Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Race Report: Arizona 5K

Apologies for the quietness -- it's been a busy, busy, busy last week or so. Friday I took off for Phoenix for one of my best friends', Tina, bachelorette party in downtown Scottsdale. She completed her first half marathon early in January (RnR Phoenix) so we thought it would be fun if we kicked off her weekend with a 5K (I mean, obviously!). Her sister and former roommate ran with us too, since they've all done the Phoenix half.

We found the Arizona Half a few months back and finally registered for it in January. Now, normally I'd be shocked and appalled at the thought of paying $45 for a 5K, but this came with a tech tee and a medal -- I know, a medal for a 5K? Yes please!

Despite being wired and wide awake until1:45 am (3:45 EST, mind you) and wake up at 5:15 am, I was ready for this run. Ignore the fact that I had run twice last week, which is better than the week prior, but ugh! I need to get moving in this training plan! Anyhow, Tina made us all shirts to wear for our kick off adventure -- check them out below! Tina's was white and we wore purple, one of her wedding colors. Loved the shirts and we got tons of compliments on them.

And that's just what we did...

The day was just gorgeous. There was a high of 80, but it wasn't gonna hit that at 8 am. Our race took off at 9, and by the time I finished I had heard someone say it was 75 outside - warmer than I've been running in lately, and I felt it, but it was just so nice out I didn't care!

All four of us!
The 5K started 30 minutes, after the half marathon, but it was advertised that packet pick up ended at 8. We got there at 7:30, which in the end, really just meant a lot of standing around and waiting. I wish there had been more to see and do around the parking lot, only one vendor tent (Activate water, delicious!) and not much to do otherwise. By the time our race came around, we were kind of antsy and ready to go. We did our fun group photo shoot and got ready to hit the road.
Starting area - there's a lake off to the left and the starting line is behind where I'm standing to take this shot.

Aren't they precious? Tina and Jon.
At the starting line!
Me & Tina. Love her and can't wait for her big day!

Once all the 5Kers had gathered around the starting line, I realized there were not that many people running, maybe 100 at max. Our plan was to run easy, just have fun, whatever, but I got a little competitive (in true Megan style) and realized I had a change of maybe age placing while I was out having some fun. Tina let me take off, even though I kept saying I'd run for funsies. Thanks Tina! :)
Here we go!

The run itself was in a huge residential community; the course didn't go through the neighborhoods, but followed two of the main large streets that broke up the subdivisions. What a change of scenery, literally, to be running among cacti and sand - quite the change from Georgia! The first mile was a little tricky, just trying to gauge myself after I realized I pulled out of the starting line way too fast and would probably wear myself down too quickly if I wanted to make this run work. I slowed up a bit, as there was a slight incline as well. Luckily one whole lane was closed off to traffic with traffic cones, so we had a huge lane and the bike lane to run through. We crossed one intersection, kept moving... shortly after, the cones disappeared! I didn't think too much of it until we got out a little further and the bike lane ended too so we were running on the shoulder of the road -- little scary! At this point, my Map My Run app said I was at 1.55 miles, and had not seen a turnaround in the near future at all. The lead runner just passed me and the two men I was running with, only to hear him say that there was no turnaround, but to go about 100 more yards and turn around; we did just that, so I turned around at about the 1.67 mile marker on my app. While I thought this was all a little odd, again I didn't think too much of it. I eventually double-backed past Tina, Lisa and Erica and told them to go about another 200 yards and turn around then.
Perfect Arizona day.

At this point, a lot of the runners in the back had heard all the leading runners talking about no turn around -- the only reason I started to get frustrated was that some folks then just turned around wherever they wanted! So some folks maybe ran 2.5, some maybe 3... that was a little aggravating, especially when I had to work harder to blow past them in the end.

In the last two-tenths of a mile or so, a girl I'd been playing chase with since my turn-around came up and went by me, but was still trotting along at a pace that I knew I could keep up with. Once I hit the .1 mile marker to go, I took off and finished in my traditional sprint finish.
Check out that ponytail! :)
 Jon was doing most of our personal race photos (props to Jon for the majority of these photos), so he met up with me and we watched the road until we saw Lisa, Tina and Erica coming up quickly. I sprinted to the line again with Lisa and we cheered on Tina and Erica to their finish. Medals for everyone, which is awesome, like I said. Who gets medals for a 5K? Not many people!
Medals for everyone!

