Friday, July 31, 2009

Holy Cow, What a Run!

We all have them.  Those days when your run goes better than you anticipated.  The kind of run you walk away from smiling, even if it was super tough.  The kind of run that makes you feel really good the rest of the day.  The kind of run that keeps you from feeling guilty as you eat off of two pizzas, breadsticks, cinnasticks and Dr. Pepper from Pizza Hut.

Oh wait, maybe that last part is just me.

I needed to get a 5 mile tempo run done today, and I had every intention of getting myself out of bed and running it before work.  Yeah, we all know that THAT didn't happen. (I'm just a night owl. Sue me.)

I wasn't looking forward to running in the 87 degree weather, even if it was less humid today than usual.  I also had a bit of a headache.  But I'm tough! I'm a trooper!  Or I at least told myself as much.

The plan said to run 8:58 miles.  This is a good little clip for me, and I know I'm capable of doing it for a few miles.  I just didn't know if I could do it today in the heat.

I set out thinking that maybe I'd try to pick it up a bit in the first half since I know I always slow down some on the way back.  When I got to the turnaround and saw  22:08 on my watch, I was pleased.  I knew if I slowed down a bit like I anticipated, I'd probably finish in about 45 minutes right on track.

I forced myself to not look at my watch on the return.  In part because I wanted to run by feel, but also in part that I was afraid to find myself disappointed with how much I was slowing down.

So I was astonished when I hit stop and saw 43:45 on my watch.  I thought I must be dizzy from the heat and not reading it correctly, but later it still said the same thing.  NEGATIVE SPLIT! In the July heat!  And I was running kind of fast!

I walked a bit and stretched a bit and wiped my face a bazillion times but still had sweat in my eyes.  And I felt like I was walking on clouds.  I haven't had a run get me excited like that in a while.  

I can't put into words how good it feels to finally feel like I'm back in shape.  My injury last year is just a distant memory.  I am following my training plan like a good little marathoner and making sure I don't do too much, too fast. (Of course, I've always done that and I STILL got hurt, but whateve. "R" left off intentionally.)  I still find myself getting a little nervous before long runs because it's been a while since I've run really long runs, but I definitely am feeling more and more confident about my training.

There might be some changes in my world next week.  I'll say more when I know for sure. There are some exciting possibilities on the table for sure!

Happy running this weekend!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Trying Something New

I think I'm going to add something new to the mix of my training next week.

There's this new class at the gym called Duathlon Training.  One day a week they swim and then do a 3 mile run.  Another day of the week they run 3 miles and then bike for 30 minutes.

I've been doing good the past few weeks about doing some biking (on the stationary ones at the gym either on my own or in a spin class) on some of my non-running days, but I can't get myself in the pool on my own.  I'd love to do some swimming so that I can 1) get some good cross training in and 2) get better at swimming laps in case I ever do really want to try a triathlon.  I feel like it'd be easier to get myself swimming if I was doing it with a group in a class setting.

The only thing hanging me up is the running part.  I know I can handle the run, but what I don't know is if adding those miles on top of my regular training schedule is smart.  If I go to both classes each week, that's an extra 6 miles per week.  I am trying to be super careful about not overtraining, but at the same time I know that plenty of people add junk miles into their marathon training.  These would certainly be junk miles for me and not my quality run.  Or I could try to make those runs part of my regular runs by just running the rest of the workout I need to do after the class, but is that really the smartest thing to do.

What do y'all think?  Should I do it?  Should I worry about those miles?  Or should I see if I can just join the swimming and biking parts and skip the runs since I'm already doing runs on other days?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Sequins, Glitter and Pirouettes, Oh My!

I think I've mentioned a time or two that I used to dance, so it should come as no surprise that I LOVE watching So You Think You Can Dance each week.

I've never professed to be even half as good as the dancers that make it into the top 20 on this show, but after dancing for 16 years and loving almost every minute of it I find that I am drawn into this show like it's hypnotizing me.  I can't do anything else during the moments they are actually dancing. (It's a different story during the rest of the show.  I can happily work on my scrapbook while the judges go on and on saying things I often don't agree with...)

I have to say it even though I know some of you other SYTYCD fans out there might disagree - I'm rooting for Jeanine and Evan.  In that order.  I didn't necessarily say I was voting.  I can't bring myself to sit here for hours after the show dialing the numbers over and over.

I am basing my opinion about these two not strictly from tonight's performances (though I think Jeanine definitely had the best solo), but rather from what I've seen during the entire show.  They both just have the kind of personality that I like in a performer, and my reason for liking Jeanine best is because she does everything and looks amazing doing it!  Most of my favorite dances have involved her including that awesome one she did with Jason week before last and the hip hop with the chain around her leg attached to Phillip's leg.  And she was on fire tonight!

I get the feeling that the judges are pushing for Kayla.  I like Kayla, but there's something about her that also annoys me.  She's good and so is Melissa, but I just find myself being drawn to Jeanine.

I like the other guys, too.  They're incredibly talented dancers.  But I'm drawn to spunk and personality in male dancers, not just strength and acrobatics.  I think some of the dances that Evan did with Randy were totally awesome.

