13.1 and I need your help!

Yesterday the nation observed Martin Luther King Jr. Day and a lot of people were off of work.  Since I attend a public university, we were also out of school.  My former Biggest Winner friend Bryan sent me a message asking if I wanted to go run Cades Cove Loop.  Of course my first questions included which route we were taking, what time, and what pace.  He assured me we would take the 8 mile loop option and go at a slower pace.  He also informed me that after we ran we could meet up with some members of the BW team and our coach, Missy Kane, to do a hike.  It sounded daunting but I willingly agreed.

Yesterday morning I bundled up and headed up to the Cove.  I did not see an entire car the entire time which is extremely rare for the national park.  I was able to get some dynamic stretching in so I was pretty much already bundled up before we even started.  The loop is gorgeous no matter what time of day or year it is but it was especially beautiful yesterday.  We were running a fairly solid pace and chose to walk up the hills.  It felt so great out and I never got cold again once we started.  It was nice to have some views to go with the run and then also have guaranteed walk breaks.  I never really looked down at my watch that much but I was grateful we were only doing 8 miles instead of the usual 11 mile option.   OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

My breathing was on point and I was able to talk almost the entire time which basically never happens.  We saw a few cars and they all smiled and waved which is also highly unusual.  Before we knew it we had less than a mile to go.  Around that time we ran into Missy and some of the team members and told them we would meet them at the trailhead.  We had to go an extra point one so that our run equaled out 8.1 miles for our run.  Even though we walked some of it, I still felt satisfied with the effort and I’m looking forward to running it faster.

saw some deer!

saw some deer!

The bathroom I changed in was heated which is a RARITY in the national park.  Thank goodness for it.  After getting dry we headed up to the trailhead for Abrams Falls.  After some group pictures we were on our way.  My legs felt awesome and I was glad to be getting five more miles in.  Bryan and I stayed towards the back with our team members.  I tried to be motivating by telling them how far we had gone per my Garmin but that seemed to have the opposite effect since very often when hiking the distance you *think* you have gone is very different from what you actually have.  We made it to the falls and got to sit down and hang out for a while.  The water was fantastic looking!  1.20.14abrams1.20.14missybryan

On the way back we decided to get ahead of the group and just head back to the car.  Our poor legs were tired and we were ready to get some food and get home.  Once we got back to the parking lot we had to make a big loop around the parking lot to make it an even five miles which ended the day at 13.1 for us.  Holy cow, we did a half marathon on our off day.  I went home and piled up on the couch and did not move except to go to the bathroom.  Laziness at its finest. Surprisingly this morning I wasn’t even sore and I was able to get in two miles at the indoor track at the gym followed by a kickboxing class.  Roundhouses are just what my legs needed today.

As I have mentioned before…one of my lifelong goals is to run a half marathon in every state.  Some people share this goal with me and some people have already done it or are really close to having all states completed.  I saw yesterday that ZOOMA race series is giving away an all expenses paid trip to Napa, California for one lucky blogger AND one of their readers (that could be YOU).  It is the chance of a lifetime and it would be so nice to win PLUS take a very special reader.  If you get a chance, please head on over and vote for me on their Facebook page.  You are allowed one vote per day so check back and vote again. Bonus points if you share with your friends.  Seriously, winning that trip would not only allow me to knock California off my list but I could take a wonderful reader with me and be surrounded by so many inspiring women.  Thanks, ZOOMA for hosting this!  Head on over and vote for me…you’ll see my picture and the name Kelsey/Go Girl.  Thanks so much, y’all.

Learning to Love Running

In elementary school my mother was really into local races.  She would do a local 5k and I would wait patiently at the finish line for her to come across.  This is where I was first introduced to the sport and to the racing scene.  I did a few with her and I distinctly remember one race where I actually got lost and had to find a police officer (I obviously listened in school to find a cop when in doubt) to have him take me back to finish line to meet my mom.  What a great way to start the racing career.

thanks, momma!

thanks, momma!

In 8th grade I was on the track team.  My 200 pound plus body proudly did what every other larger person on the team did.  We threw shotput.  Obviously I wasn’t a prodigy at it but being on an organized sports team made me feel athletic and included.  I would cringe when our coach made us run.  Why did the throwers have to run when our event involved absolutely zero running?  I hated running and wanted no part of it.

