Friday, October 28, 2011

Skunks, Dreams, and Stonehenge...

Ever have that run where you're flying along effortlessly, smile on your face because you KNOW you're going a little too fast, but damn, it feels so good. And then out of nowhere, pops this guy:

Who makes you come to a screeching halt, as you have a stare down, silently negotiating with the stinky creature, and  you both plot your next move?

That's been my life this week. Mostly floating along, blissfully naive, and then everything came to a screeching halt, where I've been left spending way too much time negotiating with myself, and plotting my next moves.

I also had a marathon dream last night, and I don't even have a damn race on the calendar. I remember that the course had terrible mileage signage, and I was screeching at all the volunteers that it was the crappiest marathon I had ever run. I may have even thrown a paper cup full of Gatorade at someone. Yikes, I really need to lock it up.

This week feels like mile 22 of a marathon, where you run directly into the proverbial "wall". Although if you're like me, a stupid wall isn't going to hold you back. You mock the wall, as if to say "really, that's all you've got?". My "wall" this week is more like Stonehenge

See all those little openings? That's where I weasel my way out of a crappy time, and give the "swear finger" (copyright Caitlyn) to the wall in my rear-view mirror. With a a pair of Brooks Adrenaline's in one hand, and a bottle of Patron in the other.

I have the worlds best friends, so I am latching onto all of them this weekend, to ensure a full- filled  weekend with lots of good times. I'm looking forward to lots of laughs at dinners with both my sister tonight, and then some friends tomorrow night. I shall then bring home Lisa to the finish line at the Cape Cod Marathon Sunday (I'll be running the last 10K with her), and finally capping off the weekend with a solid Tequila Sunday night. Booyah.

So that's life in a nutshell right now. Oh, and it snowed last night - in frickin October. Caitlyn was thrilled, I'm not quite ready for ski season. And it ruins my lemonade stand idea, to raise money for this marathon I'm currently obsessing over:

Maybe I'll do a frozen lemonade stand at the end of my driveway instead? Hmmmmmmm....

Happy Training!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Are you a closet "Phoebe Runner"??

Just having a day. A day where being a grown-up is hard. You all know what I'm talking about.

I went for my run earlier this morning, and the day kinda went south from there. I made a comment on Twitter  that on days like this, I wish I were doing a double because running just has that therapeutic way about it. My friend Dan responds with "sometimes you just gotta take a Phoebe run". I found the video, and laughed my ass off because if I DID go out to run right now, this is EXACTLY how I'd do it. Just because I can.

Unfortunately a run isn't in the cards for me this afternoon, but at least I was able to get a solid laugh in.

Don't worry friends, the splish-bling-stalking-indecisive-race-calendar-Meaghan will be back tomorrow. Promise.

Happy Training!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I interrupt your day to bring you this...

Its no secret I love to swim.

Swimming and I are like Lindsey Lohan and the law - super tight. I ventured away from the sport for awhile, but started to dabble my toes back in the swimming waters (pun very much intended) again a couple years ago.

The "athletic" swimsuits I currently own are faaaaaaarrrr past their prime - they are from the old racing days, and one can really only stack so many nasty, see thru swimsuits on top of each other before you just start looking cheap, and really dumb. Especially since the pool I swim in has a lot of young fast athletes that I like to pretend I can compete with. Despite my recent announcement that I won't be doing Ironman next year (should I have done an official press conference for that one?), you bet your ass you'll still find me in the cool kid lane of my local high school at the butt crack of dawn once a week.

A friend mentioned that the best swimsuits ever can be found here.

Ummmm, I'm in love. Although now I have TOO many choices! I mean seriously - when you're faced with either beating down 17 year olds in this suit:

Or either of these:

how does one choose?

While I debate which of these fantabulous suits I will purchase, I shall daydream about all the wee ones staring at elephant footprints on my ass as I pass them in the pool.

* I now return you to your regularly scheduled day*

Happy Training!

Monday, October 24, 2011

So many races, yet only 12 months in a year...

(no, I haven't made the pumpkin bread yet - the weekend got too busy, so it's on the agenda this week. However, if you DID make it over the weekend, let me know how it came out!!)

I have ZERO races on the calendar right now. Nothing I'm committed to. Zippy, zilch, nada. And it's freaking me out something fierce.

As I've started to re-aquaint myself with running post-Chicago, I've realized just how hard it is for me to truly engage in a run that involves more than a "picking flowers" pace without having a true race goal. I know there are a lot of people out there that can run for the pure love of it, and never feel like they need to "get" something out of it. That person is clearly not me.

