Currently Wearing: Running Shoes

My training partners during college used to tease me because I was religious about replacing my running shoes. Every 4-5 months, no questions asked, even if the tread was still in tact, Katie would be getting new shoes. Ha. I think part of it stemmed from this fear of getting injured from running in old shoes, but if I’m honest, most of it was the allure of a fresh new pair of trainers.

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the porch outside of our apartment during college….lol not all were mine, but most were mine.

Still to this day I love browsing our local running store when I’m bored ha. I’m not quite as fanatic as I used to be, mostly because we’re on a pretty tight budget, but I still rotate my shoes between 3-4 pairs, and try to replace them after I put sufficient mileage on them. Needless to say, I have tried nearly every running shoe on the market, and friends often ask my opinion on which shoes they should get. Which brings me to my next point: which running shoes really are best? Ask any expert, and they will tell you, it totally depends on your training, your foot contact with the ground (ie pronation vs supination vs neutral), and ultimately how the shoe feels. I like to rotate between 3 different types: an everyday heavier trainer, a lightweight trainer, and a super lightweight racing flat. I thought it might help to break it down by what I’m currently wearing. Maybe this will help next time you’re in the market for a new pair!

Currently wearing: Saucony Triumph ISO 2blogpostshoes (3 of 5)Purpose: every day, well-cushioned trainer. This has been a phenomenal shoe that I’ve worn primarily for walking, easy miles, long runs, and also running up and down the street  w/ the baby monitor during nap time ha.

Similar shoe to this that I’ve tried and liked: Saucony Guide, Brooks Ghost, Brooks Glycerin, Hoka One One BondiPearl Izumi N3

Currently wearing: Saucony Triumph ISO 1 blogpostshoes (5 of 5)Purpose: this is the same shoe as above, but an older model . Love!

Currently wearing: Nike Pegasus+29blogpostshoes (1 of 5)Purpose: again, every day trainer. This is a super old model, but newer-to-me shoe. I had a gift card to a running store and found these on the sale rack in my size, so snagged them for free! They are a little narrower than I prefer, and a little lighter and more responsive than the Triumph, so I’ll wear them for tempos on occasion, as well as easy miles.

Similar shoe to this that I’ve tried and liked: Pearl Izumi N2, Hoka One One Clifton, Saucony Breakthru

Currently wearing: Saucony Kinvara 5Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetPurpose: tempo, fast workout, lighter shoe with less stability. I wish I could get away with wearing this shoe for every run, because I love it that much. Just not enough cushion for everyday running in my opinion. Probably on my 7th pair of these! They don’t last as long as a more substantial shoe like the Triumph or Pegasus above, but they are so light, yet still supportive for longer runs. I replace these about every 200 miles.

Similar shoe to this that I’ve tried and liked: Brooks Launch, Pearl Izumi N2

Currently wearing: Pearl Izumi N0blogpostshoes (4 of 5)Purpose: uber lightweight, ideal racing flat. Straightforward with this one. This is a no frills racing flat with pretty much zero stability or cushion. I wear these in races from 1 mile to about 10k. For half marathons and longer, I’ll jump up to the Saucony Kinvara.

Similar shoe to this that I’ve tried and liked: Adidas adios boost

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I didn’t listen to you guys. . .

You guys told me I was going to be faster, that my fitness would come back, and I’d be even stronger than I was before I got pregnant. I didn’t believe you, nor did I listen. Everyone said there’s this thing called “mom power” and I just shook it off because, yea right I’m going to be sleep deprived and will I ever run again? Serious question. I just didn’t know. Being pregnant was really hard on me. I didn’t handle it well, and I know I’ve said that before, but I want to continue to say it in case someone’s reading this and they are not all roses while pregnant. I didn’t bond with Emerson until she arrived. I don’t know why, I just couldn’t. I couldn’t imagine my life any other way than with Jon and my two pups. Now, I wake up and I can’t wait to see what she is going to do that day. Having her has totally wrecked my world in the best way.
With that said, you can imagine my shock when I crossed the finish line of last week’s off-road XC 5k in second place and with a 30 second improvement on my lifetime best. My previous 5k cross country PR was 19:34 and I ran a 19:01 in Los Angeles at Griffith Park. I won’t say I executed the race perfectly, but I gave it my best, and I walked away happy. I still opened up with the first mile in 5:54….ha when will I learn? But when I started to fade at mile 2.5 and a girl passed me, I matched her pace and held her off. I’m proud of my effort, but more importantly, just so amazed at how my fitness has returned, even stronger than before. I hope I make Emerson proud. Being a mom to her is one of my greatest joys in this life. Looking forward to racing a few more 5ks this training cycle. Onward!



Wait, I’m pregnant?!

This is part 2 of 4 of my running/pregnancy/life catch up I’m doing on the blog.

Here is part 1 if you missed it!

