Monday, December 19, 2011

My Favorite Christmas Tradition

After a successful long run last Saturday, Josh and I spent the rest of the day doing one of our favorite Christmas traditions:

A puzzle! 
Yes, we are an old married couple who love puzzles! 

We love puzzles so much that we even completed one on our honeymoon. Seriously, Josh and I were made for each other! 
Honeymoon flashback: British Virgin Islands 2010

We set up the kitchen/living room so we could spend all day working the puzzle and watch marathon episodes of Dexter. Such an amazingly perfect weekend!
We have very different strategies for completing puzzles. I like to work the edges first and Josh likes to tackle an object in the middle. Since I work the puzzles outside-in, and he works them inside-out, we rarely get in each other's way.

We dominated you Santa!

What are some of your favorite holiday traditions?

Long Run Surprise

Is it already Monday night?! These past few days have flown by. Between last minute Christmas shopping, cleaning of the house, and quality hubby time, I haven't stopped. Luckily, I've been getting out of work early each day so I've had plenty of extra time to get things done. 

Last Friday night was spent catching up with friends over dinner, then hitting the sack early for my long run Saturday morning. I had plans to meet some people from the local running club, Northwest Arkansas Speed Association (aka: NASA), at 8:30 to tackle 12 miles. I was super nervous because 1) these girls planned to average a much faster pace than I was use to, 2) meeting new people makes me nervous, and 3) did I mention these girls were fast? 

Eek! I basically introduced myself as "Hi, my name is Alex. Thanks so much for inviting me to run with you guys. I'm really slow, so you don't have to wait on me."

Yea, steller first impression. I really know how to talk myself up.

The girls were super nice and welcoming. They said they were in no hurry and planned to just take it easy. Ha! This sentence replayed over in my head a few times during the run as a cruel joke. Such a mean thing to say to this slow runner.

But you know what happens when you set the bar low for yourself? You are very impressed when you do better than expected! 

Exhibit A: 
Mileage: 12.00; Time: 2:01:48; Pace: 10:09 

Booyah!! During this run, I beat my 5K and 10K personal record, and would have stomped my half marathon personal record if I would have ran 1 more mile! It definitely wasn't easy, but it felt SO good! 

Here is the mileage broken down:

Mile 1: 9:41
Mile 2: 9:01
Mile 3: 9:23
Mile 4: 9:25
Mile 5: 9:49
Mile 6: 9.57 <--Turn around point. Start the slow incline.
Mile 7: 9:29
Mile 8: 10:17
Mile 9: 10:23
Mile 10: 10:52 <-- Walked a few times. Getting way too tired.
Mile 11: 11:15 <-- Nasty hill. So over this run.
Mile 12: 12:14 <--Longer nasty hill. Get me outta here!

Ouch. Okay, so the splits aren't amazing. But look at those first 7 miles! Yep, those are 9's at the front. Rocking. 

I was able to keep up with the group during the first 7.5 miles, but after the turn-around spot at mile 6, the trail was slightly uphill the rest of the way. I slowly started to lose them and then the last 2 miles had some nasty, unrelenting inclines. Yay for hills at the end of a 12 mile run! 

So, while I started to bomb toward the end, my average pace still rocked. And this makes me super happy. Apparently what "they" say is correct: Running with fast people make you a better runner. 

I may start making this a habit. Hopefully no one will mind the slow girl tagging along.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Fayetteville Half Marathon Recap

Alternate titles: I Love My Husband, Walking a Half Marathon Still Hurts, or I Heart Local Races.

Well, this was a race of firsts. My first race with my husband. My first race in the town I live. And my first race where I walked 3/4th of the time.

Since the race was in Fayetteville, I woke up in my own bed and felt the luxury of having my entire running wardrobe to choose from (instead of waking up in a hotel and searching through my suitcase for some packed running clothes and wishing I had X clothing article). Otherwise, the morning started off a like every other race: I choked down my breakfast of toast and PB (I seriously have eaten this for breakfast about 3x a week for the past year, but on every single race day I have to force myself to eat it. So strange), drank some coffee to get the bowels moving (TMI? Sorry, it's the reality of being a runner), and attempted to dress warm for the 26 degree morning. Burr!

