Friday, February 21, 2014

Stonebridge Ranch Half Marathon Recap

Last Saturday was the Stonebridge Ranch Half Marathon sponsored by PlayTri in McKinney, TX.  I planned to run this race as a make-up for the race that never was. I wrote down a rough training plan at the beginning of the year that I didn't stick to.  I didn't do any speed work.  I ran hills once.  Most of my training was done on a treadmill.  My longest training run was 9 miles done the weekend before.  Overall, I was not feeling too positive about this race.  It's tough training for a winter race.

After acknowledging my poor training, I had very little goals for this race.  I wanted to run as much of it as I could and finish while still standing.  The course itself was hilly, so I knew I may have some slower than normal miles.  The only thing I was looking forward to was the perfect race conditions that were forecasted.

The race start was scheduled for 7:30 am. I arrive a little before 7 am.  The temperature was in the mid 30s. Since it was a little chilly, I stayed in my car for a few minutes and mentally prepared.  Then I got out and went for a half mile warm-up jog and stretch.  I finally got around to finding the start line around 7:20.  I ran with my phone in my FlipBelt, so I was able to see a couple of last minute "good luck" messages.

The Stonebridge half was a small race.  200 runners finished the half.  We waited at the start line for about 5 extra minutes before the race was off.  The first 2 miles were uphill.  I knew this going in and focused on not letting it get to my head.  I knew it was okay to take the first few miles slower and speed it up later.

After the first big hill, I was warming up.  My fingers were no longer frozen.  I was able to keep my pace around 9:40 which was my goal for the Dallas half when I was at peak training.  Around the halfway point, there was another uphill.  I took my time and walked a while taking in a Shot Blok and reset my iPod which was repeating songs I already heard (frustrating).  I muscled my way through that long hill.  I took another quick walk break right after passing the mile 9 sign.  I was running basically alone at this point as the pack had spread out.

After that last break, I decided it was time to finish strong. I started picking up my pace slowly. I caught up to some people in front of me and focused on passing them one at a time. All the runners were really nice as I passed and we cheered each other on that we were almost done.  My feet were aching, but I was feeling strong. 

For the last quarter mile, the finish line was in sight.  You could see it in my smile.  I was ready to be done, but also excited because when I looked at my watch, I was within PR time.  The temperature had climbed close to 50 so I was burning up.  I spotted my mom right in front of the finish line waiting for me, which helped me finish strong.

My dad caught this perfect finish line shot with the race clock in the background reading 2:09, 2 minutes faster than my previous PR.  I was shocked at my performance that day.  I'm feeling confident with proper training, I will be able to get that sub-2:00 half this year.  I was also so thankful that my parents came out to support my running.  It means so much to me, even though they tell me I am crazy half the time.  

Finishers Medal

I got home and checked out my race splits on my Garmin.  I'm happy to announce that only 3 of the 13.1 miles took more than 10 minutes.  I can't believe the improvements I've seen in my running over the past 2 years.

Overall, the Stonebridge Ranch Half Marathon was a great race for me.  It reminded me why I love running.  I personally like the small, local races, so I give this race a thumbs up.  Now, I turn my focus to the Zooma half that I signed up for in April.  Can't wait!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

So You Want To Run a Half Marathon?

I had the idea to write this post a month ago, but life got in the way a bit (sorry!). I have a number of friends and co-workers who are planning to run their first half marathons this spring.  A few have asked me for training advice, so here are some of my top tips, all in one place.  If you are looking to run a shorter distance, most of the tips can still be applied.

1. Sign-up now!
Do you lack motivation?  My advice is to pick a race you are interested in before you start training.  This race should be about 3 months away to give yourself enough time to prepare.  Now, pay that race fee today so you can't change your mind later (Bonus: races tend to be discounted if you sign up early).  After you've hit submit, write it on your calendar in big, bold, colorful letters.  Tell your friends, your mom, your dog, that random guy you see at the coffee shop, and anyone else who will listen.  This will help you stay accountable and finish that race.

