Sunday, January 29, 2017

Running all the miles!

It would be an understatement to say that I've been running a lot lately. I'm at the height of my training for the Myrtle Beach marathon and things are pretty intense. I'm happy to report that I continue to have plenty of energy with a good amount of pep in my legs. I attribute this to:

  • Fueling my hard workouts with Generation UCAN
  • Getting plenty of restful sleep
  • Foam rolling almost every day
  • Staying hydrated (I even got a new smart water bottle)
  • Regularly doing my hip strengthening exercises (3-4 times per week)
  • Staying mentally relaxed and not obsessing about my running
  • Keeping my easy runs easy and not over-running the workouts
  • Getting massages every two weeks
In addition to all the running I did this week, I also spoke at a local marketing conference about marketing technology. It was a great opportunity to share my experience and network with other marketers. Even though my mileage is at an all-time high, I'm still very focused on my work and I find that having a work/running balance is really important in staying sane. Running clears my mind from work stuff. Focusing on work ensures I don't spend too much time thinking (or obsessing about) running. 

Monday: Easy
8.1 miles @ 8:39 average. It was insanely windy and rainy. And also dark. This run simply wasn't enjoyable but I got it done. I'd rather deal with wind than ice on the ground so I can't complain too much for late January.

Tuesday: Progression
11.7 miles @ 7:44 average. The plan called for a 90-minute progression run with the first 30 minutes easy, the middle 30 minutes medium, and the last 30 minutes hard. I've done this workout quite a few times now, so I know how each section should feel. Just six weeks ago I actually ran this same workout at an average pace of 7:51, so it was nice to see some progress. 30 mins easy @ 8:36 (3.49 miles), 30 mins medium @ 7:37 (3.94 miles), 30 mins hard @ 7:05 (4.23 miles). I struggled during miles 9-10 because they were uphill and into a headwind. Instead of worrying about my pace, I kept the effort strong and got the benefit of the workout.

Wednesday: Easy
8.1 miles @ 8:40 average.  Just an easy run!

Thursday: Tempo + intervals
11.8 miles. This included a really long workout: 4 mile tempo run @ 6:56 pace. Half mile recovery
Thursday, January 26
jog. 2 x 90 seconds with 90 second recovery jogs: (6:32, 6:24). 4 x 60 seconds with 60 second recovery jogs: (6:18, 6:17, 6:11, 6:10). 4 x 45 seconds with 45 second recovery jogs: (6:15, 6:13, 6:03, 6:02). 4 x 30 seconds with 30 second recovery jogs: (6:03, 5:55, 6:01, 5:58). 6 x 15 seconds with 15 second recovery jogs (6:18, 6:01, 6:18, 5:51, 6:19, 5:52). Including warmup and cool down I ran 11.8 miles total. This was a landmark run for me because it's the first tempo run I've done at a sub-7:00 pace. My coach gave me this workout five weeks out from Boston and my tempo pace was 7:02. I was also able to run the shorter intervals faster than I was last spring. At 50 degrees, I almost felt too warm at times!

Friday: Easy
7.1 miles @ 8:32 average. I was pleasantly surprised at how peppy my legs felt given the beating that they took on Thursday.

Saturday: Long Run
21.2 miles @ 8:18 average. Similar to last weekend, Greg parked his car at the W&OD trail and ran the first part of the run with me. He ran back to the car, I ran home. We started this run at a pace of around 8:27. I kept trying to get us to slow down, but we naturally kept logging fast miles. The
Saturday, January 28
slightly faster paces just felt natural and easy. It was also quite cold, so I think trying to keep warm was partially why these paces felt comfortable. It seems like my body is naturally inclined toward negative splits; the longer I run, the better I feel and the more energy I have. I definitely could have continued on at this pace or faster for another five miles, and BQ'ed the training run. I need a 3:40 to BQ, but I'll be looking to run somewhere around 3:20. I finished this run with plenty of energy and there is no residual soreness in my legs.

Sunday: Recovery Jog
3.4 miles @ 8:42 average. Everything felt good and I'm looking forward to another hard week!

Total mileage for the week: 71.4

As the marathon gets closer, I have started to think about my strategy and goals. All of my workouts make me think that marathon pace of 7:30-7:40 is realistic on a good day, but there's still a lot of work to be done. I have a 10K tuneup race next weekend which I will not taper for. It will be interesting to see how much speed I can get on tired legs. Regardless of how I run in the marathon, I am really enjoying the challenges of this training cycle and the progress I have made in terms of handling the heavy load.

