Thursday Things

1. One of my goals for 2015 [I may talk about all of them at some point, I may not – don’t hold your breath] is to put together a cookbook. I’m not a food blogger and have no plans to turn STAMT into one. But I am absolutely in love with cooking. Like, fanatical about it. If you knew the amount of time I could spend in Sur la Table on a Saturday afternoon you’d likely be horrified. If you ask me to recommend a kitchen tool, I’d suggest you sit down because I’ve done way too much research on almost everything. I could watch the movie Chef over and over again. The scene with Jon Favreau cooking like a maniac after storming out of his restaurant? Ah, MAGICAL. Anyway, I will butcher the crap out of a recipe from the internet until it’s no longer recognizable from the author’s but will still somehow fantastic. The more I thought about it, the more I realized putting together a casual cookbook was really exciting to me. So I’m currently in the beginning stages of planning out recipes, deciding which categories to break the book into, and working on my photog skills. The book will be casual and I’m not looking to sell anything, but will happily share the final product [and probably a few sneak peeks] with friends + family. Stay tuned!

Not a Food Blogger

2. I bought a FitBit Flex. And then I bought a Jawbone Up24. And then I returned both of them. This is incredibly typical of me since I return 90% of the things I buy. The FitBit was cool for a few days until I bought the Jawbone and realized I liked it much better. It was more comfortable on my wrist, easier to switch between awake/sleeping, tracked more specific details about my sleep patterns, and synced to my Strava account seamlessly. Oh and the app was much prettier than the FitBit one – if you’re a visual person. So I returned the FitBit. My decision to return the Jawbone came after the 3rd or 4th workout I completed. I proceeded to sync my watch to Garmin Connect, uploaded to Strava, jotted down some specific details in a journal, and entered the distance/pace into my 2015 Training Log in Google Drive. OMG DATA OVERLOAD. I track the data [for free] in so many damn places already – why did I need another tool? The answer was this: I didn’t. Sure, the sleep stats were nice to have and integrating the app with MyFitnessPal [to track protein/carbs/fat] was helpful, but $79 helpful? No. So back to the store it went.

3. THIS. Do you remember trying to sing ‘Row, Row, Row Your Boat’ with 3 or 4 classmates in grade school? I couldn’t for the life of me focus on my own song [which makes me a realllyyyy stellar eavesdropper as an adult] and inevitably messed it up every time. So, this? This blows my mind.

4. My Houston Marathon playlist needs some TLC. And no, I’m not talking about ‘Waterfalls’ or ‘No Scrubs’. My current playlist has taken a beating over the past 3-4 months and some of the songs make me want to rip out my headphones and throw my iPod to the side of the trail. The logical solution would be to create an updated playlist. But all I care about when returning from a run is getting something to eat and taking a shower. The next time I think about my running music is when I’m starting my Garmin and hitting play on the iPod. SO! I need suggestions. Note: I spend 3+ hours a day in the car listening to the radio [both pop + country stations] so pretty much every song on the iTunes Top 200 list is out.

What song[s] on your current playlist are considered must-haves for running?

Houston Marathon: Training Update + Race Goals

Whew, the last few months FLEW by. Training, as it rarely ever does, did not go as planned. The holiday season and an unexpected shakeup at work kept my schedule bursting at the seams. The weather was a bit crazy by Austin standards and forced us to shift several long runs to the middle of the week. This was less than ideal, but better than bagging them altogether. It would have been really helpful if Brad had a gym membership so we could move our long runs indoors when the weather wasn’t cooperating. I’m still baffled at how many thunderstorms we had this fall and how many of those fell on the damn weekend. It’s also forecasted to be much warmer on race day than the weather we’ve been training in. 70 degrees? In January? You’ve got to be kidding me.

