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16 April, 2014

Sub-12

Dear World,

I ran my first sub-12 mile today. It's been nearly a half hour and my lungs are still displeased, but the rest of me is just tickled!


It was cool and windy this morning. I think I was just running fast in an effort to get warm. For that reason, I have a feeling I won't be hitting 11:54 again any time soon...but hey -- I wasn't expecting to hit it in the first place, so what do I know?

12 April, 2014

Facebook Post for Posterity


Yep...I found out on Wednesday that I got into my first choice (ok, only choice) Master's Degree program.  If all goes as planned, I should be finished in 2016 with an M.P.S. (Master of Professional Studies) in Human Resources and Employment Relations.

We got word two Mondays ago that they were finalizing decisions and should be notified by email within two weeks.  Of course, I had been compulsively checking my email during that entire period, and when I finally got word (at 10:31 am) I pretty much totally freaked out.  I texted my mom right away, printed out the acceptance letter, put the above post up on Facebook, and may have squealed, jumped, and happy-danced in my office (and the hallway by the secretary's desk...and the kitchen).  It took at least 1/2 hour before my hands stopped shaking!

I already had plans to go to lunch with a friend, and as you can imagine, my poor dining companion had to endure random "I'M A GRAD STUDENT" moments peppered throughout our meal.  He was a good sport about it though.  And for the rest of the work day, I was almost completely unable to focus on my job.

My officemate was off on Wednesday, so she got the news first thing Thursday morning.  Later on that day, we were joking about the idea of a rhino escaping and running through neighborhoods for days until the cops could finally catch it (there was context, I swear).  I tried to compare it to those stories of monkeys swinging amok in neighborhoods, and when my mouth started moving faster than my brain could catch up I accidentally used the phrase "until they catched it."  I immediately through in a "caught...durrr!" once I realized what I'd said, but without missing a beat she turned around and said "ok, GRAD STUDENT!"  I laughed, and figured out that this probably isn't going to be the last time my stupidity is held up against a new standard.

Anyway, no rest for the weary.  My final paper is due by May 2, graduation is May 10, and summer semester starts on May 19.

Wish me luck!!

Riverside Dash 15K Recap

Boy, I guess I let my recap duties get away from me a bit this week!  That's a shame, because I've probably already started forgetting fun details about the Riverside Dash.

I decided to sign up for this race because I hadn't yet done a 15K.  In my half marathon experience, the last 5K usually kills me, so I figured a race that's "only" 9 miles should be great!  I also figured that I'd end up having trouble with the temperature, and the forecast indicated this would be the hottest day of the year so far.  So who knew what would happen for the actual race?


Jackie was running as well, and we figured we'd start out together and see how things went.  She's been working on her speed, so I know I'm not going to be able to keep up with her much longer.  Even in this race I know she was holding back to stay with me, but she stuck with me anyway!


There were only around 400 people running this race, which was a huge surprise to me.  It seemed more crowded at the start, but that might be because there were about the same number of people running in the 5K.  Once we started running though, there was almost no crowd around.  It was really nice to not trip over other runners!  We also started out running about the same pace as three girls doing 30-30 intervals and another woman who didn't have her interval timer and decided to just stick with us.  Oh, and she was a chatty one!

Another major selling point of this race for me was that most of it was along the St. John's River.  While Sanford has some unsavory areas, this particular stretch of a normally busy highway is picturesque and downright lovely.  We were lucky to enjoy a pretty sunrise, and then those low clouds kept the sun out of our eyes and the temperature reasonable through at least the first 2/3 of the race.  I saw an alligator and lots of birds, but those are things that an iPhone camera wouldn't have done justice.

Much like my experience down in Sarasota, my stamina is still not quite up full-strength with my new intervals.  Around mile 6.5, I started to get whiny.  Jackie and our race-buddy-for-the-day tried to keep me motivated, but I basically turned into a human Snickers commercial.  Jackie and I have done enough races together now that we can poke at each other and know where the line is, and frankly her taunting and my subsequent desire to punch her in the throat really did keep me going.  And I like to think that my surliness was at least somewhat amusing.