I'm running higher weekly mileage than I did when I trained for Boston, but my overall training cycle will end up being about one month shorter. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that February doesn't bring any severe weather-- we were definitely spoiled in January with mild temperatures and no storms.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Hidrate Spark 2.0 Review: Smart Water Bottle

Hidrate Spark 2.0 Water Bottle
As a goal-oriented person, I'm extremely motivated to achieve whatever it is I set out to do. But with one hang-up: I need to be able to measure my progress and my success. For example, if it weren't for my online training log, it would be difficult to motivate myself to run the mileage that I do. And if races weren't timed, it would be difficult to motivate myself to run fast.

One of my goals for as long as I can remember is to stay hydrated. I know that I don't drink nearly as much water as I should. And no matter how hard I try to remind myself to drink during the work day, I simply don't. I forget to drink or I don't make time to get water from the water cooler. I've always wanted to be able to track my water consumption, but that's hard. It's hard enough to actually drink the water, let alone take the time to figure how much I've had.

Typically during the work week, I drink a little bit of water before I run, and then chug a lot of water immediately afterwards. If it's warm out I may carry a water bottle with me. But then I go to work and drink little to no water. If I do drink, it's usually only one cup. Even my zebra striped water bottle does not motivate me to drink. I simply get caught up in whatever I am working on and going to meetings, so water is rarely prioritized. Enter the Hidrate Spark 2.0 bottle.

A few days after Christmas, I saw an ad for this smart water bottle pop up in my Facebook news feed: "Smart water bottle reminds you to drink water, syncs with FitBit." A-ha! My interest was immediately captured and I clicked through to the Hidrate Spark website. I learned that this water bottle tracks your water consumption and glows when you haven't been drinking enough. It syncs with FitBit and other health apps so that you can track all of your health data in one place. FitBit addict that I am, and knowing my personality, I instantly decided that I needed this bottle. If I could measure my intake, I would surely be motivated to drink more. I wished I had heard about it before Christmas so I could have put it on my list (or hinted to Greg about it), but I didn't.

I decided to purchase the bottle for myself, but hesitated due to the price. Could I justify spending
Hidrate Spark 2.0 Bottle
$54.95 on a water bottle when I already have at least a dozen water bottles that I never use? I gave it some more thought and I realized that hydration would be very important in the coming months of marathon training, and I needed to stay healthy. My recent bout with mono has made me focus more on taking care of my body, so I decided it was worth the investment.

Just as I was about to click on the purchase button, I thought that I could potentially procure a free bottle in exchange for a review on my blog. I only review 2-3 products a year on my blog, and I almost never receive free items; I only write reviews for products that I am passionate about and that contribute to my success as an athlete. I think that hydration is essential to staying healthy and running well, and I knew that whether or not I received a free Hidrate Spark bottle, I would blog about it. Sure enough, Hidrate Spark accepted my offer, and I received a free smart water bottle two weeks ago.

The Hidrate Spark 2.0 bottle comes in 6 different color choices. I chose aqua because it looked the most refreshing! When mine arrived, I opened it immediately and found it easy to setup. I downloaded the Hidrate Spark app, and entered my height, weight, birthday, bedtime and activity level. I also integrated the app with my FitBit. I then waited for the app to sync with my bottle. It wouldn't sync, so after some troubleshooting I realized that the batteries were dead. Bummer! I could have sent the bottle back and requested one with working batteries, but that would have been a hassle. Instead, I purchased batteries from Best Buy, replaced them (okay, Greg replaced them) and the bottle then paired with my phone just fine. A minor hiccup in the overall Hidrate Spark experience!

Once the bottle was paired with my phone, the app created a hydration goal. This goal changes every day based off of my FitBit steps and the local weather. Talk about being "smart!" My goal for the first day was 75 ounces. For the 10 days I've had the bottle, my goal has ranged from 67-76 ounces per day. That's a lot of water-- at least three bottles worth! I can use either the Hidrate app to track my consumption, or the FitBit app. I actually prefer using the Hidrate app because it contains a visualization that shows not only how much water you've had, but also if you are ahead or behind your goal, depending on what time it is.

The First 24 Hours
Lights up as a reminder to drink
All of a sudden, I found myself accountable for my water intake. The app would track it, and I knew I would be blogging about it. I had to drink water! This worked. I went to work on Monday feeling super cool with my new bottle. I told my colleagues that this wasn't just any water bottle, it was a smart water bottle! I was excited to see it light up and remind me to drink. By 11:00am, I still hadn't seen the bottle light up, so I actually decided not to drink any water until it lit up, so I could confirm it was working. Sure enough, the bottle lit up and I got really excited! I drank some water, my app showed that I was closer to goal completion, and the bottle stopped blinking.

I think the blinking feature is cool, but I'm more intrigued by the tracking aspect. Numbers motivate me, not lights. On Monday, I ended up drinking 50 out of 75 ounces. On one hand, I was surprised I couldn't meet my goal given how focused I was on it. But on the other hand, I realized that I drank probably three times as much as I would on a normal day. Now that I see how much water I am drinking, I think that my typical average probably used to be only 20 ounces a day. Pitiful for an endurance athlete, I know!

