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So yesterday was a rest day! First one in a while and I loved every second of it. I was thinking though, and I realized that it’s not the lack of a workout that I love (obviously if I hated swimming/biking/running then I picked the wrong hobby!) but rather it’s all the other things that come along with rest day like…

– SLEEP!—yep Thursday night I passed the heck out by 9:30 and slept all the way until 7:00 on Friday morning. Wow did that feel good. During the week between training before and after work as well as everything else in life I usually average only between 6-7 hours which just leaves me dragging.

-Only showering ONCE a day! Ugh, I hate showering. I just hate having to get my hair all wet and tangly and then drying it, styling it (ha-as if), getting dressed, make-up, etc.

-Eating like a normal person. It’s nice to go a full day without eating gu or protein shakes, or thinking through every single food I put in my mouth to figure out if it’s going to upset my stomach during my workout. It’s also nice to not be ravenous ALL. DAY. LONG.

-Not lugging around 50,000 things including my gym bag, water bottles, nutrition, HRM, hat, shoes, blah blah blah. I definitely have some shoulder strength from all these bags I’m always carrying.

-Feeling great and refreshed for my next workout!

Today I was up at 6:00am (yep, on a Saturday…) to meet a friend at 7 for a 30mi ride. Damn, you just cannot escape the hills in Pittsburgh! There were a few that I seriously looked at and thought “ha, no way am I going up that!” But somehow I did. Though there were times that I thought I was going to have to get off the bike and walk up. How embarrassing would that be! But I made it. 2 hours, 30 miles, 2 dropped chains, and a itty bitty fall with some nice road rash later and I was a hot, sweaty, sticky, proud mess. My friend was just a little bit stronger and faster than me so I really had to push myself to keep up with her.

After that we went to go watch a small triathlon that a lot of Pittsburgh Triathlon Club members were competing in. It was actually the first tri I’ve ever been to and it was fun to watch! The swim was in the pool which was interesting. I took the opportunity to really look at people’s form and see where I can try to improve. Some people were FAST!

Oh, and the most exciting news is that I am officially a wetsuit owner.

Let’s just say that I will be doing triathlons for the rest of my life just so that this uber-expensive purchase is worth it. This thing better make me fast!

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What a week, huh? Full of late nights and early early mornings. It’s been a great one though! Here are the highlights:

1) SUPER FANTASTIC workout on Saturday. So the people at my gym think I’m crazy already since a lot of days I’m there at 5:30am and then again at 5:30 pm. Sometimes we joke that I should just sleep on the massage table. Well, they joke…I’m serious. So Saturday I furthered the evidence that I train nonstop. I had a BIG day and I was so freaking excited for it. I drove in early and brought my bike in and left it behind the front desk for them to keep an eye on. Then I got to work: 2500 yards in the pool (about an hour). Hopped out, ate a banana, put on some biking clothes (NOT easy over a wet body!), grabbed my bike, said “cya in 90 minutes!” and headed straight out for a 20 mile bike ride. Then I came back in, dropped my bike off again, switched my shoes and said “cya in 15 minutes!” and ran right back out for a 15 minute run. Then I came back and collapsed on the floor. It was SUCH a great workout though. Everything felt awesome, I felt strong and fast, and confident. Then I remembered that I will have to bike 5 more miles and run a hell of a lot longer and felt a little overwhelmed. It will all work out though!

2) I scored a run at our kickball game on monday! That was definitely the highlight of my week 🙂 Everyone cheered for me and it was great. And I baked the most fabulous cupcakes this week (I bake every week for the game)—they were S’mores with a graham cracker cake, chocolate ganache frosting, and stuffed with marshmallow fluff. I need to open my bakery like NOW. Oh, that would be the life.

3) The best bike ride last night! My friend Kyle is a great cyclist and has given me lots of tips since I’ve started riding and we finally got the chance to ride together last night. He came and met me in Shadyside and off we went! He was like “ok, time to see what you’re made of….” and boy was I in for a tough ride…TONS of hills. I mean, that comes with the territory in Pittsburgh but like these were crazy. Going up one of them my heart rate hit 186 which is a number I’ve never seen before. It felt so awesome.

4) I’m DONE with physical therapy. My knee has felt great for the past 2 weeks so I’m going to keep doing the exercises and foam roll at home and carefully monitor it and go back if it starts flaring up again, but for now I can stop going to that torture chamber! I’m so glad because it really was taking up so much time, pretty much 5:00-7:00 Monday and Wednesday meaning I needed to wake up early to get workouts in before work.

