Monday, July 23, 2012

Not Four Years, But For Life

On the Thursday afternoon of our National Convention, we learned that one of our sisters, Jennifer, had passed away. Jennifer was an alum of our Arizona State chapter and lived in St. Louis. I'd never met her. But her passing shook me -- she is a sister. I was shaken in a way that only makes me wonder how much of a mess I would be if it was one of my own chapter's alums; or worse, a sister from my pledge class; a sister from other chapters I've gotten know, gotten to work with. Sisters I've bonded with over running, concerts and traveling; sisters I've met once or see a few times a year.

But what shook me in the best way possible is how much our small, albeit nation-wide, organization came together. Tears from women (like me) who had never met her, who felt the pain of her chapter's members who had to break the news to the eighty of us at our business meeting. Tears because she was still one of us -- she is one of us. And, better yet, bless the ways of social media, creating an online group in which we all wore our letters in some form or another on the Monday following, the day of her services. I was astonished, in the best way possible, of how much sisters were struck by Jennifer's death. Photos from south Texas, from Phoenix, from Boston and Georgia, all deeply touched and in some ways affected by losing our sister.
Letters around the country. [source]
I cried most of Convention. I cried when I got the Facebook message about Jennifer, I cried harder when our National President broke the news. I cried in the song workshop, and I cried at our alumnae induction (where we also posthumously inducted Jennifer). It wasn't only over our loss that I cried, but that, as one sister pointed out, I'd been away from Convention for five years. Though I've stayed active by serving in a few volunteer roles and staying in touch with local chapters whenever I move, being at Convention just confirms everything I've loved about this organization: it's where I belong. For the women I've met and bonded with before, it was like we never missed a beat; for the women I met for the first time, it took a five-minute conversation to build a connection and feel like it had always been there. It made me feel like a five-year absence was no big deal and that I'd been there in spirit all these years prior. What a feeling.

Thanks, SLC!
I'd have plenty of thoughts about my trip to Salt Lake and our convention, but I'm still overwhelmed by a surreal sense of pride and love for my organization. I will tell folks very proudly that I credit OPhiA with keeping me at NAU and firmly believe I would have transferred institutions without her. Through her, I've met some of my best friends, running buddies, concert goers, and constant source of support and gratitude. I'm forever grateful for the fact that I stumbled upon that table at freshman orientation...
Texas State love with our new colony's delegates!

This is what I mean about  belonging. These girls are from my chapter, but until this week I didn't know them. I don't think you could tell that by this photo, could you?

2012 Convention attendees.

Serving as the Vice President for Membership already means the world to me and I really haven't even started yet! I love this organization and hope to continue bringing about great things. Thank you to all my sisters for a wonderful four days, more memories, friends, and Facebook notifications. And thanks for entrusting this position to me!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Race Report: Peachtree Road Race 10K

Oh, Peachtree. The coveted Georgia runners' race -- it's said that you can consider yourself a "Georgia runner" until you've run Peachtree. So you know it went straight on my bucket list! In case you're not aware, Peachtree is truly coveted: there's a race cap of 60,000 (I know, gulp), but the lottery takes on somewhere between 70 and 80,000 entries (more fun facts). Needless to say, I didn't get a race number. However, after much CraigsListing, Facebook posting, texting and tweeting, a friend helped me get my hands on a bib - hooray! This all happened less than two weeks ago, so I am forever grateful (shout out to Jennifer!) for helping me make this happen! Peachtree was also the perfect way to end my #RWRunStreak -- July 4th was the last intended day of the streak!

I was sad I didn't make it to the Expo. Given that all my races prior have been pretty small, local races, this would have been my first legit expo. Ah well - the photos looks insane, but it would have been so fun! 

Tuesday after work, Molly and I made our way to Atlanta for dinner with Heather, Michael, and Heather's mom and grandpa (love them; shout out for great dinner company!). We went to Osteria 832 in Highlands for some super spectacular pasta... and dessert, obviously. Great little place!

And then it was the fun night-time dash of getting our stuff together, last-minute Target run (you know, it's essential), and calling it bedtime around 11. Michael was running in the letter-less group (aka the elite guys), and Heather and I were bib-marked for D (me) and X (Heather).