You can also manually add water consumption to the app if you drink water at a restaurant, for example. You just need to estimate how much water you drank and then key in the amount. For my long run on Saturday, I drank half of a 24 oz sports bottle, so I manually added 12 ounces to the app when I finished.

Daily Tracking
Does this smart water bottle help me drink more water? Absolutely. Do I meet my water goal every day? No. In fact, I usually only achieve half of my goal. But as I said earlier, I would guess that I
Hidrate Spark App
previously drank about 20 ounces of water per day on average. According to the Hidrate app, I have been drinking about 44 ounces of water per day since getting the bottle. And that's a huge increase.

Last week I ran over 71 miles and I found that I had plenty of energy throughout the day. More energy than usual, and I ran more miles than usual, so that's a win. All of my runs felt great, too. Oftentimes I worry in the morning that I didn't drink enough water the previous day to hydrate my workout, but that was not the case last week.

Looking at the graph, I notice that my water consumption gradually declined throughout the week. The novelty of tracking my intake definitely wore off, but I do want to continue to monitor this and try to get to 75% of my goal or more. So I think the bottle is going to be part of my daily life for the foreseeable future.

Pros and Cons
The benefits of the Hidrate Spark 2.0 bottle are:

  • An effective way to drink more water, particularly for competitive results-driven personality types
  • Sleek design that's easy to carry and is fun to drink from
  • A ridiculously smart app that calculates your goal for you, and also lets you setup competitions with friends (I haven't setup any friends yet)
  • The app allows you to customize how often the bottle glows, and what style of glow you want
  • Syncs with FitBit
  • An overall fun way to drink water 

The negatives of the Hidrate Spark 2.0 bottle:
On my way to work with Hidrate Spark
  • Mine came with dead batteries
  • You are not supposed to put hot water in the bottle, and sometimes I prefer hot water

Summary + Discount Code
Overall I am happy with this water bottle. I am actually slightly obsessed with it because it's so cool! I've probably never hydrated so well in my life except for maybe the week leading up to a marathon. In the past, Greg has suspected that I have over hydrated for my marathons because I essentially tripled or quadrupled my water intake in the days leading up to the race. But now I will have a precise way to measure how much I am actually drinking.

Given that I am at the height of my marathon training cycle, this bottle came at just the right time. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who struggles to stay hydrated. If you think of it as just another water bottle, the price tag may seem high. But when you think about the technology involved and the potential impact it can have on your health, then it's worth the cost. You're not just buying a water bottle; you are buying the ability to monitor your water consumption. Hidrate Spark is offering my blog readers a 15% discount with the code ECLOR. It expires on Wednesday, February 1st, so don't wait! Visit the Hidrate Spark website to use the code.

Thank you for reading this Hidrate Spark 2.0 review. Happy hydrating!

Hidrate Spark 2.0 Smart Water Bottle
Smart water bottle that tracks water consumption
Rating: 4

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Myrtle Beach Marathon Training: 6 weeks to go!

With only six weeks until the Myrtle Beach marathon, this training cycle has gone by very quickly! But then again, I've really only been training for five weeks-- I got a late start due to my conservative
comeback from mono. I spent October and November rebuilding my fitness and getting back into the groove of training, and I didn't actually start marathon training until halfway through December.

My mileage has increased quickly-- probably quicker than most would advise. However, given that I averaged 60-65 miles a week last spring when I was training for Boston, my body is no stranger to this kind of work. Thankfully, I've adjusted quite well and I find that my workouts are energized and my legs have enough "pep" in them to run at the prescribed effort levels. I continue to work with my McMillan Running coach, who has once again pushed me to a new level. My last rest day was January 6th (the day before the Disney Half marathon that was cancelled) so I've now been running for 16 days straight, averaging 9.6 miles per day.

The week of January 9th: 61 Miles

Monday: 8.6 miles easy at 8:43 average. We were still in Disney World, so I ran back and forth on a 3/4-mile service road. It did get boring after awhile, but it was more scenic that the neighborhoods I traditionally run in.

Tuesday: 5 x 2000m on the track with 3-minute recovery jogs.  If you add it up, it's a 10K worth of hard running! This workout was tough mentally because it ended up being 30 laps around the track which is boring and hard. My paces for each of the 2000m segments were 6:58, 6:54, 6:43, 6:40, 6:43. Including warmup and cool down, I ran 10.9 miles total.

Wednesday: 6.7 miles easy at 8:55 average.

