Monday, April 28, 2014

Blue Ridge Half Marathon Race Recap

2 days after the race.  My legs are just as sore now as they were when I woke up Sunday morning.  In other words, really, really, really, really sore.  Must have something to do with the fact that I raced a bunch of mountains after being unable to train seriously since December...  However, even though I'm hobbling around like I'm crippled, it hurts to sit down, and stairs make me want to cry, I have no regrets.  None.  It was a beautiful day.  The scenery throughout the course was gorgeous.  The spectators were wonderful.  The course was every bit as tough as it bragged to be.  There is nowhere else I would have rather been on that Saturday morning.  And I surely can't wait until next year, when hopefully I will actually be in shape, and will be able to power up those hills, race back down the hills, and leave them in my dust.

I was more excited for this race than I have been in awhile.  I always love racing, but lately I haven't always completely looked forward to each one until after the starting gun.  I think because there was so much uncertainty about whether or not I would be running this race, it made me all the more excited when I decided that I could run it.  

Sunrise on race day.

Saturday dawned bright and sunny, and warm enough to leave my sweat pants in the car rather than lug them around.  That in itself was enough to put a smile on my face, I'm so sick of the cold weather!  I did not do a warm-up jog for this race.  I wasn't sure how my foot would hold up for the mountainous 13 miles and I certainly wasn't going to waste any of its strength on a warm-up.  I wasn't expecting to win the race anyway, I figured it really wasn't necessary for me to be warm enough to sprint the first mile.  I started off the race at whatever pace felt comfortable to me.  I'm sure it was faster than ideal for a warm-up, but it was mostly a slight downhill anyway.
Matching shoes and fingernails...

Straight off the start line.  
I just want to say...take a look at my leg muscles!  
I have trouble understanding how my legs are that ripped after all my time off...

Last year, I remember powering up Mill Mountain like it was nothing more than a bump in the road.  This year, it wasn't super difficult, but it definitely required more effort than I remember.  I'm sure that had something to do with the fact that I hadn't done any hill training in weeks...or months...  About half way up the hill, last year's half marathon winner passed me.  She didn't pass me until the last 2 miles last year, so I wondered if I was going that much slower, or if she was starting out faster.  Then, we reached the place where the half and full marathons split, and she took the marathon split.  Before I got tendonitis in my foot, my goal was to beat her this year.  Turns out that wouldn't have been an option!  (And since the course changed this year, I couldn't have beat her course record either.)

At the top of Mill Mountain, I was in 2nd place, although I had absolutely no idea what place I was in, as there was no sight of any women ahead of me.  The backside of Mill Mountain, going back down, is extremely steep.  I knew if I flew down the hill like I did last year, I would destroy my foot.  So I ran more conservatively than I normally would.  I got passed by a woman or two, and lots of guys, but I didn't let it get to me.  I knew taking it easy on my foot with more than half the race left was more important than keeping up with the competition.  There was one woman who had almost caught me by the bottom of the hill, but I sped up once I reached the bottom, and didn't see her again for a long time.  After some time on the mostly flat greenway, the course eventually picked up its new course, sending us into a very steep neighborhood, called "Peakwood."  Peakwood has always been a part of the marathon course, but it has never been part of the half marathon before.  Peakwood was every bit as challenging as it was advertised.  It is one of the steepest hills I have ever run, and much steeper than the ones I run on a normal basis.  Many people alternated walking and running on this hill.  I maintained at least a jog, but I certainly wasn't going very fast on some of the steepest parts!  I passed a woman on this hill who I never saw again, but I got passed by someone else at some point, who went on to win 2nd place.  The downhill off of Peakwood was not as steep as Mill Mountain's downhill, but it was steep enough to strain my foot.  However, there were only 2 miles left in the race at that point, so I pushed a little bit harder than earlier, knowing that the race was almost over anyway.  In the last mile, I knew that I was in 3rd place, but I had absolutely no idea how much of a lead I had on 4th place.  I picked up the pace as much as I could, and when I passed the 13th mile marker, I sped up to a sprint to the finish, hoping no one was going to pass me on the line.  A guy caught up to me, but that was it.

While I would have loved to have defended my 2nd place title for the 3rd year, I am completely satisfied with 3rd place.  I know that I lost 2nd on the downhills, but it wasn't worth the strain that I would have put on my foot.  I'm so glad I was able to run this race and finish strong.  And even better, it didn't seem to make my foot any worse.  I went back to PT this morning, and was instructed not to run again for at least a week.  And after that, who knows.  I was also told that I shouldn't plan on running a 5k on the 17th.  I am putting my race schedule on hold for the time being.  I really didn't want to give up the Blue Ridge, but I will give up my upcoming races in order to get rid of the tendonitis.

