Hello, Texas Humidity!

I just realized that I haven’t posted this week!  What on Earth has come over me?

It has been a busy week, to be sure, but the busyness has turned out to be very manageable!

Mother’s Day was a great day.  It was rainy, but my house was clean which made the day so much more enjoyable since I didn’t have that hanging over my head.  My family knocked it out of the park again with my gift: a charm bracelet with the kids’ birthstones.

Taylor & Logan were born in November while Alli was born in February.  They were so excited to get a 2-fer on the November birthstone.
Taylor & Logan were born in November while Alli was born in February. They were so excited to get a 2-fer on the November birthstone.

Monday evening, I was privileged to coach the JV girls in their Spring league games.  In Texas, the UIL prohibits school coaches from coaching their own players except during the volleyball season.  I was so honored to be asked to coach!  Taylor was in town and came along, and I think we already know that she is a much better coach than I am!  However, I was pleased with the progress the girls made during the evening.  We practiced on Wednesday and this time, Taylor’s long-time friend and high school classmate, Mason, came to help.  He gave the setters some homework 😉Mason

We all know how much I love volleyball and this is going to be a fun group to work with over the next 3 weeks, because they are full of potential!

The run schedule was a little screwy again this week due to some factors outside anyone’s control.  I ran last night (solo) while Alli was at practice.  It LOOKS like a nice cool day from the pic, right?cloudy run

WRONG!!  It was so HUMID!  I don’t know what the actual temps were but I suspect somewhere in the 80s.  The air was so thick!  But it was good, because I haven’t worked out much in Texas heat this season and it will act as a nice segue into hot, sunny, humid runs.  I was to do tempos @ 10 and recovery @ 11:15, but I had a little problem in execution.  (OK I know this is nothing new….)Intervals

There was a loop of thoughts going through my head that kept me from completely focusing on my pace.  In addition, there is an area in this park where my GPS gets wonked up EVERY SINGLE TIME, so I don’t trust the pace on my watch completely.  The loop in my head: OMG it is so humid sweat is getting in my eyes.  I NEVER sweat that much.  What the hell?  Puddle.  Yay.  How wet shall I get my shoes this time?  Crap!  I’m going wayyyy to fast.  I can’t be going that fast!  Wait…breathing is harder.  YES YOU ARE GOING THAT FAST!  SLOW down Jen.  Slow down!  OMG I really need to pee.  I hope I can make it to the bathroom.  OK, I’ll slow down after I get to the bathroom.  If I slow down now it will take longer to get there and if it takes longer to get there I’m going to be in trouble.  (For the record, I BARELY made it.  I’ve never come that close! Whew!)

After the run, I sent the splits to partner/coach and he said – looks pretty good except for a few hiccups.  A FEW HICCUPS?  He had no idea.  The pacing within each tempo (and recovery) was all over the map.  Honestly, I am surprised I was able to hit them as close as I did.  But I got my work in, I wore myself out (I’ll blame the humidity) and all-in-all it was a good run.  I’m currently fighting tightness in my left glute, but what’s new??  I’m working to stay on top of it and hopefully it is just related to my return-to-consistent-strength-training. (Sigh…..yes I had slacked off a bit.)

Haha!!  Tired and sweaty!
Haha!! Tired and sweaty!

Overall, though, it was a very good week!  AND…..I have NO plans this weekend!!  Best feeling ever!

Happy Friday!



Off Balance

My word of the year is Balance, which I blogged about around the first of the year.  There are soooo many areas in which I constantly fight imbalance.  I realize this struggle isn’t unique to me:  I think everyone in our society wrestles with it – especially moms!

Actually, I have been doing better with my balancing act than I thought was possible.  I was maintaining a regular strength training schedule and things were rocking and rolling as I got stronger and stronger with my running.  But in April, I practically derailed and I didn’t even realize how much until yesterday.

The running has been going GREAT!!  My volume has increased almost to what I was running before my injury….last month I ran 83 miles!  I ran all this without experiencing any major issues so life is good on that front.  However, almost all of my midweek runs have been at 5 AM, which is the time I had allotted for strength work, yoga and foam rolling.  What has slipped?? You guessed it: strength work, yoga and foam rolling.  (ALL the things I SWORE wouldn’t slip!)  The other side of this coin is that I am a piddler, and during my morning strength sessions I take coffee breaks…..LOTS of coffee breaks :).  Those mornings really are as relaxing for me as they are beneficial for strengthening my body and a great way to start the day, which makes the impact of all this two-fold.  I am slacking on things I need to do to keep me running healthy and I am slacking on things I need to do to keep me mentally grounded.  I haven’t quite gotten a handle on how to offset this, as most of my evenings are packed full with volleyball and softball.  My biggest problem: I am rarely at home.

I’ve noticed over the past few weeks that I feel tired ALL.  THE.  TIME.  That is SO NOT me.  In the back of my mind, I have known that I was burning the candle at both ends and that eventually it would catch up to me – and yesterday it did.  I got up at  the usual 4:20 to get ready for our 5AM run but something happened when I went to make my coffee.  I was stretching and afterward….my back wasn’t right.  It just felt tight and was hard to take a deep breath.  I got ready regardless and was about to walk out the door when I saw lightening.  I’m not going to lie: I was glad that we had to cancel the run.  All-in-all, I just didn’t feel myself.  I felt sluggish, exhausted and now I had this back thing to worry about.  I went to work and realized throughout the morning that I wasn’t only NOT feeling better….I was feeling worse!  So I decided to take the afternoon off and that turned out to be the smartest decision I’ve made in a while.  I went home and fell asleep almost immediately.  I took three 1-hour naps.  THREE!  (And when I say naps, I really mean slipped into an unconscious state, because I was effectively dead to the world!  It might be important to note that I NEVER take naps nor am I able to fall asleep when I do try one.)  By the time I woke up from the last one, I felt human again.  I had literally nearly run myself ragged.