Over the weekend I really started thinking about my race plan for 2012.  The one thing I do know for sure is that I will continue with my run focus, meaning there is no Ironman in the cards for me at this point. I waffled on this for awhile, especially after racing Pumpkinman back in September. I was sure at that point that I wanted to switch my training to a multi-sport arena. And while that race was so much fun, and I know that triathlon does hold a place in my future, it's not now. I still have a lot of unfinished business left with running, and I'm not willing to move on just yet. I have a LOT of goals, especially with the half marathon and marathon, that I want to conquer before I start throwing a significant amount of swimming and biking in the mix.

Which leads me to figuring out how to structure 2012:

(1) a late winter/early spring marathon, followed by a late fall marathon. This would avoid any potential "hot weather" races, which would be ideal.

(2) a focus on the half marathon distance through the spring, get my PR down under 1:40, and then take that speed and apply it to a late fall marathon

(3) my traditional schedule, which involves a half in the winter, leading up to a April/May marathon, then repeating the cycle again, culminating at an October marathon.

So what does a Type A person such as myself do with this information? Put it all is a spreadsheet of course!

I am the proud owner of a 3-tabbed Excel spreadsheet, each tab with the above-referenced scenarios. On each sheet, I have listed out several races, location, cost, and average temperature. Yes, average temperature. Go ahead and judge me. I have small races, large races, local races, and ones that are not even in this country.

Have I made any decisions yet? Nope. However I least I feel like I'm more in control, and have the tools to make a race calendar that will help make 2012 MY year to excel at running.

I want to hear about everyone's favorite races - throw them all at me! Reading reviews on Marathon Guide is only getting me so far! Although beware, if I pick a race that's near your house, you may have company marathon weekend! 

Happy Training!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread..

I am THE worst cook. Honestly. Case in point, the smoke alarm went off while I was "cooking" dinner for Caitlyn and I, and she says "don't worry momma, I'm used to it. It doesn't scare me anymore". Wonderful, I can only imagine what she's going to say in school on "Fire Safety Day".

However, in the fall and winter, I love to bake. Or make the batter, lick the bowl, and burn the product I was attempting to bake. Details.

Caitlyn asked if we could make pumpkin bread this upcoming weekend, and I stumbled across this recipe. I thought I might share, post their pictures, and then do a follow-up post with what MY bread looked like.


Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

Yield: 3 loaves bread
Cook Time: 60 minutes


3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 cups granulated sugar
1 (15 ounce) can 100% pure pumpkin
1 cup canola oil
2/3 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray three 9x5 inch loaf pans with cooking spray and set aside.
2. In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, combine sugar, pumpkin, canola oil, water, vanilla, and eggs. Mix until smooth.
4. Slowly blend in flour mixture. Fold in chocolate chips. Evenly divide batter between the three loaf pans.
5. Bake for 60 minutes, or until browned and a toothpick comes out clean. Remove loaves from oven and cool in pans on a wire rack for 15 minutes. With a knife, go around the bread and loosen the loaves. Remove from pan and cool completely before slicing.

Up next - getting back into running, and putting some more races on the calendar - WOOP!!! 

Happy Training!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

I'm Alive...

Fear not friends, I am alive..

Life is kicking my butt right now, and haven't had enough time to sit and blog, or really keep up on all my blogging friends. Please let me know if there's something big going on that I'm missing!

I started some easy running again post-Chicago, and I'm feeling the best I ever have post-marathon. I've spun a few times on the trainer, and also did a 5K last Sunday for good measure. As I crossed the finish line, promptly remember why I stick to marathons and NOT 5Ks - my legs don't work that way.

It's bizarre not having any races on the calendar, and frankly, I don't like it. I love having something to work for, and a goal that I'm reaching to attain when I put on my shoes everyday. I have a lot of races floating around in my head, and have looked at Marathon Guide more than a dozen times over the past week.

Throw me some suggestions friends - what are some of your favorite winter/early spring marathons? I am willing to travel, so hit me up with any awesome races you might have done, or heard of! 

I promise, after this week, I'll be around more often!

Until then, Happy Training!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Product Review - North Face Women's Stow-n-Go High Impact Sport Bra

Otherwise known as the best long distance running/race sports bra EVER!

Ever since I've been a distance runner, when I ran long or raced, I've worn a long sports bra with gel pockets in the back to carry my fuel. I can't wear a long sports bra without another shirt over it, because I'm just too self-conscious.  The two layers works perfectly when it's cool outside, but when it's hot, a long bra plus another tank is just too much. This results in me getting a lot of chafage because I'm shoving gels in my sports bra, or carrying them, which just gets annoying after 10-15 miles.

