Lesson Learned: I’m a Hibernator

Operation Fast Half is coming to a close here soon (the race is in a week and a half), and if I could sum up my lessons learned during this training cycle into one phrase it would be: people don’t change. Or maybe more accurately: after 28 years of life, you should probably know yourself a little bit better.  Maybe: You can take the girl off the couch, but you can’t take the cou…I guess that one doesn’t really work.

A couple of months ago I made some cock-eyed statement about trying to hit 1:35 for this upcoming half marathon.  I ran this same race last year, coming in at just under 1:45 (1:44:53), still  my best half time yet, but I thought I could train myself down 10 minutes to a race pace I’ve only hit a couple of times during 5-K’s because:

1) I’m faster overall thanks to some intense marathon training,

2) I’m a “real” runner now who takes training more seriously than Christmas cheer,

3) I have blog friends to keep me accountable for my workouts,

4) I’ve tasted goal crushing victory and I don’t ever want to eat anything else again,

5) I didn’t train very well last year.  My last/farthest long run was 8 miles, so anything more productive than that should surly produce extraordinary results.

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I’m going to beat you! 

What I didn’t account for is that:

1) I AM faster, but it takes a bit of time to get a LOT faster (i.e. a superstar transformation usually doesn’t occur within 10 weeks),

2) Um, was I high? (No, I wasn’t, I promise).  Christmas cheer will always trump running. Always.

3) Y’all are pretty easy to ignore if I turn off my computer,

4) Cookies are pretty tasty, oh yes they are.

5) People don’t change.  Little runners who would rather hibernate than train all winter will probably always be this way.

I was doing great all November.  Speed workouts were going amazingly, and long runs were flying by.  I was eating really well, and I was motivated.

And then I transformed back into Amy circa winter 2011, going around saying, “but, it’s Christmas”  as an excuse to not get a run in, or to pick up fudge square #3.

I’ve still been running and maintaining, but I don’t think I’ve been getting the type of quality mileage required of a significant improvement.

And then all of the sudden we’re having a really cold winter.  Albuquerque can get cold, and we usually have one miserably frigid day, but we’ve had multiple days in a row where the morning temp is under 20 degrees which seems out of the ordinary.  I’m not willing to head outside for an 11 mile run on  Saturday morning if it feels like -3 outside. I know most of you deal with this all winter every year, but I am not acclimated to cold like that.

So, I’ve been running on the treadmill more. It gets the job done, but I don’t think it really translates as well into the real world.  And I definitely cut runs shorter on the treadmill than I would outside because my wall is boring to look at.

We opted out of using a formal plan for this reason.  We knew we’d be busy and cold, and that we’d spend a lot of time rearranging workouts, but I guess we thought we’d be more disciplined (Um, WHY did we think this?  PEOPLE DON’T CHANGE).

And I’ve been eating non-stop since Christmas Day (slowly getting the cookie habit back under control).  I’m probably going to run this half about 5 pounds heavier than I did last year, which translates into extra effort and likely extra added time.  (Update: Tracie posted a chart on how many minutes extra pounds add to your race time.  If’ that’s not enough to make you depressed over holiday gain, I don’t know what is).

IMG_5648My sister made us our own special batch of gluten-free cookies for Christmas morning.  Guess who ate 95% of those…

So, there you have it. I’ve been training, but not very well, and certainly not enough to shave 10 minutes off my PR time.

In retrospect, I don’t think it was a realistic goal for me to increase speed that much knowing that I’d be distracted. I think we did better on our training this year than last, so improvement was made, and  I’m faster, stronger and more race savvy thanks to a year long effort toward improvement and I can appreciate that accomplishment.

I know that I don’t slack off all the time, and I think I have a better understanding of when I thrive and when I’m better at simply maintaining.  I’ve realized that I can seriously push myself during one training cycle per year (by seriously push myself, I mean stick completely to a plan, give each workout 100%, and have running be a top priority, while consistently remembering my goal and evaluating my progress toward reaching it), and that training cycle can’t fall during the holidays.

I won’t hit 1:35 next Sunday, and I’ve already moved past it.

What is kind of worrying me is that I should have been base-building for Boston.  The day after the half, I am jumping in head first into a more intense 12 week marathon program.  I’m taking my weekly mileage from about 15-25 miles all the way up to about 55 pretty fast, which isn’t really what I wanted to happen.  And if I only want to seriously push myself for one training cycle per year, then I want this one to be it, so slacking off for the first couple of weeks isn’t an option.

