Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Annapolis 10 Mile Race Report

So where did I leave off yesterday?

Oh yes, with this picture of a bridge. A very long, very steep bridge that I ran over not once, but twice. But we'll get to that bridge in a bit.


Annapolis is one of my favorite cities. It's a really quaint place with cute stores and it's right on the water. I was so excited to race here and run through the gorgeous downtown.



It was hot when the race started and I didn't have my hat (FAIL!) so the sun was beating down on my face making it feel that much hotter. I struggled mentally with that in the beginning of the race.


The first three miles were through the downtown, but right after that, the race dumped us out on the bridge.

Going over this bridge the first time kind of did me in. I was so hot. I could feel myself overheating, I just wanted to be out of the sun. By the time I crossed the bridge and was running up a much steeper hill that followed, I had a meltdown.

My legs were tired. My head hurt from the sun and I wasn't even at the half way point yet. I pulled over to the side of the road and started walking. I took some deep breaths, downed a GU and some Gatorade and enjoyed the sprinkler a neighbor had set up.

There was some shade up ahead so I pulled it back together and told myself it was Game On.

I took it slow and steady and slowly, I started to feel better. Being out of the sun helped. The sprinklers the neighbors set up helped. The tons and tons of water stations helped. This race was so well organized with great support from fans.

Just a few miles later I was feeling awesome. I hit the out and back feeling good. I was looking for two of my friends who I knew were running the race. I found Ashleigh not too far from the turn around point and yelled some encouragement.

Feeling strong I plowed my way up the next hill and was rewarded with some kids spraying me down with a SuperSoaker. It totally rocked. Not long after that I hear someone scream my name and it was Olivia from the Blissful Runner. Seeing her really helped motivate me.

I pushed on through mile 8 and was approaching the bridge again. I was feeling much better this time and I charged up the hill. I took my time, made good progress and stopped once for a brief walk break because I didn't want my legs to burn out with only a little over a mile to go.

My legs were tired. They were sore and I wanted to be done, but I kept going.

Around 9.5 I caught up with Ashleigh and ran with her for a bit. She was doing well, but you could tell the heat and the hills were getting to us both. She told me she'd see me at the finish and I ran on.

I heard Garmin beep for the 10 miler marker well before I saw the finish line. Mentally I wanted to stop. Hellllo, Garmin told me I was done. But I kept pushing, hit another turn and an uphill before I finally saw the finish line. I picked it up as best I could and when I crossed the race director called my name.

Or well...he said Jessica Mil...blahblahIcan'tpronouncethis....ha, and that's why race director's never call my name when I cross the finish line.

I grabbed a cold towel and waited for Ashleigh. She finished a few minutes later. We were both glad to be done and went off to find her sister and get some water.


Me, Ashleigh, Jill, Brooke

My official time was 1:38:16. It certainly wasn't as fast as I was hoping, but given the heat and the hills, it's a time I'm happy with and very proud of.

Overall, this was such a fun race and the course was well organized. There was plenty of water and Gatorade. None of the stations ran out of cups. I loved it.

The jury is still out on whether I'd do this race again. August in Annapolis is brutal, weather-wise, but it's hard to pass up such an awesome event.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Birthday Weekend Recap

What an excellent weekend: Birthday dinner with friends, a great day in Annapolis with the BF and a successful race. I really couldn't have asked for a better birthday weekend.

Birthday Dinner:

Friday I met a bunch of my college friends for dinner at Clyde's in Columbia. Though the restaurant lost our reservation and we had to wait 45 minutes for a table, the manager made up for it by us sending lots and lots of free appetizers. There was food everywhere. Plus they made me a delicious ice cream sundae. I left feeling like a bloated whale. I ate wayyyy too much food.

The crown: a birthday tradition since college

The sundae: Delicious hot fudge and a brownie surprise at the bottom

The BF

Former roomies!

Birthday in Annapolis:

The BF had planned a surprise for me in Annapolis, one of my favorite cities. We spent the morning strolling through the streets and stopped to grab some breakfast before taking a water cruise of the Naval Academy and one of the rivers surrounding the city. It was a gorgeous day to be out on a boat, but I might have picked up a wicked farmer's tan. Ooops.