Thanks to my mom’s racing days in my childhood I was no stranger to races.  I knew what to expect and what made a good race or bad race.  But that didn’t mean I necessarily liked running.  For my freshman year project in college, I took up local races.  Originally it was just to “fit in” and seem athletic.  I’ve mentioned in my weight loss story that somehow completing races made me feel like more of a person and gave me a sense of value.  In my mind, completing races made me fit.  Oh, how wrong I was.

For the Biggest Winner team the following year I ran to try to lose weight.  It worked for the most part but I didn’t really love it.  I just loved the benefits.  When I rowed at UT, we had to run all the time and that’s where I sort of started to like it.  I enjoyed getting faster.  I enjoyed seeing my interval repeats get faster at the track workouts.  I enjoyed being able to run more than 3 miles without any walk breaks.  The love of running actually started to wear off on me.  But once rowing was over so was my love for running and I fell back into the whole “running so I can eat” and “running to lose weight” categories.  Nothing wrong with that but it is just not where I wanted to be.

running so I can eat rock candy!

running so I can eat rock candy!

It took me flying across the country to run through Las Vegas to help me fall in love with the sport.  Running Ragnar Vegas was everything I wanted running to be.  I got to be in a beautiful place and actually enjoy the views around me instead of slugging through and only looking at the ground.  I got to cheer on my wonderful teammates which really showed what the sport should be about.  I ran fast (for me) paces and wasn’t scared if I had to take a few walk breaks.  I freaking loved every minute of it!!  I still truly believe that the relay really set the fire in me.

the face of a girl who loves to run!

the face of a girl who loves to run!

Right after coming back from Vegas we started training with the new Biggest Winner team.  After talking with the Biggest Winner from last year we set up a training plan.  I shared the plan with my favorite running pal Brittney and we began.   At first it was scary following a plan.  I was scared to push myself outside of my comfort zone.  I was scared to think about running up hills (for fun).  I was scared to run on the treadmill.  But you know what?  I love running AND I love myself and sometimes it takes doing things that scare you to show you that you actually like something.

I LOVE RUNNING!!

I LOVE RUNNING!!

Last week I did a hill workout on the treadmill.  Yes it was hard and no I didn’t enjoy every second of it but I got off feeling proud of myself and a little less scared about the whole running thing.    1.7.14hills

This weekend I did 8 miles with the Knoxville Track Club.  I used some good run/walk intervals and the much needed help of my friend Bryan but I conquered 8 miles.  The best part was not even being sore the next day which gave me permission to push even harder next week.  The next day, my Momma and I went on a walk and we hit up Stonegate and I ran up this huge hill.  Yes it was hard and yes I wanted to quit but I felt so much better after getting to the top.  Running isn’t easy.  It is hard and it takes practice and dedication but it is worth it.  1.7.14miles 1.7.14foxhollow

Yesterday I did a treadmill workout where I would walk for one minute and then run for one minute.  I consistently increased my running pace and by the last little bit I was able to run over a quarter of a mile at a 7:24 pace.  That’s blazing fast for me and I really couldn’t believe what my legs were doing.  I hopped off with a huge smile on my face and a newfound love for running.  1.7.14treadmillaction

If running helps me lose a little more weight, then that’s great.  If running helps me eat an extra slice of pizza then that’s great too.  But lately I have really fallen in love with running.  I love the feeling I get afterwards, I love seeing progress, I love talking with fellow runners, I love seeing beginners take their first steps, I love seeing my Momma beaming after being able to shuffle for a quarter of a mile, I love finish lines at races, I love stepping outside of my comfort zone, and I love being completely out of breath with lungs burning after a good strong finish.  I just love running.  It has given me so much and I want to put in the time and the effort it takes to become a faster and stronger runner.  I’m not shooting for the moon here, just the finish line.

Doesn't this scream happiness?

Doesn’t this scream happiness?

I challenge you to remember why you fell in love with running (or just walking).  If you aren’t on that “OMG I LOVE IT” level yet, then what’s holding you back?  Running used to scare me and it still does at times, but stepping just a little out of your box is so liberating and rewarding!

Speedwork.

Maybe I should consult a thesaurus for the title of this post.  Here lately I’ve been doing a little bit of running to build my stamina to be able to effectively run a 5k.  Still, I’m not sure it should be dubbed as speedwork.  Is speedwork one word or two?  I like it as a compound word better.  Okay, I’ll stop.