Two lines. Seeing them on the pee stick was like having an out-of-body experience. I sat in the bathroom and cried for a long time. We called my mom and told her and my stepdad the news. It wasn’t anything like I had always imagined it would go, with balloons and a cute card saying “Congratulations, Grandma!”. Through tears I just muttered the words: “I’m pregnant.” Why did I feel so scared?

I took this the night I found out. I really wanted to be excited, but I mostly was just so scared.

When we started telling people the news a few months later, friends would ask if I took a bunch of tests to make sure, and honestly I didn’t even think about that. I just took 1? Taking multiple tests is a thing? I had no idea what I was doing (still don’t. does anyone?). I just knew I was pregnant and scared.

We posted this on Instagram when we announced the news at 12 weeks. lol.

The next 8 weeks, also known as the first trimester, are a bit of a blur when I look back. I was really sad. I cried a lot. I didn’t know how to handle the news. I realized deep down that this would be a blessing and all the things I knew I was supposed to say, but I constantly asked myself, “Why do I feel so empty? I am being given one of the greatest gifts in life, one so many women dream of, and something I’ve always wanted, yet I feel like my life is suddenly changing and selfishly I’m not ready for that.”

Because I know you’re wondering, and because I was very open about this prior to getting pregnant, no I was not on the pill. In fact, ironically there is a draft post that I never published on why I went off the pill and how it was one of the best decisions personally and athletically for me. I still stand by that. So, technically, I should have been prepared for what could happen. Duh. It was a decision my husband and I made together, and we still stand by our decision, except he handled the news of having a baby wayyyy better than I did. It literally took him 48 hours and then he was all, “THIS IS AWESOME I’M GONNA BE A DAD!” Perhaps I thought I was immune to Mother Nature. Regardless, it truly took the entire first trimester for me to feel connected to baby.

Honestly, my husband is the best there is. 5 weeks pregnant here. Already hitting up the fried chicken wing joints for dinner 😀

My running changed pretty much overnight. I wanted concrete answers to how training should go during the next 35 weeks. I poured over blogs and books and talked to people I knew who ran while they were pregnant. Everyone just said, “You’ll know what to do.” WHAT THE HECK DOES THAT MEAN? Tell me exactly what to do! Do I wear a heart rate monitor? Do I still train hard? So many unknowns. With the future of having a baby and how to be a mom being so unclear, I desperately wanted answers and something I could control. Releasing the death grip on having a set-in-stone plan for running was difficult. This would become a recurring theme throughout my entire pregnancy. I’ve learned so much.

We celebrated my birthday in mid June with a fun 5k downtown and a nice dinner at one of my favorite restaurants. Jon planned the whole thing. It was such a treat, and getting to tell my good friend Julia the news was great. She’s been such a huge support and a phenomenal friend over the last 8 months.

cheers to 25.

the Gibson Guitar 5k with Julia

As I approached the 12 week mark, I began to feel like the fog was being lifted. I did a happy dance when I made it a few days without crying. People asked me if I ever had morning sickness or extreme fatigue during the first trimester. I didn’t. A little nausea and food aversions, but nothing too terrible, honestly. I think it would have broken me had I experienced the physical pains on top of the mental. God is great like that.

I did eventually figure out a rough “plan” for running, one that worked for me. Because Memphis is insanely hot during the summer, I wore a heart rate monitor for the majority of my runs in the beginning. My coach still sent me weekly “plans”, but they were not set in stone, and I eventually became okay with that. Here’s my training log from a typical week!

6/8/2015 Mon. 6 min easy, 12 min threshold, 6 min easy AM swim. 1000 warm up, 9×100 progressively getting faster, 6×100 with fins. very hard to get out of bed, but i was glad i did it.
6/9/2015 Tues. 10-14 x 90 sec. @ 5k effort with 2 min. recovery this went great!! to avoid overheating, i did the workout inside on the treadmill. 1 mile warm up. 12 repeats. started at 6:30 pace and worked my way down, last 3 were 5:50. Heart rate never hit 170! feeling good.
6/10/2015 Wed. cross train strength trained and biked a bit.
6/11/2015 Thurs. 6 min easy, 12 min threshold, 6 min easy this was my “test” run for saturday. i wanted to see what my heart rate could handle, so i started at 6:30 pace for the middle portion. eventually had to slow down pretty significantly to get my heart rate back down. saturday will be a nice little “trot” ha.
6/12/2015 Fri. 14-18 x 10 sec. @ 400m effort with 2 min. recovery did 6 min easy, 7 min at threshold, 6 min easy.
6/13/2015 Sat. cross train or complete day off Gibson 5k. just paced my friend Julia. 7 min pace. She didn’t race as well as she wanted to, but i felt great. it was really hot.
6/14/2015 Sun. 30 minutes easy nice and easy recovery run with friends!

The main thing was staying hydrated and making sure I could laugh during a workout. Initially, I was very focused on my heart rate and not going over 175 (my lactate threshold), but eventually I realized the laugh/smile/talk test was better, and let me be a little less rigid, without having to constantly check my watch or wait for it to beep to tell me my heart rate was too high. That’s how I gauged the intensity and when to back off. I also trained with a talented high school xc team during June and part of July, which really helped with motivation, and feeling like I wasn’t totally losing all my fitness. Those girls gave me more than they realized during those 6 weeks. I began to find a groove as I approached the second trimester, started feeling happy and confident that I could maybe do this motherhood thing after all!