Yep, hi, I'm Ashley. Not.
We had a bunch of sorority sisters running in S, so our plan was to get to the S corral before they could shoo us away. More on that to come. Our plan was to be at MARTA by 7 am, then Lenox by 7:30, which would get us to S well over an hour before our corral time (8:42).

Nothing but runners at MARTA! But not nearly as chaotic as I'd anticipated.
Required race morning shot.

Post-MARTA craziness.
I'd anticipated the whole morning being ridiculously overwhelming -- as I've gotten older, I've realized my increasingly low tolerance for crowds. And yes, there were crowds, but truthfully, it was really not as terrible as I'd psyched myself up for it to be. Sure, that photo above makes it look pretty bad, but the buzz and excitement around I think made it a little more bearable.
Omega Phi Alpha reunion at Corral S!
Flag marks the starting line. I wish I could have gotten a better shot!
We got into Corral S no problem. While they were moving us up toward the starting line, there were volunteers checking looking at bib numbers to make sure runners were they were supposed to be. We figured, worst comes to worst, Heather would just get shoved back to X. Volunteer Girl looks at Heather and says pretty timidly "Uh, that's an X... not an S," and proceeds to let us keep walking. How about a V... for Victory! S, here we come. And exactly 8:42 am, we were off! (I tell ya, for 60,000 people and nearly 20 corrals, they've got this down to a science)

I wish I had seen this awesome narrated race route prior -- I think I had a disadvantage in not knowing Atlanta well at all, so aside from hearing about Cardiac Hill, I really had no idea what I had in store. The first mile or so was just a whole lot of bobbing and weaving, which I honestly got pretty aggravated at. They made it clear on paper, signs, and from volunteers that if you were going to walk, walk on the right. Race etiquette folks, race etiquette! I wasn't super certain what kind of pace I was running, but knew I wanted to save it for the looming Cardiac Hill; and yet I finished my first mile at a 9:11 -- way faster than I thought, considering I was fighting some heavy legs the first mile. Once I hit that first mile marker though, it was as if my legs were like, "Okay, we're ready!" and felt better from there on out. Miles 2 and 3 were awesome -- crowds everywhere, bands, radio stations, restaurant giveaways to runners (frisbees, coupons, sweatbands, you name it). Mile 2 is mostly a downgrade, so a great place to get some good time without losing control; just past the 3.5 mile marker is the infamous Cardiac Hill (conveniently located by several hospitals. Intentional? I think so). I made it halfway up the hill before I walked for the first time, which I was really proud of. And from there, I was able to make it pretty strong all the way through, with a .10 walk in mile 5. I'd never felt this strong in a 10K before (considering my last one was all hills and I was sick!). Going into Mile 5, I was just at around 50 minutes; I knew that I had a sliver of a chance of breaking an hour, if not PRing for sure, which I was stoked about, given the crowds! 

The unfortunate part of the race ending in Piedmont is that not only are people starting to get tired at the end of the race, but the spectator crowds show up in full force (awesome, until they run across the road right in front of you). And seriously, that deceiving photo booth that's really like .2 from the finish is just mean - I just wanted it to be over at that point! But I finished -- official time?

39 seconds off of PR-ing -- which I would still consider a success given all the weaving and bobbing! And blast those 12-year-olds who decided it would be a great idea to run across 10th right as I was in the middle of a great stride. Holy moly though, what a great race (overall, but also for me!). I think this #RWRunStreak definitely made a difference, even if only making my legs that much stronger and able to handle a lot more. I felt amazing.
REALLY happy with my day.

Piedmont Park, post-race.
Heather's first 10K, check!
Georgia road race #12, check!
OPAs at the finish! We did it!
Coveted Peachtree t-shirt! I'm official!
And after fighting some crowds, riding a very painless trip home on MARTA, we were home. And off for a fabulous 4th of July with Stella and company! Pool all afternoon to help tired legs? Heaven.

An overall awesome, awesome 4th of July!

How was your 4th? Did you race? Or spend all day in the pool with water tasty adult beverages? Hope it was great; happy birthday, USA!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

#RWRunStreak: Week 6 and a Full Recap

So here we are, at the week of (technically) Week 6, though it's only a half week through the streak. I can't believe it -- 38 days have gone by!
Week 6. Done AND done.
It's crazy to think that when I first signed for this I was like "Okay, well doing it 38 days in a row will be a challenge, but I can totally do a mile a day, NBD." Wrong. So wrong. It turned out to be quite the challenge -- a sure-fire test of willpower, determination, strength, motivation, and mental capacity. And it was amazing.

