I’m back, baby

Two long runs in a row with zero leg pain = happy Shannon.

I ran the Coogan’s Salsa, Blues and Shamrocks 5K last weekend all the way up in Washington Heights. I had built up the hills in my head so actually tackling them wasn’t as much of a challenge as I thought. I ended up blasting through the 3.1 miles in 28:46, averaging a 9:16 pace per mile. Holler!

After the race I chilled out at home for a bit before heading to the gym to run 4 more miles on the treadmill. It was rainy and I didn’t feel like another soggy run.

I took my time leaving for this afternoon’s scheduled 9-miler. Thanks to Daylight Saving Time (finally!) starting, I slept later than I’d care to admit, so I bummed around digesting my breakfast and stretching before heading out. I tried out a new route today, running a mile in Central Park before exiting the park at 72nd and Central Park West. I headed over to Riverside Park and ran a mile or so uptown along the river. Holy wind! Although I typically try to keep conditions optimal during runs, I need to start sucking it up and just dealing. There’s no way to predict race day weather!

I left Riverside Park at 95th Street and ran back over to Central Park, where I did a counterclockwise lap, heading east at the 105th Transverse and entering the reservoir path at 86th on the east side. I ran most of the way around the reservoir and exited at 86th on the west side, taking West Drive all the way home.

Kind of random, but I think the (slight) change of scenery did me good.

Final verdict? 9.07 miles with a 10:03 average pace. I felt pretty great the whole time, taking walking and stretching breaks occasionally. At about the halfway mark, I took a Powerade Gel. My legs started feeling like lead during mile 8, but I kind of just sucked it up and ended up having an enjoyable run.

Also helpful? A new(ish) playlist with some old favorites (“Not Afraid” and “Remember the Name”) and new additions (“Let Me Think About It” and “Hold It Against Me”). (Also, U2’s “City of Blinding Lights” is oddly awesome to run to.)

The view of Midtown from the reservoir path, somewhere during mile 6. I couldn’t resist the photo opp so I took a stretch break.

Next up is an 11-miler on Saturday, followed by the National Half Marathon! After two great long runs in a row, I feel so much better about this race than I did a month ago. I’ll also be focusing on yoga a lot; I swear those half-pigeons have helped heal my leg!

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Just call me Gimpy.

I realize I haven’t written in a looooong time. Like, since the Manhattan Half Marathon recap. Since then, I’ve raced twice more (both 4 milers – 1 sucky and 1 PR) and taken 2 weeks off running in between. That minor hip pain I was experiencing turned into major hip pain and I didn’t want to aggravate it any more. So I stuck to the elliptical, stationary bike, yoga and walking for awhile. Then, I PR-ed at the Al Gordon Classic in Park Slope! What up, 9:33 average pace!

Anyway, the month since the Manhattan Half hasn’t been too great, running-wise. I was hoping to PR and have an awesome race at the National Half in Washington, D.C. at the end of March, but I’m not sure how great the race will be. I do know that the atmosphere, weather and topography will be working in my favor, unlike the Manhattan Half. (Seriously, I’m never running that race again. What was I thinking running my first half marathon in January in NYC?!)

Unfortunately, that lingering hip pain gave me a month to work from 4 miles to 13.1. I have a 5K in hilly Washington Heights this Sunday, and I’m planning on doing 3 more miles (most likely on the treadmill) afterward. The following weekend, I’ll do a long run of 8 miles, then 10, then the half. It’s just been a little discouraging to still have this pain, especially since I had a fantastic training plan all worked out for the National Half that would have had me running 13 miles two weeks before race day and then enjoying a decent taper period.

However, I’ve run (err … jogged and walked) 13.1 miles before, so I know I can do it again in D.C. Plus, I’ll have friends watching! I know the atmosphere will be so much more positive. There were maybe 10 spectators during the entire Manhattan Half course, which didn’t make for an encouraging atmosphere. But I’m making the trip to D.C. with a friend and then staying at Katy’s. Despite the 7 a.m. start time, both have mentioned making the trek to watch the race.

As for spring races, I’m planning on doing one 10K a month in April, May, June and possibly July. I might also throw a 5-miler in there as well, as I’ve run 2 races of that distance since October and I find it far enough to get warmed up but not so far to be time-consuming, training-wise. Plus I want the opportunity to PR again! If all goes according to plan, I’ll have finished my 9 NYRR races by July. That won’t stop me from racing in the fall, though, but I’ll probably dial it down and just do one race a month. (Maybe.)

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I am a half-marathoner.

I never recapped my last long run, which took place exactly 1 week before Saturday’s Manhattan Half Marathon. Suffice it to say, it was awesome. I completed about 11.2 miles in 1:53, pacing an average of 10:07 per mile. My route took me through (basically) the exact same course as the race, minus the Harlem Hill mile loop at the top of the park. And despite a little pain in my right leg/hip flexor, I was feeling confident about the race.

