Join me as I travel around the country to fulfill my goal of running a marathon or half marathon in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Race I Forgot to Train For

By forgot, I mean I just didn’t. I’m not sure why the past few months haven’t been full of intense running sessions. I had the perfect opportunity to PR on a flat course with perfect weather at the Long Branch Half Marathon in New Jersey last Sunday. I suppose enjoying my last few weeks of freedom by spending time with friends and family took precedence over running. I’ve also been doing a lot of strength training (crossfit) to get ready for boot camp, so that took up some time as well. I really should stop making excuses and just admit that I blew the opportunity. Fortunately there will be more races to come in my future. And, to be completely honest I wasn’t disappointed with my finish time at all. I was only 5 minutes behind my average finish time and I felt pretty darn good for not training at all. Perhaps more crossfit, less running, and eating tons of ice cream the night before a race is the way to go! 
Pre-race Ben & Jerry's
In all seriousness I think my decent race time had a lot to do with my psychological state. I really wasn’t stressed or worried at all about the race. In fact, I was borderline apathetic about even making it to the start line when I hit all this traffic:

Others were panicked and started jumping out of their cars to jog a half mile or more to the start line. I was calm and relaxed and casually strolled to the start line 2 minutes before the gun went off. A lot of times I think runners psych themselves out before races. Yes, I know staying calm before a big race you’ve trained hard for is easier said than done, but if you can suppress even just a few of the pre-race jitters I think it will work wonders.

Since I didn’t train at all my thought was that I would probably just jog/walk a lot of the race and try to enjoy the day. I started out with the 2:45 pacer and quickly realized I would be bored out of my mind if I stayed at this pace or slower and would most likely quit at mile 5 from sheer lack of will power to finish the race. I caught up with the 2:30 pacer and decided to make a goal finish time to get me through the race. At first I decided on 2:35; by mile 8 I hadn’t walked yet and thought I could shoot for 2:30; at mile 11 my legs and lungs felt good so I switched to a 2:28 goal. At mile 12 I thought oh, what’s the harm, just push it and see if you can make 2:26. If you have to walk, oh well.

I sprinted the last .2 miles and ended up finishing with a 2:25:52! That’s only about 5 minutes behind my average finish time for races that I actually train for. Hmmm…makes me wonder what I was doing all that training for?? Kidding.

After my race I found my aunt and cheered on all the full marathon finishers. My cousin, her boyfriend, and my uncle all ran the full like rock stars. I’m so happy that my family shares marathons as a pastime.
Ha! Am I waving to the photographer? Who do I think I am, a prom queen?
If you’re thinking about doing this race here are some pros/cons for you.

Pros about the Long Branch Half Marathon/New Jersey Marathon:
-The medals were awesome (we’re talking RnR heavy medal status)
-Shirts were nice
-Plenty of water/Gatorade stops and volunteers to distribute cups
-Course finished with a beautiful run along the beach (great view!)
-A barcode on your race bib allowed for you to use your smart phone to scan it and receive your finish time. I didn’t have the app on my phone so I didn’t try it, but it seemed like a pretty innovative idea.

Cons about the Long Branch Half Marathon/New Jersey Marathon: I don’t really like to be a debbie-downer because I’m sure coordinating large races is hard, but when a race costs more than $100 I think we deserve to have the quality of the race set-up and perks reflect the price.
-The half started at 6:50 am (an hour before the full). I’ve never seen this before. Usually the races start together or the marathon starts first. This meant I was on my own without all my family who was doing the full marathon because they wanted to sleep – borrriiing.
-The parking situation was awful. I don’t know who was in charge of directing traffic, but a 4th grader could have done a better job.
-Again, organization of bag drop off was terrible. It took 20 minutes to find my bag after the race because they had taken them all out of the truck (where they had been in numerical order) and threw them in a pile. Intelligent.
-There was no family reunion area. Signs with the letters of the alphabet would have been nice so that I could have found my aunt a little easier.
-Finish line food was pretty crappy. Something that could hardly pass for a plain bagel was handed to me. There were bananas and granola bars too, but that’s about it.

We have a new Terrible Race Photo. Winner winner chicken dinner!

