Playlist Update – Go The Distance

Finally updated the running playlist. Learned a lot in the past couple months about running, my pace, etc, and I’ve made some changes and additions to the playlist to go along with that. Finishing that half-marathon taught me a lot, too! Read on to check out the changes, and why I made them. Check out the running playlist here!

You’ll notice there’s a lot of slower songs – around 130 bpm – that were added – I’m still in the process of feeling those out on distance runs. They encourage me to keep a pace I can maintain over the course of 13 miles. I’ll have to do a few more long runs to say whether they’re keepers or not, but so far they’re working for me.

ADDITIONALLY – as of right now…everything 146 BPM and faster is part of a second, separate playlist for “sprints” – 5K’s, maybe 10K’s…shorter runs with a much faster pace! Right now I don’t have the endurance, I don’t think, to maintain my 5K pace over much more than a 10K pace…we’ll see what happens.

Newly added:
128 BPM – Selena Gomez – Slow Down 
128 BPM – Justin Bieber ft. Nicki Minaj – Beauty & A Beat 
128 BPM – Ke$ha – Warrior
128 BPM – Ke$ha – Die Young
130 BPM – Selena Gomez – Come & Get It (Dave Aude Club Remix)
130 BPM – Alexandra Stan – Mr. Saxobeat 
130 BPM – Pitbull ft. Ke$ha – Timber 
132 BPM – Rage Against The Machine – Sleep Now In The Fire
133 BPM – The Offspring – Hit That
140 BPM – Lady Gaga – Applause 
143 BPM – The Offspring – (Can’t Get My) Head Around You 
160 BPM – Metallica – Ain’t My Bitch

Back on the list:
139 BPM – Britney Spears – Toxic (Armand Van Helden Remix) 

Cut From The List:
123 BPM – Shiny Toy Guns – Le Disko (too slow)
215 BPM – Good Charlotte – Lifestyles of The Rich And The Famous (too fast)

Again…let’s not forget that disclaimer…just because I’d run to it…doesn’t necessarily mean I’d listen to it in real life.

Check out the running playlist here! 

Achievement Unlocked – 13.1

I did it. It’s all over. 13 point freaking one miles. I can’t believe I did that! And I can’t believe my time either! It’s been an incredible journey up to this point, and there are many miles ahead as I continue on to the next goal.

So today, as I recover, I think I’ll take some time to talk about the last couple of weeks – the injury worries, the Boston Firefighter’s Memorial 10K, and the half-marathon itself! I have a lot to catch up on…bear with me!

Lesson Learned – Listen To Your Body! If It Feels Wrong…Something’s Wrong!
So I’ll start with the injury worries that, for a minute, I thought might knock me out of the half marathon before I even started. September 29th I went for a 10 mile run as part of my training for the half. I was wrecked for the rest of the day – limping everywhere. I ended up feeling some pain on the outside of my left knee…I’d never felt pain there, but I thought nothing of it. I gave myself a full week of rest to recover from it. Fast-forward to the Canal Run For The Troops 10K…and things got bad. Not only was I feeling that left knee pain I’d never felt before the 10 miler…but at 5.7 miles I was stopped dead in my tracks by debilitating right hamstring pain (right at the bottom of the hamstring). I thought it was just an immense cramp, and almost a month later I’m still not sure what it was. I do know that I’ve been able to stretch on the spot and run through it every time it comes up. I struggled through the last half mile of the Canal Run and finished.

At that point I hit the panic button…made appointments with my primary care doctor (not until November), a podiatrist (not until 10/31) and my physical therapist (right away). As it turns out, my work shoes were too small and caused acute plantar fasciitis, which led to I.T. Band irritation on my left side. Painful, but not nearly as bad as it could have been. I took the right steps by getting new work shoes and new insoles as soon as my foot started really hurting, but by that point the “damage” had been done as far as my knee was concerned. My physical therapist was able to help me identify the problem (I.T. Band) and do some work to help me get through the half-marathon. Good news is, I did it…and now I’ll see the podiatrist to permanently resolve the plantar fascia / foot issue and be back to normal come springtime, or maybe even later this winter (frozen fivers, anyone?).

For those who didn’t read that far – ow. 

