March 31, 2012

A Complete Dozen - Meredith's Story

Our Ragnar Florida Keys team is now complete! We finally made a decision about our 12th team member yesterday, and let me just say, it was HARD. When I first had the idea of filling that open spot by having people write e-mails to "apply" for it, I wasn't thinking about the fact that we were going to have to pick just one person out of many. It was upsetting yesterday when I realized I was going to have to turn people down.

All of the "applicants" (I hate that word, but I guess that's what they would be called) had something unique and amazing about them. We would have been lucky to have any of them on the team, and we had to choose just one. We did toss around the idea of a second team, but putting together a Ragnar team involves a LOT of work--and Rik would be up to his eyeballs in stressful planning, so we decided just one team is plenty for now.

But anyway, we voted as a team and made the final decision yesterday. Our newest team member is a woman named Meredith--and she is extremely inspiring! She's lost 101 pounds and has kept it off for two years now. She's completed three half-marathons, with a PR of 2:10:29. Her husband has even lost weight too--166 pounds!! But I will stop raving and let her share her story.

This is the e-mail that she sent our team:

Hi Ragnar Relay Team,

My name is Meredith and I would love to be considered for the last spot on your relay team. I live in Mesa, Arizona. I am 37 years old and in the best shape I have been in my life.   My friend in California read about this opportunity on your blog and text me to let me know. As soon as I read the blog I knew this was something I would love to do.

Let me tell you a little about myself and my journey to where I am now. When I realized I need to lose weight it was May of 2005 and I had just gotten back from my best friend’s rehearsal dinner.  We took a bunch of pictures and when I saw the pictures I wanted to cry. I always knew I needed to lose weight but I never realized how much I had put on. I always avoided scales and I always just assumed that I was no bigger than the previous time that I had to lose weight. My job did not require me to wear any form fitting clothes so I always had elastic hiding my true size.

As of today I have lost 101 pounds. I joined Weight Watchers in September of 2005 weighing 256 pounds and have been attending meetings ever since. My experience in my weight loss journey has completely changed my life. I would love to say that the weight came off easily and that keeping it off is not a struggle, but that would not be the truth. This journey though has taught me that I am able to keep the weight off for the first time in my life and I have completely changed the way I live.

I reached my “goal weight” at Weight Watcher’s at the end of May in 2010 and became a Lifetime member six weeks later on July 10th, 2010.

I am proud to say that I have been Lifetime ever since and have not gone over my goal weight. I had taken the first 40 pounds off in a relatively quick manner but the last 61 pounds were a struggle. My real turning point was in November of 2009, the Saturday before Thanksgiving that year. I was struggling badly. I had just realized that in a 42-week span I had gained and lost the same pound over and over again. When I went to discuss my plateau with my WW leader I couldn’t do so without bursting into tears. I sat through the entire meeting crying and only my husband and my WW leader knew. When I left the meeting that day I told myself enough was enough and I was going to get to goal. This is where my running came into play.

I started off walking every day, started at three miles and got up to five miles. Once I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to have the same results with just walking I started to run. We used to go to a rec center near my house that had an indoor track. Living in Arizona, this was a must in the summer time. The track took 14 times around to equal one mile. I would walk 70 laps; and when I started running, I started with one lap out of 70.

Back in September of 2010 I ran my first 5K in which I came in first place in my age group. I was working on training for my first half marathon in October of 2010 when I tore my right hamstring when I slipped on a wet piece of tile in my house. That put my running on a stand still for a few months but I never gave up. I got back to running, knowing that I still needed to do my half marathon that I could not do the year before. I used a few 10Ks and a 12K as training to get ready for the PF Chang’s half-marathon in January of 2012.

I successfully ran the half marathon and finished in 2:22:01; my second half marathon was just one month later. I signed up for the Lost Dutchman half marathon and ran that one in February 2012, completing that in 2:17:29. So I figured what is one more... I ran the Phoenix Half Marathon on March 3, 2012, and my finishing time there was 2:10:29.

I typically run 4-5 times a week from 5-10 miles a day depending on my schedule.  I use running as a stress relief and as a way to make sure that I stay in shape. I love to run. I have found something healthy that I love to do and that, to me, is the best feeling in the world.

I think I would make a great addition to your team because I feel like I have learned a lot from my weight loss journey. I have learned how to overcome struggle, how to never give up, and how I can do anything I put my mind to. I am so inspired by other people and their weight loss journeys and I love to hear about them and to be surrounded by people that have done what I have done and what I continue to do. Although technically I am at my goal weight I do not feel like my journey is over.  I feel like I will be on this journey for life and am excited to do so. I learn new things about myself on a daily basis and I have an amazing support team around me including my husband who is also down 166 pounds.

I have attached a before and after picture.  My before picture was the one that inspired me to change my life and the after picture if the day I made Lifetime at Weight Watchers.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you,

Our team is very happy to have Meredith on board!

March 30, 2012

Easter candy temptations

My legs feel like they are going to snap in half at the knee right now. I'm lying on the floor, and I just finished playing solitare (with real cards, not the computer). Chandler decided that he would settle all 23-pounds of cat right under my butt, on top of my legs. I managed to get my camera from the table and take a picture while holding the camera over my head...
Taking that picture was much harder than it looks, believe me.
Speaking of the cats, Jerry just showed me Paolo's "trick". Paolo is the first long-haired cat we've had, so the hairballs are new to me. But apparently, if you scratch the underside of Paolo's neck and his chest (which he loves) he then coughs up a hairball on cue. I didn't believe Jerry when he told me, so he showed me. Totally gross, but hilarious at the same time.

Today I was scheduled for a 4-mile run. I (once again) was really not wanting to run. I decided to go to the rec center and run on the indoor track so that I could see other people and hopefully it would go by faster. There were a few people walking on the track. I brought my iPod to listen to the radio, but it didn't distract me enough.

I actually started counting my laps, thinking that the foot pod was all wrong and I had actually run 5 miles when my Garmin said 2 miles--but after counting laps, I realized that the foot pod was right on target and my run was just going by really slowly.

Alicia came up to the track with a friend when I had 1.25 miles left. They were just ahead of me, so I just kept pace with them for the rest of my run. I really hope that taking the weekend off of running helps me to be excited for Monday's 16-miler. Our 15-mile run was so good that I felt like I loved running!

Jess and I decided we're going to La Pita (like usual) after our run Monday, but we're going to skip the side of garlic sauce that we always order with the pita bread while we wait for our food to come out, and we're going to ask for our bread to come WITH our meal rather than before. That way we won't load up on pitas and garlic sauce and then eat a huge meal.

