Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Building My Race Outfit **GIVEAWAY**

On Friday, I'm leaving on a seven hour road trip with my run buddy Anna. The destination is Lincoln, Nebraska, where we will be running the Lincoln National Guard Half Marathon. It also represents state #21 in my quest to Race All 50. As race week ticks away, I have gradually began my packing... aka throwing stuff on a pile on my bedroom floor. When traveling to run, the 'race outfit' is most important.

At this point, I know I'm wearing PURPLE. Odds are likely you already know it's my favorite color. (I fondly call it PR Purple!)  This weekend, the color purple has more meaning. My friend Bry is running the Lincoln Half as a member of Project Purple - a charity team running to beat pancreatic cancer. If you feel inclined to help out her fundraising, click here.  This Sunday, I will lace up my purple Asics and run to support her.

In preparation for Sunday's half marathon, I pulled out my purple ProCompression socks. I'm still weather-stalking, so undecided yet on the low trainers or the knee-high marathon socks. Lucky me, I have them both!
ProCompression socks - in PURPLE!
ProCompression socks are both functional - and fashionable!  I have nearly every color!

I wear ProCompression socks for nearly every important run. Whether I'm running long or racing hard, my feet and calves love the added squeeze that compression socks provide. I've been a long-standing fan of this particular brand because of their fit and weight. I have short legs and other brands tend to bunch up behind my knee, which causes extra sweat and chaffing. The ProCompression marathon socks in XS size have proven to be the perfect fit for my size 9 feet and short thick calves. Plus, I like how lightweight these socks feel on my legs.  I'm also a big fan that they are made in the USA. That always makes me happy to support a brand.


Sock of the Month
Low and behold, the purple marathon sock is part of April's Sock of the Month. Each month, ProCompression features a different sock design. Some styles are limited and only available that month (like the Shamrock socks). In April, ProCompression offered their purple and powder blue socks on sale - with a portion of the SOM sales benefitting charities Team In Training (purple) and Train 4 Autism (powder blue).  You can sign up on the ProCompression website to receive monthly e-mails on their SOM special.


As a ProCompression Ambassador, I'm pleased to offer you an every day discount...
Use code BLG14 for 40% Off 
Marathon Socks and Arm Sleeves


**GIVEAWAY**
Now let's have some giveaway fun! Here's your chance to WIN a pair of ProCompression Marathon Socks or Arm Sleeves (your choice!). Enter before 6:00am on May 4 via the Rafflecopter app below.

In addition to the ProCompression socks/sleeves, I'm adding a second (just for fun) prize - one of my RunHappy bracelets - to the person who comes closest to guessing my finish time in the Lincoln Half Marathon this Sunday.  To give you some guidance in your guessing...
• My slowest half-marathon time was 2:33:46 four years ago.
• My fastest PR time was 1:56:44 two years ago.
• My most recent times are 2:07:40 and 2:09:46 in the past two months

GOOD LUCK!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Congratulations to Kathryn, who came the closest 
in guessing my race time (2:06:27). She was just one second off!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

#JellyBean Race Wrap-Up

Last week was the fourth annual running of the Jelly Bean Virtual Race. Like every other year, there was amazing participation from all over the country world!  As always, my virtual races are free to participate in... with the opportunity to win cool prizes. My hope is that my virtual races are a push out the door and extra incentive for your friends and family to gather together, combining fitness and fun.

This year, there was an optional finisher's medal, which proceeds benefitted the St Jude Children's Hospital. Because of you, St Jude received a whopping $500 donation - just from this virtual race. Thank you! If you missed out on the medals, it's not too late to make a donation (here).


On Opening Day of the Jelly Bean Race (April 13), I ran the 5K with this fine looking group above. Sporting my bunny ears, I ran the first mile with my two girls, who are racking up the miles for the Peoria Kids Marathon. Then I headed back out for the remaining mileage. The best part... my last mile split was an 8:49! That's what happens when you get dumped on...

You see, Mother Nature tricked us again. With storms forecasted for the afternoon, we moved our run up a couple hours earlier to avoid the rain. Well, halfway through our run, the clouds opened up on us. We all got very wet. Of course, it was dry the rest of the afternoon. Sigh. I've had really bad weather luck with my fun runs lately.


Now for the important news... the PRIZE WINNERS from the virtual race!  
I have your mailing address and will get the goodies in the mail to you next week.

