December 31, 2015

We Run Disney becomes Two Runners Travel

Several years ago, we kicked around the idea of rebranding our blog. And for a few different reasons, it never happened. But today we are excited to launch our new blog identity - Two Runners Travel!

December 30, 2015

Saying goodbye to 2015 and hello to 2016

 When Adam and I rang in the New Year in Montreal, I thought to myself "yea, 2015, this is going to be a good year." And it wasn't just good, it was fantastic. Sometimes there are years that pass like normal but this definitely wasn't one of those years.
January 1, 2015 in Montreal

My recap of 2015, running and other stuff

Public Service Announcement: We are doing some maintenance to the blog so please bear with us as we work through some of the kinks.

Less races and more active vacations seemed to be our story for 2015.  After a less than optimal start to January in terms of weather, Tom and I headed to Florida for a nice warm vacation which included a cruise in the Caribbean.  Stand up paddle boarding was enjoyed for the first time and training continued for my big race in April and another in February. This meant treadmills on the ship and some outside deck running would be included in our relaxing vacation!

We started our racing in 2015 with the Princess Half Marathon weekend in Florida in February. I ran only the half marathon but Christine took on the Glass Slipper Challenge and had great results in both races enjoying the half marathon with our running friend Megan. My half marathon result included a PR and an age group award and my older sister helped me to the finish line, placing first in her age group.

December 21, 2015

Hawaii Highlights: The Big Island

As part of our honeymoon, we spent 7 days on the big island, Hawaii. I had heard great things and it definitely lived up to the hype!  One of the things that we loved about the island was the vast array of activities...aquatic activities, hiking, parks, cultural exploration, etc. I feel like we got to have the activity sampler platter on our trip...a little bit of all of these PLUS some amazing pool/beach lounging time. I think Hawaii is an incredible place and there truly is something for everyone. So here were some of our highlights!

December 18, 2015

On blogging and running

I usually have ample things to say but lately I've found myself at a loss for words on our blog. I haven't been running (ahem, that pesky knee) and don't have any races on the horizon. I've thought about writing about other things but somehow I keep coming up empty handed...or I find myself wondering if anyone actually wants to read about my random Christmas adventures and whatnot.
Soon what do I write about now? Will they still like me? 

December 15, 2015

Ho ho ho holiday training for a marathon

As we are in the throws of the holiday season, I had a little epiphany this morning when I was out on my long run. Not only did this keep me entertained, but it also kept me from crying the whole way.  Yes, it was one of "those" long runs.  You know, the kind that you hate, but you have to complete.  I struggled every single mile, but I completed my 12 (yes it was a cutback week) and did not meet my time suggestions from my coach, but I did finish.

December 14, 2015

It's a special day in the WRD world!

It's my favorite running buddy's birthday! Happy Birthday Mom! Cannot wait to celebrate with you later today. 

December 11, 2015

Who cares about the healthy holiday trend? Not this girl!

Each year come October and November, magazines, news outlets, and websites are flooded with the same old headlines...
"Stay fit this holiday season"
"Don't gain an ounce this Christmas"
"Beat the holiday gain"
Etc. Etc. Etc.

December 9, 2015

SLS 3 Holiday giveaway

Disclosure: We were offered this giveaway and discount code to share with our readers.  No compensation will be received and as always, the thoughts here are our own.

Travis from SLS3 compression wear offered us to giveaway another treat to our blog readers. What better time than during the holidays when we are purchasing gifts for friends and family.  Both Christine and I have been very pleased with our SLS 3 socks and sleeves.  Our review from trying them earlier this year is here. They even come in pretty girly colors with all the appropriate compression needed for wear while running and recovery after activity.

December 7, 2015

Running Survey

I tend to be the type of person that is eager to return home from vacation....but let me tell you, I definitely wasn't ready to come home from Hawaii! Adam and I returned to VA last Thursday from our 2 week honeymoon and we had an incredible time. We saw 3 islands and were able to do some incredible things. I think we did a pretty good job of balancing activities with really relaxing, lazy days on the beach or sitting by the pool. We already started a list of things we would like to do next time so you can bet we'll be planning another trip there someday!

I enjoyed catching up on blog reading when we got home...actually did a fair bit when we were sitting in the airport for 3 hours waiting on our final flight home! I saw that Sue from This Mama Runs for Cupcakes posted this fun running survey last week and I really enjoyed reading it so figured I would do it too!

November 30, 2015

Mickey Marathon - what to expect and training update

In less than six weeks, it will be time for the Walt Disney World Marathon race weekend.  For many, this will be the start of their 2016 race calendar whether they are running the 5k, 10k, half or full marathon or all of them.  This year, I am going solo to run the Mickey Marathon on Sunday, January 10th.  This will be my third time to run this marathon, and my first time to run it without races on the prior days.  It's hard to believe now that my first marathon was part of the Goofy Challenge back in 2013.  Alot has happened in my running world since then and this will be an opportunity to enjoy marathon weekend without back to back races. This equals more sleep which is a win!

November 25, 2015

That pesky knee

Most of you know or probably have observed that I've had some issues with my left knee for a while. I had a pretty serious knee injury in high school while I was swimming that resulted in surgery.  Basically the outcome was keep cross training and keep your quads strong. There were days that it bothered me and days that I forgot it had ever been an issue. Even throughout the training for my first half marathon, it stayed under the radar. Generally speaking, my knee wasn't really an issue until I started running more consistently.

Most of the time, it's simply been an inconvenience when I run. I would occasionally use kinesiology tape during a run and ice it after a run. I focused on staying strong and that was that. I've noticed that with both Richmond Marathon and my most recent Marine Corps Marathon, my knee started acting up close to race day and then hurt during the race. And after both races, it still seemed quite inflamed and took me some time to be able to run on it. 
My trusty old KT tape application

November 24, 2015

New York City Marathon, why it was not a one and done

When I registered for the NYC Marathon last January 15th as a time qualifier, it was to check off a box on my bucket list of races.  To be specific, it was to check off a marathon major.  Now that I have spent the race weekend in New York City and run the marathon, my thoughts have changed entirely on the whole experience.  My prior opinion of NYC was just so so.  It was another large city, one where I had only spent small periods of time.  So this trip would be just another one of those long weekend adventures that included a little marathon race.

