Tag Archives: running

Broad Street is Upon Us 

30 Apr

The Broad Street Run. A 10-mile, 40,000 person running party cutting through the best city (okay, maybe that’s just my opinion) in our country. It’s the largest 10-mile race in the country; its so grand and coveted that there’s a lottery to get a bib. If you follow the RUN215 Facebook group it’s all anyone has talked about for at least a month. So basically, it’s a big deal. It’s also my unicorn, my fabled creature, the race I want so bad each year, but some how fail to capture every time. 

In all the years I’ve been running I’ve successfully secured a Broad Street bib 5 times, of those 5 times I’ve actually lined up to run just once. One year I was under trained, another year it was the week after an unexpected knee surgery, yet another year I injured my IT band in a half marathon the week before and could barely walk, and finally this year: I registered before checking the calendar and didn’t realize that BSR was the same day as Orthodox Easter. Our baby’s first Easter. Which is historically celebrated by our family in Connecticut, and quite unfortunately by the virtue of Broad Street taking place in the City of Brotherly Love it’s pretty impossible to be on Broad Street and in Connecticut at the same time. 


Bean and I checked into our hotel room in CT

So here I am in the back of the Prius watching my sleeping baby on our first road trip, rocking my RUN215 sweatshirt, and reminiscing about the one BSR I did run: 2015. One year ago, almost to the day, I was 7 weeks pregnant and I ran my first Broad Street Run. And it was amazing.

My cousin Molly and I at the start line

When I started this post I described the run as a 40,000 person running party, and that is true, but honestly, it’s more than that. That 40,000 people mark doesn’t take into consideration the crowds of Philadelphians who come out to cheer. From (former) Mayor Nutter at the start line handing out high fives, to friends and family of the runners, to the Temple cheerleaders, paramedics and police, citizens, and DJs pumping up the noise, the energy is amazing. There’s little to compare it to, and I’ve run a lot of races, in a few different cities, and little compares to the fanfare that comes with the Broad Street Run. 
This race was different, and not just because it had the magic and mystique that only Broad Street has, but because I wasn’t alone. Known to only a handful of people, deep in my belly, was a 7 week old bundle of cells rapidly becoming more and more of a person. Soybean we called her, though we didn’t know she was a her yet. 
The weekly emails I got about the pregnancy told us that week that she had paddles instead of hands and feet, so my husband told me she would swim along while I ran. I spent most of the race picturing that, my little Bean paddling along as my feet carried us both down the street. 
I knew that running was safe since I was a runner before I got pregnant, but I still worried. Worrying, I joke, is one of my core competencies. Was it too far? Would I over heat? Was I in any way jeopardizing our Bean? I checked with my midwife, scoured the Internet and the baby books and decided it would be okay. 
Not gonna lie, I felt like a bad ass finishing a 10-mile race while pregnant, even if very few folks knew. And if I look back over the years and pick which year I was going to run Broad Street, I wouldn’t change a thing. Me and my tiny partner in crime, my sidekick, my wee creation made our mark that day. And I’ll never forget it. 
As for this year? Family first. We have scores of relatives in Connecticut waiting to meet this precious bundle and there’s nothing that would have deprived them of that, not even Broad Street. Bean has a 93 year old great grandma to meet, y’all! 

Bean and Great Grammie


Friends, Fitness, Fun, and Food-Grade-Dyed-Cornstarch

2 Oct

I’ve participated in a lot of races in my day. At this point I’m not sure how many 5ks I’ve done. Not because the number is particularly high (I’d guess we’re between 10 and 20), but because after 5 or so I stop paying attention. I do know for a fact, though, that this Sunday was the first time that I finished a 5k a different color(s) than I started it.

Obligatory "Pre-Color" Shot

Obligatory “Pre-Color” Shot

It seems that my college roommate and I started our adult-onset athleticism around the same time. When we lived together 7 years ago physical activity was not exactly part of our repertoire. Oreos, ranch dressing (not with the Oreos), and Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Yes. Anything beyond the amount of walking living in a college town requires? Absolutely not. As we noticed each other’s fitness related posts on Facebook we started to reconnect over it, and at one point she said “maybe we can run a 5k together one, preferably one where they throw color at you.” I wasn’t sure we’d ever make that happen since she still lives in State College, and we’re in Philly, but I liked the sound of it. Then they announced that The Color Run was coming to Penn State, and we rallied to make this dream a reality.