Finisher medal. 
With elevation profile of the mountains I ran.
1:43:32, 3rd female, 21st overall

My family of Blue Ridge trophies.
2011 : 2nd in age group 20-24
2012 : 2nd female
2013 : 2nd female
2014 : 3rd female

This year's addition to the family.

I'd also like to mention how grateful I am to the wonderful people at the Hyatt Place in Roanoke, who let me stay 2 whole hours past check-out, for free, (even though they were booked solid), so that I could get a nap before my drive home.  Life-saving.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Blue Ridge Half Marathon 2014

Just a quick post to say that I am alive and well and had a great race. The new hills they added to the course were some of the toughest I have ever run. I took the steep downhiils easier than normal to try and spare my foot. I finished 21st overall, 3rd place female. 1:43:32. NO REGRETS!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Blue Ridge Countdown : less than 48 hours!

I will be running this year!  I went to physical therapy this morning, and the PT was sympathetic to my burning desire to run the race.  So she told me go ahead and run it, and if the pain is too much, drop out.  I've been jogging this week, and as long as I take it easy on downhills, my foot really doesn't hurt.  As she said (and I completely agree) we've barely started the physical therapy, it's not like running the race will be undoing anything we've already done.  So, I'm going to run the race.  And then go back to PT first thing Monday morning.

I'm super excited...Saturday morning can't come soon enough.  I love this race and am looking forward to running it for the fourth time!

Thursday, April 17, 2014


This past Saturday marked the first time that I was signed up for a race, and then didn't run it.  My foot hurt a lot during my run on the previous Tuesday, and I couldn't keep pretending it was going to work itself out.  I was going to run the race anyway, and make it some kind of "last hurrah" before a doctor told me I had to take some ridiculous amount of time off, but then I decided to be responsible for once.  The decision was made only slightly easier by the fact that I don't like 10k and it was my least favorite race... I did show up at the start line to pick up my t-shirt, and many runners expressed disappointment that I wouldn't be running.  I ran a few errands and then showed up at the finish line just in time to see the first 2 guys finish.  It was disappointing not to be running, but I know it was the right decision.

I went to the doctor this past Tuesday, and she didn't think anything was broken, but she sent me to get x-rays just in case.  I'm still waiting to hear the results from that.  In the meantime, I've been instructed to take ibuprofen 3xs a day, and I will be going to physical therapy to strengthen whatever is messed up in my foot.

The Blue Ridge Half Marathon is 9 days away, and I have no idea if I will be running in it or not.  I do know that if I run, I won't be nearly as competitive as I had hoped.  They changed the course this year, so I would really like to be able to run, at whatever pace, so that I will be familiar with the course next year (when hopefully I will be in top shape and ready to fight for the win).  Seeing as I have only run twice in the last 3+ weeks, and I haven't even exercised at all this week...I'm not sure I will be able to make it through 13 miles even if the doctor says it's ok.

I'm on spring break this week, but somehow I have felt even busier than I do when at school.  I spent the last 3 days babysitting, and today I head to NYC with a friend.  We are very excited, we're going to see Matilda on Broadway!  The not-so-fun part will be the part where I get home Sunday evening and have to race around getting groceries and preparing myself for a full week of school...

I dropped my bike off at the shop yesterday so it can get worked on while I am gone.  Even if I am able to start running again soon, I will need to continue cross-training as much as possible so as to allow my foot to get stronger without stressing it too much.  Bike is getting new tires, since it's current ones are rather dry-rotted, and I'm getting the whole shifting system replaced, because it has been driving me crazy.  Few things are more annoying than needing to shift gears while going up a long steep hill, and having the bike decided it "doesn't feel like it."  Sometimes it doesn't feel like shifting on the flats either, which is less annoying, but still not ok.  What's the point in gears if you can't shift them?

In other news, I just found out that after about 10 years, I have been bumped off the top-ten list for 3000m times at my high school.  I think my PR was 12:26, but I don't remember for sure.  Sometimes I think it would be fun to find out how fast I can run a 3000 now, but then I think about how it involves running circles around a track, and I change my mind.

Happy Almost Easter!  
The 1st/2nd grade class at my school dyed Pysanky eggs this year.  
(spell-check wants me to change "Pysanky" to "swanky")
They came out pretty cool-looking.

Monday, April 7, 2014

15 days off

This poor blog has been getting neglected.  Because it's primarily a blog about running.  And I haven't been running.  Today I ran for the first time since my race on March 22.  That's 15 days off.  The longest amount of time I've taken off, on purpose, probably in...forever.  I thought the 12 days I took off in January was long and arduous.  I realized this time around, that 10 days is really the most I can take off from running before it begins to damage my emotional stability.  (I realized this around day 13, when I was starting to wonder why I couldn't shake an in-explainable bad mood).  But, I made myself wait until today before I ran again.  I have a race on Saturday, so I need to run a few times before then!