I ate really well yesterday and today (tons of veggies and fruit). Today I've been craving Easter candy. I went to K Mart with Jerry so he could buy a new lunch cooler, and they had these HUGE Reese's peanut butter eggs. I really wanted one, but resisted. Then I saw these Reese's Pieces eggs, and those looked really good too. But I keep reminding myself that I have GOT to get my weight back down before this extra 5 pounds turns into 20 and then 50 and then 100.

We got a storm this afternoon and our power has been on and off all afternoon. I better post this while it's back on!

By the way, thanks so much for all of your votes on the Fitness magazine blog award! I can't believe how quickly I've caught up to a lot of the other bloggers. I'm sure it's just a promotional tool for the Fitness website, but it's still fun to be in the running :)

March 29, 2012

Hungry for Change

I was supposed to meet up with a bunch of the girls that ran Sunday's half-marathon today for breakfast, but I was so tired this morning that I decided to just stay at home and be lazy. It's weird, I went from insomniac to sleeping like a rock over the past week. Normally, I'm bouncing out of bed at 6:00, but lately I've been dragging myself out of bed at 7ish. I'm thinking it may have something to do with all the miles I've been running recently.

Anyway, I decided to watch a film called Hungry for Change online. It's free to watch online until March 31st. I really liked the film Food, Inc. and this is by the same producers. I wish I had watched it before I tried my "real foods challenge" last month. It's very eye-opening about sugar, high fructose corn syrup, aspartame, and all kinds of stuff that harms your body.

I LOVED this film, and I'm probably going to buy it so that I can watch it again and again when I need a reminder of why I need to cut back on the sugar ;)  The film recommends juicing, and I don't think I will ever hop on that bandwagon, but I am willing to add more fruits and veggies to my diet. I was so inspired by the film that I went to the fruit/veggie market after watching and picked up a lot of produce. I got all of this for $28 (and that's including an 8 oz wedge of parmesan cheese $$):

I've decided to make it a goal to use all of it up before it goes bad. That's a challenge in my house. I buy produce with good intentions, but end up throwing half of it away because nobody eats it. So I washed and chopped up the veggies and made them easy and accessible for me and the family. I made some hummus for dipping.

I think my kids just may find them appealing, if I give them some ranch dressing for dipping, of course.

One of the things that the film points out is that you shouldn't worry about cutting things OUT of your diet, but focus more on fitting things IN--like the veggies and fruits. Once you fit those in, the other stuff starts to get pushed out.

Anyway, check out the film, it's worth your time!! And it's only free until March 31st.

I was reading my Runner's World magazine today and came across this page that seemed was printed just for me:

It says to limit your reward calories after a run to 200--or 400 for a "really" long run. Bahahaha, I have been rewarding myself with nearly all the calories burned on my really long runs, and about half the calories burned on my other runs. Maybe that is why my weight is up 5 pounds ;) I really should try and cut back, but low-fat ice cream does not seem like a "reward" to me. I'll stick with the good stuff, and just try to have a smaller portion.

I was just notified today that my blog was nominated for Fitness Magazine's 2012 Fitterati blog awards for "Best Weight Loss Blog". Thanks so much to whomever nominated me! However, the other nominees have been up for about a month now, so I'm way behind the game.

March 28, 2012

Burnt out

Over the past couple of days, I've realized that I am feeling very burnt out on running. It was especially apparent after the half-marathon, when all of my friends (except Jess) are done training now, and I still have a long way to go until the marathon.

I'm only running four days a week, so I know I'm not over-training. I am just at the point where I completely dread going for a run. I've always dreaded running, but nothing like this. Jessica sent me a text yesterday that said, "I just want to tell you that I don't want to run tomorrow. I'm still going to, but I don't want to." Hahaha, that was exactly how I was feeling about it too.

Our medium length run is now 8 miles. So we made plans to meet today for that. I'm glad we did, otherwise I would probably have procrastinated all day. We agreed to go slow and easy, since neither of us wanted to run today. A "lazy run", if that isn't an oxymoron ;)

I brought a peanut butter Gu and some lemon lime Powerade. I checked the website of the marathon, and they are going to have the lemon lime Powerade throughout the course, so I want to train with it and see how my body reacts to it.

We had a very uneventful 8-mile out-and-back run. At mile 5, I ate my Gu and sipped some Powerade. I felt fine with it, so I think I'll bring it along on our 16-miler on Monday. Right now, I don't even want to think about 16 miles. I have another 4-mile run this week, which I'll probably do on Friday, and then take Saturday and Sunday as rest days, like usual. I really feel like I need them, both mentally and physically.

When I got home, I made a breakfast that I've been having a lot lately. Last week at Kroger, I noticed that they had a bunch of boxes of my favorite cereal on 'manager's special', because they are going to expire in a couple of months. Logically, I knew that buying some and bringing it home was asking for trouble... but I did what any normal person would do and I bought 5 boxes. (What can I say, they were only $1.49!)
I wanted to make sure that I didn't do what I did last time I had this cereal in the house, so I tried using it as an ingredient rather than the main course for my breakfast.

I peeled and chopped an apple, and sprinkled it with cinnamon, then threw it in the microwave for 2 minutes to get it soft. Then I sprinkled on 1/3 cup of the granola, and drizzled with a tablespoon of almond butter. The whole combination was REALLY good. The texture was perfect too.

You know I'm always talking about Hal Higdon's training programs, but I just got his book Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide from the library and I LOVE it so far! The first couple of chapters would probably get anyone excited about doing a marathon. I'm only about 1/4 of the way through the book, but I've gotten a lot of helpful tips so far. It's geared more toward a full marathon, but people training to do a half-marathon would benefit from it as well.

I just read a part last night about feeling burnt out about running, and if you feel that way, it's probably from training too hard. Which makes sense, because I just did a half-marathon race that I wasn't "supposed" to do (it wasn't in my training schedule). I'm going to make sure I take my easy runs very easy, and my long runs even easier. I need to get out of the race-mindset.

My Ragnar team is trying to come up with a team name... something clever that incorporates the fact that we've lost a lot of weight. Any ideas? (By the way, we have not chosen our 12th team member yet--we're working on it though. I will introduce the person when we do.)

Oh, by the way, I posted a bunch of blogs on the "Blog List" page... so if you're looking for something to read, take a look! A lot of those blogs were new to me, and I'm super excited to check them out as well.

