Running the ‘Burgh

Gather ’round, friends, and let me tell you the story of the Pittsburgh half-marathon.  It’s a little long, so grab some popcorn and a comfy chair!

As a reminder, I planned my half-marathon races so that I would have three weeks and a day between them.  The first one was a practice for the real deal (because why not, right?) Coming out of the Martian, I was feeling great – strong, empowered, like I could conquer the world.  I took a week off of running (with the exception of a 2 mile jog to loosen up my cold-cramped muscles) to allow myself time to heal up.

Not going to lie, my first real run that second week was rough.  I felt I was moving like molasses.  But I finished that one and the rest of the runs on my training plan, keeping a faster and stronger pace than I had before. That is, until disaster struck a mere six days from the Pittsburgh race.  I was running in Gallup park on the first 80 degree day of the year, with a full water belt and feeling fantastic.  About a mile into a race-pace 5k, I was hit with this sudden, super sharp pain on the outer back of my right knee.  I stopped immediately and stretched it out, thinking it was a cramp.  Tried to run again and my leg buckled.  At this point I was frustrated and pissed off and in a fair bit of pain.  After doing some testing, I found out that I could walk with minimal pain as long as I didn’t fully extend my leg.  As I slowly made my way back to my car, I gave my leg a stern talking to: “we have a race Sunday, so you’d better get your act together”, etc etc. Yes, I was actually saying this out loud on a very crowded trail, and I definitely got some strange looks.

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KT tape saving the day!

Despite this major setback, I decided to still give Sunday a try.  My plan was to take the rest of the week off (about 3 more runs), rest my knee a ton, and hope for the best.  I knew I could always drop out at one of the water/aid/radio stations if needed.  Saturday at the expo, I still had some pain with certain movements but it was tolerable.  They had free KT taping, which for those who don’t know is a magical tape that can help your muscle aches and pains not ache and pain you as much anymore.  I described to the woman where my pain was and she put this beautiful piece of art together.  I don’t entirely know how, but it seemed to work.  Honestly, at this point, I was willing to give anything a shot.

Sunday dawned about an hour after my dad dropped me and my friend Pete off at the Smithfield Street Bridge to walk to the start line.  I was incredibly nervous, and made the decision that as long as I could walk without pain I would finish the race.  This was by far the biggest race I have ever run in at about 40,000 participants.  To give you an idea of JUST HOW BIG this race was, I took the below picture.  I am towards the back of the final wave.  If you look very close, in the center just under the second stoplight there is an itty bitty start line.

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There is a start line there, I promise!

I was very excited to see my friend Justin, whom I’ve known since grade school, and his dad in my corral and was able to start the race with them.  It took around 30 minutes for us to get to the start line after the gun – 40,000 is a LOT of people. There was so much energy around the start line, and I have never felt anything like it.  Before I knew it, the pack I was in was cheering at the sight of the first mile marker.  I joined in, excited to hear from my app that I had run my fastest mile since high school – 13:39 (whoopsie!).  Around the two mile mark, my knee started to bother me but nowhere near as bad as before.  Luckily, that went away before I hit the first bridge, and I was able to relax a bit.

It’s necessary at this point to take a moment to describe the course for you.  It starts downtown, and you run into the Strip District (right past Bella Notte, my favorite pizza place) where you cross the 16th street bridge to the North Shore.  On the North Shore you run past the stadiums before crossing the West End Bridge.  After a brief tour through the West End, you run straight up Carson Street through the South Side, past Station Square (and the Gateway Clipper Fleet where we had our wedding reception) to the Birmingham bridge, where you cross into Uptown and finally end running down the Boulevard of the Allies.

Words cannot describe how absolutely COOL it is to run through your hometown.  Everywhere I went brought back memories of good times, good food, and good friends.  I ran past places I recognized and places I didn’t.  Places where I’d been stuck in traffic for hours, gone on field trips, explored that summer I took a class at CCAC North. Part of what made this race fantastic was the crowds; the city definitely turned out for this event.  I think the farthest I went without passing a spectator was 300 feet.  I signed someone’s board, I gave people high fives, I gave a Mr. Roger’s poster a high five (twice!), I hit power-up posters for good luck, I laughed at cheer signs (my favorites were “Chafing the Dream”, “You’re going to be Thor tomorrow”, and “You’re running better than the government”).

