Monday, March 23, 2015

Blue Lagoon

It's nice to have friends who grew up in the area and know about all the secret, awesome, places to go take pictures.  I never would have found this place on my own.  It's only about 15 minutes away, but I had never even heard about it until a few days ago.

Usually I am in charge of my photo adventures; I am the one who decides when and where.  But this time, I was along for the ride.  I didn't have much of a clue where we were going or how long it would take to get there.

This isn't actually the cave we went into, but I didn't happen to take a picture of the other one. 
The one we actually went into was a lot darker...

Looking back towards the entrance of the cave we went into.

Good thing we brought a was pretty dark in the cave.  
Then we came out somewhere and had this view.

Looking down over the cliff, there was this view.

Next time I will have to bring my zoom lens so I can also capture the birds flying overhead.  Yesterday, I decided against carrying both cameras since I wasn't sure how far I would be walking!

King of the Rock. 
(or of the Cliff?)

I suppose I should have stood up and been Queen of the Rock. 
Maybe next time.

Sunglasses fun...I love the color in the photo.

Awesome reflection in these glasses, but I can't take credit of this photo. 
Michael took a turn with my camera.

I said yes!
Just kidding!  A bunch of kids showed up, and one of them went through the caves and somehow ended up down there, and wrote this.  Those of us up above on the cliff had fun calling out instructions.  Like telling him to turn a lower case r into the R.  And making fun of how small the o was compared to the other letters... Then they called up some girl and she was supposed to come see the message.  Sadly, we left before witnessing the acceptance or denial. 

We passed by the barn on the way back from Blue Lagoon, so of course I needed to stop and visit Pony.  She's too dirty for pictures, and I didn't feel like inducing an allergy attack, so I'll brush her another day...once the zyrtec has some more time to build up in my system.

Jack Black was hanging around being photogenic though, apparently he likes high fives.

Second 16 miler this month!

...and this time I did it on purpose!

This week's runs
M : 6.2
W : 6.2
R : 6.7
Sa : 16.1
total miles : 35.3

I was rather tired all week, and each time I got out there to run I would think to myself that I would probably cheat on my 6 mile minimum rule and run closer to 4.5.  But once I was out there and moving, I would realize that 4.5 is such a walk in the park at this point, I may as well not run at all if that is all I am going to do.  And the 6 miles never ended up as hard as it seemed like it would.  Actually, I'm starting to think I need to up my minimum to 7 or 8.  Or perhaps make it a time minimum instead of a distance minimum, and go for 1 hour.  We shall see.  For now, I'll keep it at 6. 

I knew I needed a long run on Saturday, and I needed 10-11 to hit my 30 mile/week goal.  I wasn't quite sure how I was going to feel, and I didn't feel like carrying food/water.  So I set out on my 10-ish mile loop, and hoped I would feel good enough to add on towards the end.  I was hoping for at least 12 miles.  Thankfully, I felt good and strong and I was able to keep going til 16.  My knees and feet were starting to complain by 14 miles, but what's 2 more when you've already gone that far? All but 5 miles were under 8 min/mile, and most of the slower ones involved long hill climbs.  Marathon training isn't looking half as scary this year as it has in the past!

I couldn't just run 16 miles.  I had to also run as many hills as possible.
Feeling really strong and positive about the Blue Ridge 1/2 coming up soon!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Daylight Savings Time is Hard

I don't think I've ever had quite this much trouble adjusting to DST.  It's hard to get up in the dark after enjoying a few weeks of waking up to hints of sunlight! This week it seemed barely light out even when I was headed to work!  There's something so wrong-feeling about having to leave home before the sun has even made an appearance.  Despite the fact that I was exhausted, I had a quite productive week at school, so that's something positive.