So, I’ve decided to:

1) Still go for that PR next weekend.  I can always predict my race time based on my last long run pace (without fail, I can run a full minute faster per mile).  I ran 12.35 comfortable miles on Sunday at an average pace of 8:47.  Based on this, I should come in at 1:42 which will constitute a PR.  I think I even have a decent shot at 1:40 if I suffer a bit. If I can’t be faster than I was 10 weeks ago, I can at least be faster than I was last year.

2) Go harder than I typically would for a goal race taper.  For half marathons, we typically taper for 2 weeks, but I’ll probably reduce it to about 4 days.  My priority needs to shift to marathon training.  I need all the preparation I can get to run a strong PR marathon.

I really hate giving up on something that I said I would do (though it kind of seems to be a theme recently), but I should have known myself better.

I have a general hatred toward the fitness models used in these.  What is up with this lady’s hair?

Any lessons you’ve learned about yourself during your training?  

Hope you are having a great (loooong) week!

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Christmas Survey Because I Love Christmas

I saw this Christmas Survey on Christina’s blog, and I decided to steal it.  Consider this a gratuitous fluffy non-running related post (they do ask a running question!).  But I mean, who doesn’t love more Christmas (well, except Aaron who apparently has watched one too many Hallmark movies and now goes around calling himself Ebeneezer)?

1. Favorite Christmas Album/CD/Song?

I mean, really.  There are so few that I don’t like (Feliz Navidad comes to mind…I think they play it more here in New Mexico).  For traditional songs, O Holy Night and Silent Night.  Newer,  All I Want For Christmas is You is my jam.  Frank, Dean, Rosemary, Nat, and Buble can sing anything and I’d be a big fan.

This however, is hands down THE WORST Christmas song ever.  But I can’t stop listening! It takes some talent to express gratefulness for being born in the USA and wish Jesus a happy birthday in one sentence.

2. Run on Christmas morning or take the day off?

Confession…we almost always take Christmas off.  There just isn’t a good time of day to squeeze it in.  One year, when we first got engaged, Aaron had to work on Christmas, so I hung out at the gym for a couple of hours.  But otherwise, if you can’t let go on Christmas, when can you?

3. What do you usually eat on Christmas morning?

Aaron and I always get up and go to my parents in our pajamas and open presents there with some mimosas.  Breakfast is usually some fancy pancake dish or traditional tamales and eggs. There are usually always baked goods.

Slightly deranged looking. It’s ok.

4. Favorite holiday or Christmas tradition?

My gingerbread house is probably my favorite “Amy” tradition.  I think Aaron is still wondering how he married into such a crazy kitchen disaster.  Otherwise, watching Christmas movies, our annual Christmas party, River of Lights, falling asleep to the Christmas Story on Christmas Eve, and spending time with family are my favorite.

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What Christmas looks like at the Lavender House

5. Real tree, fake tree or no tree?

REAL.  A few years ago my mom bought an artificial tree because nothing in nature was as perfect as she wanted (plus, they always look pretty dead by the time Christmas comes around).  But I can’t do it.  I love the smell.

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6. Christmas pajamas… yay or nay? For as long as I can remember, we always get to open one present on Christmas Eve…Christmas pajamas.  So, always yay. (See picture above).

7. Where do you spend the holidays? Both of our families are in town, so we do presents/breakfast/Disney parade with my family and more presents/dinner with Aaron’s family.

8. Food that you always have during the holiday season? Favorite Christmas food/treat? 

When I think of Christmas food, I think of traditional New Mexican favorites.  Tamales, red chile enchiladas, taquitos, and biscochitos.  It ain’t Christmas without them.

9. Open presents all at once or take turns?

All at once! That way you don’t have the awkwardness of having everyone watch you and your reactions.

10. Favorite Christmas(ish) movie? 

I’m going with It’s a Wonderful Life because Jimmy Stewart is my boyfriend and the story is SO GOOD. I really like almost any Christmas movie though. Home Alone, Home Alone 2, Love Actually, Eloise at Christmastime, Miracle on 34th Street, The Muppet Christmas Carol, Polar Express, The Holiday, The Grinch.  You name it.  Except for those wretched Claymation movies.  I’ll watch Rudolph, but anything else is just not gonna happen.

Which Christmas song do you think is the worst?

According to the Christmas Song Authorities, Dominick the Italian Christmas Donkey is the worst.  I still think I Love Christmas beats it. I’ll let you decide.

May the Fourth Be With You and Friday Pre-Half Thoughts

HAPPY FRIDAY!

Is it just me, or has this week been particularly trying?

Weekly Race Shout-Outs

First, To Shantarella  who did the Safari Half in South Africa on Tuesday, and ran her best time ever!