While walking through the North Face store in Chicago Saturday afternoon, I stumbled across this bra:

If you look closely, you can see the separation in the most exterior layer and the layer that sits against your skin. The ENTIRE front of the bra is a giant pocket!! I instantly fell in love, and then pulled the trigger on defying one of the cardinal rules of distance racing. I decided to wear it for the first time, the very next day, for the Chicago Marathon.

Race morning I lubed myself with tons of body glide to avoid chafage that the new bra might cause. I was simply giddy as I was loading myself with my 17,000 gels that I anticipated using during the race, and they fit PERFECTLY in the pocket. Sure, I'm sure during the race it may have looked like I was groping myself, but small price to pay to run the race carrying nothing.

Performance-wise, it worked like a gem. Granted, I'm not very well endowed (a small B cup), so I can't speak to it's performance in bigger chested women. However, for me, it was awesome. I was able to get my gels out very easily, didn't get chafed at all, and was totally comfortable. The pocket is totally flush with the inside layer, so it's very tight and not distracting. I also had zero issues with the bra when it got soaking wet during the race.

I hope more companies follow suit - it's a great idea for endurance athletes!

I wasn't asked or paid by North Face to write this review - these are my own thoughts and opinions. 

Happy Training! 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Closing A Chapter...

Chicago feels like the close of a huge chapter in my athletic life. It's the closing of the past two years steady declines in performance due to lack of proper training, nutrition, and recovery. I've reflected a lot since Sunday, and there are a lot of conflicting emotions. I'm not ready to put them all on the internet, but I'll share a couple.

There was no way I was going to PR on Sunday -my body was still too damn tired. Lets not forget in addition to everything else, I also completed a 70.3 just 4 weeks before the marathon. Did I race it hard? Nope. But I was out there swim/bike/run for 6 hours - my longest training day ever. However, I would be lying if I said I wasn't hoping for one of those special days in Chicago where it all magically comes together. That didn't happen, and I'm at peace with it at the moment. I did what I set out to do, which is collect data that will allow me to become faster in 2012. I also finished the race feeling good - as of Tuesday, my legs felt totally fine. It's a blessing, but also a reminder that I didn't push these legs as hard as they can go.

I'm hungry - I want to be faster than ever before. I want to start ticking off PR's, one at a time. I don't want anymore "have fun" marathons - or big races for that matter. I want to start every goal race fully tapered and mentally ready to put absolutely everything I have out there. I love to compete, and I want to get back to that place where the smiles come from passing people on the roads.

I look forward to 2012, it's going to be the year of the comeback for this girl. I can't wait to get back in the saddle, train hard, and see results. I'm ready to sweat a lot in 2012, and put in more miles than ever before. The difference is that next year, I'm going to do it the right way. And I'm so damn excited.

I'll leave you with a couple more pictures from Chicago - thank you everyone for your support!

Up next - the best marathon sports bra EVER!! And yes, I bought it in Chicago on Saturday - I broke the cardinal rule of not trying something new on race day and it was awesome!! ;)

Happy Training!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Chicago Marathon - Part 2 - Is it August or October?

I checked the weather on the walk to the start, which was probably not smart. It was already in the mid 60's with 82% humidity. This would be lovely, except for that fact that I run my best in the low 50's with some rain. I immediately pushed the Africa hot thoughts out of my head and focused on the task at hand.

Note: Not a cloud in the sky..

As we began running, my Garmin kept losing signal. I'm sure it was because we were winding through the city, but had I been running soley on pace alone, I would've been freaking out. Instead I just focused on my heart rate numbers and my perceived level of effort. I tried not to elbow my way through the crowd, or expend too much energy weaving around the other runners. I knew it would thin out, I just needed to be patient.

Oh, and I needed to pee! Bad. I mentioned this to Kristina at the start, and thought it would go away when I started running. It didn't. I had to make a decision - let it flow, or stop at a port-a-potty? I've peed myself plenty in previous marathons, but they've been rainy races making it easy to hide. I tried to just pee anyway, but I couldn't do it. Dammit!! Since when does MY bladder get stage fright??! I was so uncomfortable. My bladder made it to Mile 5, and then I gave in - I ran to the side of the road and peed. It was the quickest, messiest pee of my entire life because I was so worried about getting started again. Done and done - man did I feel SO much better afterwards! Looking at my data, it cost me about 50-60 seconds, so not awful I 'spose. I need to work on the bladder stage fright though..

After the pee-fest, I settled in at my prescribed heart rate, and the miles were coming decently easily. I knew the pace would be harder to hold as the miles ticked by, and the heat rose, so I just just focused on one mile at a time. The water stops were a full block in length, so I made sure to take some at every station, and also dumped a cup over my head to stay as cool as possible. It was getting so damn hot.