After the boat tour, we stopped for some fro-yo and I got the most delicious tart yogurt with lots of mix-ins.


The place was kind of pricey and it wasn't self serve like FroZen Yo in DC but it was so good.


Coming tomorrow: This bridge is more fun to cruise under than run over. Annapolis 10 Mile Race Report.


Friday, August 27, 2010

Cooking Challenge: Delicious Stir Fry

The BF recently moved to a new apartment and is getting used to cooking for himself. He's successfully made several different things, including a Thai chicken dish last night and this absolutely delicious stir fry that we worked on together.

This recipe had four simple ingredients:
  • Frozen stir fry veggies
  • Chow mein noodle kit (noodles and sauce)
  • Turkey
  • Packet of stir fry spice

We used this noodle kit mainly because it was the only one we could find at the store. Bonus points because it was organic.


I took care of preparing the noodles



while the BF chopped the turkey.

We sprinkled the turkey with the stir fry spices and salt and pepper.

(Side note, I was reading so many recipes that I copied the wrong thing down on our store list. Instead of buying turkey cutlets, we bought turkey sausage. The sausage worked just fine though.)

Then we threw the frozen veggies in to the wok to let them defrost.


After the veggies thawed, we threw the turkey in to the wok.


The BF had way too much fun shaking the wok and flipping our food around.


Once the turkey was pretty much done, we threw the veggies back in the wok to for a few more minutes.


Finally we added the noodles back in and drizzled the whole mixture with the sauce and stir fry spices.


Once everything was warm, we dug in. This stir fry was seriously delicious and something we will definitely be repeating again. I loved how much bulk it had and that it kept me full without making me have that nasty over-full feeling.




The leftovers also re-heated really well the a few days later. This was definitely a cooking challenge success.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Test Race Strategy With a Tune Up Race

This weekend I'm running the Annapolis 10 Mile as a tune up race for the Philly Rock N Roll Half next month.

The elevation profile scares me a little

I've never really worked tune up races into my training before, but this race fell at just the right time (plus I really wanted to run a race during my birthday weekend) so I thought it'd be a good chance for me to test out my race strategy.

Per a great Pftiz article:

"A tune-up race is simply a race of lesser importance that you use to help prepare for your goal race. Tune-up races serve three purposes, they: 1) make you experience the nervous preparation for racing which helps reduce your anxiety before your goal race; 2) toughen you mentally and physically by taking you to your limit; and 3) provide feedback on your current fitness level."

I'd add a fourth thing. Tune up races also let you test out your plan for your goal race.

What you should test:
  • Your pre-race fuel. Figure out how it will sit in your stomach and if it fuels you long enough.
  • Your race day outfit to make sure it doesn't cause chafing.
  • Your fuel strategy during the race. How often do you need to hydrate and take more fuel and figure out what works. Water or Gatorade? Gu or Sharkies?
  • Your goal pace to see how it feels.

My plan for the race:
  • PBnJ has always been a pretty good pre-race breakfast. So I plan to stick with the tried and true for this weekend.
  • I'll be racing in an outfit I've been training in for weeks. You might recognize it:

BlogHer 5K

  • Take one Gu during the race, but carry another as back up and carry Gatorade to sip when necessary.
  • Walk the first minute of each mile and then focus on running hard the rest of the mile. I'm willing to switch that plan as necessary to accommodate water stops since I usually have to walk through them. So this will be a bit of a play it by ear type thing.

This is my first time every being so strategic going in to a race, but I really want to test my plan for Philly. I have my sights set on a half marathon PR and I'm going to use Annapolis to make sure I'm on the right path.

Do you use tune up races to get ready for a goal race?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Yahoo Shine Interview

When I was at the BlogHer conference at the beginning of this month, I had the chance to sit down with the Yahoo! Shine team to film a short segment about how I "reinvented" myself through blogging. I mainly just talked about my marathon and how the blog has grown from there.

The video is now live and I thought I'd share it here, since I talk about how awesome the running community is...a lot.

Please don't laugh too hard.

I'm proud of myself for only saying "um" a few times toward the very end. For being totally on the spot, I thought I did an OK job, but you can definitely tell how nervous I was.

I also think I sound ridiculous, but it's never really easy listening to your own voice.

In running news...

