Saturday, September 28, 2013

Nashville Women's Running Half Marathon Race Recap

This morning I did something more impressive than surviving the zombie apocalypse: I finished my first half marathon. I woke up at around 4 AM and the first thing I did was pour myself a giant cup of ice water. I knew the morning temperature would be relatively comfortable, but it was supposed to be in the low 80s up in the day so I wanted to be well-hydrated before I left home. I ate a big bowl of oatmeal before getting dressed, made extra sure that I had everything I needed, and headed out relatively early to make sure I could find parking.

I like to think of myself as intelligent, but finding a route across the river that was not blocked off by the time I got downtown was too confusing a conundrum for that early in the morning. I wound up parking in a lot that ended up being closer to the start line than the suggested parking would have been. 

I jumped in the port-o-potty line before the race started and made my way to my corral. I spent some time last night making a playlist so I started it up as soon as they cut the yellow tape on my corral and we started moving forward. 

Mile 1
I started my garmin right as I stepped across the start line. The first few minutes of the race were a blur of bodies, not unlike the zombie apocalypse, coincidentally. The 3:00 hour pace group was right in front of me so I decided to try to stick with them/keep them in sight for as long as possible even though I trained for a slower time. 

For most of the first mile my interval running plan went out the window. There were  quite a few downhills and flats in the first mile and I hated to take walk breaks during the "easy" parts of the first mile. Nashville is super hilly and my instincts told me it would be better to run more on the easy parts in case I needed longer walk breaks on the tougher uphill portions of the course. 

I spent a lot of time in the first mile weaving around people who were going slower than me. When I signed up for the race I said that my estimated finish time was 3:30 because my main goal was just to finish under 4 hours, not to finish fast. It wound up backfiring because they placed me in the very last corral with walkers. I was clearly never planning to run fast, but a lot of the people in my corral were doing 18 minute miles and apparently a few of them decided to line up in front of the faster people in the corral. It was a bummer, but by the end of the mile I had made my way to where the other interval people were hanging out and I tried to stick there. According to my Garmin I finished mile 1 in 14:19.

Mile 2
In mile 2 I found a few people who were doing intervals too and used them as my rabbits. When they did their run intervals they would jump ahead of me, but when I did my run intervals I passed them. It was a good mental distraction and before I knew it I was at the first water station. I was carrying my 20 ounce handheld bottle and I hadn't really started to drink from it yet since I had so much water before I left home. I wound up skipping the water at the first station and just kept going. I finished this mile in 13:10.

Mile 3
Mile 3 was one of my favorite miles. There was a partial loop of Centennial park and gatorade at the water station. I stayed focused on getting to the 5k marker and I finished this mile in 13:57.

Mile 4
This is where it started to get hard. Once we left the park there were a lot of uphills. I tried to stick with the 1 minute run, 1 minute walk intervals I did for training, but running uphill is just exhausting. Around this time the sun was starting to get hot and I found myself dreading the patches of light that the trees didn't block out. I finished this mile in 14:04.

Mile 5
I think this was the mile where we ran through a neighborhood that had been blocked off for the race. A few of the people who lived in the neighborhood were sitting outside their houses cheering as people passed and a little girl gave everyone high fives as they went by. A man was like "5 miles down!" when I passed, but that just made me think of the 8 miles I had left. I kept pushing and I finished in 13:58.

Mile 6
At this point I had been trying to keep up with a group of runners wearing tutus for a mile-ish. There were three or four women and a guy (who was also wearing a pink and purple tutu). I have no idea who they were, but following and trying to pass them every now and then got me through most of mile 6. I finished in 13:58.

Mile 7
Mile 7 was disappointing. I was going strong until disaster struck and I had to stop at the port-o-potties. I had to wait for a couple of minutes for one to open and then it was a major struggle peeling my sweaty capris off so I could squat over the toilet and try not to touch anything. Anyone who knows me knows that I hate port-o-potties with a fiery passion and this one was no different. This experience was almost as bad as the traumatic port-o-potty experience I had one summer at a music festival. On top of the gross factor, my garmin went to sleep while I was fighting with my capris and I didn't notice it for at least 1 minute after I started moving again. Since my garmin turned off I have no idea how long I was in the port-o-potty and how many minutes that little detour added to my time, but I supposedly finished this mile in 13:38.

