Couch to 5k: What Started It All For Me

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Since I’m taking some time off of training for long distance races – I felt like reflecting on what helped me develop the habit of running.

The Couch to 5k program has been around for a while. I think in the last 6 years I had started and quit it many, many times. Why? Well, sometimes lacing up your shoes and getting out the door can be the hardest thing.

In November of 2013 I had recently moved to San Francisco. At the time I was unemployed and had a lot of free time. I also lived in a walkable neighborhood that was hilly, but not too hilly. Between my time, location, and the mild SF weather – I decided to give the Couch to 5k antoher try. I downloaded the free c25k app, and got to it.

The program is built upon running and walking intervals which week by week slowly transitions into being able to run for 30 minutes straight. The app gives you audio cues for when to walk and run, so you don’t have to keep looking at a stopwatch.

A big milestone in the program is Week Five – Workout 3 – which is the first time you run continuously for 20 minutes. After I completed that workout I felt super accomplished and excited.

9 weeks later (January of 2014) – I completed the program. March of that year I signed up for my first half marathon and the rest is history!

I strongly recommend the couch to 5k program for anyone who wants to start running. Even if it takes a few attempts to be faithful to the program – when followed through it can change your life!

Trying to Be “Somewhat” Healthy on a Road Trip

My husband and I recently completed a 10 day cross country road trip from San Francisco, CA to Cincinnati, OH. Below are some of the things that we did to try to make this trip a little healthier:

Try to find hotels with complimentary breakfasts –  I’m a breakfast eater and breakfasts can be a challenging thing to manage on the road – Most road hotels (Hampton Inn, Best Westerns, comfort inn) offer free hot breakfasts – where you can pick and choose what you want in the amount you want. You have the options of eggs, biscuits, waffles, yogurt, hot and cold cereals, fruit, english muffins, and pastries. It made the mornings more enjoyable and we were still able to hit the road on time.

Have snacks on hand – hunger strikes at weird times on the road, and we had healthy options on hand. Cashews, almonds, raisins, dates, peanut butter (in individual cups for those who like to eat it straight up), protein bars, and crackers were our trip staples.

Eat one “sack” meal per day – we usually had one meal in a restaurant (lunch or dinner) per day, the other meal we ate in the car or in our hotel room – which usually was a light sack lunch – some combination of peanut butter sandwich, crackers, nuts, dried fruit.We also occasionally had leftovers from the previous restaurant meals for lunch/dinner. All of our lodgings were equipped with a refrigerator. Having one lighter meal helped balance things out.

Try to fit in exercise – most of the road trip was spent in a sedentary state, but we did try to fit a few runs in if our hotel was located near a safe running route. Most hotels we stayed at also had fitness centers, but we did not take advantage of them (maybe next time). We also took a few nice walks in some of the towns we stopped in.

Have realistic expectations – I’m not someone with the strongest of discipline – while I would love to be someone who could eat clean regardless of the situation they are in, I’m just not. In my home life – we eat out once a week, but on the road, it’s everyday. I also am someone who likes to indulge during special occasions, and being fortunate to explore different regions of our beautiful nation is a special occasion. We definitely had more than a few opportunities to indulge and we took advantage of them.

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Cupcake Pancakes at IHOP – one of the several meals I treated myself to on the road

Our cross country road trip was an experience that made lifelong memories for us – it was nice to be able to balance the “vices” of traveling with a few healthy choices.

New town – new experiences

Two and a half years ago my husband and I packed up everything – left our family, friends, pretty much everything that was familiar to us and moved out west to San Francisco, CA.

The move was a challenge – but thanks to generous friends or as I’d like to call them: angels – who let us crash at their place for a month – we were able to find an apartment in a great location with convenient amenities – in the city of SF.

Living in one of the most beautiful and progressive cities in the country was a wonderful experience.

I found an amazing job with great people, had the opportunity to see lots of top notch live entertainment, explored new cities and locations in the Bay Area and within the state of CA, learned how to be more of a minimalist, ate lots of delicious food, and thanks to SF’s mild climate and scenic views – became a runner. If it were not for my move here – I might have not picked up what I hope to be a lifelong habit.