Beth Peralta (IL) - Advocare pack
Heidi Sebastian (IN) - water bottle with phone compartment
Genevieve Roestel (CA) - Subway gift card
Diane Rock (IL) - Swiftwick socks
Terri Brown (TX) - tube of Nuun hydration tablets
Laura Pyne (PA) - Headsweats beanie
Lisa Elder (IN) - You Just Got Chicked headband
Sarah Blissett (IL) - GU Energy variety pack
Stacey Kirk (NC) - 2pk of LockLaces

There were so so many great photos submitted from your virtual races. They made me SMILE all week long. My favorite was from Kimberly Merrifield. They dressed up as a bunch of jelly beans and ran their 10K this way! I just love the enthusiasm and silliness of it. Congrats Kimberly, you've won a Run & Eat Cupcakes shirt from me. Please e-mail me with your shirt size and mailing address.

THANK YOU and CONGRATS 
to everyone who ran and/or walked 
in the 4th annual Jelly Bean virtual race!  
That's a wrap... Come on back next year!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

North Face Endurance Series will be my 1st Ultra!

This post is sponsored by FitFluential LLC on behalf of The North Face Endurance Challenge.

People know I'm not typically a TRAIL runner,
but I'm not a complete novice either.
These are the trails behind my house,
groomed by yours truly.
I just registered for my first Ultra Marathon.

Wow. Digest that.

On September 13, I will be running my first 50K (31 miles) at The North Face Endurance Challenge in Eagle, WI (southeast part of the state between Madison and Milwaukee) in the Kettle Moraine State Park.  The 50K is just one of EIGHT race distances. Seriously, there is something for everyone at this event... 5K, 10K, half-marathon, marathon relay, marathon, 50K, 50 Mile and even a Kids Race.

My hubby is already in for the 5K, and it should be no surprise that my kids also want to run. The weekend race schedule is spread out nicely to accommodate everyone. To put the cherry on top, the start/finish is located right next to a campground. Hands down, our favorite summer activity is camping. My family is so excited for our North Face race/camp weekend!!

The North Face Endurance Challenge worked its way into my schedule so perfectly.  I first considered this event back in 2011. Each year, there have been scheduling conflicts and honestly, I just wasn't ready for an ultra yet. With each passing year, I listen to my friend Rachel and others rave about the event. The North Face Endurance Challenge proves again and again that it is the premiere trail race series.  It has held my interest and deep down in my heart, I knew it would be my first ultra when the time was right.

That time is now. My running mojo has changed this past year.  I was once driven by speed (not that I was ever fast), but I was obsessed with the continuous drop in my race times. I think that's natural for a beginner to continually seek improvement. The chase for a new PR again and again was thrilling, but as we all know, the plateau comes eventually. When I finished the Eugene Marathon last spring, I was tapped out; exhausted. I felt like marathon training had stripped the enjoyment out of my run. Since then, I've honestly struggled to get into any kind of training zone. Sure, I run a lot of miles - but I enjoy every step without really taxing myself. I am rarely trying to hit particular paces or timing track splits, but I do like conquering distance. These days, I'm running for the pure enjoyment of the run. Since I'm not overly concerned with my times, it seems like perfect timing to tackle an ultra in the beauty of my home state.


The North Face Endurance Challenge falls nicely in my schedule, one month before the Milwaukee Marathon (my goal race of the year).  The 50K will essentially be the last long run before my taper into the marathon.  This is either genius or completely stupid, but sometimes you gotta roll the dice and have a little fun. My training won't vary much from the marathon plan already in place; however, I'll probably add more trail running in over the summer miles.

Now, I need some FRIENDS on the trail with me!
This is your official invitation to join me on September 13, 2014 
Register here using my code D30JMWI
to receive 10% off your entry. Score!
(Next price increase is July 19.)



Did I mention Dean Karnazes will be there?!? 
He is pure inspiration bundled up into one handsome package!
I heard him speak years ago at a race expo and it's truly worth your time.

#NeverStopExploring
Follow the trail of adventure!
Hook up with The North Face Endurance Challenge on Facebook and Twitter.


Monday, April 7, 2014

Race Recap: Lincoln Presidential Half Marathon

This Saturday, I ran a half marathon as a training run.  I did the Lincoln Presidential Half two years ago to get their famous giant penny medal (here), so I really had no intention of repeating it. I'm trying to focus my race dollars on the expensive mission of #RaceAll50.  But then, they announced a 50th anniversary edition bling... a $5 bill as the finisher's medal! As soon as I saw it, I registered within hours. (The $45 entry fee is right where I think a half should be, even as little as two months out.)

The $5 bling featuring Abe Lincoln of course!
The navy blue shirt was kinda goofy with the big Lincoln head, but I actually adore it.
It's a women's Gilden performance shirt that fits me perfect and is super comfortable.