Mile 8
Everything started to go downhill at this point. Since I lost 5+ minutes with my bathroom stop, I was no longer with the interval groups that had kept me motivated during earlier miles. On top of that there was very little shade in this mostly uphill mile. The ice in my water bottle had long since melted and the water at the water stations was not even remotely cold. It was the most miserable mile by far and when I made it to the next water station I made the mistake of taking one of the chocolate Gu packets they were giving away. I was so tired at this point that I would have eaten just about anything they had handed me because I needed the energy, but trying a new energy supplement on race day is ill-advised. The Gu kind of made my stomach hurt and after I took it I spent the rest of the mile regretting it since I got a nasty side cramp sometime before mile 9. I finished the mile in 14:56. The only reason I kept going at this point was because my car was down near the finish line.

Mile 9
Mile 9 was largely uneventful. There were police officers manning most of the intersections and I kept my mind busy by looking for cute ones. There weren't any so I occupied myself by trying to pass a tiny woman who power walked past me every time I stopped running and a really tall woman whose long legs allowed her to cover more distance in every stride than my short chubby ones. It wasn't as good a motivator as the tutu group, but beggars can't be choosers. I finished this mile in 14:17.

Mile 10
I was really getting sore at this point and it started to seem like the mile markers were getting further and further apart. I made myself keep going because I had passed the straggler van going the other way during the out and back portion of the course. At that point it had been nipping at a walker's heels. Everyone clapped for her as we ran past and I decided to keep moving so that the van didn't come for me. During mile 10 I kept thinking about that van chasing that woman down like zombies chase the characters in the Walking Dead and I decided right then and there that no matter what, the zombie van was not going to eat me. I finished mile 10 in 14:43.

Mile 11
At this point I was so close to the finish line I could taste it. I started wondering if there would be cold water there and I thought about how proud I was going to be when I crossed the finish line of my first half marathon. When, not if. Because at this point I knew I was going to cross that finish line even if it meant I had to drag myself the last two miles on my stomach. I finished this mile in 14:28.

Mile 12
This was another unshaded mile. It felt pretty hot in the sun and I had to dig deep to get through this mile. I kept chugging along and finished the mile in 14:51 even though it felt like I was going much slower.

Some sadist thought it would be a good idea to put a bunch of hills and unshaded space in this last mile.  so I occupied my brain by cursing their name and wishing them ill. I kept checking the distance on my garmin so I could guess how close I was to the finish line. There were also several race photographers in this mile, of all places, so I tried to smile for the camera and look like I was running and happy  about it even though I was actually sore and couldn't get the thought of lunch out of my mind. 

By the time I rounded the corner and actually saw the finish line at the bottom of a small decline, I was exhausted. I kept telling myself to dig deep and run the rest of the way to the finish line. Right before the finish line there was an announcer who gave me a high five and announced my name as I ran the final steps across the finish line. I didn't know it yet because I still had music blaring in my headphones, but as I took them off so that I could get my medal, I realized that one of my Aunts was there screaming my name. I laughed and wandered over so she could take the picture above of me with my medal. 

I don't know what my official time was and quite frankly I don't care. I finished a half marathon today and that is far more than I could have done when I started this journey. I am better now than I was, and I will get better still. I hung out with my Aunt at the finish line for a while and then I headed home to enjoy the taste of victory. It's a taste I could get used to. It sure is sweet.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Flat Ashley

I read a handful of Tumblr running blogs and the authors always post pictures of their "flat"selves the day before race day. I liked the idea, so I am taking this opportunity to introduce you all to flat Ashley. Flat Ashley is chilling on real Ashley's yoga mat tonight so that she's ready to go tomorrow when real Ashley is. Flat Ashley is calm, cool and collected. Real Ashley is nervous, exhilarated, and as ready as she will ever be. My first half marathon is tomorrow, y'all!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The First Signs of Fall

Fall always comes late to the South. It's a shame since it's my favorite season, but that's neither here nor there. In any case, I promised myself that as soon as we had a cool-ish day I was going to go for a nice long hike. When I woke up this morning and saw a high of 75 degrees, I decided that that day had finally arrived. Right after breakfast I got dressed and headed to one of my favorite parks. I started a new audiobook and set out on an 8 mile wander through the woods. It was exactly what I needed.

I took my time, winding my way around the trail. At one point I even startled a pair of deer playing near the trail. They ran as soon as they saw me. I was a little bummed since I've been trying to get a picture of a deer in that park for ages, but there's always next time I suppose. 