Josh was super nervous about the knee/joint pain he had been having, which resulted in his longest run being 7 miles 3 weeks before. He hoped to keep a good pace as long as he could, ignore the knee pain as long as possible, and walk very little.

Isn't he cute? Poor boy was one of the only ones in shorts- we need to get him some proper running gear!

As evident by the possible alternate titles, the race didn't go so well. We were keeping a 10:00 pace and were feeling great until mile 4. Josh was wincing in pain with every step and I could tell he couldn't go much longer. 

We walked for a few minutes then tried to pick it back up, but he couldn't run for longer than 1 minute at a time. He described the pain as sharp, electrocuting, and worse with each impact. We walked the majority of miles 4-7, with occasional 1 minute sprints. He was so defeated and angry with his body and it made me feel so sorry for him. I know he wanted this to be a great first half marathon and it was completely out of his control.

At mile 8, Josh was limping pretty badly and merely starting to run was sending unbearable pain through his legs. This is where the running stopped and the mental task of walking 6 miles began. Seeing him so upset, there was no way I was going to leave his side! If we were to walk the rest of the way, we would. And I would be his little cheerleader the whole time.

Yea, it super sucked. And yea, my IT band was strangely killing me for walking 13.1 miles. But I wouldn't trade that 2 hours and 52 minutes for anything. I got to see my husband push himself when others would have quit long before. I got to be there for him, quietly walking beside him, while he struggled to complete his first half marathon. A lesser man would have given up, but we walked together, hand in hand across the finish line.
I would be lying if I said I didn't have tears in my eyes while we walked across the finish line. I was so proud of him. 

The Fayetteville Half Marathon was a great race! It was a wonderful course, cold but sunny weather, great volunteers, and lots of yummy goodies after the race. But best of all, I finished with my best friend. 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Ready To Run

This post was written on my iPhone, which was super awkward and quite difficult. Please excuse any strange picture placement and missed typos. 

Tomorrow, Josh and I are running the Fayetteville Half Marathon. This will be my 5th half marathon and falls perfectly into my marathon training schedule. It's crazy to think that I am almost half through!

Tomorrow's race will actually be Josh's first half marathon, so this race is a huge deal!! If I were running this by myself, I wouldn't think of it than more than a long run with a bunch of other people plus a bonus medal at the end. But since this is Josh's first, we're going all out.

Including photos at the Expo:

Some carb-induced comas:

Ugh! Horrible, hazy eyed photo...

And awesome pep talks from your's truly:

My only goal is to stay with Josh and ensure he has a blast. No time goal or pressure of a PR; just good ole fashion running to put a smile on my face!

Josh's only goal is to finish in one piece. Let's just say he hasn't been able to train as diligently as he would have liked (cough cough, merely running 7miles about 3 weeks ago). This is largely do to joint/knee pain, and the fact that he decided to start training 1 month ago. Crazy boy.

I'm just happy that I'll be running tomorrow with my best friend. Wish us luck!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Solo miles

I have officially completed 4 weeks of marathon training. Crazy how time flies when you're having fun! 

Before this week, I had practically hit all my goal mileage for each week. However, due to holidays, travel, and plain laziness, I wasn't able to get all my runs in, putting me -2 miles below my target. I know it might sound like I am being a little too nit-picky about it, but those two miles mean a lot! I try to follow the rule of 'no more than 10% increase each week' to prevent injury, but it looks like I will have to bend the rules a little bit. 

