Race recap: Carmel half

It’s a little strange to say this but 13.1 miles is no longer a super crazy, totally ridiculous, OMG no way I can do that distance. When I woke up Saturday morning for my third half marathon, the Carmel half, I had some of the usual race day jitters but it also just felt like another early morning long run. This is a good thing if I ever want to attempt a full, which is the next logical (but super crazy, totally ridiculous, OMG no way I can do that distance) challenge.

Based on my training, I had a reach goal in mind – 2:15. I knew it would be tough and require some hard work because the pace was a little faster than my training runs. I went out faster than planned but I felt really good through mile 8. When I had my slowest split in mile 10, I started to worry. I picked up my pace in the last two miles but had to pee really badly. I wasn’t about to stop so you can imagine what mile 12 was like for me…

In the end, I crossed the finish line in 2:16:38, a 10:26 average pace and a two-minute PR! I didn’t have quite the overwhelming feeling as my last half but I was really proud of the effort.

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The Carmel half brought on a couple firsts for me. It was my first time doing a spring race. In typical Indiana fashion, I trained in 20 – 40 degree weather but raced in 50 – 60 degree weather. Everyone kept asking if I was excited for the higher temps but it was a little too warm for me.

It was also my first time doing a half that wasn’t the Monumental. That course will always be special to me since it was the first one I did. It also feels like home court advantage since I live downtown and run on those streets all the time. I don’t know Carmel at all and despite studying the course map for days, I got really turned around mentally in the last few miles. Obviously you know based on your GPS watch and the mile markers how much distance is left, but it helps me to break up the course into stretches and know what’s next after each turn. I wasn’t able to visualize the course map at the end and I think it threw me off a little. But I can’t only ever run the Monumental so it was good experience.

The course is a little weird too. Around mile 3.5, the full continues straight but the half turns around a cone and goes back the other direction. With all the roundabouts in Carmel, you’d think they could have made that turn more gradual. There were also more hills than I anticipated. Of course it’s Indiana so they were baby hills but any incline is a lot when you’re used to flat runs. I did enjoy when we were on the Hagan-Burke Trail and the Monon, but if the race gets any bigger that section will be really tight.

Like the Monumental, I saw a lot of familiar faces at the race, either running, volunteering or cheering. I can’t give enough love to the Indy running community. It’s a really special group and the support has been amazing. I have to give a big shout out to my friend Jesse Davis who won the full marathon for the third year in a row and beat his own course record. He is stupid fast and I’m just happy to say I finished the half before he finished the full this time.

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So what’s next? I’m signed up for the Monumental again this November and plan on crushing my 2:15 goal. I think it’s definitely doable and I’m ready to put in the work to get there. Until then, I’ll do some smaller races and get back into crossfit. I tend to back off to conserve my legs as it gets closer to race day but I’m missing Crossfit Naptown family!

Did you run the Carmel half or full? What did you think of the course? Have you ever set a reach goal and fell short? Does peeing your pants while running because you want to finish in a certain time make you legit or stupid?

Training update: Carmel half and Crossfit Open

Something weird (but awesome) happened at some point during this training season. My super fast, can’t breath, basically sprinting pace became the average pace for my training runs. And my crazy, no way I can lift that weight became what I use regularly during crossfit workouts.

I’m not exactly sure what to attribute it to. I haven’t really lost any more weight. I was eating really well in January but have fallen off a little since then. I have been trying to scale less in crossfit and push my pace harder on runs, which helps. But it’s also possible I’m just starting to see the long-term benefits of consistently working out for the last three years.

Mother Nature still hates us all
The weather has been so ridiculous that one day when it crept above 50 degrees, I wrote a love letter to a 17-mile stretch of pavement. My total mileage has been low compared to previous halves but my long runs have felt strong. So, I’m not really sure what to expect on race day. I got in my last long run this weekend – 10 miles in the rain and cold. A lot of people said I was crazy but at this point who knows what race day conditions will be. I wanted to prove to myself I’m mentally and physically tough enough to handle it and I refuse to let Mother Nature win.