Erika, fresh off Ragnar, is running the OC Half Marathon on Sunday!  Good luck, and run fast!

Jack has been planning on running the Great Western Half Marathon on Sunday.  I’m not sure if he still will, but if so, I hope he get’s his PR!

Hyedi is competing in a triathlon on Sunday, and I hope she beats the 12-year-old in her wave (because getting beat by a 12-year-old is a little ego deflating).

And…to Whitney! Good luck running your 10-K in my neck of the woods!

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I LOVE celebrating holidays, especially the slightly less conventional ones.  Tomorrow is a doozy.

Both Cinco de Mayo AND The Kentucky Derby are tomorrow.  It has been declared Cinco de Derby. It will be a day of sombreros, margaritas, horse races, mint juleps, big hats, and mariachi music. Ideally these two celebrations would fall on different days, because that sounds like a lot to handle for a Saturday that will also include packet pickup and the usual house cleaning.  But I am determined! I still need to choose my horse for this season. I usually choose based on the names. The weirder the horse name, the more likely I am to put money on it.

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So, I have a half marathon on Sunday. The half marathon two weeks ago made me realize that I need to change-up my approach if I want to not hate life and give up at mile 10.

1) I will start out with an 8:15 pace.  This freaks me out because I’ve never started out that slow, and I think that means that I will have to start further back in the corral than I want in order to avoid having the speedy people run over me and my 8:15 pace.  I’m going to try for negative splits, so we’ll see how that goes.  I’ve never tried a formal approach to this.

2) I’m going to try running the first 5-K BEFORE turning on my music.  I never train with music, but I always race with it.  Apparently the motivational effect of music wears off pretty fast, so I’m going to run my designated slowest miles without it.  Hopefully delaying music will give me the motivation when I’m needing it.

3) I’m going to switch to Clif Shots.  I’ve used GU for the last few races I’ve done, but I’ve been training with Clif Shots for the last month.  I have no idea if there is such a big difference between the two, but Chicago provides Clif Shots, so I’m trying to get more used to them since now.

Since this is the last half before the great marathon training begins (and probably my last until September), I’m going to use this race as an experiment on shaking things up. By the time I get to September, I want to be running a 1:35 half marathon (yeah, I’m a little doubtful too), so I need to get my act together and figure out how I perform best now because I have a long way to go.

Any weird tricks or switch ups that you noticed helped you perform better? 

I hope to have good things to report back on Monday.

Until then, MAY THE FORTH BE WITH YOU! (If you just said, “and also with you!” in your head like I just did, then you get double cool points).

Boston, Titanic, Sneeziness, Etc.

Happy Friday the 13th!  Every 6 years my birthday falls on Friday the 13th, so I bear no ill will toward the occasion or the number 13 in general. Though I suppose if I break a mirror today, I may get a bit creeped out.

Also, tomorrow marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic.  Even though the movie is terrible, (and I get SO ANGRY at Rose for not letting Leo on the door with her) the story itself is so incredibly tragic, and it kind of makes me mad how things were handled.  I don’t know how to celebrate the occasion properly since I flat-out refuse to watch that movie again.  Any suggestions? Celine Dion sing-a-long? Iceberg lettuce wedge salad? I don’t know, but it seems like an occasion worthy of remembering.

Meanwhile, I am sneezing my eyes out.  I am loving the warm weather, but the spring wind has shown up, and my allergies are miserable.  Growing up, I never had any problems with allergies.  But over the last few years I’ve suffered the sore throat, itchy eyes, stuffy nose, and tiredness that comes with too much pollen in the air.  I’m not sure how one developes allergies later in life (especially because I pretty much live in the same neighborhood aka pollen zone that I grew up in), but I am now a mild allergy sufferer.

Aaron on the other hand has always had bad allergies.  To everything.  Don’t put this poor boy in charge of de-shelling shrimp unless you want to see a big puff ball of a Lavender. And pistachios? Forget about it.  Springtime (actually all the time except for winter) is one long sneezyfest.  Even with allergy medication, running outside can get miserable.

As a result, we’ve been way unmotivated this last week to run outside.  Apparently we have forgotten about our half marathon next weekend? Treadmill runs just aren’t the same, and mileage has been lower than it should this week.  Plus, both of us just feel so congested. I feel like I’m not getting adequate oxygen intake when I run, and it isn’t pleasant. But me and everyone else, right?  Guess I’ll just have to suck it up and roll with it.

So even though I’m not getting good runs in this week, I wanted to do some HUGE good luck shout-outs to some awesome folks taking over Boston this weekend.