From their website: “The Color Run™, also known as the ‘Happiest 5k on the Planet’, is a unique paint race that celebrates healthiness, happiness and individuality.” The Color Run’s goal (besides making cash, they are for-profit) is to promote healthy living. They estimate that more than 60% of their runners are doing their first 5k, as was the case for Leah (and I was so excited to be there for it!). Because the series is geared towards getting people active (and covered in paint) and not towards handing out winner’s medals, the atmosphere is a lot less intense than any race I’ve been to. There is a Runicorn (read: dude dressed as a running unicorn) mascot. So, seriously, not intense.

The Runicorn, and his doppelganger

The Runicorn, and his doppelganger

The event starts off with a pre-race party where folks mill about and dance to the music that a slightly crazy DJ is pumping out, while the aforementioned DJ throws prizes into the crowd. Then the Penn State Fitness team led the crowd through a Zumba routine (this one baffled me, why are we doing a 25 minute workout before our workout?) which was interesting. I’d never done Zumba, and found I didn’t really love it. In fact, I may have been heard saying “dude, I run so I don’t have to do Zumba” you know, with a lot of whiny inflection.

After that it was time to line up for the race, which was released across the start line in waves. So much like the half-marathon I don’t think we crossed the starting line until 30 or so minutes after the race started. Except that didn’t matter for this race, because it’s not timed. You are really just out there to have fun, get moving, and leave covered in paint.

Normally I run solo. Even the two half-marathons that I “ran with my dad” equated to us lining up at the start line together and then running our own race. The Color Run was different. We signed up as a team, and while there is no requirement to run as a team (apparently I’m not the only one with the line-up-together-go-separate-ways strategy), we came to State College to run with Leah, and run with Leah we were going to do. Her coworker, who had also never run a 5k before, stayed with us as well. Leah awoke Saturday morning with a cold, and she already fights some wicked asthma, so her lungs were working against us. She was worried that she was going to drag us down, and that we were going to be annoyed, but we weren’t. We adopted the “no man left behind” mantra, and when a walk was needed we walked, when jogging worked, we jogged, when we reached a color stop, we stopped and threw food-grade-dyed-cornstarch at one another.

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We did time ourselves, and it wasn’t a great showing, but it didn’t matter. We went out for fitness, we went out for fun, and we went out to be with friends. When we crossed the finish line I thought of all of the races I’d run by myself, and how lonely I would have been doing this race alone.

ink explosionTime changes us. If you went back 7 years ago to find me on our plaid sofa, and Leah in her papasan chair and said “guess what ladies, one day you will sign up for a 5k together, for fun, on purpose!” We’d have laughed at you, and offered you an Oreo. Leah and I drifted away for awhile, but I can honestly say that talking about fitness on Facebook and through our blogs (check out Leah’s blog at: http://www.superstarling.com) was truly instrumental in bringing us back together, not Buffy, not Oreos, but running and taking care of our health. And I am so grateful.

Sparkle and Shine Reunited

Sparkle and Shine Reunited

Throwback Thursday – Weight Loss Edition

26 Sep
Spring of 2007

Spring of 2007

I’ve touched upon my weight loss journey here a few times. When I met my husband seven years ago I weighed over 40 pounds more than I do right now. That was after years of yo-yo dieting.

Sometimes I refer to my “inner fat kid,” but what I should say is my “inner fat teenager.” I didn’t get “heavy” until I was in high school. In 2001 I went through some rough times, and to compensate for the emotional pain, I ate. Everything. In one summer I easily gained 20 pounds. When the summer was over my mom enrolled us both in Weight Watchers and I began the ups and downs of weight loss. I didn’t just do Weight Watchers in my teens, we also tried the “Cabbage Soup Diet” (I swear that is a thing, and still have the GIANT stock pot to prove it), we did Slim Fast, and most likely some other fad situations that I’ve blocked out. Our efforts worked when I was playing the game. I lost weight, but I didn’t keep it off.

I got to college and the weight crept back on (and then some). Again I was unhappy, so I ate. Everything. And by that time I discovered drinking, which as you know, is also a pound-packer-on-er. Pretty soon I was at my heaviest weight. And I kept it going. I transferred schools a few times, I got happier, but I stayed heavy. Finally, in State College, at my heaviest weight, I decided it was time to give up the drive-thru and get serious about my weight loss. So I joined Weight Watchers again. I played the game, and played it hard. Complete with the nonsense that goes along with it, like saving weekly points for a giant splurge on Saturday. Carefully calculating what my splurge would be, and eventually letting myself splurge more than I had calculated for. It was a losing battle, full of mind tricks and unhealthy behaviors. Eventually I quit playing the game and stopped paying attention. Thankfully I didn’t gain a ton back.