Ok, speaking of early workouts—gotta get to bed so I can ride tomorrow morning. I have a birthday happy hour to attend after work!

Oh, p.s. my birthday is coming up…June 8! And I pretty much NEED this:

Along with an indoor trainer, a wetsuit, a tri-top, a garmin 705, and a camelbak. Wow, my birthday request list sure has changed since last year when I think I asked for like cute clothes, shoes, and jewelry…you know normal things for a girl in her early (oh god, almost mid) 20s. I don’t even know who I am anymore.

I have a problem: I sell myself short all the time. I am definitely my harshest critic and no matter what I do I never think it’s enough. I work so hard and am proud of my accomplishments but at the same time I always feel like I could/should do a little more. I never think I am fast/strong/smart/determined/good enough.

I’ve known that this has been a problem for a while now but the fact that I got yelled at by a stranger made me realize how big of a problem this is. On Sunday morning before the race my gym (which is downtown and near the start line) opened up early. This was the most amazing thing ever—they had food and coffee out and REAL CLEAN BATHROOMS to use! I wish every race could be like that. Anyway, there was a group of about 7 of us getting ready to run. There were a few guys there (one who had run all 22 Pittsburgh Marathons!) and they were discussing their goals (2:45 and 3:00 numbers were being thrown around!) and one of the guys asked me what my goals were. I said “Oh, I’m just running the half.” He got all serious and said “NEVER say just the half. A half marathon is a huge deal!”

That really made me think. All week leading up to the race when people would ask if I was running the marathon I would respond, “no, just the half” and sort of get embarrassed and feel bad like I should be doing more.  But really this is not the way to think! There is always more you can do—there is the full marathon but then there are ultramarathons! I am doing an olympic triathlon but then there are half ironmans and ironmans which are much longer. Just because I am not doing the longest event doesn’t diminish what I am achieving. Sure there is always more you can do, but there is also a lot less—or nothing— which unfortunately is the option that most people choose.

So from now on I am going to start being prouder of myself and all that I am accomplishing. After the race when people asked if I ran the marathon I said “I ran the half” and taking out the word “just” really made all the difference! Really, I was the only one judging myself and everyone else was impressed that I ran 13 miles.

I had a really nice rest day yesterday and an easy workout day today but now it’s time to hit the ground running (literally—I have a 5ish mile run at 5am tomorrow!) A few hard weeks of training, a taper, and then RACE DAY!!!!!! This is it….it’s real. And I couldn’t be more excited 🙂

Well, another half marathon DONE. Let’s just say beginners luck might just be real and it does not get easier the second time…

I was really, really excited for this race! I’d been looking forward to it for months and was so excited to run. Last night I had a great dream that I finished in 1:56, blowing my 2:00 goal away!

Unfortunately dreams are not always reality. Sometimes you can do everything right but it might just not be your day. That’s what happened today….I did everything right. I trained hard, I put in my miles, I did speedwork, I gave up alcohol for the past 3 weeks, I tapered, I fueled up yesterday, I was asleep by 9pm, I had a good breakfast, I warmed up, I started strong. And then things just didn’t go right. I can’t even say that I ‘fell apart’ because it was a struggle from the start. I felt so good going into this race but it just wasn’t my day.

I lined up with the 2:00 pace group and stuck with them for the first 2 miles. My legs were especially tight but I thought it would go away as the race went on but it never really did. During the first mile (8:53) my heart rate was only hovering around 150 which is just so low. I thought I had hydrated enough yesterday but I guess I was wrong. I think I was a little dehydrated when I woke up and the humidity of the day just wasn’t helping. My legs just were NOT firing. I tried really hard to pick up my cadence to around 90 but it just wasn’t happening. I tried every mental trick in the book but nothing was helping. I listened to music, I focused on form, I counted my steps, but I was struggling. I kept looking at my pace and getting frustrated and around mile 5 I knew I wasn’t going to meet my time goal or PR so at that point I stopped caring about my pace and just focused on surviving.