I was in the mood for more fall when dinner rolled around. Trader Joe's has had a ton of seasonal pumpkin goodies on the shelf lately and I couldn't stop myself the last time I was there. I got some pumpkin soup, a jar of something called pumpkin butter, and some pumpkin pancake and waffle mix. I still haven't tried the pancakes, but I broke out the pumpkin butter and used it to make a spicy honey and pumpkin marinade for some tofu. It turned out great and I couldn't think of anything better to go with pumpkin tofu than more pumpkin so I ate the tofu with the pumpkin soup. It was a great meal and even though there are still going to be a few days in the 80s next week, it was nice to see the first signs of fall.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

You Can't Outrun a Bad Diet

They say you can't outrun a bad diet, but today I tried. The day started out okay. I woke up, had breakfast, and got in a 5 mile interval run. Things kind of went downhill from there. When I was in the grocery store the other day I saw a box of Annie's bunny grahams. I hadn't had any of those since I was in Florida and I thought I would do okay having the box in my apartment. I didn't. I decided to get myself back on track with a healthy dinner and a long walk, though

I had a Cajun spiced baked tofu sandwich, grapes, and one of those Green Giant cauliflower steamers in cheese sauce. After eating I headed out for my walk with the goal of hitting 20,000 steps before it got dark. I didn't quite make it to 20,000, but I got pretty close. Maybe if I keep my diet under control tomorrow and get in a lot of activity, the damage won't be too terribly bad. 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Good Fortune

This run went way better than I thought it would. I didn't sleep well last night. I woke up at around 2 AM and could not seem to get back to sleep until 4:00, possibly because I watched the Sons of Anarchy premiere somewhere in that time and it was disturbing on all the levels.  I wanted to make sure I got up in time to finish my run in the morning so I set an alarm for 5:45 before I fell asleep again.  When said alarm went off I did not want to get up. I did not want to put on my running clothes. I did not want to run. I wanted to curl up in my sheets like a caterpillar until tomorrow or at least until this afternoon.  Instead I emerged from my chrysalis groggy and annoyed, ate some oatmeal, and headed out the door. Here are my splits:

The first couple of miles were a little slow. I was going uphill for a large chunk of it and I really didn't want to be going at all so I was dragging my feet a little. By mile three I was feeling a little better. Plus I kept passing the members of a running group going in the opposite direction so I sped up when I  saw one of them coming so they didn't think I was a slacker. Maybe this is evidence that I should join a running group--fear of social judgment apparently makes me push harder in my workouts. :) 

Somewhere around mile 4 I stopped to switch my phone to music.  I had been listening to the audiobook version of Fall of Night by Rachel Caine, but I was coming up on a few hills and I wanted something with a beat to help me stay motivated. 

By the time mile 5 rolled around I needed to go to the bathroom. I knew there was a port-o-potty coming up in the park, but I was carrying a handheld water bottle and I couldn't figure out what to do with it while I was in the port-o-potty. I didn't want to lay it on the ground because I am deathly afraid of bugs. I also didn't want to take it into the port-o-potty because there was just something foul about the idea of taking  my clean drinking water into one of those things. I decided to hold it and if I really had to I could use it on the way out of the park. I kept running and all I could think about was finding a bathroom.  I seriously considered going in the bushes, but then I thought about how embarrassed I would be if I did that and a snake or something bit me on the butt while I was back there and what I could possibly tell the emergency room personnel that would not make my mortification even worse. After letting my imagination run wild for a few minutes I decided against popping a squat and decided to just keep running.  

Around mile 8 I passed this building that I knew was some kind of park center, but that I had never stopped at because I normally drive to that particular park. I decided that I had nothing to lose if I ran over to see if it was open so I did. The doors were locked so I checked the hours posted beside the door. When I saw that there were no Sunday hours listed, I started to turn around and leave but just before I did this guy came up to the door and unlocked it. I asked if I could use their bathroom and I was so excited when he let me in that I didn't even get mad when he called me ma'am! Before I left, I stopped at the water fountain to refill my handheld and after thanking the guy who let me in I was on my way. As I left the building, I couldn't help but smile at my good luck. If that guy had opened the park center a few minutes later, I probably would have been peeing in some bushes.

I finished my loop of the park not long after that and got through the last few miles. I was getting a little sore by then and a lot of the last two miles was uphill so I didn't really enjoy it as much as the earlier miles. I switched back to my audiobook and just told myself to keep running and try to keep my average pace below 15 minutes per mile if I could. I was tired by the time I got home, but my average pace was 14:59 per mile and I made it through the run. I guess there's not much more I can ask for.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Short Course Is A Misnomer

My law school offers something called short courses where they bring in professors or practitioners to teach one week courses on topics that students might want more focused instruction in.  In theory, short courses are a great way to work in an extra credit and learn from a professor you would not otherwise have access to. In practice, short courses are an extra 2+ hours of class time and work during what was already a busy school week. For the past week, I have been in a short course.  For the past week, my entire schedule has been thrown off and I am so ready for things to get back to normal.  