Despite a few missed training runs, the BCS Half Marathon in mid-December went surprisingly well. As I crossed the finish line feeling strong and proud having nailed my goal pace, there was still a lingering thought in the back of my mind: how could I possibly ever run 13.1 more miles? The marathon is a dangerous beast and no matter how well prepared you may be, you never know what’s in store for you on race day. Everything could fall into place and you could end up with a well-deserved PR. Or things could start to unravel at mile 12, a distance you’ve done so many times that it seems unfathomable your legs and/or stomach aren’t cooperating. If only there were a crystal ball…

Chevron Houston Marathon Course Map
On Sunday morning Brad and I will line up at the start on Congress + San Jacinto to take on 26.2 miles through the streets of Houston. We’ll each bring something to the table on race day which will help push the other past their limits, past their pain, past their doubts. We will lean on each other [perhaps literally at some point] for the entire distance.

Let’s talk race goals. Quite simply, our main goal is to cross the finish line in an upright position. I’d be lying if I said the time limit for the course [six hours] didn’t terrify me. I’m confident we can finish but neither of my other marathons were sub six. It’s a mental thing more than anything else. We’ve mapped out a pace plan which allows us to walk through each water stop and includes a 5 minute cushion for a potential bathroom stop. If we stay on pace otherwise, we’ll come in under six hours without a problem.

All pacing thoughts aside, I’m incredibly excited to head back to Houston for the marathon. The course is great and spectators come out in droves to cheer for the strangers running through their city. It’s almost go time!

 

Join the 2015 Race Crew! If you’re in the area and unable to participate in this year’s race, sign up to volunteer at Houston’s largest single-day sporting event. Perks include free parking, a Race Crew T-Shirt, Race Crew social media badge, Volunteer Certificate Entry into RunFest festivities upon completion of the volunteer shift, and a virtual goodie bag with exclusive offers including tickets to Houston Astros and Houston Dynamo. More details here: http://bit.ly/14lzozi

Registration for the 2016 Houston Marathon and Half Marathon opens on January 18, 2015. The runner cap has been increased to 27,000 and unlike previous years, it won’t be limited to qualifying times and lottery entries. More details here: http://bit.ly/14JqHzS

Double Digits + Reworking the Plan

Last night I overhauled our training plan for the Houston Marathon. Again.

Sunday long runs just weren’t working for us. The only thing we really enjoyed was the ability to sleep in on Saturday morning after a long work week filled with 3:45am alarms. Let’s not talk about how at 30 years old I now consider ‘sleeping in’ to be 7 or 8am. Any form of plans on Saturday night had to be turned down and the thunderstorms that kept showing up on Sunday morning meant we didn’t have another day to push the run to. Also, Brad plays softball on Thursday nights and most of the time doesn’t get home until 11pm. There is a 0% chance of him being able to run the following morning. We were constantly flip-flopping run days and it was frustrating not having a set schedule anymore. So things had to change.

Enter the Houston Marathon Training Plan, Version 2:

Houston Marathon 2015

I’m still toying with the idea of adding a 22-miler to the plan in Week 9. That would put our 20-miler the weekend after Thanksgiving and all of that delicious food would be great fuel for those miles. However, that would mean a 3-week build [rather than 2, which I prefer] so I don’t know. BCS isn’t a goal race so I don’t think we really need an official taper for it. We’ll just need to cross that bridge when we come to it. As long as we have one 20 under our belts before race day I’ll be happy.

Town Lake Boardwalk - Austin Sunrise

Last weekend we set out for 10 miles downtown around Town Lake. It should have been 12 but coming off of Ragnar Trail Hill Country the weekend before, 10 seemed like a more reasonable number for our trashed legs. The first 5 miles went by quicker than expected considering how heavy my legs felt and the pace was right where we wanted it to be. Around mile 6 the sun started to come up and we decided to take a water break during each mile. This dropped our overall pace a little bit but helped us finish out the run strong. Somehow mile 10 was our fastest one despite wanting to curl up into a ball and take a nap on the side of the trail. It’s been a LONG time since we’ve run double digits and I’m really happy with how well this one went. That being said, I fully expect to have a ridiculously awful 14-miler this weekend.

Town Lake - Downtown Austin Skyline

12 weeks and many, many miles to go!

