Training Update: Back to the Daily Grind (and a Good Routine)

The past couple of weeks have been jam packed with going back to work after the Christmas break, fun stuff (Chris’ band had a show last week), and, of course, blogging! It’s been busy, but when I look back on busiest of times, I see that they are always the most productive.

So, let’s get started, shall we?:

Week of December 28 (Week 9):

4.0 mi. | 40 min. tempo | 3.0 mi. | 10K race

For the week after an indulgent holiday, my runs this week felt surprisingly great. I really enjoyed the tempo run, especially. I always do these on the treadmill, and I finally am learning to enjoy the treadmill. I feel like my pace has gotten much more consistent since regularly resorting to the treadmill. And tempo runs seem to go so fast! I skipped the 10K, thinking I would make it up the next week, but it got away from me with a busy first week back at work. Still, 7/8 runs is an improvement from my last update! 

Total mileage: 11 mi.

 

Week of January 4 (Week 10):

4.5 mi. | 8 x 400 m. | 4.0 3.0 mi. pace | 9.0 mi.

Again, all of my runs felt fantastic this past week (I have to hand it to the weather, which has also been on point). I messed up my schedule and accidentally ran 3 miles one day instead of 4, but that’s no big deal.

To top it off, I ran my easy 9 miler in under 11 minute mile splits. GREAT FEELING, you guys. I have never run 11 minute miles longer than a 5 mile run, or at least not that I can remember. If I can keep that pace for the Hot Chocolate 15K, let alone the half marathon, I will feel AWESOME about that. I would be clocking in under 2 hours and 24 minutes!
Total mileage:  20.5 mi.

 
After celebrating Christmas with my parents (check out my 60 lb. lap dog with my dad… she is one spoiled grand-dog), we spent a quiet week at home, other than a couple of work days. New Year Eve was spent with Cards Against Humanity and a friend of ours, and then we binge-watched Making a Murderer to begin 2016. 

 
We also returned to 24 Diner for a New Year’s Day date. They are home to the best waffles ever. AND we saw “Joy.” I have to say it’s one of my new favorite movies. That story made me want to get up off my butt and make things happen.

In other news, work has been crazy busy since I got back from the break, but it’s always busy at the beginning of the year, with trade show season in full swing, and trying to get everything organized for a successful year. I’m getting back in a good routine, and finding a good balance with all the things in my life, though. I am really excited for 2016!

That said, I’m looking forward to this year with all of you. It’s going to be a good one.

Cheers to the New Year, y’all!

Becoming a Runner Step 1: It’s in the Shoes

In case you live under a rock missed it, it’s 2016, folks! For many people (myself included), the New Year is a reminder to get serious about accomplishing goals. My visit to the gym today reminded me how many people promise to themselves to get fit each year; however, many resolutions go unaccomplished by December. I think the reason why is that people lack practical advice on how to achieve these goals. Whether you’ve decided to get fit this year, or you want to accomplish a goal like a half marathon, I wanted to share some of my experiences to help you become a successful runner beyond the month of January.
FTR_Shoes360

I’ve learned that the first thing you should do before doing any kind of running is finding the right shoes. Here’s how:

Don’t just search the internet for shoe reviews… Go to a store that has a specific section for running (like Luke’s Locker, Road Runner Sports, or any locally-owned running store) and get fitted.

Set a reasonable budget for yourself. Especially the first time you get fitted, this isn’t the place to cheap out. For me personally, I try to stay under $120, and if you have neverdone this before, $100 budget is about the lowest budget I would set. That’s a lot of money, but when you factor in the advice you are paying for and the ability to try a range of styles and price points to find out what works, it is worth it. It is waste of money to purchase a pair that doesn’t work for you, and you could potentially injure yourself.

Set aside an hour or so for this endeavor, and wear athletic clothes. The first time I got fitted, I went on my lunch break in business casual attire. This was not the best decision, because you will likely have to run/walk around the store. The associate needs to be able to see your gait and the way your feet move when you run.

Bring in your current running or athletic shoes. Being able to review the wear patterns on your soles also helps the associate to see how you walk or run.