I always reminisce a bit about my dancing days when I watch this show each summer.  It's certainly not something I have the opportunity to do anymore, and I definitely spend more time running each week than I ever spent dancing each week.  (Though I probably was a better dancer than I am runner if I had to guess.)  But still... I can't help but remember some of the awesome dances I was part of in some of my recitals.  Some I liked better than others, sure... but it was always fun to perform on stage each year.

I've included a few pictures.  They're certainly not the best of all my dancing pictures and not really the ones I'd show if I wanted to show a few from those years, but they're the only ones I've got scanned into my computer (I quit dancing a few years before digital cameras became common).  I thought it'd be a nice change of photo scenery around here as opposed to all the running photos.

Mom didn't quite get me framed in this one just right, but this was in one of my favorite pointe dances that I ever got to do.  It was even choreographed by this awesome woman who'd once danced with the Boston Ballet Company.

I am not a hip hop dancer, but we all tried this one year.  For a white girl, I did ok.  I'm the one that is in the center wearing the black midriff with white stripes.

This was actually when my sorority and another fraternity competed in our school's Fight Song competition during Homecoming.  I'm in the very front right with a kind of funny face.  I LOVED being part of this performance.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Let's Get Physical

I took a MUCH deserved rest day today.

The weekend started out harmlessly enough.  Since I had built both my weekly mileage and long run mileage last week, I was cutting back a bit last week to give myself a little break. Standard marathon practice.

Since my plan called for 13 this weekend and I was also planning to run a 5K, I opted to just split the run into the 5K and a 10-miler.  I didn't want to overdo anything.

On Friday, I decided that I knew myself well enough to know it'd be nearly impossible to get myself out of bed early on a Sunday to go run 10 miles alone.  So I decided to go on and knock it out.  I waited until about dinnertime so that I'd find a little relief from the heat and headed to the trail.

It wasn't great, but it wasn't bad.  It's still pretty hot at 6pm.  I drank all my water and Gatorade as well as ate all of my sports beans.  I managed to keep about a 10-minute pace.  I'd like to be able to start going a little faster, but it's just not a piece of cake when it's 80+ degrees outside. I decided to just be pleased with logging the miles in a respectable time.  If I run the marathon with 10-minute miles, I'll still have a PR by like 12 minutes!  I would take that.

I don't normally take an ice bath after 10 miles, but my body is still adjusting to running more mileage on a regular basis.  Plus I was hot.  And I had a race in like 12 hours.  I took it easy the rest of the night and got to bed.

On Saturday, I did something I don't do very often.... I ran a 5K.  The Nashville Striders holds a picnic each summer, and part of the event is that members can run the 5K for free.  I'm all about free stuff so I couldn't really pass that up.  I quickly found out why the race is free - no one would run it if it weren't!

We went up the hills for like 2.5 miles.  We came down the hills for the last .6 miles.  I have NO idea how that happens.  It was tough.  And hot. (Are you sensing a theme?  I really don't like running in the heat.)  Nonetheless, I finished in 27:18.  While it's no PR, it IS an average 8:49 pace.  That's pretty swift for me.  Factor in the heat, hills, and 10 miles I put on my legs 12 hours before?  I didn't mind the time.

We of course hung around and enjoyed all the yummy picnic food that everyone had brought. (We love a good potluck here in the south!)

I had been contemplating hitting up the beach with some friends.  Before you freak out that I so casually mentioned going to the beach even though I live in landlocked Nashville, TN, let me fill you in.  We have a really big lake nearby.  And somewhere on it is a man-made beach. Unfortunately, the forecast looked very gloomy for the day, and I'm not a fan of sitting outside on a beach under clouds.  I'd already convinced myself I wasn't going when I heard from Danielle.

I ended up being invited to go whitewater rafting, something I'd been dying to do again for ages and ages.  Seriously, I was in high school the last time I went.  Since I'd already decided against the lake and since the forecast for the Ocoee River looked better than the one in Nashville, I decided to go.

I didn't regret the decision.  It's a 3-hour drive to get to the river, but the rafting part makes the 6-hour roundtrip drive soooooo worth it.  We had a super awesome guide who was able to get us to do some pretty cool things on some of the rapids.  We got soaked.  We laughed a ton.  We flipped out on one particularly challenging rapid.  I even rode the bull!  (This is where you sit on the very front of the boat and hold on to a rope and because of the rapids it's just like ride a bull.)  

When I woke up kind of sore this morning, I decided that whitewater rafting counts as cross training and made today a rest day.

It was a super fun weekend, and I wasn't surprised I slept 12 hours last night after all of that!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Have You Ever Visited or Lived in Portland, Oregon?

I ask that question because I just booked a flight out there!

I have a cousin who lives there, and when he said I should come visit I asked when? (Here's the thing people.. if you invite me to come visit, I'm probably going to come visit.)

I'll be getting into town late on Friday August 21st and staying until about lunchtime on Wednesday the 26th.

My questions to you:

1. What do I absolutely need to do while I'm in Portland?
2. Does anyone who live there want to meet up for a run at some point?

I'm super excited about getting to take another trip. Before you start thinking money grows on my trees, I should tell you that Southwest is having INCREDIBLE deals right now. I can only afford to go because the flight was CHEAP considering I'm flying across the country, and I've got a free place to stay while I'm there.