So, I’ve been doing most if not all of my running at the track.  I go out there with no set plan but always end up putting in work. Last week I decided to do a mile test.  I have not been able to run a mile without stopping in over five months.  In May I ran a little over 3/4 of a mile but then had to stop.  The only goal for the mile test was to not stop.  Oh, and not to look at my watch.  I like to run around the track because it means I don’t have to constantly look at my Garmin to check distance.  I just run four laps and see what happens.  I ran the first lap and was feeling good but backed off just a tiny bit for the next two to see how my body was reacting to increased distance.  After the third lap I really didn’t think that I had one more in me.  The urge to look at Garmin was stronger than ever but I kept my eyes forward and kept running.  Finally I crossed the point where I started, heard my watch beep, and hit the stop button.  9:06.

What the?!?  Where did that come from?  Not only did I accomplish my goal of actually running an entire mile without stopping but I ran it in under 10 minutes.  That left me feeling so stinking good and excited to see what else I was capable of.  When I was on the UT Rowing team we had a mile test about two months into training and even then I was only able to run a 9:34.  This is real good progress.  miles

Since I had a race on Saturday I tried to do another mile test on Friday just to see where I was at.  Again I was hoping to simply run my four laps without stopping and maybe possibly shave a second off of the 9:06.   Ran three laps and felt awesome so I kicked it in for the fourth lap and finished in 8:58.  Breaking 9 minutes was like breaking this huge barrier that stood before me blocking me from exercise confidence.  Sure, most people can run a sub 9 mile in their sleep and can run 20 miles at the same pace but to be able to run this just one month “back on the wagon” AND while making it only my second time running a mile without stopping in five months is pretty dang fantastic in my book.  These miles gave me running confidence that I’ve been looking for.   miles2

Yesterday morning I hit the track for some 400 repeats.  I knew I wanted to at least do three repeats but what I secretly wanted was to run a lap in under 2 minutes.  Part of me knew that it probably wasn’t possible since that is a sub 8 pace.  But I told myself that I would run my three repeats and if I hadn’t got a sub 2 then I would try until I came close.  I ended up doing four and here are the splits:

1: 2:10

2. 2:03

3: 2:00

4: 1:56

It killed me that lap three wasn’t a sub 2.  I ran that lap as hard as I possibly could and I was just a second shy of seeing a 1.  Talk about frustrating.  While I was squatting down trying to catch my breath, I noticed something funny in the grass.  A four leaf clover.  What are the odds.  Surely it was my lucky day.  I really didn’t think that I had anything left in me to push another lap harder than that one but I figured I would not know if I did not try.  Took off on the fourth lap and didn’t look at my Garmin until the final turn and even then I was only looking at pace.  I saw a seven and crossed my fingers that I could pull a sub 2 out.  Crossed the line at 1:56 and earned that sub 2.  Could I run that pace for a whole mile or even another lap?  Uh, no.  But I conditioned myself to run it for 1 lap and that is a start.  I probably won’t do much “speedwork” the rest of this week but am very proud of myself for pushing my body to some good numbers out on the track.  luck

What do you do for speedwork?  Ever crushed a goal without even realizing it?  Remember running a mile without stopping for the first time in a long time?

Strawberry Plains 10k: Race Recap

When I set out to do one race per month this year, I had trouble coming up with a February race.  There isn’t a Valentine’s themed race in my area, so I was at a loss for which one to pick.  Luckily our local track club puts together a 10k/half marathon race in a neighboring town.  After convincing my friend Robyn to do the 5k with me, I signed up and added it to the calendar.  I’ve only ever done one 10k and it only had 6o people running it so I was up for a  new experience outside of my comfort zone.

We were lucky enough to pick up our race packets the night before at a sporting goods store.  I was grateful for this because it meant sleeping in a little longer than usual.  Our shirts had donkeys on the front which made me giggle a little bit even though they definitely were not my style.  Fortunately I was able to get a great night’s rest the night before so I woke up fairly easy on race morning feeling very Olympic.  (if you don’t get the Cool Runnings quote then we can’t be friends)

On race day we met up with Robyn and basically just hung out until the race started.  Robyn and I milled in towards the back and waited for the gun to go off.  I knew that I wasn’t going to have a stellar race since I haven’t been running very much, but I did know that anything faster than my first (and only) 10k would be totally acceptable to me. The course was an out and back so I was able to gauge where I was at by the number of runners passing me on the opposite side.  The first mile or so was torture.  My legs were tight, my lungs were on fire, and I just couldn’t find a groove.  Sometime around mile 2 I found my happy place and ran strong when I could but still took walk breaks.  Everyone who ran past me headed back to the finish line looked strong and I made sure to tell them good job.