Anyway, Boston Firefighters’ Memorial 10K

This race was supposed to be my last “big” run before the half-marathon…and it ended up being even more important than that – it became the big test to see if I’d actually BE ABLE to run the half. I want to start off by saying a big THANK YOU to Flex Appeal Sports Nutrition for sponsoring me for this race!

I have to say, I had a lot of fun with this race, and I learned a lot about my body, my legs, and my running. This race is apparently a big deal – lots of firefighters and military people coming out to support the cause. This was the 31st running, so they know what they’re doing, and they had a huge level of support from countless area businesses. I ended up taking home a free year’s subscription to New England Runner…they were literally just tossing stuff out there.

Anyway, as far as the race itself – the course was pretty flat overall. I got to run through some major highway space which was pretty cool. It’s too bad I’m not much of a mid-run photographer…the firefighters had their boat spraying water everywhere for runners to see as we went over a bridge and ran through the harborwalk area. That’s ok…my Droid stays right in my TuneBelt where I like it.

Unfortunately, thanks to more walk-breaks than I would’ve liked, I didn’t quite get the time I wanted. I finished in 56:39, 9:08 min/mile average. 467th of 995 overall.  I was hoping to  break 54 minutes, and I know I can do it…but my knee/I.T. Band was an issue…oh well. There’s always next time, and I know what I’m capable of. Still WAY better than my first 10K!

The Cape Cod Marathon Half 

This was it…the big one! I’ve been training for this for three months! I still can’t believe it. It was an incredible experience getting my first 13.1…I feel so accomplished! It’s so different running a half-marathon than it is to run a 5K or 10K…much more challenging and a completely different mindset.

This race, as well as the full marathon and relay, are put on by the Falmouth Track Club. The half is a beautiful course that starts in front of the post office downtown, does a little loop in the downtown area, then goes along Surf Drive, to Woods Hole along the Shining Sea Bikeway, back to Falmouth along the first three miles of the Falmouth Road Race route, and finishes in Town Hall Square. The full/relay goes in a big loop all around Falmouth, starting in the same place and finishing downtown.

Before I launch into it…a big thanks to all my sponsors that made it possible not only for me to run, but for me to be able to afford the gear necessary to train and compete in cold weather! It was 35 degrees at the start! SportClips in Falmouth was my title sponsor and, actually, my first sponsor period! I was fortunate enough to have a lot of sponsors – please check out the Sponsors Page to see who thought I was good enough to sponsor! THANKS!

So, the race itself…first off let me just say I have never before run in such absolutely FRIGID weather! It was bone-chilling cold…and I know it’ll get colder, so I shouldn’t complain…

That cold weather was forgotten as I passed the first mile marker…traded my Under Armour beanie for a sweatband and kept on truckin’. I had gone four miles before I even realized what happened! It was at that point I realized just how different the mindset is when you run different races – Your mind and your  body adjust to the length of the race! 6 days prior, when I hit 4 miles I felt like I had gone so much farther…but during the half? I wasn’t even 1/3 done…and I felt like I could keep going for days! It’s interesting, that’s for sure.

And it is at this point I would like to say – what a beautiful course! As we ran along Surf Drive, with the beach to our left…I was marveling at how great the scenery was. If it’s one thing I’m coming to realize is a treat about foot races, it’s that it’s about taking time to appreciate the scenery, get in touch with your body and your world, and just be. If you’re in the market for a gorgeous road race, look into the Cape Cod Marathon Half. We turned left onto the Shining Sea Bikeway to make our way to Woods Hole, and were treated to more of the same beautiful sunrise / early morning beach views. Makes me wish I was taking pictures.

It was at this point – about 4.5 miles, I had my first problem. The right hamstring issue, that I didn’t experience AT ALL during the Firefighters’ 10K, came back! I immediately stopped off to the side, stretched it out and kept on going. I had to do this several times between 4.5 miles and 5.5 miles (which slowed me down by a couple minutes, total), but by the time I got off the bike path and into Woods Hole I had run through it.