My intervals this morning were tough. The schedule called for 9x400 and by the last three, I was ready to quit. Despite how tough they felt I managed to hit all my intervals right around 1:57. I'll take it.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Long Run and Weekend Fun

Long Run:

Summer heat and humidity was back with a vengeance this weekend, and it was enough to make my long run seem like it was taking forever.

My legs felt heavy for the first two miles, but once they loosened up, it was my mental game that was off. I struggle with running in the humidity and need to use some mind games to keep myself going.

One of the biggest things that helped me get through Saturday's run was trying to focus on just one mile at a time. If I kept my mental energy confined to one mile and didn't think about how many miles I still had to go, I was able to work harder.

To make this trick work, I rewarded myself with a one minute walk break each mile.

So once I got to mile four, I would let myself walk for one minute and then run the rest of the mile until I got to five. This trick helped me push harder during each mile, since I had the walk break to look forward to. It's easier to convince myself to run for a mile and then recover, than to focus on the whole distance.

I've used this method on a few other long runs, and I've also found my splits seemed to be faster and more consistent when I let myself take short walk breaks than when I try to run the whole time.

How do you get through runs when your mental game is off?

Weekend Fun:

Once I got home from my run it was time to shower and get ready for my cousin's wedding. I took almost no pictures since I didn't have the best vantage point and I had a hard time catching the bride and groom through the people in front of me.

Here are a few a did take:



My cousin looked gorgeous is her dress and everyone had a fun time at the wedding.

Sunday we met my other side of the family for brunch and got to go see my other cousin's first house. She and her fiance bought a really nice place. It has three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a nice deck and backyard and lots of space. It's a really great place and they're doing a great job of decorating it.

All in all, it was a completely family packed weekend.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Cooking Challenge: Epic Fail

I guess it was bound to happen sooner or later. I had a complete and total epic fail in the kitchen.

I was trying out a new recipe I found in my most recent Runner's World. The magazine did a whole story about how salmon is such a great food for runners and they suggested several recipes you could make with the canned variety.

One of them was salmon cakes, which sounded similar to the salmon loaf my mom used to make when I was younger, so I thought I'd give it a go.

My first fail was in the grocery store when I bought salmon that did not say "boneless and skinless" on the can. So when I opened that baby up, there were skin and bones everywhere. I tried picking them out, but it just wasn't happen. (Side note: Who actually wants to buy fish that way?!)

I felt wasteful, but I dumped the reject salmon down the disposal.

Then I opened two cans of tuna and proceed with the recipe that way. Things improved greatly from here.

I mixed the tuna with diced red peppers and scallions.


Then I added a few glugs of Worcester sauce and an egg.


Mixed it all up and then shaped the mixture into patties. You were supposed to dip the patties in bread crumbs, but since I didn't have any, they went right into the skillet for about three minutes on each side.


When I tried to flip the patties, they completely fell apart. Probably has something to do with the lack of bread crumbs.

I tried to salvage what I could. While they didn't look pretty, the tuna "cakes" were actually pretty yummy.


Have you ever had an epic kitchen failure that in the end turned out OK?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Hip Pain When Running on the Treadmill

Last winter I struggled with hip pain when I ran on the treadmill, but all the problems cleared up when the weather was nice and I was back to running outside.

Yesterday while D.C. was being washed away by torrential downpours, a treadmill was the only real option if I wanted to get my run in.

The run started out just fine, but before I hit mile three, that nagging hip pain was back.

Over the winter I did everything I could think of to fix the problem. Foam roller. New shoes. Stretching. Nothing worked.

Since my treadmill issues haven't gone away after months of avoiding it, I researched what could be causing the pain and concluded that my form must change drastically when I run on a treadmill.

The last section of this article from Running Planet explained things well:

"Your running form should not change when you are training on the treadmill. Unfortunately, the moving belt of the treadmill can create havoc with your running mechanics. The moving belt can cause some runners to lean too far forward at the waist in an attempt to “keep up” with the belt. Other runners may run with an extremely “bouncy” stride or may run with a very short and tight stride. You can avoid these form problems by focusing on your running mechanics."

I think I probably lean too far forward and bounce too much on the treadmill.