I started my first real job after college and really didn’t like it. Usually unhappiness would have brought on weight gain, but not this time. I was so stressed that I couldn’t eat. So I looked on the bright side that at least the unhappiness was equating to some weight loss (can I just say: how wrong is that thought process?). I liked how the weight loss was going so I signed back up for Weight Watchers. By continuing Weight Watchers, getting a job I liked, and moving to the city where I walked more I got down to my goal weight. Between some of the weight loss on in State College, the stress weight loss, and the new job weight loss I lost 50 pounds.

That was in 2009. Over the past four years I got careless. I stopped paying attention. I didn’t want to “play the game” anymore. It was a combination of things, mostly laziness, rationalized by an “eschewing of American weight norms.” Or some nonsense that gave me carte blanche to eat whatever I wanted. I put on 30 pounds. Not quickly like in the past. Just slowly. It came back a few pounds here, and a few pounds there. I’d get frustrated at the pants that didn’t fit and try Weight Watchers again for a month or two. But the tracking would get old, and I’d fall off of it (and into a bag of Hint O’ Lime Tostitos) again.

So I tried some new things. I decided Weight Watchers was the way of the past. I was done tracking, I was done obsessing, it was too much. Tiresome and worrisome. I figured I needed a plan that just outlined what I could eat, and I could eat as much of it as I wanted. So I went vegan. It’s just plants, plants are totes healthy! Then it was vegan 90% of the time, with treats here and there. It worked some, but 10% became 20% and so on and so on. Then I tried the Happy Herbivore meal plans (which are great, I absolutely recommend them, and Lindsay Nixon did not pay me to say that), and I tried Engine 2. And it worked in that it provided me a mindset and understanding of what healthy eating looked like.

Finally, this year, I’ve settled into something that does work. And you’ll never believe what it is. I’m going to let you in on my secret, and it will Blow. Your. Mind.

I eat less. And I exercise more.

That’s it. I don’t count calories or points. I don’t only eat green foods, or eschew anything that has white flour in it. I eat a mostly-plant-based diet, with the occasional burger or cupcake here and there. The difference is that I now ask myself “are you hungry?” or “why do you want that?” before I eat something. Then when I’m about half way through a meal I ask “are you still hungry?” or “have you had enough of this?” I don’t clear my plate anymore (unless it’s a plate of veggies), nor do I eat 6 pieces of chocolate when 1-2 would suffice. I honor the cravings my body has, but I don’t fling myself down the staircase of self-indulgence.

And I exercise. I run 4 times a week now. This works wonders in two ways. 1. You’re running which burns a ton of calories. 2. You are far less likely to eat a plate of fried food and throw back 4 beers on a Saturday night if you know that you need to run 10 miles on Sunday morning.

That’s it. That’s the secret. Eat less, exercise more. By practicing this age old, super simple advice I’ve lost 20 pounds since (around) St. Patrick’s Day. And am only 10 pounds away from my lowest weight. I may not lose those last 10 pounds. When I was my lowest weight I wasn’t exercising, I was just restricting my eating. I didn’t build muscle, or tone. I actually look thinner now than I did when I was 10 pounds lighter (at least my coworkers swear I do). There is something to the whole “keep it simple” strategy.

Where have you found your weight loss success? What struggles do you still have?

On to the Next One

25 Sep

I totally just realized that I haven’t filled you all in on my next goal.  I’ve eluded to it several times, but I haven’t actually made the announcement. At least not here, if you follow me on Twitter or Facebook (which you should) you probably do know. But anyway, now that I’ve built up your anticipation…. I’m doing the Philadelphia Marathon’s Half Marathon in November!

Are you excited?  I am!

After things deteriorated with my Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon training I made up for the disappointment by setting a new goal.  A lot of the advice I got about the training, and the injury, and more importantly the upset around the training and the injury, centered around the fact that the September race was not my last race, and didn’t have to be.  So I made sure it wasn’t!

I am super thrilled about this race for the following reasons:

  1. The race course is completely different than the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half and you get to see significantly more of my gorgeous city.
  2. It will be much, much cooler out.  The September race took place on a cooler day than the bulk of my training runs, but when the sun blares down on you and the sea of asphalt around you, it gets hot.
  3. This is the first half marathon I’ll be running solo. I love you Dad and Alex, but this one is mine!
  4. I finally feel like I have built up a “base” and from that base I can actually improve in this round of training.
  5. I vow here and now that I am going to follow WebMD’s advice and “avoid falling” because I am not derailing again.

Not included on that list, but still important to note, it’s also the Philadelphia Marathon’s 20th Anniversary, so that feels like it makes it extra special.

