Thursday, November 24, 2016

November Runfessions

With the end of the month here, I'm linking up with Marcia for this month's runfessions.  November has been a whirlwind of sorts between school events, conferences, traveling and more.  For all intents and purposes, the hamster wheel analogy fits all too well to describe these past few weeks.  So with that, the runfessional is now open!

I runfess...
...that I could not wait for this month to be over.  While so many exciting things happened, including my first run of the Pittsburgh 10 Miler, I also found myself just plain exhausted.  This showed pretty well in how my runs turned out.  Just getting the miles in, no matter how slow, was my only goal.

I runfess...
...that the dogs along my route are starting to drive me crazy.  While I am someone who likes dogs, the howling, growling and yelping has reached the point that it's just one constant noise throughout the entire run.  I can only think of one dog who doesn't participate in this cacophony.  And for the record, when I hear someone attempting to call his or her dog to return, my first thought is that the canine will give chase.  I figure it's better to err on the side of caution.

I runfess...
...that way too many of my runs have ended after dusk.  With the crazy schedule of late, I can't hit the road until the sun is already setting and the sky, while pretty, gets darker and darker.  I've also gotten into a bad habit of assuming my runs will be much shorter/take less time than how reality plays out.  Because of all this, I find myself darting from streetlamp to streetlamp (which are sparse as it is) attempting to make it home safely.

I runfess...
...I've already begun window shopping all the new running gear I want.  Between the emails from the Pittsburgh Marathon advertising its training apparel and all the amazing gadgets and tech coming out this time of year, I'm inundated with so much cool stuff.  In no way do I expect to get the vast majority of item I see, but dreaming of that "In Training" jacket or heart-rate monitor isn't necessarily terrible.  Looking forward to seeing what Santa will bring!

What are your November runfessions?

Happy running!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Tuesdays on the Run: Dick's Sporting Goods App

The theme for this week's Tuesdays on the Run with PattyErika, and Marcia dives into the craziness that is Black Friday and the holiday shopping season.  While I am not someone who tends to have the "in" on where to find the best deals or discounts, I do stumble across the occasional awesome find when it comes to saving a few bucks.  In this regard, my secret weapon to cut down on the cost of our surprisingly expensive sport is the Dick's Sporting Goods (DSG) app.

In this day and age, every store seems to have its own app that is basically a clunky version of its website.  Because of this, I avoid cluttering my phone with unnecessary apps when I can just as easily open up Chrome to find what I need.  I was naturally hesitant then to download the DSG app, since I figured it was same old same old.  However, what made me willing to give up those precious megabytes of space was a feature I had yet to see offered by any other store.  It gave me points just for doing what I love - running!

Outside of the usual tabs advertising sales and promoting the rewards card, the DSG app has an additional feature called "Move."  For either hitting 10,000 steps in a day or running three miles using MapMyRun, three points are added to the DSG reward card.  Once 300 points are earned, a $10 gift certificate is given - it's that easy!  Once the app is set up, there is little maintenance that needs done on the user side of things.  And just like other reward programs, a point is also earned for every dollar spent at the store/online.

On top of the normal methods of earning points, twice so far (during the Olympics and the month of October) the DSG app has also offered step challenges.  By averaging about 15,000 steps a day, I earned an additional 600 points.  I like to think of all this as free money!

Now, there are a few caveats worth noting when using the app.  First, if you only ever just earn the three points a day, it will take a really long time to receive a certificate.  In addition, the $10 has an expiration date 60 days from when it is issued.  Third, you do need to sign up for the DSG rewards program, so make room for another card on your rewards tag key ring.  Another restriction is that you have to use one of the means for tracking, either a Garmin, Fitbit or Apple watch for steps, or MapMyRun for the three mile run.  Finally, the occasional day has occurred where it did not properly register my steps making for missed points.

At this point in using the app with only making a limited number of purchases here and there, I've received $40 in certificates.  That's $40 that will not be coming out of my bank account - score!  And with the prospect of doing some Christmas shopping at DSG in the coming weeks, I may hit that magical 300 points again soon.  I'll take it!