I felt proud and strong until I hit the 5 mile mark.  The man standing by the mile marker had a stopwatch and was calling out times as people reached him.  I passed him at 60 minutes on the dot.  That was okay with me and I was pleased with my effort.  At that point, it was a sure PR for me and that made me happy.  My legs didn’t feel as great as they had earlier, but I was trucking right along and walked until I could see the finish line.  I was able to kick it in and look strong for the finish.

I finished with a solid time of 1:13:13.  Over an 11 minute PR for me from my first 10k.  I”ll take it.  I thought having two 13s in my time was a sign that good things were headed my way for 2013.   strawplains

After finishing and getting a big hug from a former track club president, I found my man and got a big old sweaty kiss.  Cheesy, right?  My main focus was to get water and to sit down.  We were able to chill for a quick bit before heading back out to watch Robyn kill it and meet her goal time by over 3 minutes!  So proud of her and everyone else who met their goals at the race.

It was a great race and I was so thankful to have done it, to have my friends do it, and to have someone cheering for me at the finish line.  It wasn’t my best effort and I was not trained for it, but I’ll take an 11 minute PR any day.

2013 Running Goals

Goals, goals, goals.  That is all I seem to think about these days.  Goals are simply dreams with deadlines and I suppose December 31, 2013 will be my deadline for the following goals.  Some of these goals seem a little unrealistic to me, and that is okay.  Dreaming big is when big things happen.  We shall see.

1.  26:xx 5k  Last year I worked my butt off to get from a 39:53 5k to a 28:36 5k then I threw it all away by trashing my body.  I’m slower than ever and that’s okay.  Hard work pays off.  I know that I’m capable of shedding my time with the dedication it takes.  It is just a matter of doing it.  By the very end of 2013, I plan to rock a 5k with a 26 in front of it.  If the last numbers are 59, I’m okay with that, too.

2.  PR the half  I’m still on my mission to do a half marathon in every state and if it takes an entire lifetime, I’m cool with that.  No hurry.  I would rather work extraordinarily hard at making the 5k “my distance” than completing endless half marathons.  However, the half is very near and dear to me so I would like to run at least one half this year and PR the heck out of it.  My sweet Boston friend Christine have sent novels to each other discussing plans for this.  If it happens, it happens.  If not, then I’ll still be alright.

3.  Complete one training cycle  I’m notorious for not following a training plan.  I’ll focus on cross training and let cardio be my training.  Yeah, that doesn’t make up for mileage on my legs.  This year I would like to complete a whole training cycle and stick to the plan.  A fellow Knoxville runner, Brittney has been very sweet in taking two training plans we both liked and formulating them into one.  I’m so grateful for her and so glad that her and her husband are on board with training together.

4.  Participate in a run streak  The San Francisco Marathon Ambassadors have a Facebook group that we all post in to share cool things about the running community.  One of my fellow ambassadors posted the idea of a 2013 run streak.  I willingly agreed.  The only rule is that you run at least one mile per day.  This is probably highly unrealistic in some ways, but I’m gonna give it a shot and see where it goes.  Again, we shall see.

5.  800 miles  This doesn’t seem crazy does it?  I’m just getting back into being a (slow) runner and trying to get faster.  By my standards, that is.  I truly believe that with my half marathon training in conjunction with hard effort then I could make this happen.  Who knows, I may surpass this.

6.  Run or volunteer one race every single month.  This one is definitely doable.  Although I probably won’t do a race every month, there is no excuse for not being out there volunteering.  Working a race is so fun and you meet so many new people.  Getting to see a different side of the racing scene is also a perk.  Really hoping to make this happen this year.

7.  Hit goal weight  My ideal weight would be below 200.  While 199 isn’t my ultimate goal and I don’t plan on stopping there, it is where I would be comfortable at for a while and comfortable with maintaining.  In 2013 I wanna say See Ya Never to the 200s and get the heck out of dodge.  Let’s do it.

These are the things I will be working towards in 2013.  I may accomplish one of them and I may accomplish all of them.  Regardless, I will be proud of myself and proud of the efforts I make in getting there.  No disappointment allowed in 2013.