Thursday: 8.1 miles easy at 8:37 average. My original plan called for road intervals on Thursday, but I ended up changing my schedule around. Because it was supposed to snow on Saturday with roads potentially icy through Sunday, I decided I would do my long run on Friday morning. That meant sacrificing the road intervals (not wanting to run a long run the day after intervals), with the potential of doing those on Sunday if the roads were safe. It might have been fine to do the intervals followed by the long run, but the long run was actually a hard workout, not a typical "long slow run" at an easy pace.

Friday, January 13th
Friday: 60 minutes easy, 60 minutes hard. This served as my long run for the week. I ran the first hour at a pace of 8:41, and the second hour at a pace of 7:34. The resulted in a total distance of 14.84 miles at an average pace of 8:05. I liked this workout a lot. Running the second half harder made it go by quickly and it was good practice for running hard on tired legs.

Saturday: 3.4 miles easy at 8:46. The weather ended up not being nearly as bad as predicted, so I was able to run outside later in the day.

Sunday: 12 times (1 minute hard, 1 minutes easy) + 12 times (30 seconds hard, 30 seconds easy). These were the road intervals originally scheduled for Thursday. While the forecast had called for freezing rain a few days prior, Sunday ended up being a beautiful day for running. Most of my splits for this run were at a sub-6:00 pace. And when I did the math, I realized that I ran just over 3 miles at an average pace of just below 6:00. Wow! This run was really hard, with most of the 1-minute intervals between 5:45-6:10, and the 30-second intervals between 5:30-6:00. Including warmup and cool down, I ran 8.5 miles total.

The week of January 16th: 71.7 miles

Monday: 8.1 miles easy at 8:40. I actually broke out my heart rate monitor for this, which I haven't been wearing much since my mono comeback. I was pleasantly surprised to see that my average heart
Tuesday, January 17th
rate was 145. This is at the low end of my aerobic zone, which means I could have been going faster and still have been running at an "easy" aerobic effort.

Tuesday: 12.46 miles at 8:25. This run was prescribed to be 105 minutes with the last 15 minutes hard. I ran the first 90 minutes at an easy pace of 8:42, and the last 15 minutes at an average pace of 7:07. I was thankful to not have a really fast workout on Tuesday, given that the road intervals on Sunday had tired my legs out.

Wednesday: 8.1 miles easy at 8:42

Thursday: 15 miles, including 12 at "marathon pace" of 7:31. This workout was definitely the highlight of my week. Given that I have a full-time job and had to be at work on time, I started this one super early.  I drove my car to a nearby neighborhood that's relatively flat and doesn't have a ton of cars or intersections to cross. There's a loop of about 5.5 miles which I ran twice (and then some). I ran this same route last spring when I was training for Boston. However, that workout only called for 10 miles at marathon pace, not 90 minutes.

My planned pace was 7:35, which would have yielded about 11.8 miles. When I did this run last spring, my pace was 7:39 for 10 miles, and I believe myself to be fitter now than I was then. After the 2-mile warmup, I placed a water bottle near my car's tire and planned to drink some at the halfway point. I also planned to ditch my headlamp at that point and put it underneath the car tire. This is where the 2-lap thing came in handy! My splits for this run were 7:40, 7:38, 7:33, 7:37, 7:28, 7:34, 7:30, 7:30, 7:30, 7:26, 7:22, 7:12. And then I ran 1 mile for a cool down.

I was pleasantly surprised at how fluid I felt and how relatively easy this was. I didn't feel strained and it only got hard during the last two miles to which I reacted by just pushing harder! Am I convinced that I can actually run a 7:31 marathon pace? I think it's possible if the weather was just right and I was having a good day. I was blessed with perfect weather for this run.

Friday: 6.7 miles easy at 8:53. I intentionally kept this one at recovery pace given the workout I had
Saturday, January 21st
the day before. My legs surprisingly felt great! No lingering soreness.

Saturday: 18 miles easy at 8:29. Greg drove us to the W&OD trail and he ran the first six miles with me, and then turned around. I continued to run home from there, which ended up being exactly 18 miles. I kept waiting for this run to get really hard but it never did. Particularly since I was only 2 days out from the marathon pace run. I practiced my race day fueling by having a packet of UCAN before hand and a homemade UCAN gel 80 minutes into the run. I was really pleased with how I executed this run and that my body seemed to tolerate it well. My legs weren't screaming at me and I didn't feel overly fatigued afterwards.

Sunday: 3.4 miles recovery at 8:49. Everything continued to feel good.