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7.1 miles in and going strong (pic by Gene Leis)

The first few miles flew by!  Before I knew it, I had hit the first marathon relay checkpoint at approximately 5 miles in.  Just as I was passing the hand-off point, I heard a “Woo Allie go!!” and what to my wondering eyes should appear but a Cassie ready with a high-five and her roommate Candace who had just finished the first leg of the race!!!  I knew she was going to be somewhere on the course, but was not expecting to see them so soon, and it definitely gave me a little boost of happy energy.  Shortly after that, waiting for me at the 7.1 mile mark, were my dad and sister, who were part of the Ham radio communication team (thanks, guys!).  I was going strong, feeling good, and making absolutely fantastic time.  I actually got cheers from my sister twice since she ran down the alley to catch me after a turn ❤  I am so thankful to have such supportive people in my life!

After the 8-mile mark, I started to seriously slow down when the bigger hills started to show up.  By this point I knew in my heart that I was going to finish, it was just a matter of sticking it out to the end.  I underestimated some of the hills and lost my rhythm a bit when I hit them a bit too fast.  There was way more walking than I would have liked, but throughout it all, I kept the motto “Keep Moving Forward” (Walt Disney) and variations of it running through my head.  My goal was to keep forward momentum no matter how slow.  Going up the 150 foot elevation increase at mile 11.5 sucked, and it was my slowest mile of the run.  But I made it to the top, where I passed on a vodka shot someone was offering (LOL).

From there it was all downhill, and I ran as much as I could and walked when I couldn’t, always making sure to keep moving.  Just before the finish line, I saw my sister and dad again with cameras ready.  Then, 3 hours and 48 minutes after I started the race, I crossed the finish line for the Pittsburgh half marathon.

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I did it!!! (pic by Gene Leis)

Not going to lie, I started bawling after I crossed the mat.  I couldn’t believe (and still can’t quite believe) that I had done it, and only 6 minutes slower than my previous half marathon.  Considering this course was significantly harder, that is a great time!  I don’t know that I’ve ever been more proud of myself than I was in that moment.  I had run not one but two half marathons in less than a month, and crushed both of them!!  Pardon the language, but holy shit, that is a HUGE set of accomplishments!!

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Myself and Pete, victorious! (pic by Gene Leis)

Thanks to the modern technology of cell phones, my dad, sister and I were able to meet up with Pete (who ran the full marathon) and his cheer squad to celebrate – with ice cream!  That was probably one of the best peanut butter concoctions I’ve ever had!

I decided that night that I wanted to run the Pittsburgh half marathon again in 2020, both because I want to beat my time and because it was just such an awesome race!  I’ve done it once, and I know I can do it again 🙂

As always, I could not have done this without your support and encouragement!  It has been a wild ride to this point, and I cannot wait to go on more adventures with you in the future!  On to the next item of my fitness wish list!

 

 

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Lessons from my first half marathon

It’s been a while since I’ve posted on here, friends! Life got super crazy, as it tends to do, and I unfortunately didn’t have time to keep up my blog in addition to everything else going on. I am almost 1 year into my program and am around 60 pounds down give or take. As I have mentioned in previous posts I have taken up running, and part of the reason for not updating this blog was because I was training for my first ever half marathon!!!

For those who don’t know, a half marathon is 13.1 miles long. I signed up for the Pittsburgh half marathon on May 6th, which has a pretty strict time limit on it if you are a slow runner (more on that later). Since I didn’t want that kind of pressure, I decided to sign up for another half marathon 3 weeks before to get a feel for the distance. I’m so glad I did, even though it was a miserable experience. So, with the Pittsburgh half just around the corner, here are some lessons I have learned since I began training in November:

1) It’s okay to have a bad training day, or to end a run short, or to just not run at all for a day (or a week if you get sick). Self-care is so important in general, and at first I would beat myself up over not going as fast as I did before, or cutting a run short if I really wasn’t in the mood. Once I learned to cut myself some slack with the training program, I found my other non-running self care skills started to improve as well!

2) It’s good to train outside in bad weather. Due to the rough winter we had I didn’t want to risk running outside most of the time, and 40 degrees was my outdoor cutoff. Well, wouldn’t you know it race day was a steady rain all day with temperatures falling from 39 degrees. I had to play a guessing game with how my body would react and just hope for the best.

3) Keep moving forward. Probably the best advice I read on the internet prior to my race was that no matter how slowly you are moving, keep moving forward during the run. “Forward progress” became my mantra for a good while while I was freezing my butt off.

4) Your muscles cramp up way easier in the cold. I knew this before from track in high school, but I had forgotten just how fast it could happen. I thought for sure I had messed up my knee quite bad around mile 8, but it was thankfully just a really bad upper calf cramp that went away after a few days.

5) You can get hives from taking a hot shower after being so cold for so long. I was definitely not expecting to get hives all over my back, and by far that was the most uncomfortable part of the race!!

6) The finish high is really strong when you’ve finished something for the first time. I may have been miserable, but I crossed that finish line super proud of myself and what I accomplished!