I really do love to travel. God bless the man who marries me. I hope he's got the same love for experiencing new places that I do!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Doing Things Differently

In the past two days, I've done two things that I don't usually do.  I did a brick workout, and I ran two days in a row.

Yesterday I decided that I wanted to ease the legs back into things since they'd been a little sore after Sunday's long run.  However, I still wanted to make sure I made the workout count.  So I hopped on the bike for 30 minutes and covered about 9.6 miles.  Then, I hopped on the treadmill for an easy peasy 3-miler in 30 minutes.  It felt really great without really wearing my legs out all over again.

I had intended to get up this morning for my tempo run, but when I saw it was pouring down rain I let myself curl back up in bed.  Don't worry - I still got the run in.  I just did it after work.

Last week I ran a 6-miler in 98 degrees.  It was sunny, humid and hot.  And it took me an hour?

Today? 73 degrees.  Cloudy.  Lightly raining off and on.  Same 6 miles in 54:56.

I was a happy girl.  The legs felt great, even after the workout yesterday.  I very rarely run two days in a row, but since yesterday wasn't very intense it didn't seem to bother me.  I was pleased to be able to do a tempo run as opposed to just hanging on for the miles like I had to do in the heat last week.  I took the first 2 miles easy, hit 9:00 minute miles for the next 3 and then finished with an easy mile.  I was super stoked to be able to hit it like the plan called for.

These are the kinds of runs that remind me why I love running.  It felt great.  I loved the light rain.  I loved the clouds.  I loved daydreaming about what it will feel like to cross the finish line in freaking Chicago!  I didn't even care that my headphones died on me at mile 3 (it's ok, they were only $25 and have been used a LOT in the past year or so that I've had them.  I just need to remember to pick up a new pair at Target!)  I realized though that part of why I like running with music is so that I don't have to hear myself breathe!

I'm taking it easy the rest of the week since I am running a 5K on Saturday and a 10-mile training run on Sunday.  I won't be blowing away the competition at the 5K... I am so not in shape for a speedy one.  Still, it should be fun since it's followed by the annual Nashville Striders picnic!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Tidying Up

With all of my vacation posts made, I thought I should tie up some loose ends and tidy things up around here before we get back to Melanie's real life.

On Blog Writing: I realized yesterday's post was my 500th post. Wow! And I totally missed it! I can't believe I've had that much to say. This blogging thing has become a really happy part of my life, and I'm so glad to be sharing the joy with you all.

On Blog Reading: I FINALLY caught up on my Google Reader. I'm sorry for not making a ton of comments, but if I had tried to comment as I read all 800+ posts then I'd still only be halfway done. I assure you that I enjoyed reading and catching up on all of your lives!

On my Vacation Pictures: I realize I only posted a handful of pictures from my trip. I took like 800. I narrowed those down to 300 or so to post on Facebook. If you're friends with me, you can check them out there. If you're not, then you can view the albums here, here, and here. I got some gorgeous shots, so it might be worth taking 10 minutes to flip through if you like seeing pictures of Ireland and England.

On Cleaning: I totally cleaned my house from top to bottom this weekend. I didn't have a lot going on, and it was a bit overdue. I did ALL my laundry, ALL my ironing, put clean sheets on ALL the beds (3!) and vacuumed, Swiffered, dusted and scrubbed everything down really well. It feels great to have a clean house. I might have a party now to celebrate!

On Running: Week 4 of marathon training ended well with a 14-mile run on Sunday morning. This was my first time to run 14 in quite a while, so I was a tiny bit nervous about how it would go.

We had some crazy cool weather Sunday morning. We're talking we've been having record low's the past few days. It's insane. It feels like October in the mornings instead of July. I'm not complaining.

I went to one of the Nashville Striders group training runs. This was my first time to attend one, and I will definitely be going to more of them this fall! There were like 50-60 people there. I ended up running with 3 others including Amy and Matt. I was feeling pretty good, and I know this was aided by the beautiful weather we were having.

I've never run in downtown Nashville on a Sunday morning. It was almost eerie how still and quiet it was out! Nonetheless, it was a gorgoeus morning, it's true that you really do get a different view of the city when you're running it instead of driving.

I had to hang on for dear life the last 2 miles or so. My body definitely knew that I hadn't run this far yet and it was letting me know it. I know that if I were running by myself I probably would have slowed down or taken an extra walk break (or two), but it was nice listening to other people talk, and I didn't want to be the big sissy who had to walk a mile from the finish.

In the end, we ran 14 miles in about 2:18... and that included stopping 4 times for water at the water stops. I would guess we spent 2-3 minutes of the total time stopped at a water station, so all in all I think we had an excellent time.

I had some soreness in one of my calves all day after the run and yesterday, but that seems to be gone today. My ankle has been bothering me a bit, but I'm not too concerned right now. My left ankle has always given me some issues here and there ever since my ballet days. There may be something wrong, I don't know, but it hasn't ever really stood in the way. It just randomly gets really sore. It's feeling a little better today, and I'm hoping that the cycling and short little easy run I have planned today won't irritate it further.