We were planning to run this morning.  When my alarm went off at 4:20, I heard thunder almost immediately and checked my weather app.  Sure enough, we were covered up in a thunderstorm.  So what did I do?  I set my alarm for 5:30 and enjoyed another hour of sleep.  I should have gotten up to do strength work, but as a good friend reminded me yesterday: sleep is an important component of recovery (and I have not been getting my rest!).  So after a pre-9PM bedtime and some extra zzzzz’s this morning, I feel like Jen again – spunky and energetic!  And I think the rest was much more important that an AM strength session.  Hopefully I can get that in this evening 🙂

This week is Teacher Appreciation Week and we have the BEST Parent Teacher Organization around!  They provided sub sandwiches on Monday, breakfast on Tuesday, and lunch yesterday from a local Italian restaurant (YES, I ate before I went home!).  This morning, the school board provided breakfast and even though I had already eaten breakfast at home, I pigged out on this breakfast burrito.

breakfast burritio

Oh man, was it ever delicious!  I am Texan – of course I LOVE breakfast tacos!

This morning I also drank coffee from my new coffee cup for the first time.  I love it! Another special addition to my collection. 🙂runner mug

Happy Thursday everyone!  I’m feeling fairly balanced…..for now! 🙂


Skyline Half: Race Recap

This will be my second (feeble) attempt at blogging a race recap.  My first time was fitting as it was about my first marathon.  I have remembered so many things since from that race that, during the race I wanted to add to the blog, but didn’t recall when I was writing the post.  I sat down after this race to jot down some notes, but I already know I will pale in comparison to my seasoned, more-wordy blogger friends. 🙂


 I was up at the butt-crack of dawn (which is to say that I was up at my usual wake-up time) aka 4:45 AM.  Luckily I had prepared my coffee the night before so all I had to do was hit the start button.  (Yes, I have tried the timer and NO, I don’t use it.  I just don’t trust myself to set it correctly.)  So I started my coffee and while it was brewing, showered and got dressed.  I was so worried that I was going to forget something even though I packed my bag the night before.  I’m going to spoil it for you now and tell you that I did not get out of the house with everything I needed.  The good news is that I only forgot 2 things.  The bad news is that both those items were food/fuel-related.  OK….back on track.  So I got dressed and grabbed my first cup of coffee (fittingly out of the coffee cup my Twitter sole sister @karaokejennjenn sent me!) and finally started to wake up.  As my English muffin was toasting, I checked my bag and set everything by the door.  Then I inhaled ate my usual breakfast of cinnamon raisin English muffin with peanut butter, honey and cinnamon.  (This seriously makes me soooooo happy every morning!)  At 5:45, I was out the door and had all my bags (and coffee!) in the car.

Barely made it Arrived at Race!Bridge

After a couple of “set-backs” en route, I arrived at the race with roughly 30 minutes to spare.  Normally this would stress me out, but this time wasn’t as big of a big deal, since this race was such a small one anyway.  However, I really needed to pee.  So my first order of business (after pinning my bib on) was to find a port-a-potty.  I was able to find a couple and got in line, only to have a race volunteer shoo us away because 2 of the 3 were out of toilet paper.  (Looking back, it might have been best to drip dry in the paper-less potty.)  We were sent down the hill to the main potty location, which also had a long line by this point.

The actual potties are in the top left of the pic.  Terribly long when you are about to wet your shorts.
The actual potties are in the top left of the pic. Terribly long when you are about to wet your shorts.

When I had arrived, I texted my Twitter friend, Erica (@anotherhalfpls) because we were planning to meet up and celebrate Dara’s (@daralem) birthday with tacos and (my) cupcakes after the race.  Would you believe that they arrived after I did, found a port-a-potty, used it and found me STILL in my potty line?  By the time they found me, I had to pee so badly that my mouth was watering.  Seriously it was nearing defcon 5!  Luckily, I made it before I had an accident AND made it to the start with 5 minutes to spare (even if the 5 minutes was courtesy of a late race start ;).

The potty wasn’t my only pre-race problem, though.  I had intended to grab a banana at the house to eat just before the race, since it would be almost 3 hours since eating breakfast by the time the race started.  Sadly, I did not remember the banana (the first of 2 forgotten food items), so I was basically starving at this point! But, oh well.  Couldn’t change anything, so I decided I wouldn’t stress over it (SOOOOO not me).  PLUS, when if things went awry, I would have a great excuse because everyone knows improper fueling can derail a race!

The Race

 This was the inaugural running of the Skyline Half Marathon.  It was a small race put on by Run Project in the Dallas area.  There were around 850 runners total, with roughly 350 of those running the half marathon.  Even though this was a small race, the numbers seemed high for the trails that we ran beneath the bridge.  The start was crowded and it seemed to take well over a mile before the crowds started to thin.  race start

My partner was running the race with me to pace me so that I didn’t run lights out until I passed out on the sidewalk (don’t laugh – it could have happened).  Seriously, though, he has come to know me very well and knows that I wouldn’t have been able to resist the urge to run full-throttle from the start, which could have led me right back into another injury.  As I stated last week, this was to be executed as a “training” run, although I knew from the start we would run a bit faster than our usual slower-than-a-turtle long slow run pace.  He had told me that the first 10 miles would be run around 11:15, with us increasing speed the last 3 miles to 10:30 or so.  (Please know that I protested this in full-blown toddler tantrum mode, even though these paces were much faster than our turtle long slow runs.)

For those of you who have the Garmin Forerunner 620 and have always wondered what the “Race” activity profile does, you’re in luck because I used that profile.  If you are someone who runs a race purely on “feel”, then this setting will work for you, as the only thing displayed is distance and time.  (You will get the usual mile split notification on each mile.)  If you are like me and look down at your watch only to realize you’re going 1:30 faster than you thought/should….this is not the profile you should use on race day.  At race start, I wasn’t too concerned about this, since I wasn’t to worry about pace anyway….that was the partner’s job.  LOL

Mile 1 came in at 11:16, much to my dismay after he had announced that we had gone out too fast and rattled off a 10:45 pace (I had gotten a bit excited that he was going to let us run faster than planned).  Of course, he is nothing, if not steady and our next 4 miles came in around 11:20-11:35 – all slower than I wanted, but he assured me it was well within his race plan, within his “fudge factor” as he called it.  My legs felt really fresh and everything felt so good.  I was able to get into a good groove early on and even tried to run off and leave him several times (not on purpose…just me in my ‘zone’)…until he asked where I was going.  I reminded him that the rope around my waist might have been a good idea.  Around mile 5, he told me that he was going to cut me loose at mile 7.  I seriously nearly screamed. (I have a feeling this may have been his plan all along.  I’m glad that he waited to tell me, though!)  I was sooooo excited!  I found it hard to contain my excitement and still kept trying to motor off.  I was feeling so strong at this point.  However, in the back of my head, I wondered what the second half would bring because of the second food item I had forgotten at home: my gel.