1) Julie from Run Revolution is running the Boston Marathon on Monday! She has been training since September, and she has worked so hard (plus, she has the cutest race day outfit).  I am so excited for her and I know she is going to do amazing!

2) The 2 Fat Nerds crew is running the 5K version of the Boston Marathon this weekend.  For most of them, this is their first race.  They have all been working hard toward this goal, and I know they are going to dominate!

So, if you could please join me in sending your fast thoughts toward Boston, these folks would appreciate it!

Is anyone else racing and in need of some fast thoughts?

Also, I am slightly jealous of anyone at Coachella right now (and/or next weekend).  I have been wanting to go for a few years, but Coachella is in the middle of nowhere (no direct flights to the area), I hate camping in non forest situations, but hotels are crazy expensive, plus tickets aren’t exactly cheap.  Too many factors to consider, and I just have never done the advanced planning to get us there.  I feel like next year should be our year because after that we start becoming the weirdo old people.  Heck, we might even already be.  Though, with Radiohead, Dr. Dre and Snoop Dog as the headliners, maybe they’re shooting for an older crowd.

ANYWAY, I hope you have a lovely weekend!  I have some baby shower crafting, 11 miles tomorrow, and some serious Mad Men catch up to do in between all the sneezing and Coachella Envy.

SIDENOTE: I’m considering registering my own domain (www.lavenderparking.com as opposed to www.lavenderparking.wordpress.com).  Has anyone done it and regretted it?  I don’t want to self host because I’m just not that creative, but I wouldn’t mind having a shorter URL.  Also, they make a big deal about making your information private for an extra $8.  Is this paranoia, or something I should be genuinely concerned about?

A Lovely Christmas Weekend

December 26th is one of the worst days of the year.

The radio stations have stopped playing Christmas music.  Everywhere, people are (prematurely in my opinion) taking down their lights from their houses.  The presents have been opened.  The cookies have been eaten, and now I just feel fat. 

And the weather is cold.  Around Christmas, it is acceptable.  Now, I’m miserable and so ready for Springtime.

At least I have the memories of this weekend to reminisce on.

Friday night we had our friends over for a small gathering.  Our signature “Poinsettia Cocktail” slightly based off a Martha Stewart recipe was a big hit! (Vodka, cranberry juice, Martinelli’s, and orange zest). 

Saturday night we took Giuseppe and walked around the Ridgecrest neighborhood to see the traditional New Mexico luminarias. Ridgecrest is a very charming old neighboorhood, and the medians are lined with little bags of light.  It was pretty cold, but definitely worth it!

Sunday, Christmas Day, bright and early, we went over to my parents’ house (in our Christmas pajamas) for presents, brunch, and the Disney Christmas Parade.  Then we went to Aaron’s aunt’s house (after changing out of our pajamas of course) for Christmas dinner and board games. 

Instead of buying each other gifts, Aaron and I opted to each put in half toward a fancy Canon Rebel EOS T3i camera.  (Silly Aaron bought me something anyway which was against the rules!). I am amazed at the difference in picture taking between this camera and our little old one.  I suddenly feel like a real photographer!  I am a little intimidated by it though.  So many settings and options that I don’t understand.

We were able to get some pretty good pictures of our Christmas weekend, even if we did stay pretty much on the automatic setting!

Tomorrow, it’s back to work, back to a diet that isn’t completely cookie-based, and back to our half-marathon training regimen.  Today’s 11.1 mile run was a little torturous after all the merriment.

I hope you had a lovely and merry Christmas, that you got to spend time with family and friends, and got everything your heart desired!

Eve of Christmas Eve! (And a Completed Gingerbread House)

In the word’s of one of my favorite literary heroines, Eloise, “It’s the Eve of Christmas Eve!”

I discovered this year that The Plaza Hotel unveiled their Eloise tree, designed by the Queen of whimsy, Betsey Johnson.  AMAZING!

In other news, I finished my Gingerbread house this morning! This will mark the first year since 2007 that I actually followed through the whole project.  Aaron will be happy that no miscellaneous gingerbread parts will be laying around the kitchen until April.  He’ll get a fully constructed house instead!

I baked and constructed and frosted and decorated, and ate a lot of raw gingerbread dough (and fondant) along the way.

I kept taking pictures of the progress, afraid that I would come home from work to find it collapsed and lost forever and we’d have another year of an unfinished product.

But, after 6 days of waking up at 5:30 a.m. to work on it, working on it during my lunch hour (and returning to work covered in flour), and spending every waking hour since Saturday morning working on it, I am finally finished!

