April 29, 2012

Race Recap: Kentucky Derby Half-Marathon

Or, I take back running after a year of IT band woes and finish with a PR!

So in the past ten days I turned 25, accepted a new job teaching my dream age group, took a great road trip with one of my bestest friends whom I hadn't seen for almost two years, and finished--and PRed in!--my second half-marathon!!  Life is good. :)

Michelle has always been my race inspiration, but when we met at the end of high school, I couldn't have been FURTHER from a runner and never would have dreamed we'd run a race together one day!  This weekend, though, we ran the Kentucky Derby Marathon & Half-Marathon!  Thursday night Michelle flew in from the east coast, and Friday morning we packed our (incredibly large for a two night trip) suit cases and and hit the road to Louisville.  (I took the day off school believe it or not!!  *gasp*)

We spent Friday afternoon checking into our hotel, checking out Louisville, and wandering around the race expo (don't worry, I managed to come out with ANOTHER headband...you know, because the hundred or so I already have at home aren't enough!).

All week I'd pretty much been torn between excitement for a fun girls weekend with Michelle and absolute dread for the upcoming race.  My training kind of fell apart towards the end between the stressful job hunt and a week or so sick with a sinus infection, and after a couple short taper runs last week that were basically a tired mess of tight IT bands, I was completely terrified about what I believed would be 13.1 miles of pain! Michelle and I walked down to check out where the finish line was going to be Friday, and I kept thinking, "I hope I see you again at some point tomorrow!"  So much for a positive pre-race attitude!

Anyways, after picking up our packets and settling into the hotel, we enjoyed an AMAZING dinner of pasta and garlic cheese bread...
Then checked out a hot air balloon show...which I was super excited about since we are reading about balloon flight in our literacy series starting tomorrow! (#geekyteachermoment)
We got back to our hotel and started laying out our gear...when I realized I had brought not one single hair tie on this trip.  Seriously??  I always have them around my wrist, in my purse, in my pockets...but nope, I hadn't brought even one.  My goodness.  This led to about an hour of wandering around Louisville at night trying to find a drug store...Finally, we managed to find a CVS that was open, buy the hair ties, and make it home in time to snag a few hours of sleep before our alarms went off at 5:15.  YIKES!!! 
 Since Michelle is a speedy runner, she lined up in my corral with me so that we could run the first part of the race together (she was running the full marathon, but the courses didn't splint until after mile 8).  Michelle got her first taste of back of the pack corrals and couldn't stop laughing at the funny things you see in corral F!  Bibs pinned on the back, people running in sketchers, bibs duct taped on...love the back of the pack! :)  I was still super worried during the first few miles when I felt some totally weird and random aches and pains in my feet--hello anxiety runner!  When my left IT band/knee started twinging a little bit at mile 3 or 4, I seriously tried not to freak out, but got even more nervous about the 10 or so miles still ahead.  I took a few deep breaths, told myself it was going to be FINE, and stretched by the side of the road.  I stopped and stretched it out again after the next mile and...it was fine the rest of the race!!!

I ran without music up until mile 8 when the course split (in Churchill Downs!!), and when I turned on my ipod it gave me just the burst of energy I needed.  After Michelle and I said good bye and good luck, I concentrated on my music and pace, setting little goals of reducing my average pace by a second after every running interval.  When I got to mile 10 and still felt strong, I almost cried, like I was realizing for the first time that I was going to finish the race (without crawling) and with a time to be proud of.  I started getting more tired after mile 12 and needing longer walking breaks, but I kept my running intervals strong and managed to pull out negative splits, tired legs or not.  I literally almost wept with joy when I made it across the finish line, and almost wept again when I saw that my time was 2:37:24, 13 minutes faster than my first half!
 Of course, I did then have to trek around for about 20 minutes looking for the gear check...sorry, legs!, before completely collapsing in the grass and eating a bagel.  At a certain point I talked myself into getting up, stretching, and hobbling back to the hotel to ice my legs while Michelle pounded the roads for another 13.1 miles.  She's a rock star.

 After awhile I hobbled back to the finish line and had a blast cheering on the marathon finishers.  I have no shame in admitting to all of you that I actually choked back tears at least 5 times as I watched complete strangers dig deep to finish.  You heard it here first folks: I will finish a marathon in the next two years.  (But let's loosen up those ITs first... ;)  The sun decided to come out and cook the marathoners during the second half of the course (we had nice cool, cloudy weather for the first half!), and the second half of the marathon was way hillier, but Michelle dug deep and powered through!
When we got back to our hotel, Michelle immediately face planted on her bed, shoes, spi belt, and all, and fell into a comatose sleep.  I managed to shower and throw ice packs on my legs before passing out into equally deep coma, waking up only long enough to scarf down two granola bars and turn on the TV before napping again. :)  Perfection.
We did manage to rally enough to make it out of the hotel for dinner, drinks, and a 4th meal of dessert around midnight...