Here are some great examples of the wisdom I have acquired during my shoe fittings over the past 2 years:

  • My foot pattern and arch height: I underpronate. Underpronation is a typical pattern for people with high arches, so I assumed I had high arches; however, I have low to normal arches.
  • Correct shoe size: Running shoes should be 1-2 sizes larger than your normal shoe size and have about an inch between your longest toe and the end of the shoe. I normally wear a 6.5-7, and I wear an 8-8.5.
  • Fit/feel: The shoes you wear should “feel like you’re running on a slipper;” they should feel comfortable to you!
  • Correct shoe type: There are different foot patterns, and different types of shoes. For example, I wear a neutral shoe because I underpronate. Having a neutral foot pattern is different, and it doesn’t mean you should wear neutral shoes.
  • Looks (they don’t matter): Color shouldn’t be the deciding factor, but if you really like a shoe and they don’t carry your favorite color in the store, it may be possible for the associate to order it online.
  • Price: If you have a strict budget, local stores can sometimes offer discounts to meet your budget. They have a vested interest in making sure you pick a shoe you are happy with.

Finally, enjoy the experience. You’ll rarely find a sales person at a department store invested in which shoes you pick, for running or otherwise. These associates care and can offer great encouragement and advice.

FTR_Shoes_TracktoTrail

Your new shoes should last anywhere from 200 – 500 miles. If you want a long-lasting shoe, be sure to tell the person who gives you a fitting. My shoes above are still going strong, from treadmill to trail, at almost 400 miles (can you believe they’ve seen a marathon and half marathon?). Keep a log of your miles to determine when it’s time to replace. If you start having random injuries, then it’s definitely time.

Once I find a shoe I LOVE, I stick with it for as long as I can. I found my Brooks Ghost 7’s and I have been able to purchase discounted pairs online. Expensive initially, but they work for me and now I’m able to save some money. That’s why the fitting was so important!

Any advice I missed? Please feel free to leave it in the comments below! This will be the first in a series of blog posts this month, so please check back for more tips.

Cheers to the New Year!

Disclaimer: I am not a physical therapist, running coach, or a medical professional. I’m a runner sharing my personal experiences, and this does not replace advice from a licensed healthcare professional or running coach. Please consult a licensed professional if you are in need of in-depth advice on an exercise regimen that works for your personal needs.

 

Training Update: Ho, Ho, Hustling!

Howdy Folks! Since I’m training for two races right now (those of you who follow me on social media saw that I’m racing the Hot Chocolate 15K in Dallas on Feb. 6), I thought it would be effective just to do a week by week (ish) update on my workouts. I am hoping to run more frequent races in 2016 and I think it will be easier to keep an ongoing log of my workouts on the blog, rather than a log for each specific race.

If you’ll recall my training schedule for earlier this summer, that’s what I’m working my way through right now. I plan to switch the 15k race in Week 12 for the 12 miler in Week 14, since that week is the week of the Hot Chocolate 15K (and a week before the Austin Half). By the way, if you register for the Hot Chocolate 5K or 15K with the code BibRaveDAL, you’ll receive a complimentary head warmer! There is actual chocolate on the course, so it’s my kind of race.

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This past week was none other than Christmas, so I actually only ran one of my scheduled runs due to a hectic travel schedule and poor weather when I wasn’t traveling. That’s why this recaps the past two weeks of my training. I was 4 for 8 on making my training runs, and I really was trying to get them all in. Why are the holidays so dang busy?!

So, here’s the recap:

Week of December 14 (Week 7 on the old calendar):

3.5 mi. | 35 min. tempo | 3.0 mi. | 7.0 mi.

All workouts got done except my tempo run… Felt like a good week, and I ran my 7 miler in under an hour and 20 minutes, which I felt good about since I started very slow. Part of my motivation was getting all my gift wrapping finished (who else has been there?). I even ran a 9’41” mile – I think that is one of my fastest to date!

Total mileage: 13.5 mi.

Week of December 21 (Week 8):

4.0 mi. | 7 x 400 m. | 3.0 mi. pace | 8.0 mi.

Well, at least I finished the 8 miler (slowly, but surely). I got it out of the way first, knowing that I would be traveling a lot, but I was kinda disappointed in how it went due to some knee soreness I was having. For some reason, whenever I switch back from leggings to shorts, I have issues. The leggings I have aren’t compression grade, but I do think that running tights make me alter my gait in some form or fashion and offer slight stabilization for my knees. Other than that, quite frankly, I think this blog is already doing its job! After the knee issues, I was planning to take an extra rest day, but not 3. It adds up and I feel pretty convicted.

Total mileage: 8.0 mi.

Where were we traveling, you ask? Well, we visited San Antonio for Christmas with my Grandparents, and we also went to my parents’ house near Houston on Christmas Day. We even got to walk down the Riverwalk and see some of the sights around town, including the Menger Hotel, where we took this picture in front of their tree.

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All in all, the holidays were fantastic, but the ho-ho-ho’s and hustle and bustle have left me like this:

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Christmas is my favorite holiday, but this year was just crazy! I’m looking forward to having a few more travel-free days to rest up for the new year. It’s going to be a great one!