After we settled down and caught our breath, we remembered there was an awards ceremony at 11 am. While we were waiting for the half marathoners to finish, we went and found their snacks and bagels and ate on the back patio of this community center, which overlooked the lake and was just gorgeous. One of the race organizers came by and asked our race went, obviously aware of the 5K snafu. Turns out, the intersection where we crossed was supposed to be where we turned - but there was no marker indicating such a thing, so everyone had gone straight! We said we hadn't cared too much, were just a little confused in the end, but no sweat because really, we weren't taking it that seriously. He let us know, in case we had missed the announcement, that because of this error and apparently other runners' anger and frustration, everyone that had registered for this 5K was automatically re-registered for their 5K on the same course in October. Sweet gesture - you could tell this guy was seriously disappointed and pretty upset about what happened. I wasn't going to push it, but Tina asked about me since I obviously don't live in Arizona; he thought for a minute, and told me to email him, that I'm "the girl from Georgia," and to pick a race near me that he would pay for. Can you say customer service? (Thanks, Richard!) Again, don't know that I will, because I was really quite okay with my 5K experience this day.

After eating and realizing we still had 45 minutes until the awards, we went and cheered in the first half marathoners and found the planners, asking if they were still doing awards based on the 5K times because of the mix ups... sadly, they weren't. Sad because they had legit plaques... and I had placed in my age group! Such is life - I got a photo, they're pretty. :)

We then realized we had no point in waiting around, so piled in the car, and headed home for showers, lunch, and getting ready for the bachelorette fun! 

Thoughts for Arizona 5K:
- extend packet pick up time so 5Kers aren't waiting around so long
- more vendors
- volunteers in extra places or arrow signs for course direction change
- 5K before half marathon (another option to avoid waiting around so long)
- keep Richard around! what a great guy... thanks for all his work.
- course was gorgeous and in a great area
- tech tee is legit and I love it; great addition!

Arizona road race #1!
Final 5K time: 31:34 / 3.33 miles / 9:28 pace

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Race Report: Taste of Athens 10K

This morning was the 2nd Annual Taste of Athens 10K - of course, given that I wasn't here last year, this was my first go-round and my first true experience with the ridiculous hills of Athens. Whew!

I've run twice since my half almost three weeks ago (one run a week and a half ago, and one on Thursday with the Athens Running Company group run!). So I knew this was going to be work. If that wasn't enough, I've beeen fighting a cold since Tuesday, which I also knew would only add to the fun of this 6.2-miler! Weeeee! My standing 10K PR (the last 10K I ran, actually) was from almost two years ago, when I wasn't in great shape (just decent shape) and I ran a 1:05:25. Despite my cold and having not ran regularly for awhile now, I was determined to PR at this race. Determined.

This mroning was supposed to be something like 43 degrees at 8 am, race kick-off, but it wasn't a terribly cold 43! I actually wore shorts for the first time in months to run, which was an odd feeling after layers of full tights and shorts for the last three months! It really was a beautiful morning - few clouds in the sky, sun was coming up as I pulled up, and about 350 runners gathering around warming up and chatting. Love it.
Starting/finish line at Athens City Hall on a gorgeous morning!

As promised, race kick off was at 8 am. I started somewhere in the middle-back of the pack, knowing I couldn't chug out full steam or I'd surely lose all lung capacity somewhere in the middle of the run! The first mile of the run is a snake through downtown Athens, from the start/finish line and eventually down two blocks and over three to the main east-west street through Athens, where we started out first slight hill climb.

Chuggin' through downtown.
I'm grateful I did that group run on Thursday now because the 5K route we did was most of the beginning of the 10K in reverse, so I knew the deadly hills that were coming up not long after we got out of downtown! I definitely don't give Athens enough credit for being hilly! I trotted along slowly up the hills, careful to not overdo it... as I usually do! The hills took us through the Boulevard, one of the big historic districts in Athens and rumored home to Michael Stipes (yep, as in REM!). I surprisingly was able to run solid through mile 3 when my lungs were starting to scream a little bit - so I walked for about a quarter of a mile and pushed forward again.

Once through the hills, we headed out through some of the other neighborhoods in Athens that I've sort of driven through but haven't ever really paid attention to. So it was neat to see some of the hidden areas of Athens, and some pretty areas at that.

The last mile and a half were up King Street, which is a loooong, gradual uphill. Not steep, but just long enough that you'll get winded if you push it! Thankfully, that was part of the conversation on Thursday night. The last turn turned you back in downtown and towards the finish. I had 7 minutes to make sure I made it under my PR - totally doable, given there was only 4/10ths of a mile to go! I pushed it a little too hard uphill for the last block, but it flattened out enough that I could do my typical sprint to the finish - once I turned the corner around City Hall I saw the timer at 1:03:42, which meant I had made it! Turned that corner, took one large deep breath and sprinted as hard as my sickly lungs would let me...