All in all, a perfect race weekend (minus the damn hair ties...)!  We said goodbye to Louisville this morning before reluctantly getting back into the car for looong six hour drive home...
I;m not gonna lie, there were a few parts of the drive that were a little painful, and we definitely took a couple of stretch/food breaks.  Actually, though, my legs are feeling way better tonight then I expected they would!  I attribute this to my immediate icing and foam rolling, but also to my trusty recovery socks which I've been wearing nonstop since yesterday, and my new Aspaeris compression shorts which I threw on after the race, slept in last night, and wore in the car all day today under my yoga pants.  My hips are totally fine, and those are usually sore after a hard run!  My quads and hammys feel surprisingly good too!  We'll see how the IT bands do when I attempt a run this week...time to get ready for my next race, the Soldier Field 10 mile Memorial Day weekend!
Hysterically tiny shorts?  Yes.  Amazing compression? YES!!

All in all, it was a wonderful weekend, and I'm elated that I got to share it with one of my favorite people!  I am so relieved and overjoyed that this race went so well, and my mind is already running away thinking about running another half and trying to break 2:30.  (I'll admit it, I actually started planning my next half goals DURING this race!)  Maybe this fall.... ;)

(PS: I got a super deal on these shorts!  Aspaeris is having a 50% off sale on their shorts with the code APS4me, but it ends tomorrow, April 30th, so hurry up and treat your legs to a pair!)

April 26, 2012

Job Search: COMPLETE!

Thank you SO much for all of the  encouraging words and supportive advice on my last post about my job decision!!  I am so lucky to not only have such great job options, but such wonderful people in my life.  I wanted to let you know that after a week of some serious soul searching, I decided to take the job in my district working for my old principal.   I had to have a decision made by Tuesday morning, and even at 11pm Monday night I was still undecided!  Ultimately it came down to a couple of practical things...

I am kind of sad not to be moving to a new and wonderful place next year, but after a pretty difficult year in terms of school politics, what I really want for next year is to work with people who WANT to be there, with a strong team, and with a principal who trusts that I know what I'm doing.  I think the team I'll be working with in this position seems like a good fit (so does the age group!  I'm excited to teach 3/4 multiage!), and after having the opportunity to take a tour of the building with the principal, it was a place I could definitely picture myself working.  I had asked if I could have an extra week before making the decision so I could actually fly out to Colorado and see the school, but they weren't able to give me that much time.  With not being able to see the school and get a feel for the team, I just didn't think I could take the job in Denver.  (Although I hear it's an amazing place to live..with attractive outdoorsy men galore...) :)  

Anyways, I accepted the job Tuesday morning.  Phew!  I don't know what I'm going to do with all of my free time now that I'm not spending 1-2 hours every single day looking for job openings!  My plan is to teach next year, see how things go, work on getting through grad school (I should be done next summer), and look for something out of state again next spring.  We'll see what happens.  

Truly, thank you thank you thank you for all of your support and kind words during this job search process.  And now, it's time to finish packing because I'm heading to KENTUCKY tomorrow morning for the Kentucky Derby Half Marathon!!!  YAY!  (Dear IT Bands, please loosen up STAT, k thanks!)

April 21, 2012

I Need Your Help!: Job Search, Part 3

I have some very exciting job search news!  I will write a full post in a couple of days sharing ALL of the details, but I got two job offers this week: one to teach sixth grade in Denver and one to teach 3/4 multi-age in my current district, working for my former principal.  Also, I am waiting to hear back on Monday about my status as an applicant to teach in the Marshall Islands for a year through WorldTeach (although I am fairly confident about my prospects with them).  I need to make a decision by Monday.    YIKES!

There are pros and cons to each of these opportunities, and I am so torn.  The opportunity here is a good school, a grade level that I've been dying to get a job teaching, and with a principal who I trust.  The team seems great, I already have an apartment here, close to my parents, could finish my masters program, good pay, almost tenured, yadda yadda.  When I interviewed there, I could see myself working there.  The only problem?  It's here.  Same town, same district, same same same.

Colorado was not really on my radar for jobs...I actually sent in maybe 3 apps to CO months ago on a whim, then kind of abandoned the idea, focusing my search on Boston.  But then I got this call, interviewed on Skype, and got an offer almost immediately.  The school is low-income, similar demographics to my current job.  The location would be great--the school is in a suburb just 20 minutes (if that) outside of Denver, so I could live in the city.  I've been wanting to live in a city for a long time, but the commute to my current school in the suburbs from Chicago is just too long for me to do that here.  Also, Colorado is gorgeous (or so I hear...I haven't been there since I was a little kid!).  And it's an opportunity to do something completely new and different.

Last, WorldTeach.  When I didn't go into the Peace Corps after college, I thought my opportunity to do somehting like that was over.  And now I might have another chance.  I can totally see myself packing up a suitcase and moving across the world to teach English in a hut in the Marshall Islands.  I know it would be amazing. 

My biggest worry, I guess, is regret.  Will I regret leaving my family for a city I've never even BEEN to?  Will I regret spending a year abroad, only to come back and deal with this job search mess again in a year?  Or will I regret, a year from now, still being here?