I stopped and stretched my calves at one point, I walked up some of the hills, and I walked through every water station. I definitely was dehydrated because I was actually thirsty during the run. I drank 2 gaterade and 2 water at ever station and almost felt thirstier after ever sip. It was bizarre. I was out of breath and hurting but still my HR wouldn’t go up. I really tried everything–I ate gu, I tried doing some striders where I would pick up the pace for a little bit but nothing was working. I thought that my HR monitor actually wasn’t working but I think it was really me that wasn’t working!

It was a major struggle, I was dizzy and weak and just wanted it to be over. Around mile 10 my IT band really started aching. But I never gave up. The thought of quitting never crossed my mind. I didn’t care how long it took, I WOULD cross that finish line and I would be a million times stronger for it. I kept repeating this quote to myself

“The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.”

And I finally crossed the finish line at 2:12 (9:55 ave)

(we accidentally took a video so a freeze frame is the best we’ve got!)


It was not my best race. It hurt. A lot. But I did it! While I was running I was trying to figure out what exactly went wrong. I think it must have been dehydration which just really sucks. I am going to drink more water between now and June 26 than you can even imagine. Other than that I think it just comes down to sometimes shit happens. Races are unpredictable and they aren’t always going to be great. It’s ok.

I’m sad that I didn’t meet my goals but I am not disappointed in myself. I trained really hard and I did the very best I could on this day. If the race was yesterday or tomorrow it might have been an entirely different story. My half marathon in November everything went perfectly. The weather was perfect, my legs felt wonderful, my stomach was great….it was the ‘perfect race’ that runners know only come around every once in a while. Today was the complete opposite. But you know what, I am almost more proud of myself for finishing this race than that one for that very reason. Today was so much more difficult, I had to dig so deep to keep pushing. I wasn’t just flying through like last time, I was pushing myself to the finish.

I did my best and that is what matters. I will definitely redeem myself next time.

Oh, and also this was my 13th race ever…bad luck perhaps?

Congrats to all the runners for getting out there in the rain and running hard!

Last weekend I looked at my schedule for the week and saw a couple tough workouts followed by the most amazing thing ever: 2 rest days this week! Oh wow! I didn’t even know what to do with myself. Boy is tapering nice.

Guys, I’m not going to lie—I am nervous for this half marathon on Sunday. When I did my first one back in November I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into. The day was just full of excitement and my only goal was just to finish. I ended up rocking it and finished in 2:04. It was hard but most things went right–my stomach felt great and the weather was perfect. Mile 11 was really hard–I walked a little and was just ready to be done but I pushed through and finished strong. Well this time around I know what I am getting myself into. I know that it is going to be hard and it is going to hurt. I know that I’m going to have those moments when things aren’t great and I want to walk, or quit, or just lay down on the ground and cry, and I know that I will get over it and feel better but getting through it is the hardest part. Oh, and yeah they are predicting rain–awesome.

So when I was running my race the other week a girl in front of me had on this awesome t-shirt that really picked me up and motivated me. It reminded me all I’ve been through with training and really helped me keep going. So right when I got home I went online and looked up the shirt and ordered it for myself! I’m goingto wear it to the race (in the rain….) and hope that it can help someone else just like it helped me!

Ok, and now here is a funny story just to prove how clueless and gullible I can be at times:

So I went to physical therapy and got the crap beaten out of my leg again this week. Midway through my therapist stops and starts rubbing my leg with a towel and looking at it. So I was like “umm, whatcha doin there bud?” and he goes “just making sure you weren’t bleeding out.” to which I made the joke “oh yikes. I bet I’m bleeding on the inside though!” to which he looks at me like I’m an idiot and says “well, yeah….what do you think causes bruising?” Hmm, so yeah, I had no idea that’s what caused bruises and then I started to think about it and got really queasy and almost puked on the guy. I really do not like blood. Luckily I kept it together and just went to get a drink of water and some fresh air. Could you imagine puking on the poor guy after I punched him last week! Boy would he hate me.

Anyway, that wasn’t even the funny part. So today I was telling my friend at work about it and how gross it is and that my leg is so red that there must be so much blood floating around in my leg that if I even got a little paper cut there would be a pool of it on the floor.

Him: You should get it drained and donate it.

Me: Eww, that is disgusting.

Him: Yeah, it’s gross but Sarah, stop being so self centered, people could really use that blood. It could save lives.

Me: (feeling really guilty and bad) Well yeah, but like what? I’m not going to slice open my leg, jar it up and go over to the blood bank.

Him: Of course not. They’ll do it for you. Athletes do it all the time.