However – with time brings change – and many things are calling us back east: primarily opportunities and family.

We are planting our roots in Cincinnati, Ohio. I lived in Columbus, Ohio (about 90 minutes north of Cinci) for close to four years.

Ohio has a special place in my heart – it’s where I met my husband, where I made my closest friends, and where I received my college degree.

I’m not as familiar with Cinci as I am with Columbus – I have visited there many times (my husband grew up there) – however I still consider myself to be unfamiliar with the area.

Like our move to SF – I’m looking forward to finding a place to call home.

I’m also really looking forward to running in Cinci – a challenge for me will be the hot summers and cold winters (fall and spring are the sweet spots for running outdoors). I’ve been doing a lot of research on races in the Cincinnati area and throughout the tri-state area (Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky) and it seems to be that I’m arriving at the start of racing season. I already have a list of races I’d like to register for – I might have a busy summer ahead.

Race Recap: 2016 San Francisco Hot Chocolate 15k

I ran this race over a month, so I’m not writing this recap super fresh.

The Hot Chocolate 15k/5k is a series that holds races in different cities throughout the country. Similar to the color run, but with less cities on the map.

The San Francisco event was held at Golden Gate Park.

I had heard about the race from a friend who ran it last year and a BIG draw for me to sign up was the free jacket with registration (some people do it for the medal, I do it for the shirt/jacket).

My husband (who after running the Dumbo Double Dare, told me he was capping his distances at 10ks) signed up with me for the 15k.

There was an expo held two days before the race in an convention center outside the city. Unlike RunDisney, my husband was able to pick up my bib and his without me going with him.

On race day – we got there with a little time to spare. This event was pretty big – and  they had a large setup in the music concourse of GG park. They had gear check, a merch tent, and even a few sponsor kiosks. It almost felt like another expo.

For corrals – they asked you to give a pace at registration – I listed mine as 12 per mile, my husband listed 9 per mile. Right before our registration was confirmed – I got notified I needed to submit a proof of time for my husband (not for me). I attached a screenshot of his Disneyland 10k race – and he got approved. On race day – he turned out to be in the first corral. I was in the second to last one.

There was a LOT of time between corrals. I think my husband started 20 minutes before I did. We were getting text alerts of each other’s tracking, and he told me he started to worry about me because it took a LONG time for my 5k split to be sent to him.

So now the race – after ending the Berkeley Half not feeling so well. I had no PR in mind – I just wanted to pace myself so I would not hit a wall and finish strong. I stuck mostly to 30:30 intervals. I always start races at a slow continuous jog to warm up and find my place amongst the crowd.

There was an ample amount of aid stations and the “fuel” being handed out was plain and chocolate marshmallows, M&M’s and chocolate chips (a different option at each point). I opted out of eating any of it and stuck to my own fuel. I just grabbed the water.

This was my second time running a race through GG park – and it was lovely. SF is the best city for running.

I finished with a time of 1:58:06 – a 12:41 pace. I’m happy to run 9.3 miles in less than two hours and felt really good after finishing.

The medal was SWEET get the pun? A chocolate bar shaped medal with an SF theme. It might be my fave medal to date.

The post race festivities were THE BEST I have ever experienced. Each finisher got a mini fondue cup with melted chocolate, a banana, marshmallows, cookies, rice crispie treats AND cup of piping hot chocolate to drink. After running 9.3 miles everything tasted like heaven. The music concourse was jam packed with runners resting, socializing, and eating. There was also a DJ “spinning tunes”.

In addition to the food – they kept the merch tent open – we didn’t buy anything but looked around.

I loved this race. I would definitely run it again – in SF or another city if I happen to be nearby.

2015 San Francisco Color Run Recap

Ahh…the Color Run. I had aspired to participate in one for a while now, years before I took up running seriously.

The Color Run is a touring un-timed 5k. It’s fun, low maintenance, and a great opportunity to take and post gleeful photos on social media.

My husband and a few friends registered a few months ago. The San Francisco version of The Color Run started and ended at AT&T park.