How do you stay on track during the holidays, and how did you celebrate this year?

Cheers!

Gear Guide: Fun Fall Faves

It finally is cooling down a bit in the hot state of Texas and I couldn’t be happier. The longer the summer, the more welcome is the first breezy run of autumn. The flavors, the clothes, the crisp air outside, etc. – everything about fall warms my heart! In honor of the best season ever, I put together a guide of my favorite running gear and active living items to help you celebrate in style.

FTR Fun Fall Faves

Clockwise from top left corner.

The North Face Thermoball Vest

While I myself am relatively frugal, I feel investing in certain high-quality items you will wear for years is also a wise decision. That’s why this vest is on here. I recently purchased this vest and I love that it’s warm, lightweight and folds up into one of the pockets for storage. How cool is that? Wear it for running or running errands, as it looks great for both. And this print is so fun!

Under Armour Women’s Boho Headband

This headband strikes the delicate balance between having enough fabric on your forehead to keep the sweat out of your eyes and so much fabric that your head gets hot. Plus, it stylishly keeps your flyaways in check after you leave the gym or the track, so you can run post-workout errands without feeling self-conscious.

Brooks Distance Long Sleeve Tee and Fineform Sports Bra

Cute and versatile, these items will keep you warm (and reduce chafing due to the flat seams) on a cooler run, or lounging around at Thanksgiving. I love how the color is bright without seeming springy. The sports bra especially is versatile and can be worn year round, with two different ways to wear the straps (hello, summer racerbacks). The soft long sleeve has odor-fighting fabric, which is all-too necessary any time you sweat.

Gu Maple Bacon Energy Gel

I was looking to include the Espresso Love energy gel in this guide, but I had to include these when I saw them. Such a strange combination, but it sounds yummy! Like bacon dipped in pancake syrup… a sweet and salty flavor explosion.

adidas ar-10 Shoes

These are awesome for going to and from yoga class, or wearing out to a football game. I wanted to show support for my Aggies, because fall = football, but unfortunately this is the only technical item adidas offers for women (sigh), and they’re not for actual running. Still, I would wear them often with leggings, jeans and anything comfortable.

Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Biscotti

Ah, the perfect pre-run snack. I’ve been on a biscotti kick lately because it is a quick, easy snack without making me feel super weighed down. The pumpkin flavor is present and slightly spicy, without overpowering my taste buds with saccharine syrupy-ness  (I’m looking at you, pumpkin spice lattes). It’s also a great way to add in some extra carbs during carbo-loading. Pick it up at your local TJ’s.

Burt’s Bees Medicated Lip Balm

I don’t wear lipstick or gloss very often; just the balm for me, please. Burt’s Bees lip balm is my favorite. When my lips get cracked by the drier air, I need a medicated version and this hits the spot. No one wants to be fighting cracked lips on the run, and this helps.

Nike Women’s Filament Capris

I ran my marathon in these capris – they are so comfy! The fabric feels more like cotton leggings than shiny thick tights and I like that they are matte, too. The panels are sewn in a way that’s really flattering, and the length is just right. There is a nice drawstring to keep them from riding up or down, and a decent-sized pocket in the back conveniently stores Gu’s, keys, or whatever else you want.

 

What would you add to this list?

Cheers and happy fall, y’all!

Meet Daisy, My Future Running Buddy!

Say “hello” to my big little furry friend! Chris and I recently adopted a dog, who we named Daisy Flores! If you have known me in real life for any length of time, you probably know how much I love dogs and how much I’ve wanted a pup of my own for basically forever, so this is a big freaking deal.


Long story short, Chris and I talked for a long time one random Thursday (about 2 weeks after the marathon) and finally decided we could get a dog. We searched for a week or so, which was both stressful, exciting and emotional, and found Daisy at the local Humane Society. She is perfect for our family in every way. She’ll be treated for heartworms over the course of the next 3 months and we are praying everything goes well/she is cured after treatment, so she can finally be my running buddy.

Daisy on her freedom ride:

A few fun facts about Daisy:
– She is an Aussie mix (we think).
– She has a lot of hair!
– She loves to snuggle with both furniture and humans and would let me rub her belly for hours if she could.
– She likes to give hugs – she’s not a jumper except when I come home from work, when she basically lightly jumps up on me and stays there as if giving me a hug.
– She is already crate and potty trained (thank God).
– She loves to chase squirrels.
– She doesn’t whine or bark; she just grunts, kind of like a pig, only cuter.
– She HATES baths and wet surfaces.
– She is the cutest dog ever to us because she is ours.