But now I had a new challenge…

The entirety of the CCM Half is flat…except for miles 6.5 – 9.5. Those three miles are the first three miles of the Falmouth Road Race, so there’s rolling hills, including Nobska Lighthouse. This was the challenge not because of the hills, but because my I.T. Band is sore 100% of the time going uphill (it’s in and out / avoidable on flat terrain and non-existent on downhills). This part of the course slowed me down by probably a minute or two…I went slower than I wanted and had to take a bit more walk-break than I wanted. I got through it though…and at mile 9 I had a feeling…

But at Mile 10 I knew – I had a real shot to break 2 hours 15 minutes! Not only that, but if my math was right…if I was able to keep up 9 minute miles, hell…just be better than 10 minute miles…I could break 2:10! At that point, nothing else mattered. I had, at that point, officially run farther than I ever had in one shot before…and nothing was going to stop me from breaking 2:10. I told myself no more walk breaks – walk when you finish. I told myself the knee and the I.T. Band weren’t going to be a problem – I’ve come too far to crap out now. This was my time, and I was going to nail it.

And I did. 

When I started the race, the one thing I hadn’t checked that morning was my playlist. There were about 12 songs not showing up that I had put on…and I thought nothing of it. Ironically, at Mile 13, with the .1 miles of the finish line lead-up left to go…I ran out of music. For the last .1 I had to listen to my own huffing and puffing, but I got to hear the sound of the crowd…the cheering and clapping…and I saw that LED clock…2:09:22…it was in reach! I crossed at 2:09:29.  Thirteen point FREAKING one miles…accomplished. I found out that considering how serious of an accomplishment it is and how hard you have to work to be able to do it…it seems every race half-marathon or longer gives you a finisher’s medal after crossing the finish line. Know why? Not everyone finishes. There were 1,200 people in this race…995 finished. The first picture in this article was the bib and finisher’s medal, but I put it in again in this part too – that will not be the last finisher’s medal I get. I’ve got big plans for next year.

I thought calling this article “Achievement Unlocked – 13.1” was incredibly ironic considering this was about as far from sitting on a couch playing a video game as I could be. A year ago, I WOULD’VE been on the couch playing a video game. Its incredible what you can achieve when you just put your mind to it. I now firmly believe, beyond a shadow of a doubt, something I said in a prior article – Given time and training, anything is possible. I don’t care who you are, how heavy or skinny you are, what problems you have or how busy you are…if you put in some time, train, and get determined, you can do anything. So, on this Motivational Monday, think about this – if, in less than 14 months, I can go from 300 lbs with a couch cushion molded to my butt to 179 and running half-marathons…why can’t you? If I can do this, anyone can. I’d love to help! If you’re interested, check out the Coach page of this blog.

It’s already yours…Go out there and GET IT!

Race Beginner Do’s & Don’t’s

A friend (who is probably reading this!) posted on Facebook that she had signed up for her first 10K. My first thought was “AWESOME! Good for you!” and I immediately sent her a message to start talking about it. As we talked a little, I reflected on my first 10K and how much I learned from it – it dawned on me that not only could I have benefited immensely from knowing then what I know now, but others who are getting ready for their first race could benefit too! My first 5K and 10K both taught me a lot, and they are very different kinds of races!

SO, in the spirit of Hump Day, let’s talk about some do’s and don’t’s to help you get over the hump of your first race(s)!

When I started running this past March, I dove right in. Megan and I talked about it and figured hey, we got through P90X, we did Insanity…why couldn’t we run? We went…and I went farther than I probably should have…and finished having gone 3.2 miles. I’m not exaggerating when I say I had never “gone for a run” before that. I figured if I could do that, I could do a real 5K race – same distance!

So Where Do I Start?

Do A 5K!
I will be so bold as to say anyone can run a 5K. If you can run, you can do a 5K. Either it’s a challenge and you push yourself to finish, or it’s a piece of cake and you push yourself to break your best time. Either way, you can do it! If it’s going to be more on the “I’ve never run before” / beginner side of things, there are LOTS of training schedules out there to get you ready to run that 3.1 miles. I recommend using Runkeeper (if you have a smartphone / device that can use the app) – you can either track your runs doing your own thing or you can choose a training plan developed to help you be your best!

Did the 5K? How about a 10K?!