I took last week really easy, I did a three miler on Wednesday and a really slow five miler on Friday, and then went for a long walk on Sunday. I wanted to give my legs/body a chance to recover before heading back into a training plan.  I devised an eight-week training plan that starts this week, and did my first 4-mile training run last night. It went so well, which was amazing because I had been dreading it.  After kind of icky runs last week post-half, and then the take-it-easy-before-the-race week pre-half, and the weeks of half-hearted training because of the injury, I was beginning to wonder if I even still liked running.  I was starting to fall into the old cyclical thinking where I assume a run would suck, so I won’t want to go,  and then if I don’t go I felt guilty and then become certain that because I skipped that run I will obviously have lost all of my base and endurance and shouldn’t even bother.  I swear running is so much more mental than it is physical.  But I made myself go last night, and it was a fantastic run.

My spirit feels renewed. I remember that I do love this.  And I. Am. So. Excited. for the opportunity to run Philadelphia again!


Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon Recap

16 Sep


Yesterday was the Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon, and my first half marathon in three years. I picked up my race packet on Saturday afternoon, and laid out all of my gear Saturday night. It is interesting to me how something that seems so simple, I mean, you just run, requires so much planning and “stuff.” You have to pin the number on your shirt, and put the timing chip on your shoe, make sure you have an outfit you know will be comfortable (now is not the time to try out some new shorts or a new pair of shoes), pack up your running arm band with your ID/debit card/etc.

Alex and I got up at 6:15 and I had my usual breakfast of two pieces of peanut butter and jelly toast, and a banana. We snagged the 7:00 a.m. Broad Street Line north to meet my dad at his hotel. This was the second time that he’s run the race as well, so we were both excited. Together the three of us walked over to the race start at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The scene you come upon when you walk up to one of these races makes you think “I’ve never seen this many people in one place.” I’m pretty sure I read somewhere that there were 20,000 participants.

I was in corral 21, so it took awhile for me to cross the starting line. I figured it out to have been about 36 minutes after the race actually started. I saw Alex at the starting line and high fived him as I went past, and then I was on my own. My plan for the race was to do intervals running 4 minutes and walking 1 minute, but I ran the entire first mile without headphones and just took it all in. The views, the spectators, the cheers, I just let it all wash over me. The course took us down the Ben Franklin Parkway, and then over JFK Blvd through the financial district. We looped back around on to Market Street and ran towards City Hall. I remember looking up at the building as I ran towards and thinking, “this is my city.” I seriously love Philadelphia. After looping around City Hall we continued on Market Street down to the historic district, and then looped back towards the museum district by running through Chinatown.


That’s Alex’s hand, ready for the high-five!

Alex was waiting for me at the mile 4 marker for another wave. I might have missed him if a dude hadn’t been standing in front of the time clock. I care about my times and I needed to see what the clock said, and this dude was seriously, completely blocking it with his entire body. As I considered yelling at him I saw Alex standing two people over from the sign. I yelled his name since he didn’t see me and then waved like a maniac. The next mile took me back to the Art Museum, and the streets were still lined with spectators. I kept looking at the crowd, seeing if I knew any one, and reading their creative signs (“Run like there’s a hot guy ahead of you and a creepy guy behind you” and “Motivational sign.”). I welcomed and embraced the distraction because I knew once we got on Kelly Drive the crowds would thin out.

Miles 4 through 6 went well, I got a little tired but I knew I could keep pushing. Around mile 6 I started doubting myself. I had some looping thoughts like “I’m not even half way done.” “There’s over an hour left of this.” “I can’t do this.” I tried to stop thinking in terms of how many miles were left and began to just take it one mile at a time, so instead of getting to 13 I needed to get to 7. That worked, and the next thing I knew I was at mile 8.

At Mile 8 they had a GU station. I haven’t trained with GU but I took some anyway, because I was feeling a little sluggish and I knew it would help. GU, for the unfamiliar, is a gel/goo substance that is full of carbs/electrolytes that is defined for quick-on-the-go consumption. I made a mistake. The GU I took was Vanilla Bean flavor. I’ve never thrown up while running, but I came really close after consuming the slightly warm, vanilla, gel packet. Gross. And of course after seeing water stops at what seemed like every single mile, there wasn’t another water stop until Mile 10.

I hung strong down West River Drive after crossing the Falls Bridge. Around Mile 11 though, I started to fall apart again. Funny that you can run 11 miles and then think that two miles was too much. 11 miles seemed like nothing, but that last 2? Who can run 2 miles? Not me I was sure. During a walk break I texted Alex, I needed reinforcement that I could do this. He told me I could do it, and since I was half way between mile 11 and mile 12 it was only going to be 16 more minutes. That helped, and I ran the next four minutes. During the next walk break I looked at my email and saw all of the messages from my friends on Facebook telling me that I was inspiring them and that they were proud of me, and then I knew I could do it.