As I started out on today's run, my legs felt really weird.  Like they weren't really sure what was going on.  "What is this strange running-thing we're doing?!"  But, it only took a few minutes to settle in and love the run.  I did my standard 4.7 mile loop. I didn't push too hard, but I wasn't just jogging along either.  I ended up with a 7:07 average pace, which is pretty stellar after 15 days off!

Of course, I didn't just spend the last 15 days sitting on the couch.  That would have been unbearable.  The 12 days I took off in January taught me that I have to keep my cardio up somehow while not running, or my lungs get really weak.  So, I needed a cardio alternative to running that didn't involve a gym membership, because I don't have money lying around to spend on that.  I decided it was time to start biking.  Naturally, it snowed the day I planned to start biking.  And it snowed for the next several days.  But eventually the snow melted and I was finally able to get out on my bike.

Biking is not my favorite form of exercise. (obviously) It's not terrible, but it's so easy to just coast along, I've always had trouble riding hard enough to get a good workout.  Obviously, coasting along would not keep my lungs in shape.  Thanks to Strava, I found a way to motivate myself to ride a bit harder.  Using my phone, I can track my rides on Strava, and it ranks me on various "segments" of roads created by users.  Fastest guy/girl on each segment are the king/queen of the mountain.  There aren't too many people riding consistently here who use strava, but there are a handful.  I didn't get QOM on all the segments the first time I tried them, but I got most of them pretty quickly.  There are only a few segments left that I have ridden on not gotten QOM on.  So my real goal is to get as high on the leaderboard with the guys as I can.  Because being competitive is the main thing that helps me stay motivated during rides.

My longest ride so far was yesterday.  I rode 29.2 miles.  I still felt pretty good at the end of it, so I am planning to push for closer to 35-40 soon.  Also, I biked 85 miles last week.  Not too shabby for my first full week of biking. Way better than the 18 measly miles I got the week before...

My main frustrations with biking right now?
a) The wind.  It has been really windy here lately.  And riding into the wind is ridiculously not fun.  Especially when your quads are already sore from previous rides.  Ouch.  Also, riding into the wind makes my back hurt.
b) Biking is shredding my quads and doing NOTHING for my calves.  I developed restless leg in one of my calves just a few days into my 15 days off, and biking barely alleviated it.  Because it was too busy making my quads feel like they were being stabbed by knives.  On the bright side, my quads are getting really strong...
c) So time consuming.  Sure, I can go for a 30 minute ride and ride as hard as I possibly can, and it's a great workout.  But, back to the quads issue...I can't ride that hard every day.  I have a high pain tolerance, but it's not that high!  Especially not when I'm also fighting the wind.  But in order to get a good workout out of a slower ride, I have to be able to devote at least an hour and a half, preferably more, to the ride.  That's a lot of time out of my day. a/k/a not gonna happen most days.
d)  I thought since I was exercising regularly, I would be able to maintain my sanity.  But then I discovered that biking does not relieve stress for me like running does.  That was a sad and disappointing revelation.  Luckily there's not too much stress in my life right now to begin with, so I'm still able to do pretty well.  But my frustration-threshold is definitely lower right now...  I think biking is not working because my quads hurt too much before I am able to ride hard enough/long enough to get the same workout I get from running. Maybe once my quads get into bike-shape it will be different.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

One Pot Meal : Beef Stroganoff

I bought a huge 5 qt skillet about 2 months ago, and it is a great addition to my kitchen!  It was the perfect size for tonight's stroganoff, and there was even room to spare (a/k/a room to stir the food without any spilling over the sides).

Side note : spell check wants me to change stroganoff to "strongman."  strange...

One Pot Beef Stroganoff
3 cloves garlic
1 in chunk of ginger root
1/4 onion
4 carrots
2 stalks of celery
1 lb stew beef
1 can mushroom soup
1 can cream corn
1+ c marinara sauce
1/2 c heavy cream
1/2 can Guinness
egg noodles

Chop all of the chop-able ingredients.  Brown the onion, garlic, and ginger in some olive oil.  When they start to brown, add the beef.  Let the chunks of meat start to brown, then add all remaining ingredients except for the pasta.  Stir well, cover, and let cook until the meat is almost done, stirring occasionally.  When the meat is almost done, add the pasta and cook until done.  

This stroganoff is definitely my favorite that I have made so far, the consistency was perfect 
and it was really delicious!