Sunday, October 1, 2017

Chicago Marathon Training: Final Week

Wow!  This summer has flown by!  The past 17 weeks have been challenging and hot but Chicago Marathon is only one week away.  I'll be sharing with you the workouts I did to prepare for this year's Chicago Marathon.  You can see my other two training updates below.

Chicago Marathon Training: Week One
Chicago Marathon Training: Week Two and Three

To say that training didn't go as planned would be a huge understatement.  I unfortunately lost a toenail in the middle of July- my first ever toenail casualty.  The pressure of my running shoes against my nail-less toe hurt on training runs greater than 4 or 5 miles.  I used a lot of Aaptiv workouts on the treadmill during my early weeks of marathon training.

After a lot of discouraging pace runs, I picked up Pure Barre at the end of July for cross training.  This has been one of the best decisions I've made in a long time.  Directly from their website, "Pure Barre is a total body workout that utilizes the ballet barre to perform small, isometric movements, which burn fat, sculpt muscles and create long, lean physiques."  Pure Barre is definitely not a replacement for running, but it complements my training schedule and doesn't require shoes!  It was a great way to workout for 55 minutes without bothering my right big toe.  I definitely already see a difference in my muscles.  I've been going to Pure Barre about five times a week and am currently participating in my studio's 30 in 45 Challenge. 

In August, the OrangeTheory Fitness studio near my house opened.  You would think I'm crazy to not only have an unlimited membership at Pure Barre, but also OrangeTheory Fitness.  The classes are so different, and I feel that they both benefit my running in various ways.  I also attend OrangeTheory Fitness 4-5 times a week (yes, that means I've done many two-a-days in August and September).  The treadmill intervals have definitely helped with my speed.  When I started OTF, my maximum all out pace was 7.0 MPH.  This week, I got up to 8.0 MPH.  I love pushing myself on the treadmill and the trainers definitely encourage me to do better. 

So with all these fitness classes, where has that left my running?  Well, I ran a Half Marathon in early September.  I toed the starting line with a "just finish" mindset and ended up beating my PR by 23 seconds.  This race was by no means a push pace.  I set out with a run/walk ratio of 4:00/1:00 and maintained it the entire 13.1 miles.  I stayed under 12:30 min/mile the entire time, but I don't know if I will be able to keep that up in Chicago.  

My goal has changed from a 12:00 pace to a 13:00 pace.  I didn't get enough long runs in this summer to feel confident enough to pull off my original goal.  I'm surprisingly OK with that, too.  There will be many other Chicago Marathons in my future.  If I get in next year, I will be running the 2018 Chicago Marathon on my 30th birthday.  This year the race happens to fall the day after my birthday so I'm just going to enjoy the weekend in The Windy City celebrating my last birthday in my 20's.  I have a feeling there will be lots of champagne and kombucha consumed this weekend and I wouldn't have it any other way! 

If you'd like to leave me a message to see at miles 13 and 26, use the link below and search "Amanda Donnelly."  I'm going to need all the on-course encouragement I can get!

Messages of Inspiration


Monday, June 26, 2017

Chicago Marathon Training: Week Two and Three

I missed my update last week because I was at the beach so I'm going to recap weeks two and three of my Chicago Marathon training. As I mentioned in my first post, I'm using Hal Higdon Novice 2 and my goal pace is 12:00 minute miles. This will be my fourth marathon but it's the first time I have a time goal. If you missed my week one training update, you can catch up here. 

Week 2 included the same 2 three mile runs and a five mile run that week one included. There is no speed work included in the guide I'm following, but I'm going to occasionally incorporate it in just as an added benefit. This week I got rained out and took one of my three mile runs inside on the treadmill and I used a workout on the Aaptiv app. Aaptiv is an app with a ton of different workouts but I've only used it for treadmill runs. My favorite is Brit is Back, a speed workout set to different songs by my queen, Britney Spears. The workout is only 2.5 miles but can easily be bumped up to 3 miles by increasing every interval by .2 MPH and resuming the 5.0 MPH pace during recovery. This workout actually feels really good for me and my training because I have to hold my goal pace during recovery, despite being tired and out of breath from intervals. 