I'm taking it kind of easy this week since I built up the mileage a bit last week. Plus, I'm running a local 5K on Saturday. I have no ambitions of running it super fast or anything, but I'd like to post a reasonable time for a 5K in July (it's supposed to be back to it's normal hot and humid self by Saturday). My long run this week will just be a 10-miler on Sunday since I'm running the 5K Saturday.

I'm getting excited. So far, I haven't really felt like I'm training yet. I know this will change quickly as I started posting higher mileage, but for now I'm feeling good. Mildly annoyed tha I've already had some aches and sore muscles, but good.

I also finally feel settled back into my normal life. I'm caught up on everything I got behind on while on vacation. Time to figure out what I want to do for fun next. :)

Monday, July 20, 2009

European Adventure, Part 6: RACE REPORT 7/4/09 Self-Transcendence 10-Miler in London, England

My marathon training for Chicago was scheduled to start the same week that I was leaving for the trip.  Fortunately, it didn't seem like it'd be a problem to work in the training runs.  I was proud of myself for getting all but one of them done in addition to the MILES of walking that we did.

Since the training plan had me doing 10-milers for the first long runs, I thought it'd be fun to see if we could find a race to run one weekend.  It turned out that we found the Self-Transcendence 10-Miler on the 4th of July.  It seemed perfect since it not only got me the mileage I needed, but also because it was on our holiday!  Plus, it ended up only costing about $16.

We had to get up super early to catch a train to a station close to Battersea Park where the race was being held.  It ended up we got there a bit early, but we'd rather be early than late.  We found the race headquarters - two people under a small tent who were passing out race numbers.  We had plenty of time to snap some pre-race photos and find the bathrooms before heading to the start line.

There were a little over 100 people running, and we found out that they frequently hold these races.  I got the impression that all of these people probably come to all of the races and just race each other all of the time.

The start was simple... the woman in charge said "GO!"  I took off and allowed myself to settle into a comfortable 10:00 minute mile pace.  I had been coughing a lot and still wasn't feeling well, so I didn't want to overdo it.  Plus, my legs felt like led after 2 weeks of walking and traveling!  

I quickly figured out that I was at the back of the pack.  I'm certainly no speed demon, but I usually find myself somewhere in the middle at most races.  It seems like everyone at this race was FAST.

The unfortunate thing about the race was that we had to do 6 laps in the park to get the distance.  It was a beautiful park, but it got rather dull to keep seeing the same things after the first lap.  I didn't have any other racers around me to chat with, and I hadn't brought an ipod on the trip.  Needless to say, I was pretty bored.

I hit mile 5 in about 50 minutes.  I was feeling good so I decided to start trying to pick it up a little bit.  Over the last 5 miles, I passed 9 people (yes, I counted) and ran a negative split!!!  I finished the race in 1:36:36, about 5 minutes faster than the 10-miler I had ran 2 weeks before. (Granted, it was super hot and hilly at that race whereas it was cooler and flatter in London.)

I was pleased that I had improved my time, and I felt confident that I had I been more well-rested then I probably could have run it even faster.

All in all, I'm glad that we ran this race.  Would I recommend this specific race?  Probably not, as the 6 laps was rather boring.  But would I recommend running a race in another country? Definitely.  This race was nowhere near as big of a deal as most races I run here at home.  No t-shirt.  No goody bag.  Just some water and a power bar at the finish.  But it was still super cool to get to run a race in another country.

Rocking out a "I love USA" button in spirit of the 4th of July

In front of the race banner

The start line

I lined up at the back of the pack, and this is what I saw from there.  Like I said, it was a small field.

Happy to be done!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

European Adventure, Part 5: London, England

I opted to put the pictures from my time in London in a separate post below.

I've traveled extensively through England before and have been to London twice, so it wasn't really important to do a ton of tourist stuff during this week of the trip.

On Tuesday, we flew from Dublin to London on Ryan Air.  It was seriously cheap at $23 a person. Wow.  Once we got into town, we took a train to Mortlake (kind of still London, but not like downtown) where we were staying all week at a friend's place.

Traveling took up most of that day, but we did go into downtown London to meet some of B's friends for dinner and drinks.

Wednesday we opted to hang out in the Mortlake area because I was having some serious sinus issues.  We managed to run about 6 miles through the park and saw massive reindeer.  That's certainly not something I see on most runs!  We walked to the Richmond area and explored a bit, but we headed back home and cooked dinner in and watched a movie on tv.  I really felt terrible this day, and it sucks to not feel well on vacation.

On Thursday, we spent a lot of time at the British Museum.  I'm not really a museum person, but B wanted to hit it up and I'd never been before.  We checked things out before moving on to the Tate Museum of Modern Art.  I'm REALLY not into art museums, so we split up and I walked along the river for a while.  It was a beautiful day, and I got to see St. Paul's Cathedral, the Tower of London, and Tower Bridge while I strolled along.  I'd been to all of these before, but it was still nice to see them again.

We met up with some of B's friends that evening, and they took us to this really cool bar called Vertigo42.  It's at the top of London's tallest building at 42 stories.  (They're not known for tall buildings.)  We had a drink and then headed back out for dinner.  It was really nice meeting new people and hanging out with locals.  We never would have known about this bar had we not been hanging out with them.