“What are you looking at?” Daisy after getting fixed.

My 55 lb. child dog being her snuggly self:

Searching for and adjusting to having a dog has been killer on my exercise and blog regimen, but I am finally getting back on track this week, now that we are in a new routine. Since the marathon, I’ve only run 4.5 miles total and worked out 3 times. I actually ran 2 of those miles last night (and boy, were they tough). These pictures basically sum up my life.

Pre-Daisy Rug:

 

Post-Daisy Rug (after vacuuming two days prior!):

I’m excited that we’ve adjusted to the new normal and am looking forward to sharing the other running/active-related posts I’ve been working on soon.

Cheers to puppies and the fun that comes with them!

Irving Marathon 2015 Recap

This past weekend, my first marathon took place in Irving, Texas! It was a life-changing, exhilarating experience that I will cherish for years and years and years.

After giving myself a few days to recover and enjoy the Easter holiday with my family, I want to share a recap of the weekend with y’all.

On Good Friday, Chris and I drove to Irving and checked into our hotel room. I was fortunate to be able to get off work a few hours early, so we could make it in time to pick up my packet and bib at Luke’s Locker. While this made me feel a little more relaxed, knowing that we could take our time to check into the hotel and that I would not have to pick up my packet the morning of the race, I still was feeling pretty nervous. Thankfully, Chris is very good at helping me remain calm.

Anyway, we found an Italian restaurant and grabbed dinner. They had the best bread, which helped in my carbo-loading efforts. Then, we stopped at the grocery store to pick up a few food items and some Advil, headed back to the hotel and got ready for bed.

To give my breakfast plenty of time to digest and to have enough time to use the restroom, take my time getting ready, etc. I planned to get up at about 5 a.m. However, I set my alarm for the wrong day and ended up waking up an hour late – around 6:15! I stayed calm, tried to get ready quickly without stressing (Chris decided to snap a quick picture to document the morning), and we walked out to the starting line, which was about a 10 minute walk from the hotel, around 6:45. The race was scheduled to start at 7:30, so we had plenty of time, which was nice, and we even got to see the beautiful sunrise. I think oversleeping actually ended up being a good thing because I didn’t have time to psych myself out.

Soon enough, it was time to find my corral and say goodbye to Chris… Can you tell I’m not a morning person?

The gun went off and the race began!

The strategy I mapped out for myself was to run 5 minute intervals with 1 minute of walking for the first half, and increase the intervals in the second half if I felt good. During the first half, I felt like I was making good time, not wearing myself out too much, and taking it relatively easy. It seemed to fly by and the volunteers were all so nice. There were water stations every mile or so throughout the course for the first half, so it was easy to wash my fuel down with water regularly. This part of the course also had the half marathon runners, so there were lots of people and it was great to feed off of that energy.

Then came the second 13.1 miles. The way the course was laid out, the marathon course had an out and back leg that split off from the half marathon course. This was nice, as part of it ran through parks and trails, but then it got to the point where it was in a hilly neighborhood. I was doing pretty well until about mile 17 or 18.

All of a sudden, I felt so drained, and everything hurt, including my hip, which never bothers me. My knee was actually feeling fine, which was a blessing. I stopped doing as many intervals and just ran as much as I could and walked. It was a small race (under 400 for the marathon), and because I was at the back of the pack, there were less and less people out there around me. The water stations were also further apart, which made it difficult to stay motivated. This was tough when I was already hitting a wall, feeling overwhelmed with 8 more miles to go on a hillier course than I anticipated and few people around, most of whom were also walking (but then again, running a marathon is supposed to be tough). I’ll have more on this later, but I honestly didn’t know if I could finish at this point and resolved to take it one mile at a time and see if I could focus on my music to make it to mile 19, then 20, and then 21.

I eventually made it to mile 22, when I finally felt like I could do it, even though I was totally beat. At that point, I made a new friend and we ran and walked together for the rest of the race, talking and trying to encourage each other. I will also have more on this, later.

Finally, the convention center where we started was in sight off in the distance. We took one final walk break and pushed ourselves to run the rest of the way to the finish line.

The finish line was such a blur. There were some people who stayed for a long time, and who I’m very grateful for. They cheered as I was coming in, though I was also listening to music and trying to savor the moment. I finally saw my husband and gave him the thumbs up – I was almost there.

I sprinted to the finish and then it was all over.  A volunteer insisted on putting my medal on me and I found Chris and gave him a huge hug. I shed a few happy tears. I found my friend, who didn’t have anyone to meet her at the finish, and congratulated her and thanked her for running with me. And then we left to go eat.