I also had an incredible 5k race on Saturday that has made me even more excited for my 2015 races than I already was!

this week's runs
M : 7.2
W : 6.2
(with a 2x400 in the first 2 miles,
followed by fast-pace for the rest of the run, 4 miles were under 7:00)
R : 6.4
Sa : 5.3 
(warm-up, 5k race, cool-down)
Su : 6.7
total miles : 31.8

...and I'm going to leave this a short post.  I am exhausted and can't wait to go to bed.  I'm just waiting for it to get fully dark out so that I will be able to stay asleep til morning...  I should be well-rested tomorrow though!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Celtic Knot 5k 2015

I was 100% healthy for this race, this year.  I have been either sick or injured every time I have run it, until today.  So I finally got to find out how fast I can actually run this course!  My previous record was 20:12, which I achieved in 2013.  Today, I ran 19:45.  And I won the race for the fourth year in a row.  It was the second time (2013 being the first) that I won the entire race.  Second place was 20 seconds behind me.  I felt strong throughout the race and was really excited to find myself able to give the race everything I had, with cooperative lungs.

this is roughly half-way through the race
I continued widening the gap as I got further through the course.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

2 days of work, 5 days of running

...because no school doesn't have to mean no run!

I took Monday off from work since I had a race on Sunday after a very busy week.  I needed some time to relax after 8 days straight of being busy!  Then it rained all night Wednesday, and started snowing early Thursday morning.  Roads were a ridiculous mess, so school was cancelled.  We tried to call a 2 hr delay on Friday, but by 9 the roads were still so icy it was obvious they wouldn't be safe by 10 either, so school was cancelled again.

Of course I went for runs on both Thursday and Friday.  Thursday's run may be the first run I have ever done where there was NO visible pavement.  I finally decided to try the ice cleats I bought about 5 years ago, and never used.  They were awesome for the first 2.5+ miles, but then one came off and refused to stay back on.  The other one came off a quarter mile later.  I think my shoes got too wet for the rubber to grip.  Next time, I will use an extra pair of shoelaces to strap them on.  Friday's run was a mess.  There was black ice, white ice, snow, slush, and wet pavement, depending on how much sun each section of road was getting.  The slush was the worst.  It got my feet wet, and then my toes got really cold.

I was tempted to take Saturday off, but it was in the 40s and I finally convinced myself to get out the door and exercise.  Then I took all the joy out of running by making myself run 400m (ish) repeats.  There is a neighborhood up the hill from me that I run through all the time.  It has 2 parallel streets, each somewhere between .25 and .35 miles long.  (Strava only rounds to tenths, so I'm not sure exactly where the 400m mark is, but I figured running further is better than shorter.  It puts both segments at 0.3 miles)  I run down one road, up a hill to the other, run down it, then slight downhill back to the start.  Obviously I'm a glutton for punishment, who wants to recover on an uphill?  Especially one that climbs 44 feet in 1/10 of a mile...?  The first time I bounced my way right up it.  By the 4th time, I was crawling.

I was on the fence about running again today.  I have been wary of overdoing it since my extra-high-mileage last week.  But I only had 20 miles so far this week. That was fine with me all week when I was telling myself I was taking a light week.  But then this morning I had to go and decide that I needed a weekly minimum of 30.  I told myself that was still a light week, since it's 17 less than last week... But that meant I needed a 10 miler today.  I guess it is past time to start doing long runs every weekend... Besides, it was in the high 40s by noon, and was going to reach the 50s while I was out there.  How could I not go enjoy that?!  Besides needing a long run, I also was overdue for a run up Muddy Creek Mountain.  I hadn't run it since February 7, because of snowstorms getting in the way every time I wanted to go do it.  So that's where I went today.  I was under-nourished and under-hydrated for that run, but I had a strong run to the top of the mountain: 20:06 for the 2.2 mile climb, compared to 22:06 last time.  The return trip wasn't so smooth.  I was in bad shape by the time I got home, from calorie depletion.  Sleeping in and sitting around the house all day for 4 days has messed up my meal routines.  