Until I looked at the weather forecast.

With a high of 22 degrees, yesterday was definitely my coldest race day to date. I woke up at 6 a.m. (a full hour before my alarm was supposed to go off) shivering in my bed. Not a good sign.

Feels like 5? Awesome.

Saturday was not my day. That’s all there is to it. The weather got the best of me. The hills got the best of me. That pain in my leg got the best of me. And the sniffles I’ve had for the past week got the best of me.

I wouldn’t have been smiling if I’d known how hard that race was going to be.

The whole thing was kind of a lesson in humility. The half-marathon was so much harder than I could have expected, even though I had basically already run the course the week before. After last month’s 15K, I decided I wanted to try and finish in 2:15 or less. Then, with my leg pain factored in, I changed it 2:20. But during the race yesterday, I changed that goal to just finish. I did finish, in 2:29:13, with an average pace of 11:23. (Like I said, it wasn’t my day.)

Don’t let that smile fool you.

Until yesterday, I’ve been pretty fortunate to have all of my races be good ones. I’ve basically stayed on pace, met my goals and not frozen to death. But yesterday reminded me that not every race is going to be awesome. Not every race can be on-pace and not every race can be a PR. I don’t need to compare myself to all the other bloggers I read. I finished my first half-marathon, and that in and of itself is a pretty big accomplishment. Sometimes, just finishing is enough.

(And on the bright side, March’s National Half Marathon will almost certainly be a PR!)

So, I have a little more than 2 months until my next half-marathon. I’m taking a week off running to make sure this slight knee pain I’ve been experiencing since, oh, about mile 6 yesterday is nothing major. I think a week of cross-training, strength training and yoga will do me good.

I finished!

I finished! That’s all.

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Who has two (frozen) thumbs and PR’d? This girl.

Last night, I completed my typical pre-race routine: affixed my number to my shirt (new Lululemon hoodie, which I’m absolutely loving right now), attached my D-tag to my Saucony and ate my Trader Joe’s mac and cheese (bulked up with some veggies for nutrients). I watched some “Melrose Place” (judge away) courtesy of Netflix and dozed off around 11.

Unfortunately, I didn’t wake up until 7:35. My iPhone alarm has been wonky since New Years, and I was not amused this morning. Toady’s Fred Lebow Classic 5-miler had an 8 a.m. start, so I threw my clothes and shoes on, stuck my contacts in my eyes and was out the door in four minutes, hailing a cab on 6th Avenue.

Luckily, I got to the start as the corrals were collapsing so I had a few minutes to stretch and de-stress. And I’m kind of glad I didn’t end up having to wait for 20 minutes or so before the race, because it was cold. According to weather.com, it was 25 and “felt like” 14. Awesome.

I started out kind of quickly (for me) and was worried I wouldn’t be able to maintain. Luckily, I’m pretty familiar with the course by now (a quick 5-mile loop in Central Park, where all of my outdoor training runs take place) and knew the first half would be full of downhills and my feared Cat Hill would hit sometime during mile four. So I planned to only stop to walk at the water stations and, if necessary, Cat Hill. I hadn’t had time to eat or drink before high-tailing it up to the starting line, so I was pretty thirsty throughout the entire race.

This pic is from the Ted Corbitt 15K in December. I smiled big for the Brightroom photog toward the end of today’s race, so hopefully there are some decent snaps of me!

Somehow, I maintained a fairly steady sub-10-min/mile pace and only lost a minute or so when I walked up the majority of Cat Hill. I probably could have powered through but I think my fear of that hill is all mental at this point. I reallllly picked up the pace right at the end and flew through the finish line in 48:24, which comes out to a 9:40/mile pace. Definitely beats the 50:04 from the Poland Springs Marathon Kick-off 5-miler!

Despite the frigid temperature, I couldn’t be happier with my first NYRR race of 2011. Not gonna lie, though, I’m a little afraid of the upcoming Manhattan Half Marathon on Jan. 22. Pretty sure I’m going to end up walking more than I’d like, but I’ve never run that distance before and it’s probably smart to not have a goal time in mind. I’ll save that for the National Half Marathon in March…

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#Reverb10: Post-holiday travel

Tuesday was an epic day of travel. After the blizzard of December 2010 hit NYC and the airlines started cancelling flights right and left, I thanked my lucky stars that I had booked my flight for Dec. 28 instead of the 26th or 27th. Getting through security in Atlanta was a breeze and I got to my gate with plenty of time to spare.