I managed to get through the first half at a pace that had me wanting a sub-4 bad. I know, who aims for 20 minutes off their PR right? But given the state my body is in, it would have been a huge win for me mentally. Yet, I needed to stick to the plan. How would I get the data I was looking to get fast moving forward, if I didn't stick to the plan? It was about this point in the day that I 100% fully committed to the plan, no matter what the pace on my watch said. Besides, this is the first marathon in forever that I didn't go out like such an idiot that I was left hanging on for dear life from mile 13 onward. I started doing fuzzy marathon math, and knowing that I had a little over 2 hours to run the back half of the marathon and score a sub-4. I also felt the heat rising, and my legs slowing. I tried to stay positive, put my head down, and focus.

My heart rate really started to creep up around mile 15 - I knew I needed to be careful, or I was going to be doing the death march that last 10K. I backed off the pace, which was extremely hard for me. I knew if I pushed, I could make it to mile 20 at a decent clip before completely blowing up. Yet, I had committed - so I slowed. I think I was visibly sulking when I slowed down- I definitely let out a giant sigh. I stopped looking at pace at that point because it was just making me upset. Holding a decently high heart rate, yet watching my pace slow significantly every mile just served as a reminder of how my body hasn't completely recovered from the summer's nightmare training.

Running while behaving had it's positives - I ran by mile 18 without questioning whether or not I would finish. I passed a TON of people in the high teen miles, just because I was moving/shuffling in a forward direction. I was able to high five little kids, and fist pump a little to get the crowds fired up. I was the least grouchy I've ever been during a marathon on Sunday, which was a nice change.

Chinatown - Mile 21.. Still Smiling..

I kept catching glances of pace on my Garmin, and it just sucked. I had been passed by the 3:45, 3:50, and 3:55 pace groups at this point, and that was wearing on me. I belong in front of ALL those groups, yet here I was, hoping to eek out a sub-4.  Again. And when glancing down at my watch at mile 25, I knew that unless I threw down a 5-6ish minute mile, I wasn't breaking 4 hours. I just couldn't channel my inner Kenyan enough to pull that off.

Here's the crazy thing about the Chicago course - it's pancake flat, EXCEPT a hill at mile 26. No, really. Is it a big hill? Nope, not really. But after running 26 miles of flat, flat, flat, it's cruel. I can around the corner, saw the hill, and just laughed. I don't think anyone around me saw the humor in marching up a hill after beating your body for 26 miles. I charged up the hill like the bad ass I am, and through to the finish. Marathon #10, in the books.

Up next.. Post-Race Feelings...

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

2011 Chicago Marathon - The Race Report, Part I

What a great weekend - I love Chicago! I had so much fun in/around the city, and cannot say enough incredible things about this event. The way the city embraces the swarms of runners and families is second to none, and at no point leading up to the race did it "feel" like there were 45,000 other participants in this race. From the expo to gear check to getting corralled appropriately, it was all so seamless and clean. I have no doubt I will be back to race Chicago again and again!

For me, the problem with travel races is this: I like to play. I didn't want to spend a GORGEOUS weekend, in one of my favorite cities, holed up in my hotel room. So we played. And walked. A lot. No regrets, but how the legs felt on Sunday let me to the "shouldve/wouldve/couldve" mindset for a little while when dissecting my race on Sunday night/Monday. I did make sure to eat dinner early, get back to the hotel early, and put the feet up for awhile Saturday night. I was hydrated and ready to give everything my body had to give.

Pre-Race: Race morning I was up at 4am to ensure I got all of my fuel in before heading to the start line.  Sara and I decided to fuel up in the hotel lobby. Let me tell you, I don't remember the last time I saw such debauchery. I wish I had brought my phone/camera to document the mess - the amount of drunk people we saw walking into the revolving door, stumbling through the hotel lobby, and dancing up the escalator was way more than one would think when staying at a nice downtown hotel on marathon weekend. No complaints here though - I ALWAYS struggle to get in food before a race, yet the distraction race morning made all of my nutrition go down perfectly!

We eventually made it back to the room to change, and went for the short walk to the race start. A beautiful, albeit warm, morning in Chicago. There was a ton of signage once we were close to Grant Park, so there was never a question as to where to go, where gear check was, or where the entrance to our corral was. An incredible easy morning, especially considering the race size. Huge kudos to the race director on the organization front!