Friday was spent hitting up some of the famous London sights to get some pictures.  You can't go to London without stopping by to see Parliament and Big Ben.  We spent some time shopping, and we ended the day with dinner with some of B's other friends.  Seriously, our time in London was so laid back.  

Saturday we were up bright and early for our race, but I'm going to write about that in a separate race report. After the race, we took the train to Cambridge to go to my cousin's 4th of July garden party.  It was a super relaxing afternoon drinking and snacking in their garden, but it was so great to get to see her and her husband.  I usually only see them when they come home once a year for the holidays.

Sunday led us to visit another of B's friends in the Sussex area.  She took us down to Brighton and we got to see the ocean and the Brighton Pier.  It was really pretty, but the beach is covered in rocks.  It's not really a beach I'd want to go to if I wanted to spend time at the beach, but it certainly was nice to walk along the pier and enjoy the ocean breeze for a bit.

We were up bright and early on Monday morning to get to the airport and head home.  I had been feeling better than I did on Wednesday, but I'd still been having sinus issues during the remainder of the trip.  By this point, I was tired and kind of ready to come back home.  I watched movies on the 8-hour flight back to the states and tried to dose a bit.  I can't express how nice it was to only have a 35 minute flight from Cincinnati back to Nashville.  The parents picked me up and took me to dinner before I went home, showered and crashed!

It certainly was a fantastic two weeks, and I'm SO glad I had the opportunity to travel somewhere new (Ireland) and visit a favorite city (London) for the third time.  We certainly saw a lot, did a lot of really cool things and had a blast.  Traveling in Europe is always wonderful, but I have to admit that it's always good to come home.

European Adventure, Part 4: Photos from London

We flew for $23 each from Dublin to London

In front of Tower Bridge

My first Pimm's of the trip... I love this stuff!

Big Ben

Westminster Abbey is my favorite place in London

Buckingham Palace... the queen was in!

Trying to get to Hogwarts

4th of July garden party in Cambridge

Hanging out with the cousins at their garden party

At the beach in Brighton

Friday, July 17, 2009

Heat Running

I got a variety of comments and emails from my post where I shared that I went for a run on a very hot July day the other day. I was a little surprised by how concerned some of you were for both my safety and sanity. I am so appreciative that I ahve blog friends who care about me.

It got me thinking a lot about how things that are normal to us might not be so normal to other people. Running in the heat is kind of one of those things.

Going for a 6-miler in a 98° heat index may not be the sanest thing to do, but it really wasn't as dangerous as I think maybe some people might think. I'm not a doctor or any other kind of credible source on this, but I do know enough to know that our bodies are capable of acclimating to various temperatures.

When I was in high school, I really did run outside every afternoon in the blazing heat. I don't prefer running in the heat, but in the grand scheme of things it's not all that different from everything else I do in the heat.

For example, yesterday I worked in an office that was holding steady at 86° because our A/C wasn't working. I was hot. I was dripping with sweat. But I was ok.

I hardly ever fix myself up much in the summer because the second you walk out the door you break into a sweat. Tennessee is freaking hot and humid. All. the. time. in the summer. (and sometimes spring and fall.)

You kind of get used to it. I know there's a difference between running errands around town in the summer and actually going running. You're raising your body temp just from the running, and then you're doing it in the heat. I'm not saying it's ideal, but it's also not impossible.

The key is making sure you play it safe. I never run without either a buddy or my cell phone. Regardless of the weather, this is smart. I always make sure I have water when I run in the heat, and I usually try to make sure I run a route where I can easily get back to my car for more or to some other water source. I sometimes run with a few dollars so I can stop at a store for more if I really need it. I also run a little slower to make sure I'm not overdoing it.

Running in the heat can be done and done safely. I don't really LIKE running in the heat, but I know I can tough it out (even if I am cursing myself the whole time).

When it comes down to it, I'm hopeful that all this summer training will make running Chicago that much easier. It should be much cooler than what I'm training in (fingers crossed that we don't see a 2007 meltdown repeat). Don't get me wrong. I'll do most of my runs inside or at a cooler time of day. At the same time, it's not THAT much cooler other times of the day.

I think the key is to make sure you're staying in touch with your body and know what it can handle. Be safe out there this summer. And hey, after a nice hot and sweaty run it's lovely to go jump in the pool to cool off.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

European Adventure, Part 3: Dublin, Ireland

The next two days of the trip were spent in Dublin. It's about a 4-hour bus ride from Cork to Dublin, so we got up super early to catch the earliest bus and maximize our time in Dublin. Once we arrived, we found our hotel and got checked in. It wasn't the nicest. I'm not totally sure it was all that clean, but I pretended like the carpets and bedding probably had been cleaned sometime recently. For a cheap price in a big city, it sufficed. The worst part was there was no window or a/c, so it stayed pretty warm in the room.

After we got checked in, we stopped by the Porterhouse Brewing Company that Amy had recommended to me. It was right across from our hotel, and it turned out to be the best restaurant we ate in during the whole trip. I had this amazing goat's cheese cooked in pizza dough on a salad and was one happy camper.