But before the whole-38-day-recap, my last three runs:

Monday, July 2: 1.0 mi/8:09 pace/8:09
I knew I was close to the end and was wondering if I had improved my 1-mile time from two weeks ago or so. I was also feeling the beginning of the "Uggggh, just a few more days" syndrome and just wanted to get my mile over with. I figured, then, I needed to at least make my mile count - and whoa, I did! Pleasantly surprised and so excited! Wonder if I kept this up if I could break an 8-minute mile. That thought is crazy.

Tuesday, July 3: 2.72 mi/8:19 pace/23:05
Day 2 of "Ugggggh, so close, just want to finish running already." This was also a toughie because I needed to get it the run done in the morning (which I haven't done during the week in forever), since I was headed to Atlanta right after work. But it turned out to be a pretty good run -- humid, for sure, and felt like I was sweating buckets by the time I got home, but it was a nice morning out otherwise. Maybe I should go back to those morning runs... nah.

Wednesday, July 4: 6.67 mi/9:46 pace/1:04:40
43rd Annual Peachtree Road Race! Recap here [coming soon]. Crazy run -- I was prepared to be very overwhelmed with the crowds, and while it was daunting, it wasn't nearly as bad as I anticipated. I mean, after 43 years, they've certainly got it down to an art. Thankfully! Check out the recap for more stories!

38 Days of Running: #RWRunStreak 2012

Holy crap.  I just ran for 38 days in a row (if you want to be technical, 40 days, since I started with the Mama Bear 5K the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend and a run on Sunday before the challenge started). I can't believe it, truly.
It started here. And ended here
I had started with a goal of doing at least 2 miles a day, to really make it count. Little did I know how hard it would be to even want to do a mile most some days! Truly, there were a few days when getting out that door was the last thing I wanted to do, and those were the handful of days where I opted for a walk instead with the dog, or the slowest jog I could muster to make it count. Days on the cruise where I thought I was legitimately insane (then realized there were a few others like me on the boat); days where I'd go as late as possible in the day to avoid the heat; and days where I'd rearrange my entire plan just to make sure I got in that mile. Oh, the life of a runner.

In 38 days...
  • I ran 80.88 miles.
  • I ran 2 5K races.
  • I ran 1 10K race.
  • I ran on a boat in the Bahamas. 
  • I ran the fastest mile of my life - twice! First an 8:26, then an 8:09!
  • I PR'd my 5K (27:58). 
  • I ran my first speed/track workout.
It is rare that I feel so proud about something I've done, let alone to keep blogging about it and talking about it again. I loved following along on Twitter and Daily Mile, cheering people on, and connecting with folks who were running their minimum 1 mile, or running insane amounts of miles every day. What a fun, pushing, challenging, crazy experience!

While also pushing myself to my true limit, I learned quite a bit not only about myself but about running and what it really takes to make a good run happen.
  • I am more stubborn determined than I think am.
  • When I set my mind to something, I really can do it!
  • The importance of stretching. I suck as a runner in that I don't stretch as nearly much as I should. Like, at all. Lesson learned.: stretch more. Stretch often.
  • Community is important -- whether it's a one-time tweet conversation that goes nowhere, or posts and comments from friends on Daily Mile, it goes a long way! No wonder running communities are so strong. We're awesome. 
  • Running on vacation, let alone on a boat, makes you look legitimately insane. 

So you ran 38 days in a row... what's next? Darn good question. I have to admit, I'm looking forward to taking today off. But at the same time, what a change in attitude! I wonder if I'll miss going for a run this evening after work. And I kind of want to see how many days I can push myself to do. However, I've also learned that my body needs the rest, and to listen. And listen good.