When our watches alerted us to mile 7, my partner told me to go run my race, that he knew I was ready and I would do great.  And as I ran ahead of him, he reminded me not to run it as hard as I could and to try to hold myself back a little.  Mile 8 came in at 10:30, roughly 1:00 faster than our previous miles.  I spent some time trying to get into a rhythm without running full-out.  I wanted to post negative splits, but I knew that I needed some extra strategy to navigate those end-of-race miles without any fuel.  I’ve never run that far without fueling and my breakfast had been sooooo long ago.  Mile 9 came in at 10:52.  I’m not quite sure what happened to cause that, because even though I made all these mental notes during the race…..I can’t remember!  I’m sure it was ALL due to lack of fuel.  LOL!!!  I did realize after mile 9 that I needed to start accelerating my pace.  Mile 10 came in at 10:02 and at this point, I was around the 1:50 mark and knew that I would really have to push it to finish before 2:30.  (A slower than 2:30 finish was really bugging me.  I just didn’t think I could live with that.)  At the mile 10 water stop, I decided I should probably drink Gatorade to give me something resembling fuel.  I didn’t chase it with water, however, and pushing the pace, along with the blazing heat caused me do develop some nausea.  I’m certain it had NOTHING to do with the big-ass bridge I had just climbed in the blazing sun.  (For the record, I still LOVE hills….and I won against that bridge!)  I kept pushing, though, and miles 11-13 came in at 9:53, 9:40, 9:47.  I could tell the heat and lack of fuel were taking a toll because I could feel my quads and was starting to feel a little fatigued.   There were 2 more water stations and I walked through both of those, but this time I chased the Gatorade with water.  It was just enough to keep me going.  Miles 12-13 were brutally hot and it wasn’t made any better from the way I was pushing myself.  However, I still felt SO STRONG!  I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t had any issues at all, and I began to realize that I could finish the race in a good physical and mental state.  The last .10 came in at 9:16 pace, but that was an easy push as I was under the bridge and in the shade by that point.  My official finish was 2:23:50, which is almost 8 minutes off my half marathon PR of 2:14:00 (which isn’t to be confused with my training PB of 2:04 :).  I’ll gladly take it, though, because the run was amazing!

Yes, Marci, I am keeping this medal! ;)
Yes, Marci, I am keeping this medal! 😉

Race Lessons

Every race teaches some lessons and this one is no different.

First and foremost, this race gave me back my confidence and swagger.  That may sound funny to a lot of you, but I am completely serious.  My spirit was almost broken with that ITB injury and I didn’t trust my body.  I still didn’t fully trust my body coming into this race, even with some of the amazing strides that I had made during training.  I owe all of that to my partner and coach.  Without his guidance to train smart, I can almost guarantee I would be injured again.  I appreciate his help so very much.

Second, Jen shouldn’t use the race profile on her Garmin.  I need to be able to adjust my pace more often than every mile and I felt like I was running blind when I was finally cut loose on my own.  Until I gain the experience to know the feel of each pace, I need to keep my watch out of race mode!

We walked through every water stop.  My partner is a big believer in this and I just shook my head at him.  However, it was WAY better than carrying my own water and it really didn’t affect my time.  I really enjoyed not having all that “stuff” to carry.

This was my first race without music.  I haven’t run with music since my partner and I started running together in March, so this is the farthest distance I’ve gone without it.  I really don’t miss it at all anymore, and I can even handle solo runs without it.  I do think that it is helping me listen to my body and stay more in touch with myself during the run.

This isn’t really a “lesson”, but I MUST work on my mental game during races.  On the races where the course loops back around, I have difficult time dealing with seeing the other runners passing by the other way.  It just seems like I will NEVER get to the turn-around point and in this race, there were two!!

Post-Race Party Time!

Personally, I was disappointed with the post-race support provided by the race organizers.  There was a water station just past the finish line, but then runners were herded up to street level to get medals.  So up to street level we went.  There was a tent with breakfast burritos and bananas….but NO WATER!  So of course we headed over to the beer tent and tried out a new lager that a local brewery was sampling.  Lakewood Brewery out of Garland was giving away their newest brew, Lakewood Lager.  I’m not a big beer drinker, but it was decent and it was wet and cold.  Wet and cold met all the specifications I needed in a beverage at that point.  After the beer, I headed to change clothes and meet Erica and Dara after their finish.

Erica, Dara and I were planning to meet another Twitter friend, Maegen (@MtotheG7) at Rusty’s Tacos in Plano to celebrate Dara’s birthday and our completion of the race.  Erica was in rare form, still angry at Mother Nature for blessing us with another blazing hot race day and causing her face to be ‘white with salt’. (STILL laughing over that remark)   (She had melted in Plano Balloon Half last Fall and I think she still has flashbacks of how terrible it was.)  This was my first time to eat at Rusty’s and I was not disappointed.  I am Texan, after all, and ALWAYS game for street tacos.  I was SO HUNGRY that I almost forgot to take a pic!! Rustys

We sat out on the patio and, surprisingly, it was so lovely and breezy.  It was NOTHING like the race course! The girsl

And after we were stuffed with tacos, everyone got a box of birthday cupcakes!Dara's bday cupcakes

 Have I mentioned how much I love making cupcakes?

And now, two days post race, I am feeling FABULOUS!!  I have zero soreness in my muscles and minimal tightness.  I even ran an easy 30 min this morning and it felt amazing!! The race was a win all the way around!

Have a terrific Tuesday!