November 20, 2015

Friday 5: Favorite Fall Drinks

I love anything seasonal so I can totally get on board with festive drinks. I have never been a devotee of the PSL...I know, I know, that totally voids any vision you had of me drinking a latte in my jeans, boots and vest didn't it? Well fear not, because there's another warm drink that I enjoy and especially like drinking when I'm wearing my monogrammed vest, so read on!

1. Coffee drink: Skinny Vanilla Latte with cinnamon. The cinnamon makes all the difference. Try it! You'll love it!

November 17, 2015

Running with Team Fisher House

As you all know, I ran my fourth marathon as a member of Team Fisher House. I was eager to run a marathon with a charity team and Team Fisher House was a great fit for me.  While I recapped my experience at the Marine Corps Marathon race itself, I wanted to spend some time talking more specifically about my experience with Team Fisher House.

November 16, 2015

London Marathon and the National Osteoporosis Society

Back in September, the plan was hatched for me to run the London Marathon April 26, 2016.  This would be my first time to be a fundraiser for a running race.  As I searched the list of charities that support runners with a bib for the London Marathon, one charity in particular caught my eye. While I love animals and could easily have chosen to apply for one of the many charity spots for organizations that support pets, and animals, the National Osteoporosis Society seemed like the perfect one for me.

                                Pamela, Welcome to the team!  

I was delighted to receive this acceptance in my email inbox after having an email interview with Claire who is in charge of the charity runners.  She was so encouraging to me and of course, I want to do everything possible to make a great contribution to the charity.

For the past 10 years, I have been dealing with first a diagnosis of Osteopenia and then Osteoporosis.  If you do not know what these ailments are, here is a simple explanation.  Osteopenia is the first diagnosis you can receive for loss of bone strength.  When I received this diagnosis, I was urged to do things such as weight bearing activity (I already did), healthy eating and little caffeine.  Okay, so I do eat a bit too much ice cream, but isn't calcium good for your bones?  A few years later as my bone density tests continued to deteriorate, I was given the diagnosis of Osteoporosis.  This was not at all unexpected according to my doctor and she and I made the decision together for me to not medicate for my situation.  Certain people are more likely to get Osteoporosis than others.  Here are some of the risk factors to consider:

  • Being a woman: Approximately 80% of those with Osteoporosis are women.
  • Having a small, thin build- While size does not exclude anyone, you are at much higher risk if you are a small person.
  • White, Asian or Latino people are more at risk, but as with the other risks, everyone is susceptible to the problem.
  • Aging: Most bone loss occurs as you age, but that does not mean if you are old you have Osteoporosis.  
  • Family History:  If you have family members with Osteoporosis you are at a higher risk to develop the problem.
My mother and sister both have Osteoporosis and so far none of us have suffered any broken bones. However, we are all conscious of our situation and try our best without medication to keep our bones at the strength they currently are with no more thinning.

Now here's the fun part.  Wouldn't you like to donate to my fundraising?  While I know this may seem selfish since I really want to run the race, I also plan to make a donation, or rather Tom will, so that I can be a strong fundraiser for the cause.  No amount is too small and I appreciate any support you can offer.

You can click on the link to my page here

Thanks for all the support! 

November 13, 2015

Friday Five: A potpourri of running stuff

Many thanks to Cynthia  at You signed up for what, Courtney at Eat, Pray Run DC and Mar at Mar on the Run for the Friday Five linkup.  The topic for the week is how to stay healthy during the holidays.

My favorite tips for how to stay on track during the holidays include signing up for a January Marathon, talking a local running friend into the same marathon and making sure you eat plenty of cookies and peppermint chocolate holiday candy to fuel your runs. Except I really don't mean the last one....okay, maybe I do just a little bit.  A few years ago, while training for the Goofy Challenge, I ate cookies during the middle of a long run and you know what?  They tasted great and made me smile as I completed the 22 mile run. This was a spur of the moment decision when I stopped at home to refill my water bottle and saw a big tin of cookies on the counter, and it was December 22nd and I thought I deserved a cookie or three!

This week, I was pretty inactive on social media since I was out of town and then came home from Florida with a really bad cold.  Yesterday, while spending the day in my pajamas, I came across a few things that really hit a nerve in a good way.

The last few weeks were big ones for the runners who qualified and earned a spot in the April 2016 Boston Marathon.  They received one of these cards in the mail, which is very exciting for any runner no matter how many times they have qualified and run Boston.  I remember fondly last year when I got this card and I danced around the kitchen!

There are plenty of runners who do not get the card, despite meeting the qualifying standard. This year, those with a time of less than 2.27 seconds under their qualifying time would not be lucky and get that precious card in the mail. Two people from my running team including one of the coaches did not get a spot.  Due to the vast number of runners vying for spots, not everyone is fortunate to make the cut.   Some of these runners will choose to run for a charity and if accepted, will be a fundraiser for between $5000 and $7000 for the charity.  Others will hope for a miracle spot from either a Boston Marathon Sponsor or a chance winning entry through a contest. While I have my opinion about these options for entry, they are what they are and no runner (s) will change the mind of the B.A.A. who puts on the race.

This week I read a blog post by Jesica from Runladylike.  Both Christine and I enjoy her blog because she is a straight shooter and she only writes about products that she uses and loves. She was offered a spot through a sponsor, but turned it down.  It was wonderful to read that a runner like Jesica who had qualified, but missed the cut, would not promote a product that she does not use and accept a free entry into the race.  While it would have been so easy for her to say yes, she showed integrity and self control by saying no thank you.  You can read her post here.

While reading the December issue of Runners World magazine, I was delighted to see that Robert Herjavec of Shark Tank fame is a serious runner. He  was interviewed for the back page column and here is a quote: "I want to qualify for Boston- I don't want to buy my way in (as in a charity runner).  I'll do that one of two ways, get faster, or just stay the same speed and get older so the standards get slower."  This impressed me so much since he could easily get a bib without making the effort to qualify.

This weekend I will hit the pavement for the first time since the NYC Marathon on November 1.  It will feel great to put on my running shoes and pound the pavement for a little while.  My next big race is on January 10th and it is time to get training again. Do you have fun plans for the weekend?

November 6, 2015

New York City Marathon Race Recap

November 1st was a good day, in fact a very good day in New York City for those runners participating in the marathon.  While the weather would not be considered ideal for running, it was not uncomfortably hot and we would not freeze in the athlete's village.