2. Set a goal to finish.
Don't set the bar too high if this is your first race.  The best part of it being your first race?  No matter how long it takes you to cross the finish line, it's an automatic Personal Record.  But you have to cross that finish line!  When I ran my first half, my training focused on being able to finish the miles without hurting myself.  I did not worry about my pace, that comes later.

3. Make a training plan.
If you are training on your own or with a buddy, there are a ton of resources online with training plans.  I suggest looking at a couple and then making it your own.  Try to give yourself at least 12 weeks (3 months) to train.  If you already run regularly, you may be able to get by with 8-10 weeks, but 12+ weeks is still recommended.  For the half distance, I suggest committing to run at least 3 times a week.  Here are my favorite beginner training plans.  Half Higdon Novice Plan and Jeff Galloway's Beginner Plan.  Local running stores/clubs should also have training groups if you need group motivation.

4. It's okay to walk.
It's okay to walk.  During my first half, I walked nearly a whole mile because my legs needed a rest after some hills.  I was still moving, and that is what was important.  Jeff Galloway is a strong supporter of the run-walk method (see his link above).  I still like to walk through the water stops, so I can hydrate and catch my breath.

5. Fuel is your friend.
I had no idea about Gu's or Energy Chews when I did my first half.  I just remember someone handing me a red gummy thing at mile 9 of my first race that made me feel a ton better.  I've learned since then that any time you run longer than 1 hour, you should be fueling your body.  My fuel of choice is Clif Shot Bloks because they are easy to carry and chew on the run.  Make sure to experiment before your run so you don't cramp during your race while trying something new.

6. Chafing is your enemy.
Don't wear a new outfit on race day.  If you don't already own good running clothes, go buy some dri-fit fabric shirt and shorts (no cotton!).  During your training runs, make sure your skin isn't rubbing and making you uncomfortable in different places.  I won't go into details, but if you are still having issues, consider investing in some BodyGlide.

7. Consider new shoes.
If you are planning to train in your 5 year-old worn-in tennis shoes, you should rethink you plan.  A good pair of running shoes is important to prevent injury and help with your running form.  If there is a running store nearby, go get fitted by one of their employees.  A good running store will watch you walk, determine what type of pronation your foot has, and suggest some shoes that will support your foot best.

8. Start slow.
This applies to both training runs and your race.  It is easy when your legs are fresh to want to run really fast, but remember there are lots of miles ahead.  Pace yourself and save that extra energy for when you need it at the end.

9. Know the race course.
I suggest running a local race if it is your first.  Then, if possible, go practice running different parts of the half marathon course.  This way, you won't be surprised on race day that there are 3 miles of steep hills (*cough Bearathon cough*).  Also, it will put your mind at ease on race day if you are already comfortable running those roads.

10. Listen to Your Body
Rest is just as crucial to training as is the actual running.  Make sure to listen to your body.  I've written about it before.  You don't want to get burned out mentally or injured physically.

11. Have Fun!
Enough said.  Trust your training, you are going to do great!

Hopefully these tips will help you throughout training.  Do any runners out there have other advice?  Let me know in the comments.  Happy running!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

You Can't Always Get What You Want

This week has been frustrating for me.  I sat down to work on a training plan for a half marathon on February 15 (so soon...yikes!).  I realized that I'm already so behind when compared to the training I did for the Dallas half (that never happened).

I think a lot of it is based on this time of year.  It's colder, it's dark when I get off work, there is less motivation to go out and enjoy the day.  I've tried moving a lot of my runs indoors on the treadmill and that is the ultimate motivation sucker for me.  Let's take a look at last week's workouts, shall we?

Sunday - The "arctic" cold front had blown in, so I headed to the gym with 5 or 6 treadmill miles on the brain.  I just joined a new gym and found out that the cardio machines all turn off after 30 minutes to encourage sharing.  The gym wasn't busy while I was there, so after 3 miles, I reset my treadmill to go again.  This time I ran 1.5 miles before deciding I'd lost my groove and couldn't continue.  In total a 4.5 mile long run...not bad.

Monday - I convinced my mom to sign up for a 9 week aerobics/strength class with me.  She's still a little upset that I persuaded her, but eventually she will thank me (I hope).  For the first class we did step aerobics for about 30 minutes, and then some chest/upper arms and ab strengthening.  This was my first time ever doing step aerobics.  I really enjoyed the class and liked the instructor!

