Looking Back, Moving Forward

Perhaps I did this in the wrong order but, after my last post (and my unplanned but much needed absence from blogging for the past couple weeks), I thought it would be good to have a look back at what I did this year: a celebration of my accomplishments with maybe a little thought about how I got off course near in the last few months.

Let's start with a couple photo collages (which I think are corny but un-ironically love the way I love cute birds and rainbows).

Bibs and medals and shirts... OH MY!
Some of my favorite running and racing moments: a few were solo but most involved friends.
This year, I completed 16 races: seven 5k's, with the fastest run in 31:51, two 10k's, the fastest being 1:26:03 on trails, one 10-miler in 1:56:18, four half marathons with a PR of 2:29:53, and one 18-miler, that didn't go as well as I would have liked.

For the first six months of 2013, discipline seemed to stream through my veins. Two-a-day workouts became the norm. I would run or do aerobics in the morning and strength training or flexibility in the afternoon, six days a week. As the summer wore on and got hotter, I maintained my running schedule with longer and longer distances but started dropping other parts of my training at the same time that I started consistently eating like crap.

There were significant changes at work and I think they affected me more than I realized. Instead of continuing to use exercise and diet to relieve my stress, I slowly returned to my previous habits of sitting, staring at various screens, and self-medicating with food. It didn't get as bad as it has been in the past (fast food for more than half my meals in a week and plenty of junky snacks in between) but the weight I'd lost started creeping back on, making most of my races during the last few months less than pleasant and not even close to fast.

Despite my lack of speed toward the end of the year, running still gave me the chance to do something healthy with friends, travel to fun places, and build a confidence in myself beyond what I've ever experienced.

And I'm happy to report that my desire to be healthy and fit were only on vacation and not the kind that Forrest Gump's mama describes. My motivation is slowly, but surely, returning as I gear up for my next goal race, the Frederick Half Marathon on May 4.

I ran 600 miles this year. Though I missed my goal of 750 by quite a bit, I still outstripped anything I've done in the past. The best part?

I'm just getting started! Here's to a new year full of possibility!

How was your year?
Did you have any goals - fitness-related or not?
Did you smash your goals or are you reflecting on what went wrong and gearing up to try again in 2014?

Setting Goals for 2014

December: it's the time to get all introspective and think about how the past year has gone and what we'll do better in the year to come. I'm introspective all.the.time. Perhaps even a bit of a navel-gazer... So, I enjoy this kind of exercise. What better activity is there on a snowy afternoon in the company of a sleepy cat, a newly decorated pine tree, and some Sufjan Christmas tunes than set some goals?

The past year has been very roller-coaster-y. I started out feeling really strong and focused, ran back-to-back half marathons in the spring, laid down nearly 100 miles on the road a few months in a row, but then it seemed like everything slowly fell apart.

Summer was brutal. Apparently, it wasn't even a hot summer by mid-Atlantic standards. I kept up the mileage until the end of July, eased up in August, and gave up in September, logging fewer miles over the past three months than I did in July alone.

Anyway, I have been trying to put the disappointment I've felt about my progress behind me so that I can move forward. In that spirit, I'm working through setting goals for the coming year because I'm being taught and re-taught the lesson that you can't hit a goal that doesn't exist.

Here goes...

Fitness Goals:
  1. Run consistently and injury free.
  2. Set a personal record in the half marathon (current PR: 2:29:54).
  3. Reduce my overall time for the RW Hat Trick by 60 minutes or more (current time 5:27:07).
  4. Practice yoga at least one time per week.
  5. Do strength training at least two times per week.
Diet Goals:
  1. Continue the transition to plant-based eating, cutting out fish by the end of the year.
  2. Lose 40 pounds for the sake of my overall health and my fitness goals.
  3. Limit eating out to three meals or fewer per week.
Life Goals:
  1. Participate in at least one social activity per week, not including lunch with co-workers.
  2. Pay off another student loan.
  3. Travel to a new place, whether a state or country.
  4. Read at least one book per month.
  5. Join a CSA.
  6. DANCE!
Now, the work begins.