During my cranky phase, I had two memorable bursts of speed.  One was a random sprint, where I passed both of my "coaches," who were quite confused by what the heck I was up to.  Honestly, I don't even know what the heck I was doing, but it seemed a good idea at the time!  The second was when we were approaching a race photographer.  I think my exact words were something like, "ok girls, we're going to start running when we get to that tree, and smile for the camera like we don't hate the world!"  It totally worked.  Can you tell how much I hated the world at that moment?

I love this picture, not only because of the cheesy smile and the thumbs-up, but because that's most definitely an "I'm running" ponytail.  You don't get motion like that just standing still!

Right about mile 9, Jackie's boyfriend Paul backtracked to find us.  She asked him to stay with me so that she could run in to the finish, and despite my protests that he should run with her, he did exactly that.  I kept my intervals going for the rest of the race, and he told me that the last tenth of a mile was downhill and shaded.  And he wasn't lying.  The end of the race was lovely.  I was certainly thankful for Jackie, and then Paul, keeping me from just walking in the last mile or two.  She kept me from getting into that horrible head space I was in at the end of the Sarasota Half, and kept me going towards my time goal as well...which I hit!

My Race Stats:
Chip Time: 2:06:28 **PR** (because it's my first 15K)
Pace: 13:34 min/mile
Overall Place: 391/418

Gender/Age Place: 41/46

My Splits (according to RunKeeper):
mile 1: 12:34 min/mi
mile 2: 12:57 min/mi
mile 3: 12:48 min/mi
mile 4: 13:02 min/mi
mile 5: 13:27 min/mi
mile 6: 13:26 min/mi
mile 7: 14:06 min/mi
mile 8: 14:05 min/mi
mile 9: 14:09 min/mi
mile 10: 13:08 min/mi (the last 1/3 mile)

Overall, I really enjoyed this race and I think I can see it becoming an annual end-of-season event for me.  The course is flat and beautiful, and there are plenty of water stops.  On the downside, there was no sports drink available at the water stops.  They also ran out of beer at the post-race party a while before I finished.  Since I normally don't bother with the post-race beer I don't know how often this occurs at other races, but it annoyed the crap out of me.  The race bibs had those little tear-off tags at the bottom for both beer and food, and they knew how many participants there were, so why couldn't they have planned better?

But at least the pancakes were tasty and plentiful! And Walgreens was there handing out bags with random stuff like hand sanitizer and pedometers.  Who doesn't love free stuff??

03 April, 2014

During, Take Three

It's been two months since my last check-in (and four since the first).  Aside from the fact that I have obviously gotten better at standing on the edge of the bathtub and that the mirror desperately needs to be cleaned (eww...), there really hasn't been much change.  I like to believe my hips and thighs have gotten smaller and that's why my waist looks proportionally bigger, but it's likely I've actually just gotten softer in the middle recently due to my crap-tastic diet.


I am now down 41 pounds total from where I started when I first joined the gym in 2012 -- just about two years ago.  That's significant, but not dramatic considering the time frame.  I've lost 12 pounds since October, and have 10 to go before September in order to get the extra $150 in "wellness rewards" from work.  (since the money goes straight into my FSA account, if I hit that goal I'm going to buy myself a pair of prescription sunglasses with it -- that's the closest I could come to blowing the money on something pretty)  But honestly, as long as the number on the scale keeps going the right direction I'm not really concerned about the amount of time elapsing.

Honestly though, the numbers are just the non-subjective way to gauge my progress.  In the past few months, I've discovered visible ribs and collarbones, and can feel the front of my hip bones.  I also feel better, inside and out.  I've even stopped lamenting the shrinkage going on in my top half.