Tuesday - I woke up with a sore chest from the aerobics class.  Later in the morning, I realized my calf muscles were super sore too.  I figured a run after work would feel good even on sore legs.  I was wrong.  Half a mile in on the treadmill, I had to stop and massage my calves.  My muscles were so tight, so I finished up walking and riding the stationary bike.  Before I left the gym, I spent a long time stretching and using the foam roller.  The foam roller has never caused so much pain for me before.

Wednesday - My calves were feeling a little better.  My mom and I had our second aerobics class.  For the second class we did kickboxing cardio.  Any time there was a lot of jumping, I took it easy so my calves would be ready for a run on Thursday.  Again it was a great cross training class and I enjoyed the strength conditioning.

Thursday - My bicep muscles were sore, but my calf muscles were ready to rock.  It was raining, so I headed back to the treadmill.  This time my goal was 3 or 4 miles and I managed 2.75 before I could go no more.  I was trying to make-up miles from Tuesday, which I realized was not a good idea.  I have to listen to my body and give it rest when it needs rest.  I ended with more stretching and foam rolling, plus some ab moves from Tone It Up.

Friday - I had a long run planned for Saturday, so I sat out on Friday.

Saturday - My body must have appreciated the rest day on Friday because today I rocked 6 miles.  I hit my favorite trail in shorts and a t-shirt and couldn't have been happier.

My mileage for the last 2 weeks has been 10.5 miles and 9.25 miles respectively.  That is not the mileage I'd like to be doing a month before my next race, but it will have to do.  I keep reminding myself to focus on the good runs because there will always be bad runs.  Hopefully the class I'm taking with my mom will help build strength as well as work on my cardio endurance.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Happy New Year!!

Happy New Year!  I hope everyone had a fun time saying good bye to 2013 and ringing in 2014.  I spent the evening with some girlfriends enjoying Peach Bellinis and catching up.  It was a perfect cap to 2013.

Reflecting back, 2013 was a pretty good year.  I accomplished a lot of fitness goals.  I ran more miles than ever before (600 to be exact).  I got new PRs in all of my race distances.  I completed my first sprint triathlon.

PRs According to Garmin

I traveled to Oklahoma, Big Bend National Park, Washington DC, and South Padre Island. I also spent a lot of time with friends and family at destinations a little closer to home.

A Sea Star on South Padre Island

2013 didn't end exactly the way I planned. The Dallas half-marathon was cancelled and the boyfriend and I decided to part ways. However, I tried not to waste too much time being sad.  I knew I could have a fresh start in 2014. I focused on staying positive and hanging out with my family as much as possible.

Family Christmas 2013

So here we are, a few days into a new year.  I've been reading everyone's resolutions and goals.  Here are a few of my own.

1. Run a half marathon in under 2 hours.  I've already picked 2 races for the spring and am planning at least one more in the fall.  I know I'm really close to that 2 hour mark and with a little more training, I can get there.

2. Buy a road bike and complete a duathlon.  I completed my sprint tri last year with the mountain bike that I bought when I was 13.  It's time for an upgrade.  I signed up for the Esprit de She duathlon in October for extra motivation.

3. Pray more.  Right now I have the perfect opportunity to turn my focus inward and reflect on who I am and who God wants me to be.  By praying and reflecting, I'm hoping to learn more about myself and the path God has laid before me.

That's kind of it.  I'm sure I'll set lot of other goals for myself throughout the year, but these are probably the most long-term ones.  If you follow me on twitter or IG, you know I've signed up for the Tone It Up Love Your Body challenge.  This challenge runs from Jan 1 - Feb 14.  I hope this challenge will encourage me to prioritize more strength training into my weekly schedule.  I will keep you updated on my progress and check-in soon.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Liebster Award

Hello again. I hope everyone had a marvelous Christmas.  I know I enjoyed spending time with family and friends.  I received some awesome new running goodies that I can't wait to use in the upcoming year.  Currently I'm working on my race schedule for 2014.  Hopefully I will be able to post it soon.