... I made it! 1:04:12!
Race #5 in Georgia!
Who doesn't love Instagram? Finish line in the early morning.

And then I just felt like being artsy. Love this view of City Hall!
So happy and so excited! And just think... if I were in shape and did hillwork regularly and wasn't sick... I could have beasted this thing. But given my current state, I'm a super happy camper! Taste of Athens puts on a great race -- small enough, there were 344 runners in total doing the 10K, but enough water stations, cheerleaders, and people along the way. I think I'll definitely add this to my list for next spring -- and will pray I'm not sick!

On to the next race... 5K next weekend in Phoenix!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Race Rack

So excited I finally made my own! And glad I picked up on this apparent craftiness.
Pretty proud. Orders being accepted! :)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Top Ten Reasons I Love Running

If you follow me on Twitter, you know I have been participating in #runchat lately -- it's an awesome bi-monthly chat of runners all over the country with a variety of topics and series of questions each chat. I've gotten to chat with some awesome folks already and am looking forward to upcoming connections. RunChat also recently did up their website and are hosting a Valentine's Day contest, for you to profess the top ten things you love about running and will pick a winner to get some awesome running swag. So, here you have it.

1. I love the challenge - Running pushes you in ways you never thought imagineable. It encourages, challenges, motivates, pushes, and inspires you to work harder and take yourself to places you never thought you'd go.

2. I love exploring - I mean, to take the literal part of that last sentence, running allows you to explore! Having just moved to a new state/city, I've discovered streets in my neighborhood and visited nearby neighboring towns to find some of the most gorgeous landscapes. Love it!

3. I love achievement - I'll be honest, I've always been an over-achiever. If you know me at all, you know that (or you'll learn really quickly). Running allows you to achieve over and over again, while still having to work for it. Whether it's getting a new PR or setting personal distance records, you can consistently accomplish new things, whether by trying or not sometimes. What a feeling!

4. I love the way my jeans fit - I didn't start running regularly to lose weight, more to so to tone up and feel confident in my body. However, along with toning comes a sense of pride and confidence in pulling on a pair of jeans that haven't ever fit quite right and bam! They fit better than you thought possible. It's a great feeling to work for!

5. I love guilt-free eating - Even if it wasn't the hardest run in the world, I love earning that stack of pancakes or extra cheesy mac 'n cheese after a great workout, run, distance training, or whatever it may be. Sometimes I let the excuse run a little too long, but I know it's earned. I deserve it!

6. I love the community - Simple nods and smiles on a sidewalk on Saturday mornings, or the unspoken camaraderie with others a race start line, or meeting new friends via #ruchat... there's that automatic sense of community, a connection unique to any others that you can only find with someone as nutty as you to be running in 35 degrees on a January morning.

7. I love the blankness - Much like soccer was for most of high school, running has become a stress relief. I can throw on my shoes, put in my headphones and completely zone out to much of the chaos going around. It doesn't really matter if it's a quick 5K or a tough long run, running allows you to focus on you, your body, and the road ahead, leaving not much room for anything else. And sometimes that's the best state of mind to be in!

8. I love the gear - Especially if it comes in obnoxious hot pink, lime green or bright blue - like my new Saucony Kinvaras. The brighter, the more fun! Who doesn't like an excuse to wear a neon-salmony-pink fleece jacket in the middle of December?

9. I love the schedule - Aside from work, there is no regularity in my life. And while at times I appreciate the fluidity of a weekend or having no plans whatsoever, those who know me also know that I'm a planner. Knowing that I have a 10-mile run to fit in Saturday morning before I can do anything else forces me to get up and moving, keeping a schedule whether I want to or not, and keeps me accountable!

10. I love the feeling of wanting to be better - Being a fairly newbie runner, I love reading blogs, training blogs, articles, and posts for suggestions, tips, and tricks. Discussing these with friends, other newbie runners, and bloggers gives me the motivation and encouragement to try harder, learn more, find ways to be successful, and meet those goals.

I leave you with this - because while I love my heels, I think the same holds true for a good pair of running shoes, too:

Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world.