My morning started with a 4:30 am alarm followed by my usual jumping out of my bed saying "It's race day!". Mind you I had woken up at 3:30 and never quite gotten back to sleep due to race day excitement.  It was nice to have the extra hour from Daylight Savings so I still managed to get close to 7 hours of sleep.  After quickly getting dressed and eating my first breakfast of banana and an English Muffin with peanut butter, my roomie Joanne and I met our teammate Sam in the lobby of the hotel and went outside to hail a taxi or Uber car.  We got an Uber car quickly and proceeded to the first stop which was at the library where Sam and I would take the bus to Staten Island.  Joanne had chosen the ferry as her mode of transportation so she stayed in the car for the second drop off point.

After arrival at Fort Wadsworth on Staten Island, Sam and I made our way to the Runner's Village with 49, 998 other runners. After about a 1/2 mile walk, we entered the Blue wave area.  It was well organized with tents filled with volunteers serving bagels, Power Bars, coffee, tea, hot chocolate and water. Both of us brought our own food, but in hindsight, we would have been fine with the offerings at the village. At about 8:30 am, I ate my second breakfast of another banana and English Muffin with peanut butter with some Gatorade. There also were volunteers from Dunkin' Donuts handing out these really cute knit hats with the NYC 2015 logo.

Ebay image
Porta potties were plentiful and we found a tree to lean against for the next 3 hours.  Yes, you read that right, after arriving by bus at 6:15 am, we had more than 3 hours to wait until we would move into our corral.  With people watching and trying to stay warm, the time did go quickly and soon our Wave 2 start group was entering the corral area.  After a few minutes, the corral was closed and we started our walk to the start.  After passing the toll booths, we knew it was go time.

Miles 1-6:  Splits 10:43, 9:29, 10:11, 10:11, 10:08, 10:06  The race starts with a huge uphill climb for the first mile on the Verrazano Bridge.  I knew what to expect and told Sam goodbye as he sped up the hill and I kept an easy pace.  This was a long race and I knew conserving energy on this first challenge of the course was important.  As soon as we hit the top of the bridge, the downhill came and by my splits you can see how much faster I ran the second mile which was all downhill.  Going with my legs and staying comfortable we soon were in Brooklyn with crowds that were not only enthusiastic, but deafening at times.  One of my goals for this race was to smile alot and I don't think a smile left my face for the first 6-7 miles.  It was amazing to have so much crowd support going through so many different neighborhoods which started with Bay Ridge moving into Sunset Park. One of the things that stood out to me were the places of worship mixed in with stores and restaurants, with many spectators offering their hands in support of all the runners.

Miles 7-12: 9:58, 9:58, 9:59, 9:46, 10:16, 9:49  During this next neighborhood called Park Slope, there were some lovely Victorian homes with numerous families cheering with cowbells and their voices. Many times during this race I turned my music off so I could soak in the crowd and atmosphere.  These miles seemed to go by quickly with a slight downward slope and bands and spectators keeping the runners entertained.  One thing that bothered me during the race was the number of runners who seemed oblivious to the other runners on the course.  Between miles 7 and 8, I was given a "flat tire" by a foreign runner. She stepped hard on my heal removing my shoe and I was very fortunate not to take a header into the pavement.  Turning around quickly, a tall man was right behind me, but he was alert and missed me and I was able to grab my shoe and put it back on.  While I did receive an apology, she never stopped and continued to be consumed with the crowd and totally unaware of those around her, with the exception of her posse of 5 other runners.  Let's just say I was not pleased!  After mile 9, there seemed to be alot of turns on the course and this definitely reduces your speed.

Mile 13:  9:58  This mile marker was the one I was most excited about because I knew my niece Erica planned to be spectating here. I spotted her running along the road barrier and screamed as soon as I saw her.  I quickly turned around and she took this photo.  It is the only candid race photo I have other than those taken my Marathon Foto.
Big smile for Erica!
Halfway: 2:13.18 A marker on the Pulaski Bridge marked the middle of the course and I was very happy with the time on my watch.  I had conserved energy, but was still giving a strong effort.  I knew the hardest part of the course was coming, and the most challenging would be mile 16 that included another bridge, this time the Queensboro that takes you from Queens into Manhattan.

Miles 14-19: 10:11, 10:20, 11:03, 9:57, 10:20, 9:59  For some reason I struggled during this part of the marathon, and this was the area that Coach Sami said would be difficult.  The bridge was long and it seemed like we had a fair bit of wind.  I tried my best, but I knew my paces were lagging.  In every marathon most everyone experiences highs and lows and I think this was one of the times I was fighting those negative thoughts in my head. One huge surprise was after exiting the bridge onto 1st Street in Manhattan, I expected huge crowds and noise.  It was eerily quiet despite many people lining the streets.  This was quite strange and perhaps they were sick of cheering after being out there for many hours.  I kept raising my arms asking for some noise to get me going again!

Miles 19-24: 10:17, 10:07, 10:19, 10:10, 10:37  During these miles we covered two more bridges as we moved from Manhattan, to the Bronx and back to Manhattan.  When we crossed the 138th street bridge and moved back into Manhattan, I knew we were getting closer and I was excited to be arriving at 5th Avenue.  This street was the beginning of the end and despite the incline, I tried to pick it up a notch.  Fifth Avenue is on an incline and it has one section where you feel like you are climbing a mountain between miles 23 and 24. By the time I got to 24, I really wanted to walk the rest of the way.  I mean I really really wanted to walk.  But I kept myself focused and stayed with my planned intervals and finally got out of my mental hell.  At around mile 23, I was calculating in my head what I needed to run to finish under 4:30. Let me tell you that after running for nearly 4 hours, my brain took a very long time to figure out what I needed to do!

Miles 25-26.2:  10:08, 9:57, last .2 at 9:11 pace The last two miles included East Drive and the final turn into Central Park for the finish line. There were tons of runners in this congested area, but I kept on trucking and passed many during this last stretch.  When I turned into Central Park for the last time, I was so emotional that tears started to form in my eyes.  After getting food poisoning and finishing the Boston Marathon last April under not the best circumstances, I needed this race to get my marathon confidence restored.  As I crossed the finish line, tears brimmed from my eyes as my goal had been met.  This race gave me back the marathon!