Skyline Half: Race Goals and Confessions

My first race of the year is coming up this Sunday.  It will also be my first race since my marathon and the loooooooong recovery from injury.  To say that I am excited would be a gross understatement.  (I’m skydiving for the first time on Saturday, and I think I’m almost more excited about this race.)  To be honest, I really didn’t believe I would ever recover from that ITB injury and thought that even if I did, I wouldn’t be running any races.  I tried to quiet that negative voice during my rehab and recovery, but it was very, very difficult not to listen to it.  And that makes the fact that I’m even able to attempt this race all the more sweet.  It’s ironic (to me, at least), that this is the first running of the Skyline Half Marathon and this is my first race since of the year/since injury.  For me it is symbolic of my “rebirth” and return to running.  I’m not the same runner that ran the Dallas Marathon in December.  I *think* I’m wiser and more mature, but that could just be my partner.

So this race that is coming up on Sunday…..

When my partner and I started running together in March, he felt that I could be ready to run this distance (6 weeks…..that was all the time we had to train), BUT as a training run.  Of course, at the time, I was like – heck yes I can do it as a training run!  But Crazy Jen rears her head more often than I would like to admit.  I have been in a battle with Crazy Jen over how to run this race.  Of course, I REALLY want to go out there and run a 2:10-2:15 (actually would prefer a sub 2, but I know that isn’t possible right now), which would be in line with my last half marathon.  My partner thinks that 2:20-2:30 is more appropriate and a time that we can run without causing injury.  EGO.  KILL.  I’ve NEVER run a half marathon slower than 2:17 and those times are messing with my brain.

The last couple of days I have been trying to focus on some things that will hopefully keep me grounded during the race. (Plus, he may tie a rope around my waist to hold me back.)

  • The longest I’ve run since my injury is 10.5 miles.  While this is a sufficient distance to run prior to most half marathons, I feel a bit under trained just because I know I haven’t fully built my base yet.  Keeping this in the front of my mind is helping me stay focused on the fact that this is a  “training” race and should be run accordingly.
  • This is a marathon….not a sprint.  OK, THIS isn’t a marathon, but my training is.  I need to keep my focus on continuing to build my base slowly and steadily and not allow myself to get caught up in a mindset that will usher me right into another injury.  Thankfully, I have a partner that doesn’t mind telling me NO when what I want to do is bad for me, or I probably would already be injured again.
  • I tweaked my hamstring yesterday.  So this is a new development, but possibly one that will help me stay focused on an appropriate, steady pace come race day.  (OK, I’m just going to be honest….I would run lights out if my partner wasn’t pacing me.)  I was helping corner a kid who was attempting to run away and I took off in a little sprint.  Thankfully it only hurts when I foam roll and felt OK during this morning’s run.
  • My hips are off, just a little.  I haven’t been to my myofascial guy in well over a month.  This is a good thing, because I haven’t really needed to go, but I can tell my hips need some TLC.  Honestly, I haven’t been doing the stack exercise he gave me on a regular basis, so it is my fault.  They aren’t off much, though, and I don’t expect it to cause any problems during or after the race.  And the good news is that I have an appointment with him next Wednesday!

Here are my goals for this race:

  • Finish strong.
  • Avoid injury.
  • Focus more on feel than on time.  (I can’t express enough how painful it is to write that, but it is necessary.)
  • Enjoy every minute!

They aren’t the most glamorous goals, but appropriate for this race, I think.

This morning we ran an easy 5k and I was blessed with this beautiful view as I pulled back into my driveway. another sunrise

Have I ever told you how much I LOVE the sunrise??

Happy Thursday, all!

Mid-life crisis or total loss of mind?

OK, I’ll admit that most people think I lost my mind a LONG time ago…..and they are most likely correct.

In case there was any doubt left, yesterday, I did this:skydive

I have wanted to go skydiving since I was 16 years old.  My cousin, Mark, used to skydive all the time when he was younger and I always thought it sounded like such fun.  I’ve watched my niece, Laura, and my daughter, Taylor, go skydiving yet I never had the courage to actually do it for myself.  Last Fall, my friend Corky and I started discussing how fun it would be to go skydiving and that is how this trip was born.  We decided to wait until the weather was nicer and have been trying to coordinate our schedules since March!  My kids think I’m going through a mid-life crisis but I don’t really think that at all.  There just comes a point in your life where you want to start doing the things you’ve always wanted to do…..so I’ve decided to do just that!

There is one thing that gives me pause……I’m running a half marathon on Sunday!  Clearly I did not think this timeline through, and am hoping and praying I don’t break a leg or sprain an ankle!

This will be my first race of the year (and since my marathon and ITB injury) and the longest distance I’ve covered since the injury.  I have had a lot of anxiety about this race.  I wonder if I am completely ready and the reality is probably not.  But, I am *trying* to approach it as a training run, even though I have some time goals in the back of my mind.  I know, it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks.  Stay tuned to see if I am able to execute this plan…..

Until then, Alli has the night off from volleyball (YAY!) and our softball game has been cancelled, so I might actually get something done around the house!  I am sooooo ready for some down time!  Summer can’t come soon enough!

Happy Tuesday, all!


Sole sisters and beating the ITB

Friday was a really great day.  The staff at my school planned a spread just for the office ladies.  I have to admit I was a bit nervous, because spread food can be somewhat less than healthy.  Of course, everyone I work with knows my eating habits.  And this is just one reason I love working here….so many people brought “healthier” versions of food – just for me! 🙂  I was also blessed with this note from a coworker.  It completely made my day.  note

And then, if that wasn’t enough, when the mail came I was completely blown away again!sole sister

My Twitter “Sole Sister”, @karaokejennjenn had mailed me a package containing this coffee cup.  I absolutely LOVE it!!!  I have to say that I’ve had my coffee out of it for the past 3 days!