In addition to the above, probably the most important thing that I learned is that I can do anything if I set my mind to it. Last year at this time I never would have imagined that I would have completed a half marathon, yet here we are! And I finished in 3 hours, 42 minutes!! The time limit for Pittsburgh is 3:30, but I am confident now more than ever that I will cross that finish line!

I definitely could not have come this far without your support and love and friendship! I cannot wait to share about the Pittsburgh half marathon!

Hitting a snag

Hello friends!

Sorry for the long delay between posts! Things have been super crazy between preparing for a work conference in Boston and a lot of life happening. Unfortunately, all of that stress was getting to me, and I was really struggling to keep it together. 

Something had to give, and I chose to temporarily put my diet on hold.  I decided this for a number of reasons, the biggest being that my willpower was crumbling due to lack of sleep, and I was starting to feel extreme guilt for eating off-program.  I knew that that negativity wasn’t something I needed to deal with, and since that was something I actually had control over I made the decision to be gentle with myself. 

Now, this doesn’t mean that I’ve gone crazy eating all of the things. I’m still making healthier decisions (baked rather than fried, veggies before eating the rest of the meal, cooking more at home, watching portion sizes, etc). Binge eating has always been one of my biggest struggles. The first year that I started my antidepressant, I gained 60 pounds from stress eating Domino’s stuffed cheesy bread, among other things. One of my reasons for doing this diet program was to break, or at least diminish, my emotional connection with food.

I’m extraordinarily happy to report that in the month that I have been off-program, I have gained exactly ZERO pounds!!  Honestly, this makes me as happy as when I was losing weight.  The fact that I was able to moderate my food intake and exercise in a period of high stress, when I otherwise would have gained at least 5-10 pounds, is a huge accomplishment!! I won’t always be on this diet program, but I will have periods of high stress in my life. And I most definitely have learned fantastic life skills from this program!

The last thing I wanted to mention was that I got to see a visual representation of my efforts once again – it never gets old!! I took this picture on the airplane on the way to Boston (with lots of commentary from Amy). The last time I flew – the month before I started this program – I was millimeters away from needing a seat belt extension.

I’m still 60 pounds down, and looking to lose around 100 more. This is definitely a crazy journey, friends! Thanks for sticking with me!

My “first” 5k adventure

As many of you might have seen, I recently ran a 5k!! This was a huge deal for me, because I haven’t run any further than a mile since 2008, the one and only year I did my high school cross country team. Also, this was my first ever legit road race.

I find this quite ironic, actually, because I hate running. I’m really more of a biker, but one day in July I woke up and was like, I’m going to run the Melon Festival 5k in 6 weeks! So I convinced my friend and coworker Amy to run with me and signed up 🙂

I’ve been working with my personal trainer, Chad, since November of 2015. I figured, how hard could it be to run 3.1 miles? I’ve essentially been doing extended conditioning by being overweight and doing all sorts of lifts and cardio, now being more than 50 pounds down it shouldn’t be that bad.  I did one training run beforehand, of 3.1 miles, because I wanted to see what kind of pace to expect. That one I finished in 52 minutes.

So the day of the race it’s dreary and windy and I’m seriously regretting my decision to sign up. My parents came into town for the festival and I knew they would be at the finish line waiting, so I lined up with Amy and her niece Paige and eventually we were off. 

Now, I’ve driven in Howell before and it’s very flat. But for some reason when you’re running everything suddenly becomes WAY more hilly than you remember. And the evening was suddenly a lot hotter. And my muscles were nowhere near prepared for the starting pace I chose (whoops!). By the time I made it to the first mile, I was kind of into a groove though! People had their boats on Thompson Lake and were playing music watching the race, which was really cool! 

I was able to keep my groove until I hit the water station. It’s really hard to jog and drink water at the same time (I was wondering how that worked, still haven’t figured it out yet), so I slowed down to and walk. I still ended up with about half of it on me but it felt suuuuuper nice!

Around the 2 mile mark, I was really bored (why I hate running), so I decided to text my dad a #selfie because I’m a #millenial. The water on my shirt is from failed water stops #1 and #2.


Finally, after all my hard work and effort, I made it to the finish line (which is on an uphill slope, because reasons). In true Chartiers Valley Cross Country fashion, I gave it every little ounce of energy I had left and “sprinted” into the finish line!

My goal time for the race was under 50 minutes, and boy was I disappointed when I saw the time on that clock! On the fly, I made a new goal for myself to finish in under 51 minutes (which according to the clock I didn’t make). This being my first legit race, it didn’t even occur to me at the time that since I was in the middle of the pack to start my actual time was less than that shown on the clock. In actuality, I made it within my original goal of 50 minutes – by one second!! AND I didn’t come in last (which I was pretty much expecting because that’s basically my sports career in a nutshell) 🙂

The race was definitely harder than I was expecting, but now I dislike running slightly less than before. And I’ve had a few more “flashes of inspiration” and signed up for another 5k in October, a 10k in November, and then I will be participating in the Pittsburgh half marathon (13.1 miles!!!) in May!