Do you set goals at any point during the year or do you fly by the seat of your pants?
Have you charted your course for 2014 or do you prefer to wait until closer to year's end?
What is(are) your biggest goal(s) for the coming year? Mine are in red above.

Thanksgiving: Vegetarian Style

When I decided to try this vegetarian thing (which has been going quite well apart from those five meals with copious amounts of shrimp), I didn't really think about the upcoming holidays. Then, they were upon me.

I've used all of my vacation time this year to travel long distances to run or work, so I decided that this four-day Thanksgiving weekend would be the perfect time to stay at home and chill. An added bonus to this plan was the ability to cook my own holiday feast and not have to explain or discuss my plant-based diet at a time of year when so many tables feature giant roasted turkeys and hams.

(Which reminds me, I should probably break the news to my mom before I head home for Christmas.)

Not eating turkey on Thanksgiving wasn't much of a change for me. I do love a drumstick but the parts of the meal that I enjoy the most are stuffing and potatoes. Carby goodness!

Replace the chicken stock with veggie stock in the stuffing and it was perfect - just like my mom makes.
The mirepoix might be my favorite part of my favorite dish: stuffing.
Parsley, sage, and rosemary but no thyme.
In honor of Thanksgivukkah, I bypassed the traditional mashed potatoes and made latkes instead with the Smitten Kitchen recipe. For added flare, I used purple potatoes.
I used a red onion, too. It just seemed right. Could this be construed as supporting the Ravens?
The purple coloration was pretty noticeable, even after cooking.
Brussels sprouts are my favorite vegetable. So, when I found this recipe on Thug Kitchen (If you click the link, be ready for some cursing - TK is not the traditional cooking blog.), I knew I wanted to make it as the centerpiece of my Thanksgiving meal. They were a gorgeous part of the line-up.
Someone told me I wouldn't be able to make a Thanksgiving feast without meat.
I beg to differ.
What's your favorite Thanksgiving dish?
How do you feel about Brussels sprouts?

Official Race Recap: Millersville Turkey Trot Repeat

I ran my last planned race of the year and my first ever repeated race yesterday. If I'd had my druthers, I might have skipped this one, despite having paid for registration a month ago.

Fortunately, for me, my roommate needed an early morning ride to the airport, a friend was expecting me to pick her up for the race, and a few other friends were expecting to meet up at the race.

So, I woke up at 5 a.m., drove Larissa to BWI, gassed up the Chevy, and headed north.

I fetched my friend, LaToya, around 6:30 and we hustled up to Lancaster. Along the way, we had a great conversation about what we would do if we won the lottery - $100M plus jackpot, of course.

We got to Penn Manor High around 8:20. Last year, there was a huge influx of last-minute entries and the start time got held up by 20 minutes or so. The race organizers learned from last year and worked out some packet pick-up kinks so that everything got started right on time this year. We were all grateful given that the temperature was about 30 degrees cooler this year than last.

The start came pretty unexpectedly, no loud noises or announcements. All of a sudden, we were moving forward. For the first half mile, I was doing okay. In fact, I was at a pretty good 11-minute mile pace. It didn't last long but it felt good until it didn't.

Definitely no negative splits for this race but I'm glad I did it. And I'm glad that I had friends there to do it with me or, at least, meet me at the finish and remind me that where I am now isn't where I have to stay.

LaToya and I didn't plan to have almost exactly the same headband. :)

Me, Stacey, Rose, and LaToya post-race

Post-race selfie with Stacey - we've started a new tradition.

A Major Victory

I went for a walk today.

Big fat hairy deal, right?

The fact is, though, that over the past 2 months, my level of physical activity has decreased significantly.

I got tired and anxious and, instead of doing things I knew would make me feel better, like running or yoga, I sat in front of my computer or the television and watched more TV than any human should ever be exposed to.

Today, I got home, changed my clothes, despite the protesting voices in my brain, and headed out for a nice, brisk 30-minute walk.

Maybe this first step can't be considered a major victory but it feels like the beginning of something good.