Unlike other races I have participated in – there was not one start time – but a series of corral releases taking place from 8:00am to 9:45 am. It seemed like a group of runners were released every 10-15 minutes. We lined up shortly after we arrived. At the starting line there was a DJ throwing out prizes, some stilt walking dancers and a dancing unicorn.

Once we were released we ran through the bases of AT&T park and exited the stadium to run along the Embarcadero.

There were color stations throughout the course where they doused you with colored corn starch.

After running along the Embarcadero we returned to AT&T park and the course went inside the stadium and up to one of the concourses. It was a pretty unique aspect of the course.

With the beautiful sights of SF and the dousing of color – there were plenty of photo opportunities. We definitely made a few photo stops throughout the way.

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We were handed medals and some color powder to throw on ourselves or other people, I guess.

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I definitely would do the Color Run again. I feel it’s a great first race for someone new to running – it shows that running and being active is sometimes not about setting records or “killing” yourself. Definitely bring friends and family to participate – even if you don’t run – you will be in great company with many people walking.  It’s about savoring the moment and being grateful to be able to make memories with the ones that you love.

2015 Big Gay 10K Recap

I had heard about this race last year, but I think it fell on a weekend I already had something to do.

Anyways….after the Dumbo Double Dare – I went on the website and checked the date and lo and behold: no conflict.

I registered and marked my calendar. I picked up my bib two days before the race – after reading the race instructions – I realized that the finish line would close 90 minutes after the race start.

I was a little nervous about this. My average 10k pace for the most part, has always ended in a time less than 90 minutes – usually ranging from 80-85 minutes. However, one never knows how they feel on a race day, and I could very well have over a 15 minute per mile pace.

Knowing this information – I resolved to try my very best and push myself for this 10k. A great thing about attending a smaller race, is that everyone starts at the same time (unlike other races where the corrals are released in waves) – so I had the full 90 minutes to run the race.

This race was at Golden Gate Park. It was a race themed to the gay community here in SF – produced by the SF Aids Foundation. An absolutely wonderful cause. The spirit of the race was fun – many people wore tutus, tiaras, costumes. I did not dress festive enough, although I was pretty pumped about my new multicolored print hat.

I ran the first mile and a half – and started incorporating 30:30 Galloway intervals after that. It got pretty hot out there – but the race had a lot of great support – encouraging spectators and 4-5 water stops along the course.

I finished in 1:13:22 – with a pace of 11:50 per mile. A PR for my 10k, and my fastest race pace yet.

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After the race I grabbed some water, took a post race photo, and grabbed an uber home.

That’s what I love about local races – the normalcy of the remainder of the race day. You get up early, rock a race, come home and get back to normal. No traveling, no touring. There’s some beauty in that.

2015 Mid Year Goal Check In

At the start of this year, I listed my running goals for 2015.

Here is my current status on each of those goals:

  • Half marathon in March – My next half marathon will be taking place in March. My goal is to finish in under 3:15.

Achieved – I finished the Rock’n’Roll San Francisco Half Marathon in 2:40:51.

  • Run a sub 3 hour half marathon

Achieved. – Please see above and/or here.

  • Run at least three half marathons in 2015 – I am already signed up for one in March, and I am aiming to run one in May and another in the fall.

In progress. – As I am writing this, I ran one half in March and am registered for another one in September. After that I have only a few more months to run my third half marathon. I am eyeing one taking place in mid-October, but I have not pulled the trigger on registering. This is probably the top of my list of goals I have yet to achieve this year.

  • Run 1000 miles in 2015 – This might seem like a lofty goal, but I know I can do it. I plan on running in at least three half marathons this year. Between that and training, I know it can happen.

In progress (most likely will not be achieved) – I greatly overestimated the mileage I would run this year. I just assumed that if I would be training for three half marathons this year I would easily cover 1000 miles. Not the case. It is Aug 6th and I have run 313 miles this year. If I continue on this track I will probably reach a little over 500.