Gotta love this elevation profile...if that's not great training for the Blue Ridge 1/2, I don't know what is!  I included my heart rate in this photo...I think it's fun to see how it spikes towards the top of the mountain and then drops fast as I go down the hill...

runs this week
T : 6.1
R : 5.2
F : 4.4
Sa :  4.5
Su : 10.7
total : 30.9 miles

Friday, March 6, 2015

Corn-Tomato Chowder

I eat so few canned or processed foods anymore.  The only big exception is the canned tuna that has become a lunch-staple this year.  (I have recently started mixing boiled eggs into my tuna salad so that maybe I will give myself slightly less mercury poisoning...) But I still haven't moved away from cans when I'm making chowder. And I probably never will.  Besides, I don't really have anything against canned food, other than fresh is always better, especially taste-wise.  I do always compare labels before choosing my cans.  Generally whichever one has the lowest sodium content is the winner.  I don't care what everyone tells me about how I'm a runner and I need lots of sodium and it is impossible for me to consume too much.  I beg to disagree.  I drastically reduced my sodium intake a few years ago, and I have definitely felt better ever since.  But I digress.

I wanted to cook something different tonight. Yesterday was a snow day.  This morning the roads were too icy for school, so we lost another day. I really needed an extra day of weekend last weekend.  I don't particularly feel the need for 4 days stuck in the house this weekend, but oh well.  At least I'm getting out for a run every day.  Anyway, I just spent two days cooped up in the house and the most exciting thing I made was a gouda omelette.  Exciting, but not particularly time-consuming or blog-post-worthy.

Corn-Tomato Chowder
3 large carrots, chopped
1/2 head of garlic, minced
olive oil
ginger powder, turmeric powder, smoked paprika, oregano, sea salt
1 can yellow corn 
1 can creamed corn
1 can tomatoes (mine were basil/garlic/oregano)
1 can evaporated milk

Put the carrots, garlic, and a few tablespoons of olive oil into a dutch oven.  Cover on medium heat and let the contents steam for a few minutes.  When the carrots are no longer hard, remove the lid and add seasonings, to taste. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally until the mixture has thickened (oil has been absorbed, water from the steam has evaporated).  Add the corn and tomatoes.  Stir well, then let simmer for 5-10 minutes.  Add the evaporated milk, stir well, simmer for another 5-10 minutes.  

I added some quinoa, shrimp, and mushrooms to my bowl of soup for dinner this evening. 
And some avocado of course, but I forgot to add that til after I was done with the camera.

Time to run Pittsburgh

I've been thinking about the Pittsburgh Half Marathon for years.  Mainly because I have relatives living in Pittsburgh, so it seems like a logical place to go do a race.  However, it always falls about 2 weeks after the Blue Ridge Half which is near and dear to my heart and which I will definitely run every year that I am able.  In the past I've always been scared by the idea of running two half marathons so close together.  I am getting over that fear.  I am strong this year.  (and I am really bummed out by my last disaster of a race and felt the need to replace it with an additional race)

If the mob of runners at Pittsburgh doesn't box me in too long and slow me down...maybe it will help carry me to that PR that I have been trying so long to achieve!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

My Sweet Briar Story

I received an email on Tuesday from the president of SBC saying that due to "insurmountable financial challenges," the school would be closing in August.  The class of 2015 will graduate, and then the school will cease to exist.  The Sweet Briar community has been reeling ever since.  My heart goes out to all the students who won't be able to finish their degrees at SBC, all the professors who are now out of jobs and homes, and to the students who were accepted into the class of 2019, who now have to scramble at the last minute to find a new school in which to begin their college careers.

As Sweet Briar Alumnae always do, we have banded together to see what can be done about the situation.  I don't know what the answers are, but I am hopeful that some compromises will be reached, if not to re-open the school as it has always been, than at least to make sure everyone is taken care of and not turned out on the street.