Culinary Delights

I run/walked two mile today. It was not fun. I did not enjoy it. It was the first time I'd run in 12 days. I spent the entire time encouraging myself that it will be good again some day. Now, on to happier things.

Cooking is my favorite, so this weekend was a treat.

After a trip to the grocery store yesterday morning to purchase the necessary supplies, I started by soaking some black-eyed peas.

While those were hanging out, I put a yam and some beets in the oven to roast.

In the interim, I prepped an onion and a red pepper and tons of garlic for use in my vegetarian refritos (that's fancy talk for "refried beans").

As the beans cooked, I mashed up the yams and added some taco seasoning.

Once the beans were ready, the smell of sauteing onion and garlic filled my kitchen. When they were softened, I added the beans and combined everything with a potato masher.

After a round of dishes, I cut up carrots and sugar snap peas, added the roasted beets and some freshly fried tofu, and marinated it all with thyme vinaigrette.

That was it for last night.

This morning, I started by making a medium bowl of guacamole with plenty of onion and garlic and maybe a little too much lime.

At the same time, some brown rice, onions, garlic, lime, and vegetable stock were simmering in a large skillet.

Of everything I made, the only dish that didn't turn out exactly as I was expecting was the rice. It tastes alright but the texture leaves much to be desired. {Someone needs to teach me how to make brown rice that isn't simultaneously glue-y and partially uncooked.}

Here's the end result: Crazy Delicious Yam-Filled Quesadillas
Yams, refried beans, and cheese inside. Rice, tomatoes, guacamole, and sour cream on top. All in my belly now.
I'm already in planning stages for next week's adventures in cooking! Lentils will definitely be involved, possibly some chickpeas.

PLEASE, someone, teach me how to cook rice.

Eight Things You Might Not Know About Me

This is a meme over on Facebook. I wrote it there but I added the pictures here. Aren't you lucky, blogfriends?

1. I was in show choir for three out of four years of high school and participated in at least 4 musicals, possibly 6. I can't quite remember. (definitely Guys 'n' Dolls, Hello Dolly, Godspell, and Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat)

This is an actual photo of my actual high school music teacher. I swiped it from his website.

2. I once watched Sense & Sensibility 6 times in 5 days, so it's probably not surprising that I can quote almost the entire movie from memory. I could watch it every day for the rest of my life and never tire of it.

3. My Meyers-Briggs type is INTP and, secretly, I think that makes me better than you, unless you're also an INTP. Don't worry, I know it's not true.
Some say Einstein was an INTP. I am inclined to agree.
 4. I recently watched every episode of Supernatural straight through twice in my spare time. (This fact does not fill me with pride.) Sam and Dean's voices became so familiar that, for a while after finishing, I felt like I'd lost a friend or loved one.
Loved it when Sam still looked like a college kid.
5. Jack Black and John Cusack are my two biggest celebrity crushes.
6. Men with beards make me incredibly happy. In fact, I wish that all men could and would grow their whiskers.
Huh...What? Your gorgeous facial hair distracted me.
7. Despite the fact that I haven't run a single step in almost two weeks and I despair of finding the motivation to start again, I remain convinced that I will be in shape to complete my fifth half marathon by early May and have also been looking up more races for 2014.
It's just 13.1; NBD.
8. I hate light. When people come into dimly lit rooms in which I am reading and turn the lights on in an effort to be kind to me, I curse them in my mind. Driving at night is my favorite until there is oncoming traffic with their stupid headlights. Summer is the worst because the night is so short.
Tell me something I don't know about you. Should be easy for all you lurkers. :)

Lesson Learned

Our beautiful halal truck.
I can't remember how long we've been going there but several co-workers and I have developed the habit of visiting a halal food truck about a block from our office. With 47 reviews on Yelp, they have a 4.5 star rating. The food is plentiful, cheap, and delicious and the the men who prepare and serve it are very friendly. They know us and what we'll order. I always get lamb over rice with white sauce and no hot sauce. It's the first place I've ever been a regular.