Melissa, a fellow blogger over at The Redheaded Runner blog nominated me for a Liebster Award.  Thank you Melissa.

I've looked up this "award" and found out it is a chain letter style award for new bloggers to share some facts about themselves, and at the same time, promote other small bloggers.  A good explanation is here and here. So now onto...

The rules:

Thank the person who nominated you and link them in your post.
Tell 11 random facts about yourself.
Answer the 11 questions provided by the person who nominated you.
Choose 5 or more blogs you like and link them in your post.
Write 11 questions for these bloggers, so they can answer them.
Go to their page and let them know that you nominated them.

So 11 facts...
1. My last name is Polish and forever long (Moczygemba), so I mostly use the name Julie M when commenting on blogs.
2. I learned to spell my name in pre-school when my dad sang it to the tune of the Mickey Mouse song.

3. I'm the youngest of 3 kids, and I love my older brother and sister.
4. I have 24 first cousins.
5. I graduated from Baylor with a degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering.

6. I played varsity tennis in high school.
7. Speaking of high school, I went to one of the largest public high schools in Texas.  My graduating class contained over 1,250 students and graduation was in a former basketball/hockey arena (go Mavs!).
8. I play into the Texas stereotype because my parents own cattle. We don't live on a farm, although they both grew up on one. I love helping feed the cows (& naming them). Say hi to Speckles.

9. I used to play cello (for 4 years!).
10. I love listening to country music.
11. I love traditions and I hate change.  I'm going to make a really good old person.

Now to answers Melissa's questions...
1. Why did you start running?
Gosh, I guess I started running in college to stay in shape.  High school was easy.  I had tennis practice for 2-3 hours every afternoon and could eat whatever I wanted.  In college I realized, I had to make some effort on my own to stay athletic.  I didn't really get hooked until my senior year when I signed up to run a half marathon that Baylor hosts.  After crossing that finish line, I knew I wanted to feel that way again and the obsession began.

2. What motivates you in life?
I'm pretty self-motivated if I have a goal I want to accomplish.  I always strive to be the best, whether it was at school, at work, running.  My family has always been very supportive of everything I do and that motivates me to give it my all.

3. Trails or roads?
Roads. I've only tried trail running once.  It was fun, but there aren't a lot of great parks near me.  I also did not enjoy cleaning the mud off my shoes.  

4. Worst race experience ever and what did you learn from it?
The Burning Pine 5k in Bastrop, TX.  I ran it with my brother, his wife, and her friend.  We all had goal times, but everyone ran about 2 minutes slower than their goal.  I learned that not all race courses are created equal.  This one was very hilly and I walked when I had to.  It also taught me that hill workouts are important and can really improve performance.

5. Pre-race traditions i.e. obsessions 
Nothing too out of the ordinary.  Olive Garden Fettuccine Alfredo the night before.  I lay out my clothes and bib before I go to sleep.  In the morning I have a pre-race banana and usually a granola bar.

6. Parent to kids or a pet? Do tell. If neither applies WILD Card it, baby!
No.  I had a rat terrier growing up.  Her name was Skeeter.  When I get my own house, I really want to get a dog.

7. What are your thoughts on New Years Resolutions?
I'm not a huge fan.  People usually make a resolution that is either unattainable or so vague that there is no way to know if the goal was actually accomplished.  I like shorter term SMART goals.

8. Tell us about one place you are just dying to visit.
Internationally...Poland and/or Germany.
Domestically....Chicago and Boston.

9. Dream race. Dish.
I really want to do a runDisney race.  I was really close to signing up for the 2013 Wine & Dine half-marathon, but I waited a little too long and the race filled up.  

10.  How do you stay motivated to work out?
Signing up for races is a big motivator.  I also use social media to keep myself accountable, which in turn keeps me motivated.

11. Perfect Friday night.
Dinner out and movie in.  I love snuggling up on the couch in the comfort of my own home.  Movies in the theater are good, but it's so much nicer to watch in a peaceful room without strangers around.