Happy running!

Friday, November 18, 2016

Pittsburgh 10 Miler Recap

A change in priorities can be a really good thing within running.  The normal grind, especially in always chasing after a PR, can begin to wear down the fun of the sport.  Running the Pittsburgh 10 Miler helped remind me of how much the social aspect of racing is just as, if not at times more, enjoyable than solely pursuing a time goal

When I signed up for the 10 Miler, I knew it would fall only a little more than a month after running the Akron Marathon.  I figured that in the races occurring so close I would be both well-trained for the shorter distance, but at the same time would have taken some time off for recovery.  However, I WAY underestimated the damage 26.2 miles does to the body.  After taking the obligatory two-week running hiatus following the September race, I attempted to ease myself back in the weekly mileage routine.  All I can say is "OUCH!"  It was as if my legs forgot how to run.  My body just wasn't bouncing back like I had hoped.  It was at this point I decided to change priorities for the 10 Miler.

I sent a text to one of my best friends, Mike, who has been working up to longer distances over the past few years.  I knew that this race would be the furthest he had ever gone and I was extremely excited for him.  Knowing he was about to take on an awesome challenge, I offered to serve as a pacer for him.  He agreed to let me have this honor and I was stoked!

With my race intentions now shifted, I spent the weeks leading up to 10 Miler just getting in the distance with little concern for anything beyond easy miles.  I was also able to finally use the jogging stroller to push the peanut for a few miles.

A few days before the race, I made a trip after work to packet pick-up.  While the location of the store hosting it was a little out of the way (actually the exact opposite direction to home), I was super excited when I got my bag and shirt.  They were so awesome!  The dog food that they also included was....different.

Race morning arrived cold but clear.  My friends and I headed into town together, which set the tone for how amazing of a day was in store.  After warming up a bit (both from the cold and preparing for the race), we, of course, had to commemorate the day with selfies.  This picture truly embodies our personalities so well!

As we situated ourselves within the corral, I checked with Mike about the pacing.  He had a few different goals in mind with his "super A goal" being 1:40, his actual "A goal" coming in at 1:50, but his most important goal being to just finish.  I naturally wanted Mike to meet his wildest expectations, so 10:00 minute miles it was.  And with the horn sounding, we were off!

I would not be honest with myself if I didn't admit that a little part of me wanted to surge ahead into full race mode like usual.  However, I reigned in those primal inclinations and settled on pace trotting along side Mike as he loaded up Zombies, Run! on his phone (yes, he and I are both that awesomely geeky).  Today, I was making my race about someone besides myself and if felt really good!

The day could not have been more perfect conditions for an early November race.  With each mile under gorgeous  sunny skies, Mike and I were able to stay either on or above our goal pace.  We reminisced on how some of the neighborhoods we ran through were parts of the Pittsburgh Marathon 5K we had completed the year before and were looking forward to doing again this spring.  We also practiced a very smart strategy of walking through the aid stations to recuperate and not drench ourselves in water (running and drinking at the same time just don't mix).

It was around mile 8 (or as Mike called them, his "Hobbit miles" since it was the furthest he had ever gone) that we slowed.  One of the sneaky things about running through downtown Pittsburgh is that each bridge is actually a small hill.  In addition, the city itself is peppered with climbs and descents all over.  I could tell that Mike was starting to wear down, but the determination to finish was clear.  If I found myself getting too far ahead, I would adjust accordingly so that my pacee knew that he wasn't running alone.  Mike would always give a smile and a wave when he saw me looking - love that attitude!

For all the uphills that seemed to crop up everywhere, the race finished on a downhill.  Mike did his best to give it all he had in the final mile giving us a finish time of 1:40:49.  While in some ways I felt like I let him down by not breaking 1:40, he was stoked to have finished and well below 1:50 at that.  I was unbelievably proud of Mike for his accomplishment - he is now slated to run the Pittsburgh Half Marathon in May at which I know he will do awesome.