Here is what the first 5 weeks looked like. The red indicates the changes I made that day.
I have already adjusted Week 5 to bring down the mileage a bit. Originally I was to run 5 miles on Tuesday, making the total milage 21, but that would be increasing my mileage by 23.75%. Yikes! Now that it is set at 20 miles, it is only a 17% increase. Not great, but much better. (You can thank my smart husband for all that math)

To look at the full 18 week marathon training schedule just click on the link below:

So this morning I had 9 miles to tackle. My husband's legs weren't feeling up to par and all my trusty running buddies were out of town for the holidays. That left me to face the miles solo. Boo.
And on top of that, the weather didn't look so inviting either.
So I put on my happy face and mentally prepared for the worst run ever. 
(Even though I felt like this...)
But you know what? The run rocked! I blared my music, smiled at everyone I passed, and thanked the heavens that it didn't rain one drop. 

And to put a cherry on top (even though I don't like cherries) I ran an extra mile because I felt so good! Bam! 10 miles with a 10:27 average pace.
Here's the breakdown:
Mile 1-10:38
Mile 2-9:48 
Mile 3-10:29
Mile 4-10:26
Mile 5-10:01
Mile 6-9:59
Mile 7-10:23
Mile 8-10:46
Mile 9-11:17 <---continuous incline with crazy headwind
Mile 10-10:39

I am so happy that I pushed myself to not only run by myself but to do more than I had planned. Who I am?! 

Have you ever surprised yourself with your abilities, when you didn't even want to do it in the first place? Do you hate running solo as much as I do, or do you enjoy the time to yourself?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thankful Thursday

It's late so I'm gonna make this snappy.

What? Who cares that it is only 8:30. I'm tired and exhausted and I just want to climb into bed and fall asleep reading a good book. 

And by the way, don't you love that I am starting my Thankful Thursday post with '...I'm gonna make this snappy.' Such a great way to really sit down and think about my blessings. Aren't I getting good at this God?

1. I am thankful for a women's bible study I joined last week. These girls are so welcoming and make me feel like I have always been a part of the group (even though I assume they have all been friends for quite some time...). It is easy to see God's presence when people are so genuine and loving. I'm really excited to grow closer to God and to these new friends. (Too soon to call them friends...? I don't know. But if we are gonna be friends, I might need to learn all their names. Yea, I'll work on that.)

2. I am thankful that I see my family this weekend. I miss them.

3. I am thankful, yet again, for my awesome husband who can follow a to-do list. The house was picked up, the kitchen was clean, and the dogs had grooming appointments. He rocks at getting things done (All I have to do is leave a little list each morning)

4. All jokes aside, I am thankful that my husband rocks.

5. I am thankful I had a girls weekend this past weekend:
Spa Night + excessive cupcake consumption + Wii Dancing = Amazing Friday night. 
Cold run + Rick's Bakery + Shopping + More cupcakes/dancing= Amazing Saturday
That is math I can do!

Now, I hope you have a wonderful Thursday. I am off to read now.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Thankful Thursdays

I always look forward to writing these posts. I'll be the first to admit that I don't sit and think about the blessing in my life near enough. I busily go throughout my day not thanking God for everything I've been given; sometimes, when you're in the middle of it, it's hard to appreciate how wonderful your life is. These posts force me to reflect on the wonderful things in my life.

So, and I thankful for Thankful Thursday. These posts force me to reflect on the wonderful things in my life. Looking back, I've done a lot of thanking:
Here, Here, Here, Here, Here, and Here

On a more superficial note, I am thankful that I wear scrubs every day to work. I don't have to give my outfit a second thought Monday-Friday and it is glorious. Who wouldn't love wearing pajamas to work every day?! The only downside- I do kinda miss looking nice some times. But only kinda.

I am thankful that Jessi posted pictures of her Halloween Extravaganza so that the whole world can see my husband in short shorts. Woah Woah!

I am thankful that Girl's Weekend is this weekend. 7-ish girls are coming to overtake the Clark house for primping, shopping, and other girly things. Poor Josh. He plans to banish himself in the game room and live off of video games, Doritos, and root beer. It's going to be a blast!

I am thankful for good runny buddies, new and old. They make the miles go by faster. They keep me accountable. They are a necessity to me. Thanks running buddies. You are all rock stars.

A running husband-So dreamy!

I love racing with friends like a fat kid loves cake!

Runners are really graceful; just look at those moves.