This is part 2 of 4 of my running/pregnancy/life catch up I’m doing on the blog.

Here is part 1 if you missed it!

 

 

#KeepingItReal

You guyssssss, I did it again. Fell off the blog wagon. Good thing I don’t do this blog thing to gain followers, because I think that’s one of the keys to having a regular readership—consistency. Ha. Oh well.

I have a few drafts waiting to be published, as well as a few race recaps, but as I was doing my post-run foam rolling/stretching this morning, I decided I should do a “Keeping it Real” post. I love this movement Lauren Fleshman started. So much.

To bring you up-to-date, I took 3 weeks off running COMPLETELY recently, and I’m just now getting back in the swing of things. I feel awkward, a little pudgy, and out of shape. But, it was absolutely necessary. I felt some twinges in my knee that didn’t feel right, and after a really hard 8 months of training and racing, it felt only necessary to be kind to both my mind and body and give them some rest. So, that’s what I did. Ironically (or really not so ironically), during those three weeks, it seemed like a ton of elite runners I respect (Hellooo Tina Muir!!), wrote key articles on the importance of rest and recovery. That honestly made my time off so much easier, knowing without a doubt I was doing the right thing. Was it optimal timing for the St. Jude Memphis ½ marathon coming up? Nah. But, honestly, I probably shouldn’t have even signed up for St. Jude in the first place with all my crazy running this summer and fall, and zero planned recovery. Whoops. You learn and you adjust. That’s what I love so much about this sport. I’m constantly learning what works best.

So, here I am, 4 weeks out from St. Jude, a little out of shape, but I feel no sad feelings because I truly had a phenomenal 8 months of PRs out the wazoo, and tons of happy running. I can’t complain one bit. After a fun race at St. Jude on December 6th (no plans of PR’ing, just going to run it because I already signed up for it, and it’s a great cause.), I’ll begin a new training cycle with my focus being the 10k and ½ marathon this spring. It should be fun, but also really humbling too because I’ll be running St. Jude with a teeny bit of me wishing I were racing it.

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So, what did I do with my time off? First of all, I didn’t cross train. I chose not to, because a.) I mentally can’t handle the elliptical for more than 10 minutes. It’s awful. And b.) I wanted to rest completely from all cardio.

What I DID do, was be proactive with my time. I visited a few physical therapists to look at some of my weaknesses, including one who specializes in gait analysis, got two deep-tissue massages (helloooo treating myself!), went on some perfect fall walks with Eli, and started working on some muscle imbalances I need to fix before this next training cycle. I really just lived in the present, and tried my best to embrace where I am at the moment, and not freak out about getting out of shape. Trusting the process!

This week was my second week back, and like I said, I do feel awkward, and slooowwww. In the spirit of honesty, all my runs this week were around 9:30-10:30 pace! Yes, that’s correct. I am taking my easy/recovery runs very seriously (something I have always felt passionate about!). How am I supposed to do my 1500 meter pace workouts at sub 5 minute pace, and my 5k pace workouts at 5:30-45 pace like I was doing at the end of this last training cycle if I’m not fully recovered, rested, and ready to hit it in a few weeks? It is impossible to hit those paces if I’m not recovered. So there’s that.IMG_9677.JPG

I hope you are enjoying this fall season, and embracing where you are currently, wherever that may be. Trust the process and live in the present, I promise your outlook will be a lot less frazzled. Happy Friday!

 

 

How running fast can win you a year supply of free Chick-Fil-A 5k

I am still wading through summer race recaps. If you asked me in May about racing a lot this summer, my response probably would have been, “Hmm. Probably not. It’s too hot in the summer!” Well, I guess moving to a new city where there are races literally every weekend makes it more feasible.  The Chick-fil-A 5k is a Memphis race in its 12th year. I was planning on spending my Labor Day weekend floating on the Tennessee river with a beer in hand, but when I found out the winner of the race receives free chick-fil-a for an entire year (!!), I might have altered my plans a little bit to up my annie of winning, if you will. He he. I did still go to the river that weekend, and I did still relax on the boat, but I kept in the back of my head that I miiiiight have to head home early to see if I can win this crazy race. So, after a fun-filled two days at my parents’ cabin, Jon told me he “reallllllyyy wanted free chicken,” and that we should go. Wanting to see what I was made of in the 5k after not racing that distance since May, I definitely was on board ☺IMG_9085.JPG

I will admit, this was a spur of the moment race. I had no idea what to expect. People advised me it would be hot, but honestly, I still thought I could PR because I felt I was in better shape than the last time I PRd in May. The race was on Monday morning (Labor Day), and I talked my friend Jennie into going downtown with me to race it.