We get halal when someone needs to be cheered up or when we're celebrating. There have even been jokes made about the stars aligning for halal - one was even posted on our quote board for a while. Trips to the halal truck are sometimes delayed a day because we want to make sure everyone who loves it is included in the trip. Other times, we've just gone two days in a row. We like it enough that we walk right past another halal food truck on the way.

My regular order - except I don't get hots.
Unfortunately, the halal truck doesn't have any readily available vegetarian options. I considered asking them to piece together various parts of other meals to make a vegetarian meal for me but, instead, I decided to have one last halal. I thought, "Hey, you didn't know your last halal was your last halal. One last time will be okay."

Boy, was I wrong. After two weeks of no greasy meat, the giant (super-delicious) tureen of lamb and white sauce I ate left my stomach terribly unhappy. For the rest of the afternoon, I was groggy and my stomach hurt. I could probably re-acclimate to greasy meat if I wanted to but I'm going to take it as a sign that my body prefers to avoid it. Though meat tastes so good, I'm beginning to think I feel better when I avoid it.

I don't want to give up the hall truck but I may have to become *that* person who asks for something special - I think I'll try rice, pita, salad, and white sauce for a start - and daydream that in years to come my "special" will catch on and be added to the menu.

What foods have you given up that made you almost regret making healthier choices?

Cheater, Cheater, Shrimp Purse Eater

Mmmm...shrimp purses
Since October 30, I've been eating a plant-based diet. It hasn't been that difficult since I love veggies and I haven't given up dairy.

One of the reasons I've not pursued a vegetarian diet before was that I didn't want to inconvenience others. Yes, I recognize it was a silly reason for not doing something that primarily impacts my life and health, but it was something I took into consideration.

So far, I've found that most people are interested in my choice rather than disturbed or annoyed by it. Of course, I have heard anecdotes about relatives and friends who were vegetarian and developed various deficiencies and began eating meat again as a result.

It's a similar phenomenon to all the well-meaning people who share similar anecdotes about friends and relatives who ruined knees and backs and feet through running.

I appreciate the concern shown and do my best to steer the conversations toward the positive reasons for my decisions and the improvements I've seen in my life and health.

Though it has only been 11 days, I've learned a couple things:
  1. When ordering at a restaurant, if there is a meat option with a similar name to the vegetarian dish you are ordering, be very clear that you are asking for the vegetarian option. Otherwise, the waiter is very likely to bring you a heaping bowl of seafood primavera when you ordered pasta primavera.
  2. Which leads to my second observation: It's amazing how many people consider seafood a vegetarian option. This has puzzled me for many years but seems even more baffling now.  I can see why people use the term plant-based diet; apparently, it's a lot clearer to the non-vegetarian.
  3. In a well-balanced diet, a vegetarian meal doesn't look all that different from a meal with meat included. All week, my plate was filled with greens, fresh fruits and veggies, nuts, homemade bread, yogurt, and other delights. While my co-workers added salmon or chicken to the mix, the majority of their meals looked exactly like mine.
Anyone else notice how small the meat segment is in this pie? And that the FISH is there?
Also, confession time, I ate some shrimp last night. It was a conscious decision. After grocery shopping (I'll never do that on a Saturday night again!), I got some Wegmans Chinese food and was really craving some shrimp purses. All of the other items I got fit within my plant-based diet. After resisting bacon and ham all week at my work retreat, I decided it was alright to indulge one craving if it could help ease my transition to vegetarian eating.

Vegetarians: Did you indulge any cravings as you transitioned away from meat?
Non-vegetarians: Is meat the center of your meal or merely a part? 


Though I am not a generally anxious person, I do have occasional bouts with depression and anxiety. Sometimes, I don't even realize I'm anxious until I start to feel like I'm having a stroke or a heart attack.

It started yesterday afternoon. For a while, it felt like someone was pulling the skin and muscles on the left side of my neck taut. Then the left side of my face felt numb. Then my left arm. There wasn't any pain, just semi-tingly numbness.

If my mood is already tending toward anxiety, my brain will focus intensely on minor aches and pains and scroll through a long list of diseases or conditions I might have based on the symptoms I (believe I) am experiencing.