  • Consistently blog about running and other things – Blogging only about running can kind of be redundant, in my opinion. I would love to have this be a running/lifestyle blog

In progress (doing pretty well in my opinion) – I work a full time job, consider myself somewhat of a private person, and my life isn’t super duper exciting. This blog has had the longest lifespan of any other blog I’ve started and since I have been running consistently and racing pretty frequently – finding inspiration for content has not been too difficult. I still have not shared my blog with family or friends (aside from my husband). My audience mostly is people who have come across my blog on WordPress and from the Team RunDisney group on Facebook. I hope to eventually feel comfortable enough to share my blog with my personal social network, but now is not the best time.

I feel good about where I am right now – running is a hobby I truly enjoy and I love writing about it.

2015 Bay to Breakers recap – my first 12k

On May 17, 2015 – I ran the oldest continuous footrace in the US – Bay to Breakers.

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This race is essentially a party across San Francisco – people dress up in crazy costumes, or they wear nothing at all. It is definitely not a race to run for time as a lot of people walk, and some people “crash” the race at certain points along the course.

My husband and I reused are “costumes” from our last Avengers half marathon.

I seriously love running through San Francisco – especially during a race when the streets are closed. SF is a pretty small city and when you are running and no stop lights are involved – you go from neighborhood to neighborhood pretty quickly.

I finished the race in 1:37:02 with a 13:01 pace. Not too bad for this slow runner’s fun run.

Next up (officially) is the Dumbo Double Dare but I am pretty close to signing up for another half marathon at the end of July.

2015 – San Francisco Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon Recap

I did it! I ran my second half marathon.

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This race was a big deal for me – for a number of reasons.

1. I was doing it by myself.

2. It was a super hilly course – from the start there were numerous hills. I made sure to run on hills during my training – but still, I was nervous.

3. In addition to the there being a pace requirement (16:00 per mile – just like RunDisney) there were also a few course diversions – which meant if you weren’t at a certain mile by a certain time, you would be diverted.

Early Sunday morning, I got myself up – had a light breakfast and a cup of coffee and hopped in an Uber to be dropped off at Ocean Beach. It was pretty chilly, and I was wearing only running shorts and a tech tee, so I brought an emergency blanket to keep me warm. Those things work!!!

I was placed in the last corral, which again, made me nervous about possibly being diverted. Once I crossed the start line, I found myself at a nice easy jog. I was pretty close to the 2:45 pacers, but I told myself I probably would not be able to keep up with them. I started my Galloway 30:30 intervals once I started encountering those hills. When the course turned downhill – I kept a steady run. I found myself meeting up with the 2:45 pacers again, and played a little back and forth with them for a mile or so, until I passed them – never to be seen by me again.

In case you didn’t know – San Francisco is one of the most beautiful cities in the country, if not the world. This race took us along the Pacific Ocean, across the Golden Gate bridge, along the San Francisco bay and finished at City Hall. The entire time I kept thinking how lucky I was to live here.

At the 10k mark, my time was 1:18:15 – I began to think I might be able to finish in under 3 hours. At the 10 mile mark my time was 2:01:46 – at that point, I knew I would finish in under three hours.

The last stretch of the race had us going uphill again, and boy, it was tough – I kept my 30:30 intervals on the uphills and flat surfaces, and held a steady jog downhill.

When I saw the finish line it felt so close – yet so far. As I approached it – I saw my husband and brother in law cheering me on. And – then…I did it!

My final time was 2:40:51 with an average pace of 12:17 per mile. I have a new PR and I achieved my 2015 goal of completing a half in under three hours, which I did not expect with this race (given my previous half marathon was completed in 3:17 and this course was so hilly).

This race gave me so much confidence and a proof of time I can now submit to RunDisney!

I am glad I got to experience a non-Disney race. The Rock’n’Roll races are also targeted at the “fun runner” group – but they are a lot smaller, and definitely have a lot of people who are pretty speedy. I plan on writing another post about this, but despite completing two half marathons, including one with a time I believe holds its own in my slow runner mind – I still don’t feel like I’m “part of the crowd” – I feel like I’m a racing outsider.

I have a 12k scheduled for May, and am contemplating another half at the end of May too.

I plan to rest for a few days. I’m having a little pain in my foot, that I want to make sure is nothing serious. I plan on keeping up my weekday 5ks in addition to my weekend long runs to maintain condition for a few more races this year – and also because I love to run.