As I try to recap this race, it’s difficult! 5ks are so short! But wow, CAN WE ALL JUST AGREE THIS DISTANCE HURTS MORE THAN ALL THE REST?!

At about the ½ mile mark, I took the lead as first female. I honestly felt so strong, and although I wasn’t wearing a watch, I really felt I was going pretty fast. I raced smart, didn’t start off too fast, and passed a few guys the last half of the race. Overall, if you would have asked me how the race went, I would say, “Great!”

I remember it being terribly hot, but not so much so that I felt it affected my speed. Well, something affected my speed, because I crossed the line in 19:30. Wooooof, was I shocked. My previous PR was 19:07, and I literally was just tempoing that day! I for real raced a 5k and was almost 30 seconds slower during a time I’m supposed to be more fit!? I was perplexed and disappointed. Although I was happy to get free chick-fil-a for a year for the hubz, I really didn’t understand how that just happened. I walked to the finishers’ tent and waited for my friend Jennie to finish. When she crossed, she informed me her Garmin said the course was super long. Okay, Okay, I know what you’re thinking. “Katie, please don’t be THAT runner who makes excuses for course length.” But, really, I am going to be that runner because I need some consolidation.IMG_9084.JPG

Okay, so what if the course wasn’t long? What else could I blame my slow time on?

Well, for one, I didn’t give enough credit to the heat. The race didn’t start until 9am, and there was NO course shade. it.was.HOT 93 degrees F. I think it’s incredibly fascinating how our bodies adapt. I completely relied off perceived effort, which I’ve learned is pretty spot on. I felt I was going as fast as I could, so I can’t really ask for more than that.IMG_7014.JPG

Here’s to more days of giving it my all, and enjoying the process. I don’t want to get bogged down with constantly wishing I was there, or running that time. I’m thankful for legs to run and a heart to compete and always wanting to get better.

Finding a coach that is right for you and your training.

In April of this year, I decided to take the plunge and hire a running coach. It wasn’t difficult to decide whether I needed a coach, but finding the right fit was a process really important to me.IMG_8428_6639

I was a two-sport collegiate athlete, and growing up on lots of sports teams, being coached has always seemed right for me. I really admire athletes who are self-coached, but that takes a LOT of self-awareness and what I like to call, “taking the emotion out of it.” I don’t know about you all, but it is really easy for me to get emotionally wrapped up in my training, and make stupid decisions. When we are so invested in our training, I think it’s difficult oftentimes to separate the emotional side between wanting soo badly to get better, and knowing what is actually best for our bodies. Coaches can look at our training from an unbiased position, and tell us when we are being irrational and JPD (just plain dumb).IMG_0749_80132

I “interviewed” (if you want to call it that) a few different coaches in March of this year. I had a set of qualities I was looking for in someone to whom I would entrust my goals and daily training. This is what I came up with before I talked to them:

  1. Where are they located? I was not opposed to a long-distance coach, but being in close-proximity was a huge plus. I like knowing a coach can supervise a workout every now and then or come to a local race.
  2. What is their coaching philosophy? Yes, this is a broad question. First I had to figure out MY running philosophy. Before deciding on my coach, I really wasn’t sure whether I did better with high-mileage or not, how many miles I should be running each week, etc. I knew a couple things going in to our conversations: I prefer speed workouts over tempos, but I want to eventually transition to the marathon at some point. In the past I have been injury prone, so I needed a coach who would respect and encourage me to listen to my body rather than push through pain. I knew I wanted to wait a few years before running my first marathon (as in 2-3 years). I don’t want to feel pressured by a coach to jump into a distance I don’t mentally feel ready to conquer yet. Finally, I wanted a coach who believes in me. I know not everyone is going to be as awesome of a fan as my husband (He is the BEST), but I wanted a coach who wouldn’t hesitate when I told him/her my craziest running dreams. Words of affirmation are a huge deal for me—I need to know I am doing a great job from those I trust. It’s not that I am lacking confidence, but if I know my support group is behind me, I feel I can conquer anything. Everyone is different.  These are all small things that add up in the end. What are your non-negotiables when thinking about who you’d like to have as a coach?

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    Seriously, I have the most supportive husband.

  3. How much do they cost? This was probably more of a deal-breaker than the other two. We all wish money wasn’t an option, but that’s not reality. Being newlyweds, Jon and I really had to consi
    der what we could afford per month in coaching fees. We needed someone who wasn’t going to break our bank.
  4. Who do they currently coach? Basically, what is their “track record” like? I talked with one coach who really was so nice and SUPER informative, and someone I felt I could trust, but when I looked into it and researched a little more, the majority of his current athletes were sidelined with overuse injuries! That was a huge red flag for me. Additionally, are their athletes improving or have they had the same half-marathon PR for 3 years?
  5. Lastly, what is the communication like between athlete and coach? One coach I considered took 4 weeks to return my email. Look, I know emails are soooo 1999, but c’mon, 4 weeks!? That tells me they may be difficult to get in touch with when communicating back and forth about training or simple questions I may need answered the same day/within a few days (ie. “I’m going to get new running shoes this weekend; what do you recommend for a daily trainer?”). Additionally, another coach informed me we were only able to communicate directly one time per month, and it had to be through an online database. I totally understand some people just don’t need much guidance and this may work for you, but for me, I ask a LOT of questions. To say I can only ask one questions per month and I would need to pay $100/month for “direct” communication with a coach is a weeee bit ambitious for me.  
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    The athletes under my coach swept the field at a recent race.

