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.


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.


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”).


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.


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!!


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!





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!

I’m really bad at making lists

memorial day

First, since this post is about the Memorial Day weekend, I want to take a moment to thank and remember all of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country in the line of duty, and those who came home and have since passed on.  We have many family members who have served or are serving in the Marines, the Navy, the Air Force, and the Army, and I am so proud of them and humbled by their service.

For the Memorial Day weekend, my husband and I went to Pittsburgh to spend some time with my family and to visit with friends.  I knew going into it that this would be my first real test of how I handled a number of food stresses being thrown at me in a short amount of time.  We had a 5 hour drive each way, I would be going to my first restaurant while on Optifast, and there would be tons of food at the annual picnic.

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Temptations and Impulsivity

The theme of the past 4 days has been that there is a single food I’m craving each day.  Thursday was M&Ms, Friday was pretzels, yesterday was garlic bread (with extra mozzarella cheese), and today was shrimp fried rice.  Despite the temptation of how easy it would be to just eat a bite of any of the above, I am holding strong.  With every craving I get, I am reminded of why I am doing this program in the first place, over the many other weight loss options out there.

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Day One Recap!

Well everyone, I’ve done it – day one of the program is officially complete!!! The picture is what I get to eat in a day, a total of 960 calories of a high protein, very low carbohydrate diet. 

As everyone seems to be pointing out to me, that’s a pretty small number. But that’s why this program has such intense medical management!!!! If I were doing this by myself it would be very, very unhealthy. The Weight Management Program involves weekly visits with a dietician and biweekly visits with a physician, in addition to vitamins and some anti-gout and anti-gallstone medications. They also require 40 minutes of mild to moderate activity per day as my energy level permits. Most importantly, this phase does not last longer than about 3 months. They are taking all the precautions necessary to make this safe so the rest is up to me!

Now that that has been stated, on to the fun part! My (medically managed) diet consists of 4 shakes and 2 soups a day. Since today was the first day I wanted to give everything a try. The shake comes in three flavors (chocolate, vanilla, strawberry) and the soup comes in chicken or tomato. 

Overall, everything is more palatable than I was expecting. I’ve eaten high-protein foods bars and shakes before, and usually they’re pretty lacking in flavors I enjoy. The chocolate shake and the chicken soup were definitely my favorites, with the tomato soup and vanilla shake being not too bad either. The strawberry shake was just….no. I’m going to try to save it as a smoothie with one of my no-sugar sweetener options (banana extract), but I doubt I will be ordering that again.

I was suprised with how much I used to nibble throughout the day. About once an hour I would catch myself looking around for food, not because I was hungry but because I usually had something I was munching on. The food is actually pretty filling  (thanks, protein!) so I didn’t get any extraneous hunger pains.

I know every day can’t be this successful, but I’m glad to have a strong start out of the gate!


One day more!

Tomorrow is the big day! I met today with the nutritionist and bought all of the food for the first week. Now I’m just waiting on the all-clear from the doctor for a blood test result (to reduce the risk of getting gout), which I should receive tomorrow morning. I can’t wait to share my day one experience with everyone!!

I’m super excited, and a little scared, but I know I can do this!!