 I swear I was feeling good at the end of the race despite what the photo seems! :)

Family Finish Photo

One good thing about road trips is the mandatory cracker barrel trip and yes, I did eat a massive amount of yummy food by myself.

Do we think this equals 13 miles? Sure.
 This weekend I'm running the Capitol Hill Classic 10k. After that I don't have any races on the calendar at all since I'm headed to boot camp. It's been a while since my race schedule was so barren...not sure how I feel about it!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Crossfit and Paleo - One Week Completed

In an effort to get ready for boot camp in less than 2 months I joined a crossfit gym (which is conveniently connected to my current traditional gym). For months I had walked by the bay of windows behind which were ripped people sweating puddles and pushing enormous amounts of weight over their heads. It looked intense to say the least and I was intimidated. I think I just assumed that I wasn't fit enough to participate, but you know what they say about assuming. I quickly learned that each activity can be scaled to an individual's current ability. Can't do regular hanging pull-ups? Do them on the rings. Can't do push-ups on your toes? Do them on your knees. Can't lift 100 pounds? Just use the 15 pound bar - or a pvc pipe for that matter. Can't do one legged squats on your own? Use a box to balance. You're excuses are not welcome at CrossFit.


I've been to about 6 classes so far at Balance CrossFit Thomas Circle in Washington, DC. I absolutely love it, regardless of the fact that after my first class it took me 3 days to be walk normally again. It's exactly what I needed. It's like personal training, but even better. The classes are pretty small (usually somewhere around 15 people) and everyone is very encouraging no matter what weight you're working with. Granted, it is pretty expensive-I paid $200 for the month-but I suppose taking care of your health and fitness should be considered an investment for life.

If you're looking for some inspirational CrossFit women I have done my fair share of You-tubing. Try watching the current CrossFit champion (a.k.a. the world's fittest woman), Annie Thorisdottir or fitness phenoms Kristan Clever and Katie Hogan. Miranda Oldroyd is also pretty inspirational. Those wall balls are no joke. I was pretty sure my legs were going to set on fire the first time I did them. I really like learning new things so weightlifting has been exciting to me. I still have a lot more to learn. Memorizing the names of all the different lifts is hard enough, let alone how to do them properly, but I'll get there.

Shortly after I joined CrossFit Balance I heard they were doing a 30 day Paleo Challenge. The Paleo diet has been dubbed the "Caveman Diet." As soon as I heard about it I knew I had to partake. I've had such a struggle with my sugar addiction that I thought putting $40 into a group challenge would inspire me to stick with a healthy lifestyle. You would think the need to get ready for boot camp would be enough inspiration, but even I can't begin to explain the rationalization that happens in my own brain. I'm no expert and there is certainly more to it than this, but the basics are that you can't eat any grains, dairy, starches (except sweet potatoes), refined sugar, or legumes. Thus, you end up eating a lot of veggies, fruits, eggs, and meat.

Paleo diet food pyramid. Source

I've made it through one week being really strict with the food aspect. I did however cheat by drinking alcohol two nights and sun-chips at a cook out (really, I caved to sunchips??). The first few days were hell. The nutritionist running the challenge says your body goes through detox the first week and I believe it. I'm pretty sure going from eating an entire box of Samoa girl scout cookies in one sitting to eating absolutely no sugar is enough to set your body into some serious withdrawal (we're talking drooling on yourself because your cousin sitting next to you on the couch is eating ice cream). For a funny, yet educational read from someone who just completed their 30 day Paleo challenge check out this blog post.

I've been eating a lot of these little scrambled egg and vegetable muffins. Source

I've had to spend a lot more money on groceries and more time actually preparing food rather than eating Lean Cuisines, but it's been worth it. After one week I've lost 4 pounds and definitely notice my clothes fitting better, as well as my body just feeling better in general. The challenge winner is whoever loses the most body fat percentage and I started at 23.9% so I'm hoping that 4 pounds lost the first week is a good sign, but I really have no idea - I'm just excited to be kicking my sugar addiction.

Keep challenging yourselves, 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Luck of the Irish

What was un-lucky about this year's St. Patty's Day was that I slept through my alarm and missed the start of the USA Rock N Roll Marathon (don't freak out...I wasn't supposed to be running it, just spectating). 