March 27, 2012

A blog list

I don't know what was wrong with me this morning, but I was SO tired when I woke up. It was 6:30, which is later than I usually get up, but I had to drag myself out of bed to get the kids up for school. I was really tempted to take another rest day, but I knew I would feel guilty if I did that, so I decided to get my 4-mile run out of the way.

My legs were a little tired, but I feel pretty good. I expected to be much more sore after Sunday's half-marathon. Oh, I got the race photos today... I added them to the race report post.

It was kind of cold this morning--30 degrees, which is much colder than it has been lately. So I wore my running tights and a long sleeved shirt, gloves, and headband to keep my ears warm. I actually wished I had worn my fleece, too.

When I got home, I took a shower and then decided to use some almond meal my mom bought me. She went to the Detroit Eastern Market on Saturday morning, and I was really excited when she told me that she bought it for me. She said it sounded like something I would like.

I wasn't sure what to do with it, but I decided to try making a one-minute muffin using the almond flour instead of flaxseed. (I thought I was brilliant for thinking of this idea, until I later looked online and thousands of other people already did this, haha).

I combined 1/4 cup almond flour + 1 beaten egg + 1 Tbsp. Torani sugar free chocolate syrup + 1 Tbsp. cocoa powder + 1/4 tsp. baking powder in a mug, and then microwaved it for 60 seconds. The result? A beautiful chocolate muffin! Which I spread with peanut butter, of course.

There is a certain question that I've been asked dozens of times, but I always avoid it. People want to know a list of blogs that I read, because they're not sure how to go about finding blogs similar to mine. I don't want to hurt feelings of people whose blogs I may not read, so I don't have a public blog roll.

In fact, I don't read a LOT of blogs--probably only about 15-20. I don't read food blogs, because they are a binge trigger for me. And I don't read any blog that has one of those gadgets that say, "A visitor from Detroit, MI!" or whatever city--I hate feeling "spied on". I don't follow any of the "big" blogs with thousands of readers, because I much prefer smaller, friendlier, more "quaint" blogs.

My intention with my blog was to keep it small, friendly, and quaint--which is why I didn't even tell my friends and family that I was writing a blog--but it kind of blew up on Pinterest. I'm happy to have a lot of readers, but I still try to keep my blog warm and friendly, and I always respond to reader e-mails.

So because my blog has gotten quite a few readers, I can't possibly read all of the blogs of my readers. When I get a comment from a new reader, I always check out their blog (if it's linked). But as far as blogs I read regularly, I read a few running blogs and a few weight loss/maintenance blogs, and that's it.

So I've avoided the question of a blog roll for those reasons. But in order to have some sort of blog list that you can see at a glance, I've created a "Blog List" page. Here, there is a form you can fill out about your blog. I will compile the information on that page, and when you want to find a blog to read, you can do so--by category, with a small description of the blog.

So if you have a blog that you would like me to link to, feel free to fill out the form and I'll add it to my list. (Thanks, Detroit Runner, for the idea!)

March 26, 2012

Reader Questions & Answers #6

Normally, I do this post on Sundays, but since I had my half-marathon yesterday, I saved it for today...

On Sundays, I will answer some readers' questions in a post. If you have a question that you would like me to answer here on the blog, just send me an e-mail with the subject "Q&A", and I may include them in a future Q&A post. They don't have to be about weight loss or running--anything is game!  (Remember, I'm not a doctor or dietician, or any sort of medical professional--I can only answer questions from my own experience).
Q. Which character from the hit TV series "Friends" is your favorite and why? Also, which "friend" could you see yourself hanging out with in real life and why?

A. Love this question!! I can honestly say that I've never been asked this one before. It's hard to pick a favorite, but I would have to say Chandler. I love a sarcastic sense of humor! Could Chandler BE any more sarcastic? 

I could see myself hanging out with Chandler for sure (his goofiness reminds me a lot of Jerry). I would say Monica, but she and I are a LOT alike (very bossy, kind of nerdy, type A personalities...) so I think we would butt heads. I love Joey and I think he would be fun to hang out with too!

Q. How do you manage not going out to eat with friends and family during the week or on the weekend?  It seems you have a pretty close-knit group of friends and your family live nearby so I would think it would be hard not getting together and eating.

A. I honestly don't have much of a social life. I go out with friends once a month for Winers (my wine club). Winers is always after dinnertime, so while I was losing weight, I just skipped the food at Winers and just had a glass of wine. Just recently, Jessica and I have been going out to lunch after our long runs. Other than that, however, I never go out to eat.

When I was losing weight, and someone wanted to go out to eat, I would do one of two things: 1) If it was something I really wanted to do, I would look up the menu online and figure out exactly what I was going to order (and a back-up order in case they were out of what I wanted). Then I would stick to that plan no matter what. Or, 2) I would decline the offer. 

If declining going out to eat, I would suggest something else--want to go bowling after dinner? Go see a movie? Take the kids to the zoo? Stuff like that, where I didn't have to eat.

Eating out, for me, ALWAYS makes my weight go up quickly, no matter what I order or how little I eat. And I'm very cheap with my money, so I don't want to spend the money on one meal when I could spend the same amount and feed my entire family at home.

I've never been extremely social or had a lot of friends, so I wasn't constantly turning down offers ;) The most frustrating was when my mom would ask us to come over for dinner at her house. She lives less than a mile from me, and she always invites us over. She likes to cook, and she makes some good (i.e. highly caloric) food. I explained to her that I was following my food plan and I didn't want to eat dinner, but I would come over with the family and I would bring my own food. 

Going to a race expo can be way more fun than pigging out!

And I did just that. I would make a dinner for me and bring it with me, then sit down and eat with everyone. It took a long time for my mom to realize that I wasn't going to give in. She wasn't trying to sabotage me, but she didn't understand how serious I was about losing weight.

Now, I still don't have many friends, but the friends I do have understand my way of doing things now. Renee and Jessica are my closest friends, and I feel very comfortable telling them thanks, but no thanks to certain foods sometimes. They're used to it, and they don't push me to eat things when I've told them I "can't" right now. 

The best part is, I've made some running friends--so instead of getting together for dinner, we get together to run. Doesn't sound like much fun, but I've had some great conversations while running with my friends, and I've met some great girls as well. 

I think it all boils down to what YOU want most, and what will help you reach your goals. If you know that eating out is going to throw you off track for your goal, then don't feel guilty telling your friends/family "thanks, but no thanks"! Just suggest something else you can do, that doesn't involve food. Something else I do is get together after dinner for a glass or two of wine--it's social, it's fun, and it only costs 100-200 calories.