Runners also tend to reach out too far with their legs, lengthening their stride too much and putting excess pressure on the hips when they're on the 'mill. I'm not sure I do that, but it's something to pay closer attention to.

Hopefully I won't have to run many more times on a treadmill this training cycle, but in case I do, I know what to look for in my form now so that I can correct it before it causes pain.

Are you a treadmill runner? Have you ever experienced pain switching from running outside to inside?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Five Minute Rule: Mentally Framing Your Run

We've all heard of the five second rule. You drop some scrumptious treat on the floor and you have five seconds to pick it up so it will still be "safe" to eat.

When it comes to running in the morning, I use something I like to call the five minute rule.

When my alarm goes off, I hit the snooze button once, and then get up when the alarm goes off five minutes later.

So why five minutes? And what do I do with that time?

True sometimes I shut my eyes and doze off for another minute or two, but usually I'm awake during those five minutes and use them to mentally prepare myself for the run.

This doesn't mean I use the time to debate whether or not to go on the run. That's definitely not the question. The assumption is I will be running.

I use the five minutes to visualize the route and think about the goal of the work out. If it's a speed session, I picture myself covering ground quickly. If it's an easy run, I think about leisurely enjoying the morning.

I think about how great the run will make me feel and how accomplished I will feel by 6 a.m. when I finish.

Waking up five minutes earlier than normal certainly isn't going to deprive me of any sleep, and I've found spending just five minutes concentrating on and visualizing a successful run really puts me in the right frame of mind to kick butt with my training.

How do you get yourself in the right frame of mind to work out?

If you don't think too much about it, I definitely recommend giving the five minute rule a shot.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Smart Ways to Prepare for Long Runs

Long runs are important to training, there's no doubt about that. But to get the most out of a long run, you need to start preparing the day before.

This weekend, I didn't do that and my eleven mile run was not one of my strongest. It ended with me majorly hitting the wall in mile 10, pretty much physically being unable to put one foot in front of the other.

Let's take a look at what is smart in preparing for a long run and what I actually did.

Nutrition the day before a long run is extremely important. You want to fuel up with a good mix of carbs and protein to make sure your muscles have access to a full supply of glycogen.

What I did:
Noshed my way through piles of office treats leftover from a party in the middle of the week. Didn't eat a real dinner and instead chowed down on nachos at the bowling alley. Epic food failure.

Sleep is also a pretty crucial factor in ensuring a strong long run. You want to hit the hay early to make sure you get your eight hours.

What I did:
Stayed out late with friends, collapsed into bed at 1 a.m. and had to pry my eyeballs open at 6 to go for my run. I was beat.

Before you leave for a long run, you want to eat something fairly substantial, like PB on toast or a Clif bar or something.

What I did:

Grabbed a few handfuls of some cereal because that's all that was in the house.

During your run you want to make sure you have plenty of fuel, whether that be in the form of Gatorade or Gu or whatever system works for you, so that you can replenish as you go.

What I did:
I didn't have any Gatorade and I only had one Gu. So I filled my water bottle with water, took the Gu about half way through and was dying in miles nine and 10.

In the end I finished the run in an OK time: 1:44:41, but I know I could have done better if I had been more prepared.

So my advice: Do as I say, not as I do, and hopefully all your long runs will be better than mine.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Cooking Challenge: Mexican Couscous

For last week's cooking challenge, I participated in Near East's Around the World in Five Minutes. I went to Italy with my Italian-inspired couscous dish.

This week I decided to head south for some Mexican flavor.

While the couscous was boiling, I chopped my veggies.

I used two green peppers, a yellow squash, a zucchini and chickpeas. My go-to summer veggie staples.

I sauteed all the veggies in some olive oil and then mixed in some black pepper and taco seasoning.



After five minutes the couscous was done and the veggies were the perfect texture. Not too crunchy, but definitely not mushy.

I topped the couscous with my veggie mix and then covered the whole thing in salsa.


The combination of the warm veggies and the cold salsa was actually pretty delicious.

I'm really loving my couscous and veggie combos. They are so quick and easy when I'm in a pinch, plus they are super healthy.

Thanks a bunch to Near East for letting me participate in their challenge. I had a great time testing out two different meals.