My Sweet Briar Story

In the summer before my senior year of high school, I visited 3 schools.  Alfred University in New York, St Mary of the Woods in Indiana, and Sweet Briar in Virginia.  They main thing that they all had in common was a riding program that I could pretend to be able to afford.  (In other words, their riding programs were at least cheaper than any others I had seen).  I knew that I did not want to go to a school where I couldn't ride.  Alfred definitely didn't seem like the place for me.  The stables were off campus and I wouldn't have my own car.  The dorms were at the top of a hill, the classrooms at the bottom.  I thought about all the snow the school would get, and how much I would hate that hill in the winter.  About how much I would hate the winters in general.  Nothing about my visit sold the school tome.  St Mary of the Woods was ok, but it didn't really speak to me either.  I liked Sweet Briar.  The campus was gorgeous.  The stables were a mile from the main campus, but it wasn't too far to walk if I ever found myself without a ride.  My idea of creating some kind of combined English/History major for myself was met with support.

I applied early decision to Sweet Briar.  I did not apply anywhere else.  My friends told me I couldn't go to a women's college.  They told me it was a terrible idea to go to a school with no boys.  They told me I wouldn't be able to function in society after I graduated.  I shrugged off their fears, telling them I could always transfer if I didn't like it.  Of course I didn't end up transferring.  I loved Sweet Briar.

I didn't love Orientation.  I have always hated ice breaker activities.  I just wanted to get to the school part.  Instead, I had to play stupid games with Hampden Sydney boys.  There was some game where everyone introduced themselves and I forget exactly how it worked, but somehow you had to say a certain person's name.  The guy who was supposed to say mine looked at me and said "$hit."  I just wanted to go hide in my room.  That night while everyone else was partying on the dell with the boys, I watched Moulin Rouge on my laptop with another girl from my hall who also had no desire to join the party.

Eventually, classes started.  I took 2 English courses, a History course, and a 300 level Spanish Lit course.  I was in the honors version of freshman English, which was called "Men in Love." We read books like Lolita and The Sorrows of Young Werther.  The professor swore a lot.  It caught me off guard.  Swearing teachers is not something you experience at a Catholic boarding school.  By the end of the semester I was used to it and recognized that it wasn't done with any sort of malice, they were just words thrown into the dialogue of the class.  I loved my History course, even though I really hadn't been very fond of my high school history courses. The professor let us write our papers however we wanted.  As long as they contained good points, references, information, etc, any format was fine.  I wrote a sestina for one of my papers.  It was the highest grade I ever received on a History paper.  I spent the rest of my college career trying to achieve that level of perfection again.  My Spanish Literature course overwhelmed me.  I had aced the Spanish placement exam, but it had been easy grammar and vocab.  I was in no way prepared to jump into reading and understanding chapter books.  I somehow muddled my way through the class, but was discouraged and ended up taking the next two semesters off from Spanish.

As the time came to choose classes for my second semester, I found myself at a bit of a loss.  I had thought I wanted to focus on English and History, but I couldn't find a single English course that sounded interesting.  I scrapped the English plan and decided to just stick to History.  Ancient/Medieval History to be exact.  Sure, I took classes from the various time periods that were required for the History Major, but other than that I stuck to classes that centered around things that happened before the French Revolution.

In my sophomore year, I had to get an "intro to History" course completed, since I hadn't bothered my freshman year.  I chose "Hitler and Stalin."  The first day of class, the professor walked in wearing gym shorts and a tie-dye t-shirt, and asked us to tell what we would think of him if we saw him walking down a street somewhere and didn't know anything about him.  This was possibly an even stranger experience for me than the swearing English professor.  I apparently wrote a scathing review of the professor at the end of the semester, which he had a tendency to remind me about later in my college career when I learned to like him and appreciate him.  College was a lesson in tolerance that I'm sure has helped me immensely in my post-college life.

I returned to Spanish classes at the end of my sophomore year, recognizing that it would be a huge waste of my natural aptitude for the vocabulary and grammar to not continue studying.  I declared a Spanish Minor, and was inducted into Sigma Delta Pi, the National Spanish Honors Society, at the end of my junior year. In my senior year, I was able to do an Independent Study on translation, which I loved.