Cat commented a few weeks ago about me walking around in a sleeveless shirt when we met up at Downtown Disney after work.  I laughed and said it was too warm out for the cardigan I'd worn at work, and she pointed out that not too long ago I would've just suffered in the heat rather than walk around that way.  She's right!

So, I guess the last two months might not have been all about earth-shattering physical progress.  They seem to be all about confidence.  I don't think I would've even posted this picture on the left to the blog two months ago.  But hey, I guess it's time to embrace my "perfect imperfections" and love myself at every stage, not just when I hit a major goal.

22 March, 2014

Sarasota Half Marathon 2014 Recap

I'm a little delayed on writing up this post.  It's been a heck of a week, but I'm going to do my best to put together a coherent recap.

Fresh from my great experience at the Winter Park 10K (and maybe a nap...) I loaded up the car and set off on my solo road trip to Sarasota.  I left home way later than I'd originally planned, and was worried that I wouldn't make it to packet pick-up in time.  However, minimal traffic on I-4 and I-75 put me at the pick-up location 20 minutes before they closed.  Phew!

I picked up my bag and, just like Melbourne, was informed that they were out of XL shirts.  No worries - I'm now a fan of the large anyway. I really like the shirt, though since it's navy blue and all of my running bottoms are black I'm not sure when I'll ever get the chance to wear it.  It's cute paired with jeans, which I found out later in my trip, so maybe it'll just be a normal shirt for me.

After I got my race gear, I hopped back into the car and drove back north 20 minutes to get to my motel.  I waited way too long to book a room, and ended up at a place I was really concerned about.  It turns out my concerns were completely unfounded.  Though VERY no-frills (hair dryers and alarm clocks "available upon request"), the property and my room were clean and well-maintained.  I got the impression it's a mom & pop sort of place.  I also never felt unsafe, which as a solo female traveler speaks volumes. I checked in, popped over to Cracker Barrel for dinner (hello, plate-o-catfish-and-carbs), and then ran to Publix for breakfast and some forgotten things like sunscreen and water.

On race morning, I woke up with the alarm and got myself ready to go in plenty of time.  I followed my directions to the race start and was incredibly annoyed to find myself pretty much in a traffic stand-still long before there should've been such heavy traffic.  The pre-race materials all recommended arriving an hour early, and I was even earlier than that!  I finally got myself parked not too far from the race start, oriented myself to the surroundings, and headed toward the start area.

...and the 30-minute line for the port-a-potties.

I have literally waited less time for Space Mountain (without FastPass) than I did in this line.  And the people around me were getting more and more worried about the length of the line.  We had over a half hour - I didn't know what the problem was.  And then I heard the National Anthem and couldn't figure out WHY they were doing that so far in advance.  I pulled out my phone and opened the pre-race email, and that's when I realized the only reason I hadn't been freaking the heck out this whole time was because I thought the race started at 7:30, not 7:00.

Oh.  My.  God!!

Luckily for me, a lot of people bailed, and the line moved much faster at the end.  And luckily again, some guy handed a pile of napkins to the line in general because most of the stalls no longer had toilet paper.  That might have been my fastest pre-race pit stop ever!  I actually did make it to the start with the group, but only because it seems we started 10 minutes late.

Sunrise over the John Ringling Causeway -- beautiful time and place for a run

As for the actual race, I really enjoyed the first 4-5 miles.  We went over a causeway bridge (...and you know I love a good bridge!) at about mile 1, ran through some fancy shopping district, back over the same bridge at mile 4, and then into downtown Sarasota.

I was also able to maintain a really great (for me) pace for the first half of the race.  I passed the 3-hour pace group sometime in the first mile, and never looked back.  Even the second bridge crossing didn't bother me.  Unfortunately, I failed to realize just how much longer this race was than the previous day's race.  This was my first half marathon with my new intervals, a fact that became abundantly clear the longer I ran.

