#GameOnPGH: That time I ran 26.2 miles and lived to tell the tale - Part One


Leading up to registration and throughout my training, there were many times where I questioned whether or not I would actually be able to pull this off and run a marathon. Do you know how many miles that is? A LOT (well, 26.2 to be exact). SO MUCH RUNNING. 

Do I even like running that much? I still don't know the answer to that but I know that I love the feeling of crossing that finish line knowing I've accomplished something that half of one percent of the US population has accomplished.


Look, I'm flying!


It wasn't until I completed my 18 mile training run solo (due to scheduling and whatnot during Easter weekend) that I could finally see how people actually do this. The run went really well and I finished it feeling tired and a bit sore, but thinking, "Ok, I could do 20 miles. And then I could survive a 10k after that."

Two weeks later I joined the wonderful women of the 11:30 pace group from Elite Runners and Walkers (or should I say Pro Bike + Run now?). When I first started marathon training, I had intended to join this group for more Saturday runs but my schedule just didn't work out that way.

If you had told me in January that my longest training run - 20 miles - scheduled for April - would be one of the snowiest runs, I would have laughed. But it was. We slugged it out for 20 miles with the snow pelting us in the face and the wind blowing us into one another on the sidewalks. But again, I finished feeling pretty good and thinking, "Ok. I can do this. I can run a marathon. A WHOLE marathon." Special thanks to Joanna for helping me through those 20 miles and for laughing (and complaining and judging at times, haha) with me - I couldn't have done it without you, especially in that craptastic weather. 

About halfway done with the 20-miler! Notice the snowflakes stuck to our clothes.



Runners talk a lot about tapering. After your longest training run, you cut your mileage back in the weeks leading up to the race to allow your body time to heal and recover. Taper talk often comes with discussion of frustration and mood swings and anger. I didn't experience any of this. Yes, I noticed I had so more "free time" because I was running less, but I was so busy with work and life and other things that I didn't actually have any more "free time". There was never a time where I was sitting around doing nothing.  





The Pittsburgh Marathon hosted an event for all of the bloggers at Wigle Whiskey on the Thursday before Marathon weekend. There was great food and drinks, and it was so fun to finally meet our liaison, Ashley, in person! I also got to meet the Race Director, Patrice - she promised that the weather would not ruin race day and she was right! The evening ended with Kristy, Chelsea, and I introducing Kathleen and Mar to tacos and margaritas at my new favorite, Bakersfield

In 2015, The Pittsburgh Marathon introduced The Steel Challenge. You earn an extra medal if you complete both the 5k on Saturday and either the half or the full marathon on Sunday. I completed the 5k and the half last year and knew I would do The Steel Challenge again this year. 

Because I was running a marathon the next day, I knew the 5k would be at a slow and steady pace. This actually turned out to be a lot of fun because I got to run with Chelsea, Kathleen, and Lynne! We had a great time together and I finished feeling good and still ready for the Big Day.


Of course the weather was great on 5k day.

We were actually on a walk break, so I faked running :-P


Final preparations for race day included finally deciding on an outfit and a spaghetti dinner at Chelsea's (ok, and a beer too). 


The weather forecast made it really hard to choose a shirt! 


The Big Day finally arrived. There was nothing left to do but run 26.2 miles. Stay tuned for part two tomorrow!




Big News!

I am returning from my completely unscheduled and unplanned blogging hiatus to announce some news: I am officially registered for the 2016 Pittsburgh Marathon! That's 26.2 miles, folks. EEEK! Once again, I will be participating in the Steel Challenge (by also completing the 5k the day before) and once again, I am participating as a charity runner for the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America - Western PA/WV chapter. Who wants to be my first donor?!




I'm sure I'll have more to say about the marathon over the next several months, but for now I want to plug something else I'm working on - CCFA Western PA/WV's movie premiere event, Opening Night! It is taking place on November 5 at the AMC Loews at the Waterfront and tickets can be purchased here. Come join us for food, drinks, fun, and a premiere showing of the new James Bond movie, Spectre. I am on the planning committee and we've got a great evening planned! Hope to see many of my friends there that night! 