Friday evening, Alli and I made cupcakes.  One of her teammates was having a birthday on Saturday and requested our cupcakes. 🙂  She wanted red velvet, so it seemed like a good time to search for a good red velvet recipe (since I had yet to find one that I thought was satisfactory).  I am happy to announce that we found “THE” red velvet recipe.  It is soooo delicious!red velvet

I’m actually looking forward to whipping these up again, red finger nails and all!  LOL

Saturday morning I was out running at 6AM, in order to get my 10 mile long SLOW run in before the volleyball festivities of the day were to begin.  I know that no one would believe me if I told them I wore a shirt that said “Minnesota” on it, so I took a pic before heading out.  minnesota

I feel this needs some explanation…. A LOT of explanation.  Because everyone who knows me knows that I am a Texas gal through and through.  However, Taylor recently went to Minnesota to a National Qualifier with one of her club’s teams.  She found this running shirt in a store and bought it as a souvenir.  I actually really like the shirt, even if it does have a weird state plastered on the front of it! 😉

The run was amazing.  Absolutely amazing!  There really is nothing better than running when the sun comes up.  But the run wasn’t without its problems.  Last week, I suffered some ITB issues from mile 6 on (and it was a 10.5 mile run).  The rest of the day, my leg really bothered me.  I have been diligent with my foam rolling and strength training, so I tried my best not to worry.  (Those of you who know me know that I failed miserably at this attempt.)  It bothered me again just a bit on my next run, but got better each day.  This week, ITB started bothering me around mile 5.  I couldn’t believe it.  I tried not to get too upset about it, but with my history of ITB derailing my race efforts (and my first half marathon of 2015 coming up next weekend), it was hard not to let it get in my head.  However, something happened…..by mile 7, it had worked itself out.  I have NO idea how this happened, but this gave me hope that I am just working through some issues related to the distance increases.  The miracle in all this is that my legs felt AMAZING Saturday afternoon!  I couldn’t believe how fresh they felt after driving the distance to the tournament location, then sitting as long as I did.  When they still felt so good on Sunday, I really began to get excited.  Maybe this actually is related to the distance increases and not the beginning of more problems!

Alli’s team played in the North Texas Region tournament this weekend, in the 12s division.  The teams in this tournament were vying for a bid to next weekend’s Region Bid tournament, so they were a higher caliber 12s than we typically play.  The girls didn’t play well on Saturday in pool play.  We dropped 2 sets (we never drop sets in pool play) and ended up seeded 2nd in our pool, but still earned our way into the Gold bracket for Sunday play.

Sunday morning we faced the Texas Image 12 National team that handed us second place in our first tournament of the year.  They beat us 22-25, 23-25 in the finals that day and our girls were so upset!  Every single tournament, Alli has asked if this team will be playing in it because she wanted a rematch!  The girls seemed so nervous when they found out who they were playing, but they stepped up their game when they went out onto the court.  We lost the first set 24-26, after being up 24-17.  Heartbreaker….we SO should have won!!  The second set we rallied and closed out the set 25-17 to force a tiebreaker.  We went point for point in the last set, but ran out of steam and ended up losing 11-15.  The girls had nothing to be ashamed of – they were playing against giants!  playing against giants

You can see the size difference in that picture! LOL

I was so proud of Alli this weekend.  She really stepped up her game in getting to the ball and rarely called for help.  It has been so much fun to see the improvements with all the girls on the team this season!  We are now finished with USAV tournaments and can focus all our efforts toward AAU Nationals (and beating the Puerto Ricans) in Orlando in June!

Happy Monday!!


The good kind of exhausted

It’s no secret that my life is like a 3-ring circus, and most of the rings are of my own doing.  If only I had Hermione’s time-turner, I would be able to stay on top of everything!!  The past few days have gone by in a whirl wind!  I wish I could say my toilets are clean and all the clothes are put away, but (sigh) I cannot.  However, I logged some nice miles over the weekend and spent the rest of it watching Alli’s 10-year-old team dominate the 11s, so the toilets can wait!

First, I’ll get to the running updates:

Thursday evening, we ran hill repeats again.  They weren’t as much fun this time, because my partner had me run them at easy effort on the first 4 repeats.  (I was NOT happy about that, but he didn’t seem to care one bit in the least.)  The last 2 repeats were shorter, but he instructed me to give a hard effort on them.  I clocked a pace that I didn’t even know was possible for me.  OK….I’m not stupid…I know there is NO way I could sustain that pace for any distance at all, but it was a really exciting payoff to be able to see it….attached to ME!  The weirdest thing is that I didn’t go through any stiffness or soreness from this workout.  I’m still not quite sure what to think about that.  When I got home and showered, did some yoga, foam rolled and put on my new Zensah recovery socks.  OH.  MY.  GOSH!  I love them!!  They are amazing and felt sooooo good!zensah

Saturday morning’s long run was to be 10.5 miles, at a god-awfully slow pace.  However, I am coming to understand and appreciate what SLOW runs do for your body, so even tho my partner couldn’t make it for that run I knew I had to maintain the pace.  I kept the pace pretty well through mile 5 with not much fluctuation (SO NOT Jen).  Around mile 6 (when Jen got the run-high), pacing became painfully difficult.  I looked down more times than I could count and found myself close to 1:00 faster than my prescribed pace, but, contrary to my normal response (run the faster pace and just get a little faster), I managed to slow myself and get back into the zone.  This is quite a noteworthy accomplishment and I still don’t know what it means or how I was able to accomplish this on my own.

There really is no better feeling that greeting the sun when out on an early morning run.
There really is no better feeling than greeting the sun when out on an early morning run.
There really are few things more beautiful (to a Texan) than a field of bluebonnets.
There really are few things more beautiful (to a Texan) than a field of bluebonnets.

Around the time that I started having pacing issues, I also had some minor ITB issues.  I tried not to panic.  I stopped and stretched and continued on the way.  I wrestled with the decision to scrap the run and take a shortcut back, but I decided to continue on.  That was probably Crazy Jen rearing her head, but I can’t keep her locked away ALL the time.  I may be rushing recovery by having entered  a half marathon on 5/3, but logging the miles for that race training run was in the back of my mind.  Throughout the day, I felt that ITB tightness, but stretched as much as was possible (which wasn’t much since I was now camped out at the Dallas Convention Center).  The good news is that it now feels great.  I’m hoping and praying that it is all related to increase in distance from the more focused training I’ve been doing the last 6 weeks.  For now, I’m taking the Scarlett O’Hara approach and have decided I’ll worry about that tomorrow.