Thumbs up to sun in your eyes!

I am thankful for my big brother who turns 28 tomorrow! Words cannot describe how awesome Derek is and I hate that I cannot be there to celebrate his birthday with him. Luckily, he could care less, as long as I get him a Best Buy gift card. This boy loves him some Best Buy.

What are you thankful for today?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Fast is Relative

My little bloggy got a face lift the other day. Nothing too snazzy, but it was time to change things up a bit. I like my life to be simple and clean, and I feel that this new look captures that.

What do you think? 

On Saturday I completed my first long run of my marathon training schedule. I realize that I have yet to post my official 18-week training plan, but I am still fine-tuning it. Once it is finished, I promise to post it asap (Who cares Alex! Moving on now...)

Northwest Arkansas was blessed with another beautiful fall today on Saturday. The temperature was cool, the sun was shining and the leaves were full of color!
I can't say enough how much I love running in the fall. Honestly, how can one resist the trail on a day like this?

Luckily, I'm not the only one who couldn't resist a good run that day. Rock star Rachel (who ran the St. Louis Half Marathon with me) and her friend Dee Dee joined me for Saturday's run.
Dee Dee is somewhat new to distant-running so she agreed to run 2 miles (yea, she's claims she doesn't run but she demolished those 2 miles) and Rachel and I decided to bang out 6. And when I say "decided" I mean, "Rachel agreed to my 6-mile demand". She's a good friend.

Another snapshot of the Skull Creek Trail in Fayetteville. I'm loving that I have miles and miles of trails to run my little heart out.

Our times were as followed:
Mile 1- 10:05
Mile 2- 10:35 (<---We walked a tad at the end, then said "adios" to Dee Dee)
Mile 3- 10:03
Mile 4- 9:57
Mile 5- 10:13
Mile 6- 10:08
Total- 61:01
Average Pace- 10:10

Whoop Whoop. I'm proud about that pace. And look at mile 4! Yep, that's a 9 right there. I know I won't be winning races any time soon, but I'm getting faster each week. What more could a girl want?

One thing I've learned when it comes to running, is 'fast' is a relative term. Each person's perception of fast is completely different from the next. And what I considered fast 6 months ago is completely different then my idea of it now. That is why I love running so much-it is constantly changing yet always stays the same.

Look at that girl run.
Wow. She's going fast.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Thankful Thursday

Are you ready for me to be all giddy and happy about how blessed and amazing my life is? Good. Cause here we go!

I am thankful that I no longer work weekends. I never realized how much I hate working weekends until I didn't have to be on-call anymore. Not having to schedule out visits home, or when people can stay over is nice. I'm open every weekend all weekend people!

I am thankful that I love my veggies. I mean, they are just so darn good! Carrots use to be the only vegetable that I liked, and that was only if they was drenched in ranch dressing. Now I like them all, whether that be raw, steamed, grilled, broiled, or baked! Well, except beets. Who in their right mind likes beets?

I am thankful that I have quite a few friends who are prego (Yay Jen!)! This way I will know what to expect when it is my turn; it's pretty much a built in 'trial and error' system I have going here. Plus, I love holding, cuddling, and smelling babies and parents don't like to give their child over to a stranger to be smelled. Hopefully my friends won't mind!

I am thankful that marathon training started this week. Remember when I said I now have free weekends just a few sentences ago? I take that back. The next 18 weekends of my life are all scheduled out. I won't know life without Saturday morning long runs after this...granted, I've spent the last 12 weekends completing a long run so I'm already kinda use to it.

I am thankful that I get to go home three times this month! I don't remember the last time I visited home so I'm super pumped to see friends and family. I kinda miss 'em. I am not, however, looking forward to the drive. But I guess that's what I get for moving three hours away.

I am also thankful for: leftover Halloween candy, good running socks, the DVR, and pumpkin scented candles.

Now, what are you thankful for today?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Perfect Fall Day

The beautiful, albeit windy, weather...not the goofy weather man

Plus this:
Peak of foliage on the Lake Fayetteville Trail

Equals this:
A great 3mi run with an average pace of  9:20. 