We've been extremely lucky with the weather. No major storms leaving ice on the ground, and the temperatures have been abnormally mild. Normally at this time of year, I'm wearing tights and a heavy top with a hat. But instead I've been wearing shorts, skirts, and lightweight tops! Even short sleeves! We have another mild week on tap, and I hope that we don't get any major storms that would derail my training in February. I'm extremely thankful that my training has gone so well and that I'm healthy.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Running and Reynaud's

Reynaud's Syndrome: After running in 40 degrees
Do your hands and/or feet turn white when they are cold? If so, you may have Reynaud's Syndrome. Reynaud's Syndrome is a condition that causes your fingers and toes to go numb and turn white when they are cold; and it's doesn't even have to be that cold. The condition is more common in women than in men and there's no known cure, although there are some medications that can help relieve symptoms.

I was born with blue feet. My feet are often extremely cold, even at room temperature. Greg once joked that he didn't need to get a fan for his computer, because I could simply put my feet near the computer when he was using it. I'm also very fortunate that Greg lets me put my ice cold feet on his warm legs, which feels amazing to me, but not so great for him.

While my feet tend to suffer worse than my hands, they are actually completely fine while running. A few months ago, I went to a winery with some friends. It was about 55 degrees outside but because I wasn't moving around, both of my feet turned completely white and it was challenging to walk on them. At the New York City marathon in 2010, my feet turned numb while waiting to race, and they didn't regain feeling until three miles in. But once I'm running, my feet end up being totally fine.

My hands are an entirely different story. If you're a regular reader of this blog, you've probably noticed many pictures in which I'm in a tank top or short sleeves, but I'm wearing gloves or even mittens. You've probably also heard me say that my body gets extra hot when I run, particularly my face, so I'm comfortable racing in a tank if it's 40 degrees, but once the temperature gets above 55, my performance is impacted. I would LOVE to take some of that extra heat and channel it to my hands, but my body's distribution system is way out of wack. In fact, after yesterday's run, my hands were freezing but my face was burning up. I solved both issues by putting my hands on my forehead.

After years of trial and error, I've finally found a solution to running in temperatures from 0-50 degrees. My savior has been Little Hotties hand warmers. When you open them, heat releases and they last for 8 hours. I go through several boxes of those each winter. I rotate having them in front of my fingers or behind them throughout the run. Here is my solution to Reynaud's Syndrome when running in the cold:

  • 45-50 degrees: lightweight gloves
  • 40-44 degrees: heavy gloves or light convertible mittens with hand warmers in them
  • 33-39 degrees: heavy mittens or light convertible mittens with hand warmers in them
  • 26-32 degrees: heavy convertible mittens with hand warmers in them
  • 20-25 degrees: heavy convertible mittens with light gloves under them, plus a pair of hand warmers
  • 5-19 degrees: heavy convertible mittens with light gloves under them, plus two pairs of hand warmers: one pair for the front of my fingers, one pair for the back.
It's important to note that mittens are way more effective than gloves. If it's below 40 then gloves
alone no longer work for me. I recently spent $40 on a pair of Under Armour gloves that advertised
Tank top with mittens + hand warmers
high-tech materials to shelter against extreme cold and wind. They failed miserably (within 5 minutes) when I tried to wear them in 27 degree temperatures. They work for the low 40's particularly if it's raining because they are somewhat waterproof.

Even with the system that I've figured out above, there are a few challenges. First, my fingers sometimes still turn white and numb if the run is longer than 45 minutes. And even if they don't turn white, I lose dexterity throughout the run. Afterwards, I often cannot use my hands until I run them under warm water for 3-4 minutes. Running my hands under warm water is the fastest way to restore feeling and dexterity.

Another problem is carrying water during long runs. I refuse to wear a water belt, and my preference is to carry my water. When it dips below 40, the water becomes cold (even though I start the run with very hot water from the faucet) and I can't hold it. I've tried different solutions for this like insulated bottles, but those aren't as comfortable to carry, especially if I'm already wearing gloves. My solution to this is to park my car along my long run route and stop at a few times for water.

When I ran the B & A Trail Marathon two years ago, it was only 25 degrees so I was unable to hold a water bottle. At the time, I was using Honey Stinger gels, and I needed to be able to drink water when it was time to take my gels, instead of waiting for the water stations. Thankfully, Greg was able to
Blue and white fingers after a long run
meet me at 4 points along the course and hand me a new water bottle. I could hold it for about five minutes before I needed to toss it.

I've noticed that my Reynaud's Syndrome has worsened with age. My fingers turn white from driving if the steering wheel is cold. My toes turn white simply from hanging around the house and doing nothing. I've looked into the medication, but the possible side effects sound worse to me than just dealing with it. It's a circulation issue, so I wonder if this is related to how easily I over heat, even if it's only 60 degrees.  The condition isn't serious, it's basically just an annoyance that I've learned to live with.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Disney World Half Marathon Cancelled: Making Lemonade

Ever since it opened, I’ve wanted to stay at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. Wild animals, including zebras, roam freely on a small savannah directly outside of your room. Throughout the years, I’ve seen many of my friends’ photos from there on Facebook, and so Greg and I finally decided it was time to go. We figured we'd time it with the Walt Disney World Half Marathon, which we had both previously run 4 years ago in 2013. I registered for the half marathon and Greg for the full. His rationale was that he wouldn't have to train for a marathon during the coldest months of the year: January and February. But last summer, he decided to run the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon instead, and just not race at all this weekend.
Ready to run!