I ran a Half Marathon!

I ran a half-marathon. I did it! It wasn't a great run, or even a fun one, but crossing that finish line was the best! Sorry this is coming so late, and that there's not much of a recap, but here's some pictures! 

Race day outfit!

Steel Challenge Completed!



First Half = PR and PDR!


My favorite little fans!


Happy to be done!


5K, Steel Challenge, HALF MARATHON medals!

Thanks to the Pittsburgh Marathon for featuring this one on their Facebook page: 


Five Ways to Get Faster (Galloway Tips)

Hey everyone! I know you're all waiting to hear how my half marathon went - I will hopefully have an update soon. But for now, here's some tips from Jeff Galloway about how to increase your running pace!

Longer Long Runs

Increasing the length of the longest long run has produced the greatest amount of improvement that I've seen among my coaching clients.  Several surveys have shown more than 13 minutes of time improvement when runners increase their longest long run from 20 miles to 26 miles before a marathon.  Comparable time improvements are experienced in 10K runners and half marathoners when they increase their long runs above race distance as noted in my YEAR ROUND PLAN book that covers all the distances.  Long runs must be at least 2 min/mi slower than current ability, with liberal walk breaks.  The slower the pace, the quicker the recovery.  I suggest doing the long runs every 2-3 weeks.

Speed Repetitions—increasing the number

My runners have improved by an average of over 6 minutes in a marathon (3+ minutes in a half marathon) by increasing the number of speed repetitions to 14 x 1 mile for the marathon, and 14 x 800 meter for the half marathon.  I recommend that each of these be run 30 sec/mi faster than goal pace.  The recovery interval is a 5 min walk between miles and a 3 minute walk between 800's.  These workouts prepare one to maintain or pick up pace at the end of the goal race, instead of slowing down.  See GALLOWAY TRAINING PROGRAMS & HALF MARATHON books for details (www.RunInjuryFree.com).

Improve Running Form

Most runners I've monitored have improved several minutes in a marathon by fine-tuning their running form.  As the mechanics become smoother and within one's limits, there is a significant reduction in aches, pains and injuries.  The two best ways to improve form are water running and cadence drills.
•        water running uses the same basic motion as when running on land, using a flotation device so that the feet don't touch the bottom of the pool.  When done for at least 15 minutes, once a week, the legs find a more efficient path through the water—eliminating extraneous motion.
•        The cadence drill is done for 30 seconds, counting the number of times the foot touches the ground.  This drill is detailed in most of my books.  I've found the key to improving speed on the mechanical side is quicker turnover.

Race in Shorter Events

Dropping down a standard distance or two can improve your mechanics for running faster and your ability to handle a higher level of oxygen debt.  On non-long-run weekends, during a half marathon program, try some 5K or 10K races.  When training for a marathon, race at the 10K or half marathon distance.  At first, the faster pace of the shorter distance may seem awkward.  But after several short races, you will adapt—especially if you do some speed training for the shorter/faster event.  These performance improvements can translate into faster times in the longer distances.  My book 5K/10K details the training and the racing strategies for these events.

Hill Training

The only way I've found to build strength for running is to run hill repeats.  On a moderate grade hill, start at a jog and pick up the turnover rate of the feet and legs as you go up the hill, shortening your stride.  Walk down the hill for recovery.  Don't sprint, and follow the other hill training guidelines in my books and at www.RunInjuryFree.com.  The strength from hill training will allow you to perform better in speed sessions which will help you improve in your goal race.  You'll also run faster on hilly courses, during your races.
Listen and share this great podcast "Jeff Galloway's Tips For Beginner Runners" with Mark Kennedy from Healthynomics!  From how Jeff got running to breathing while you run; it's all here!