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Chasing goals
In my first half, my goal was just to finish the damn thing (check). The second time around, I wanted to run the whole thing and hopefully finish faster (check, check). For the Carmel half, I have a somewhat ambitious time in mind. It’s an aggressive pace that I’ll have to work for and the last few miles may be painful. I can’t wait to go after it!

Stepping up my watch game
I started running with the Garmin Forerunner 10. There are a lot of GPS watches out there but this one was recommended by a few fellow runners and has the basic features I need at a reasonable price. It’s been helpful to know how far I have left, if I need to pick up the pace, etc. There’s also an auto pause feature that stops your time when you stop moving. That’s great for me since I run downtown and get stopped by lights occasionally.

The watch stores your last seven runs so I make a habit of uploading the data to my computer right away. This is where it gets fun. You can check your splits, elevation on the route and even what the weather conditions were like that day. The more I use it, the more interesting it will be to compare the data.

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This weekend also wrapped up the 2014 Crossfit Open. I knew I wouldn’t be able to do all the movements, but I would be forced to push myself and Rx what I could (no scaling).

  • 14.1 (double unders and snatches): I was worried about not getting past the double unders since I have a hard time stringing them together. And I was worried about the snatch weight. I ended up getting through two full rounds plus some! SCORE: 99.
  • 14.2 (overhead squats and chest to bar pull ups): I can’t do unassisted pull ups so I knew my score wouldn’t be more than 10. But the OHS weight was not far off of my one rep max and it’s one of my worst movements so 10 reps in 3:00 was even questionable. I picked up the bar, got into position and ended up doing all 10 reps unbroken. Boom. SCORE: 10.
  •  14.3 (deadlifts and box jumps): I couldn’t wait to do this workout when it was announced! Deadlifts are one of my strongest moves and I knew I could handle the increasing weight with no problem. This leveled the playing field for me and I was excited to get one of the higher scores in the gym for people at my skill level. I can’t lie, I felt like a badass. SCORE: 105.
  •  14.4 (row, toes to bar, wall balls, power cleans, muscle ups): I can do three of the five movements. Toes to bar is not one of them. I got through the row and had about 10:00 left to go for my first ever toes to bar. I got closer than I ever have a couple times but just couldn’t make it happen. It was incredibly frustrating and I was in a bit of a weird mental place after this one. SCORE: 60.
  •  14.5 (thrusters and bar-facing burpees): We all knew these two movements were going to end up in the final workout but no one could have anticipated the crazy rep scheme. It’s for time so in order to get points you have to finish the workout. The last time I did Fran, I Rx’d the thrusters but that’s only 45 reps versus 84 in this one. I approached it like I did my 10-miler the day before: Don’t go out too fast, maintain a steady pace and don’t stop moving. It was probably one of the hardest workouts I’ve done since I started crossfit but I powered through. SCORE: 26:46.

Overall, the Open was a great experience. I ended up being able to do more than I thought I could and it was a huge confidence builder. I got points on the board for each workout and have a baseline for next year as I continue to improve. The Open proved I need to stop doubting myself and I am mentally and physically tougher than I realized.

Did you participate in the Crossfit Open? What was your experience like? Are you training for a spring race and feeling super frustrated with Mother Nature? Do you use a GPS watch while running or do you find it distracting? Share your thoughts!

The faster we run, the sooner we can drink beer

This weekend was my first race of 2014: the Shamrock Run. The course was four miles from Monument Circle to Fountain Square and back. It was a little chilly at the start but warmed up quickly and ended up being a beautiful day to race.

My dad ran with me, which was a really cool experience. It was only the second time we’ve ever run together, despite him being one of my inspirations and the person I call after almost every single run. I’ve come a long way since our first run and was able to keep up conversation a little better and push the pace a lot more. We flew through the course and toward the end my dad said he wished the race was longer.   

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I was surprised at how chill I was going into this race. Maybe it was the shorter distance. Obviously there’s a lot more pressure for a half marathon. Months of training come down to one day, one chance to race your heart out. I spend way too much time before the half analyzing the course map, strategizing my water and fuel breaks, visualizing the race, etc.