Tears of joy
Other details just in case you are interested:  I ate a half banana that was given out around mile 15 on the course. (That could be incorrect mileage, but I am still suffering from marathon brain post race.)  My GU supply was ample and I took one starting at mile 4, but then ended up taking them a little closer together after mile 13. In all, I took 6 gels during the race, some with caffeine and some without. Water and Gatorade stops were plentiful, in fact more so than any other marathon I have run.  Due to the humidity, I took a drink at every station except one, when I missed the Gatorade and did not want water.

Official Results:
Time: 4:28:27
22875/49460 Overall
7052/20674 Female
67/409 Age Group Female 60-64

November 5, 2015

Healthy Meals: Savory Turkey and Sweet Potato Hash

Ever since I started developing my love for cooking, I've embraced seasonal flavors. Once the weather starts to turn cool and the leaves change color, you can bet that my kitchen will be awake with savory herbs, squash, meats and veggies roasting in the oven, and lots of pumpkin baked goods. Last weekend, we hit the farmer's market for one of the last times of the season and picked up some white sweet potatoes. The farmer told us that they're a little more mild than traditional sweet potatoes and since we love trying obscure produce that you can't find in our local grocery store, we gave them a shot!

I have been craving some fall flavors so I came up with a quick dish made with turkey, sweet potatoes, and savory herbs. It was the perfect weeknight meal since it only took about 30 minutes! Winning! It was also very flavorful without added fat or calories. I used fresh oregano and rosemary from our herb garden. There is really something magical about fresh herbs and how they can transform a dish. Even if I never have another vegetable garden again, I'll always try to keep fresh herbs around because they simply are lightyears ahead of dried herbs in the jars at the store.

Savory Turkey and Sweet Potato Hash
* 1 Tbsp olive oil
* 1 lb. ground turkey
* 2 cloves garlic, minced
* 1/2 tsp thyme
* 1/2 tsp oregano (I used fresh and chopped very fine)
* 1 Tbsp rosemary (I used fresh and chopped very fine)
* 2 sweet potatoes, diced (I used 1 regular sweet potato and 1 white sweet potato)
* 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
* 1 carrot, roughly chopped
* 1/4 C water or chicken broth
* 2 Tbsp high quality balsamic vinegar
* 2-3 Tbsp red wine
* salt and pepper, to taste

1. In large nonstick skillet, heat up 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Add ground turkey, garlic, thyme, oregano, 1/2 tsp. rosemary, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook about 8-10 minutes until meat is cooked through. Remove from skillet and put in bowl. Set aside.
2. In same skillet, add 1 Tbsp olive oil and add potatoes. Add water or broth and cover pan. Cook about 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover pan and allow moisture to cook off. Add onions and carrots. Cook 3-4 minutes longer, stirring occasionally.
3. Add turkey to pain to heat. Stir with veggies and cook 1-2 minutes. Add balsamic vinegar and wine and stir. Add remaining 3/4 Tbsp rosemary, and salt and pepper to taste and cook 1-2 minutes.

* This dish would be perfect for Thanksgiving leftovers! Just dice up 2-3 C of turkey meat and use any leftover veggies like onions, carrots, celery, squash and potatoes. I always have tons of herbs and whatnot in my fridge after the big feast so this would be a great dish to use them in a slightly reformatted version!
* Feel free to add other veggies like bell peppers or squash or even add a diced apple! I love making a skillet hash because you can really add anything that you have laying around the fridge or pantry.

The results were amazing! We'll definitely keep this recipe in our repertoire for a while!

What are your favorite fall flavors or favorite fall dish to prepare?

November 4, 2015

New York City Marathon Expo

The TCS New York City Marathon expo was one of the events I was really looking forward to as Joanne and I traveled to the city Friday morning.  After dropping our luggage at the hotel and organizing our tote bags, we took an Uber car to the Jacob Javits Convention Center where the race expo was held.

Our first stop was to procure our race bibs and shirts and the lines were tiny.  I waited for two people and Joanne walked right up to the volunteer for her bib number.  
Joanne was camera shy so you just get yours truly!
We were advised to check the sticker on our bib carefully because it included not only your race number and Wave/Corral, but also your transportation information and post race choice of either baggage check or poncho.  Several friends with prior NYC Marathon experience had told me to choose poncho and I was so happy I did. (More on that in my race recap) One great feature was the opportunity to try on shirts prior to choosing your size.

Next we moved into the official merchandise area.  It was here that we noticed it was crowded.  The merchandise however, was plentiful and spread nicely over a very large area.  If you saw an item you wanted on one rack and your size wasn't available, you just needed to turn around and there would be another rack nearby with the same style and more sizes.  There were loads of shirts, jackets, hats, visors and all sorts of merchandise to purchase with the NYC Marathon logo.  Joanne and I had not planned on buying anything until we spotted these beauties.

We both tried on jackets and chose the same color and style.  Then we got in line to pay and the fun began!  What we did not realize was the line snaked around a massive area, only to continue after going past a wall. It probably took 45 minutes for us to pay for the jackets and yes, I bought hers and she bought mine, We are both superstitious.
A glimpse of the lines
After such a long wait, we decided to look for a couple vendors that were of interest.  I wanted the logo Nuun Hydration bottle and she needed some nutrition for race day.

After spending a few hours shopping and paying for things it was time to have lunch. Considering the number of runners and the size of the space, we both thought the expo was well done and very organized.  The volunteers from the time you entered the building to exiting were professional and courteous. Large race expos can be overwhelming, but this one was manageable and fun.  I already have plans to return and hopefully arrive at the expo when it opens next time!


November 2, 2015

Funemployment in a nutshell

Well folks, it's been a month since I walked away from my consulting job in corporate America. I would be lying if I didn't say that it's been a strange transition. I've definitely had moments of excitement, loneliness, frustration, contentment, and everything in between. I can say without a single ounce of doubt or regret that I made the right decision. I am cognizant of the fact that this break is truly a gift - a gift of time, a gift of headspace, a gift of openness in thought.

When I tell people that I'm taking an extended leave of absence, aka working my SAHW (stay at home wife) / funemployed spouse game, I usually get a lot of blank stares or "Oh, ok...." type of responses. It's weird but I'm getting used to it. I get that what I'm doing isn't the norm and a lot of people have asked how I fill my days.