After the Saturday long run, I came home and did some recovery yoga and foam rolling.  Then Alli and I packed, frantically, and were off to Dallas for a tournament a the convention center.  Alli’s team played in the Mizuno Lone Star Classic, one of the National Qualifiers for USA Volleyball.  This qualifier is the largest in the nation (fitting, since everything is bigger in Texas) and is divided into 2 weekends…each one with over 100 courts.  The teams are seeded, then divided into pools of 4 teams (sometimes 3 teams due to numbers).  There is an AM wave and a PM wave each day during pool play, then brackets are played out on Sunday.  Most divisions are giving out bids for the Girls’ Junior National Championships, so there are 2 days of pool play for every age group except 11s.  And since Alli’s team is a true 10s team, we were playing in the non-bid 11s division, which meant we only played Saturday and Sunday.

We started our pool on Saturday with our referee duties and I gave our scorekeeper the match off and kept score for her.  Mainly because it would make the match go faster, but I also really enjoy keeping score.  I was much more comfortable keeping score here, rather than Friday night when I kept the books for softball.  (I’m too ADHD to keep up with the base runners!)

The pencils were old and terrible.  HOW am I supposed to make it perfect if I can't erase? #scorekeepingnerd
The pencils were old and terrible. HOW am I supposed to make it perfect if I can’t erase? #scorekeepingnerd

Then, it was time for our girls to get to work.  We were in a 3-team pool, and HAD to win both of our games in order to keep our hopes for Gold bracket alive.  The first set was sloppy, but the girls pulled it together and came out on top in the end….29-27.  The next set was a beating and we won 25-6.  We should have won both sets 25-6, but a win is a win.  Next up was an Oklahoma team.  They stomped us in the first set 14-25, but we answered in set 2 for a 25-14 win, finally pulling it out in the tiebreaker 15-12.  These wins put us first in our pool and guaranteed us the right to play for gold on Sunday morning.  However, we had a crossover match later that evening to determine pool seeding for those pools.  AGAIN, playing an Arkansas team, we lost the first set 22-25.  And AGAIN, we battled second set to force a tiebreaker, which we won 15-7.  (WHY can’t they just save my heart and take care of business in 2? LOL)

Luckily, a couple of moms and I got away for drinks in between games Saturday evening.  Made that last game a lot less stressful! LOL
Luckily, a couple of moms and I got away for drinks in between games Saturday evening. Made that last game a lot less stressful! LOL

We were back on the court early Sunday to ref, then play our last 2 pool games.   Just like Saturday, we were in a MUST WIN situation.  We had to win both of our pool games to make it to the 8 team gold bracket.  We took care of business 25-15, 25-5 in the first match.  The second match was closer, but we still managed to close it out in 2 games: 25-22, 25-23.  Making it to the gold bracket meant that the lowest we could finish would be 5th of 44 teams.  Sadly, the first team we were to face would be a team that knocked us out at a tournament a few weeks ago, effectively handing us 5th place in that tournament as well.  We played on our heels the entire first set, which ended terribly 8-25.  The girls came ready for battle during the second set, but we made too many unforced errors and ended the game a little short with 19-25.  Our girls were the only 10s team in this 11s division and ended up 5th.  There is NO way we could walk away with our heads down!!

Our girls are so much fun.  I tried to get video of them playing leap frog during the opposing team's warm-ups.  I mean, they ARE Frogs!!
Our girls are so much fun. I tried to get video of them playing leap-frog during the opposing team’s warm-ups but failed. One parent made a snide comment about the goofing off, but what does she know? They ARE Frogs!! (And they are TEN year olds!)

Normal tournaments are exhausting, but qualifiers are exhausting x 10.  We walked out of the convention center at 9:30 Saturday evening and had to be back on the court, ready at 7:30 AM.  I had reserved a room at the Omni, because it is connected to the Convention Center and for too many good reasons to list.  When we got back to the hotel, the wait to eat at the hotel buffet was 1 1/2 hours.  I knew there was NO way we could do that, so, much to Alli’s disappointment, she had to raid her Sunday snack bag.  I assured her we would find something healthy to eat at the concession stands on Sunday….she was SO worried about her healthy snacks!!  (WHY???  I had already successfully bribed motivated her to get her serves in with the promise of a smoothie!)  Since the hotel buffet had been such a fiasco on Saturday evening, I decided to order room service for breakfast so that we wouldn’t be stuck in that same situation again Sunday morning.  She was SO excited when it arrived!  Doesn’t take much to excite a 10-year-old!

Alli had the eggs and bacon.  I ate the English Muffin and took a few home fries off her hands ;)
Alli had the eggs and bacon. I ate the English Muffin and took a few home fries off her hands 😉

The Omni did a great thing for the Lone Star guests and set up a room in which we could check our luggage until we were finished in the convention center.  It saved me a big hassle as my car was in the valet.  After we claimed our luggage and finally got our car out of the valet, we were on our way home.  And in less than 15 minutes, Alli had settled in for a nice, long, well-deserved nap.

Yes, I took this while driving, BUT traffic was stopped!
Yes, I took this while driving, BUT traffic was stopped!

Happy Marathon Monday!!  I’m cheering on all the runners!


Thankful Thursday: Run Edition

Since it’s Thankful Thursday, I figured I would share some things that I didn’t appreciate before becoming a runner.

  • Sunrise/Sunset: I know lots of non-runners appreciate sunrise/sunset.  I was never one of them.  I discovered that something magical happens when you are out on the road, especially at sunrise. beautiful sunrise
  • Motorists giving pedestrians the right of way:  After having more close calls than I can count, I truly appreciate those drivers who do watch out for pedestrians/runners/cyclists.
  • Vaseline:  One word: chafe.   I know that a lot of runners swear by Body Glide, but I can never get enough on to save my skin.  But I can slather an unlimited amount of Vaseline on an area, if I so choose and it works REALLY well!
  • Sweat:  Sweat is awesome!!!  I never really enjoyed sweating until I started running.  I now wear it as a badge of honor.
  • Injuries/Injured:  Before I was injured (OK this was AFTER becoming a runner), I would shake my head when I heard an athlete was sitting out for a cranky hamstring or pulled groin muscle.  NO MORE.  Any little hitch completely changes the way your body moves and compensates.   I have a healthy respect for anyone who battles any kind of injury, no matter how small it may seem.
  • KT Tape:  KT Tape really makes everything better!