Things I Will Do This Week

The week is finally here. It's Marathon week in Pittsburgh! Here are some things I'll do this week:

1. I will go for a quick run with some of my fellow CCFA runners and get my CCFA race day shirt! Unfortunately, I think they decided to make these shirts orange, so it will probably be a one-time-wear shirt for me. Though it should make it easy for people to spot me on Sunday!



2. I will post a photo of my race day outfit so that people can find me on race day! Let me know in the comments if you will be there this weekend so I can look for you! 


3. I will see my running Ohana. I am so excited for everyone to arrive in town and to spend time with so many people who inspire me in my running (and life) journey.



4. I will attend the Expo and fight like hell to get a green men's shirt instead of the STUPID pink women's shirts. I will also be following up with the Marathon people to see why they thought sexist shirt colors were a good idea in 2015.



5. I will attend a Meet-Up at 7:30am by the main entrance of PNC Park on Saturday. Steff will be giving away some Sparkly Soul headbands!


6. I will run Pittsburgh Marathon 5k, which was my FIRST-ever race last year! (Medal count: 1)
Chelsea and I after the 5k last year - my first race! 

7. I will enjoy carbs and good company at dinner Saturday night.


8. I will run my FIRST HALF MARATHON! (Medal Count: 2)



9. I will collect my Steel Challenge Medal and hopefully visit the FedEx Ground Hospitality Tent for a complimentary massage and some treats! I will have access to this tent thanks to all of my amazing donors who helped me to raise over ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS for the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America - Western PA/West Virginia chapter! (Medal Count: 3)




10. I will go out to eat with my family to celebrate my birthday that is next week! 



11. I will do NOTHING for the rest of the day haha. 


See you all this weekend! Good luck to all of my fellow runners! 

P.S. Sarah at Sparkly Runner featured me on her blog today - check it out

The Training Plan That Wasn't...

Remember back in January when I picked out a training plan for my upcoming half marathon? Then the universe said LOL and the next few months did not go according to ANY plan, training or otherwise.

January brought 22 days of travel for work and volunteer obligations, a sinus infection, and bed bugs

February brought more travel and sub-zero temperatures. Without regular access to a treadmill, I was stuck inside.

In March came 18 days of travel, another sinus infection, and a kidney infection that turned to be e.coli (!!). I actually put a lot of miles in, but most were walking while traveling (I averaged 5-8 miles per day while in New Orleans). 

In summary, I haven't had a single week where I got all the runs on my training plan in. Oops. With that said, most weeks haven't been a total fail and I know I can finish 13.1 miles - it's just a matter of being able to finish in the time I want.

April finally brings warmer temperatures, and with it, the HIGH levels of pollen everywhere. April is also the month that some big miles need to happen, come hell or high water. If I can get a few good long runs in, I'll feel much better about May 3. Right now, I'm not sure I'll realistically be able to make my goal :( Right now the plan is to stick with Coach Jeff and Chelsea for the first 12 miles or so and make them keep me on track. 

Soooooooo if we could actually have some decent weather and I could not get sick or have my allergies make my head explode, that would be stellar. KTHXBAI.

What are your best tips and tricks for salvaging a disaster of a training plan? Comment below!

THE GOOD NEWS: Thanks to a very generous donation from my employer, I HAVE NOW SURPASSED MY FUNDRAISING GOAL! This is even better than any running could ever be because every dollar is a step closer to finding a CURE for Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis! Think I can make my stretch goal of $1500 by May 3rd? If you haven't had a chance to donate yet, please do so here! On behalf of the approximately 1.6 million Americans living with IBD, we say THANK YOU! 



Running in New Orleans! (I'm back!)

I had the opportunity to travel to New Orleans last week a few weeks ago to attend the NASPA (Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education - their alphabet soup doesn't match) Annual Conference. It was my first trip to New Orleans and I can't wait to go back and visit again! New Orleans a beautiful city, full of life and culture and fun things to do and SO MUCH AMAZING FOOD. 