From miles 5.5 to almost 9, the route took us straight up the Tamiami Trail, which is pretty much interchangeable with 192, 50, OBT, or any other highway dotted with strip malls, dollar stores, and other assorted chain stores.  In other words, blah - I can't believe I paid to run this route.  However, because Sarasota is such an artsy locale, there were random sculptures dotting the otherwise mundane roadway.  Even the abortion clinic had a metal sculpture (ironically, of a stick figure woman holding a baby) out front.

Just after mile 8, the 3-hour group caught up to me.  And within a half mile, they were gone from sight.  That really did a number on my psyche, as I realized that particular goal would continue to elude me.  By mile 10, I was drained.  I couldn't remember the last time I felt like my feet were lead and my legs just didn't want to keep going.  But I soldiered on, occasionally skipping an interval, doing mental math on my pace at each mile marker I came to.

By the 12-mile marker, I realized that the 14-minute pace would require me to do the last 1.1 miles in 13 minutes.  That was a total impossibility.  And I gave up.  I kept moving, because I certainly wasn't going to quit, but I walked most of that last mile.  I did get one burst of speed to go past a pair of photographers, and I dug deep to run the last 100 yards to the finish line.  I got my medal, my water, posed for a few photos, and headed to the post-race area for some breakfast.

This race had a pretty cool feature I hadn't seen before.  There were two people at the results tent who typed your race number into a laptop, which spit out a receipt telling you your preliminary results.  Once back at the car, I looked up my results from Princess and realized I actually did PR this race, but I really didn't feel like I deserved to.  My brain just wasn't where it should've been at the end, and I wasn't proud of the way I just gave in.

My Race Stats:
Chip Time: 3:07:19 **PR** (by 91 seconds)
Pace: 14:18 min/mile
Overall Place: 2940/3237
Gender Place: 1812/2059

My Splits (according to RunKeeper):
mile 1: 12:12 min/mi
mile 2: 13:05 min/mi
mile 3: 12:48 min/mi
mile 4: 13:12 min/mi
mile 5: 14:02 min/mi
mile 6: 13:22 min/mi
mile 7: 13:46 min/mi
mile 8: 14:11 min/mi
mile 9: 14:08 min/mi
mile 10: 13:59 min/mi
mile 11: 14:42 min/mi
mile 12: 15:11 min/mi
mile 13: 15:33 min/mi

I didn't like this year's medal.

I was pretty frank about the fact that I was signing up because I wanted the big shiny dolphin medal (image search for the medals from past years).  The race organizers advertise the "largest race medal in Florida," which isn't important to me at all.  I want pretty medals that look awesome hanging on my wall.  This one looks more like a dark blue saucer on a ribbon, and you really have to squint to even see the dolphins.

I guess it was important for me to learn that lesson.  You don't sign up for the "bling;" you sign up for the race experience.

I liked this race, and I'll definitely do it again.  I was planning to sign up for next year this week when it was 50% off, but ended up with a very sick kitty and no spare money for race registration.  I really do feel like I have something to prove to myself, like I need to conquer the last 5 miles of this race and prove I can do it strongly.  I also liked the post-race party, even though I didn't visit the "beer garden" or seek out any food past the (delicious) yogurt parfaits.

Aside from the bridges, the course is flat.  And there aren't a whole lot of choke points on the route. The water stations are well-staffed, and in addition to some weird gummy candy fuel at two stops, there were volunteers handing out fruit (hello, giant strawberry!).  I strongly recommend putting it on your race bucket list, just not for the giant medal!

15 March, 2014

Winter Park Road Race 10K Recap

This morning had absolutely perfect race weather - mid 50's at the start, clear, and the best part - not humid!

I signed up for this race less than a week ago. I had only done one five-mile run since Glass Slipper and figured it would be a good warm-up for the Sarasota Half AND test run of my new shoes (another pair of my Brooks Glycerin 11 "blue man shoes"). Plus the race had a medal, gorgeous tech shirt, and a souvenir glass. Hooray for race swag!