Q. I really need some advice from an ex-non-runner.  I just started training for a half marathon and I'm trying to increase my mileage (following a program) and I've decided my problem isn't so much my stamina, but my brain.  I can pump myself up all I want for a run and be so excited about the weather, but the moment I take my first running step I start to talk myself out of it.  I tell myself I'm tired, or hot, or fill in the blank.  How do you (or did you) get past this?  Maybe you never had this problem, but I'm really in dire need for some advice in this area.  Thanks in advance!

A. Ask any runner about this, and they will tell you that running is as much mental as it is physical, if not more so. I have the same problem as you on most of my runs. It's easy for me to get out there, but the second I start running, I want it to be over. 

For this reason, I make sure that I am always training for a race of some sort--that way, I have a training schedule that I have to stick to. I will know that if I skip a run, or cut it short, I won't be able to meet my goal for the race I'm training for.

I print out my schedule (I always use Hal Higdon's race training programs), and I keep it hanging in my kitchen. After I do my scheduled run, I highlight it so that I can see where I'm at in the training. It gives me a sense of satisfaction to cross it off. And being the Type A that I am, it would bug the heck out of me if I skipped a few runs and didn't have those highlighted marks ;)

You can see that I missed a 3-mile run the second week of training. I hate seeing that white spot! ;)  

Another thing I will do to stay motivated to run is reward myself, especially on my long run days. I know you're not "supposed" to reward yourself with food, but I do--and it works for me. If I know that I'm going to have an awesome cookie after a long run, I get excited to finish that long run! Jessica and I have been rewarding ourselves with lunch at La Pita (or Whole Foods) after our long runs, and we both find that it makes us look forward to our runs. 

We don't feel guilty for eating that many calories for lunch because we burned a heck of a lot on our run. Just make sure that if you reward yourself with a treat, it doesn't exceed the calories you burned, or you're defeating the purpose ;)

And now, a question for all of you...

Which Friends character are you most like?

As I said above, Monica and I are very much alike in our personalities. Which is kind of funny, because I don't like her personality! haha

March 25, 2012

Rock CF Rivers Half Marathon race report

Let me start by saying that I am so glad I didn't go into this race with the expectation of hitting my sub-2:00 goal! Today was not my day for racing, apparently.

It took me forever to fall asleep last night, and I didn't sleep well at all. I woke up before my alarm, at 4:15 this morning. I had oat bran for breakfast with milk and peanut butter, and a cup of tea. Then I drove to meet Jessica, Renee, and Andrea, and Renee drove to the race, picking up Alicia and Stephanie as well.

Alicia, Jessica, Andrea, me, Renee, Julia
The race was scheduled to start at 7:30, and we got there pretty early, so we took a couple of pictures while we waited. Then we waited in the long bathroom lines, of course. I got to the starting line about 2 minutes before the race started--and it started right on time, which was great.

I brought along my iPod, which I've never done for a race before. I remembered how awful my last race on Grosse Ile was (the Run Happy 8K), and nobody was talking during that race. I figured it would be the same, quiet run today, so I brought the iPod.

I popped a Clif Shot Blok in my mouth right as the race started, because I usually get caught up in the excitement, go too fast, and get a really dry mouth. Having the shot blok helped a lot. Almost immediately, I spotted a someone about 5 people deep in front of me with a shirt that had "" on the back--and I realized that I read her blog. So I tried to catch up to her to say hello, but there were too many people (and she was definitely speedier than me).

I tried to settle into a comfortable pace right away, but it was hard. There were a lot of people, and the race course bottle-necked us a couple of times right at the start. About a mile or so in, Johna (who I ran with a few times with Jessica in the beginning of our marathon training) came up from behind, and we ran together for a couple of miles. I had a bad muscle cramp in my left side from the very start of the race, and it was then that I realized today was definitely not my day for hitting the sub-2:00, so I was glad I stuck to my 'B' goal (which was to PR).

At mile 4, I ate a chocolate Gu that the race was handing out, and that gave me a little pick-me-up, so I sped up and that was the last I saw of Johna. Once I got to mile 6 or so, I was really looking forward to the water stations. I was thirsty! But they were more sporadic than I would have liked. I wished I had brought my water bottle belt thing.

At around mile 7, I was staying right on pace with this one guy for a while--we were running side by side. Then he'd pass me, and I'd pass him, and so on, playing leap frog until I passed him at mile 9 and didn't see him again until later.

I chatted with a woman for a minute about her Nathan handheld water bottle, asking if she liked it. At mile 10 or so, I felt like my legs suddenly turned to lead. The fatigue hit me fast. I ate my 'emergency' Gu from my SPI belt, and just kept putting one foot in front of the other. I wanted it to be over so badly!

At around mile 11, that guy from earlier passed me. I said, "Hey, not YOU again! I thought I passed you!" But I knew I had slowed down, and I was fine with that. I knew I would still PR, by quite a bit. I felt like I was dying for water the last 5 miles or so, but they had finally had a water station at mile 11, which I definitely needed. I drank two cups and kept moving along. The last mile felt really long.

I kind of wished I didn't bring my iPod with me, because a lot of the people on the course were friendly. I probably could have had some good conversations. I put the iPod in my SPI belt at mile 12, so I could be all-ears for the last mile.

I finally saw the finish line. We had to enter a high school track and run half a lap to finish. It was then that I heard Andrea yell out to me, "GO KATIE" really loud, and that boosted my spirits, which were feeling crappy at that point.  (Steph was kind enough to take some pics of me--I wish I knew that, so I looked a little nicer for the camera!)

The clock said 2:03:47 (which was more than my chip time), and I knew I crushed my previous PR of 2:10:40. I waved to Renee at the last minute and stuck my tongue out (as in, "Ugh, I'm so exhausted!") and I think that's probably what was captured in my race finish line photo, haha.


The Garmin time isn't my "official" result, but it's close:

I saw Alicia, but all I could think about was to find water. I was dying! I got my medal (they had soldiers handing them out, which I thought was so cool!) I thanked him for his service (the military, not handing out medals, haha), then went to find water. I grabbed two bottles, and chugged the first one down fast. Then I went and sat with Renee (1:48:??) and Alicia (who just said she had the worst race of her life, but she still beat me and PR'ed) and Stephanie (who walked the 5K, her first race, in 40:xx! That's a super fast walk). We saw Johna finish at 2:09:xx, and then Jessica at 2:13:xx (a PR for her).