I knew I would have Saturday morning free before the conference kicked off in full swing, so naturally, I looked to see if there were any races happening in New Orleans. This is how I found The Great St. Charles Avenue Road Race sponsored by the New Orleans Track Club. There are 10k, 5k, and 1mile races. I quickly registered for the 10k to try and work it into my "training plan" - the reason I use that in quotes will come in another post soon.



As the conference neared, I realized my friend Matthew (partner to the awesome Sarah over at Sparkly Runner) would also be attending the conference and quickly invited him to join me at the race!

I arrived in New Orleans Friday afternoon and after lunch and a nap (I had to be up at 3:30am for my flight!), I set out to explore the area a little bit and get a few miles in before the race the next morning. I knew the climate would be different than the winter conditions I'd left behind in Pittsburgh, so I was hoping to adjust at least a little bit. Holy heat and humidity! What I had planned to be a 3 mile run ended up being a 1 mile run with a 1 mile walk back. 

Matthew had 18 miles on his training plan for that Saturday, so he opted to run the ~4 miles to the race start and back. I took the streetcar up to the start and met up with Matthew. The high school where the start was at had amazing race support. All the volunteers were helpful and excited and so welcoming. We cheered as the 1-mile race kicked off and hung out until it was time for the 5k and 10k start. The cheerleading squad led the racers in dynamic stretching, the national anthem was performed, and then we were off! 

Matthew and I at the start!

The course started down St. Charles Avenue in the Garden District. There are beautiful homes and gardens through this section of New Orleans. We passed the picturesque campus of Loyola New Orleans and then headed into Audobon Park. The park itself was beautiful as well - full of palm trees and lush greenery. The course looped almost all the way around the park before turning around to head back out and back down St. Charles Avenue. 
Matthew snapped this as we passed in Audobon Park!
Before I arrived in New Orleans, I was planning to try and PR this race. The course was flat and I knew I could do it. However, I knew as soon as I stepped outside at the New Orleans airport that a PR would not be happening. The humidity was just too much - especially without any gradual transition to it. I decided to just have fun and do my best. 

Coming up to the finish line! No PR but definitely FUN!

I used more water in this race than I have ever used in any race before. I say "used" because while I drank a LOT, I also poured a lot over my head to cool off. The high school students volunteering at the water stations were super helpful with refilling my water bottle. They could tell I was struggling in the humidity haha. 

The cheerleading squad were lining the sides of the finish chute cheering everyone on - it was great! Matthew had already finished and was there to cheer me on and snap a few photos as well - thanks, Matthew! 
I met up with Matt and we downed some more water and got some more Smoothie King smoothies - yum! We also experienced a post-race first, jambalaya! The jambalaya was provided by a company called Cook Me Somethin' Mister! We met the owner, Kristen, and she told us how she started the company using her family's recipe and made all the jambalaya that morning herself! It was DELICIOUS! She also told us that she sells packages of the rice online at wholesale on Amazon. If you're looking for a fundraising idea, this is a great one! Check them out on Facebook

Thanks for the great post-race grub, Kristen! It was so great to meet you!
After the race, Matt and I parted ways so he could finish his miles by running back! I grabbed my free post-race beer (Bud Light) and decided to start walking back to see more of the Garden District. I figured if I got tired at some point I could hop on the streetcar, but I ended up walking the 4 miles back to the hotel! Later this week, this would probably come to be a mistake due to all the walking we did in New Orleans. 



30 Days to go!


I can't believe that in only 30 days, I will run my first half marathon! I can't believe it - the time is going by so fast!


To continue with preparations, here are some more tips from Jeff Galloway!

Training and Motivation Tips
by Olympian Jeff Galloway
www.runinjuryfree.com
PROMOTIONAL NEWS!
Register now for the Jeff Galloway 13.1 with no risk!  The 2nd annual half marathon on Dec. 13, 2015 is currently $95. You can sign up with no risk! Take advantage of this low price, and if you can't make it, you can roll into the virtual option with no extra charge!
Register today at

Why do we get injured?