The problem is that once my brain fixates on a particular symptom or condition, it will amplify that symptom and create others. A further problem is that it's not easy to tell the difference between real and perceived symptoms. So, how am I supposed to decide which symptoms of impending death deserve medical attention?

Our brains are powerful instruments - they can do wonderful and terrible things.

During a particularly difficult time in my life, a few years ago, I was so convinced that I was having a heart attack that I drove myself to the hospital at 1 a.m. This example shows how rational my thoughts are when I'm in this downward spiral.

When I was running/exercising regularly, even when my life was stressful, I didn't experience this type of anxiety. I suppose that's another item to add to the list of reasons I need to become active again...

Have you ever experienced anxiety/depression?
What did you do to cope?

Vegetarian Noms

It's only been three days without meat but, today, I was feeling tempted to go to Chipotle and get a giant steak burrito. I considered getting a veggie burrito instead but then I remembered the scads of delicious, already-purchased food in my house.

Though I already had a ridiculous amount of cassoulet prepared, I decided to use up some other ingredients that were hanging out in my pantry: an avocado, a leek, several cloves of garlic, a handful of grape tomatoes, and a bunch of fresh parsley.

I quickly sauteed the garlic, leek, and tomatoes until the leeks were softened. I added the cooked ingredients to my Nutribullet, along with the parsley and avocado, and blended until smooth. With the addition of some salt, freshly ground pepper, and chili powder, I had something like guacamole, only mellower.

Alongside a grilled cheese and avocado sandwich and some Food Should Taste Good Olive Chips, I had a scrumptious and satisfying dinner.

My sandwich cutting skills left something to be desired tonight.

First Full Day

This was my first full day as a vegetarian. I committed to it as of Sunday but I had some sliced ham I'd already paid for and didn't want to waste, so I had some of that for the past couple of days.

Mmmm...ham tastes good. I will miss it for a while.
So far, so good.

I love vegetables, so enjoying my food hasn't been a problem.

Look at all the vegetables! You can even buy this poster!
The only tricky thing was eating out today. We went to a restaurant with a fairly limited menu and I discovered that there was only one vegetarian entree. Yes, only one. There were some salads I could have requested without meat and a vegan soup option but everything else was meat-filled.

In the grand scheme of things, I think the fact that eating at restaurants doesn't present a plethora of appealing options will work in my favor, making it far more appealing to prepare my own food.
And I'll have this much fun while I prepare it!
Also, I think Indian food will become my new best friend. It's completely delicious and comes from a country where 31% of the people are vegetarians. I really need to learn how to cook it for myself. The best is saag paneer and chickpea masala. Mmmmm... and naan.

Yeah, no meat in that, and I can almost guarantee it was delicious.
I have some protein powder and B12 supplements on the way. Yay for Amazon's Subscribe & Save discounts!

Anymore advice, vegetarians of the world?

Photo (of a) Finish(er)

This photo was finally posted online. I was more excited than I can tell you. When I'm not running, I'm very photogenic. It's the smile.

15 minutes after finishing my 4th half marathon and my third race of the weekend.
In my RW Half Marathon recap, I recounted that this moment happened just as I finished but it was actually after I'd eaten an apple, picked up my gear bag, checked facebook, and cheered a few people across the finish line.

I'm so proud that I completed these three races and I'm excited for the opportunity to try again next year and to do it FASTER. I might even forgo a marathon and focus my training on this race weekend. And, even better, next year I'll have lots of friends running with me!

A Little Experimentation

Several weeks ago, I ordered a new book. It's shares a name and an author with the the very popular blog No Meat Athlete. I've been reading Matt's blog for the past several months and, as I started reading the book, felt inspired to give vegetarian eating another shot. I gave it a shot about 6 months ago but didn't make it past a week, mostly due to poor planning. This time, I'm prepared.

The first section of the book gives some basic guidelines for getting started and then Matt says, "Okay, put the book down and get started; Once you've done that, come back and read the rest." So, that's what I'm doing this week: getting started.