Now *that's* a picturesque mile marker!

Track Shack puts on the most consistently well-run races, and Winter Park is a beautiful place to run. It's not necessarily an easy place to run, with uneven brick streets, but I managed to get through today with my knees and ankles intact. The volunteers and support staff were great, and I had a really positive experience.

The race field quickly spread, so within two miles the jostling and jockeying for position was minimal. And the vast majority of my fellow interval walk-runners were courteous about not walking multiple people abreast, blocking the road.

My "dirty old lady" moment of the race came when running past the shore where the Stetson University crew team were getting ready for practice.  It was all I could do to not run backwards after I passed them.

I have to say this race was just plain fun for me.  The 10K seems to be a good distance for me to push for a little bit more speed, but still feel happy and alive when I finish.   Aaand it gives me the opportunity to wear silly socks. That's always a bonus!!


One more random thing I'd like to share about this race: this was the first time I did a race wearing compression pants without baggier shorts on top.  I lucked out with the weather, because I ended up having that long-sleeve shirt tied at my waist covering my butt.  But look who's not totally ashamed of her thighs anymore!

My Race Stats:
Clock Time: 1:25:52
Chip Time: 1:24:13 *PR*
Pace: 13:33
Overall Place: 2472/2820
Gender Place: 1501/1782
Maybe someday I'll claw my way into the top 75% of a non-Disney race field. Maybe...

My Splits (according to RunKeeper):
Mile 1: 12:00 min/mile *1-mile PR*
Mile 2: 12:52 min/mile
Mile 3: 13:18 min/mile
Mile 4: 13:12 min/mile
Mile 5: 13:07 min/mile
Mile 6: 13:34 min/mile

12 March, 2014

Turnpike Trouble

I have a bad history of getting turned around on the Florida Turnpike.  Back in 2003, I went south when I should've gone north and ended up spending the night in Yeehaw Junction.  It's a much longer and funnier story, but apparently my original blog was wiped off of its server before I could archive it.  You'll just have to take my word for it!

Last year, I got the Turnpike and 408 mixed up and ended up near the Florida Mall instead of my car dealership on East Colonial.

So today?  It's shameful, but not surprising.  Take a look at this image.  I started out at Track Shack (uppper-right corner) and was supposed to follow the blue line left towards home.  Instead, I took the scenic red route.


Here's what happened:

I took 408 westbound toward home, and decided not to take the 50 exit because I wanted to avoid the Ocoee traffic/traffic lights.  I thought I'd merge onto the Turnpike and get off near Winter Garden Village to stop at Publix for dinner fixin's.  Where 408 ended, my options were Turnpike North or South.  My muscle memory told me to go North, but my brain had a moment of panic and at the last minute I decided to go South.

I was literally about 10 feet past where the concrete barricade on the right starts when I realized I had gone the wrong direction.  Even worse: I was pretty sure there were no exits before I-4.

There's a service plaza a few minutes down the road -- one of those that exists in the middle of the road so it's accessible to travelers going both directions -- but I figured I wouldn't be able to switch directions there.  As I drove past, I noticed some of the signage at the exit of the service plaza.

I could've switched directions there.

So I went all the way to I-4 and then meandered around the back side of Disney towards home.  The trip that Google Maps tells me should've only taken 23 minutes ended up taking more than an hour.  Like I said, it's shameful but not surprising.  I'm an excellent navigator, but not when I'm also the pilot.

03 March, 2014

35

For posterity, this is me on my "halfway to 70" birthday. Two different people gifted me with tiaras, and more people made me feel special than I would have believed possible. It was a wonderful day.

...and yes, that's me wearing a tiara at work, wearing another one in the car, and enjoying coloring and cocktails (ok, juice) with Cassidy (not pictured: Matthew, Scott, and my "work boyfriends" Dave and Rob) at the Ale House after work!