I hate that I did this, but I skipped my 9 mile run on Saturday because I was at the beach. The guilt I feel from skipping a long run early on is enough to ensure I don't skip another long run. The plan allows room for flexibility but it highly encourages not skipping or adjusting the long runs. 

Week three started out with a great track run. I ran my first mile in 9:52 and it's honestly been a month or two since I ran a sub 10:00 mile. I also found out during week three that I was selected as an ambassador for Asheville Marathon! I've never run Asheville Marathon before but I've read about the beautiful scenic course set on Biltmore Estate. I'm really excited for the scenery and Biltmore wine. As an ambassador, I've been given a friends and family discounts to share until July 31st. This rate is the absolute lowest I'll be able to share with you as a race ambassador and it's super simple to redeem. Register here and use the codes below for 15% off all distances and challenges. 


This plan also requires cross training once a week. I've currently been playing tennis and using Kayla Itsines Bikini Body Guide workouts on days I don't run, but I'll soon be switching to Orange Theory Fitness classes. I signed up for a membership in January for a studio opening soon by my house. I'm really excited to see how OTF classes will improve my running. I've heard wonderful things and loved the preview class I got to take at another studio in town. 

I'll kick things up in week four with an 11 mile run and I'm excited to see how that goes! I'll check in with you next Monday! 

Monday, June 12, 2017

Chicago Marathon Training: Week One

I'm currently training for the 2017 Chicago Marathon and wanted to share my progress weekly. I am 17 weeks out now and selected Hal Higdon's Novice 2 program. Having completed three marathons, I still feel like a beginner. This program is designed for beginners who have run an occasional 5k or half marathon and have been running at least a year. I felt like the Intermediate 1 program would've left me burnt out in the first month since it requires six days a week. Novice 2 requires five days of training per week. A long run and a day of cross training are included in every week of the Novice 2 plan. Below is the full schedule.

My first run was on Tuesday and consisted of an easy 3 miles on the track. I didn't intend for this to be a progressive run but the songs kept getting better and it just happened that way.

My Wednesday run was intended to be a 5 mile pace run. I got pulled over on my way to the track and by the time the officer let me go, I only had enough time to go home and run a 5k on my own. We had kickball playoffs that night and after winning our first game we ended up having a double header. It was probably best that I didn't run the 5 miles I was scheduled that day, anyways.

I ended up doing my 5 mile pace run on Friday. My goal pace for Chicago is 12:00. I started my first lap on the track at a 10:34 pace. I was feeling good on Friday so I had to add in a few walk breaks to get down to a 12:00 pace. I ended up running an average 11:51 pace. I'm going to re-evaluate my goal around week 7 and figure out if an 11:30 pace may be achievable. For now, I'm shooting for 12:00 though.

My last run of the week was an 8 mile pace run on Sunday evening. Everything about this run was bad for me. I know they say "the only bad run is the one you don't do" but I can't imagine this run helped me at all. I was slower than my goal pace and wasn't feeling well. Waiting until Sunday evening wasn't the best idea so I will not be making that mistake next week.

Other than Sunday's long run, I feel really good about my first week of Chicago Marathon training. After running this race in 2016, it easily became my favorite race. Knowing everything I have to look forward to in Chicago is motivation to train harder and smarter this year. 17 more weeks!

Monday, March 20, 2017

runDisney 2016 Lumiere's Two Course Challenge Review

As you may know, runDisney made many changes to their 2016 Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend.  Despite unfavorable weather in both 2014 and 2015, Wine & Dine Half Marathon was my favorite race.  I even preferred it over Princess Half Marathon which will always hold a special place in my heart as my first Half Marathon. 