And then … my flight was overbooked. So, since I like to collect airline vouchers like it’s my job, I volunteered to give up my seat. With my new boarding pass and voucher for a free round-trip ticket in hand, I made my way to the bar in Concourse C. An hour-and-a-half and two glasses of wine later (it was approximately, ahem, 4:15 p.m.), I checked Air Tran’s mobile site and realized my new flight was now delayed an hour. To avoid judgment from the waiter, I moved to yet another airport bar and ended up chatting with a friendly Auburn alum who had missed her flight and had to wait until 9 p.m. for the next one.

I finally boarded my flight and we took off, a mere 30 minutes behind schedule. Aside from some expected turbulence, we landed, I retrieved my checked bag with no trouble and made my way to the epic cab line. I had heard from friends that it would be at least an hour wait, so I braced myself with some Ke$ha on my iPod and a copy of InStyle.

As the line progressed (slowly), I made small talk with the two guys behind me. They went off to investigate the “express bus” to Manhattan that advertised a mere $10 ride. When they found out the next bus would arrive in just 15 minutes, they hopped out of line. Unfortunately, I had no cash, but one of them kindly offered to pay for my ticket and I gladly stepped out of the extreme cab line. After we got to Grand Central, I sucked it up and lugged my suitcases (OK, one heavy shoulder bag and a huge wheelie suitcase) the 15 or so blocks home. By this point, it was 11 p.m. and I was kind of hungover from all the $9 glasses of airport wine.

Anyway.

To finally cap off #reverb10 and finish my failed attempt at blogging every day in December (I’m busy, yo!) here are the last six prompts.

December 26 – Soul Food: What did you eat this year that you will never forget? What went into your mouth & touched your soul? (Author: Elise Marie Collins)

Brunches at The Grit. Pizza and wine at Transmet. Guac and queso at El Taco in Atlanta. Every Chick-fil-A meal after my move to New York. Wine on a boat overlooking the New York skyline. Fajitas from that fabulous Mexican place in Queens. Nutella crepes. Crumbs cupcakes. That perfect veggie burger from that place in the East Village. Falafel.

December 27 – Ordinary Joy: Our most profound joy is often experienced during ordinary moments. What was one of your most joyful ordinary moments this year? (Author: Brené Brown)

My last night in Athens wasn’t out of the ordinary for my friends and I – Transmet, The Winery, a new tattoo (OK, that was unexpected), Buddha, Transmet, Taco Bell – but it was the perfect final night out there. Every run in Central Park, no matter how bad of a run it is, reminds me why I moved here and how grateful I am. Even my frustration with the tourists in Midtown makes me thankful that I get to live in this city, when so many other people come here for vacation or not at all.

December 28 – Achieve: What’s the thing you most want to achieve next year? How do you imagine you’ll feel when you get it? Free? Happy? Complete? Blissful? Write that feeling down. Then, brainstorm 10 things you can do, or 10 new thoughts you can think, in order to experience that feeling today.

I want to gain automatic entry for the 2012 New York City Marathon. To do that, I’ll run 9 qualifying New York Road Runners races and volunteer at one. I’m already registered for five. Crossing the finish line of every race makes me feel elated and on top of the world – even if I also feel like I need to throw up.

I also want to use my Delta voucher and take a solo vacation to Italy, possibly in September. It’ll be my 24th birthday present to myself. I’ll really need to buckle down and save more money, and start brushing up on (err, learning) Italian. But I’ve always wanted to visit that country and there are so many beautiful cities to see. I’m thinking I’ll take a week off work and go for nine days.

December 29 – Defining Moment: Describe a defining moment or series of events that has affected your life this year. (Author: Kathryn Fitzmaurice)

My defining moment started on Feb. 1 and ended on July 7. I finally got the courage to pick up my comfortable life in affordable Atlanta, with a great job, cheap apartment and plenty of friends, and move to my dream city – the most expensive city in the country – without a steady job. It’s so cliche but so true – if I can make it here, I can make it anywhere.

December 30 – Gift Prompt: Gift. This month, gifts and gift-giving can seem inescapable. What’s the most memorable gift, tangible or emotional, you received this year?

I absolutely would not be here without my parents’ support. Last January, when I moved to my old apartment in Atlanta, I swore to my dad that I’d never move without professional movers again. Less than six months later, he was back in Atlanta, helping me load my belongings up and then unloading them into my parents’ basement. Most of my stuff is still there, and without their support, there’s no way I could have done this.

And of course, my friends – in Atlanta, New York and elsewhere – have been amazing. I’m sure everyone’s thrilled to no longer hear my complaints about life in Atlanta.

December 31 – Core Story: What central story is at the core of you, and how do you share it with the world? (Author: Molly O’Neill)

I think my core story is being passionate about whatever I do – my job(s), fashion, running, yoga, whatever. If I commit to something, I make it happen and throw myself into it. I don’t settle for anything less than the best, and I’ve always done that. (High school swim team captain, Red & Black managing editor, etc…) I don’t do anything halfway, which has sometimes gotten me into trouble. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. Go big or go home.