But as far as what's next, I'm looking forward to running casually for a few more weeks and then starting training for my fall/winter line up. Training for these overlaps nicely, which is always a smart way to do it, as I've learned. :)
  • Ragnar DC: September 21-22
  • Disney World Wine & Dine ½ Marathon: November 10
  • December Half Marathon, TBD
  • Surf City Marathon: February 3 (training starts October 1)
Adventures to come. Love my life. Thank you all for your support, encouragement, and love through these last six weeks! I did it!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

#RWRunStreak: Week 5

The last whole week is done - insane! I really feel like the last 5 weeks have flown by -- between work, races, vacation, it's hard to believe this 38 days is almost over, when I was so confident that it would drag on and never end! And here we are... almost done!

Week 5: check!

Monday, June 25: 1.52 mi/9:53 pace/15:01
Dreaded treadmill run. I don't know why I keep just trying to get a run "over with" by knocking it out on a treadmill. That's when I just get antsy, irritated, and unhappy with my runs and try to literally get them done and over with ASAP. Oh well, made it work!

Good news for the day was confirming my AJC Peachtree bib! SO EXCITED. This race is insane -- 70,000+ lottery entries for 60,000 spots. It's the country's largest 10K (at one time, the world's largest), so you can imagine I wasn't surprised when neither Heather nor I got a bib via the lottery. Bummed, but not surprised. Well, finally got a hold of someone who could no longer run, so for the race... hi, I'm Ashley. But I'm running!

Tuesday, June 26: 3.66 mi/10:42 pace/39:08
 Long days make for sluggish runs. My original goal was 4 miles for this run, and considering I went just as the heat was tapering off (7 pm or so), it was nice and hot and sticky... legs were quite heavy today, making for an even more challenging adventure. I would consider this run mostly a success, getting close enough to my 4-mile goal. Sluggish overall, but again past that 1-2 mile wall I've been stuck at lately.

Wednesday, June 27: 2.01 mi/9:43 pace/19:32
 Well speaking of that 2-mile wall! Truth be told, I don't remember a thing about this run. Apparently I was able to push out pretty good, with a semi-decent pace throughout even with the heat coming on this week. Legs were a little better than yesterday, so decently satisfied!

The good news about today?
My first issue(s) finally came!)

Thursday, June 28: 1.06 mi/10:46 pace/11:26
This was just a bad idea -- ran a little while after dinner. Didn't get crampy or anything, thankfully, but with the heat and gross-ness of the weather lately, definitely made for a sluggish, difficult run. It's okay, one more day, one more mile in the books and we're still on the way! 

Friday, June 29: 1.01/20:58 pace/21:11
Even worse than Wednesday's run -- so this became just a walk, even though it was only a jog to start with! Terrible. I was happy to just get this done! Rough, especially with the highs this weekend creeping up to 105. I don't plan on having to wake up at 5 am for this, so I 'm just going to walk and deal. I hope. Blah, Part I.

Saturday, June 30: 1.0/19:21 pace/19:21
Remember that walking idea? Yep, happened again. Blah, Part II. Nothing special. The end.

Sunday, July 1: 2.0 mi/ 4x400 TrackWorkout  
Here in marks my first speed/track workout... ever. I needed to run, it was way too hot outside, but I loathed the idea of doing several miles on a track. Not to mention the indoor track at my gym on campus is half-size (8 laps = mile), so that was torturous enough! While I was warming up on the stationary bike downstairs, I toyed around with the idea of doing some speedwork, just to see what it was like and what I'd be getting myself into with some upcoming training cycles. Truth? Not as bad as I expected (a good sign?). I did 4 x 400s (2 laps around this track) with 400 m rests inbetween, just since I wasn't sure what I was getting myself into. Truthfully, I think I can get away with 200 m rests next time; we'll just have to experiment and see how it goes! Happy camper overall!

Times: 2:01 / 2:02 / 1:59 / 2:12 (shoelace came undone)
I wasn't sure how many laps my phone would actually keep track of, so I did it in two segments. For both, Laps 1 and 3 are my 400 speedy laps. Not bad, eh?
And there ends the last whole week of this adventure. Who's celebrating the coming end with a fun run? Anyone else doing Peachtree?

Monday, July 2, 2012

#RWRunStreak: Week 4

Week 4 was rough, as it was settling back into "real life" after an awesome vacay. Womp womp. But as always, when you're stubborn determined, you make it work. Right? Right. Since I'm behind, here's my belated Week 4 adventure... or lack there of.