Done son. 

Couldn't have asked for a more perfect run!

How did you spend this fall day?

Monday, October 31, 2011

A Not So Halloween Surprise

Happy Halloween Folks! 

Josh and I celebrated Halloween by attending the Leonard Halloween Extravaganza; however, I'm a horrible blogger and didn't take one photo. Boo. I really wished I had because Josh dressed up as Richard Simmons, and boy was he wearing some short shorts.
Sweatin' to the Oldies

And for the Surprise ...
I don't know if you knew this, but I am very goal-oriented, and this is especially true when it comes to exercise. I work best and I am much more dedicated when I have something to achieve. So, before I even toed the starting line of the St. Louis Half Marathon, I signed up for another race.

And not just any race. If you caught this post, you might know what I'm talking about...


Eek! I'm totally pumped and ready for this new and exciting challenge. I'm especially even more excited that my family is planning on making the trip down to New Orleans to cheer me on.

This will be me in 18 weeks:
Except I definitely won't be starting with the Kenyans.

So I apologize in advance if posts tend to be more 'running oriented' because my life will be consumed with marathon training for the next 126 days. 

Food will be for fuel. Sleep will be for recovery. And I will be counting my waking hours until I can pull on my Asics and hit the pavement. Aka: Running will be my life. And call me crazy, but I can't wait!

Stay tuned for my New Orleans marathon training plan. 

Saturday, October 29, 2011

St. Louis Half Marathon Race Recap

If you want to catch up, please see the following St. Louis Half Marathon related posts:

Well, ladies and gentlemen, I finished my fourth half marathon. Going into this race I had a range of goals from simply finishing with a smile on my face, to smashing my PR with a sub 2:20 time. I am proud to say that I ran the best race I could and gave 110%.


Thats right. I ran a sub 2:20 and set a new PR of 2:18.

Heres how the event went down.

Like I've said before, I recruited my friend Rachel 4 weeks prior to run this race with me. Being the all-star that she is, she agreed to spend her weekend driving to St. Louis, running 13.1 miles, and driving back. Thank goodness, because this race (and training) wouldn't have been near as awesome without her.

Rachel arrived at my house at 8am on Saturday morning to make our 6 hour trek to St. Louis. With a quick detour to Illinois, we made it to the Expo at 2:00 with just enough time to pick up our race bib and packet, explore the booths, and pick up some last minute running-needs.

Exhibit A: These fanastically awesome headbands.
My true goal in any race.
After the expo, we were both craving pasta. The hotel concierge (I love that word) recommended a small  family-owned Italian restaurant right up the street.
Holy yum! Needless to say, we stuffed our faces.

We then headed straight back to the hotel. Our crazy Saturday night ended with me in bed at 8:30 and out like a light by 9. I prefer "dedicated runner" opposed to "boring grandma" thank you very much.

Even though we had 2 alarms plus a wake up call for 5am, I was up by 4:30 do to pre-race jitters. It was pointless to lay there tossing and turning so Rachel and I got ready and pumped up in our room. We both packed tons of options. Rachel decided to go with the most comfortable option; I decided to go with the most mismatched option.
See that excitement?!
Rachel dedicated her race to her cousin Jennifer.
And I dedicated mine to my rockin' Big Brother.
Since our hotel was about 20 minutes west of St. Louis, we decided to take the MetroLink into the city.  I am not confident driving through big cities, especially if the city is packed with 25,000+ runners (hence, accidently making a detour to Illinois the day before)!  So I would strongly recommend this option, as it was easy, cheap, and dropped us off right by the start line.