These changes involved the addition of a 10k which also opened up the opportunity to run Lumiere's Two Course Challenge.  The challenge was a great addition, in my opinion.  In gaining the challenge, they sacrificed the Saturday night 10:00 PM start time to host the events on Saturday and Sunday morning, respectively.  I was skeptical of this change since the night run through the parks is what made Wine & Dine Half Marathon a unique race.  I won't elaborate on all the changes though because I'd prefer to focus on sharing my experience running the 2016 event, exclusively.  I will disclose that due to the changes, I contemplated back and forth whether to participate at all in 2016 and after running the event I can confidently say I am glad I didn't miss it.

My original plans for this weekend included running Lumiere's Two Course Challenge on November 5th and 6th and staying in Orlando for a week to run Race 13.1 Orlando on November 13th.  I unfortunately had to unexpectedly take some time off work in October which caused me to cut my vacation a little short, eliminating Race 13.1 Orlando from my race schedule.  I am pleased to share that they graciously allowed me to transfer my registration to Race 13.1 Durham with no problem whatsoever.  Customer service is very important to me when selecting races and Race 13.1 has always gone above and beyond to provide A+ customer service.  I hope to be able to share a review of Race 13.1 Orlando with you in the near future although they have yet to release an official 2017 date.

I arrived in Orlando early Friday morning and went directly to Epcot.  Orlando is approximately a nine hour drive from my current location so I like to leave my home around midnight and drive straight through.  I had not yet ridden Frozen Ever After and it was my top priority to get in line before it got too long.  I waited just short of an hour which I consider a win.  I would not wait that long again to ride Frozen, but it was worth it for my first time. It was also the perfect way to kick off a runDisney race weekend by frantically changing clothes in the parking lot and running to the gates. 

I then went to check into my hotel, shower and head to the expo.  runDisney expos are exciting and full of new things to do and see.  They host guest speakers and dozens of vendors for runners to experience and shop.  Official runDisney merchandise is also available at the expo.  I ended up purchasing a wine glass, a Lumiere's Challenge pin and a performance tank.  After the expo I went to Epcot for mango margaritas and fish tacos.  I swear I could spend all day in Mexico... That boat ride inside the Mexico pavilion is one of Disney's hidden gems. 

The 10k began at 5:30 AM on Saturday so I awoke bright and early.  The race began and finished in the Epcot parking lot.  Many of runDisney's events are held here.  The course was actually the same as the 10k course during WDW Marathon and Princess Half Marathon weekends.  The course goes through Disney's Boardwalk and the World Showcase of Epcot with several character stops along the way.  I stopped for several character photos, but many of them I already have.  While Pinocchio was on the course, I don't recall any other rare photo opportunities.  It's been years since I took a photo with Pinocchio! 

I spent the remainder of the day in Disney's Hollywood Studios.  Rock 'n' Roller Coaster was closed for refurbishment during my trip so there wasn't much to do other than walk around and enjoy some shows.  While I love Voyage of The Little Mermaid, my absolute favorite show is Beauty & The Beast Live on Stage with a margarita in my hand.  I don't typically drink before races, but I was in no way expecting a PR for Wine & Dine Half Marathon so I didn't let my "rule" stop me from having fun this weekend. 

After my birthday trip to Chicago for the 2016 Chicago Marathon, I discovered Giordano's Pizza and they conveniently have a location in Celebration.  Because I love to relive anything to do with my Chicago experience and carbo-loading is a favorite hobby of mine, I ordered a stuffed cheese pizza on Saturday night.  The epic cheese pulls on that pizza were just as glorious as I remember them being in The Windy City.  I stuffed my face while watching E! Network in my hotel room and went to sleep. 

Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend happened to fall on Daylight Savings which meant an extra hour of sleep.  Most runners were very appreciative of this convenient timing.  They failed to realize it essentially meant the sun would rise an hour earlier, causing participants to run an extra hour in the hot Florida sun.  I don't care what time of year it is, the sun in Florida is always bright and hot. 