Well, there you have it! Those are my personal questions I came up with before talking to each coach. All the coaches besides one were people I had never met, and I only heard about them through references or other runners. I obtained their email addresses, shot them an email, and set up a phone convo. Each of the phone conversations ended up taking about 45 minutes, and after that, I felt I had a pretty good gauge on the coach I would probably choose. It really wasn’t difficult after writing down my questions and what I felt I needed in a coach!

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I now run for the same running store I called that day!

I am happy to report I really believe I made the right decision on the coach I chose. Not only have I become so much stronger and a more well-rounded runner (I’ve PRd in almost every distance!), but my confidence has soared, too.  I ended up choosing a coach out of Memphis, TN who came via recommendation from a local running store. Really, I just called up a local Memphis running store before we moved there, and told them I was looking to hire a coach. The guy on the phone hooked me up with an email address, and the rest is history!

I don’t believe any coach is the end-all-be-all of running. A lot of days I still have to listen to my body and make decisions on the fly that will be the best for me. I have a “big picture” of running (meaning, I don’t believe one workout or even one week of training is going to make or break me as a runner). I am not completely dependent on my coach, but I really respect his training plans and guidance for me. That’s huge. Do your research and figure out what you, personally, need out of a coach. If you do that, you’ll probably make the right decision. Wishing you happy running vibes and fast races!

Run on!

Another 5 mile race in the books and learning you’re actually strong.

Well, guys. Fall is finally here. I never thought I’d be able to say that. I had doubts the heat would EVER leave, but like all the years prior, it comes and goes as promised. I know that sounds all poetic and mushy, but think about it. How amazing are the seasons? Every year we get to experience a re-birth of color, smell and temperature. I think if we took a vote, fall would win for everyone’s favorite season.

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aren’t we all excited for hot coffee again?!? PS: this recipe for these pancakes coming soon!

Despite wanting to talk about how great the cooler weather is and rave with everyone and their mother about pumpkin spice lattes, I’m going to live in the past for a few more posts (or at least until I catch up with race recaps).

Let’s go back a few weeks to the Memphis Road Race Series 5 mile.

LAWDDDD IT WAS HOT.

Dead of August and minimal course shade.

Let’s do this.

I was coming off a win and big PR at the Overton Park 5 mile classic a few weeks prior, so there’s always the pressure to better that time. Knowing Overton Park was half on trails, and this was all on road and less hilly, I thought surely I could grab another PR.

Since racing garmin-less, I’ve felt less expectation to hit a certain “time” or “pace”. My plan? Go for a win and be brave. Alright, here we go, I can try to do that! I don’t ever have a difficult time competing against those around me, but the tough part of this race came two days prior.

On Thursday before the race (race was on Sunday), I had a great workout with a training bud. Let me give you a little background info on my training plan. My coach will sometimes give me a “general” range of reps for intervals. For example, Thursday’s workout was “18-24x 8 seconds at 200meter pace with 1 minute rest between each”. Okay okay, I know what you’re thinking. 8 SECONDS?!? I promise, if you run these correctly, 8 seconds is difficult. My coach gives us a range because we need to be in tune with our bodies. If my legs are only able to give me 18 reps in a given day, I do not need to feel the pressure to run all 24. I really like this style. I know some people would always run the maximum given amount, but really, you have to listen. That day, I’ll be honest, I didn’t listen. This workout was tough. By the time we got to number 16 in this workout, my legs were screaming. I knew it would be a good day if I made it to 18. If I were running this by myself, I would have stopped at 18. Then there’s that competitive side of me again…shoot. Always sneaks in. Before I knew it we completed all 24, and I could barely jog home my legs were shaking so bad!

IMG_8347.JPGThe next day I was kicking myself for being stubborn, knowing I had a race in 2 days and I needed to recover! I took an ice bath, stretched, foam rolled, everything I could to try and recover. Well, the soreness was still present on race day. Stiff legs and far from poppy, but my coach advised me to still run it, and just treat it as a tempo. That completely took the pressure off, so I obliged and planned to still run.

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Also, what else was present on race day involves Mother Nature. Dang it! Despite feeling like everything was against me for this race, I took an ibuprofen for those Mother Nature cramps, and decided I’d still give it my all despite feeling sluggish and fat. (If you’re a woman you can understand).

Just as the name of the race implies, this is a series, meaning you’ll usually find the same people at each of the races. I didn’t sign up for the entire series, but I was fully aware there were some fast girls running all the races. When I got to the starting line, I made my way to the front, and noticed only one other girl lined up at the front. I figured that’s who I would be up against.