Here is where I need your help.  Obviously, this is a big decision, and I am the only one who can make it, but I would so appreciate any words of wisdom or thoughts based on your own experiences that you can share to help shed some light on this.  Please.  I'm desperate.
This time a week ago, I had convinced myself that I was never going to find a job.  And now I feel so blessed to have options.  No matter what happens, life is good.  Life is good.  Scary, but good.  Thanks in advance for your help and support...honestly, hearing your thoughts would mean the world to me!

April 10, 2012

When Workouts Just Don't Happen...

You know how some days you have great INTENTIONS of working out, and for whatever reason it just doesn't happen?  If you're like me, you have those days a lot...even when I'm training, things come up, days happen, and I don't beat myself up too much.  I try to stick to my planned workouts and training plan as best as I can, but I know that I'm human.  (Well, when it comes to running/training at least!  It's probably the only area of my life where I'm NOT a terrible perfectionist!)  What I'm saying is that if I have a terrible day and feel like I need to go curl up in my bed with a book and skip that swim workout or hot yoga class, I do it.  If I have friends or family in from out of town, I might decide seeing them is more important than that mid-week tempo run.  No big deal.

What makes me absolutely CRAZY are those days where you don't really FEEL like working out, drag yourself to the gym/pool/roads anyways, and something goes wrong.  You know those days?  That's what has happened to me the past two days in a row.  Monday evening I raced from tutoring to vinyasa yoga and made it into the class by the skin of my teeth.  I was planning on getting in a good swim afterwards, but was SO exhausted after the particularly challenging class that I really contemplated packing up and heading home.  But no, like a good little cross trainer I forced myself into my swim suit, showered off the sweat, and dragged myself out of the locker room and onto the pool deck, knowing I would feel better once I hit the water....only to be faced with a water aerobics class in the lap pool and swim lessons in the family pool.  WHAT.  How dare other people occupy the pools when I am planning on swimming???  (Don't worry, I sat in the hot tub for 10 minutes instead...can't let that swim suit go to waste after all...)
Today would be better, I told myself.  Knowing full well that it was going to be a looong day between a before school science fair prep meeting with a coworker at 6:40am and grad classes from 5:30-8:30, I refused to let me mind even entertain the idea of skipping my scheduled easy 3 mile run.  I knew that if I let so much of an INKLING of "maybe I don't really need to do this run..." into my head, I'd be a goner.  So I dragged myself to the gym, unzipped my workout bag to change, and found that while I had brought two different choices of headbands (obv), I'd forgotten socks.  And my contacts.  And my ipod was dead too.  The contacts are no big deal, I run in my glasses from time to time, I'm just not a big fan of it.  And the ipod is alright too, I can read a magazine or watch netflix on my phone.  But the socks?  Ugh.
To be fair, I did TRY.  I put on my running shoes sans-socks, crossed my fingers that my good luck of never getting blisters would continue, and hit the treadmill.  After one mile, I realized there was no way this was going to work out.  My shoes were rubbing my feet something terrible, and with just a couple of weeks until the half-marathon I've been training for forever, there was no way I was going to risk some stupid blister or random foot pain screwing up this week's long run or whatever.  I know you probably think I'm overreacting, but trust me, with my luck 1 sock-less run would turn into a stress fracture or something ridiculous like that.  I managed to drag myself through a mile on the elliptical before I decided enough was enough and after a 13+ hour day the only place I belonged was in bed.  Where I am currently sitting, typing this post.

But don't worry, tomorrow is another day.  And I am sleeping in workout clothes tonight with the lofty goal of a 4:30am ride on my indoor bike trainer...third time's a charm, right???

Do you let yourself slip with your training when you're just not feeling it, or do you suck it up and get your workouts done no matter what?

If you get to the gym and realize you forgot something important, do you find a way to work out anyways, or turn around and leave?  I think the only times I've totally left without working out were once when I only brought stuff to swim, only to find out the pool was off limits due to a lightning storm (who knew that rule applied to indoor pools?), and another time when I forgot gym shoes...but I definitely flake out early on days like today when things just aren't working out!  Sometimes enough is enough.

April 7, 2012

Florida Vacation: aka The Week I NEEDED!

Remember when I said I'd start posting more often again?  Oops.  The whole job-search-grad-school-being-a-teacher-running-the-science-fair-race-training thing strikes again...  I've been back from Florida for a whole week and never posted about the trip!  Instead of taking you through a play by play of the whole vacation, I'm just going to share some highlights and pictures...
meeting my beautiful niece and holding her as much as possible...
spending time with my whole wonderful family...
The Hunger Games<33
seeing HUNGER GAMES!!!!

wandering around Downtown Disney...
an awesome (albeit incredibly hot and sweaty) 8-mile run, part of which was alongside this pretty lake...
during which I encountered a ton of fearless sand hill cranes...
and this awesome Giving Tree stump...

visiting Islands of Adventure and seeing the Harry Potter world!!!
shopping at the Coach outlet--Don't worry, Olivia, Aunt Amy will convince hook you on Coach when you're a little older...
The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han
reading nonstop, especially this wonderful coming of age teenage love story trilogy...

Love. Vacation.
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