The half marathon featured a brand new course, beginning at ESPN Wide World of Sports and ending in the Epcot parking lot. I prefer to start and finish in the same place though just to avoid waiting on transportation to my Jeep. For the most part, I enjoyed this course. It went through Animal Kingdom and then finished up with the same route as WDW Half Marathon and Princess Half Marathon, circling the World Showcase at Epcot.

I didn't run a great pace because I hadn't done much running since Chicago Marathon. I also didn't stop for any character pictures along the course on Sunday. After completing the race, I took a nap and spent some time in Magic Kingdom. I planned to get back to my room in time to freshen up and drink some wine before the post-race party at Epcot. Admission is included in the cost of registration to all half marathon participants as well as challenge runners. Because of the after party admission, I consider Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend to be the best value amongst runDisney races. Included with admission to the post-race party is also a $10 Disney gift card.

Out of pocket, I probably spent around $50 drinking and eating around Epcot on Sunday night. Between martini slushes, lobster roll with Chardonnay and my favorite, the Fisherman's Pie, I had a grand time in Epcot. I loved having the park to ourselves and enjoyed the very short waits. I think many runners returned home on Sunday before the party because it was much less crowded than previous years. For runners wishing to return home on Sunday, the modified schedule would definitely be a disadvantage.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

My January-February 2017 Whole30 Experience

I'm After reading 18 success stories, gaining 15 lb. and trying on 10 pairs of pants that didn't fit, I took the plunge and decided to commit to Whole30.  Just to clarify, I did not turn to Whole30 simply to lose weight.  I know how to do that.  I turned to Whole30 to change my life.  I was exhausted from going back and forth between dieting and extreme exercise.  I needed something that was going to last me a lifetime- something that would help me develop healthy eating habits and improve my relationship with food.  I needed these things and didn't even know it until Whole30 came into my life.  To be honest, I didn't think this type of balance was achievable.  Well, it is.  And I'm going to tell you exactly how I did it.

If you don't know what Whole30 is, I'll give you a brief description.  Their website and the comprehensive book The Whole30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom
are both great resources, though. Simply stated, you cannot have any alcohol, added sugar, dairy, legumes, soy or wheat for 30 days.  It is obviously much more complex than that but those are the basics.  To be honest, giving up cheese and wine scared the hell out of me.  You have to step out of your comfort zone if you want change.  I decided this extra cheese on my pizza habit needed to change and I was willing to trust the process.  You need this level of trust to successfully complete the program and make long-term changes.

So after having a pity party and a farewell to food tour, I asked my Mom to get me The Whole30 Cookbook for Channukah.  Looking back, this book is probably the best gift I've ever been given.  These recipes are shared directly from the creator of Whole30 herself, Melissa Hartwig.  There are endless resources online for Whole30 compliant recipes but the book was my absolute favorite source.  You can also read It Starts With Food and Food Freedom Forever.  Since completing my 30 days, I have ordered the latter but neither are required to start the program.

I decided I would begin my program on Monday January 16th.  I spent the weekend before Whole30 in South Carolina running Charleston Half Marathon during Restaurant Week and of course ate all the things.  On Monday, I meant business.  All I actually remember eating on that day was eggs for breakfast and potatoes with dinner.  I didn't keep a food log and in hindsight that was probably a mistake.  If you are new to Whole30, keep a food log.  I can tell you several things I ate during my 30 days, but it's certainly not an all-inclusive list.

So, the first few days of Whole30 are known to give you a massive headache from the sugar withdrawal.  Some people compare this sensation to a hangover.  Fortunately, I cannot tell you from personal experience how this feels because I experienced nothing of the sort.  While I do drink wine and eat bread and pasta, I do not have a sweet tooth.  I don't like sugary, sweet things.  I don't eat ice cream or cookies or donuts.  Occasionally I may indulge in one, but these are not weaknesses of mine.  Take me to a restaurant and I would rather get a cheesy, fried appetizer than splurge on dessert.  This worked in my favor because I never once felt deprived of sugar.  I cruised through the first week preparing lots of chicken and potatoes.