Since most of the class sessions were at night, I had to eat dinner earlier than usual and stay up later than normal to get stuff done after class. I wound up making a couple of purchases at my school's vending machines.  They started stocking the machines with healthier options this year, but snacking has always been my arch nemesis.

Yesterday I wound up trying these Kashi hummus crisps and today I had some Snackwell's cookies during the three hour morning session. Normally I wouldn't have stopped at the vending machines at all, but if I had to get off track I'm glad I didn't go too far off the rails.

The good news is that I was able to work in a 4 mile run yesterday before class.  It has been gorgeous  running weather (read below 70 degrees) for the past two mornings so I'm really glad I was able to take advantage of it yesterday. As I was walking to class this morning, I found myself getting jealous every time a runner passed me on the sidewalk. I wanted to get my long run out of the way so bad since the temperature was perfect for the first time in months, but class beckoned and I made myself trudge on to school.  Thankfully, today was the last class for the short course and I can, fingers crossed, get back to my regularly scheduled routine next week.  

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Catch Up Post

Yesterday I had the most exhausting day ever. Three classes, two meetings, three trips back and forth to school, waiting for pest control to come to my apartment, and the advent of a sore throat that I spent the day worrying about. On the plus side, with all that running back and forth to school I got in a lot of walking without having to resort to a half hearted treadmill session during Breaking Pointe. Busy days for the win?

The stats above are from today. I got in a 3 mile run before my second class. The rest of the miles are from the walking I did during the day. I was really proud of myself too.  When I went down to the gym, there weren't any free treadmills.  It was pouring outside and it was way too hot for me to want to run outdoors anyway.  I thought about waiting to do my run until tomorrow, but I wound up piddling around my apartment for half an hour and then trying again.  This time a treadmill was open so I popped in my headphones and did not occupy myself by surreptitiously watching the cute guy lifting weights out of the corner of my eye. Because that would be weird.

I had some extra firm tofu in the refrigerator that I needed to use up and I was hungry again after my last class so I decided to try making baked tofu nuggets.  I had some whole wheat bread crumbs in my cabinet so I seasoned them with garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper, and sea salt. I sliced the tofu into nugget-ish shapes, dipped each one in olive oil and then the bread crumbs, and baked them at 390 until they turned golden brown and gorgeous. I ate them with honey mustard. They taste like chicken :) 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Double Digit Milestone

This morning I woke up, ate a bowl of oatmeal, and did something historic: I completed my first double digit run. For the most part, I have been training for this half marathon on the treadmill. It's not the best idea for a lot of reasons, but the main one among them is that the treadmill is flat and the half marathon course has lots of hills.  Additionally, there is the problem of the air conditioning. When I signed up for this half marathon, I was hoping that the summer heat of Tennessee would give way to fall long before the race rolled around. Having grown up in the South I should have known this was as unrealistic  a fantasy as me successfully seducing Alexander Skarsgard, but hey, a girl can dream. The heat makes running outside far more difficult than running in air conditioning and it was enough cause for concern.

Anyway, I wanted to accomplish two things with today's run.  First, I wanted to prove to myself that I was still fit enough to run outside.  Second, I wanted to know if I could maintain the 15 minute per mile pace I aimed for on the treadmill when I was running outside in spite of the heat and the hills.     

Since I managed to finish this eleven mile run, I seem to have maintained enough fitness to handle running outside even though I've trained almost exclusively on the treadmill.  I didn't pay attention to my pace on my watch as I was running today, but I was okay with my splits when I uploaded the data. My first few splits were faster than my goal pace and my last few splits were significantly slower. I would prefer to have more even splits, but I'm okay with this because when I started running this morning, the temperature was around 66 degrees and my route was mostly downhill. I slowed down after mile three because my route started to go uphill and it also started to get hotter. Around mile eight, my route took me past my apartment so I took a short break to refill my water bottle and run to the bathroom.  When I headed back out to finish the eleven miles, I found myself running in direct sunlight for progressively longer stretches as the sun got higher in the sky. I've never been very good at running when it's hot outside so it doesn't surprise or concern me that I slowed down more and more as the temperature rose.  Overall, I think this run went better than expected.  