1.  Be aware of irritation of weak links.

The Key Weak Links are body parts where my runners tend to experience injuries are these: Knees - Feet -Calf - Achilles -Hip - Glute/piriformis/sciaticia

But the body parts that YOU need to be aware of are the sites where you are injured or suffer more aches and pains.

So if you're sensitive to the first indication of irritation in these areas and take immediate action it's possible to avoid injury.

2.  Stress buildup due to the way we train.
  • Training schedule is too intense-not enough rest between stress.
  • Adverse Training Components-speed is too fast or has too much, too soon.
  • Running form-too long a stride, forward lean, bouncing too high off the ground.

So staying focused on the way one runs and following these guidelines, can often allow runners to maintain a manageable increase without injury

__________________________________________________

Top 5 ways to avoid stress buildup-and avoid injuries

1.  Take walk breaks more frequently, and run shorter run segments
2.  Form: shorter stride, feet low to the ground
3.  Slower long runs, with more walk breaks
4.  Avoid Stretching
5.  Be careful when running speed sessions

  
Jeff Galloway
4651 Roswell Road, I-802
Atlanta, Georgia 30342
WEST COAST EVENTS
RUN/WALK/RUN CLINICS 

Carmel, CA                                                                     Lake Tahoe, CA
"Re-Charging Your Running, Fitness and Nutrition"       The Perfect Summer Running Camp
April 23-24, 2015                                                            July 23 - 30, 2015 (week)                           
 Click here for more info.                                                 July 24 - 26, 2015 (weekend)
                                                                                        Click here for more info.
                                                                                                         

P.S. I am still fundraising for the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America - Western PA/West Virginia Chapter - please help me reach my goal and work towards a cure for Crohn's and Ulcerative Colitis!


More Tips From Jeff Galloway!

As you'll recall, I am blogging for Jeff Galloway Productions throughout this training season. I received another set of tips from him and I am excited to share them with all of you! 


The training journey for a marathon or half marathon raises your body's physical performance capability and your sense of what you can do in life.

Running helps to bring body, mind and spirit together in a unique and wonderful way

In researching my book MENTAL TRAINING I discovered that running turns on brain circuits for a better attitude more vitality and empowerment better than other activities studied.

In researching my book RUNNING UNTIL YOU'RE 100 I found numerous studies showing that runners have healthier orthopedic units than non runners even after decades of running.


On Training:

When a runner takes walk breaks early and often enough for the individual the muscles are strong to the end.  See RUN WALK RUN at www.jeffgalloway.com for recommendations by pace per mile. (Note from Lauren: The Magic Mile calculator is very helpful!!)



The "exhaustion wall" can be avoided by running longer long runs up to or beyond race distance-using the appropriate run-walk-run strategy.

Marathoners tend to improve time by an average of more than 15 minutes when they increase their longest run from 20 miles to 26 miles.

To recover fast, run the long runs at least 2 min/mi slower than you could currently run in a marathon

The right run-walk-run strategy from the beginning of each run, gives any runner control over fatigue, injury-elimination, and recovery.

In numerous surveys, runners improved over 13 minutes when they shifted from running continuously to use of the right run-walk-run strategy.


LAST CHANCE to participate in the Inaugural JG Virtual 13.1 Half Marathon and 5k!  
Last chance to become a "Legacy" participant!  
Closes March 1, 2015.
    ** Register at https://jeffgalloway131.com/registration/ **

A (sort of) Book Review: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running


I received this book, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, by Haruki Murakami as a Christmas gift (thank you, Amazon Wish Lists - you rock!) and took it on my recent work trip (you know, the one with the bed bugs). 

This was a quick read and I really enjoyed the book. I recommend it for runners, writers, and anyone who wants to learn about the creative process and where different people draw inspiration from. 