Sigma Delta Pi Induction

In addition to riding horses every semester like I had been determined to do, I also worked at the barn every semester.  Most daylight hours not spent in class were spent working.  I got along well with the Stable Manager and the other staff, and enjoyed the jobs I did.  I didn't always enjoy my co-worker students, but I was trained in barn work by a very strict person back home, and so worked very quickly and efficiently and had no patience for slower workers.  If there were 20 horses to bring in, I could bring in about 15 of them in the time it took my partner to bring in 5.  I was occasionally lucky enough to work with someone else who worked like me, and those shifts were awesome.



The girl I worked with bringing in horses early in the mornings during freshman spring semester talked me into trying out for the Sweet Tones.  They became my family for the remainder of my time at Sweet Briar, and I was the musical director of the group during my senior year.  I am still friends with several of them.

Sweet Briar gave me so many amazing opportunities for my voice.  At the end of my sophomore year, I got to sing Mozart's Exultate Jubilate while accompanied by an orchestra.    I had two incredible Voice teachers and several great accompanists throughout my time at SBC, and I was able to give a full Senior Voice Recital, which was an amazing experience.  I was given the impression that Senior Recitals were generally reserved for Music Majors, and I was only a reluctant Music Minor. (All I wanted to do was sing.  I had zero interest in Music Theory or Music History.)

I grew up a lot during my time at Sweet Briar.  It is sometimes hard to recognize that now, because I have also grown up a lot since I graduated and entered the "real world."  But Sweet Briar helped me grow to the place I needed to be in order to function and survive in the professional world, so that I could continue to grow in post-college life.

Sweet Briar was my home for four years.  After I graduated, I moved two hours away, and I think I visited campus at least once a month during the following year.  After that, almost all of my remaining friends on campus graduated, and my visits became less frequent, but it always felt like returning home when I did find a reason to visit.  I loved seeing the campus again, and visiting with professors.  The thought that the school may cease to exist, and that I will no longer be able to visit the place and people that I am so fond of, is hard.  It certainly makes me wish that I had visited more over the past 7 years since I graduated.  I don't know what the future of Sweet Briar holds, but whatever it is, I hope it is for the best.  And I hope the current students, faculty, and staff are taken care of.

Here's to Sweet Briar HOLLA HOLLA HOLLA nothing that you cannot do, 
work for the good and work for the right, always doing something and doing it right 
so here's to Sweet Briar HOLLA HOLLA HOLLA nothing that you cannot do!

Monday, March 2, 2015

So many miles

47.2 miles this week!!!  That was definitely unintentional.  It has something to do with the fact that I had an unplanned second run on Wednesday...and an extra 3 miles added onto my half marathon.  Why I feel like I could run today, I have no idea.  But I'm not going to give in to temptation.  Surely my body needs some rest?!

this week's runs
M : 7.2
T : 6.6
W : 6.8, 6 w/DD
F : 4.6
Su : 16.1 (half marathon)
total miles : 47.2

Due to afternoon babysitting on Monday and Tuesday, I got up to run early in the morning.  I was very grateful for a 1 hr delay for school on both days, so that I could wake up at 5:30 instead of 4:30. Sadly, Wednesday did not have a delay, and I had to get up at 4:30.  That was hard!  I had not intended to run again later that day, since it was faculty meeting day, and I knew I would just want to eat dinner by the time I got home.  However, a friend was about to leave town for awhile and wanted to do a Greenbrier redemption run before he left.  I couldn't say no to that.  We both needed redemption after our last attempt at that run.  I got my redemption.  7:50 pace the first time I did it, 7:08 pace this time.  

This may have been my highest mileage week ever.  It is possible that I did a 50 mile week once, but I don't remember for sure, and I don't feel like digging through my records to find out.  

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Race 13.1 a/k/a 16 mile training run

I hadn't intended to start marathon training today...but better early than late.