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Welllll, come to find out, homegirl ran division 1 track and cross country a few short years ago, and wellll, she went out with the 2 lead guys from the get-go. Shoot. I kept her in sight, and promised myself I’d try to reel her in after mile two.

The first few miles were relatively uneventful. I had no watch, and the miles weren’t marked, so I had to estimate where the 2 mile was by the water stations. I figured they probably put them every other mile, so when I came to the first stop, I guessed that was about mile 2. I kept division 1 homegirl in sight, and went to go catch her, but she must have had the same idea as me with the men in front of her, because she sped up, too.

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I grabbed a swig of water at the aid station, and I don’t know if I forgot to breath or what, but after grabbing that water, the infamous diaphragm side cramp came on. Shoooot. I knew it would be a long 3 miles, but I decided, “hey, I already have a million factors against me this race, what’s one more pain?” So, I dug deep and tried to keep homegirl within visible distance, although I could tell she was pulling away little by little.

Like I said, there weren’t any mile markers, or maybe I was too distracted by my legs being on fire and my side cramp coming through my rib-cage, but I had no idea how much distance we still had to cover before the finish. This was probably a good thing, to be honest. If I knew I still had half of the race left, I think mentally I would have given up then.

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It’s so amazing how our brains work. I swear I thought I still had at least 2 miles to go in this awful race, and then I hear someone say, “Mile 4! One mile to go!” WAIT ARE YOU SERIOUS?! I can hang on for another mile!

So I did.

I stayed with the pack of guys I ran with most of the race. As much as I wanted to pull away from them like I normally would try to do, I just couldn’t. I was giving everything I had to stick with them.

IMG_8462.JPGThe last little bit of the course winds around a huge park during which you can see the finish line the entire time. Can we all agree these are the WORST courses? Seriously, I was like, “Can I just cut across that baseball field and finish, pleassseeee?”

The finish chute is somewhat on an incline, so I pushed up the hill. My body hurt and I felt nowhere near a PR, but when I saw the finish-line clock, I was pleasantly surprised! 15 Second PR!
31:58. Barely got under 32! 6:23 average pace.

Not incredible, but we all know a new personal best is better than no personal best, and for what my body gave me that day, I can’t complain one bit. Hot weather, course with a million turns, stiff competition, and tired legs were what I had to work with, and I made it work. It wasn’t pretty, but I made it work.

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I learned that day you’re capable of probably more than you think you are. Not wearing a watch further solidified my previous thoughts that it can hold you back. If I had set a time goal or even a pace goal, I probably would have been super conservative for fear of not being able to get a PR with my tired legs. I’m glad I didn’t wear a watch, and I’m glad I was able to push through when it wasn’t my best day.

As for homegirl, she beat me by about 40 seconds, and I kept her in visible distance the entire time. I found out some of her other times from races, and she really is a phenomenal runner, so I’m pleased with being in relatively close proximity even! Ha!

Now, back to autumn. I am soooo glad the temperatures are no longer as hot as that race! Stay tuned for more race recaps from this summer! I’m slowly getting through them, and look forward to sharing more race days and insights I learn from this crazy journey.

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Maybe you didn’t know this about me . . .

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In addition to my day job, I actually write food articles and recipes + take photos for a local print magazine (gasp, I know, those still exist!). I’ve been doing that for 3 years now (has it really been that long?!), and although I’d probably consider myself somewhat experienced in that area, I guess I’ve been hesitant to share recipes on here because it seems like everyone in the universe has a food blog. I mean, c’mon, do we REALLY need more recipes for the “Best brownies ever” or “Kale chips”?

Even though most of me said, “Make MsKatieBlaze just a running blog,” I feel not sharing the foodie side of me is kind of like not sharing the full me. So, as I find more time now that grad school is (FINALLYYYY) done, I decided I might start incorporating a few food photos and recipes.   I am really intrigued by the fueling aspect of running, and I think as athletes it becomes easy to get in a rut eating the same thing every day. Maybe the recipes I share will encourage you get creative in the kitchen with your eats!salmonsliders

I’ll share a little bit of everything. Because it’s the end of the summer, I really wanted to post these salmon burger sliders. THEY.ARE.DELICIOUS! These were inspired by the Curried Salmon Burger Lettuce Wraps over at Half-Baked-Harvest. Tieghan is a pure genius in the kitchen, and I know anything I make from her blog is going to be a hit. Without further a-do . . .
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End-Of-Summer Salmon Burger Sliders

Yields 8 small sliders

Ingredients:

1 lb wild caught salmon, skin removed and roughly chopped

1/3 cup bread crumbs

2 tablespoons parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons thai red curry paste (found in the international section of most grocery stores)

½ tablespoon fish sauce (found in the international section of most grocery stores)

1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tablespoon oil (I used coconut)

½ medium-size cucumber, thickly sliced

1 small mango, skin removed and thickly sliced

4 ounces goat cheese (log, not crumbled), thickly sliced

Crushed red pepper

Instructions:

  1. Place the chopped raw salmon in a food processor on high until it is ground.
  2. Combine salmon, bread crumbs, parmesan, thai red curry paste, fish sauce, ginger and garlic and mix well. Form into 8 small sized “slider” burgers.
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add coconut oil to skillet. Add burgers, and cook until done, a few minutes per side. Set aside.
  4. Using toothpicks or small skewers, begin to stack sliders beginning with cucumber, goat cheese, burger, and finally the sliced mango. Sprinkle with crushed red pepper if preferred. Serve immediately.