A vacation with zebras and running-- what could be better!?

Given that the Disney World Half Marathon typically has warm, humid weather, my approach to this race was to practice running hard and to enjoy the experience. Even before the forecast came out I hadn't set my sights on a PR. This race was going to be all about mental toughness and enjoyment, simultaneously. But when the forecast came out for the weekend, I have to admit my heart sunk.

I woke up on Thursday morning, and the forecast was calling for thunderstorms and 68 degrees during the race, and then a dramatic drop in temperatures for the rest of the day on Saturday and a very cold and windy Sunday. I was worried that the race would be cancelled and that it would be too cold for the zebras to come out. And that our one day to be in the parks (Sunday) would be miserably cold and windy. I went for my morning run and tried to stay positive, but the weather forecast was definitely bumming me out.

I figured I should have a backup plan in case the race was cancelled. Greg still had his full marathon bib, so my plan was to run 18 miles of that as a training run and then pull off the course. So I packed (or should I say re-packed, since I had done most of my packing the weekend before) for the marathon weather conditions as well: 37 degrees with 15 mph winds. For those of you who aren't familiar with the Disney Marathon weekend, the half takes place on Saturday, and the full on Sunday.

We arrived in Orlando on Friday and I was elated to see 4 giraffes and two zebras at our resort! We
Zebra in upper left corner. Can you see her?
had a pretty good view of them from our balcony, although they were far away. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get any good photos of the zebras because I couldn't get close enough to them on Friday.

After getting our race packets, we took an Uber to the nearby town of Celebration for a carb-filled dinner. My spirits were pretty high at this point. The weather was gorgeous, I had seen zebras, I had my packet, and everything was all set to go. I was ready to race hard, even though the conditions would be challenging. We went to bed at 7:30. Because the race starts at 5:30, it requires a 3:00am wakeup, and we had no problem falling asleep so early.

When my alarm went off at 3:00am the next morning, I saw a text message from the race officials stating that the race was cancelled due to the potential for lightening. I wasn't surprised or heart broken. I was mentally prepared for this to happen, and I had my backup plan of running the full marathon. Greg was worried that my plan to run 18 miles of the full would be logistically difficult. Not only would I have to wake up early and hang around in the 37-degree windy weather for an hour beforehand, but it wasn't going to be easy for me to get transportation back to the start. I looked at the course map and I realized I wouldn't be able to Uber because all the roads would be closed. Mile 18 was located in the ESPN Sports Complex, and there was no getting out of there. So, we decided we'd try to find somewhere to run later in the day once the thunderstorms passed.

Even though the race entry fee is non-refundable, Disney went above and beyond to make up for this circumstance. Runners had the option of registering for any other Disney race for free, receiving a Disney gift card, transferring to the full if space allotted, or receiving two park-hopper passes. This was a no-brainer for me. Greg and I had planned to spend Sunday at Epcot center, and tickets are $105/each, so the park hopper pass saved us over $200 dollars. And it's actually worth even more because it allows you to go to all the parks.

As for finding another spot to run, I saw on Instagram that people were going to Disney's Art of
Animation resort to run around Hourglass Lake. This is a 1.38-mile loop on a concrete surface around a resort lake. There really wasn't anywhere we could see to run at Animal Kingdom Lodge, so once the weather calmed down, we boarded a bus to the other resort.

When we arrived, we couldn't believe our eyes! It was like an actual race! I would estimate about 150-200 people were running around the lake. There were cheering spectators all around the loop,
Lots of fun things to look at along the way!
and some even had cowbells. Even better, there was an aid station stocked with water, gels, and bananas! It was such a fun experience and everyone's spirits were high. Endurance runners are a dedicated group of people for sure. Many people were even wearing their bibs. For people who were planning to run the Goofy challenge (both the half marathon and the full marathon) doing this was a must! I later learned that there were other locations throughout Disney with these "poor man's" races. On social media, this became known as the Grumpy Challenge.

I decided that instead of racing 13.1 miles, I would do the run my coach prescribed: 18 miles with the last 5 hard. Since Greg is training for a half marathon, he did a timed run of 1 hour, 45 minutes, which ended up being about 12.5 miles. It was nice to run with him because if I had done the half marathon, I would have been alone before, during, and after.