    When someone else tapes me, I feel like a 'real' runner.  It's like I have people.
    This was my marathon taping, courtesy of my myofascia guy.
  • Ice/Epsom Salt Baths:  I never thought I would say that I had taken an ice bath.  And yes, they are as miserable as they sound, but the suffering is worth it for those amazing quads!  Epsom salt baths are much more tolerable, because….they are hot!
  • Shoes: The right shoes can change your whole world.  It is not OK to just run to Academy and grab the first pair ofNikes you like on the shelves.  Vanity has no place when choosing a running shoe.

    I ran in Asics FOREVER but recently switched to Newtons and, boy, have they improved my running!
  • THE right fuel combination:  Most distance runners understand the difficulty in finding the right fuel combination to get you through your training and races without, errr, having GI “issues”.  Before I ran, I never even knew that runners would fuel during runs, mainly because I had never cared enough to think about it.
  • The feeling after a long run, or any run for that matter:  It is impossible to describe how happy one can feel after running 20 miles.  There is a level of fatigue that is indescribable, yet the feeling of contentment is beyond words.  And: chocolate milk.
  • Importance of proper hydration/diet:  Again, pre-runner Jen was never concerned with getting the recommended amount of water/fluids each day.  However, being dehydrated can kill your workout.  Along those same lines, so can crappy food.  I’ve also learned that a couple of glasses of wine and/or spicy food the night before a run can cause issues that my non-runner friends don’t want to read about (reference fuel combos).  Proper hydration and diet make such an impact on how your runs turn out.
  • Everything compression is da bomb:  I am now a BIG believer in compression attire.  Everyone in my little town knows me by my pink compression socks.  The compression shorts were a harder sell for me, because initially I was self-conscious, but they are so awesome that now I don’t care what anyone thinks! (Although I STILL get the stares when I run into Wal-Mart post-run.)
  • Becoming and early riser:  I used to HATE getting up early (early = before 7 AM).  I would drag out of bed every morning for work and on the weekends would groan when I had to get up for my kids’ sporting events.  However, I now get up at 4:45 EVERY DAY and sleeping until 6:30 on the weekend is late (I blame early morning runs and races for this).  And the funny thing?  I actually enjoy it.
  • Hills:  Going up a hill in a car is no big deal.  Going up a hill on foot or on a bike is a really big deal.  I love the challenge.  More so on foot than on a bike, but it’s an awesome feeling to battle through and win!
  • Community of Runners:  Runners stick together.  And since there aren’t many runners in my hometown, I have developed some genuine friendships with runners all across the country, thanks to Twitter.  I know, I would have thought it crazy and impossible as well.  But I appreciate the support us runners give each other.
  • Loving ME:  I have always been a firm believer that working hard makes you appreciate things more.  I approached this more from taking pride in my work and teaching my kids the value of hard work.  But it wasn’t until I started running that it spilled over into my body image.  Before running, I didn’t really “like” myself or my body.  Something was always wrong.  Now, I’m still pretty hard on myself as far as expectations go, but I have grown to truly love who I am inside and out.  I love my body – not because I’m skinny, but because I never realized how strong I could actually become.  I never realized the hell I could put it through and come out stronger on the other side.  It’s a wonderful thing to know these legs can carry me 26.2 miles!

What are you thankful for today?
Happy Thursday!!


Monday Training Update

It's Spring in Texas, y'all.
It’s Spring in Texas, y’all.  Dare I say this is better than the Cherry Blossoms?

Last week was crazy busy!  Recently, courtesy of my new partner/coach keeping me reigned in, I logged more miles than I had since before my marathon.  The running has been going amazingly well.  I still have those nagging issues that move around from body part to body part.  Having said that, I am running free of any major issues!

Last week in blogging was busy as well, with losing my tat virginity being my main focus on posting at the first of the week.  Then, I had the pleasure of posting my first blog “series” (aka bad running advice) co-written with my friend at Running Lonely.  I had SO MUCH FUN working on this with him!!  Hopefully, another opportunity will pop up in the future.

Back to running.  First, my partner and I were scheduled for some intervals early last Tuesday morning.  Only he overslept.  So on Tuesday, I did not run.  We shifted our schedule so that we would run on Wednesday morning.  Guess what?  He overslept AGAIN!!! This time, I decided to go without him.  I already knew what paces we were trying to hit and how long the intervals would be, so I set out to do it all on my own.  The miracle is that I executed them exactly as planned!  This was a huge victory for me, because, well….we all know I have severe pacing issues (or self-discipline issues, as some like to point out).

Thursday we basically repeated the interval workout, then took Friday off.  Saturday was an easy run.  I BEGGED for 1 hour, since he forces me to run these easy runs by time and not distance and he AGREED!  And another great run was in the books.

Easter Sunday was our long run – we were planning an 8 miles.  I was having trouble coming up with an 8 mile route and asked, jokingly, if we could run to my hill and back since that would be exactly 8 miles.  At this point, I’m sure he was possessed by someone else (maybe Crazy Jen?) because he agreed!  I have rarely been so excited about something in my life.  Once we got onto the highway, it was a straight shot to the hill.  It is about 1.5 miles from the point that we turn onto the road leaving town.  Of course, all that can be seen ahead is that lovely hill, taunting you.  At my first glance, I was so excited that I nearly started jumping up and down.  If I had been by myself I would have been running a pace ridiculously fast for me.  My partner doesn’t share my love of hills and is self-disciplined where pace is concerned, and even he was barely able to hold me back.  I was fully prepared to have my rear kicked by that hill.  After all, that hill is no joke and I hadn’t run it since November 17, around the time my ITB injury reared its ugly head.  I.  KILLED.  IT!!!  Talk about a feeling of euphoria!  I have been so dedicated to my strength work and cross training and it CLEARLY paid off!  I even joked to my partner that I would NEVER complain about lunges again! LOL

This pic really doesn't do it justice, but isn't it mouthwatering?!?
This pic really doesn’t do it justice, but isn’t it mouthwatering?!?