Recipe adapted from and heavily inspired by the Curried Salmon Burger Lettuce Wraps  at www.halfbakedharvest.com. 

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Winning the oldest foot race in Memphis and wedding photos!

Less than a week after the dreadful experience that was the Chicago Rock’n’Roll ½ Marathon, Jon and I got married! Wahoo! Honestly, it was the greatest week and weekend, so as you can imagine, the disappointment from the race quickly disappeared. We had a wedding to attend, and it was OURS!IMG_8373.JPGIMG_8497

Following our blissful wedding (No honeymoon; booo 😦 ) we were kind of jolted back into real life. Jon started classes two days later, and I was back at work the following Monday as well. Additionally, I had the attitude that if we had to be back in real life, why shouldn’t I keep training? Despite giving myself grace the week and few weeks after the wedding with training, I honestly didn’t miss a workout, and I think it was partly because with everything going on and all the changes, training was something consistent in my life full of so many new things. For example, when I had to talk to a million people at the rehearsal dinner with zero alone time (#introvertprobz), I actually wanted to wake up on my wedding day and do a workout. Beth joined me at the local track, and we pounded out a ladder workout at 3k pace. It was refreshing, and just what I needed. I am thankful she was willing to wake up. True friend right there.IMG_8498

Jumping right into training after the wedding had its perks, but like I said, I gave and I’m still giving myself wiggle room. In a perfect world I would wake up early before work (5am ish) and get the workout done. Lately, though, I find myself wanting to sleep in and relax with the hubz in the morning, drinking coffee, and talking about our plans for the day. Would I have a better workout if I woke up and got it done in the morning?  Probably.  But, spending this morning time together when we don’t have a lot of time at night is really valuable to me, and ultimately that life-long relationship is more important than getting a workout done in the morning. So there’s that.

IMG_8004As I give myself grace on getting morning workouts done and going to bed a little later than I prefer, I think it’s ironic I’ve actually had a really great last month of training and racing. And that’s what brings me to my post for today: winning the oldest footrace in Memphis.

This year was the 41st annual Overton park 5 miler. This race is known for being really tough and HOTT. It’s August in the South!

Following Rock’n’Roll Chicago, for good reason I believe, I decided to race without a watch for the first time in years.  For my running confidence, I needed to do this. I knew I was fit enough to run sub 1:30 at Chicago, and I decided to approach this race with a clean slate. It is known for being really hilly, half on trails and grass, and lots of turns. I had no idea what to expect, but I told myself I would dig deep and work hard and most importantly not start my watch or look at a race clock.

So that’s what I did, and following suit with the last few posts: this is the story of that morning.

The race started at 8am less than 2 miles from our apartment, so it was perfect to use that as a warm-up. When I arrived at the park, I realized how cool of a tradition this race is! 41 years is a long time! There were guys running this race for their 30th year in a row. I’m not even 30 years old. I felt humbled to be there.

Like I said, I knew this was a tough course. The director told me beforehand he re-did the course this year to make it as difficult as possible?!! OH GOOD! Ha. For some reason I wasn’t nervous, though. I knew it would be hard, but it would be hard for everyone. Everyone would have to run the same course as me. Solidarity.

I gave Jon a kiss before heading to the starting line, and before I knew it we were off!

IMG_7942Because I run almost daily in this park, I know it like the back of my hand. I know when there is a slight uphill or a downhill, and I know about how far points to points are. Like previous races, I promised I wouldn’t start “racing” until the half-way point. Within the first mile, I found myself in a group of men a little older than me, and I was first female. It made me giggle a little when two guys (obviously training partners/friends) were going back and forth about the “pace” we were holding.

“Okay, *Bob, you’re a little ambitious right now. We are a little ahead of pace!”

IMG_7988.JPGI obviously had no idea what pace we were at because remember I didn’t have my watch turned on!

It was a freeing moment 🙂 I felt strong, and for once I didn’t even care about the pace.

When I got to mile 2.5 (or what I presumed to be), I picked it up and started to “race” as I promised myself. I broke away from that pack of guys and really dialed into a hard effort.

Around mile 3, we hit the trails! With it being single track, I solely concentrated on not falling LOLL. (I very rarely run trails).

I passed my coach and a water station at mile 4, and with one mile to go, still having zero clue where I was pace wise, I felt strong and HAPPY! Can you tell? 😉

IMG_7947.JPGThe last mile seemed like eternity, and with it being an uphill, it was tough! I tried super hard to catch the guy in front of me, but couldn’t quite make it.