Dear Monday...

if you want to join, link up!

dear monday, you came way to quickly, given that i only had sunday off this week. you have a lot to make up for already.

dear back pain, also a totally unnecessary way to start the week! thanks for making me feel the need to leave work early today and hole myself up in the apartment laid up on the couch. also not a winning combination for the week.

dear 10K on saturday, please treat me kindly. i've ran once and worked out four times since the half two weeks ago, and while i feel that i am ready to conquer you, i'm a little nervous. be kind!

dear north georgia weather, while i like the idea of snow, i'm not sure i like the high of 35 degrees coming our way. can you just bring some snow and leave it sunny and 65 instead?

dear grammy watchers, just because chris brown is performing and winning awards, doesn't make his past actions okay. tweeting about it only encourages more appalling behavior, society. get with it.

dear danielle, no sweat! get to it when you have the time and energy! all in good time.

dear conference this past saturday, thank you for going nearly seamlessly, helping us receiving countless comments of positive feedback, happy guests, and an overall outstanding a day. thank you for also confirming my faith that i'm in the right place right now!

happy monday, everyone!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Three Things Thursday

It's Thursday - I feel as though I've had a lack of things to say, aside from my semi-reflective post earlier this week about needing to work for your goals! So, here you have it: the easiest way for me to tell you what's going on and other excitement.

1. Georgia Collegiate Leadership Conference
It's almost here! Commence freak out. I talked about this earlier in the week, but now it's really HERE and whoa boy. I think we're ready.

 2. Virtual Run for Sherry Arnold
I stumbled upon this story about two weeks ago, and was just utterly heartbroken. I will be smack in the middle of Thing #1 (see above, silly!), but want to encourage you to all take your run for Sherry on Saturday. I'm going to try and squeeze my run in Saturday evening before I pass out from exhaustion. At least I have a plan, right?

3. NASPA #SASocial 
I'm super excited about this, it's tonight! I'm so excited about this, mostly because for one, it's in Athens and I don't have to drive down to Atlanta (but I hope some Atlanta folks come up) and two, hopefully a good start to meeting colleagues around campus I wouldn't get to really meet otherwise! Pretty pumped, on my way out the door to this shortly. I'll give a full report later.

And lastly, though I'm at number four, I have a 10K next Saturday and am hoping that this Sunday, I'll officially kick off training cycle #2 for that little ol' half marathon I signed up for in April. Here goes nothing! Have a great evening, friends!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

When Life Doesn't Cooperate

I have ten and a half weeks until the next half marathon. However, I have a 10K next weekend and a 5K the weekend after that. So, you might say, there's a lot coming up that in theory, I should be warming up for.

Sometimes life just doesn't allow for other things to squeeze in - say, for example, this week. I know it's only Tuesday that I'm saying this, but every now and again, that's just going to happen. My students are hosting a conference this weekend, the Georgia Collegiate Leadership Conference. I am so excited about this - we've been working on it since October and it'll be so great to see it come to life. But of course, along with planning a conference, especially the week of, there are some challenges that come along. Like being in the office until 7 on Monday, leaving at 5:45 on Tuesday... and knowing what the rest of the week entails. It puts a damper in the sleep schedule and a kink in the gym and running plans.

Part of me looking at my goals in all these running plans for the year, and even in this 10K next weekend, is that sometime it's okay to let other things come first. I mean, I couldn't do much without a job! But part of achieveing goals is knowing that occasionally, there are things that will throw you off course. That will push you to try, try, and try again. And to re-evaluate priorities and be okay with where the wind takes you. Sometimes... the wind will just push you down and tell you to stay in bed and hit snooze. And sometimes that's okay.

Goals are meant to be worked for - they shouldn't come easy, and they definintely deserve some kind of fight. Caving in and giving up gets you nowhere, but anything that comes easy doesn't prove that you've got a fight in you. Fight for it. Make the goal happen, but know that you have to earn it. Marathon medals are earned, not given.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Training: New Plan?

So now that I've registered for my second half marathon (!!), and have finally set up my membership at the gym (I guess one perk to working at a university is a cheap membership - $18 a month, straight out of my paycheck? Yes please!), I've been thinking a lot about how I want to set up my training plan for this next race. Now that I can really incorporate cross training and some weight training into my regimen, I want to make sure I'm still running as much as I did for the last race but providing my body time to recover and be at its best.

The last training plan I had was one that a friend found online - I liked the way it was set up, that it was set up for 4 runs, 1 XT, and 2 rest days a week, which I thought was perfect for my schedule. Of course, as you know, I didn't do any cross-training for the last race. If I needed to adjust a day, I did it, but it still worked well. I may continue with this same program, but I also just spent a little time searching to see if there are any other training plans that I think might fit. I have eleven weeks still until this race, so I have plenty of time to either start a new plan and see if it works or if I will just continue with the original plan.