Next, my questions....
1. Why did you start blogging?
2. What is your most memorable race/fitness accomplishment?
3. What is one goal you have for 2014?
4. Name one non-fitness related blog you follow.
5. What activities will be involved on your dream vacation?
6. Did you play any sports growing up?
7. When you were in kindergarten, what did you want to be when you grew up?
8. What is your favorite book?
9. What is your biggest strength?
10. Describe the best date you ever went on.
11. If you could live anywhere in the US, where would you live?

Lastly, my nominees...(all of these bloggers are just awesome)

Monday, December 16, 2013

Run, Run Rudolph

This weekend I ran in The North Texas Great Santa Run.  I love running holiday themed races. Last year I ran the Jingle Bell Run in Dallas.

2012 Jingle Bell Run at the Hilton Anatole Hotel

This year I recruited some friends to dress up like Santa Claus and run a 5k with me.  This was a local race that benefited My Possibilities. Each race entry included a Santa suit, complete with hat and beard.

I was super excited about this event.  Especially after the Dallas Marathon got cancelled, I wanted to get out there and do an event even if it was just for fun.  I chose not to run for time and just paced myself with my friends.  There weren't any chip timers at the event.

Before the start, I was shocked at how many Santas were actually there.  I was expecting a couple hundred, but there were easily over 1,000.  And then this legit Santa came out in his Porsche to lead the race start.

Santa in a Porsche

Right at 9 am, we were off.  It was a little crowded at the beginning and I forgot to start my Garmin on-time, but who cares, I was running in a Santa Suit!!  How many people can say that?  The race had a lot of up one side of the street, run around the median and come back down the other side of the street.  Normally in a race, I don't like this type of course because the scenery gets a little boring.  However, this made it easy to see all of the Santas which was entertaining.

Running around mile 2.5

The Santa suits were made out of felt, not the best material for running. Luckily, none of my friends had major wardrobe malfunctions, but we were looking out for one another.  Finally we reached the finish line at the Dr. Pepper headquarters.  There were a ton of great sponsor tents and even a live cover band.  It was a pretty awesome post-race party with lots of activities for the kids that came to the event.  Food selections came from La Madeline, Egg & I, and Dunkin' Donuts.  All perfect post-race breakfasts.  There was also lots of fruit and snack bars from Trader Joe's.  Overall this was a great event and may become a holiday tradition for me.

The after-race picture

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Race That Never Was

I should be sitting here writing about the great race I just finished or the shiny new PR I just earned. However, North Texas weather had some other ideas.

Shortly after Thanksgiving they began forecasting an Arctic cold front that would bring sleet and ice to DFW. I was immediately bummed that the race would be much colder than I had hoped for, but I also convinced myself that the weather men were exaggerating about the "Icepocalypse/Icemageddon " that wad headed our way. If they had a catchphrase for the storm, it had to be more about media hype.

Well on Thursday the sleet started and I haven't left my house since. The hype was right. Friday morning I woke up and there was a 2 inch layer of ice on all of the sidewalks and roads. Not snow, just slick ice. I chose not to go to work. Everything was shut down because in Texas we do not have the supplies for storms like these.

The front of my house on Friday. Poor Oak Trees

Talk on the news began focusing on the Dallas marathon. Packet pick-up was supposed to begin that Friday but it got pushed back to 2 pm to allow the vendors and volunteers extra time to travel the roads to downtown. The marathon seemed like the only weekend event that hadn't been canceled. Then at 1 pm, the final announcement came. The race and expo were both canceled for safety of runners, spectators, and volunteers.

Of course I was bummed at the initial news. But I also sighed a little sigh of relief that I wouldn't have to run with temperatures in the 20 and light sleet. I know people have run in worse but I was unprepared for such weather having never run outside when it is below freezing.

So now I sit at home. Day 3 of this ice storm and I have yet to leave my house. I'm looking at my 3 months of training that I methodically followed preparing for this race. Now my "taper week" just looks like a week of being lazy. But I've made the decision to get back out there and keep running. I will choose a new race to conquer. And maybe next year I'll have a second chance to run Dallas.

In other news, this storm has been really good for my sleeping patterns.  I am also thankful that my house has not lost power and everyone I know has stayed safe.

And lastly I cannot end my post without this. Sic 'em Bears!  Great season!