While I was walking, I saw a very pregnant half-marathon finisher who looked familiar--so I said hi and introduced myself (I read her blog, but I don't think she had a clue who I was).

We went to check out the food, and they had PANERA bagels and homemade cookies--if my stomach felt up to it, I would have eaten some serious carb calories. I did take a blueberry bagel and a macaroon. I ate the macaroon right away, and it was AMAZING. But my stomach wasn't feeling up to the bagel, so I brought it home for lunch, and it was delicious.

Stopped for a group picture on the way to the car:
Me, Alicia, Andrea, Jessica, Stephanie, and Renee
My "official" results:
Chip time: 2:02:57 (9:23/mi pace) (crushed my previous PR of 2:10:40)
Overall placement: 454/834 (I was in the bottom half of finishers... good grief!)
Age group: 32/75

And my splits:
You can see where miles 12 and 13 were where I just felt exhausted--going from 9:09 to 9:31 and 9:36.

I'll post the race photos when they're ready on the website. Overall, I'm happy that I PR'ed, and I'm happy I didn't go for the sub-2:00, because I think I would have been very disappointed. The race was good, I would probably do it again next year--except I'd bring my own water for the course.

Race photos are in! A couple of good ones, a couple of bad ones...
My running form looks terrible here

My favorite of the pics

All race finish photos show me stopping my Garmin

March 24, 2012

Carb loading

With the exception of refueling at the Whole Foods bakery after a long run, my favorite part about running is carb loading the night before a race. It's true, I really do run to eat.

Today I had a pretty low-key morning, which was nice. Jerry was off work, so I spent some time with him just catching up on a few of our shows. We took the kids to the mall. I went to Vitamin World so I could get some more protein powder. Amazon apparently doesn't carry my favorite flavor anymore.

I had plans with Renee and Jessica to go pick up our race packets for tomorrow. I drove to Jessica's, and then she drove us to Renee's. Then we all went to the high school to pick up our packets. It was good to spend some time with Renee, even if it was just in the car. I feel like I never see her anymore, and I miss her!

She had plans for dinner already, so just Jessica and I went out to eat. We decided to carb load at an Italian restaurant. I ordered gnocci with meat sauce and cheese. It came with salad and bread. I ate almost all of it, and totally regreted it when I was done. I felt too full. Oh, and Jessica and I split a tirimisu for dessert.

We were laughing during dinner because we said that if we knew each other when we were fat, we would definitely be best bingeing buddies. A lot of people have told me that they had a friend (or friends) that they would binge eat with--going out to dinner, just having friends over for food and drinks, etc. I've never had a friend like that--I was always "the fat one" and I tried to hide it and eat how my friends did.

But Jessica and I are seriously kindred spirits when it comes to food! ;)  It's a good thing we're both maintaining a large weight loss, because we keep each other in check when we need to. But we do enjoy refueling together!

After dinner, we went right to our wine club meeting. I was too full to enjoy any of the food Melissa prepared, unfortunately. And I only had a few sips of wine, just enough to taste it. Melissa was celebrating her recent divorce, so she had a "survivor" theme. I didn't want to stay late because of the half-marathon tomorrow, so Jessica and I left at 8:30. We have to meet tomorrow at 5:45 in the morning for the race!

Here is our group Winers photo:
The whole group for this month's meeting

Jessica, me, and Renee
Jessica said we look like we've been spending too much time together--we did not dress alike on purpose!

Okay, I really have to get to bed for the race tomorrow.

March 23, 2012

New carpet

Jerry and I had to get up early today to get all of the furniture moved out of our living room--a 3-piece sectional, a recliner chair, two end tables, a coffee table, two book shelves, our TV and entertainment center, and a treadmill--for our new carpet.

And when I say 'Jerry and I', you know I really mean 'Jerry', right? I watched, and I tried to help, but I think I was just in the way.

We got everything moved into the kitchen and bedrooms, so our living room was bare. I got really curious while we were waiting for the carpet guys, and I ended up ripping up the carpet myself. I knew our carpet was 9 years worth of gross, but good grief! I'm SO glad that we chose to spend our tax return on carpet. It was badly needed.

I chose to go with Berber carpet, which I really dislike. I just chose it because I know it's sturdy and doesn't get matted down, and it will last a long time. I can't say I love how my new carpet looks, but I do love that it's not gross and it will last a long time. And as far as Berber carpets go, it's not bad.

The carpet isn't done yet, so I can't show you the final look, but I assure you, Estelle is here for quality control, per usual:

I made plans with my dad to go see The Hunger Games today. We went to the noon show, and thankfully, there were only about 10 other people in the theater. I will never be one of those people that chooses to go see the midnight show on the day the movie comes out--because I can just see it the following day without all the teenagers texting and being super loud (yes, I know, I sound old and mean for saying that).

Jessica and her mom went to the show too, so we sat with them. Jessica brought me a Cadbury Cream Egg :)  Less calories and much tastier than popcorn! The movie was actually really good. It followed the book pretty closely, and the only parts they left out weren't all that important. One thing that I loved about the movie is that it periodically showed the gamemakers doing their thing, and talking about how they were going to manipulate the game. The book is all from Katniss's perspective, so you can't see what the gamemakers are up to.

Today's run
When I got home from the movies, the carpet guys were still here, and I had nothing to do, so I decided to go out for a 3-mile run. I was going to skip it this week since I have the half-marathon on Sunday, but I was bored enough to change my mind. While I was running, I was thinking about my half-marathon goal, and I finally made a decision.

I'm not going to go for the sub-2:00 on Sunday. I've been training for a full marathon for the past 10 weeks. My goal for the marathon is to finish--not finish FAST, but finish. So I haven't been doing much speed work at all. I haven't been training for a half-marathon, and certainly not a sub-2:00 half-marathon. When I hit my sub-2:00, I want to know that I worked hard for it.

I know that probably doesn't make much sense, but it does in my mind ;) On Sunday, I'll run an enjoyable 13.1 miles, and probably stick to a pace of about 9:45/mi--which will give me a half-marathon PR, but I won't feel like I'm killing myself to get it.

Then NEXT year, in Indy, I'm going to crush my sub-2:00 goal after training hard for it!

Tomorrow is our monthly Winers meeting. I'm kind of bummed, because I have the half-marathon on Sunday morning. I'm going to go to Winers, but I just won't stay very long and I won't drink more than a few ounces of wine. I'm also going to pick up my race packet with Jessica and Renee tomorrow. Busy weekend!