Tuesday Things

About that relay… I’m still struggling to put together a recap for last month’s Reach the Beach. Ideally I’d like to keep it to one post so you’re not subjected to another multipart recap but it’s proving to be pretty difficult. Here’s the short version: it was awesome and I kinda-sorta-maybe unexpectedly fell in love with New Hampshire. In a “I could have a summer house here”, not in a “ooh, I’d like to live here year-round” type of way. My team was great, the views were gorgeous, the weather was perfect. It really couldn’t have been any better.

Reach the Beach - Pumped Up Kicks - Finish Line

Coming up next… I realllllly need to take care of the RTB recap because after this weekend, I’ll have another recap to write. For another relay. I mean, have I completely lost my mind? I voluntarily signed up for all of these but I’m sure it sounds crazy to run 3 relays in 3 months. This particular one, Ragnar Trail Hill Country, is a little bit different than a traditional Ragnar. We’ll be ditching the vans and replacing them with… no, not smaller cars: TENTS! Instead of leap-frogging one another for 200 miles from Point A to Point B, we’ll setup a base camp and each of us will alternate running 3 different trails until we’ve completed each once. That probably sounds confusing. I like visuals, maybe a picture will help?

Note: we are a ‘Regular’ team because I have not yet reached the level of crazy that one must possess to sign up for an ‘Ultra’ team.

Ragnar Trail - How It Works

The loop distance and difficulty varies by location [find one close to you here] but one aspect is always the same: you will be running on trails. Let me tell you a little bit about my history of trail running… Oh. Right. This will be my first trail race – ever. EXCITING. Brad and I hike a trail [it’s debatable whether or not you can even call it that] almost every weekend and sometimes I trip over tree roots in broad daylight. The thought of running on a trail in the darkness at 2am seems slightly terrifying. If I make it through this race upright it’ll be a damn miracle. Hopefully I’ll be able to tear myself away from monitoring every single footfall to catch a glimpse of those Hill Country views they speak so fondly of on the website.

Ragnar Trail Hill Country - Course Map

On internet life… Lately I’ve become increasingly aware of just how much of my life is out there on the internet. I knew when I signed up for Twitter and then published my first blog post in 2010 that that was likely the end of any semblance of privacy. You can search the internet and you will find me. Not on Facebook though, I have that locked down so hard that even my coworkers are like “I tried to send you a friend request on Facebook, do you even have Facebook?” Anyway, back to my story. It wasn’t surprising when someone from my past – who has absolutely no business being a part of my present – emerged and began attempting to contact me on various social media channels. They started with LinkedIn, then moved on to my work email, then called my work 10+ times a day only to hang up on my voicemail. They then discovered my blog and in turn, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. I know this because of all of exit links in my analytics report.

One night while stalking my Instagram they accidentally ‘liked’ one of my photos and then had a ‘holy shit, I messed up’ moment and promptly ‘unliked’ it. Maybe I wouldn’t have noticed if I wasn’t on my phone at the time – but I was. BUSTED. Instagram is now on private. Tear. This person also started reposting photos of my sister’s family to their own Instagram account. (!!) Seriously creepy. I’m not entirely sure they understand how Pinterest works either, because they repinned several of my pins, which obviously I can see. Pinterest is the probably the least of my worries – it’s a bunch of photos from the Internet pinned to categorized boards. But I blocked them anyway, because why not? I left my Twitter account on public because I really have nothing to hide on there. Over the weekend I had tweeted about the UT/OU game and this person then proceeded to retweet a few things about OU winning the game. This person has never showed ANY interest in college football, let alone anything to do with a team close to where I live.

I never really cared much about my analytics until this whole fiasco. I don’t have a ton of traffic but I know who reads my blog back at home and where they live. I began seeing extended visits from two locations that I knew were associated with this super creeper. And over the course of 3 days, they spent over 7 hours going through my archives. And then began checking my blog every.single.day [and multiple times a day] for new content. Did you know you can block IP addresses? Helpful information. The only social media stream left for them to see is my blog’s Facebook page. The views are up. WAY up. Directly related, undoubtedly. Unfortunately for them, most of my activity on FB is sharing links to new blog posts. Good luck accessing them, stalker, with your blocked IP address.