My friend Cassie and I got up early to make the 1:20 drive into Springfield. Arriving just a 1/2 hour before the start, we nabbed a great parking spot one block from the start/finish. Another reason I love these smaller marathons - no fuss, easy in, easy out.  There simply wasn't enough time pre-race. I knew so many people running this race (which made it fun), but I still didn't get a chance to talk with everyone. Sorry if I missed you! Lots of pre-race photos and meet 'n greets with readers (thanks for snagging me when you saw me!).

My Peoria running group (left), Marcia from Marcia's Healthy Slice (top right) and Carmen from She Runs Everywhere (bottom right). Carmen went on to run a killer race - new PR and grabbed 3rd place in her division with a 1:37!

The race started in front of the Old State Capitol, a one-block change from previous years.  I was pretty relaxed at the start and chatty with my pals. I wanted a good run, but had no illusions of anything spectacular. I've had achey muscles this past week and was actually slightly worried how painful 13.1 might be. I smoked this course with a sub-2 a couple years ago. I felt a bit sad to know I am no where near that speed or shape right now. Sigh.

Since this race is all about President Abraham Lincoln, the course winds through the Illinois Capitol to give you a full running tour of all the Lincoln sights.  In the first couple miles, we ran through the section of historic building, including Lincoln's home. Then we veered back downtown and past the current State Capitol building...

By time the first few miles are under my belt, I usually have a good feeling for how the race is going to go.  Today, I was not feeling it. My legs didn't feel any better once I started running, and our pace felt  taxing to me. I was super glad to be running with my pals Cassie and Heather. I kinda tucked behind them and let them pull me along.
Mile 1 - 9:43
Mile 2 - 9:38
Mile 3 - 9:31

We ran through some pretty neighborhoods with houses I can only dream of living in. The temperatures were in the mid-30's. Perfect for (me) running, but understandably chilly for cheerleaders. I remembered there being a lot more spectators last time (on a warmer day).  We ran a scenic stretch through Washington Park and the rolling hills began. The first part of this course is fairly flat, but the second half is definitely a challenge.
Mile 4 - 9:46
Mile 5 - 9:47
Mile 6 - 9:36

Washington Park

As we exited the park, there was a steep hill to climb. I tried to glide up it smooth and quick. I pulled away from my friends at this point. I knew there were challenging hills ahead and wanted to find my zone. Consistent mile splits are kinda my thing...
Mile 7 - 9:54
Mile 8 - 9:50
Mile 9 - 9:53

Shortly after the mile 9 marker, we entered into Oak Ridge Cemetery.  There's a nice downhill to pass by Lincoln's Tomb... but it's easy to miss that landmark when there's a huge UPhill looming to get back out of the cemetery. This is the hill that kind of killed me. It felt like knives stabbing into my glute muscles. Although I powered up it, not giving in to my desire to walk, I knew I was fading... fast.

coming into Lincoln Park
Anna giving the photographer some love
while I turned to head up the final hill.
Ha! Love this!
We made a few turns and quickly found ourselves in Lincoln Park.  There's a nice big downhill, but this time I knew what was coming around the corner... another uphill. I was not amused. I slowed to a walk halfway up... which conveniently is right when my friend Anna caught me. We chatted our way through the rest of the park, which was a nice distraction from the pain in my ass. Literally.

I completely forgot about the final hill that we climb to get out of Lincoln Park. But there it was, waiting to torture me. Anna sailed up it and I was struggling on my own again.
Mile 10 - 10:01
Mile 11 - 10:07
Mile 12 - 10:30

I was about to reach into my shirt and pull out an earbud for music when Cassie caught up to me. We chatted a bit, but she had gas left and moved ahead as well. I tried to hang with her in the last mile, but just couldn't find the motivation. Ugh, I can't remember a race where I felt so worn-down in the last mile.
Mile 13 - 9:46

The finish line was different this year too. There were suddenly a lot of people but I had a hard time seeing ahead where the finish was. I must have looked confused because some guy yelled out, "Turn left at the light and you'll finish." Whew, thanks. Done.

Official Chip Time 2:09:46
average pace 9:54
Overall #905 out of 2???
Female #378 out of 1134
Div F35-39 #68 out of 209

I didn't have the best-feeling run, but it sure was a fun event. The course is very pretty, albeit not-easy. The entry fee is perfect and it's a close getaway from home.  I would highly suggest this event - especially if you don't already have their famous giant penny medal. (There were complaints of people wanting the penny versus the $5 bill this year. I thought it was cool that the race actually offered the penny option at the finish line.)  All around GREAT RACE!

Of course, we took a boatload of fun photos after the race...