- I still get up at the same time in the morning (usually 6 AM) to get ready for the day.
- Make Adam's lunch and breakfast...previously Adam made and/or put our workday meals in our lunch boxes before work. Now I do this for him...if he's lucky, he gets a cheesy note with some stick figures drawn on it!
- Clean up the kitchen. I swear that dishes are a vicious, never ending cycle! I try to put away anything that's dry and clean up anything still in the sink from the previous night.
- Tidy up the house...put things away, run the vacuum, start on some laundry, etc.
- Read blogs. Write blog posts. Try not to waste too much time on the book of faces.
- Tuesdays and Thursdays, I volunteer at a local preschool so I spend my mornings there. I love it! It's been a great way for me to use my time in a productive manner and also structure my days.
- Do all of the stuff that I didn't do everyday with Paddy dog...take her on a walk, brush her, run around the backyard, etc.
- Workout, unless Adam and I have plans to run, bike or hit the gym together after he gets home from work.
- I make sure to get dressed everyday and am enjoying the challenge of trying to style my professional wardrobe for everyday! Sidebar - I promised myself that I would not buy an entirely new fall wardrobe of casual clothes for my funemployment.

PS See that icky linoluem? We ripped it out yesterday and it's being replaced
by pretty new wood floors this week! 
- I usually set aside afternoons for painting our baseboards, putting together our wedding album, yard work, cleaning out closets, major cleaning projects, etc.
- Start prepping dinner so that we eat at a more reasonable hour (like 7:30) instead of 9:00 like we did when we were both working.
- Run errands. I make it a point to try to grocery shop during the week...and do all the other errands that seemed to take up most of our time on the weekends. My goal is simply to create some ways for us to enjoy the weekends more.

This break has enabled me to focus on things that just didn't happen when I was also working really long work weeks, like Adam. I've been able to....
- send my car in for a repair that was long overdue;
- hit every doctor's appointment during the workday and haven't stressed about it (!!!);
- obtain estimates for having new floors put in our home, an improvement/upgrade that I've considered for about 2 years and now finally have the time to do it;
- go to the post office during the week, a feat that I didn't think was ever possible;
- talk to my grandmother on the phone once a week;
- write letters to family and friends;
- handle a lot of random household things like transferring from cable to fios (which is saving us lots of $$), etc.

This time has truly been a gift, and in some ways a luxury. I know that and appreciate it completely. Somedays, I think about all the jokes I've made with friends about sitting down to watch the Today Show and then starting to day drink with Hoda and Kathy Lee....and then proceeding to eat bon bons and watch the soaps. But really, I simply don't want to do that! I've enjoyed the ability to be productive around the house and enhance our life. I'm enjoying the time to read (so far, I've read #Girlboss, The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace, and 3 issues of Garden and Gun that were sitting on our coffee table..). I'll be enjoying an impromptu girls' trip to Disney to see the Christmas decor next week and will have ample time to prepare for the holidays. This is a really good time in my life and I feel happy, rested, and well!

What's a big thing you've accomplished in your non-fitness life lately? I'm SO SO SO excited for our new wood floors to be installed this week!

October 30, 2015

Analyzing my Marine Corps Marathon

The week following a marathon is usually a time for reflection and celebration. This week has been no different. Danielle and I have talked about our races, dissecting various elements of them. My diet has been 90% junk food following the race. (In full disclosure, my tummy has been hurting so I think I'm going to fast track back to healthy food.) I have always tried to take lessons from each race, but definitely marathon races. Given the fact that the training cycle is significantly more intense and longer in duration, marathon races feel as though there is more on the line.

Goal Review
Before I jump into the specific analysis and lessons learned from my race, I figured it would be helpful to review the goals I established for myself.
Outcome (time) Goals: Final time of 4:36.36 which beats my first Marine Corps Marathon time of 4:38.52, so my C Goal was achieved. I knew early on, probably around mile 12 or so that a PR would be very tough that day.

Goals for the journey
1. Have fun: Done! I high-fived spectators, thanked the Marines, and enjoyed the race weekend with a fantastic friend and my family.  Despite the moments of pain and tears shed during the race, I still had fun!

2. Enjoy the camaraderie of Team Fisher House: I made a few friends throughout the weekend, including one during the race. I loved the Team Fisher House cheer stations on the race course.

3. Regain my marathon confidence: Yes! While it wasn't necessarily in the fashion that I had hoped, i.e., obtaining a new PR to eclipse the Richmond Marathon from that spot, I really feel like I turned a corner with the way I approach marathon races. I ran with an open heart, soaking in the journey more so than I ever have.

4. Soak in the race: I probably didn't do this quite as well as I had hoped and that is largely due to the fact that I hurt a lot. Simply for that reason, I forced myself to focus on specific things rather than just taking in the course. But regardless, my focus wasn't narrowly on a time-based performance so I think this was a success.

Lessons Learned
Like I mentioned in my race recap, I feel good about this race but there are a few things that I need to take note of for future races. I realize that this content is largely about me but hopefully it might trigger something that you learned yourself and how you addressed it at a future race. I'm always eager to learn how others addressed challenges.

- I was generally somewhat under-trained for this race. When I was dealing with my challenges at work and ensuing stress over the summer, my weekday runs were pretty lackluster. They were generally very short (3-4 miles) and I was simply running just to log the miles. Even though I hit the long runs, I know this had to have impacted the overall training efficacy.

- My training cycle was pretty short at just 18 weeks. My baseline mileage was very low so I was forced to ramp-up my longer runs rather quickly. I knew this going in and was highly conscious of doing this in an intelligent manner so as not to get injured. Reflecting on this again, it's somewhat of a miracle that I was able to do two 20 mile training runs despite the time constraints.

- My hill training was much stronger this training cycle. I was diligent about completing one hill workout each week on the treadmill at the gym. And while they were generally my least favorite workout, I made sure they got done. My body was definitely prepared on race day when the hills did not wreck my legs.

- I was really thirsty at several points during the race. My Mom commented that this also happened at Richmond Marathon. For future marathons, I may consider wearing a hydration belt or vest to supplement the course water stops. I've always been a heavy sweater and during races, this clearly impacts me.

- If I run another marathon, I think I would like to work with a coach for a more detailed training approach and for some help with speed work.

What's the biggest lesson you have learned from a marathon? Do you have recommendations for a good hydration vest?