I’m kind of blown away by the situation. If I won’t return your phone calls, text messages, or emails … why would you think I’d respond to you on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest? Take a goddamn hint and move on with your life. It’s embarrassing.

Go Away Stalker

On marathon training… Remember when I was talking about how “life happens” and our marathon training schedule may need to be tweaked accordingly? I didn’t anticipate having to change it so early in the game. The entire first week was plagued with thunderstorms. It rains in Texas, like, twice a year. And never on consecutive days. But the rain from mid-September completely washed out [heh, see what I did there?] Week 1. Rude. The following week was a struggle to get back on track and I had to flip around our long run mileage until it looked like a feasible build up. Such a pain in the ass. This past weekend we had our long run scheduled for Saturday morning and it monsooned/thunderstormed from 1am through almost noon. We moved it to Sunday, even though we’d be out late the night before at a hockey game drinking beer and eating crappy food. Halfway into our run [with a forecasted 4% chance of rain] the skies opened up and we were stuck in a torrential downpour. Hopefully this type of luck doesn’t carry through the rest of the cycle.

10644726_10152496585697872_5277185455111227196_o

And So It Begins

Marathon training, that is.

To be honest, I didn’t think another marathon was in my future. The idea of it seemed fun as I tracked fellow runners’ training and PRs each spring and fall. I wanted to run the five boroughs in New York, snag a fresh PR on the flat streets of Chicago or even tackle the endless hills in Austin. But in the end it was apparent I wasn’t interested in actually training for a marathon: I was just interested in the idea of it. Philly 2012 had stolen my marathon mojo and it took almost two years before I felt comfortable committing to the distance again.

September 15, 2014 :: Training for the Houston Marathon Begins 

There’s just something about a freshly [somewhat]-finalized training plan that gets me excited about the months to come. I’ve tweaked the colors, researched tune-up races and pondered the pros + cons of running more than one 20-miler. Last week I decided to shift our running schedule from Mon/Tues/Thurs/Sat to Tues/Wed/Fri/Sun, mostly so we could spend Sunday afternoon on the couch with Shiners free of guilt. Can’t say I’m 100% sold on the plan because the idea of running long on Saturday morning and having the rest of the weekend free is incredibly appealing. But based on our track record when it comes to dinner and a not-so-early bedtime on Friday night, Sunday miles will most likely be a better decision than Saturday ones.

The one major difference between this plan and plans of the past is the number of running days. I’ve generally steered clear of running back-to-back days because that seemed to be when my shin splints would flare up, resulting in time off and training setbacks. After registering for Houston, I wanted to make a conscious effort to add an additional running day each week. In order to do this safely, I added an extra day every other week for two months, followed by every week for another two months and never upped my mileage by more than 10% from week to week. This may have been overly cautious but in the end it was successful so I don’t regret spending the time on it. Over the past few months I also paid attention to my cadence and stopped over-striding, which in turn eliminated that evil all-too-familiar heel strike.

On the other hand, this slow progression also resulted in something I’m not all that excited about: loss of speed. I’ve never been anything remotely close to ‘fast’ but to see what my overall pace is now compared to what it used to be is depressing. And of course running in the summer isn’t helping my spirits either. Once the weather cools down [November? December? Marathon day?] we’ll be transitioning our Wednesday run to a speedwork session. The internet tells me that if you want to run fast, you have to train fast. And if it’s on the internet, it MUST be true.

I’ll stop rambling now and give you the most important piece of the puzzle: the official Houston Marathon 2015 Training Plan:

Houston Marathon - Weeks 1-9

Houston Marathon - Weeks 10-18

18 weeks may seem a long to some, but I like having the flexibility in case life happens and we need to reschedule a run. There isn’t much wiggle room in a 12 week plan and that makes me nervous. I’m sure the mid-week runs will get adjusted along the way as well, but for now I erred on the side of caution and kept the mileage manageable. It didn’t make sense to come out of the gate with an ambitious plan which will inevitably set us up for failure. The primary goal as of right now is to cross that finish line successfully.

Houston, I’ll see you in January.