My only real thought with the Shamrock Run was that I wanted to finish under 40 minutes. I knew that was doable based on how my training runs have gone so far this season. And my dad is faster than me so I knew he would help push me along. Our chip time was 37:35, a 9:23 pace, which I was super happy with!

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What I didn’t factor in is what it would be like running the morning after doing 14.3. I signed up for the Crossfit Open, which is the first round of competition that leads to the Crossfit Games you see broadcast on ESPN. The Open workouts are tough and designed to filter out the best of the best athletes. Each week a different workout is announced and this week’s workout had heavy deadlifts. My legs felt okay on the run but my back did start tightening up during mile three. I wonder if I could have pushed the pace even more without that.

Outside of some crazy crowd weaving at the start, I really enjoyed this race. My dad and I ran fast and had a great time. And the rest of the day was full of “I heart Indy so hard right now” moments as my friends and I celebrated St. Patrick’s Day in the sun.

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What race did you have the most fun during? Are you a talker runner like my dad or a huffer puffer shuffler like me? And what’s with the deal with all the St. Patrick’s Day races? There were at least three in Indy on Saturday. 

A love letter to the Monon Trail

We’ve been having a rough winter here in Indy. More rough than normal. Stupid cold, feels like -40 degrees rough. So this past Saturday when the sun came out of hiding and the temperature climbed up to 53 degrees, people went a little crazy.

My first reaction was to run outside – literally. I’m training for the Carmel half marathon, my first time doing a big race in the spring. I don’t think I anticipated how hard it would be to start training during winter. I haven’t been nearly as consistent as my previous two halves because I don’t have the proper gear to run in sub-zero temps or on icy/snowy surfaces.

Excuses, I know, but that’s all the more reason why I couldn’t wait to get outside on Saturday. On my run, I saw a ton of people walking, running and biking down the Monon Trail. The city felt alive again and it was invigorating.

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I was struck by how excited I was to be on the Monon again. It felt like I was reconnecting with an old friend I hadn’t seen in forever. With each step, the familiarity and comfort of the trail was solidified and soon it was like no time had passed. Like any good friendship, no words needed to be said. No apologies for time spent away. No awkward small talk as we try to figure out how to be around each other again. Just one foot in front of the other, pounding pavement, like we do best.

The Monon is almost like a living, breathing entity. It’s there for your triumphs, for your setbacks and for the occasional pub roll. There’s a sense of community and shared purpose when you pass people on the trail, whether they are in training mode or just going for a stroll. And I know I’m not the only one to lovingly refer to it as a friend. In fact, my buddy Josh even has a tattoo of the Monon on his wrist.

As the saying goes, you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone. I suppose I have this ridiculous winter to thank for making me truly appreciate everything the Monon is and has to offer. Once we can finally shake Old Man Winter, I will waste no time taking full advantage of the Monon every chance I get!

Do you think of the Monon as a friend? How are you dealing with the separation anxiety this winter has caused? Share your Monon stories in the comments below!

California Love

I had the opportunity to go to San Francisco for a work conference last week. It was my first time in California so I took full advantage and tacked on a few extra days to see all the city had to offer. Unfortunately it rained most of my trip but I crammed in about as much as I could and had a great time!

The tourist checklist

  • Chinatown – So many shops! I got a beautiful purse at one shop and also stopped in the Golden Gate Bakery to try dan tat (egg tart). It was a little too custard-like for me but the flaky crust was delish.
  • Lombard Street – Obligatory photo opp but honestly not that exciting.

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  • Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39 – Lots of restaurants and shops to wander through. At the end of the pier is a pretty unique site, which I captured on video.
  • Cable Car Museum – Free and really interesting! You can learn about how cable cars work and see the system that powers all the lines in the city. (Watch a video here)
  • Muir Woods – Thankful for my friend who lives in SF and drove out here with me! We wanted to do a 10-mile hike but it was so rainy and misty that we ended up doing less than four. Still, it was a pretty amazing hike among the ridiculously tall trees.