Following the race, we headed for mimosas then off to Diamond Grill for lunch (we had our priorities straight!).  On a completely un-race related note, the city was also having a reenactment of a stunt Houdini had performed 100 years ago, so we stayed to watch.   After all this fun and excitement, the time had come to part ways.

When I signed up back in mid-July for the Pittsburgh 10 Miler, this was not necessarily the race I envisioned.  However, in looking back, I would not change a single thing.  If anything, pacing Mike helped me realize that I would really like to pace others to their own achievements.  While I have no races on my calendar between now and May, I may just have to keep an eye out for opportunities to serve another role at a race than just be a runner.

Happy running!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Tuesdays on the Run: Along for the Journey

The theme for this week's Tuesdays on the Run with PattyErika, and Marcia is about taking a step back to consider how I've changed since my blog was first set up a year and a half ago.  And boy has life been interesting!

Since May of 2015, both my running life as well as personal life have grown through completely new experiences.  I started this blog back when I first signed up for a half marathon, a distance that both frightened and excited me.  I wanted to chronicle the return to the sport of my youth as I took on a new challenge.  What I didn't expect was that I would be hooked by this new endeavor.

Something about doing a race that was completely foreign to me and I thought I could never do unlocked my potential to push my limits and see just how far I could go.  Running the Pittsburgh Half last spring affirmed this drive within me.

I'm not entirely sure when I set out to blog my adventures that a marathon was on the docket, but it's the surprises that keep life interesting.  I've now survived 26.2 and am crazy enough to do it again this May.  The fear of the unknown that I sometimes live my life by is slowly dissipating, which I would say is for the better.

Added on to how my running life has changed, August 9th marked the birth of my newest running partner.  Having a daughter gives a whole new meaning to life.  I'm now responsible for another human being - God help her!  Though sleepless nights have become a norm, the little peanut also gives so much joy to those around her.  And she was so excited to share the love that she came four weeks early!

Since starting my blog, I've loved bringing others on the adventure that is my life.  These posts have helped to capture many moments that now define me and help me to be a better person.  I hope you continue to follow along as the fun continues!

Happy running!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Tuesdays on the Run: Winter Crosstraining

The theme for this week's Tuesdays on the Run with PattyErika, and Marcia is a look into the future at the frigid months that await us and what we as runners can do when the roads are sheets of ice and the polar vortex is looming.

Two words the cause me to break out in hives when used in the same sentence are "winter" and "crosstraining."  The former conjures up bad memories of cancelled birthday parties from being a January baby and the latter just isn't as appealing as pounding pavement.  But regardless of my dread, I can neither stop winter from coming (unless anyone knows a Heat Miser who needs some business...) nor deny the positive benefits of crosstraining.  So what do I do when I can't log the miles in the chilly months?  Yoga!

While I do not see myself as a yogi, I have accepted that this traditional practice really enhances my running and is the perfect exercise during winter.  Between sitting inside more due to the limited amount of daylight and the cold weather tightening my muscles with a vengeance, my body just isn't in its peak shape.  Adding in the stretching and strength work awakens tired and tense limbs making the days when I can hit the roads way better.

While yoga provides me with a number of physical benefits, the mental component of the exercises is just as important.  As someone who gets more irritable from the lack of sunshine and fresh air, a meditative practice that allows me to redirect my negative emotions toward something productive generally leaves me feeling more optimistic about life.  I become less embittered about winter opening the way to actually enjoying the beauty that accompanies the season.

As someone who a year ago adamantly refused to partake in the practice, I've since become a willing yoga participant to the point that a significant number of my workouts conclude with some key poses.  If you're not sure where to look for sequences, start with the Runner's World Yoga Center.  The routines are really easy to follow with special attention to the muscles most used in running.  If you are someone who gets more out of social exercise, consider signing up for a class.  Many studios will give you a free trial session.  Going to a class can also be really beneficial in the winter, since it encourages you to abandon the warm covers for something that you will be thankful for later.

Haven't given yoga a try as a crosstraining method?  Consider broadening your horizons!  Worse comes to worst, you only used up one of many cold winter days.  On the other hand, you may have just found your new go-to for the days when running isn't on the agenda!

Happy running!