Yesterday, I bought a Nutribullet. It works SO fast - takes hardly any time at all to have a great smoothie full of fresh ingredients. My recipe needs a little work but it'll get better.

Last night, I planned my meals for the week and made a shopping list. Today, I went to Wegmans and filled my cart with the ingredients for breakfast smoothies, vegetarian cassoulet lunch, and grilled cheese sandwich dinner. Clearly, I'm not going vegan.

Here's the cassoulet:

It looked better the last time I made it but it still tastes good.
Next week is going to be a challenge because I'm at a work retreat for three days but I'm not going to think about that now. For now, I'm going to focus on the week right ahead of me.

How many of you out there are vegetarians?
What prompted you to move to a plant-based diet? 
What advice would you give to someone just starting out?

Lessons Learned from the RW Half & Festival

I can hear your thoughts coming through the internet tubes. Seriously. You're thinking, "When is she going to stop talking about this running festival already?"

Well, until next year, this is my last post about it. Cross my heart.

Some things I learned this weekend:
  1. Running with friends, even if we're not talking to each other, motivates me to keep going. When Andy and I separated during the 5k, my pace slowed significantly. A secondary lesson from this is that I need to find some more internal motivation.
  2. If I'm ever doing races on back-to-back days again, I need to find some way to occupy my mind during the afternoon and evening of the first race so that I can't think too much about the upcoming race.
  3. One of my favorite things about running is the minor celebrity sightings. Bart Yasso, Monica, Mark Remy, David Willey, Summer Sanders, and all the other people I think are awesome and my non-running friends think, "Who's that?"
  4. Putting my toe over the starting line is magical. No matter how nervous or freaked out I am, just stepping over that line, moving ahead with whatever measure of confidence I can muster, and soaking in the adrenaline of the crowd makes me brave.
There's probably more but I'll keep them to myself.

Just in case you missed them, here are my recap blogs.

5k: http://bit.ly/1fU2Os2
10k: http://bit.ly/H0TCmz
Half Marathon: http://bit.ly/1fU2A42

What are some lessons you've learned from the races you've run?
Have you ever run back-to-back races? Would you repeat the experience? 

Official Race Recap: Runner's World Half Marathon

As I mentioned yesterday, I didn't have any trouble sleeping through Saturday night but, almost as soon as I woke up, I started to fret about the final race of the RW Hat Trick. My finish time in the 10k was not great for me; the entire race was a struggle. After that race, I had too much time alone to think about my performance and analyze what my results meant for the half marathon.

Once I had my car packed, I drove to the ArtsQuest Center, got a great parking place very close to the finish, laid around in my car for a little while, then headed toward the warm, indoor toilets. On the way, I snapped a couple photos of the steelstacks. They were an inspiring sight both mornings.

Bethlehem has turned these behemoths into something beautiful to behold.
My stomach was reminding me how nervous I was and, suddenly, I was overwhelmed by emotion. For the next half hour, I sat by myself trying to pretend I wasn't crying. I never burst into sobs but I got close a couple of times.

Fortunately, as I was getting ready to head to the starting line, a fellow runner struck up a conversation with me that continued until we got to the starting line and went our separate ways. We bonded over a shared admiration for Andy Potts.

I love watching people at start lines. Listening to them is even more entertaining.
As soon as I started moving, all of the nerves melted away. There was an open road in front of me and I was moving along it. It helped a little that the first half mile or so was downhill and then flat.

Can't help myself with the photos of giant groups of runners.
Not far into the race, I encountered some of the people I'd run alongside the day before. For two or three miles, I ran and chatted with a couple cheerful young women. Their company got me up the first hill. At the next hill, I was feeling sprightly, so I sped up a little and had my best mile of the race.

A mile on my own along mostly flat roads and I made a new friend. Her name was Jennifer. We stuck together until we got to the steepest hill on the course. The carrot drawing me on was the promise of a free running skirt at the top. Alas, they ran out before I arrived. (Goal for next year: Run fast enough to get a skirt.)