What was lucky was that I sprinted to the metro just in time to catch a train that would lead me to the Columbia Heights metro (about mile 7.5 on the race course). 
These runners were lucky to get through the intersection just before a firetruck came across the race course!

I had only signed up to track and receive messages for my cousin, but somehow as I stood there cheering for so many runners I was lucky enough to spot several friends and bloggers. My friends James and Sarah passed by looking strong. My friend Eileen was super surprised to see me. Emily over at Sweat Once a Day probably thought I looked like a crazy woman waving to her. Not sure if SR heard me yell "Go SR!" but I was pretty stoked about picking her out of the crowd when I didn't even know she was running. I was so lucky to see so many friends and runners, but the absolute best part was seeing my cousins Emily and Christina run with their dad. Our family is pretty awesome and we all wore these "Team Gallo" shirts that my uncle had his friend make:
My family was lucky to have near perfect running weather

I don't mess around when I say I'm getting dressed up to cheer on runners!

Back of the shirts reads "Family Matters"
Tons of random people cheered for my cousins and uncle just because of the shirts. I even heard one lady yell "I love your wine!" Haha!

In the haste of running out the door that morning I had accidentally left behind the poster I had made. Luckily my aunt brought it with her to mile 9.5 and said it was a big hit with a lot of the runners. 
 I also had a stroke of luck when I spotted a Capital Bikeshare rental right next to the race course in Columbia Heights. I grabbed a bike and was able to catch up with my family several times throughout the course and then just returned the bike at the finish line near the Stadium Armory metro. Congrats to my cousin Emily on her first half marathon! She ended up finishing with an awesome time of 2:10. 
Emily, Uncle Steve, and Christina

I'm lucky to have such a wonderful family. 

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Generations of Strong Women

I haven't posted in a while, but as I gathered motivation from the strong women in my family this morning I logged on to blogger only to find that this is my 100th post, and I couldn't be more proud of the topic.

This post is in honor of my mom for running her first race ever, my great grandmother who is fiercely battling a truly devastating disease--Alzheimer's, and my cousin who is traveling to DC next week to run her first half-marathon.

If you've ever met my family, you know that we have an overwhelming ratio of women to men. Many of them have red hair and are yes, stereotypically stubborn and feisty. However, they are also wildly successful, frequently independent, have resilient souls, and are nurturing caretakers. They are lawyers, teachers, firefighters, realtors, grad students, wives, mothers, and most of all friends. 

This morning my mom ran her first race ever, The Pasco Challenge 5k to raise money for Alzheimer's research. She was nervous about completing it, but I knew she would be fine. When she called after the race and told me she did the entire 3.1 miles without stopping to walk I could hear the happiness in her voice and I have honestly never been so proud. She pushed herself to do something outside of her comfort zone and succeeded. In the process she helped contribute to research for a disease that hits close to home. I only wish I could have been there at the finish line cheering her on.
My mom at her first 5-k

Next weekend I have the privilege of cheering on my cousin as she runs her first half marathon (the RnR National Half Marathon on St. Patrick's day) with her sister and dad. You should have no doubt that I'll be decked out in Green sparkles and waving some ridiculous poster for all the runners. I hope I can come up with something as funny as the other spectator signs I've seen throughout my races.

I am honored to be a part of the women in my family. They impress and inspire to me to no end. Congratulations, mom! 

Looking at old photos with Grandma.
Love you, mom!
My mom with my great-grandmother

Sunday, February 5, 2012

There's an App for That

I can't do a comparison of nutrition/fitness apps because the first one I happened to download turned out to be phenomenal...and free! No matter how many times I've resolved to "eat healthy" I've always resorted to old eating habits after a few weeks (read: eating a pint of Ben and Jerry's in one sitting). I'm hoping this new app I have called My Net Diary will be just what I need to stay on track for the long haul. 

It really is unbelievable when you start keeping track of all the calories you eat in a day. Little things add up so quickly. With this app all I have to do is put in the food I eat and the exercise I do every day as well as my weight loss goal. So far, the app has been able to find every food in the database and save the nutritional information to my iPhone. At the end of the day it gives me an anaylsis of everything I ate and what I need to improve upon (for example my calorie intake was good, but I ate too much sodium and not enough fiber). It also tells me if I keep up at today's rate of eating/exercise I'll be losing about ____ pounds per week. 