March 22, 2012

Weight and marathon training

This morning, I was supposed to run with Jessica, but she canceled because she had some stuff going on at home. So I changed my plan from doing 4 miles at a 10:00/mi pace to doing 4 miles at my 'A' goal race pace. I wanted to see if it would even be possible for me to hold that pace on my race Sunday.

I don't know where I got the number 9:14 from yesterday--but to finish sub-2:00 on Sunday, I'll have to pull a 9:10/mi pace. I set my Garmin to beep an alert if my pace became faster than 8:50/mi and slower than 9:30/mi. I chose such a wide range because I didn't want it to be beeping constantly, and I wasn't sure how well I was going to be able to hold my pace.

I didn't realize that by changing these settings, my 'auto lap' feature would be turned off--which means I have no idea what my splits were for each mile. I only know my average pace for the whole run.

Anyway, I headed out for my run, and I tried my best to keep my pace as close to 9:14 as I could without going slower than that (I later learned this should have been 9:10). I think I finished the first mile in 8:58 or something, so I tried to slow down. A few times, I found myself spacing out and getting into my "zone" for running, and when I glanced down at the Garmin, I was at about a 9:07 pace.

So I think (I hope!) that my comfortably uncomfortable race pace for the half-marathon will be less than 9:10. But I'll really have to push it. My heart rate was about 160, which is uncomfortable, but sustainable. My average heart rate at my previous half-marathon, in Indy last May, was 161 bpm, and I ran a 9:59 pace. So my heart rate is the same when I run a 9:06 pace now, which means I'm getting more conditioned. Of course, I only did 4 miles at that today).

I know I'm putting WAY too much thought into this stupid race. I was thinking of it as a training run all along, but now that there is a possibility of getting my sub 2:00 half-marathon, I'm tempted to go for it.

I was dreading writing about this, but I know I need to. My weight has gone up about 5 pounds since I started getting into the double-digit runs :(  I know this is actually pretty common in marathon training, due to a number of factors...

A tiny amount of it could be from the increase in glycogen stores from my increase in mileage (when your body stores glycogen, it stores water with it). But I know deep down that the real cause for it is due to my trips to Whole Foods or La Pita after our long runs. I've been using the calories burned during those runs as a license to eat much more than usual.

So in order to keep this 5 pounds from turning into 20 pounds, I'm going to have to nip this in the bud. I'm going to get my eating back to normal at least 6 days a week. On my long run days, I'll allow myself an extra treat--something I've been craving, or going out to eat with Jessica.

I'm going to go back to my "Wednesday Weigh-Ins" where I post a scale picture, and my body fat percentage, and my waist measurement. Hopefully this will keep me accountable.

I have a big day tomorrow! Our new carpet is getting installed, and I'm going to the movies with my dad to see The Hunger Games. I started re-reading the book yesterday, hoping to finish today. I have about 100 pages left, so I better get going on it!

March 21, 2012

Progression run

I was reading my Runner's World magazine and came across an article about pacing, and how it's important to try to keep a consistent pace during a race. My pace is usually all over the place--for a 5 mile run, I might have splits like 9:10, 9:45, 8:58, 9:15, 9:05. Maybe they aren't that extreme, but I rarely stay at a consistent pace for the entire run.

I always find it amazing that the elite runners are able to maintain the same pace within a fraction of a second for the entire distance of their runs. And they do this by feel--tell them to run a 5:30 mile and they can do it to within a second, based on how they feel when they run.

I have to use my trusty Garmin to tell me how fast I'm going. I always have some general idea, but I tend to take everything to the extreme. If I am running a 10-min/mi pace and I "should" be running a 9:45 pace for my training, for example, I will make a conscious effort to go faster--and then I end up running a 9:00/mi pace. I either go too fast or too slow for whatever my target is.

So my whole point of all this is that I want to work on pacing by feel. And one of the steps to doing that, according to the article, is to do progression runs. A progression run is just what it sounds like--a speed workout where you start at a comfortable pace and then increase your pace a little each mile until you finish at race pace, or close to it.

Today, Jessica and I had a 7-mile run on the schedule, so I decided to try and do a progression run. It sounds easy enough--just run a comfortable pace (I figured 11:00/mi to start) and then increase by 10 seconds per mile.

It was so much harder than I thought it would be! I hate looking at my Garmin constantly, but I kept doing that to check the pace. And when I noticed it was too slow, we sped up until we were going too fast, and vice versa. In theory, our splits should have read: 11:00, 10:50, 10:40, 10:30, 10:20, 10:10, 10:00. What they actually looked like was, well, not even close!
Progression run fail, for sure. I think I'll need to start with shorter runs and work my way up. Tomorrow, I'm going to try to maintain a consistent 10:00/mi pace for 4 miles.  Anyway, our run was pretty good. We went down a route that I'd never done before, and it was really pretty. Jessica let me try one of her Clif Shot Bloks at mile 5, just to see how I could stomach it.

The Shot Bloks are kind of like Gummy Bears, only they are in cube shape and probably the size of two Gummy Bears put together. Jessica had the black cherry flavor. I didn't chew it, but tucked it in-between my teeth and my cheek and let it dissolve. It took two miles for the thing to dissolve, and I liked having it in my mouth (go ahead, make dirty jokes). I don't know that I felt any energy from it that way. I like that when I eat a Gu, I feel a little pick-me-up from it; I didn't feel that with the Shot Blok (but I only had one and I made it last two miles).

Seven miles flew by like nothing. That's the best part about running 15 miles for a long run--the shorter runs feel so fast and easy!
I have a half-marathon race on Sunday, and I'm still unsure of what my plans are. It's going to take the place of our normal long run, so I could treat it like a training run and go slow and easy. OR, I could try and PR (sub-2:10:40), OR, go balls to the wall and aim for the sub-2:00 I've been dreaming about since last May.

I think I really have a sub-2:00 half-marathon in me (a 9:14/mi pace), but right now, it would be a torturous 13.1 miles. I wouldn't enjoy it at all. But last year, after running Indy in 2:10, I really wanted to aim for sub-2:00 this year at Indy. That was before I planned on running a full marathon just two weeks after Indy. I don't think it would be smart of me to go for my 'A' goal in Indy and risk injury just two weeks before my marathon.

I've been training at a much slower pace, so running the 9:14/mi pace would be really difficult. But I would love to bust out that sub-2:00! I could just aim for my 'B' goal, which is anything less than 2:10:40 (a 9:59 pace).

I'll probably decide on Sunday morning when the race starts ;) 

March 20, 2012

What a piggy!