Just past the skirts, we reached the halfway point and that's when I knew I was going to finish. Though I hadn't been dwelling on the idea of not finishing, it seemed like a possibility until I hit the midpoint with plenty of time to spare. Interestingly, my 10k split during the half was 2 minutes faster than my 10k race time.

There weren't many runners around me and spectators were thin on the ground, so I took in the sights around me, thanked the course marshals and police officers keeping traffic at bay, and semi-jogged through the beautiful city of Bethlehem.

Beginning around mile 8, every course marshal told me "It's all downhill from here." Knowing there was a hill in the last mile and able to look over their shoulders to visible, upcoming hills, I smiled, thanked them, and said, "That's what everyone keeps telling me."

I was looking at this hill as the first person that day told me, "It's all downhill from here."
At mile 9, I suddenly became ravenously hungry. I had some GU but I wanted real food. My stomach was growling. As I passed a medical tent, I considered asking if they had something but I didn't want to raise concerns.

I walked most of the last 5 miles of the course. At mile 11, the walking ladies from the 10k passed me again. At mile 11.5, I congratulated a little boy who rode his bike up a giant hill that I had the pleasure of running down. From mile 12 on, I dodged all of the people who'd already finished and weren't sticking around for the awards. There were a lot of encouraging words from those walking toward me but it was still a bit of a bummer to have to watch them head out.

When the finishing arch finally came into sight, I started the fastest jog I could manage and finished on the run with 12 minutes to spare - official time: 3:17:39. As soon as I got my medal a photographer stopped me for a photo op. I got out my 5k and 10k medals and hung them around my neck, too.

Before long, I was at my car with a bag full of treats that the Larabars rep was trying to get rid of, compression socks on my tired legs, a half full pizza box in the passenger seat, and my GPS set to Lancaster and then home, and the right to wear the hat that says I finished the 2013 Hat Trick.

As usual, Mogli had to get in on the picture-taking action. Those are his medals, right?
I'm going to try to write about the lessons I learned this weekend tomorrow.

Official Race Recap: Runner's World Half and Festival 10k Edition

After my triumphant 5k finish, I had 45 minutes to kill before lining up for the next go 'round. I was on the lookout for several other Sub-30'ers and managed to run into two: Matt and Ashleigh. As we lined up for the next race, we got some photos with all five of us.
My medal was in my bra. Great place for it during a photo op.
Even though we both knew we weren't running together, Lauren and I hung out together at the start. It was nice to have a familiar face nearby.

Since I was running alone, I felt free to take a few photos. As I was finishing up my second mile, I saw the leaders coming toward me over the bridge.

I missed a photo of the guy in first place who was accompanied by the illustrious Bart Yasso.
And I always love a good shot of ALL THE PEOPLE! 

I ran with Julie and Christine, in gray and pink on the left, for a while.
I started out fine. Sure, my legs were tired but it wasn't unbearable. Then we hit the first hill, not a huge one but as soon as I stopped for my first walk break, I couldn't get started running again until I hit the top. No big deal, since I knew I wasn't going to PR but walking six miles takes a lot longer than running it.

Fortunately, I ran into some ladies who were just having a good time on the course. We chatted a bit. Sometimes I ran ahead, then they would catch up. Being at the back of the pack is really what you make of it and these women weren't letting anyone get them down.

Around mile 5, I was passed by some older women who'd walked the entire race. A few minutes later, just at the base of the last hill, I ran into Monica on the same street corner where I'd met her the day before. I love minor celebrity sightings!

I cruised into the finish line at 1:30:28.

Some Sub-30 folks managed to meet up at a local restaurant for brunch but I got impatient and silly and ate Taco Bell in my car. It was delicious but I really do want to try Jumbars next year. Maybe we can reserve the entire tiny place.

During the afternoon, I attended two fun seminars - one with Mark Remy and the other with Bart Yasso. After Mark's seminar, he raffled off a bunch of... let's be honest, crap. He even raffled off the leftover raffle tickets. We were all concerned a rift might open in the space-time continuum but I think we're still okay. After Bart's, I accosted him for a quick selfie at the request of my lovely friend, Lauren. Now it's a thing: Every time it's possible, I need to get a photo with Bart Yasso. Watch out, sir!