Don't let the tired faces fool you...
...we were pumped!
We made it to the start line by 6:40, stopped at the Porta Potties (which were plentiful and moved quickly), and found our corral with plenty of time to spare.
The starting line was beautiful, as we could see the arch in the background. Tons and tons of people!
The race started at 7:30, and by 7:50 we finally crossed the start line. Clearly, Rachel was ready to get this race started.
During the first mile we passed by the iconic St. Louis Arch and by Busch Stadium.
At the start of races, I am always extra cautious not to start off too fast, as that is supposedly the #1 mistake with runners. The first few miles were flat and beautiful and I had to keep telling myself to slow down because I didn't want to crash and burn at the end. As a result, the first 2 miles were some of the slowest miles of the race.

Mile 1- 10:48 
Mile 2- 10:42 

At mile 3 I saw a man in his full military outfit (is it called an outfit? or uniform? or ensemble? I don't know) running the full marathon. So incredibly inspiring, and totally worth the few emotional tears that came. I love being a patriotic sap. Rock on soldier!
Mile 3- 10:24 
Mile 4- 10:29 

At mile 5, these cute little YMCA girls had a mini-finish line and were cheering their little hearts out. My favorite thing about races (besides the medal) is crossing the finish line, so I was not going to miss the chance to cross two finish lines in one race!
Mile 5- 10:27

I'd like to take this moment to comment on the race volunteers and spectators. Being a Rock-N-Roll series race, there were bands at every mile and each were amazing. But between the mile markers and bands were crowds and crowds of support and spectators cheering their little hearts out. I can't recall one quite moment on the course as there was always a crowd at every corner and sidewalk with signs and noisemakers. Made the first 6 miles fly by!

Rachel enjoyed all the entertainment as well. Two thumbs up for the volunteers! Plenty of water and hydration at every station!
Here we are reaching mile 6, where we were at our fastest. At this point in the race I felt amazing and was enjoying every second!
Woo Hoo! My legs were feeling great and I was on top of the world!
Mile 6- 10:06
Mile 7- 10:27

Then there was the mile 8-9 stretch. During miles 1-7, there were a few rolling hills but they were easy and we got an immediate pay off by having a decline once we reached the top. But miles 8 and 9 was horrible.
Beautiful? Yes. But it was completely up-hill the entire way. I am proud that I did not walk once, and I didn't even let my pace really slow down, but it took a toll on me physically and mentally. I was hurting once I finally made it to the top.

Mile 8- 10:34
Mile 9- 10:26

At this point, I stopped taking pictures. I could only focus on pushing forward and keeping one foot in front of the other. Despite the fact that my pace hadn't yet suffered from that 2mile incline, it was quickly catching up to me. Even though mile 10 was slightly down-hill, I began having a sharp pain in my right hip and knee and my pace began to slow.

Mile 10- 10:46

Rachel was being an amazing cheerleader and I could tell she felt good. At this point I felt I might be able to finish by 2:20 but my knee was only getting worse. Rachel kept saying "We're rocking this. We're totally going to do this!" She said it enough times, I actually started to believe her.

At mile 11, there was another hill. Its funny how I tend to go faster up hill, then slow down once we are going downhill. Each hill slowly picked away at my mentality and I kept thinking to myself "Why in the heck did I not train on more hills?!" It wasn't that the hills were bad, it's just during training I avoid hills at all costs so any incline totally kicks my butt. When will I learn?

Mile 11- 10:34
Mile 12- 10:56

To reach the top of mile 13, we had to climb another small hill (I was cursing in my head at this point- dang those hills!), then it was a decline for the last .1 miles.

Mile 13- 10:23
Mile .2-   1:58 (a 9:34 pace)

Total 13.2 miles- 2:18
(My Garmin read and extra .1 miles, which means I really need to pay more attention to running the tangents!)

Victory is sweet my friends! Thats the smile of a new personal record by more than 10 minutes!
Rachel smashed her PR too, maybe because she is a rock star.
And look who we ran into at the finishline. Good friend and fellow speech pathologist Amber, who rocked her half marathon with a time of 1:54. Yea, she's a rock start too.
Yay for running SLPs!
So that my friends is my fourth half marathon story. Amazing and perfect in every way. Here is the final breakdown, per my Garmin:

Now I have a sub 2:15 goal on the horizon, and a marathon in my future. But that's a whole other post....