Finally I got to the 20k point, which is 12.4 miles. My limited math skills told me that I was .7 miles from the finish line. The subway stop that I walk to everyday is exactly .7 miles from my house. So I meditated on that, “you just have to get home from the subway, you do that everyday.”

The last .1 of the 13.1, arguably the hardest part of the race as it is, is uphill. Uphill, into the sun. I personally think it’s pretty cruel. But it is what it is. I came up this hill and saw Alex on the sideline and couldn’t have been happier. I crossed the finish line a few seconds later with a big fist pump and a smile (or so I thought, the photographic evidence from the MarathonFoto people shows me making a pretty ugly face).


I’m smiling in this photo, so we’ll take that.

My goal for the race was 2 hours and 30 minutes, and I finished in 2 hours and 32 minutes. My final pace was 11:39/mile. I’ll take it!

I’m so glad I did it, and can’t wait to start training for November. But for today, I’m sticking to the couch.

Feel the Rhythm of the Beat

12 Sep

The half marathon is a few short days away (yay!!) (ah!). At the top of my to do list over the next three days is to revamp my running playlist.  I’ve over played my training playlist, and need some fresh jams to push me through the tough spots.


Thanks Google Image Search — I hope I look as peaceful as this lady on Sunday!

I want your opinions, what should I be rocking out to on Sunday morning as I hit the streets of Philly?

Vacation Run Down

6 Sep

Alex and I had a great time on our vacation. We spent 5 days in Turks and Caicos on the island Providenciales. It wasn’t nearly enough time, and we spent the majority of the trip scheming how we could move there permanently. The scheme got grander as the days progressed, and eventually involved buying the abandoned construction project next to our hotel and building a LEED certified eco-hotel complete with tiki bar. Alex can run that, and I’ll use my MSW to work for the British Red Cross’ Turks and Caicos office, and you know, eventually run the joint. I’ll keep you posted on how that all works out… but seriously, how can you not want to move to a place that looks like this:

The whole time I kept questioning how this place could be real.

I kept questioning how this place could be real, the entire island looks like a postcard.

Our trip was really active. We walked several miles on the beach every morning but one, when we ran. My initial goal was to run three times while we were there, but well, we were on vacation… We ran the beach, which was unique for us. The uniqueness made it awesome, but the water in my shoes made it less so. Running without technology was surprisingly nice, though. Whenever I run at home I have RunKeeper, music, and an interval timer going. I’m anal about times and distance, and pace. But in true island style, it was freeing to just run, look around, and take it all in.

I also tried out running sans shirt. It seemed like an acceptable move since I was just going to go back to the hotel and change into a bikini. Running shorts and a sports bra are a whole lot like a bikini. Later we saw someone actually running in a bikini. I thought that was a little much (and seemed uncomfortable).

We jumped in the ocean after our run. Because running shorts and a sports bra are just like a bathing suit.

We jumped in the ocean after our run. Because running shorts and a sports bra are just like a bathing suit.

The other way we stayed active was by snorkeling. Which is obviously an aerobic activity. If you consider floating on the top of the water looking down for 45 minutes exercise. And on vacation, I do. I mean, it required more exertion than what we did the rest of the trip, which was lie in a beach chair reading Tina Fey’s book while drinking rum.

Snorkeling is a delicate balance. You want to stay close enough to your snorkeling buddy that you can tap them and point at the thing you want them to take a picture of with the underwater camera (read: an octopus, a sting ray, and about 8,000 of the same fish). But far enough away that you don’t kick them when you swim away in a panic because you saw what you were pretty sure was a barracuda (it was) and that you’re definitely sure wants to eat you. Alex says they don’t eat people, but Wikipedia was more on my side of the argument. Either way he at least looks terrifying:

He could at least take a mean bite out of your shin.

He could at least take a mean bite out of your shin.

Here are the less terrifying octopus and sting ray:

Octopus: Look in the lower left hand quadrant.

Octopus: Look in the lower left hand quadrant.

Ray: Isn't he pretty!

Ray: Isn’t he pretty!

On the whole, the trip was exactly what we needed. A few days of paradise, with some leisurely physical activity and more leisurely reading, rum drinking, and seafood eating.

Now it’s back to the grind, I started my social work internship, and had my first day of classes yesterday. Most excitingly (depending on your priorities) the half marathon is a week away!!