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!

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.

Tuesday Things

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1. My work-life balance is struggling. Our annual audit begins each year in March but doesn’t really kick into high gear until the end of April and carries through the month of May. May is also one of our busiest months on the revenue side. For the past several years I’ve made the stupid mistake of taking vacations the first week of May: New Jersey Marathon, Long Branch Half Marathon, Ragnar Relay Cape Cod. No matter how well I plan for the time off, I’m inevitably buried for the remainder of the month. The third week in May is always our annual user conference, so basically as soon as I have a handle on my to-do list I have to somewhat abandon it again for four days. I try to stay caught up on emails between sessions but it can be overwhelming. This was my 5th year working the conference and for the first time I actually came back to the office to get work done. It definitely helped me stay on track but there were still items that didn’t get done and ended up coming home with me last weekend. No idea why I keep doing this to myself year after year, but I want to declare right now that MAY 2015 WILL BE A VACATION-FREE ZONE. It has to be. I miss my sanity.

2. I was chosen as an ambassador for the Houston Marathon!  I was blown away in January by the organization of the race, the number of spectators on the course and how great the course actually was. The weather was pure perfection [this is a variable, I know] and despite having a miserable race performance-wise, I knew this wouldn’t be my last time in Houston. As an ambassador, this also means I will be running the Houston Marathon. After quite a lengthy hiatus, I’ll be making my grand return to the marathon distance in January 2015. And possibly the most exciting part of all? Training doesn’t start until September. So while I may be slightly jealous of everyone running Chicago and NYC this fall, I won’t have to do any sauna-running at 4am this summer.

COME RUN HOUSTON WITH ME! Early registration for my fast friends [sub-4 full marathon or sub 1:52 half marathon] closes on May 29th. The lottery opens up on June 4th and will run through June 19th , with results announced on June 23rd.

Houston Marathon Registration

3. In August I’ll be running Hood to Coast with Nuun. After several years of trying to make it on the team and now finally securing a spot, it still doesn’t seem real. Airfare has been purchased and 3 months from today (!!) I’ll be heading out to Seattle. After running Ragnar Cape Cod last weekend I feel less nervous and much more excited for HTC. I have a loose training plan sketched out for the next few months but probably will push the kickoff to the 26th. My shin & knee are now more of a dull pain, but I don’t want to rush into it just because the plan was supposed to start this week. Once it’s underway I’ll talk a bit more about the training. HTC_logo4. RedFest starts on Friday and we FINALLY won tickets. I’m not even sure how many different contests we were entered in to win tickets to this festival. Eventually we came across a voting-based contest, which allowed us to plaster the link all over social media. All of the begging [so annoying, I know] paid off when we scored 3-day VIP passes! To be honest I’m a little nervous because there is little to no information about the event on their website. They finally uploaded a map and schedule over the weekend, but there is nothing about what time the gates open or what activities are included with the ticket. I emailed them two weeks ago to find out and apparently they were “still in the process of figuring that out”. Two weeks out from the event. In any case, we’ll be drinking and eating for free all weekend while listening to country music. I highly doubt we won’t have a good time.

KASE-101-Cutest-Couple

5. We’re going to Europe! Unfortunately, the trip is 18 months away. After we unexpectedly had cancel our Mexico trip [which coincidentally freed me up to run HTC…] Brad was on a mission to find us a replacement vacation. One of his suggestions was a European cruise. I was hesitant initially because while our all-inclusive resort in Mexico was fairly pricey for 7 days, the airfare to Cancun was about $350 per person. A trip to Europe requires a ridiculously expensive [and ridiculously long] flight and the total cost of the trip was almost twice as much as Mexico. There was no possible way we could go anytime soon, so we pushed the date out to Fall 2015.

Cannes, France

It’s hard for me to get excited about it because it’s really far away and there’s definitely potential for a wrench to be thrown in our plans. But this didn’t stop me from ordering a couple books on Mediterranean cruise ports. On the agenda: Barcelona, Cannes, Rome, Naples, Palma Majorca, and Florence/Pisa. I’ve already been researching hotels and we’re in the process of learning Spanish. The plan is to be pretty damn fluent en Español by the time we leave. We’ll be spending an extra day before/after the cruise in Barcelona so if you’ve been there [or any of the ports we’re exploring] please tell me EVERYTHING.

The Battle of Need vs Want

One of my tactics lately on miscellaneous purchases is to make myself wait. If I can hold out for 30 days and the urge to own the item is still pretty strong, then I’ll pull the trigger. This is really hard when you come across something that’s on sale for much cheaper than normal and you’ve somewhat convinced yourself that you “need” it. For example, a pair of $150 heels I’ve been eyeing for several months recently dropped to $90. Great price – I have to buy them, right? Rather than jumping on the deal, I still held back from making the purchase. After two weeks I realized that money would be better spent elsewhere. Like on running shoes a new laptop battery.