If you’ve overcome the challenge of your first 5K and feel like you can go farther, why not find and register for a 10K? A 10K is 6.2 miles – twice as long as a 5K. It might not seem like that much of a difference, but running a race is a whole different animal after the first 3 or 4 miles. A 10K can give you new challenges to overcome, including pacing yourself,  staying hydrated and fueled, dealing with hills and inclines, and much more. If you have successfully completed a 5K I highly recommend finding a 10K to do.

What about those do’s and don’t’s?
I mentioned I learned a lot from the first couple of races I ran – I have some hot tips that I really wish I had known going into my first 5K and 10K. Some of them might seem obvious to you, but I didn’t realize the importance of some of them until it was too late.

Rule #1 – HYDRATE!

I CANNOT stress this one enough! Hydration (drinking water) is INCREDIBLY important. Not properly hydrating before and during a race can leave you cramped, panting, and
struggling through what should have been a piece of cake. Properly hydrating is SO important I had been considering writing an article entirely dedicated to it, but even if I do follow through with that, it needs to be mentioned here. The average person should be drinking 8 glasses of water a day. I know we’ve been beat over the head with that our whole lives…prior to this whole fitness thing I never really understood just how important it really was.

How do I know if I’m getting dehydrated?
Your body is mostly made up of water – as you sweat that water leaves your body. When enough water leaves your body, you start feeling thirsty and your mouth might get dry. As you get more dehydrated, you might get a headache (I do), you’ll eventually get cramps, and you might get nauseous. If you get dehydrated enough you can pass out and have a real medical issue.

Bear with me here. One of the easiest ways to tell how hydrated you are at any given time is the color of your urine. Think about it – urine is your body’s way to get rid of what it doesn’t need – the water component of it is more or less a vehicle to get rid of the waste. If you’re dehydrated, there’s less fluid in your body. If your body has less fluid to spare, it’s going to get rid of that same amount of waste using less water, so it’s going to be more concentrated and thus, a darker/more saturated color. If your body is well-hydrated, there’s a lot of fluid in there to spare and your body will use more fluid to flush out the waste – thus less concentrated and a lighter color. The clearer the urine, the more hydrated you are.

So how do I stay hydrated?

Easy – DRINK WATER!  It’s that simple and that difficult. I drink on average about 20 glasses of water a day. That green water bottle? It’s a 1 litre Camelbak Eddy. I drink about 4 or 5 of those a day. Yeah. Water is just about all I drink. I used to drink almost that much diet soda each day, but then again I was also 300 lbs. If you find drinking that much water is a challenge try easing yourself into it with flavor. Add fresh citrus fruit to your water – lemon, lime, orange…not only does it add some flavor to your water but you get some vitamins out of it! Eventually you can use less and less fruit until you can just drink regular water! The calories from the fruit you squeeze into your water is going to end up being negligible, so go for it!

Rule #2 – Eat Breakfast!

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and race day is no exception. The longer the race, the more important it is to eat something before the run. Race-day nutrition can be the difference between a strong run with sustained energy or huffing, puffing, and crapping out. There’s lots of products out there designed to help you before and during your run like Gu gels, sport beans, chomps, blocs, etc. Find what works for you and stick with it! They’re all made from fast-absorbing and easy to break down carbs/sugars to give your body the juice it needs to get through the race. I like to start my race-day morning with a combination of those and some fruit. To each his own.

Rule #3 – Test your playlist before the race

This one only applies if you listen to music during your runs. I do. You can see “The Music While Running Controversy” to see exactly how I feel about the topic. If you DO listen to music while you run, be sure to test out your playlist on a run before the actual race. The wrong music can make you go too fast or too slow, mess up your pace mid-stride, and just all around lead you to a bad time. Find what works and stick with it – always best to test it out. Check out my running playlist (tested) here.

Rule #4 – TRAIN!

Training is about learning your pace, testing your limits, and improving both. Do shorter runs to see what kind of pace you can reach, how fast you can go, and what your stride is. Do longer runs to see if you can maintain that pace over a longer distance. Do some REALLY long runs once a week to push your limits, increase your stamina / endurance, and ultimately be able to run farther. Training is a learning experience, and it IS very important. Try and fail. Experiment. Do hills some days and flat courses other days. Map it out ahead of time – know where you’re going and when to turn around and go home. Give yourself options in case you decide to run a longer or shorter distance when you’re already out there. Get the most out of your training so you’re ready for that race! There are lots of training programs for every different race distance – if you’d like help finding a good one reach out with the contact form at the bottom of the page!