Thanks for reading this long post everyone! I’m excited to improve in future races!

Fives, fives and more fives

So as you can probably tell by the title, I have lots of fives in my life right now. Obviously, there’s five days my the average work week. There are five instruments in my brass quintet. We have five trumpets in the house, etc.  The most important fives in my life though are none of those.

First, I have officially lost 55 pounds!!! The change is pretty apparent I think:

Me and Chelsea (plus sideways Kyle) on November 5, 2016 at my sister’s wedding

Me in a new outfit I love about two weeks ago

Second, I can’t even believe how big of a change that 55 pounds has made!! I was able to go into a store (Maurices, thanks Julie for the recommendation in 2010!) and with no trouble was able to find a pair of shorts and a shirt that fit. In fact, everything I tried on fit. I almost cried from excitement, instead of the usual frustration and anger at myself. Still mad at stores for making it impossible for plus size women to have a pleasant shopping trip, but that’s another story.

Third, I am 5 pounds away from being 100 pounds away from my goal. This is HUGE for me, since I have never in my life lost weight. That puts me currently at 34.375% of the way to my goal =D

Fourth and finally, to celebrate all of my progress, I decided to sign up for my first 5k (3.2 miles) since I ran cross country in high school!!! My good friend Amy is running it with me, so yay I have company!! The 5k is the kickoff to the annual Melon Festival in Howell, which is a celebration of the Howell cantaloupe strain. I did a trial run today, and aside from a handful of 20 step breaks I was able to run the whole time! 

That’s between a 15 minute mile and 16 minute mile pace, which is about what it was in high school. Since I’m about 100 pounds heavier now, I can’t even imagine how strong my legs will be when I’m down to my goal weight!!!

The race is August 17th, so I’ll definitely update you all when it’s over!!! Thanks for reading!! 

Transitions

It’s official!! I am down enough weight to begin the transition phase out of the full optifast.

This, my friends, is me standing on the scale with the first number reading a 2. A 2!!!!!! With me on the scale! I am now officially 46 pounds down, which is ~13.33333% of my initial starting weight and 27.87% of the way to my goal weight =D

Because of how well I am doing (6 pounds away from the 12 week goal at the end of 8 weeks), the dietician agreed that I could begin the transition phase!! There were three options for me to choose from: a full transition (6 weeks to completely real food), a partial transition (staying in the first phase of the full transition), and a continuation of my current routine with 2 or 3 days adding a meal as a practice transition. After discussing the pros and cons of each option, I decided to go with the partial transition.

The partial consists of 3 shakes per day, and one meal of ~400 calories, about half of which should come from the protein source, a quarter from starches, and the remaining quarter from vegetables (although vegetables should take up half of the plate). Additionally, I am now allowed to swap out one shake for a Greek yogurt if I so choose. I didn’t used to like Greek yogurt due to the texture, but I’m willing to give it a shot. The dietician told me the partial is best for those who have a history of issues with binge eating, since it allows you to try out different foods while still having most of the boundaries of the full Optifast diet. She said I can stay on this part as long as I want; for now, that is at least until my next appointment which is late August. I still have restrictions on oils and fats, but otherwise it’s pretty much everything goes!

Since my appointment was in the morning and I have been craving chicken (and eggs) like nobody’s business, I decided to celebrate with my first real non-soley-vegetable food for lunch! My good friend Mike and I went to Subway, and I was able to order an actual sandwich!! I got the oven roasted chicken on 9 grain wheat (since my starches need to be whole grain) with a bunch of veggies on top and a vinegar drizzle to finish it off! Not gonna lie, it was awesome to have different textures and consistencies in the same bite!! Shameless food picture below!

I can’t wait to experiment with some of the healthy recipes I’ve found online!!!

Thanks for reading!

Six weeks down!

I can’t believe it’s already been SIX WEEKS!!! Time is flying by, which is good because I am so ready to eat real food again!!

As of this morning I have officially lost 35 POUNDS!!!!! I’m already seeing a difference in how my shirts are fitting, and I’m almost ready to go down a pant size =D

This week will be my first big challenge, since I am going to my favorite place on earth, Mt. Irenaeus. The friars were super understanding when I told them I would be bringing most of my own food, so now it’s on me! I haven’t cheated yet, and I don’t plan on starting now! Being so close to the transition period into Phase 2 (~15 pounds away) I do NOT want to mess this up!!!

Thanks for reading, and for being part of my spectacular support system!!!