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book (you can see all the post-its flagging them in the picture above):

On running through the pain -
"Here it is: Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional. Say you're running and you start to think, Man this hurts, I can't take it anymore. The hurt part is an unavoidable reality, but whether or not you can stand anymore is up to the runner himself. This pretty much sums up the most important aspect of marathon running."
For new runners - 
"When I first started running, I couldn't run long distances. I could only run for about twenty minutes, or thirty. That much left me panting, my heart pounding, my legs shaky. It was to be expected, though, since I hadn't really exercised for a long time. At first, I was also a little embarrassed to have people in the neighborhood see me running - the same feeling I had upon first seeing the title novelist put in parentheses after my name. But as I continued to run, my body stared to accept the the fact that it was running, and I could gradually increase the distance. I was starting to acquire a runner's form, my breathing became more regular, and my pulse settled down. The main thing was not the speed or distance so much as running every day, without taking a break."
On running the original marathon route in Greece - 
"I can't imagine how this was where, several thousand years ago, the Greeks defeated the invading Persian army at the shore in a ghastly battle. I sit at a cafe in the village and gulp down cold Amstel beer. It tastes fantastic, but not nearly as great as the beer I'd been imagining as I ran. Nothing in the real world is as beautiful as the illusions of a person about to lose consciousness."
On pushing your limits - 
"Exerting yourself to the fullest within your individual limits: that's the essence of running, and a metaphor for life - and for me, for writing as well. I believe many runners would agree."
On adopting a mantra - 
"Ultimately, using every trick in the book, I managed to grit my teeth and make through thirteen miles of sheer torment. 
I'm not a human. I'm a piece of machinery. I don't need to feel a thing. Just forge on ahead. 
That's what I told myself. That's about all I thought about, and that's what got me through. If I were a living person of blood and flesh I would have collapsed from the pain. There definitely was a being called me right there. And accompanying that is a consciousness that is the self. But at that point, I had to force myself to think that those were convenient forms and nothing more. It's a strange way of thinking and definitely a very strange feeling - consciousness trying to deny consciousness. You have to force yourself into an inorganic place. Instinctively I realized that this was the only way to survive."
 The final dedication of the book - 
"Finally, I dedicate this book to all the runners I've encountered on the road - those I've passed, and those who've passed me. Without all of you, I never would have kept on running."

What is the title of a great book you've read recently? Comment below! 

Fitness Challenges

My half-marathon training plan doesn't begin until February 9, so I'm spending the month of January and first part of February working on building my mileage back up (due to not running for most of the month of December due to shin splints) as well as working on incorporating cross-training and other exercises that will make me a better runner. In December, I made the decision to do a couple of 30 day fitness challenges in January. After researching several, I decided on a Squat Circuit Challenge and a Plank Challenge. A few weeks after I had made this commitment to myself, my dear friend Jenn put a call out on her facebook page announcing she was doing a 30 Day Ab Challenge and looking for friends to participate as well. I liked the idea of completing the challenge with friends, so I agreed! I debated replacing one of my other challenges with this, but decided to really push myself and do all three. I downloaded the 30 Day Fitness Challenges app to my phone and that has been really helpful for a couple of reasons - it makes it easy to keep track of my progress, I can't readily see the next day's workout (and subsequently freak out about it), and there's a built-in timer for planks! 

I am 11 days into all three challenges and so far the rest days are my favorites haha. I missed Day 10 due to work schedule, so I did Days 10 and 11 yesterday and that was rough. Today is a rest day for squats and abs, but I think I'm going to save my rest day for a day this weekend when I will again be gone for work.

Has anyone else ever done a 30 day challenge? Which one did you do and what was your experience like? Comment below! 

Last week, Steff, Kelsey, and I had the opportunity to attend a VIP event at Dick's Sporting Goods in Robinson as part of their partnership with the Pittsburgh Marathon. Brand Specialists were on hand, food was provided, and we all got a coupon for 20% off our purchase that night! I had been needing to add another pair of shoes into my rotation, and figured having a shoe expert like Steff on hand was an excellent opportunity to try some out! She and Kelsey made several awesome suggestions and I settled on a new pair of Mizuno Wave Inspire 10s (and for a great price!). I've only had one run in them but so far they are great!!

Steff and I were interviewed for the Pittsburgh Marathon's promos!