So then I start googling “leg blood drainage pittsburgh and am coming up empty.

Me: Do you think they do this in Pittsburgh? I can’t find anything.

Him: Wow….I’m KIDDING. Of course that is not a real thing!

And then I started laughing really hard because I can’t believe I fell for that!

Ok friends, time for bed! Gotta get my rest in before race day 🙂

Guys, I almost punched someone in the face today. It was completely involuntary and just a natural reaction.

So at physical therapy they have been doing soft tissue work on my IT band and it is really, really painful. They are kneading and pressing and “massaging” the area of my body that is so tight it hurts to even cross my legs or gently rub my hand over it. It’s the worst. Well, today that pain was taken to an all new level.

My therapist goes “ok, we’re going to use the scraper today” and comes out with this plastic half moon shaped object. It didn’t look too bad and for a brief second I thought that it would be less painful than him digging his knuckles into my poor IT band. I have never been more wrong. I just tried to google this scraper thing to show you a picture but I couldn’t find it. I am 95% sure that this is because it is a torture device that is not actually legal.

It was the longest most painful 10 minutes of my life. I was clenching my teeth and squirming and squeezing onto that stress ball for dear life. I actually was afraid I might fall of the table I was squirming around so bad. Then I just started laughing uncontrollably. I think it was one of those ‘laugh or cry’ situations. And then when he got to an especially tight spot my reflex was to hit him. Seriously guys, I had no control–I guess my body felt like it was in danger and reacted! I ended up just hitting his shoulder but if his face had been closer he could very well have gotten a black eye! Haha. Oh it was funny and everyone laughed at me.

This photo doesn’t even do it justice but there is a HUGE black and blue mark running down the side of my leg. When I came out of my room tonight my roommate goes “oh my god, WHAT did you run into? that looks like the most painful thing ever.”

Yes, yes it is.

Oh, and just in case you were unsure….pjs and compression socks are actually really in style right now. Lucky me!

UPDATE:

This is what it looked like this morning. OUCH.

I woke up early, got dressed, went out for my run and lasted 44 seconds before I came right back in and am now laying in bed with ice on it. It just hurt so bad with each step that it was really messing up my form and I was putting all my pressure on my right leg which is just a recipe for disaster. Better luck this afternoon!

So I’ve never liked to swim, even as a kid. I always got water up my nose and in my eyes and I just didn’t like it. I don’t remember ever taking lessons beyond the “here is how to survive enough to pass your deep water test to be allowed on the diving board.” I definitely never learned how to breathe without taking my head completely out of the water. I was never on the summer swim team at the pool and actually told my gym teacher in high school that I was allergic to chlorine to get out of swimming. Part of it is that I just hate being bad at things, and I was bad at swimming. Like awful. So I avoided it.

Then I decide to do a triathlon. Makes sense right, you know never really having biked before and hating swimming. But I had made up my mind so it was time to learn to swim. By this point in my life my mindset had changed too. I mean I still hate being bad at things but I love a challenge even more.

So December 1, 2010 I put on a brand new 1-piece swimsuit, my first ever swim cap (which took me like 4 tries to get on my head) and goggles (which I bought because they were pink, not realizing they were tinted and thus made me look like a tool in my indoor, dark pool). Great! So I look around and see a few 70+ year old guys giding along and I’m like “how hard can this be?”

Umm, hard.

I had zero clue what I was doing. I didn’t know you were supposed to breathe out under water. I couldn’t coordinate my arms so that I could turn my head to breathe, I was slapping the water so hard there was a wake behind me that could have been made by a boat, I swallowed half the water in the pool and I was at about a 45* angle with my legs sinking behind me.

I couldn’t even make it 1 lap. And that was when I thought a lap was just 1 length.

Everyone actually stopped what they were doing to see the commotion I was causing. It was quite the spectacle. I stood up and said “well…looks like I have some work to do!” and someone told me to get the book “Total Immersion” which I did. I also starting watching youtube swim videos like they were best show ever. The only thing that kept me going was knowing that literally, it could only get better from there. Slowly but surely over the next 3 months I made improvements. I worked really hard and it did not come without its frustrations. But the more time I spent in the water the better I felt and I was so proud of myself when I could first swim an actual lap, and then 2, and then 3!