October 28, 2015

Goals for NYC Marathon

Ahh, race day goals.  It is still hard for me to believe that this is race week. While the date has been on my calendar since early this year, somehow it always seemed so far away.  Now it is time to put all the training behind me and focus on my race and what should be my goals, This is a subject I have thought alot about over the last few weeks. After surviving a calf injury this summer, with basically no running for a month, my goals are all over the place.  One day, I talk myself into going for another Boston qualifying time and the next moment, it is just going to be a race for fun and to enjoy running through all the boroughs of NYC.

With this is mind, I have some things to keep me focused when the miles get rough.  Let's be realistic here, there are always some really tough miles in every single marathon that is run.  Even the elite runners talk about pushing through when it hurts!

If I were to put time goals out there for my race, here is what seems achievable based on my training and fitness level.  Of course every race day is different and as runners, we know that some days are your day and others not so much.  So far, the weather is looking quite nice for Sunday and hopefully there will be little if any wind as we traverse several bridges while completing the race.

A Goal:  4:30 or below: This would be possible if I feel strong and can manage the hills without trouble.  Since I live in a place that is flat as a pancake, the lack of hill training made me put an A goal well below my marathon PR that was achieved on my home course here in NC. Course crowding with 49,999 other runners will make it difficult to run the tangents too.

B Goal:  4:30 -4:45  Unless I have a really rough day, this should be manageable given my long run training for the race.  All my long runs were between 10:00 and 10:15 minute mile pace.

C Goal:  Finish the race and not die.  Kidding, but not really.  Coach Sami told me this course was more difficult that Boston so finishing strong and feeling good is also a goal.

I'm excited and nervous at the same time but know race day jitters go away quickly once the gun is sounded.  Most of all, I want to soak in all this race has to offer.  Anyone else get crazy when coming up with race day goals?

October 27, 2015

40th Marine Corps Marathon Race Recap

This race can be summarized by one simple fact - I have never given so much in one race. I have never hurt so badly. I have never enjoyed the journey so much. And so begins my story of the 40th Marine Corps Marathon on October 25, 2015.

On Saturday morning, Adam and I planned to head to the expo early to pick up my bib. We arrived at the convention center just as the expo was opening and found the crowds pretty manageable, with the exception of the official race merchandise area. Collecting my bib was simple and I was relieved that there was no issue with my name change (I had my correspondence and marriage certificate just in case...). Most of the official merchandise that interested me was gone by the time we arrived at the expo so I picked out a pint glass and miraculously found a magnet still available.

Our next stop was the Team Fisher House booth to collect my jacket and bag. I was delighted to chat with Cathy, one of the two race coordinators, with whom I had corresponded in advance of the race. I also received one of the official race jackets, arm sleeves, a neat authentic cowbell, and the Fisher House 25th anniversary book as fundraising prizes. I got wonderful info and support for meeting up with the team on race morning before and after the race. We also grabbed a cowbell and cow hat for Adam as part of our spectating quad. Sadly, the cow hat didn't get much wear.

Saturday evening, my family headed to the Team Fisher House pasta dinner for some carbs and inspirational words. A Fisher House family was invited to speak and share their story. The young wife told us about her experience at the San Antonio Fisher House and the incredible support they were provided. She closed by telling all the runners to think of her and her family when we got tired during the race. I made a mental commitment to do so.

Before I headed to bed, I did some light stretching and yoga, checked the weather for the one millionth time, and organized my race gear,one last time. I had a special addition to my race outfit. Earlier that afternoon, Adam gave me his name tape from his Army uniform that he wore while he was in Iraq. When he asked me to wear it, I promptly started crying, a pre-marathon emotional mess, and told him I would be honored. He told me it would keep me safe and I told him I hoped to make him proud. We decided it would best be pinned to the shoulder of my race jersey.

Race morning started like most...I didn't sleep great and woke up well before my alarm (3 AM on Sunday - woof!). I got ready and headed to the metro around 5:35 with a fellow runner who was also staying at our hotel. Hi Gabby! Instead of getting off the metro at Pentagon, I headed to Rosslyn to meet up with Danielle and go to our respective charity tents.
Two looks: Race day chic and Hobo chic
It was simple to meet Danielle and as we walked over to charity hill, we both commented that the air was warmer and more humid than we would like. At the Team Fisher House tent, there was an excitement shared among the runners. I found a seat and chatted with some other runners while I ate my bagel with peanut butter and sipped on some water and Gatorade. It was definitely nice to have a dry place to sit and the port-a-potties with no lines at charity hill were fantastic! And given that the rain started around 6:30 or so, I was glad to have a dry place to hang out. Danielle and I headed to the start line around 7:00. Being a bit overcautious, we both elected to walk around the start line rather than cross over the timing mats.

We walked back to the 4 hour marker in the start area and hung out before deciding to hit the port-a-potties one last time. I received a text message from a friend wishing me well and reminding me to think of the Fisher House families when the going got tough. I filed that away for later. Next, the starting festivities happened fast - the National Anthem, parachuters, and Osprey flyover. Neither of us ever heard the Howitzer or starting pistol. All of a sudden we were walking up and realized that this was it, we're about to cross the start. Lots of people started running well before the starting line but we opted to save our energy and walk until just before we crossed the timing mats. We joked with a guy standing next to us about "staying strong" and not running too early.
Parachuters with huge American flags
Osprey flyover
Miles 0-4, Rosslyn: The crowds and hills are equally intense for the first few miles.  I had reviewed the course map so I knew to expect the hills but they suck a lot more when you're running up them! They definitely help keep your pace in check in the beginning. We saw our families just before the first mile, which was a nice boost and a good chance for Danielle to pass off her jacket. There wasn't anything terribly eventful during these miles.

Miles 4-10, Georgetown, Rock Creek Parkway, Kennedy Center: I expected more course crowding but never really felt too much, unlike our first year. I enjoyed the bridge into Georgetown where the views are great and there were some funny spectators. There's one very steep downhill coming off M Street that really bugged my knees but I tried to put that out of mind quickly. As we turned to head out to Rock Creek, our families were there again to give us a boost.

Seeing my family at mile 5-ish
I actually really enjoyed Rock Creek this year. The leaves are changing and the out and back offers a good chance to see more runners. I kept my eyes out but didn't see many friends. As we headed to the Kennedy Center, I knew we would be seeing our families again and they were there cheering again!