Rule #5 – PACE YOURSELF! Run Your Own Race.

This one I learned the hard way. When you go and do a race, it can get very competitive. There’s lots of people out there, you’ve got the adrenaline pumping, you’re antsy…and once you cross the starting line you just want to shoot off like a rocket and GO. That’s a bad idea. My first 5K I shot off like a rocket – I broke out of the pack early and tried to beat everyone. I was able to maintain it and go hard the whole time…but it was only 5K. I tried to do the same thing on my first 10K…it didn’t work out so well. There were a LOT more people…hundreds! I tried to bounce from open spot to open spot in an effort to break out into open space where I could really run. By mile 4 I was toast. I went SO hard in the first 5K that I had no gas left for the second 5K. I was so concerned with going fast and passing people that I didn’t worry about myself and my own limits/abilities. I paid for it in the end. My time was absolutely awful compared to what it could have been. I learned my lesson and applied it to my Falmouth Road Race run…and what an improvement! I ran my own race and did WAY better than I did during the 10K…better average pace, a stronger run…I felt better…Trust me – this is a lesson you can take to the bank. 

Rule #6 – Know The Course And Have A Plan

You should absolutely know the course before race-day. Know the route, know if there’s hills and if so, how steep/long they are, and overall know what to expect from the course. Knowing the course ahead of time allows you to come up with a plan for your run – where the hard parts are, what parts you need to save some energy for, and where you can turn on the afterburners and just go. If you don’t know the route you might burn yourself out before a particularly hard hill at the end. Conversely, you could be more conservative than you need to and not achieve your best possible time. You could also, heaven forbid, take a wrong turn! Suffice it to say – know the course and have a plan.

I’m sure there’s more to running a race than just this, but these rules are a good jumping off point to help you achieve success in your first race(s)! Take these lessons to heart and learn from my mistakes – I certainly wish someone had told me about these when I was getting ready for MY first race(s)!

What tips would YOU give a beginner? Comment below!

What Is “Good Enough”? + Tavern2Tavern5K Recap

It’s been a mind-blowing couple of weeks for me. Within the last few weeks so much has happened…finished Body Beast, broke 190 lbs, got heavy into yoga, blowing away PR after PR running…I’m ecstatic to say the least! Then yesterday, I ran the Tavern to Tavern 5K and completely shattered my last 5K time and my expectations for the day.

But why? How?
I decided that everything I had done and accomplished so far wasn’t good enough.
On this beautiful Motivational Monday Morning I want to talk about the words “good enough”. This is partly a Tavern to Tavern 5K recap and partly a breakdown of that phrase so many people use and can’t break past. The last few weeks has really made me think about those two simple words…it’s time for everyone else to think about it too.

So, let’s start with The Tavern to Tavern 5K Recap
This was a fun race! There were 722 runners total – male, female, young, old…a good mix of people to make things interesting. Apparently the race organizer had a hell of a time – due to construction in Cambridge he had to re-map the course route 17 times in the last week or two. Poor guy! I’m sure he had to deal with the hardcore runners who were all bent out of shape that they didn’t know the EXACT course layout, etc etc. I was a little bummed because I was expecting a flat course, but it didn’t really matter in the end – I had fun anyway. Isn’t that the important part? The course ended up being a kind of lollypop loop – out along one street, took a right and did a loop, eventually came back to the street we started on, ran past where the starting line was and went through the finish line “chute”. There were definitely some hills on the course but overall I feel like I was able to power through it. I had to remind myself to do my own thing, don’t worry about everyone passing me. I don’t care HOW fast I was able to go yesterday…there’s still going to be someone faster than me. I mean…the top finisher came in at a little over 15 minutes…are you kidding me? Yeah, I can deal with people passing me. I think that’s what saved me – if I had let it get to me and tried to go even harder I’m pretty sure I would’ve crapped out.
There was a great post-race party too! Sam Adams / Boston Beer Company sponsored the party so there was free Sam Boston Lager and Curious Traveler summer shandy. Pretty fantastic if I do say so myself. The race organizer was also giving away a TON of swag, so that was pretty cool. Ended up getting this year’s shirt, both a regular and performance version of last year’s, plus pint glasses! Whoever says they don’t care about the t-shirts at a road race is either lying or has too many t-shirts. Get it in a medium and give it to me if you don’t want it. Hah.
Thanks again to Flex Appeal Sports Nutrition for sponsoring me! 