We ended up doing one of those hop on and off bus tours and rode it the whole cycle so that we could see where we actually wanted to go visit the next day. We did stop once at the Dublin Castle and found ourselves unimpressed. Castles in Ireland are just not what I expect when I think of a castle. This one in particular was odd. Different parts of it had been built in different time periods, so none of the building matched other parts of the building. It was weird.

There was some sort of sporting event going on that night (we never did figure out what exactly), and apparently when that happens the pubs quit serving food. We had a REALLY hard time finding dinner that night and finally settled on getting some pizza. We rounded out the night with a Ghost Bus tour. It was kind of pricey, but it ended up being super fun. We drove around Dublin in a dark bus and heard all sorts of scray ghost stories from the past. I dig that kind of stuff. We even stopped twice in cemeteries and such to hear some specific stories about the people buried there, etc. It was neat.

On Monday, we found that most museums in the area are closed on Mondays. B had wanted to check a few of them out, but this ruled out that option. We took some photos at some of the pretty cathedrals and then spent most of the day touring the Guinness brewery. This was definitely the best thing we did in Dublin. As you walk through and move up each floor, you learn all sorts of cool stuff about how Guinness is made, the histroy of Guinness, their advertising campaigns, etc. I don't drink much Guinness, but it was still a really cool tour.

At the top, you get a pint of Guinness and enjoy amazing views of the city from way up high. Dublin doesn't have the best skyline in the world or anything, but I always enjoy seeing cities from a higher vantage point.

We ended up having dinner at the Porterhouse again because we enjoyed it so much. I opted for bangers and mash this time around, and I enjoyed a sampler where I got to try 3 different beers that they brew. It was a nice way to finish up our time in both Dublin and Ireland altogether.

Yummy goat's cheese cooked in pizza dough

I went into the bathroom at Porterhouse and cracked up when I saw this. For 2 euros, you can straigthen your hair right there in the public bathroom of the restaurant. I didn't take advantage of the opportunity.

Part of Dublin Castle

This view of Dublin Castle shows three different sections built in three different time periods

In the Temple Bar area

Cool building and flowers

St. Patrick's Cathedral

It's Guinness time!

They put these little designs in our foam

Part of the brewery

All gone!

A Word on Running

With this being a running blog most of the time, I thought I should interrupt the vacation posts and share a bit about running.

Today I did something really stupid. I ran 6 miles (that wasn't the stupid part - it was on my training schedule). Outside. At 3:15pm. With a heat index of 98 degrees (the actual temperature it felt like, not the boy band).

It didn't seem so stupid at first. It didn't really feel that terrible when I walked outside, and I just couldn't bring myself to go run 6 miles on a treadmill.

I also figured that back in my high school cross country days, I ran outside every day at 3:30pm after school. It was still hot in August and September (and most of the time October). This is Tennessee after all.

Here's the thing... I don't think it'd be so bad if I got used to running in that kind of heat. The problem is that while I'm used to heat, I'm more acclimated to like 80 degree heat. It's a big difference.

I realized when I got to my 3-mile turnaround that I hadn't seen a soul on the greenway. I was clearly the only idiot out there.

Nonetheless, I got my 6 miles in and did it with an average 10 minute mile pace. I really should have been doing a 9 minute pace for a tempo run, but I think keeping the 10 in that kind of heat is decent. I felt pretty tough.

However, it wasn't something I desperately want to acclimate to doing. I'm hoping the experience will encourage me to start getting out of the bed and running in the mornings.

Training is definitely going well for week 4. Last Saturday I ran with some friends out at the very hilly Percy Warner Park. I ran the 11.2 mile loop for the first time ever, and I found that it wasn't as bad as expected. I really needed to do 12, but since it took me the same amount of time to run the hilly 11.2 as it would have to run a flatter 12 I just called it even.

My speed workout went well this week, and I hit up a spin class yesterday. I'll be hitting another spin class tomorrow, doing some strength stuff Saturday, and then a 14-mile training run with the Nashville Striders on Sunday. I'm hoping to stay on top of the spin classes for some cross training and work in some strength stuff at least once a week. I might not make the 4:00 marathon goal, but I WILL be super fit and run a PR come October in Chicago.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

European Adventure, Part 2: Cork, Ireland

On our second night in Limerick, I was dosing off when the news came on the tv about Michael Jackson. I won't lie... I'm not really one of those people that's affected by celebrity deaths. Sure, it's sad, but I went to sleep and had forgotten about it when I woke up on Friday morning.

This didn't last long. The Irish are apparently big MJ fans, and we heard several MJ songs on the bus ride to Cork that morning. I didn't go a single day on the trip after this point without hearing several Michael Jackson songs. It was also all over all of their papers and magazines. I couldn't believe that "Man in the Mirror" went to the top of the UK charts in like two days time.

Once in Cork, we checked into the Kinlay House where we were staying. The room was small, but it was clean and plenty nice for just crashing in for two nights. We headed out to find some lunch at a local market before we started exploring Cork.

We flew through the first few things we had planned, but that wasn't intentional. We found the Christ Church of Cork... and it was not impressive like most Christ Churches tend to be. Then, we found the Beamish Brewery that we planned to tour, but it had been completely shut down.