Now I have to go be a good little elf and clean/bake non-gingerbread things/cook/shop/wrap presents/frolic (run) in the snow/sing Christmas songs loudly to spread Christmas cheer/and of course get the obligatory Christmas mani/pedi!

Only 2 days until Christmas!

(Is everyone else this excited?!?!)

 

River of Lights

I am on a mission to be as Christmasy as possible.  This weekend Aaron and I went to River of Lights, which is Albuquerque’s version of a large scale light display of happiness hosted by the Botanic Gardens.  Neither of us had been in years, and it looks like Christmas light displays have come a long way since then.  Before, there were a lot of flat light displays.  Technology now allows for 3-D animated light figures! My newly discovered “night scenery” camera mode was in picture taking heaven!

The River of Lights opens at 6:00 p.m. daily and runs through December 30 (closed Dec. 24 and 25).  Tickets can be purchased online or at the door.  Adults are $8.  There was plenty of parking when we went and it was free.  Hot chocolate is available throughout, which is nice because standing outside for over an hour at night makes for some very numb fingers and toes.

Cactus

Oh Christmas Tree (and an evil virus)

Wednesday, in an absent-minded moment, I noticed a notification pop up out of my task bar.  Something about low memory.  I’ve seen these before, and really, after 2 years of downloading pictures, music, and other files, a low memory notification wasn’t all too surprising. I clicked to close it out.

Except as soon as I clicked, another notification opened up.  I still didn’t really look at it, but it said something about something failing.  My options were to retry or cancel.  I clicked cancel.  Suddenly my computer started to shut down and restart.  I still wasn’t alarmed.  Sometimes my computer just does this to install updates or whatever.  But when it restarted, the screen was black, I had some sort of anti-virus scanning program (not the one we use) saying it was scanning for fatal errors, and my “all programs” folder was empty and my desktop and task bar icons were gone, PANIC.  Then the fake scanning program said I needed to upgrade my protection in order to get rid of the virus.  A whole evil virus concoction to get my credit card info.

This is a bad virus.  It spread through the computer FAST. It attempted to send our personal information to an outside system (our firewall blocked hundreds of attempts).  It was innocent enough looking that I didn’t think twice when clicking. And it wiped out our hard drive.

Luckily we back up our files every so often, and we didn’t lose much, but talk about a hassle.  And I had no computer for more than 24 hours. 

On the plus side, no computer meant I actually got some stuff done.  We bought our Christmas tree on Monday in the snow at Lowe’s.  Last night I finally finished decorating it! I am in need of a tree topper though.  Now if I could just get around to finishing my gingerbread house, we’d be in business! (My photo editing software isn’t installed yet, so these are unedited.  I was also having a hard time with the wordpress picture uploading thing, so these are all out of order).

Lowe's Christmas Tree Farm

A Very Pumpkin Weekend

In case you missed it, this weekend was Halloween weekend!

We celebrated with a complete pumpkin overload and watching by our favorite Halloween movies (aka movies that are not scary like Hocus Pocus, Casper, and Charlie Brown and the Great Pumpkin).

Saturday morning we had pumpkin waffles with homemade pumpkin spice lattes.

Sunday afternoon we took a break from all the orange and went to see The Blue Man Group perform.  For the most part, it was a pretty impressive show that included a rock concert, a nightclub, a variety show, and some good old fashioned paint splashing percussion.  Works of art were created.

Sunday evening we carved our pumpkins while watching Monster House (another Halloween classic).  Aaron pulled out the jigsaw (somewhere in this house exists actual pumpkin carving tools, but power tools are more fun).  I printed off a template and spent too many hours carving multiple tiny holes into a pirate.

Aaron's Masterpiece

My Finished product

 

Giuseppe sadly did not win the Pet-a-Palooza contest (thanks for voting!), but he still enjoyed himself today as a moo cow.  And by enjoyed I mean he tried to get that costume off anyway he could. I thought I would take him to the office to show him off and he proceeded to pee on my office carpet in front of the CEO.  I don’t think he will be going back to work with me for a while. At least it was in my office and not in the middle of the hallway or something…

Now we are sitting here with a bowl full of candy and underappreciated jack-o-lanterns because we live in a make-shift retirement community where kids don’t exist.  At least I have an excuse to eat lots of chocolate for the next few days (or next 1 day…). 

Tomorrow I feel that it will be socially acceptable to sing Christmas songs and watch Christmas movies. Tonight, I will watch Hocus Pocus on the Family Channel for the 2nd time this year while I eat another Reese’s.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!