We ran easy on Tuesday morning, then Wednesday afternoon we headed for the hill again for hill repeats.  OH.  MY.  GOSH.  It was nothing short of amazing.  I killed that workout as well.  However, I did have some residual calf issues and general hip tightness, but overall my body handled the stress of the workout really well.

I had to run the long run alone on Friday, and was a tad bit nervous about holding myself back to the proper pace.  Remember, I ran ALL my long runs at race pace during marathon training.  However, when I am determined I can generally execute things correctly and I did just that!  My pace should have been between 11:45-12:10 for this run, and here is how it all shook out:long run splits

CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?!?!  OK, I know mile 9 was a little faster, but I always get excited toward the end.  The run felt pretty good aside from always having to slow myself down, but I couldn’t be more proud that I did it!  Of course, I was all smiles when I was finished!

Yes, I got a wee bit sunburned :)
Yes, I got a wee bit sunburned 🙂

I immediately stretched, slipped my pants on over my compression shorts and headed over to the softball fields for Alli’s first game.  She has not attended one practice.  NOT ONE.  We made the commitment to the volleyball team, on a team level and financially, so that has precedence over anything rec league!  I was SO afraid that she was going to suck it up.  LOL!  But first play of the game, she threw from 3rd to 1st to get an out and ended the game 2-2 on hitting.  Yay for not sucking!!

All smiles after our win!
All smiles after our win!

When we got home, I couldn’t resist taking this pic of the setting sun painting the clouds. Sunset clouds

I’m going to leave you with something seen at Wal-Mart.   My friend Carmen and I ran over last week to get some things for our lunch and neither of us could believe our eyes.

When supplies are limited, just make your own bumper sticker!
When supplies are limited, just make your own bumper sticker!

Happy Monday, all!


How to sabotage your race results: Part 1 – Training

My friend, Running Lonely, and I were recently discussing the ways in which runners (OK….WE) sabotage our races.  While I am more adept at killing my race during training, M has more patience and is able to wait until race day to do all his damage.  So we started thinking that maybe we should share our insights so that newbie runners (all runners, really) can learn from our mistakes.  (We fully realize newbie runners probably won’t learn from our mistakes, because, let’s face it: they are like teenagers who just got a driver’s license and they know more than we do.)    Part 2 will be posted tomorrow on Running Lonely’s Blog.

  1. Training pace:
    1. Never listen to the “experts” who want you to pace long runs at 1-2 min slower than your realistic race pace; instead pace all your runs at (desired race pace – :30).
    2. Why train at all? It’s SO time consuming, especially for distances over 13.1.  Just show up at the start line on race day.
    3. Drink 5 Monsters before your run. The caffeine will help you maintain your pace.  Take it from me – even GU Roctane is weak where caffeine is concerned.
  2. Strength training:
    1. Do not strength train.   Every moment spent strength training is a moment of running lost.
    2. Do you even need upper body strength anyway? Have you ever stopped for pull-ups during a marathon?  I rest my case.
    3. Forget the squats. It isn’t all about that base.  The Kim Kardashian trend will change and you will be ready and waiting with your tiny ass.
  3. Training plan:
    1. Write your own training plan….because running coaches clearly don’t understand your need for runs with “badassery”.
    2. Use the “more must be better” method: pick a training plan, but double everything.
    3. Find a training plan that best suits you. Then put each run on a sheet of paper, throw it all in a hat and each day draw a piece of paper from the hat and that will be your run.
  4. Rest:
    1. Clearly rest is for the weak, so any rest days are to be discouraged…unless you want your Twitter followers to secretly laugh at you.
    2. Take “accumulated fatigue” to an entirely new level and run twice per day – every day.
    3. Pulling an all-night GOT-watching marathon is encouraged the night before your long run.
  5. Self-massage:
    1. Don’t drink the foam rolling Kool-Aid. The “experts” are merely marketing geniuses trying to sell foam rollers.  Clearly they are getting a kick-back from foam roller sales.  Have you seen the prices of those things?
    2. Have you ever wondered HOW foam rolling can be beneficial? WHY would you want to feel like a hot dog at 7-Eleven?
    3. Foam rolling is clearly a form of masochism. Unless you want to be lumped in with Christian Grey, it should be avoided at all costs.  (OK….I know some of you like the sound of this one…..if you are one of those people, use a Theracane instead.)

      Marsden SWEARS this is actually works.  Looks more like a medieval torture device to me.
      Marsden SWEARS this is actually works. Looks more like a medieval torture device to me.
  6. Fueling your runs:
    1. Cadbury eggs make the best run fuel. Canadians will tell you to use maple syrup but I find it difficult to carry the container on runs.
    2. Spicy thai food before your long run will help your stomach adjust to the rigors a marathon puts your digestive system through.
    3. Forget run fuel. Your body needs to learn to burn fat as a fuel source.  Plus, without fuel you can experience hitting the wall on every run, which will prepare you for the inevitable on race day.
  7. Listening to your body:
    1. KT Tape fixes EVERYTHING.
    2. Drinking beer every mile will not only serve as fuel with the perfect carb:protein ratio, once you get to mile 10 you won’t care that your ITB is giving you fits and your knee is screaming.
    3. If you feel you may have injured yourself, DO NOT SEEK MEDICAL TREATMENT! Do not stop running. First, consult Twitter.  If you can’t find diagnosis and rehab on there, then Google should be able to solve the problem.
  8. Tapering
    1. If tapering is so good for you, why are we not doing it all the time?
    2. Taper spelled backwards is Repat, which is basically Repeat, which means you should repeat your hardest runs.
    3. You carb load during taper, why aren’t you run loading?

Hopefully these tips from #teamsabotage will help keep you running strong.  Or not.