When I stepped into the corral I looked quickly to my right and saw Kristina! How I managed to bump into her on race morning remains a mystery,  but it was a great surprise. Having someone familiar to chat with before the gun went off was awesome. Oh - and we saw the woman who went on to deliver a baby Sunday night - she was standing right in front of us in our corral - crazy! We heard the signal for the start, wished each other a great race, and inched towards the starting line. Luckily, having been in a seeded corral, our time to the actual start was only about 4 minutes. Not too bad, considering some runners had 30-40 minutes elapse before crossing the starting mat!

The Plan: I was given an "A" plan consisting of the weather being overcast and under 60 (HA!), a "B" plan which consisted on a warmer day, and then the "C" plan, which was laugh about it, and go have a kick ass time running 26.2 miles. The race plan was based on heart rate zones, and this was the first time ever I would NOT be racing based on pace. Scary? Yep! Necessary? Oh yeah. I haven't had a marathon since 2009 where I haven't had to stop/walk/cry/etc. This was my chance to come off a few months of athlete hell to race smart, collect data, and close the books on this horrific 2011 season. The weather was forecasted to be sunny and warm. There was nothing I could do to change the weather, only do my best to stay as cool as possible during the race and watch my heart rate.

Up next.. Committing to the plan..

Race Weekend in Pictures

What an awesome weekend in Chicago - I'm still working on my race report, and reliving every HOT sweaty mile. My time was not what I would have liked, but I executed the prescribed race plan. I gave everything my body had to give on Sunday.

I'm also trying to get back to the real life grind, and haven't had much blog time - please don't think I"m ignoring blogs!

Until my race report is complete, enjoy some pictures of the weekend!

Do I look fast???
Chicago is so beautiful at night..
Compression socks and a skirt? I think so! 
A Chicago sunset... 
Marathon Morning Sunrise..
The start line in the early hours of 10/9/11.. 
Happy Training!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Bring It..

Long distance racing is tough - thats a given. The long hours of training, endless packets of Gu, Gatorade, Nuun, and lots and lots of blood, sweat and tears.

We enter taper ready to collapse because we've worked our asses off so hard. Long runs, tempo runs, fartlek runs, track workouts, ice baths, recovery drinks. Blood, sweat, and so many tears. We've put in our best training cycle ever, our highest mileages to date, and ready to rest for the big day.

As long distance athletes, we put in the months and months of work, and on race day, we can only control so much. It's a gamble we take every time we sign up for a race - you never know what the weather will bring on that day.

Enter the 10-day forecast. Every marathoner I know will click on 10 days before the big day, in hopes of seeing a high of 55, and overcast skies. For me, add some rain, and you have a perfect race day. Of course, the forecast ALWAYS changes, so we go on weather watch, our emotions roller-coasting with the degrees of Fahrenheit. I behaved myself for the most part this year - I checked last Wednesday, and then didn't start checking it obsessively until this week. My anxiety was creeping up as the highs marched right through the 70's. Oy.

Well documented, this has been my worst performance season to date. I hit consecutive weeks of high mileage, didn't recover enough, and shelled myself day in and day out. I tried to keep up with other athletes around me, instead of focusing and growing myself as an athlete. When I hit rock bottom back in late August/early September, I decided to make a change. I reached out to a friend and fabulous coach who talks mostly in Heart Rate zones. I knew I needed someone who would help bring me back by strictly watching my HR, RPE, and also while acknowledging my level of neuromuscular fatigue and cardiac drift I had going on due to over-training. The exercise physiology nerd in me had taken over. I've had a September full of healing, a month full of great workouts, and a fantastic first 70.3, leaving me full of hope that I could pull off a miracle in Chicago.

My race plan is all HR zone driven, not pace driven. Of course, I'd be lying if I said I haven't gone back to ALL of my Garmin files to figure out where my pace may lie in accordance to these HR zones. As the temperature forecast has risen, I've gone back to the race plan and tried to figure out how it'll effect my Chicago finish time.

I made some decisions last night - I will acknowledge the temperature with a polite nod (or a polite middle finger - either way). I will also prepare the best way that I know how. I will be thankful it's not 100 degrees, which would be a much worse suckfest scenario. I will work through each mile of that race staying focused on doing the very best that I can.

Bottom line? Bring it Chicago. I am going to run the smartest race that I can, controlling what I can control. I'm going to give no less than 110% of what I have, and cross that finish line knowing that I have left every ounce of blood, sweat and tears from 2011 on the streets of Chicago.

Good luck to everyone racing this weekend!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Final Week of Taper..

As I enter this last week of taper, there's a lot less of this:


To be replaced with lots of this:


Last week of taper, you are MINE!!!

And in six short days. it all comes down to this:

Happy Training (or tapering)!!