though I hadn’t yet signed up for a half marathon all those months ago, it was my dream to run my first one with my mom – ever since she and I started our Easter tradition of running 13.1 miles on our own. We finally got ourselves organized and signed up for the half in August and from then until November 1, it was a waiting game. I was so excited to do this. My first half marathon.

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marathon monday

10 28 2014.

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Happy Marathon Monday! I figured that I’d give a little bit of a weekend recap with emphasis on how my half marathon “training” is going – since it’s now 5 days away!

On Monday of last week, I squeezed in a 4.23 mile run before the sun set. I was aiming for “easy miles” which is exactly what I did. I know I could’ve pushed for more miles, but I was a bit exhausted after Sunday’s long run. Also, runger.

I took Tuesday off from running to do some core work. I did 20 minutes of pilates following a 10-minute cardio warmup. It was a fast workout in the scheme of my typical 40+ minute runs.

Wednesday was my rest day. I took advantage of the down time (and it was pouring out!) and snuggled up on the couch with my book.

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Thursday, I went on my first after-dark run in the rain for 4.46 miles and loved every bit of it! When I got back, I was feeling ambitious so I made broccoli and sweet potato curry on carrot, parsnip and butternut squash “pasta.” I love my mandoline almost as much as I love curry!

Friday I ended the work-week with a nice easy 3.73 after-dark run with Darren.

I woke up early feeling motivated on Saturday morning. I wasted no time at all, brewing a pot of (pumpkin spice!) coffee and I poured myself a rather large bowl of granola. I don’t usually allow myself to eat cereal – the amount of sugar, even in the “healthy” cereals, astonishes me – but I sometimes make exceptions on the weekends. Afterwards, I set out for a 6.6 mile run.

To be completely honest, this run was hard. I was cramping up for most of it, despite waiting over an hour after my breakfast to digest before running. I was also really warm. I had made the mistake of checking the temperature online when I woke up, and took that to be the high of the day – when in fact it had warmed up about 10 degrees between waking up and ending my run. (A 2.5-hour window of time.)

I stopped dead in my tracks almost immediately after hitting 6 miles because my cramp suddenly felt like a pulled muscle. It was so painful, I could feel it just by breathing! I had experienced it once before on my right side and could actually feel the pain of the muscle for a few days after. I walked for 2-minutes or so before getting fed up and started running again. The pain was gone! (Thank goodness.)

I stopped by Rosemont on my way back and bought some blueberries for my dad’s birthday pie! (Since I love to bake, I make all of my friends and family a dessert of their choice on their birthday. So far I’ve done carrot cupcakes with cardamom cream cheese frosting, chocolate baklava, vanilla bean cheesecake, pumpkin spice cake, banana cream pie and now blueberry pie!)

Darren and I have this weekly tradition where we walk up to The Crooked Mile Cafe (4 blocks away) on Saturday mornings for breakfast. Darren was waiting patiently for me to return from my run and when I walked in the door, we agreed to go. Since I had already eaten breakfast, I decided to get an iced coconut coffee – cream only! Ohhhhhhh man. I got a 24 oz. so it lasted me a couple of hours! I sipped on it slowly as I made the pie, showered and cleaned up a bit. After making the pie, I zipped up to my parent’s house to begin the birthday celebration!

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(Photo from my sister, Ally.)

My dad cooked a trashcan chicken and it was delicious! I love the smoky taste that charcoal creates. I definitely ate too much and overindulged a bit on wine, but I allowed myself the free pass, vowing to get back on track on Sunday.

Sunday was the best. I woke up at 8:00, blogged a bit then ate some more granola and drank some coffee. This time I allowed almost two hours to digest because I had 10 miles planned and I did not want a repeat of yesterday’s run. At 11:00, I decided that it was time to get moving!

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Pictured: New Balance 550v3 ($39.99, TJMaxx), Bondi Band Headband ($5), Saucony Socks ($5, TJMaxx), New Balance: All Over Heather Capri ($19.99), Mesh Top in Carbon 2 ($14), C9/Champion 1/4 Zip (gift).

I changed into my running clothes, allowed my watch to connect and set out. I’m really excited to say that my run was phenomenal – I held a great pace, stayed in a really positive mental place for the entire time and didn’t experience a single cramp! It was the kind of run that sets a perfect tone for the remainder of the day. My route included running along the bay, running through a cemetery and even a mile of trail running.

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When I got back, it was 12:40 and Darren looked like he was about to leave. He wanted to walk to Rosemont to get a sandwich and asked if I’d like to join. I agreed, not really in the mood for a sandwich, but just liked the idea of a short “shake out” walk. As I put my running shoes back on, I realized that my big toe hurt (again)! My left big toe has been injured since my 10-miler with my mom two weeks ago. I thought that it had healed fully, but since it’s been bothering me again, I suppose not! (How on earth did I manage to injure my big toe when it’s so securely stable in my shoe?)

Anyways. I ended up getting some cottage cheese because that’s my newest snack obsession and I just crave it all the time now. I also walked past a bin of cranberries and couldn’t resist. I saw them and immediately thought of cranberry bread. Before I checked out, I perused the baked goods and decided that I had to have a yeast roll. (Can you tell that my body was thinking carbs?)

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Darren and I sat down to watch an episode of The Walking Dead while we ate: me with my cottage cheese/salsa combo and a yeast roll. Him with his sandwich. Then I made the cranberry bread. While it baked, I showered, put on some comfortable clothes and read on the porch. I had finished Going Somewhere and decided to start my next book – Becoming Odyssa by Jennifer Pharr David. I breezed through the first 50 pages yesterday and am loving it so far! I’ll write a bit more on it when I finish.

Also, check out my reindeer socks! I’m so proud of those. I know it’s way too soon but I’ll be running the Santa Hustle Half Marathon at the end of November so when I saw those at Reny’s for $1, I had to have them.

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The cranberry bread smelled so delicious when it was done so I couldn’t resist having a slice with some peach white tea. My afternoon was so relaxing.

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So now I get to taper. My half marathon is on Saturday – I’ve got two 3-milers scheduled for Tuesday and Thursday, a rest day on Wednesday and Friday and then I get to run 13.1 miles!