My goal for each workout was to swim 10 laps, which, with rests usually took me about 25-30 minutes (I just swam that in 11 minutes a few days ago!!) The first day that I did those 10 laps without stopping I stood up and victoriously shouted “I just swam 500 meters!!! That’s been my goal for so long!” To which the lifeguard responded “you know this pool is in yards, right?” (500 yards= 457.2 meters) Geez, I just couldn’t catch a break!

I still have a long way to go….it’s still not even close to being easy, but every day that I get in that pool I am proud of myself. I’ve come so far already and I really can’t wait to see how good I can get!

There is definitely such a thing as a Runners High because I am on it. I have been in the biggest running funk the past few weeks. It just did not feel good, I felt like crying after every run and I was getting really discouraged. I was actually really nervous for this race—more nervous than I had been for a really long time. I was just so scared that I wouldn’t be able to do it–that I would have to quit and get a ride back on one of those little motor scooters or that I would have to walk the whole thing or I would just feel miserable like I had been.

Luckily though, it went great 🙂

So I had a warmup on the schedule and then the 10k. Well, turns out there was a 5k that went on right before the 10k and I just decided to use that as my warm-up. This was really fun and a great experience. First of all, it was a mental challenge to FORCE myself to slow way down during a race—hopefully this will help me in the future since I always, always, always go out too fast and then burn out. I just went super easy…10:00-12:00 min/mi and made sure to keep my heart rate in the low-mid 150s. It was really fun to chat with people and encourage other runners. I made friends with a guy who was running his very first race and had never ran more than a mile without stopping and he made it the whole entire race without walking! It made me so proud and I’d like to think that my constant chatter helped him along and not think about how much it hurt.

I finished the 5k in like 33:00 minutes or so and felt nice and warmed up and ready to RACE. I stretched a bit, ate a vanilla bean gu (which was DELICIOUS and tasted like vanilla frosting which is my favorite food ever) and then lined up. This was a very relaxed race—no timing chips or anything, just an “on your marks, get set, GO” and everyone was off.

Now, let me just say that this was a tough race just based on the course. It was an out-and-back that I kid you not, was uphill both ways. I know that is not physically possible but believe me it happened. I’m not the only one that said that either! Going out it was like climbing a mountain and I was so excited to run back and just cruise downhill but that just never happened! It was really tough. Also, this was on a dirt path which I hate running on. I know that concrete is bad for your knees but I like that so much better—I just feel like I slide around on dirt. Also it was raining so it got muddy and I almost slipped a few times! Finally, since it was an out-back on a dirt trail there were ZERO spectators along the course. I really love the boost that comes from people cheering, holding signs, etc. and there was none of that so I just had to self-motivate.

Overall it wasn’t too bad…I ran the whole thing besides walking through the water stations and finished strong. I ended in 58:50 (9:30min/mi) which is not too shabby all things considering! It was 3 whole minutes faster than last year which is a big improvement. And most importantly I had fun and finished with a smile!

Me and my Dad 🙂

I train to race. I don’t race to win but I race to challenge myself and have fun. I’m jealous of the people who just run for fun. Honestly, running is usually not that fun. I mean, it feels really great when it’s over but it usually hurts and is hard and sucks. If I didn’t love racing so much I would definitely not run as much as I do. Maybe I would on a perfect weather day, on a nice flat course, which someone handing me water when I need it, but I definitely wouldn’t be out braving the snow/rain/wind/heat/humidity day after day, getting up at 5am just for “fun”. When I don’t have something to train for it just is way to easy to sleep in, stay warm and dry, or maybe just go out for a quick little stroll. But that’s not the case. I train, HARD. I pay my blood, sweat, and tears over and over because what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. All those hard runs, and early mornings, and stomach cramps, and leg cramps, and disgusting gels, and sweaty clothes, and callouses on my feet, and hours spent at physical therapy, they all pay off on race day. Standing at the start, nervous, but knowing that you put in so much work for this and now it’s time to just go and, do the best you can, and enjoy it, is a great feeling. And crossing that finish line is the best feeling ever. Because it’s not just the 3, 6, 9, 13 etc miles that you just victoriously finished, but its the months of training and all the pain associated with it that were so, so worth it.

Ok, so now things get real. My traithlon is less than 2 months away (ahh! I can’t even think about that….too nervous and excited) and the Pittsburgh Half Marathon is in 2 weeks! Yikes—big things coming up, I can’t wait!

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