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  • Alcatraz – The crazy rain added an element of eeriness to touring the rock. I took the guided walk up to the cellhouse listening to a ranger talk about all the escape attempts. In the cellhouse, I did the audio tour which was incredibly well done. It’s narrated by four officers and four prisoners talking firsthand about their Alcatraz experience. Including ferry time, the entire trip took about three hours.

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The eats

  • Urban Tavern – Juicy steak and trendy décor. What more do you need out of a restaurant?
  • Mikkeller Bar – A must visit for craft beer lovers! Diverse tap list and great food to pair with it, too.
  • The Franciscan – In my attempts to overcome my pickiness, I am tip toeing into the world of seafood. I enjoyed the crab alfredo and the view of the Alcatraz lighthouse in the distance.
  • Bread & Cocoa – Quick, tasty pit stop for lunch near the Financial District.
  • Tony Tutto Pizza – Stopped here in Mill Valley after hiking at Muir Woods. The smell of bread is overwhelming when you walk in. I started drooling immediately. Note: Cash only.
  • Boudin – Picked up a loaf of sourdough bread to bring back with me.

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The hills

  • I did a four-mile out and back on the Bay Trail from Hyde Street Pier toward Crissy Field. The trail is perfect for runners! Wide with separate lanes for bikers and an awesome view of the Golden Gate Bridge.
  • My second run was probably the most challenging I’ve ever done. I ran from the hostel to the Lyons Street steps and back (5.3 miles). I thought the stairs would be the craziest part but the streets on that side of town were insane. I was hunched over, huffing and puffing just trying to keep moving. The payoff was a great view of the bay and some super fancy houses from the top of the stairs.

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The digs

  • Marriott Marquis – Stayed here during the work-sponsored portion of the trip. Great location, comfy bed and friendly staff.
  • USA Hostels – Moved here for the Melanie-sponsored portion. Very affordable alternative to the pricy SF hotels. I stayed in a four-person room with an en suite bathroom. Awesome staff, great lounge area, planned activities every day and pancakes for breakfast! It was a great experience.

I covered a lot in my short time but there’s so much more to see in SF. What did I miss? Share your favorite spots in the comments!

What makes a good crossfit partner?

I’ve been doing crossfit for over a year now and one of the things I love about it is the community aspect. My gym, Crossfit Naptown, has cultivated an environment where everyone is encouraging, motivating and supportive, especially during the WOD (workout of the day). I realize not everyone likes this type of atmosphere but I feel like it’s kept me accountable and made me push myself harder.

One example of this is when we partner during a WOD. Typically, one person is completing the workout and the other is counting repetitions and/or rounds and making sure standards are met for each movement. You are essentially coaching each other through the WOD. If you have a good partner, this format can really help you power through and maintain good form.

But what makes a good partner? Everyone is different and what works to push you might not be the same for who you’re paired up with. And every WOD is different so what motivates you on one type of WOD may be completely different than another. Having a quick conversation before the workout can go a long way to make sure you are helping your partner perform their best.

Here are a few questions you can ask before the clock starts:

  1. What’s your goal? Are they aiming for a certain number of reps or a specific time? Are they focusing on decreasing their scale and getting closer to Rx-ing a movement? Do they want to have really clean reps every time?
  1. Do you have a strategy? Are they breaking up reps/rounds into smaller sets? If they rest, do they want to keep it to a certain number of seconds before getting back into it?
  1. How do you want to be pushed? Some people want you to yell at them to pick up the bar and go. Some people don’t want you to comment and they will start back up when they’re ready. Some people love the rah rah cheerleading and others hate it.
  1. How should I update you on your progress? Do they want to know how many rounds they have left, how much time is left or what percentage of the workout they are through? Or do they just want to churn it out and not think about it until the clock stops?
  1. What are your scales for this WOD? “Relative intensity” is an important crossfit term. It basically means that you need to scale workouts appropriately based on a variety of factors: skill level, injuries, mental/emotional state that particular day, etc. For example, if the workout has push ups, you shouldn’t no rep someone for doing knee-style push ups if that’s their scale. 
  1. Do you want me to take pictures of you in beast mode? Half kidding :)

How your partner answers each question will give you guidelines for coaching them. This is especially helpful if you’re paired up with someone you’ve not worked out with before at the gym. It’s better to be upfront about each other’s needs than be annoyed during an entire workout because your styles are different.