Miles 10-14, Jefferson Memorial, Hains Point: My legs really started to tighten up in here. I kept telling myself to relax and hang on. There were tons of spectators but I found the course to feel surprisingly quiet. This was definitely a big disappointment since Hains Point is known to be a quiet, lonely spot on the course and I was eager for crowd support as we headed that way. Danielle and I actually were yelling to them and throwing our arms in the air to get them to make noise! I knew to expect the emotional blue mile at mile 12. I stayed to the left side of the road and read every photo that I passed...well I usually read one piece of info because I couldn't take it all in. When I noticed a photo of a man in his West Point dress uniform, I got a little choked up. Adam is a West Point alum and showed me photos and told me stories of his classmates who died during their service. It hit close to home and reminded me that Sunday's race was bigger than me. It was truly a chance to honor our service members.

We crossed the half mats at 2:08 and change. I felt pretty good about this split, but could sense that I was in a bit more pain than I probably should have been at the halfway point. I kept telling myself that marathons aren't easy and I should be running at a comfortably hard pace to PR. From the halfway point to mile 14 or so, Danielle continued to pull away from me. I kept trying to catch up and simply couldn't. After a walk break, she was so far ahead that she was out of sight. She stepped off the road and onto the grass to look back for me. I motioned for her to go ahead and smiled as if to say, "it's ok, I'm ok." A few minutes later, she was completely gone from my sights. I was sad to have to say goodbye so early in the race but I started feeling relieved that I wasn't going to be chasing her anymore and could run my own race. I think at some point in these miles, the rain stopped.

Miles 14-17, Hains Point, Jefferson Memorial, DC War Memorial: These miles felt very, very long for me. I noticed that I was extremely thirsty and constantly anticipating the next water stop. I contemplated sending a text message to my family telling them I needed water but didn't want to mess with my phone. which was safely tucked inside a ziplock bag in the back pocket of my skirt. As we came off Hains Point, I looked off towards the mall and could see some of the notable DC tourist sites. I told myself to have an open heart, to be open to whatever came of this race. Don't get me wrong, I didn't throw in the towel with respect to time, but I made the conscious decision to shift my focus during the race. This stretch has huge crowds and I tried to feed off their energy. I knew I would see my family soon and just tried to focus on getting to them. My pace climbed in this section but I wasn't overly concerned.

Miles 17-20, National Mall: I saw my family just past mile 17. I happened to be at a walk break but the minute I saw them, I started running again and was so excited to see 5 friendly faces in the crowd. Adam handed me a banana and then ran with me for a moment. I think I told him I was hurting and was having trouble. He gave me some encouraging words. The spectators on the mall are so incredible so I focused on enjoying the various museums on the route and enjoying the crowds. I started hurting really badly in this stretch and kept thinking about how many miles were left...too many to be hurting so much already. I think it was during this time, that I started telling myself "don't quit" out loud when I was really having a tough time. As we turned past the Capitol, I noticed a woman with an Old English Sheepdog and I yelled that I loved her dog and have one too. After we turned to head back down the mall, I noticed a woman with a Team Fisher House jersey. I had been running close to her for a while and decided to ask her if she wanted to run with me. Her name was Leah and we chatted for a moment. It was nice to have a buddy and we ended up running together for about a mile and a half.

I saw my family again just before we headed over the 14th Street Bridge. At this point, I was struggling and when I saw Adam, I ran over and threw my arms around him for a hug, saying "10k to go, I can do this." I thanked my brother- and sister-in-law for being there, then hugged my Mom and high-fived my Dad. Apparently Adam said I looked really happy at this point...I was genuinely happy to see them but feeling pretty rough. I took off to conquer the bridge feeling joy in my heart.

Miles 20-22, 14th Street Bridge, Crystal City: Oh, the bridge. That bridge chewed me up and spit me out. I was hurting. It's lonely. I lost Leah at some point. About three quarters of the way over it, I contemplated walking the rest of the race. I took an unscheduled walk break to try to collect myself and get rid of the negative thoughts. In that moment, I thought of Lilly Scott who spoke to us at the Team Fisher House dinner. She and her husband Blaine didn't "walk it home" when Blaine was recovering from third degree burns and countless other injuries. Adam didn't "walk it home" when he was serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. And countless other service members didn't "walk it home." I wasn't going to quit. My body hurt and I was feeling totally wrecked, but damnit I wasn't going to quit. It didn't matter how slow I ran, but I was running. As I came off the bridge, with tears running down my face, I saw a huge cheer squad and heard someone yelling my name. My friend Becca was there with the Oiselle team cheering. She gave me a huge hug and yelled "you got this" over and over to me. It was so huge for me. I fed off that hug and encouragement for at least a mile. In some respects, I feel like she might have helped me save my race. I was in a dark place coming off the bridge and that was just the encouragement I needed to make a push the final 5 miles.

Miles 22-24, Crystal City: I don't remember reading about a course change from 2013, but the Crystal City route was different from when I ran MCM previously. The crowds were on point in here and I really enjoyed the many Team Fisher House cheer stations. It one point a spectator yelled "Go Suter," clearly noticing my arm band. I touched it, and once again told myself to keep going and "do it for them" (words I told myself throughout the last half of this race). I gave many high fives and tried to spot friends. I noticed Danielle in this section and yelled her name. For some reason, I didn't think she saw me even though she yelled back to me. Chalk that up to mushy marathon brain in full effect! I could sense that the end was nearing and while I felt so exhausted, I tried to pick up the pace. My legs simply felt like they were churning in cement, but I kept working. I clicked through my shuffle to find my pump up songs and listened to them on repeat. I was desperate for another water station and was relieved to see one shortly after the munchkin stop, which once again, I skipped.

Miles 24-Finish, Pentagon, Marine Corps War Memorial: The mile from Crystal City to the Pentagon was long and boring. I think there were more Team Fisher House cheer squads but I can't remember for certain. Each time I saw someone wearing a Team Fisher House jersey, I cheered for them or gave them a thumbs up. After we passed the Pentagon, I started doing some mental math. I hadn't really contemplated my finish time for a while, knowing that a PR was way out of reach. I realized that I had a chance to beat my first MCM time (my C goal), but I had work to do. Remembering the advice of Jeff Galloway and the commentary about Deena Kastor in the Spirit of the Marathon movie, I started pumping my arms. My legs were dead but I worked my arms. And on the stretch to mile 26, I slowly picked people off. I desperately needed a distraction from my aching legs, so I started focusing on someone ahead of me and slowly attempted to pass them. It worked. I think I passed 3 people using this strategy.  The beloved mile 26 marker was in view and I could see the turn for the finish. I figured my family would be in here somewhere so I kept my head up. I saw them on the left side of the hill yelling wildly, flashed them a smile and then moved as fast as my tired body could carry me across the finish line. I was so happy to raise my arms in triumph, click my watch, and stop running!