Full race report later, but for now...I went off course and ended up crossing the line after 16 miles with a chip time of 1:56:41.  Not my slowest "half marathon" finish time, though far from the time I had hoped for!  Thankfully, race management is being very kind to those of us that got lost, and will be making it up to us.

*update 3/2/2015

Yesterday's run already seems so long ago.  Oddly, I'm not even sore today.  That 16 mile run was the longest run I have done since my last marathon, which was in November 2013. And I wasn't exactly jogging it either.  I ran 16 miles in 1:54:02.  That is a faster pace than either of my attempts at the Charleston Distance Run!

I tried out a new restaurant for dinner the night before the race.  I usually go to Carrabas when I'm in Roanoke, but this time I found a different Italian restaurant that was closer to my hotel.  It was called Ragazzi's and I liked it.  I ordered "Marathon Pasta" ...because the name was fitting and because it sounded really good!  Steamed veggies, chicken, and pasta.  What's not to like?  The restaurant was super busy but I got a seat at the bar.  Service was excellent and polite, even though harried.  I really wanted to tell the bartender to just take a breath and relax for 5 seconds.

There was a lot of talk about canceling the race due to the forecast of freezing rain.  Daily emails were sent out expressing concern for runner safety.  As of 6 AM on race day, the race was on, but we were told it would be called off if sleet started before the 7:30 gun.  Luckily, the storm stayed north of Roanoke.  Just barely.

I started off the race really strong, the course was very flat/downhill and I was cruising.  6:39 first mile, 6:41 second mile.  I stuck with the first place girl for the first mile, and then she gradually pulled ahead.  I let her go, reminding myself that I needed to run my own race, not hers.  I could hear 3rd and 4th place talking behind me, and I was surprised they were running as fast as they were and still able to talk.  I certainly don't have enough breath for talking when I am running that fast!  By the 6th mile, I could not see any of the people ahead of me.  I reached a fork on the path where I could go right towards what looked like a dead end under a bridge, or I could go left up a hill.  There were no arrows to guide me.  I went up the hill.  Apparently, the path under the bridge was not a dead end.  The girl behind me caught up at one point and we were griping about the lack of course markers as we followed signs for a bike path, assuming that must be what we needed to do.  We were surprised that there had been people standing guard over every ice patch in the first 2 miles, but nobody to tell us where to turn now.  After about a mile and a half, we reached an intersection with absolutely no indication of which direction to go.  That is the point where we knew without a doubt that we had lost the course.  More people caught up as we stood there trying to decided what to do.  We all turned around and backtracked, collecting more people as we went.  There had to have been about 20 of us that got off course.  By the time we made it back to the course, there was someone directing runners there.  We continued down the course.  Upon realizing how much further it was to the turn-around (about 1.5 miles) some runners turned around early, since we had already added 3 miles to the course.  I decided to stick it out.  I had already lost any hope of a PR or winning place, so I figured I may as well just get the long training run.  It was hard.  I lost a lot of energy with the let-down of discovering I was off course and had lost the huge PR I had been headed for.  My 12th mile was the hardest.  I was really struggling to keep up a decent pace (that mile ended up being 8:12).  I kept giving the run everything I had though.  My pace varied, sometimes dipping under 7, sometimes climbing closer to 8.  I wasn't paying attention to my splits though, I was just trying to get myself to the finish line.  When I finally uploaded the run on my computer and saw the splits, I was impressed to see so many of them as fast as they were.

After I finally crossed the finish line, I ran into some people I know from Lewisburg who had run the 10k.  It was nice to see some familiar friendly faces while I went through my adrenaline meltdown.

I eventually got a chance to talk to one of the race people, who apologized for the course mix-up and let me know that they would make it up to those of us who got lost.

finisher medal

I decided it was time to break from my post-race bacon cheeseburger tradition and went to Taste of Asia instead so that I could have sushi and thai food for lunch.  So much deliciousness.