Wearing a Badgers outfit (in honor of Saturday's Final Four game) was a blast. I got so many cheers along the course from Big Ten fans. At the post-party, I bumped into a fun Kentucky fan. We were both wearing the sparkle skirts too! 
How about just one more hill Mr. Lincoln?


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

First Quarter Review

In January, I created a year-long training plan here to make all my races work together... and ultimately land me a substantial marathon PR in the fall.  The plan was broken into phases to keep my focus in line (and keep myself from doing anything stupid). And just like that, the first quarter of 2014 is gone. It's time to check in...

RUN MILES 
January 94
February 105
March 113    
Q1 Total 312
For the most part, I was successful at slowly building my mileage and keeping plantar fasciitis (PF) at bay. It pops up from time to time again. As long as I roll and stretch the foot after every run, it's good.  As I started 2014, fresh off pneumonia, three miles was a tough workout. I felt like I was starting this running thing all over again, from scratch. There were days I cried over my evaporated endurance. But slowly, I trudged through one of the toughest winters (since I started running). I refused to let the constant snow and bitter cold temperatures stop me. The 'quick 3' began to feel short and easy once again. I'm happy to say now (three months later) that I feel like I'm back to where I was last fall.

RACES
January 11 - Chicago Polar Dash (14 miles)
March 15 - Shamrock 8K
March 16 - Shamrock Half Marathon
(click on the race names for full recaps)
I was a wee-bit worried about finishing the Chicago race, based off my simple lack of training. Could I even run 14 miles? I took it slow and consistent, but ran the total 14 miles in wet cold conditions. In March, I was thrilled to be back on my #RaceAll50 journey... checking off state #20 in Virginia. Both the 8K and 13.1 were a test of control and pacing for me, and I was happy with the results. Keeping my pace under 10min/miles for both races, with a nice kick to finish each.

CHALLENGES
For eight weeks, I hosted the #WinterMiles Challenge. Over 1400 people started the New Year with this challenge! The concept was basic - an accountability to encourage participants to run their miles each week - without giving in to winter excuses. There were prize giveaways each week, as well as a mid-challenge virtual race. I received so much positive feedback on the challenge, that we'll definitely repeat next winter.

The ZOOMA contest engulfed me at the end of January and all of February. Everyday, I begged my friends, family and readers to vote for me. It consumed so much of my thoughts - trying to come up with new ideas each day and obsessed with following the votes.  It was a close race, but in the end, I won the trip to run ZOOMA Napa Valley (June 28)... and then got the joy of giving away a second trip! I will never be able to thank you enough for this! California will now be state #24 on my #RaceAll50 quest.

CROSS TRAINING
Spinning - 43 classes
That's an average of 3.6 classes per week, most of which I was the instructor. No matter how you look at it, getting paid to workout is a bonus! My classes have been full as of lately which gives me a energy boost. By far, Spinning is my favorite cross-train and the numbers prove it.

Swimming - 5 workouts
Total fail here. I started the year with a pledge to get back into the pool. It does wonders to widdle my middle and lose weight - without the extra pounding on my runner legs. All five swims I've done have gone well, and yet like strength work, my heart is just not in it. If I have any hope of not drowning doing well in my July Olympic Triathlon, I best get myself focused and in the pool. This is a must-change for the second quarter.

Strength - 9 sessions
All but one of these classes, I was the instructor. (Every Mon night, I teach a 1/2 hour Strength class at the gym - 10 minutes each of arms, legs, core.) Simply put, I need to do more strength work on my own. I have a huge assortment of weights at home and should utilize it more. Working 10-15 minute sessions into my day would payoff big for my running. I somehow just gotta will myself to do it, even when I don't want to.

HONORS
In the past few months, I was named an Ambassador for both ProCompression and Gone For A Run. These are two companies whom I highly regard their products (as in I buy them and use them). I'm excited to share more opportunities with these brands (giveaways! discounts!) for you.
Use code BLG14 for 40% off Marathon Socks & Arm Sleeves at ProCompression!


WEIGHT
I'm disappointed that I haven't lost a single pound in the first quarter. After a roller coaster of up/down 5 pounds, I stand exactly where I was on New Years. In order to hit my marathon run goals this year, I have GOT to get a good 20 lbs off.  I'm not overly obsessed with the scale, but a lower number certainly makes running easier, faster and less pounding on my joints.  What's my problem? I like the sweets, carbs and beer. To win, I've gotta get it under control.


Here's to new quarter... April thru June!  
More miles, more swim, more strength, better food.
Check out my upcoming race schedule here.

How was the start of YOUR year?
What are your goals for the 2nd quarter?