Miles 1-6
The first two miles went by very slowly. In fact, when our watches beeped for one mile, we could hardly believe that we had only run one mile. It was about 67 degrees and insanely humid. There wasn't much pep in my step (which could have been due to the concrete surface) but I was definitely hot. We kept these miles at a pace of about 8:45. We tried to go off the course a few times and run around the parking lots, which were a softer asphalt surface, but that was more annoying than it was worth.

Miles 6-13
After about six miles it started to cool down ever so slightly. It was still really humid, and raining off and on. I actually really liked when it rained because it had a nice cooling effect. The crowd support was amazing and the energy was high. I think we must have started later than most people (we started at 10:00) because after about seven miles we noticed fewer and fewer runners. About half as many as there had been at the beginning.

Disney's Art of Animation Resort Running Path
Instead of drinking UCAN beforehand, I had eaten a bagel with peanut butter and brought a bottle of UCAN to drink at the halfway point. Greg was carrying our water. So at mile 8, I drank my UCAN bottle. About 15 minutes later, I felt a lot better and I think the UCAN really helped. My left hip (which is always a problem when I run counterclockwise) started acting up, so we turned around and ran the other way on the course. There were runners going in both directions and it had thinned out quite a bit, so it wasn't a problem at all to do this. We sped up a little during this portion to a pace of about 8:35.

Miles 14-17
Before I started the faster miles, I was not feeling good. The humidity was getting to me, my legs were not happy with the concrete, and my hip was a little achey. But I figured it might actually feel better to up the effort and change things up. And I was right. I started out by telling myself I only had to do two "hard" miles, which would be 15 total. But then I really got into it. I was running so fast and so many people commented on how fast I was going. People who were staying at the resort were cheering me on from their balconies. I felt like such a rock star! I really perked up. It was especially motivating when I passed Greg each lap, who was my biggest cheerleader.

During these final miles it really started to cool down-- to about 56 degrees-- and it started raining again. It was also quite windy. I think the cooler air really helped me feel better. I decided to stop at 17, even though I had originally intended to run 18, because I felt like I had satisfied the requirements of the workout and I didn't want to kill my legs on that concrete.

My last 4 miles averaged 7:38 and my overall pace for 17 miles was 8:29. Not too shabby! My training runs and my 10K race suggest a marathon pace of around 7:29, so I think my last four miles at 7:38 were a good test of what my actual marathon pace might be.

After the "race"
Greg and I were soaking wet and it was in the 50's so we were freezing as we waiting for the bus back to Animal Kingdom Lodge. We were so happy that we were able to run together and have a fun, race-like experience. And it's probably even better training for a marathon than racing a half marathon: less recovery time, and more mileage.

After we showered and ate lunch, we headed back to the ESPN sports complex to get our park-hopper passes and my medal. Now I can truly say I earned this medal. We celebrated by having signature drinks at the resort bar that night. It was an exhausting but fun day. With all the walking that we had to do in addition to the "race," I logged 36,000 steps on my FitBit!

On Sunday, after a short recovery run on the treadmill, Greg and I went to Hollywood Studios and Epcot Center. Both were fun, and we brought warm clothes so that the cold temperatures and wind didn't bother us too much. I was, however, bummed that I never got to see the zebras again. Friday was really the only day I got to see them. I guess we'll have to go back again when the weather is more conducive to zebra-watching.

One of the coolest things about Sunday was getting to see the marathoners run through Hollywood studios at mile 23. We saw the 7-hour pace group and also the very back of the pack. And then, when we went to Epcot we saw this same group of runners headed for the finish line. It gave me an entirely new respect for people who run/walk and who are out on the course for so long. You could tell that they were in so much pain, but they remained focused and high-spirited!

All in all, we were able to make lemonade out of lemons. I wasn't too upset about the race cancellation and running around the disney resort was much better than doing a long run at home in the frigid weather with icy streets. I'm still bummed that I didn't get to see as much of the zebras as I would have liked, but Greg and I are planning a trip to a drive-through safari park in the spring to make up for it.

Greg and me at Animal Kingdom Lodge (he's wearing his 2013 race shirt!)

Monday, January 2, 2017

2016: The Year Lots of Stuff Happened

2016 was an interesting year for me. One the one hand, I accomplished a lot in terms of running, writing, and my career. I ran the Boston Marathon for the first time. I published a book. I started a new job. On the other hand, I encountered some major rough spots, both physically and emotionally. I guess if I had to sum it up in one word, it would be "eventful." Rarely boring. Both exhilarating and exhausting.

Boston Bound
I published this book in May, just one month after running the marathon. It took me nine months to

write it, but over seven years to live it and blog about it. I wrote it because I believed I had a story
that was worth sharing with the running community, or anyone who struggled with perfectionism and anxiety. Although I am an extreme example of how one's own mind can be the biggest barrier to a person's success, I think that we've all played victim to our mindsets at some point or another. It's this universal struggle that (I think) has made the book so successful, as well as the fact that few books exist about everyday runners who aren't at the elite level. The most common feedback I receive is that people were able to relate to the book, and they appreciated its honesty.