I found this one from Shape that I like, for the most part - I like the two XT days built in, but I felt like I regularly made progress with 4 runs a week. Runner's World provides a series of training guides; I just downloaded the half training guide, which includes everything from weekly plans to recovery to eating during a long run, to speedwork and hill suggestions. Thorough, I like it! Cool Running has this plan (this is linked to the beginning one, ther's others); I like the way this one is set up, but high mileage in the middle of the weak warns me off a little bit. There is, of course, the Hal Higdon plan (one of many), which (with tweaking) I think would work well for me.

This training cycle is already looking to be darn busy as well, considering a number of upcoming festivities and races I already have planned:
  • February 11: Georgia Collegiate Leadership Conference (conferece my students are hosting)
  • February 18: Taste of Athens 10K, Athens, GA
  • February 19: Volunteering at Taste of Athens
  • February 24-26: Phoenix for Tina's bachelorette! Arizona 5K
  • March 10: (posibly) Sham-ROCK 10K, Atlanta, GA
  • March 22-25: Phoenix for Tina's wedding!
  • March 31: The Color Run, Atlanta, GA
  • April 8: Hoppin' Easter 10K, Madison, GA
  • April 22: Race Day!
So you might say I have a busy few weeks coming up - already confirmed registration for the Taste 10K, the Arizona 5K, and the Color Run. Not sure I'm doing that Sham-ROCK race, but more than likely doing the Easter 10K, since that's two weeks before the race and will be a great indicator of how training has gone (and at only $17 with a shirt, why not?!).

What do your training plans look like? How many true rest days you do allow yourself per week? Cross-training?

DIY Bachelorette Invitations

One of my bestest friends in the whole wide world, Tina, is getting married in March - exciting! She doesn't have a maid of honor, but five us on her side who are all taking various roles of the typical MOH duties. So while Maria is in charge of the bachelorette party planning, she and I got so excited about some of the idea we saw on Pinterest for invitations (like this one), we decided to make a happy combination of two that we really loved. Maria invited me to help make the invitations, given my level of excitement thanks to Pinterest, and I happily jumped in. In the end, I put together the actual invitations, sent them to Maria in Phoenix who designed the insert, made the envelopes (yep, made!), and sent them to the bride's guest list.

Tina's colors are puple and silver, but we thought we'd add black into the mix for a little sexy glam vibe. These were super duper fun, and are super easy to make, so if you're looking for a little inspiration, check out the work below!

For 21 invitations, I spent just barely $10. Not a bad deal!
- 5 sheets 12"x12" purple scrapbook cardstock ($2.50)
- 24-sheet 12"x12" pack black cardstock ($4)
- Two 3-yd glitter lace rolls ($4)

Using the invite we found on Pinterest, I sketched a stencil that I could use as the corset bodice and came up with this:

 Using those awesome design-cut scissors, I added a little "lace" to the bottom for an extra little flare. And then I proceeded to trace and cut 21 of these - definitely the least fun about this crafting day!

Black sheets were cut in half, and then folded, for a 6"x6" invitation.

Before all the pieces come togeher.
 Before I glued the corsets to the invitations, I'd cut them in half then glue each piece individually to the two front flaps:

Lucky for me, I've had this awesome heart-shaped hole punch, perfect for making the eylets in the corset!
And then the lacing fun began. This was definitely the most tedious part, and I ended up with black glitter all over my kitchen counter (I think I'm still finding some), but I just loved how they turned out and was so excited!                                          

 All 21 of my little gems:

And then Maria finished the magic. She made envelopes (since the envelopes were just at 6"x6", we unfortunately couldn't order the same-sized envelopes we had found on Amazon... so then came Google and how to make envelopes. Weeee) that turned out fabulously, and she added a last little insert on the right inside flap with the bride's sizes, of course!

I loved Maria's inserts.
 And there you have it - just a little bit of labor but a whole lot of love from two bridesmaids. What do you think? Have you made your bachelorette invitations before? Show and tell time!

Friday, February 3, 2012

I've Caught the Bug...

...the race bug, that is. I mean, I like running, though I wouldn't say I have the running bug, but man! That high you get after a race? I'm addicted.

So, with that, I'm excited to say I've officially registere for half-marathon #2! Yes, already! The Zooma Women's Half Marathon up at Lake Lanier, about an hour or so north of me. It's an absolutely gorgeous area (where I went camping for my birthday), and I'm excited to take in a run up there!

Many thanks to Tina for the $10 discount code - made my night finding that! April 22, it's time to bring my A-game to these 13.1 again! And I'm already excited! This is my chance to prove I can do it again and it's not one of those one-time flukes. Bring it, Lake Lanier... bring it.
Molly at Lake Lanier in October.