Week 2 presented new challenges because days 11 & 12 are said to be the hardest in the entire program.  At this point, the novelty wears off and a lot of people decide to cheat or quit altogether.  I'll admit my only mistake was on day 8 eating at Moe's.  I thought I was being good by ordering grilled chicken and all compliant toppings.  Do you know how hard it was to refrain from chips, queso and sour cream?!?  Well, come to find out their chicken was grilled in soybean oil and soy is off limits.  Some people suggested I needed to start over.  I thought that was unnecessary because my stomach hurt after the meal and left me extremely bloated.  I learned everything from that mistake that I needed to: soy is something I need to avoid on a regular basis.  I don't feel the need to re-introduce soy into my diet.  Also, don't trust restaurants!  They will sneak anything into your food.  Check labels and ask questions. 

Week 3 is really where the magic happens.  You get an immense amount of energy and focus, also known as "Tiger Blood."  There is pretty much nothing stopping you from reaching Day 30 once you've experienced Tiger Blood.  I was strong enough to go out to bars and turn down drinks in my third week.  While I'm pretty sure everyone appreciated me being a DD, the best part of week three was the feeling of liberation.  When alcohol and food no longer controlled me, I felt pure freedom.  Drinking water while watching a band play was just as relaxing as drinking a beer.  Tiger Blood gives you confidence and I was confident enough to sing and dance just like anyone who had been drinking.  Also, this bar was an outdoor bar that I like to go to during the summer.  Just thinking about being able to show off this body that I've worked so hard for in a sundress over the summer would be enough motivation to not drink.  I look at alcohol in a whole different light now.  Don't get me wrong, I still love it.  I just don't feel the insecurity to drink it every time I go out now.

On Week 4 I decided I was ready to give restaurants another chance.  I went to lunch with co-workers and refrained from bread and the cheesy, fried appetizer brought to the table.  I asked the server all the right questions and was able to enjoy a tuna salad.  Later that night, I went out to dinner at Outback Steakhouse with my family.  Outback is a great place to eat when you are on Whole30!  They have a gluten-free menu with slightly modified options.  I typically get the crab stuffed tilapia, but the server informed me that it contains breadcrumbs.  I went with the grilled tilapia found exclusively on the gluten-free menu and a side of baked potato.  I actually clarified my own butter at home and brought it along in a container so I could give my potato some fat and flavor.  I don't know what I'm more impressed with- my ability to turn down a bloomin' onion or the cleverness involved in bringing my own butter to a restaurant.  Either way, that entire experience was a win in my book. 

I'm now on week 5, day 31.  I've had countless people tell me they could never do it.  32 days ago, I thought the same thing.  If you want something as bad as you need air, you will find a way to make it happen.  In these last 30 days, I not only improved my relationship with food but also myself.  I'm pretty dang impressed with the strength and resistance I showed during this program.  I'm a proud Whole30 alumni.  I mean, turning down nachos during the SuperBowl?  That's something I've never done before!  I literally went to four grocery stores looking for compliant plantain chips I could eat with my guacamole and my Dad made me baked wings with no sauce.  Who needs to pound beers when Lady Gaga was giving the performance of a lifetime, anyways?

For most people, Day 31 is a re-introduction day.  The journey does not end after 30 days because you need to experience restricted foods individually to see how your body reacts.  The journey really never ends, actually.  I have a Half Marathon on Sunday so I am going to postpone my re-introduction period a few days and enjoy my Whole30 lifestyle a bit longer.  I didn't want to re-introduce anything this close to my race and I have the momentum to keep going.  A huge reasoning for deciding to do Whole30 had to do with my running.  I knew losing weight and fueling myself with proper nutrients would improve my running exponentially.  Well, I have lost 21.6 pounds so I'm excited to see how I perform on Sunday!  Yes, you read that correctly.  21.6 pounds in 30 days.  No pills, wraps, or extreme working out.  This is Whole30. I am Whole30.