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#reverb10: Merry Christmas!

December 23 – New Name: Let’s meet again, for the first time. If you could introduce yourself to strangers by another name for just one day, what would it be and why? (Author: Becca Wilcott)

I’m ignoring this. I’m not a fan of this prompt at all.

December 24 Prompt – Everything’s OK: What was the best moment that could serve as proof that everything is going to be alright? And how will you incorporate that discovery into the year ahead?

I went to NYC for a long weekend back in February. It was my first time there in 18 months, and I knew, without a doubt, that I had to move there. I had barely lived in Atlanta for 2 months, and I was already itching to get out. Even though I stayed in Atlanta for five more months, that weekend, I knew that everything would be OK. I knew I could do it.

December 25 – Photo – a present to yourself: Sift through all the photos of you from the past year. Choose one that best captures you; either who you are, or who you strive to be. Find the shot of you that is worth a thousand words. Share the image, who shot it, where, and what it best reveals about you.

Taken about six weeks after I moved to New York, on the yacht that cruised around the New York harbor. The views were insane, the wine was flowing and it was the first of many “oh my God I live here” moments. I hope it never gets old.

Merry Christmas!

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#reverb10: Procrastination Association, party of 1

I’m the worst at keeping up with these daily, and it’s a shame because many of these prompts are really great and I probably would write more if I dedicated more than 20 minutes to cram three of them into one blog post. Regardless, I’ve accepted that I’ll always be a day or two behind and I don’t really care.

December 20 – Beyond Avoidance. What should you have done this year but didn’t because you were too scared, worried, unsure, busy or otherwise deterred from doing? (Bonus: Will you do it?) (Author: Jake Nickell)

I can’t think of anything big that I should have done this year but didn’t. I’m sure there are little things – I shouldn’t have skipped that run, or I should have read more books – but in the grand scheme of things, I wouldn’t change a thing about this past year. No regrets.

December 21 – Future Self. Imagine yourself five years from now. What advice would you give your current self for the year ahead? (Bonus: Write a note to yourself 10 years ago. What would you tell your younger self?) (Author: Jenny Blake)

Don’t get jaded. Remember that feeling you had when you first moved to the city. Keep it with you and don’t let yourself become (too) jaded by the city. You’ve always wanted to live here, so always appreciate it.

Don’t sweat the small stuff. It doesn’t matter if you don’t run far enough, go to yoga every week, read one book a month or accomplish everything else on your to-do list. You’ve got this, and you’ll always get it all done. Somehow.

Don’t be afraid to let people in. I have a bad habit of closing myself off to new people and not “putting myself out there” enough. Don’t be afraid to fall in love again.

Keep choosing to be happy. It really is a choice, and you did a fantastic job of overcoming the sadness in 2010. Keep choosing happiness and you’ll be successful.

December 22 – Travel: How did you travel in 2010? How and/or where would you like to travel next year? (Author: Tara Hunt)

Oh boy. Here goes…

- January: Athens, Ga., multiple times. By car. It was a shorter drive after I moved to Atlanta, but I still resented it. Luckily, these trips didn’t last too much longer.

- February: New York City, by plane, for a much-needed getaway weekend to visit Jenny. Columbia, S.C., by car, for Valentine’s Day weekend.

- March: I think this was the only month I didn’t travel.

- April: New York City for a quick weekend. Decided then that I couldn’t go another year (or more) before moving.

- May: Columbia, S.C. for a good friend’s graduation, then Hilton Head Island, S.C. for Mother’s Day weekend with mi madre. Bloody Marys on the beach all day? Perfect.

- June: Athens, Ga. for one last hurrah before the big move.

- July: New York City, with a one-way ticket. 7.7.10.

- August: Baltimore, Md. for the annual crab-feast. Los Angeles for a business trip. I wish I had been able to see my LA friends and family while I was there!

- September: Chicago to visit a wonderful friend. Chicago is probably the only other city I could live in right now, and I had my best shopping weekend of the year there.

- October: Atlanta for a wedding and to see my family.

- November: Indianapolis for my baby sister’s last marching band competition. Surprisingly, I didn’t hate Indianapolis – sometimes it’s nice to escape the craziness of the city for a smaller town or city.

- December: Atlanta for Christmas with my family. Heading there tomorrow and I’m excited to see my friends and family.

I have definitely never traveled more than I have this year, and I would love to continue that in 2011. So far, I’m planning a trips to Las Vegas and Washington, D.C. and will hopefully go back to the West Coast at some point. I’m still trying to decide what to do with a $400 Delta voucher … any ideas?

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