Not me--although I'm sure you were thinking it! ;)

Last night, Jerry, the boys, my mom, and I all went to a local dairy farm to get ice cream and see the animals. I didn't eat dinner, since I had La Pita for lunch just a few hours prior, so I just counted my ice cream as dinner. I couldn't decide between coconut ice cream or maple nut--so I had a half-scoop of each.

I actually really like the fact that this place is true to portions. They don't call it a scoop and then pile the ice cream a mile-high. One scoop is literally one scoop--a perfect serving size.

Anyway, we took our ice cream outside where we could smell see the animals while we ate. The geese are mean! They were hissing and being really pesty. We bought a bag of food to give them (which I'm pretty sure was just dog food in a paper bag), and the kids threw that around.

Jerry was terrified of getting eaten by a goose, so he used Eli as a shield. What a baby.
There were a couple of horses that came right over to us and were practically begging for us to pet them, but I was kind of terrified of them. I've never had a fear of horses before, but I discovered that I definitely do now. They're huge!

My favorite animals at the farm are the calves. They're tiny and adorable, and they always try to suck on my arm when I pet them. Jerry discovered what they do when you stand too close and don't pay attention:
(I showed Jerry that picture and all he said was, "Why do I look so ugly?!")

The pigs made me laugh so hard! There was one walking around (not confined at all) and I thought maybe he was blind or something. And maybe deaf, too. He walked right between where we were standing, without even a glance our way. And by walk, I mean strolled as slowly as possible. Then he parked his butt down right in front of one of the calves for a rest.
I thought he was super cute, because he was so chunky. But then I noticed another pig who took "chunky" to a whole new level!
This one didn't even blink (at least I don't think so--it's hard to tell because his eyes are so buried!) I wonder if he can even walk? I don't know, maybe it's normal for a pig to get that big.

There are a lot of animals that have something wrong with them--a cow with a bad foot, who they confined to a spot in the barn with a bunch of hay for soft footing until she heals; a cat who was missing one eye; the blind and deaf? pig; and probably some others. When we saw a bunch of cats roaming around, Jerry and I both said "Phoebe would LOVE it here!" She'd fit right in, too, because she only has half of a tail. Phoebe loves to be outside and would be in heaven on a farm.

We saw some pregnant cows who were laboring in a stall. One time when I was there, I saw a cow give birth. It was really cool to see! But my mom asked how close these cows were to giving birth, and the guy who worked there said it could be tonight or it could be another 3 days--hard to tell.

When we were getting ready to leave, we saw a goose walk by, and it looked like it was smoking a cigarette...
Isn't that funny? I tried to get closer to see what it was, but it kept running from me. It looked kind of like a clip of some sort hooked to it's beak.

The boys had a blast, and asked if we could go back tomorrow. I've taken them there plenty of times before, but they never liked it as much as they did last night. Maybe I can turn it into a Monday-evening thing while I do my long runs. Refueling with ice cream is the best!

Oh, and speaking of that... I think it's obvious that I have a sweet tooth. My cravings are awful sometimes most of the time! I've learned to live with it, and even to lose 125 pounds while indulging my cravings, but I really do think it would be best to cut back a little. When I saw a challenge on SparkPeople called "Tame Your Sweet Tooth" I decided that I should try it.

The first step is taking a quiz to see how your sweet tooth is... and my results?
My sugar cravings are "out of control". Shocking, right? I know, I couldn't believe it either.

A couple of people asked me about sodium and running, since I mentioned on my blog yesterday that I made sure to eat a high sodium snack the night before, and I added a pinch of salt to my water. Here is a page from a book called Runner's World Best: Competitive Running:
 That explains it better than I can. I never really gave much thought to it before, because I only did shorter distances, but now that I'm marathon training, I have to make sure to keep my electrolytes balanced. For once, I'm not getting all technical with the numbers--just trying to increase my sodium a little for the long runs.

March 19, 2012

Uncharted territory

Today was "the big day" for Jessica and me. Since we're both marathon virgins, anything over 13.1 miles was uncharted territory for us--and today was a scheduled 15 mile run. I was SO nervous.

After the disaster of our 13 mile run a couple of weeks ago, I was really dreading today's run ever since. I was worried about stomach cramps and messing up my feet. I think I solved both of those problems--the stomach cramps were caused from the Nuun, which I will never drink again, and I had mild tendonitis in my feet because my shoes had too many miles on them. So I started using my new shoes, and haven't had problems since.

Anyway, knowing that today was a big deal, I prepared accordingly. I had pasta for dinner last night, and had a salty snack before bed (pretzels and Goldfish). I woke up at 5 to drink a quart of water. I had oat bran with a banana, peanut butter, and milk for breakfast a couple of hours before the run. I packed two packets of Gu, and my water bottle--which I added a pinch of salt to, because the Gu doesn't have much sodium. I dressed in my most comfy running clothes and headed out to meet Jessica.

We were both nervous, and we didn't make plans to go eat lunch afterward, because we assumed we'd both have stomach cramps and just want to head home. We agreed to run a slow pace, because we're running a half-marathon race on Sunday, and we want to feel good for that.

I had plugged our race times into the McMillan pace calculator to determine our best training pace for a long run, and mine was 10:30-11:30 min/mile; Jessica's was 11:30-12:30 min/mi. So we agreed to keep our pace as close to 11:30 as possible.

When we first set out, it felt like we were going TOO slow, but I knew I didn't want to step up the pace because I didn't want to get cramps later. I didn't look at the Garmin much. We did a different route today, going through three different cities, and running past the car at mile 9. Jessica brought water to refill our water bottles if needed.

We actually saw quite a few people out walking or biking, and a couple of people running. I wanted to tell everyone, "We're running 15 MILES today!!" but I kept it to myself ;)

It was perfect weather for running--cool and overcast. I had my chocolate Gu at mile 6. Still no tummy troubles. When we hit the halfway point, I was still feeling really good, and started to think that maybe I'd make it through the run okay after all. We took a spontaneous small detour to go through a park, and then we ended up back at the car at mile 9.5 ish. Both of us were feeling really good at that point, and we each had half a bottle of water left, so we didn't even stop at the car.

We headed into the Metropark for the last 5 miles. There was fog everywhere, and it was really fun running surrounded by fog. I started to feel fatigued so I had my peanut butter Gu. My legs were starting to ache at about mile 12, but I didn't feel any real pain. At 12.25, we turned around and started making our way back to the car. We both got really excited when we hit 13.1 and kept going.