What's your favorite dish to make with couscous?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Importance of Scale Back Weeks

We're having a bit of a storm here this morning.

Note my back porch flooding. That's got to be an inch of water.


Trees were bending in half, there was so much water running down the side of my house I couldn't see out my windows. Then there was hail.

I was just waiting for the funnel cloud. (And trying to figure out where to take shelter in a house without a basement. Answer: My food pantry.)

Normally thunderstorms don't bother me, but this one had me seriously freaked out...and very glad I wasn't running this morning.

Caitlin wrote a post the other day about the importance of scale back weeks during a training plan.

Last week was supposed to be my week to cut back. I was only supposed to run twice during the week and then have my long run on the weekend.

Instead, I ended up running my normal three times during the week plus my long run. I didn't want to skip the BlogHer 5K in the name of my training plan.

BlogHer 5K

This morning, feeling completely drained mentally and physically, I made the execute decision to make this my scale back week. I could feel the effects of overtraining start to set in and knew I needed that scale back week. So at 5:00 a.m. I shut off my alarm and went back to sleep.

I woke up feeling refreshed and revitalized.

Scale back weeks are built into a training plan for a reason:
  • They protect against mental fatigue and training burnout
  • They protect against physical fatigue and injury.
  • They give your body a chance to adapt to all the training.
Do you build scale back weeks into your training plan? If so, do you honor them?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

10 Miles in NYC and the end of BlogHer

Remember how nervous I was about running my first double digit run of this training cycle in a new place?

In the end I'm not sure why I was. With my route all planned, I left the hotel bright and early and headed to the Hudson Greenway for a nice out and back. The Hudson Greenway is a path that runs right along the river and it's blocked off from traffic, so you don't have to stop at every intersection. Plus it's pretty flat.

With the temperatures playing nice, my 10 miles went really, really well.

The first five were a struggle mentally, but once I hit the turn around point, things really improved. I just kept telling myself I was running back home.

I ran a negative split and my legs felt great pretty much the entire time.

After doing the shower and breakfast routine, I was back to the conference for more learning.

I spent some time wandering the expo hall.


Hung out with Wonder Woman.


And when I eventually got back to my hotel room at the end of the conference, it looked like a small bomb had done off.


Swag everywhere.


When the BF came up to spend Saturday night in NYC with me, I begged him to bring the biggest suitcase he had. Luckily we managed to jam all my swag inside.


My NYC trip wrapped up with a Saturday night dinner with my uncle and the BF, followed by Sunday afternoon at the Museum of Modern Art and strolling 5th Avenue taking in the tourist-y sites.

Now I'm back home, trying to catch up on life and my inbox. After being away for five days, it's not a pretty site.

Happy Hump Day!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

BlogHer Day Two Recap

I believe I left off yesterday just before the BlogHer 5K. I was so excited BlogHer was sponsoring a fun run, it was a great way to connect with people in a way less formal manner.

I made plans to meet up with some of my favorite bloggers bright and early in the hotel lobby.

BlogHer 5K

BlogHer Broadway 5K

We opted to do the Broadway route which took us through parts of midtown Manhattan and finished after a quick tour through Times Square.

BlogHer 5K
Jess, me, Jenn and Jill

BlogHer 5K Times Square
Our group in Times Square

It was Jill's very first time running a 5K and she totally rocked it. Jess did a great job of keeping us moving at a good pace. According to Garmin our finishing time was 28:40. Congrats on a great first race Jill!

After grabbing a quick breakfast and shower, it was time for more learning! My favorite session of the day was all about using images to tell a story in your blog posts. I'm more of a words person, but I took a lot away from that session and I definitely plan on trying to work more photos into my posts.

If you're curious about any of the sessions, I definitely recommend checking out the live blogs on BlogHer.

During the breaks through out the day, I took time to explore the expo hall. There were tons and tons of vendors, and it's probably no surprise that my favorites were the ones offering food samples.


Why hellllo Pillsbury. Thanks for letting me ice my own cupcake!

BlogHer Expo
Ashley, me and Gympressions

After a day of learning and exploring, it was time to put on my party dress


and meet up with some friends at the BlogHer gala.


We had a blast hanging out and chatting.

BlogHer Gala


But in the end, I called it an early night because I had 10 miles to run in the morning.