Exercising restraint for a few weeks is difficult but I’ve found that 9 times out of 10 the thing I once needed should have actually been classified as a want.

you can't always get what you wantIn February I was caught up in the excitement for the impending lottery openings of a few bigger fall marathons like NYCM and Marine Corps. Reading blogs and being active on Twitter sometimes causes major race envy and this was a standard case. I needed to run a fall marathon! Houston in January 2015 seemed incredibly far away and I wanted to get back to the full marathon distance sooner than that, which had me crunching numbers and scrutinizing my budget looking for a way to finagle a trip to NYC in the fall. I realized if I was diligent about putting every extra dollar aside, I could run the race.

Marine Corps Marathon

 But after taking a step back for a few weeks, I don’t think I really want to. There’s underlying anxiety about being able to finance the trip. The thought of eliminating concerts, dinners out, and any semblance of a social life for the next 8 months in exchange for one ridiculously expensive weekend in NYC just isn’t that appealing. Running NYCM in 2014 is certainly a want, not a need.

Houston Half Marathon Medal

The race I have my heart set on is Houston. It was on the half marathon course earlier this year where the urge to run 26.2 returned. I’m determined and ready to make my comeback. So Houston is where that comeback needs to be! None of my race times are fast enough to qualify for guaranteed entry so I’ll be entering through the lottery once again. And if I don’t get in, there’s always the possibility of running for a charity. But I’ll cross that road when I come to it.

So that’s that. I NEED to run Houston. [and Houston NEEDS to let me in!]

What’s your current “need vs want” battle? 

 

 

2014 Aramco Houston Half Marathon Race Recap

I’ll start with this: going forward, it’ll be tough deciding whether to run 3M or Houston every January. 3M has always been one of my favorites: a net-downhill course, comfortable field size (6-7K), perfect weather, affordable registration fee, and a start line less than 20 minutes from my house. Living in Austin, running 3M is a no-brainer – especially if you’re interested in a PR.

Then Houston happened and I’m not sure I can put into words how awesome this race was. From the beginning it seemed like your standard “big box” race in a busy city, complete with the pricey registration fee and a lottery for runners not meeting the qualifying times. But “big-box” race it was not. It was the complete opposite of what I expected.

Aramco Houston Half Marathon

Pre-Race: Our original plan was to take the rail into downtown on race morning. Then the Pats/Broncos were announced as the early game on Sunday and we wanted to be on the road back to Austin ASAP post-race. We ended up parking in a garage near the GRB / finish area. I used the distance to the start as a warm-up jog and settled into Corral B just before it closed.

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Race: Well, this was certainly the most painful race I’ve ever run. My arches were killing me pretty much from the get-go, an issue I haven’t run into since last March. I’ve been running/training in the same shoe model (Brooks Ravenna) since April and my current pair has ~100 miles on it, so they should have been fine. No idea what the problem was on race day. I saw Brad (and Luke!) cheering on the side of the course in the first mile or so and somewhere during mile 2 heard a familiar voice yelling my name. I turned to see Courtney on the right side of the course running with her friend Cateline. Seeing her smiling face was just what I needed at that moment because I was super pissed about my arches ruining the race for me. We chatted excitedly for a couple minutes before wishing one other good luck and heading our separate ways. Wish I could have stuck with them for the rest of the race!

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Despite the fact I was hating life, I fell in love with this race. It was flat, shaded with beautiful trees, and the spectators were packed deep along both sides of the course. I truly believe the friendly & enthusiastic spectators are what kept me moving forward in the race. My arch pain resulted in the internal “do you want to run this race or do you want to run forever?” debate. I REALLY did not want to end up injured. Around mile 7, I stopped attempting to run (which was more like a shuffle at that point anyway) and worked on perfecting my power-walking skills. And took the opportunity to pet every.single.dog I came across. And cheered on the marathoners hauling ass to the finish, trying to qualify for Boston. If I couldn’t run, I was going to enjoy the final miles and race experience in Houston. And it was in those final miles where I decided I’ll be entering the lottery for 2015.

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Crossing the finish line was bittersweet because while I was super happy to be done, I was also disappointed in my finish time. But it is what it is.

Post-Race: Immediately after the finish line, you’re ushered into the GRB where you can grab food, collect medals, pick up your finisher shirt, etc. Everything was really spread out and not congested at all, which was great.

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After receiving the medal for the half, I grabbed a bottle of water and an ice cream sandwich <—- weird, but it tasted amazing that morning. Then I waited in line to pick up my second medal for running both the half and the 5K on Saturday. The booth behind it was for the finisher shirt so I picked that up and made my way to the HEB Food Court for the free hot breakfast. Eggs & Sausage > Doritos & Granola Bars

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Overall: I’m struggling to come up with anything negative about this race. For such a large event, they seem to have all of logistics nailed down. I’ve run comparable sized races which have fallen short in countless departments so I went into Houston with low expectations and ended up very impressed. The Houston Marathon and Half Marathon is everything the Rock n Roll races should be but can’t figure out how to execute.

The lottery opens on June 4th for the 2015 race … who wants to head to Houston with me?