Week 4, done and done!
Monday, June 18: 1.03 mi/24:43 pace/25:28
Well, cruise ended this morning. Let the tears commence. Nah, it was a great vacation but I was a little ready to get back on land! We killed a little time before taking sister back to the airport, after which we spent the day driving back home from Charleston; we took the adventurous route home all the way up to Columbia so I could stop by the University of South Carolina. We then dropped back down to August, drove by Augusta National (home of the Masters), saw the piddly little sign, and continued on home!

 My run for Monday was just one last walk with Dad and the dog around the apartment complex a bit. Wasn't feeling much up for a real run after being in the car all day long, then giving mom and dad a tour of campus and Athens, and a heavy (delicious!) dinner at Mellow Mushroom. A walk is better than nothing! Am I right?

Tuesday, June 19: 3.16 mi/9:49 pace/31:02
So glad to be off the 2-mile wall I was on while we were on the ship! Felt great to get past that mark in what I felt was a pretty easy run. I know I'm making some good process when I feel confident in saying a hovering-around-10"-pace is an "easy" run! I'll take it! Thank goodness for breaking the boat barrier... until the rest of the week...

Wednesday, June 20: 1.37 mi/9:35 pace/13:07
I wouldn't say I hit the wall, but definitely ran out of time in the day, so went on my recent favorite quick route to get the miles in -- to the far corner of my street and back. I like this stretch because it's 99% flat, so I can push myself pretty good without killing my lungs. The only thing that's killin' me lately is this humidity. Nasty... please go away.

Thursday, June 21: 1.0 mi/8:26 pace/8:26
With how good I felt from the previous two days, I wanted to push and see how hard I could push just one, solid mile. I'm so excited about this! Legitimately, the last time I was given a 1-mile test was something like sophomore year of high school; I've never really thought to push my own limits and see how I've done, but after these last few weeks, I thought it'd be worth it! Never did I think I'd hit under a 9-minute mile... at least no time in the near future, so this felt awesome.
For your viewing pleasure; my reads for the week.

Friday, June 22: 1.02 mi/15:49 pace/16:02
And then crashed the next day and the last thing I wanted to do was run -- but in all fairness, we stayed at the dog park later than I had recently, so it was darker than I wanted it to be to get out for a run. So Molly and I drove home and went straight for a walk. Needless to say, she was tired that evening!
Love my girl.
Saturday, June 23: 1.05 mi/23:16 pace/24:26
Much like Friday, I had no desire to run. My intent was to do so Saturday morning, but I woke up later and it was already hotter than all get out. So I planned on doing it that evening, after the dog park, as usual. Wrong. I had two sorority sisters from Auburn in town (they live in Atlanta) that had come up for AthFest, so I suddenly had plans! So I walked laps while Molly played at the park; no better thing than multitasking right? Better yet, I was eating my Sonic Blast (M&M, of course) while walking while Molly played around. Perfection!

So then I ended up going to AthFest for a while, which is a music festival weekend of sorts here in town. Bands, stages, and music venues everywhere! I hadn't really planned on going, but once I knew they were here, they dragged me out a bit.
AthFest 2012.

Sunday, June 24: 5.47 mi/10:56 pace/59:48 
This is the run I had hoped to do on Saturday! ... minus 3 miles. I got a little over-ambitious, I'll admit! I got up and out the door a little later than I had planned (7:45 am or so) and it was already 78 degrees when I barely left the house! I knew  I was in for an interesting time, but at the least, it'd help get me prepped for Peachtree! I was super sluggish going into this, just couldn't get my mind wrapped around doing a long run. This was the longest run (only one other 5-miler) since my half in April, and especially with this Run Streak challenge, it was more of a push than I'd needed lately. About halfway through, I found myself getting a little more into the mindset, but felt like I struggled the whole way through. Was pleasantly surprised to see that my pace was (just) under 11 minutes. It was nearly 90 by the time I got home, so justifies that sluggish feeling, but whew! Brutal!

From this long run, I've also decided I'm ready to get into a training plan again. I need that push to get in the mood and mind for a weekly long run. Need to see what's next and figure out what I want to get ready for first! So many exciting things coming up this fall: Ragnar, Wine and Dine, and starting my first full marathon training plan! 

Week 4 done. One and a half weeks to go, can you believe it?! How did your Week 4 go? Ready for those last few days? I sure am!