Instead, we wandered through the city and checked out a free museum on the history of Cork. I'm not really a history person, so I didn't really retain much. However, the park surrounding the museum was absolutely gorgeous. We climbed up a hill past the park and found the old jail. I really enjoyed touring it, despite the cheesy wax figures throughout the jail. I can't imagine living there back in the early 1900's, but it was cool to see.

We also wandered around the campus of the University of Cork before finding some dinner and calling it a night.

On Saturday, we did a 10-mile long run... my first official long run of my Chicago marathon training cycle. It was fairly uneventful, but it was still kind of neat to be running around in Ireland.

We took a free bus from our hotel to the Blarney Castle. The castle itself was certainly the most impressive castle we saw in Ireland, but most of the floors and ceilings were gone. You had to kind of imagine what the rooms would have looked like back in the day. We worked our way to the top and kissed the Blarney Stone in the hopes of getting the "gift of gab." Feel free to just Google all of that if you're interested.

The grounds were super pretty, and after doing some exploring we took the bus back to our hotel. There was a street festival going on next to our hotel, so it seemed like the perfect spot to grab lunch. I totally ate a Nutella crepe for my lunch, justifying it by the fact that I ran 10 miles and then climbed 100 stairs to kiss a rock.

We checked out some of the entertainment, including the Lords of Strut. Basically, these 2 guys did a bunch of goofy acrobatic stuff for 30 minutes. I have to say, it was actually pretty entertaining.

We found the Cork Butter Museum nearby and decided to spend the 2 euros to check it out. Cork was apparently once the butter capital of Ireland. It was kind of interesting to tour.

It ended up that we had done everything we wanted to do in Cork by like 6pm, and most things other than pubs are closed by that time anyways. We ended up going to see The Hangover to pass some time and give our legs a break before grabbing some dinner and visiting a pub to round out our visit to Cork.

Here are a few of my favorite Cork pictures.

A river runs through Cork

Yummy quiche that I got for lunch at the English Market

The Beamish Brewery that ended up being closed

Pretty view from the park

Cork City Jail

Cork City Jail

University of Cork campus

In the middle of a 10-mile run

In front of Blarney Castle

Kissing the Blarney Stone

Lords of Strut at the street festival

European Adventure, Part 1: Limerick, Ireland

As most of you know, I recently spent 2 weeks traveling with a friend of mine (we'll call him B since I have no idea if he minds me posting about him) through Ireland and England. I had never been to Ireland, so I was excited that our first week would be spent there.

I'm going to try to break up my posts about the trips into several days. I'll include some highlights, but I have a feeling you'll be more interested in the pictures. I'll also be getting all of the pictures up on Facebook soon. I might put them up on Flickr as well, so if I do I'll share the link.

We left on a Tuesday and had a quick flight up to New York where we caught our next flight over to Shannon, Ireland. Don't worry, I had never heard of it before either!

I wasn't able to sleep on the flight, which totally stunk since we got to Ireland around 10am local time. We wanted to stay up all day so that it'd be easier to adjust to the local time zone.

We took a short bus ride into Limerick and got checked into our hotel. These first two nights were spent in the nicest hotel we stayed in for the whole trip, and I think in the end that's the best way to do it. When you've crossed time zones and have to stay up for like 36 hours at the beginning, you kind of want a nice room and bed to crash in. It wasn't the Ritz Carlton by any means, but it was clean and simple and nice.

We spent that first Wednesday exploring Limerick. I have to be honest - there's not much there. Limerick isn't quite a tourist destination, but it's a great jumping point to see the western coast of Ireland. We found a cathedral and a castle to spend the afternoon visiting. The castle wasn't really impressive once inside. In fact, all that was really left were a few of the walls. Nonetheless, it gave us some great views of the town.

We had a quiet dinner (we were both exhausted and just ready to sleep) before crashing at like 9pm.

On Thursday, we were up at 8am feeling much more rested and refreshed. We headed out for our first run of the trip. After a quick 5 miles around the town, we got ready and headed out on a tour bus to go to the Cliffs of Moher.

This ended up being the best day of the trip. We were on a small tour bus with only 8 other people, and it was definitely well worth the ticket price. As we drove along the countryside, we stopped at an old castle, a really old fort and a tomb. This part of the country is called The Burren because that means "rocky place" in Gaelic (all signs over there are in both Gaelic and English). The whole countryside is just covered with rocks. We hardly saw any houses or towns.

We drove along Galway Bay and stopped in a little town called Doolin to have lunch at a pub. I had this fried brie and salad, one of the best meals I had on the whole trip. I also found my first souvenir at this tiny little glass making store. I picked up a celtic knot made of glass to hang in a window at home.

After all of this, it was finally time to go to the Cliffs of Moher. I seriously cannot explain in words how beautiful they are! My pictures don't do it justice! They're these really steep cliffs along the coast of Ireland that are just magnificent and sooooo pretty. I just wandered around and took pictures and stared in amazement.

I'll let the pictures do some talking here.

Pretty view from a graveyard in Limerick

I hadn't slept in 24 hours at this point, but I couldn't resist a photo at this beautiful spot in Limerick.

The first beverage of the trip: A Bulmer's apple cider at this cool little pub in Limerick.

While out on our 5-mile run in Limerick... you can see the castle to the left behind us.