Chris took this photo right after I was handed my medal!

I honestly felt so accomplished and tired and happy all at the same time. It was a strange emotion. I didn’t want to take my medal off, even though we were the only ones from the marathon at the restaurant. Part of this came from my desire for people to understand why I was limping everywhere and walking so slowly. 😉

It was certainly one of the most accomplished feeling moments of my life. I felt like I gave the race everything I had and was absolutely giddy with joy and excitement. I even shed a few more tears of joy on the way home.

Thanks to everyone who has been supportive of me since I embarked on this endeavor. What’s made this experience so exhilarating is having people by my side to share in my joy.

I’m so grateful to have made it to the finish line and still can hardly believe it’s real… but it is! I’m a marathoner!

February Training Update – Highs and Lows

February Marathon Training Update  Free To Run Blog

February? Yes, February. 😉 I know I am slightly delayed but there were so many things that happened in February (and March) that I wanted to make a point to share these with you all. So, here we go.

To sum February up in one word, I choose the word “dynamic.” February was full of highs and lows, and I feel like I grew a lot as a runner and a person.

In the interest of disclosure, I should note that this post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission if you make a purchase using this link.

 

 

Week 10: 3 mi. | 8 mi. | 4 mi. | 16 mi.
Completed a hilly run in Austin and felt pretty good after. Overall, I felt pretty confident ant it was a good week.

Week 11: 4 mi. | 8 mi. | 5 mi. | 12 mi. 11 mi.
This week was where I started having some injury/fueling issues. Everything started out great. As I mentioned previously, I had some really bad cramps in  from my left knee all the way up to my rear end… and they wouldn’t go away. I figured this was a result of poor fueling technique. Since this incident, I’ve been working on taking fuel earlier in my runs and this seems to have helped me avoid similar situations.

Week 12: 4 mi. | 9 mi. | 5 mi. | 18 mi. 16 mi.
My toe started bugging me a lot, and then it all kinda went downhill. With the issues I was having with my left leg, and now my toe, I decided to skip the 9 miler. Then, when I ran my long run on Saturday, everything came to a head. I felt pretty good the first 12 of 18 planned miles and even knocked the whole first half out on the treadmill (when it is thundering out, I often take runs indoors and alternate between the track and the treadmill to keep myself mentally stimulated). The last 4 miles (12 to 16) were dreadful. My knee started to hurt and a tendon on the back of my right leg, near my knee, was killing me. I was taking walk breaks and limping. I finally threw in the towel – I couldn’t even walk and it was not worth it to me to injure myself!

I’ve cut runs short to avoid pain, but never had a pain that made me feel nearly incapacitated. Limping downstairs, I made it to the ladies’ room just in time to call my husband – and start bawling. I was hysterical. I had nothing left. I literally couldn’t run anymore and I didn’t know what to do. It sounds childish now, but that was the state I was in; I felt as if this goal that was so close to becoming a reality was imploding on itself, like my body was rejecting my ambition.

He almost had to come pick me up because I didn’t want to walk out to my car, but I eventually pulled myself together and limped out to my vehicle. I explained it all to him when I had calmed down at home (I was so hysterical and we decided I should take a couple days off to see if I felt like I needed to see the doctor. He was very supportive and I would not still be training if he hadn’t just listened and help me calm back down that day.

The next day was our first anniversary and it was a wonderful day. See what I mean about ups and downs?

Week 135 mi. | 9 mi. | 5 mi. 2.5 mi. | 14 mi.
After taking some days off and trying to run, but still having issues, it dawned on me to try new shoes, since mine had 350+ miles. After visiting Luke’s Locker and walking out with a new pair of Brooks Ghost 7’s, I ran 14 pain-free miles (and I’ve been relatively pain-free ever since). All that time, my shoes were worn out. ALL THAT TIME. I should have had a V8.

Have you ever had something like this happen in running – something that was so obvious, you should have known immediately what the issue was?

The rest of the month, in photos: 

Spring flowers are my favorite and were enjoyed all month long.

I bought my first tube of Body Glide.

My new shoes, which I am IN LOVE with.

The rodeo came through town during one of my runs, seriously. #Texas, y’all.

… and I got to see a pretty sweet sunset on another run.

Chris and I had some great date nights and a blissful month of celebrating a year of marriage…

… and we enjoyed some great carbo-loading brunches. Yum.

It’s officially the week of my marathon. Excited to get my last update post up and some other fun stuff this week before it happens! Stay tuned. 🙂

Cheers!