For my fellow cultfitters, how do you like to be coached during a WOD? Are there other questions a good partner should ask? Share your thoughts by commenting below! 

A Monumental Day

Oh what a difference a year can make! This Saturday I ran my second half marathon. It was the same course but a completely different race for me. Last year was about proving I could do the (seemingly) impossible. This year was about knowing I’m so much stronger and mentally tougher.

My main goal was to run the entire thing – no walking. Last year things got rough in the last few miles and I walked a couple times on Meridian Street. I didn’t have a set time in mind, outside of beating my 2:26:18 finish last year. If you read my training update, you know my confidence was through the roof and I was hungry for race day.

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I got in the corral for my pace and tried to get focused. I might be alone in this, but I kind of hate the start line chatter. Everyone is working out their nerves and I get that. But I have to tune it all out and go through my pre-race pep talk in my head.

At mile 1 my watch read 10:30 and I was worried I was going out too fast. Around that same spot, I got passed by my friends Meggie, Meghan, Jake and Chad (pictured post-race below). It was awesome to see them but they are all faster than me so I was worried about pacing again. They took off and I was feeling good at the 10:30 pace so I settled into it.

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When I got to Mass Ave, I was excited. This is my street. This is my home. We turned onto Central, part of my regular 3-mile route I’ve done so many times. It was such a different feeling than last year when I mainly trained on a treadmill. Training entirely outside helped me learn to listen to my body and know what different paces felt like. And I ran in all sorts of weather so I was ready for anything.

At the split (mile 7), I was feeling really good and maintaining a 10:30 – 10:45 pace. I don’t have a fancy watch so I did the math in my head at each mile marker. The next three miles were all about getting to Meridian Street. I wanted it so bad.couldn’t wait to get to that last stretch where I walked last year and just kill it.

When I turned onto Meridian at The Children’s Museum, I got a huge grin on my face and I just knew. I knew I was getting it done with no walking. My time at mile 10 was faster than my training run and I realized I was on track to crush my time from last year if I kept up my pace.

I had to negotiate heavy traffic as I rounded onto West Street and kicked into high gear going into the chute. My parents were at the finish line but I didn’t even hear their awesome cheers (on display in the video my dad captured below) since I was super focused on finishing strong.

My final chip time was 2:18:46, almost eight minutes faster than last year! There are no words to describe how I felt. You train so hard and log so many miles hoping it all comes together on race day. And it totally did for me. My legs were strong and my mindset was solid. I felt like I ran smart and even managed a negative split.

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I found my parents and when they asked how it went, I started crying. I’m not a big fan of emotions but I couldn’t help it. I was so proud of myself. I felt like I graduated from “runner” to runner during the race, if that makes sense.

What’s next?

In last year’s recap, I talked about maintaining my base during the winter but I failed at that. This year, I’m already looking at spring races and thinking about a goal time to train for. I am riding a serious runner’s high right now and don’t want to lose this feeling. And watching so many of my friends finish with PRs or run their first full marathon this weekend has me amped up to get out there again.

One difference from last year that might help me stay accountable is my assimilation into Indy’s running community. Through crossfit, volunteering with Back on My Feet and Twitter, I’ve gotten to know a lot more runners (a few pictured below). They are much more legit than me, but they’ve all been incredibly supportive and celebrate my personal bests with the same enthusiasm as their badass performances. I know they’ll be out there running through the winter and it will help motivate me to do the same.

Rusted Bears

Did you run the Monumental half or full? How was your race? What keeps you motivated to train during the winter? What spring half should I sign up for?