Ruins of a castle we stopped at on our way to the Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher!

Me at the Cliffs of Moher

My favorite picture of me at the Cliffs of Moher

Friday, July 10, 2009

I'm Back!

Ok, technically I got back on Monday.

But do you have any idea what it's like to return to your real life after being absent from it for 2 weeks? I've been playing catch up on a number of things, and I've just now managed to find time to get over here to the ole blog.

I am scared to open my Google Reader. I know you have all posted gobs and gobs of stuff I want to read. I WILL catch up... eventually. No promises on how active I'll be with commenting. Sorry!

I had a FANTASTIC trip, and I plan to make my upcoming posts about some of the trip highlights and share some pictures. I'm still working on getting the pictures up on Facebook as well. Like I said, I will catch up eventually.

I'm almost done with week 3 of my Chicago marathon training plan. It's going mostly well. I skipped one little speed workout when I was in Europe, but I got all the other runs done. I was walking numerous miles daily, so I don't feel guilty about missing a run. I haven't quite been on top of the paces I need, but it's early in the game and it feels more important to be focused on building my endurance up than worrying about speed. It'll all fall into place.

All this to say, stay tuned. I'm back and planning on bringing you some fun posts both about my two weeks in Europe and about my marathon training.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

A Word on Various Race Paces

As part of my attempt to keep you guys entertained while I'm on vacation, Bill so graciously offered to share some thoughts about marathon running with you all.  

A big thanks to Melanie for inviting me to do a guest post while she is on vacation off across the pond.  I hope you are having a great time and also a great race Melanie!


I am Bill from Love To Run.  I live in Wisconsin and, as the name suggests, I love to run.  I used to be a middle distance runner in college but have moved up to the marathon.  I have now completed 17 marathons with 2 more planned this year.


Have you ever wondered what it is like to run a marathon at a faster or slower pace?  What is it like running at that pace and what are the other runners around you like?  Well, while I have never been up near the lead of a marathon with a pace of sub-2:30, I have run a lot of different paces in between whether it has been running the marathon myself, with someone else, or running as part of a relay.


In 2007, I was the last leg of a marathon relay team that ran 2:43.  Let me tell you, it is far less crowded up here.  I was running fresh as I haven’t run that far yet, but the runners I was near are so in the zone... so focused on the task ahead, even at mile 24.  A few are struggling but still are focused unlike I think I ever am at anytime during a marathon.


A few times, I have run in marathon relays where the pace was at just under 3:00 or just over.  A little less focus with these runners.  Near the end, some struggle a bit more but these are experienced runners and perhaps they are having a bad day if they are struggling.  There is not much talking between runners here also.  Just running and maybe working together but no talking.  This is usually where the first female runner comes along in the smaller races.  These ladies are like the faster guys, very focused and wanting to win the race.


In 2006, I ran the second half of a 2-person relay with a time of 3:20.  This is where the guys are trying their hardest to qualify for Boston.  There's a bit of talking and encouragement going on and working together to help for a better time.  They know the time they need to run to qualify and are determined to do it.  Some falter at the end, and that is quite sad to see in the last 2 miles.  They are so close, but the experience will do them good.  The runners are starting to become friendly here but not overly as talkative and using up valuable energy.


In 2007, I ran the Grand Rapids Marathon in 3:43 while running in a pace group.  This was a lot of fun and the runners were very friendly, and everyone wants everyone else to do the pace time.  Lots of talking at the start but less near the end.  There is a lot of encouragement going on here, but the pace group steadily gets smaller as the miles pass by.  There are a lot of ladies trying to qualify for Boston here, and it is really thrilling to see someone accomplish their goals at the end.


I have run too many marathon in the 4:00 to 4:20 range.  This is a fun pace.  Lots of fun runners and many who are not competitive but out for a good time and just to finish.  Lots of talking and encouragement going on.  By the end though, there are more walking now as these runners can be less experienced (not all) and have gone out too fast and are paying the price over the last 6.2 miles.  You would have thought I have learned by now, but I find myself doing that still. 


I ran the 2009 Austin Marathon in 4:43 a day after I ran a different marathon.  This pace, in my opinion and experience, had the runners having the most fun.   It seemed like over 75% of the runners liked to talk and talk to the crowd as well, many posing for pictures and stopping to see family along the way.  I assume most of these were first timers, but I could be wrong.  I really enjoyed this pace and recommend the runner who has run a lot of marathons to slow down and try this pace at least once.  Run with a friend who needs help at this pace.


The slowest pace I have ever run at was with someone running the New York City Marathon in 5:58.  I ran the last 9 miles and while a few seemed to be having fun, I think most of their fun was before mile 17.  Most of these runners are, I assume, first timers and have never run further that 20 before and they are really paying the price.  A majority are walking by 22 through 25 but dig up the strength to run the last mile.  I tried to encourage these runners as they needed it, and I hope they appreciated it even if they looked like they didn’t.  I know most did.  I applaud these runners for doing what most people have never done, run a marathon!


These are strictly my experiences and opinions.  You could have had a completely different experience so don't  pound me too much if you feel I am way off base.


Keep reading Melanie’s blog.  It is such a wonderful insight into a person who also loves to run and how she manages her life to do just that: run!