Official time: 4:36.36, about 80 seconds faster than 2013. C goal achieved!

After missing a photo with the Marine Corps War
Memorial in 2013, I made sure to get one this time!
After I took a few photos and picked up my post-race food, I headed to meet my family and over to the Team Fisher House tent. Adam immediately signed me up for a massage and we found a spot to hang out and enjoy some post-race refreshments. I had a bag of animal crackers and the fruit bowl from the race box. Per usual, my stomach was a little off and I wasn't really feeling most of the food. Luckily my Dad, Adam and brother-in-law took care of my serving of wings in the Team Fisher House tent!
Marine Corps Marathon finisher and my #1 fan
The best MCM race buddy!
I finally caught up with Danielle to celebrate our races and decided it was time to head back to the hotel. I was feeling a bit cold and didn't want to wait around any longer to get a massage. While we didn't get to recreate our "Mission Accomplished" photo from 2 years prior, we did get one on the overpass into Rosslyn.

I'll be sharing more thoughts in another post, but I am so pleased with this race. It wasn't my best time, but I'm totally at peace with that. I have never given so much of myself in preparation for and during a race. I left my heart and my guts on the course on Sunday.

October 23, 2015

Five things I love - running version

This week, the lovely ladies of DC, Courtney, Mar and Cynthia  have a great topic for the Friday linkup.  Please be sure to check out their posts and many others when you click on the links.

When I think of the topic five things I love, immediately my family comes to mind. But running, travel and visiting friends come close behind and are more interesting to talk about on the blog. My race registrations completed for 2016 include some really cool racecations and they have me super pumped to train and race in new places.

 After spending 5 years living in England and not being a runner at the time, the London Marathon has been on my bucket list ever since I started running marathons.  So imagine my delight when I was accepted as a charity fundraiser for the 2016 race.  More on that in a future post, but let's just say there were some squeals at my house when I received my email confirmation.  Best of all, we will get to see quite a few friends when visiting London next April.  Hopefully some of them will even come out to cheer.

Ever since 2012, Christine and I have had a Disneyland Paris race on our list.  Mind you, runDisney had no races planned in Paris at that time, but these two girls were hoping and dreaming that our wish would come true. When the announcement was made at the Princess Half Marathon start earlier this year, we were both shocked and delighted.  About ten days ago, I spent a long time on the phone with a lovely girl who got us registered for both the 5k and half marathon at Disneyland Paris in September 2016.

Sunday, November 1st is the date of the NYC Marathon and this will be my first race in New York and my second marathon major.  Heading to the city with several runners from my Without Limits group will make the weekend fun and exciting.  We have post race plans to celebrate with a drink at the Plaza Hotel so that should be a great way to finish off our race weekend.

Spectating races is always a wonderful way to get motivated for your next race or training run.  Last weekend I cheered and celebrated three triathletes from my group who finished their first half iron distance triathlon and not only did they finish, but they had fantastic finish times as well.  These fabulous results make me more eager to do my best at my next race.  This weekend will be another opportunity to be inspired by runners as we travel to DC to spectate at the Marine Corps Marathon. We can't wait to cheer for Christine and many others we know who are racing. There are six runners I have set to track on race day and the new iPhone app should make it easy.

My turn to return the favor and cheer for Christine.

In September, I celebrated two years of being part of Without Limits, my coached training group.  This has brought so much joy to me as I train for races, including some that we travel to and race together.  While this group has a wide variety of runners from young to old, slow to super speedy, everyone is very encouraging and supportive.  You should try a group if you haven't already!

What is on your list?

October 22, 2015

Marine Corps Marathon Goals

On March 25th, my summer changed. I received that email telling me that I had obtained a spot in the coveted 40th anniversary Marine Corps Marathon. I still can't believe I entered the lottery. But I am glad that I did. After spending months of training, weekends of long runs, and weeks quietly considering my time goals, I am thrilled to be approaching race day! If you recall, this race I decided not to run with an aggressive time goal in mind and simply focus on having fun and successfully fundraise for the race.

Goals for the journey
1. Have fun! Without question, Danielle and I had a great time running together during the race 2 years ago. I told her last night that I was thrilled she convinced me to enter the lottery and I was really excited to experience this race again with her.
We basically smiled the whole way!
2. Enjoy the camaraderie of Team Fisher House. I have been really humbled at the outpouring of support (and $$) for my Fisher House fundraiser. In fact, I was really surprised to learn that I was one of the team's top fundraisers (9th) and also obtained one of the largest groups of individual donors (I was 3rd with 44 donors). I am really excited to meet my team members and the staff who have been helping us along the way. I look forward to lots of cowbell from our crew on the course!

3. Regain my marathon confidence. Yesterday, I did something really dumb. I reviewed, no wait, I actually compared my training data from Richmond Marathon to this cycle. And then I got kind of down. I trained really fast for Richmond and simply fell apart on race day. It left me angry, sad, and apathetic about running. This training cycle for Marine Corps has been about fun and finding my groove again. It simply wasn't about speed. I look forward to race day to prove to myself that Richmond didn't define me as a marathoner and there will be better race days.

4. Soak in the race. I did this really well in 2013. I want to do it again. High five spectators, enjoy the Fisher House cheering stations, thank the Marines. I want to do it all.

Outcome goals
So now let's talk time goals, shall we?
A Goal: This is the everything goes right on race day goal. It's the one with perfect weather (although I don't think we'll have that but I still want to keep this goal alive) and conditions. 4:10 or better. This would be an 8 min PR but I think this is realistic. It's 9:30 pace for 26.2 miles.

B Goal: This would still be a good race but not the ideal day. My PR dreams are still alive but not as aggressive.  If the weather turns sour, this is probably my A goal range. 4:10-4:18.00. This is in the 9:40-9:50 pace range. My long 20 milers were around 10:00 pace so this should be very doable.

C Goal: This is my "eh, nothing went right, but I still beat my first Marine Corps Marathon" time goal. 4:38.52 or better.

How do you establish race goals?