When my Garmin beeped at mile 14, I was excited with just one mile to go--and my Garmin has never seen anything above 13.1. At 14.5, I started smiling while running, because I knew we were actually going to DO IT. We never even stopped (or walked), the entire time we were running! We got back to the car and I heard the beep for mile 15. We both felt GREAT--no tummy problems, no real pain, just a little stiff and achy, but nothing unusual. We used the self-timer on my camera to get a picture of us in our sweaty glory:
15 miles, run and done.
Jessica's hard to miss with all that neon. I love her shoes!
 We were both feeling so good after the run that we decided to go to La Pita for lunch. La Pita is our favorite choice because it's not greasy or salty or any of the other qualities that restaurant food usually has. I got my usual, the chicken kabob (here's last week's pic of the same food--sorry I'm not too adventurous when it comes to La Pita):
I made sure not to eat too much this time, despite the fact that I was starving. I was wolfing down the pita bread and garlic sauce when I forced myself to slow down. And then, before I felt full, I stopped eating to avoid getting that horrible "too full" feeling. I felt very satisfied, but by no means FULL.

I just got home, and I'm actually feeling so good that I might take the kids to get ice cream tonight. There is a dairy farm not too far from here, so I think we'll go there and get the good stuff! The ice cream shop that is just a couple of miles from my house re-opened for the season, and I have made a vow not to go there at ALL this year. Last year, that is how I gained 15 pounds over the summer--stupid Reese cup flurries! If I want ice cream, I'll have to drive a lot farther to get it.

Damn, I feel good right now!

March 18, 2012

Reader Questions & Answers #5

On Sundays, I will answer some readers' questions in a post. If you have a question that you would like me to answer here on the blog, just send me an e-mail with the subject "Q&A", and I may include them in a future Q&A post. They don't have to be about weight loss or running--anything is game!  (Remember, I'm not a doctor or dietician, or any sort of medical professional--I can only answer questions from my own experience).

Q. I was wondering how you found your running partners. Were you friends with them before you lost weight, or did you meet them along the way in your weight loss journey? I would really like to start running more, and eventually complete a marathon (sometime in my life). So far I have lost 15 lbs on my weight loss journey, and you have been a huge inspiration to me!

A. First, congrats on the weight loss! The question about my running friends has actually come up a lot lately. The truth is, I was strictly a solo runner until just recently. Before I started running, the only runner-friend that I had was Renee. She had just run her first marathon, and I didn't even comprehend then what that meant. She was the one who encouraged me to sign up for a 5K race, before I had even run one step.

My first 10K run (Evie, Jessica, Renee, me, Kerri)
Once I got hooked on running, I invited Renee and Jessica to do the Indy half-marathon. Jessica wasn't a runner at the time, but I told her she could walk it. She ended up running it and getting hooked on running as well. Jessica is probably the very definition of a "social butterfly"--especially when it comes to exercise. She loves taking classes at the YMCA and she almost always runs with friends (most of whom she met at the Y).

When we decided to run our first marathon, we wanted to train together to keep our super long runs from boring us to death. And it was through Jessica that I met some other runners.

So basically, if you know a runner, that runner probably knows other runners, and so on. I still like running solo on my short runs, because I can go at my own pace, but for anything longer than about 4-5 miles, I really enjoy the company!

Q. Do you warm up and/or cool down after a run?  I'm signed up for a 5K in April and I just ran my farthest distance of 4.59 miles.  I have always had tight hamstrings, but I'd like to prevent them from being any tighter.  What is your pre and post- run routine?

A. I know what my answer *should* be. But honestly, I don't warm up before a run. I just head outside and start running. I only recently started cooling down, and that's because my legs feel much better when I do, especially after a long run. After Jessica and I finish a long run, I'll stop the Garmin and we walk for about 5 minutes. Then I usually stretch for a couple of minutes--nothing crazy, just some stretches that make my legs feel good. That's about it as far as my pre- and post-run routine. I just do what makes me feel good, and the post-run walking and stretching feels good!

Q. Can you tell me what to expect from my first 5K?  Do we all take off at the word "go" like a pack of dogs? LOL. I'm wondering how you can even run in a crowd?

A. This is something that I was scared and nervous and excited about before my first 5K as well. I had no idea what to expect. 

Unless you get there right at the last minute, there is actually a lot of standing around and waiting at a race--waiting for your packet pick-up, waiting in line for the porta-potty, waiting for the start of the race... the race itself is the only part where you don't seem to be waiting.

Once you pick up your packet (in bigger races, you might even do this days ahead of time) and pin on your number bib, make sure you go to the bathroom one more time before the race. When you're ready, you'll go to the starting line. A tidbit of race etiquette: if you're a walker, go to the back of the pack. If you're a run/walker, go just a little ahead of the back. Save the actual starting line for the people that run 5 minute miles, and the 8-10 minute/mile people should be in the middle of the pack. It's really frustrating when you're much faster than the people standing around you and you have to dodge around them. And you'll annoy the people behind you if you stand with the 5-minute/mile crowd and you're running a 10:00/mi.
The Indy 500 Festival Mini-Marathon starting line
Once you are waiting at the starting line, they might have announcements, or something. Then you'll hear a loud horn (or whatever they use to start the race). It might take some time to get up to the starting line, so you could be shuffling forward slowly (depends on how many people in the race--in Indy, it takes me 30+ minutes to get to the starting line! At a small race, just 5-10 seconds at most). Your race time will start when YOU cross the start line (assuming that they are using chip timing--attached to your shoe or your bib).

Once you cross the actual starting line, you'll be able to pick up speed pretty quickly. You might have to dodge around people for a half mile or so, and you might feel overwhelmed if people are dodging around you. The first race I was in, I almost cried because I thought EVERYONE was passing me. But just try to forget about everyone else, and run your own race. The people spread out quickly, even in a larger race, so you won't feel like a sardine.

See how much fun I'm having? LOL
After a half-mile or so, you'll have some more space and you can pick up speed or drop speed if needed. It's important to try not to go out from the start too fast, especially if you feel like you have to keep up with people that are passing you. Something I always notice at races is that a lot of the people who pass me in the beginning drop to a walk after a mile or two, and I pass them. Just try and keep a consistent pace, and don't worry about the people around you.

Once you cross the finish line, you'll probably be able to grab a bottle of water and some post-race snacks, and perhaps they'll give you medal. You can hang around for a bit or just leave right away. If you're pretty fast, you might even win a prize for your age group--so I've HEARD from my speedy friend Renee, anyway ;)

I still get nervous before every race, but there is honestly no reason to--just try to enjoy it and not think too hard about it! Good luck!

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