Regardless, I ended up 1st female overall, and when I crossed the finish line seeing the clock, boy was I pretty shocked. 32:14!

IMG_7979.JPGI did the math and realized I just ran 6:27 pace on a super tough course. I persevered and I finally felt confident about my training again after the disappointing Chicago experience.

We all have peaks and troughs in our training. That’s part of it. I’ve had a really good summer, but I know there absolutely has to be troughs and valleys in order to appreciate the peaks. This race was a peak, and I’m thankful for that. I don’t take days like this lightly; I know this is a gift I’ve been given for a short time, even if for a lifetime. Life is short.

Why getting back on the oval is fun and shattering my high school records.

As runners and even as humans, I believe there is something inside each of us that makes us fearful of trying to conquer a past personal best because we are afraid of not living up to the previous standard we set. It’s part of our human nature to fear. Of course, when you read “personal best”, I know you probably think of PRs and races and records, but I mean personal bests in other aspects of life, too.

It’s that whole pseudo-mentality we all have that says somehow age makes us incapable of bettering previous moments in our life. Do you have that, too? In running, I think about races or certain distances or even courses at which I’ve done really well, and something in me is a little bit afraid to go back and try it again because I’m afraid I won’t do as well or better. And who wants to get worse in life, anyway? So we avoid them. We avoid hard situations and places and people.

This post is about facing hard situations head on rather than turning from them. I could list a lot of moments in my life when I either decided not to face something, or didn’t want to because the fear of failure is oftentimes stronger than the will to try it.
Babe Ruth said, “Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.”

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Let’s take a look at my high school records on the track. I was by no means phenomenal, but for my small town and small school, you could say I was a big fish in a little pond. So, even though a 12 minute 2 mile is probably average for most well-trained high school girls in large cities and schools, to me, it seemed blazing, and the one time I broke 12 minutes (11:56) in 2006, I thought I was flying. After my track career ended in high school and I was no longer training at “that level”, breaking 12 minutes in the 2 mile ever again seemed so farfetched.
When I stepped on the oval this summer at a dinky little free community track meet, I had very little confidence I would actually be able to break 12 minutes. I tried it a few summers ago and could barely muster sub 13. I know I’ve put in a lot of work since then, and my fitness has improved drastically, but sub 12? Really? It was one of those decisions to face my fears of failing. I told myself, “So what if I don’t break 12! It.will.be.okay. Stop putting so many expectations and boundaries on yourself, Katie. Have a great time and see what you can do.” So that’s what I did.

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ohhhh, the high school days

I got to the track for the Memphis All-comers meet on a Thursday after work, and was surprised at how cool it was for being dead-of-summer in Memphis. I did my typical warm-up of about 2 miles, with dynamic stretching and form drills. I felt good and calm! Let’s do this!
And thennnn I saw some girls warming up around my age that looked super fit, sports bras and spandex and all, and I was like, “grreeaatttt.” Haha. I walked over to my coach and said, “Soooo, umm am I going to come in last in this race? Like, how fast are those girls?” Haha, typical Katie question. His response? “Just worry about Katie. You’re fine. You’re going to do great. Now, I want you to only look at your watch at the 200 meter mark of the first lap. After that, don’t look at it again. Dial in to what feels right, and crank down the last mile. You’re fit. You’re going to do great.”
I trusted him. So, as scary as it may seem, I did exactly what he said, and this is the story of what happened:

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I don’t even remember my split on that first 200. I remember going out and after the first lap, I was in third place overall, and 1st for the females. “WHAT!? What about those girls with 6 packs? Where are they?” I don’t know where they were but I was in front and I couldn’t believe it. I dialed into what felt comfortable and let loose. The first mile I just kept saying to myself, “Don’t race yet. Get into a groove and then the last mile let’er’rip.” I came in through the first mile and I heard the race director say, “5:52, first female, Go get those guys!” “Wait what?! I just ran a sub 6 minute mile…okay, hold on, please don’t let the wheels fall off. 4 laps to go, here we go!”I would hear my coach yell at me each lap, “Katie, you’re doing great. You look strong.”

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Then, with 2 laps to go he said, “You’re going to break 12 minutes. Just crank it down!”
From a distance I heard Jon (my husband) say, “GOOO KATIEEEE; THAT’S MY GIRL!” (Which is the greatest thing ever, btw)
With a lap to go, I literally just ran as hard as I could. 400 meters! Anyone can run hard for 400 meters.
I came through, stopped my watch and looked at it for the first time.
11:37.

I couldn’t believe it. “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?” I was in shock. I just broke an 8 year record of mine by 20 seconds??
It was a great night for sure. Who doesn’t love winning and running fast? However, more so than that, I truly believe I learned more about facing my fears than anything else. What if I decided not to race the 2 mile because I was afraid I could never break 12 minutes again? We now know that’s silly, but at the time, my own boundaries I put upon myself could have held me back.
Glad they didn’t.