You can also upload before and after pictures, keep track of water intake, any vitamins or medicine you've taken, etc. I think it's great and because I always have my phone with me it's pretty easy to keep up with. Here is the website if you're interested in learning more.

What are your favorite health and fitness apps? 
Do you have a weight loss goal? Mine is 139 pounds by June 1. I'm 5'8" and my starting weight on February 1 was 157 pounds. 

Happy Running (and fitness tracking!), 

Friday, January 20, 2012

New Challenges

Some anxiety has recently been relieved from my life now that I have my dream job in the Navy and I know exactly when I’ll be leaving for boot camp. On June 19, 2012 I’ll fly to Great Lakes, IL to go through 8 weeks of basic training. Following graduation I’ll head to Fort Meade, MD for 7 months of schooling to become a Mass Communication specialist. Until then I have to contain my excitement and eagerness to get that part of my life started, and instead focus my energy on studying and exercising while maintaining my 40 hour/week job. Both the studying and exercising are incredibly specific. Sure, all aerobic activity will be to my benefit, but at the end of boot camp I will ultimately be tested on three areas of fitness: running, push-ups, and curl-ups. 
For my age and gender my bare minimum requirements are as follows:
1.5 Mile Run in 15:15
50 curl ups in 2 minutes
17 push ups in 2 minutes (allowed to rest in up position only)

Obviously I don’t want to risk only passing with the bare minimum so here is the full chart:

PERFORMANCE                                CURL    PUSH     1.5-MILE    
CATEGORY                                          UPS       UPS           RUN

OUTSTANDING  HIGH                           105         48              9:47   
OUTSTANDING  MEDIUM                      103         47             11:15  
OUTSTANDING  LOW                             98         44             11:30  
EXCELLENT    HIGH                               94         43              12:15  
EXCELLENT    MEDIUM                          90         40             12:45  
EXCELLENT    LOW                               87          39             13:15  
GOOD    HIGH                                        78          33             13:30  
GOOD    MEDIUM                                   66          28             13:45  
GOOD    LOW                                        58           21             14:15  
SATISFACTORY HIGH                            54           20             15:00  
SATISFACTORY MEDIUM                       50           17             15:15  
PROBATIONARY                                    46            16             15:30  

I’m thinking of setting a goal for myself. I’d like to be able to go to boot camp in the “Excellent High” category and graduate boot camp in the “Outstanding Low” category. It certainly won’t be an easy task considering my current push-up max is 17, and to be honest I don’t even know if they would count. It’s like my elbows get to a 90 degree angle and turn into JELLO. It’s a problem.
If that's a push-up then I completely take back the fact that I can do 17. Source
As far as the run goes, you’d think I’d be fine, but it turns out running 13 miles at a 10+ minute pace doesn’t help you at all when you’re trying to run 1.5 miles quickly. Last week at the gym I forced myself to run 1.5 miles in 12:57. At the end I went from sprinting immediately to walking and gasping for air with the sweatiest, most bright red face you’ve ever seen. Because I have wonderful luck, this is the exact moment that a cute trainer at the gym walked in and looked my direction which caused me to stumble. I dropped my towel and it went flying off the back of the treadmill. He came over and handed it to my while trying to restrain his laughter at the girl who apparently isn’t coordinated enough to walk on a treadmill. Awesome. Obviously it will be much harder to complete the 1.5 miles without a treadmill forcing me to run a certain pace and replacing cute, smiling trainers with screaming boot camp instructors, but hey, I’m up for a challenge.
On a side note, I’m headed to Florida next week on a little vacation to visit the ’rents and soak up some sunshine with my college friends. Which is good because it is currently 34 degrees and about to sleet in Washington, DC. I’m pretty sure Satan invented sleet. The weather channel cannot fool me when they call it a “wintry mix.” More like a mix of evil.
This face says I need to get out of this office and soak up some Florida sunshine quick.

So what are your favorite speed workouts? Any tips on getting faster?

Happy Running,