Friday, September 6, 2013

My Week On The Struggle Bus

This week felt incredibly long and next week promises to be even longer.  Since it's the beginning of the school year and my last year of law school, there are a million things that have to get done and not enough time to do them.  I'm trying to get everything done, but lately I've just been feeling tired.  

The stats above are from yesterday's run.  The 6.58 miles is for the whole day, but the 62 very active minutes reflects the 3.52 mile run/walk I did after my first class.  I started walking to class last year instead of driving. When it's cooler out, the walk is really pleasant, but it's still hot in Tennessee and lately my daily walks have been more draining than refreshing.  By the time I got back from my first class, all I really wanted to do was lounge around in the air conditioning. Instead, I got on my running clothes and made myself head down to the gym before I had to be back at school. I made it through the 3 miles and hurried back upstairs to get ready for my next class.  I didn't want to be late so I rushed through my shower and got dressed. Then I checked my email and found out that class was cancelled. You would think this turn of events would make me happy, but when law school classes are cancelled, the professor always holds a makeup class, generally at a really bad time like during the weekend.  On top of that, I was already dressed.  I didn't want to feel like I had gotten dressed for no reason so I went to Trader Joe's.  It was a zoo at that time of day, but at least I managed to check an errand off my to do list.

When I got back from the store, the water pitcher I ordered earlier in the week was waiting for me. I went to change the filter in my old water pitcher earlier this week and couldn't seem to get the new filter to fit properly.  As a result, my water wasn't being filtered properly.  Hiss and boo.  I probably drink a gallon of water a day so not having a functioning Brita pitcher was a trial.  It's nice to be back in the land of the well-hydrated.

Earlier this week, wearing a thrifted dress :)
By the time I got out of class today, I was exhausted and I needed to do something soothing. Most of you probably don't know this, but before I started blogging here at Downsizing, I wrote a style blog called My Fashion Confession.  I loved writing a style blog, but when I gained weight, I outgrew most of my clothes.  I'm back to my pre-law school weight now, but since I've taken up running the shape of my body has changed and I seem to have less body fat than I had the last time I was at this weight.  In any case, my old skinny clothes are mostly too big for me now so I decided to spend my afternoon doing something I used to love when I was writing My Fashion Confession: thrifting. I headed to one of my favorite local spots and spent a happy afternoon perusing the racks for a few new to me pieces that actually fit my new body.  It was a massive success.

I found a few new tech tops to run in now and some great cold weather running gear for when Tennessee realizes that September is, in fact, fall. 

I found some tops and a dress that I think will work now with sandals and later with boots.

Jackets! At $2.50 each I was over the moon about all of these. That grey one is going to be adorable with some skinny jeans.

I could wear the striped dress now, but I think it will look better on me when I lose about 5 more pounds.  I went ahead and bought it because it's a cute dress and thrifting is hit or miss. Sometimes you go and find everything. Sometimes you go and find nothing. At $4.00 each I figured it wouldn't be a huge loss even if I never wear the thing.  

These fit and were the right length, so I snagged them.  This is the first time I've ever found a pair of jeans I liked while thrifting. Usually they are too long, too short, the wrong wash, or too ugly to wear when it's not Halloween.  These jeans, however, were Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants-esque in their perfectness.  If you don't get that reference I'm not sure we can still be friends.

After three hours, I left the thrift store $44 poorer, but in far better spirits than I went in with.  I will be spending the rest of the evening putting down roots in the living room floor and going to bed early.  I'm thinking Netflix. Who's with me?

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Step Down Week

On the Jeff Galloway half marathon training plan, there is a step down week following almost every long run. Last week I did 9 miles for my long run, so this week I only had to run 4.  Admittedly, I'm not  very good at following training plans. I already abandoned the Hal Higdon program for Jeff Galloway mid-training because my knee was bothering me.  While I'm doing better with the lower mileage Jeff Galloway plan, I'm still not following it 100%.  The two mid-week 30 minute runs the plan calls for?  I tend to pick a number of miles between 3-5 and run until I hit that.  I have done fairly well running at least three times per week, but last week I threw in an extra run just because. I'm sure I'll regret not following a training plan more closely when it comes time for my half marathon in a month, but since I only want to finish the race within the 4 hour time limit, I'm not all that worried.  

In other news, I've been trying to get my eating under control.  After my run, I had tomato soup, slow cooked chicken, and grapes for dinner.  I don't really care that the temperatures are still in the 90s.  It is September 1. I officially declare that soup season has begun.  Oh, and sweater weather? You're more than welcome to join us anytime now.