So what about this “good enough” thing?
Well, that’s why I feel I can combine the “Motivational Monday” article I wanted to write and my recap of the race…they go hand in hand. In yesterday’s race I was reaching for the sky and shooting for breaking 25 minutes. Considering I ran a 5K in my neighborhood in 26:30…I thought knocking a minute and a half off was a good goal. And what ended up happening?
I broke 24 minutes instead.

It made me stop and double-check the LED time clock at the finish…”did that really happen?” – I SMOKED the time I was aiming for…absolutely smashed it. I finished in 23:51 (in the above pic I had actually already crossed – can’t tell from the angle). Many people would think that kind of progress was plenty good enough and would be completely satisfied with where they had gotten. They’d understand that it was only 5K and perhaps that pace (roughly 7:40 min/mile) might be a bit too fast for a longer race, like a 10K or 5 miler and they’d be OK with that.
I am not OK with that answer.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m THRILLED with my performance yesterday! Absolutely, positively pleased as punch that I went that fast and shattered my previous Personal Record (which, by the way, I only set within the last couple weeks).
But why stop there?
I was having a conversation with a co-worker the other day – she runs, she’s kind of a fitness person…and she said something that stuck with me. It went something like “I see all these other people and I think to myself – I’m doing better than a lot of these other people…that’s good enough for me.” – I didn’t really know what to do with that. She was basing her goals on her opinion that she was in better shape than a lot of other people and thus, didn’t need to go any further. I don’t get it. For me…it’s not about anyone else. It’s about me, and being better than I was yesterday. There’s no such thingas “good enough”…it doesn’t exist. It doesn’t make sense.
As far as I’m concerned, fitness should be about constant improvement of oneself. Continue to reach higher, go farther, run faster, lift heavier, improve your physique…continually become a better you. “Good enough” is an excuse to stop. “Good enough” is (no offense) the lazy man’s way out. It’s a cop-out, and I think it opens the door for “I Don’t Feel Like It Syndrome” to set in. Why should where you’re at be “good enough”?
You have not yet reached the mountaintop.
Over time, yes, progress will slow down. Your improvements will become smaller and will take more time to achieve. That’s OK. I’m losing weight much more slowly now than when I started, but I also don’t have 100 lbs to lose anymore. I’m increasing my weights a bit more slowly now, but I’m not weak and wimpy anymore. I’m reaching farther in my stretches a bit more slowly now, but I can already reach pretty far.
It’s all relative.
After a while, these things happen more slowly and after more work because…well…you’re already doing so well! Take that as another measure of success! I CAN’T lose weight at the rate I used to…because I don’t have that much left TO lose! Don’t lose faith once you get “pretty good”, and don’t let “pretty good” become “good enough”. “Pretty good” can still become “really good” and “really good” can become “wow, I’m impressed”! Continue to work hard and test your limits. Fitness is about how you stack up against Yester-You. Continue to become a better you. It’s not about anyone else, it’s not about how many people you’re going faster than, and it’s not about how many people you’re generally better off than. It’s about you, you and only you. I finished 200th out of 722…that’s pretty good! Next time I’m sure I’ll do even better. There’s no such thing as “good enough”. Don’t forget…
You can always keep improving. Get it.

Review: FitAid

FitAid Logo

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to my first official product review – FitAid! I’ve had so many things to talk about that I’ve kind of just put off reviewing things, but today I have something I’m really excited to get out there. So…without further ado…

Let’s talk about this little drink called FitAID. Long story short, they sent me a 4 pack to try out, I gave it a whirl, and I was very impressed. There’s a lot to this versatile little drink – I had it before and after both a run and a strength training workout. Now that I’ve experienced it, I’m ready to talk about it!

Read more…