Needless to say, I never expected that the book would have sold as many copies as it has. Depending on the day, it's usually ranked on Amazon as one of the top 20-30 best selling running books. I didn't have a sales target in mind when I wrote the book, I just put it out there and waited to see what would happen. I also used my marketing skills to make sure the book received as much exposure as possible. I built up my social media presence, I formed relationships with high-visibility publications, and I even ran some advertisements on Facebook.

The experience of publishing a book and connecting with so many people who've read the book has been truly remarkable. I honestly would have been happy to have just one person read it and say that it helped them, but the impact has been much greater.

I don't write too much about my career on this blog, but I do write quite a few articles on the topic of marketing. The Publications tab on this blog has a list of all of them. I was thankful to have the opportunity to write for some very prominent marketing publications this year, and one of my articles has thousands of shares on LinkedIn.

I changed jobs this year. Although I enjoyed what I did at my previous company, I never felt like I fit in there. The culture just wasn't for me. I frankly wasn't treated very well when I came down with mono, and I was accused of taking advantage of the situation by working from home too much. My skills weren't being maximized and I wasn't able to contribute to my full potential. I'm much happier in my new role, and I believe I've already made a notable impact in less than four months. I'm a marketing vice president for a large software company, and I'm charged with managing the marketing programs that drive revenue for the company. I really enjoy the work atmosphere, and I find myself smiling and laughing a lot while I'm there.

I actually used to work for this company 17 years ago. It was my first job out of college and I was a marketing communications associate, tasked with writing the marketing and PR materials. I was laid off after just three months, however, when the company went through a rough patch financially. I've always been interested in returning.

And of course, running
My running year is best summed up by looking at the 4 quarters.
Shamrock half marathon, March 2016

First quarter: I ran the highest mileage of my life (60-70 miles per week) in preparation for Boston. I also set a massive PR in the half marathon in treacherous conditions.

Second quarter: I ran Boston and then published my book. The majority of my focus in May and June was promoting the book.

Third quarter: I was sick from July 1- September 20 with mono, or some mono-like virus. I made a few attempts to run, but they just set me back even further.

Fourth quarter: I made a huge comeback from mono by gradually adding distance and speed to my runs. And now I'm now stronger than ever!

Because I'm a data junkie, here are the numbers and graphs from 2016.

  • My total mileage was 1,793. If you remove the three months I didn't run, this averages out to 199 miles per month.
  • I ran 10 races. This includes one marathon (Boston), one half marathon (Shamrock), one 10K, two 4-milers, and five 5Ks.
  • I won 8 awards. 4 of these were first place age group, 3 of these were second place age group, and 1 of these was 3rd overall female
  • I set 3 PRs.  Half marathon: 1:33:36, 10K: 42:09, 5K: 20:50. I set an unofficial 10-mile PR during the half marathon and an unofficial 5K PR during the 10k.

Monthly Mileage
It's great to see that I'm building back to the level I used to train at. Running high mileage is a skill and unless you build up to it over years, then you're likely to get injured. I'm extremely fortunate that I haven't had any running injuries in the past three years. My last injury was in 2013 when I had a stress reaction in my shin. Below is a snapshot of my mileage for the past 8 years, since I started tracking it:

I was also sick with mono in 2012 for the same amount of time, but my mileage before and after was much higher this year than it was back then. 2010, 2014, and 2015 were the years when I was both illness and injury free.

I think my biggest takeaway from 2016 is that balance is really important. I was trying to do too much all at once, and it resulted in me getting sick. I've learned that I need to prioritize taking care of my health and I need to keep perspective on things. Worrying and obsessing over things never helps; it actually makes things worse. I used think that I needed to stress over things to ensure they went the way I wanted them to go. I was wrong. I'll have a better shot at having things go my way if I lose the stress and the worry. I won't be a victim of self-fulfilling prophecies. I'll be more rested and more confident. And that will manifest itself in everything I do.

Finally, I'll end this blog with some of my favorite photos from the year.

Realizing that I crushed my PR at the Shamrock half marathon

Meeting my coach in person for the first time, as well as Greg McMillan himself

Finish line of the Boston Marathon

Running with the love of my life
Launching my book

Being treated like a princess while sick

Pacing a new friend in a half marathon instead of being upset that I wasn't in shape to race

First race post-mono, beating my goal by a full minute

Setting a huge PR in the 10K
Making new friendships with Rochelle (pictured), Lisa and Hannah
That orange shirt has seen me through a lot of good times. I just realized that I'm wearing it in half of the photos!

Happy New Year to all my blog readers. Go out and crush it in 2017!