His real face and his race face.
That chicken hat - it was part of the raffle. Can you believe he'd get rid of that?

I wish hundred of people wanted to take a photo with me!
Then, I went back to my hotel, brooded about my 10k, watched a marathon of Extreme Couponing, from the network that brought the world Honey Boo Boo, ate some pizza, laid out my gear for the morning, and went to bed early. Along the way, I discovered an advantage of running two races in a row: After the first day of racing, I was so tired that I didn't have any trouble sleeping through the night.

Ready for race day. A little more gear for a half...
Stay tuned for tomorrow's dramatic finish - the HALF MARATHON!

Official Race Recap: Runner's World Half and Festival 5k Edition

Three races = three posts. Believe me, it's better this way.

Before I even made it to the expo, I ran into Monica, from Run Eat Repeat, on a street corner. I awkwardly introduced myself and we took a photo. After we became BFFs, I continued to packet pickup.

Me and Monica, BFFs 4-Evah!
Let me tell you, Runner's World knows how to put on an expo. It wasn't a huge race, so there were only a small number of vendors (a point in RW's favor, in my book), but there were so many other fun things happening, like book signings and films and seminars, and it was in such a unique venue, The ArtsQuest Center, that RW was able to avoid the garage sale feel I've encountered at some expos.

After picking up my bib and swag, I stuck around to watch the kids run. Even though I wanted to get dinner before my viewing of The Spirit of the Marathon II, I couldn't tear myself away from watching so many children enjoying the sheer excitement of running. They had three age-grouped fun runs and then there was a competitive mile at the end - four or five of the kids finished around 6 minutes. Eesh!

3:02 half mile split. :-O
My viewing of the movie was cut short by queasiness but a good night's sleep at the Best Western took care of that. Before bed, I laid out everything and put my shoes in my gear bag so I wouldn't forget them again. I woke at 5 a.m. Saturday and was in my car by 5:30 out of worry that I wouldn't find parking. Not only did I find parking, I found free parking near the finish line.

I was excited for the chance to meet some of my fellow Sub-30 Clubbers, so I headed to the building and texted Andy. Soon enough, I found him, Lauren, and their friend Bonnie (or should I say Kirsten?).

Kate, Lauren, Andy - Sub-30 Represent!
As we were taking photos before the race, we realized that everyone was staring in our direction. The national anthem was playing and we were putzing around under the flag with cops staring at us... *swallow* Also, there was a puppy in a backpack. Just thought you'd want to know that.

Andy and I had talked about running together since he's been injured and I was poorly trained. We all lined up together in the starting corral. Lauren quickly zipped away, Bonnie disappeared into the crowd, and Andy and I moved along together.

I don't remember much about what happened during the race itself except that Andy and I stuck together through the first two miles. As we were crossing the Fahy Bridge during our first mile, the leaders were coming back across, about to finish their second.

As we passed the 2 mile marker, I told Andy I needed to back off and save something for my other two races. Since it was his only race, he decided to kick it up a notch. See ya, Andy!

In the last mile (of all three races), there was a hill. After cresting it, I knew I was in the home stretch. As I approached the finish, two ladies and I struck up a conversation. One of them was running her first 5k. I slowed to a walk dangerously close to the finish line and they grabbed my arm and said, "Run with us!" With their encouragement, I was actually able to finish ahead of them. So, though my time wasn't what I'd always dreamed of, I finished strong, running under a flaming steel arch prompted by strangers who wouldn't let me disappoint myself.

Thanks for catching me at the finish, Lauren!
Stay tuned for 10k details tomorrow...

Have you ever met someone IRL that you knew/followed online? Awkwardly awesome or awesomely awkward?
Have you ever run multiple races in the same day?

Sneak Preview of My RW Half Weekend

Five & Dime race morning - as ready as I'd ever be.

Mark Remy raffling some crap.

Quick selfie with Bart Yasso. It may have just become a tradition to get a photo with him every time it's possible.