Thursday, August 28, 2014

Oh, hello there

So yeah, once again I sorta fell off the face of the Earth.

On the blog front, at least. In real life, that couldn't be further from the truth.

Life this summer has been CRAZY!

But all is well, and I have so many things I want to share with you, so I'm just gonna jump right into it with a little recap of last week.

Training

Yep, I'm training again, and I'm having a blast with it!


I'm currently training for an Olympic Duathlon in Muncie on October 4th.

I've done a couple of sprint tris (recaps here and here), but this will be my first du.

Earlier this summer I picked up an actual road bike from a guy who used it on a half-Ironman last year (he was upgrading to a tri bike), so that really got me excited to get into biking.


We just wrapped up week 6 of our training plan, and so far I'm getting the majority of my workouts in (which is great for me, especially with everything else we've got going on, but it also helps that it's not a very demanding training schedule).

On Sunday I did my first run-bike-run workout, and it went really well. I had a 5K run, 30K bike (roughly 18.6 miles), and a 3K run (or 1.8 miles).

Jennifer and I headed to the park for it, since she had a long brick to do as well. We got a bit of a later start than we were hoping for, so it was pretty hot and humid out. Overall, I was pretty happy with how things went:

5K Run - 26:01 (8:23/mile average)
30K Bike - 1:22:53 (13.4 mph average)
3K Run - 14:47 (8:04/mile average)

The bike was a lot slower than I was hoping for. There ended up being a lot more people out at the park than we were expecting (especially the number of people who don't understand common courtesy on the bike path), and there are a lot of sharp, blind corners at the park, so riding is pretty slow going there as it is. Out on the roads around our house, I can crank out around 17-18 mph on average without too much trouble.

On Sunday, September 7th we're doing Tri for Sight in Lexington (which was actually Jennifer's first tri a few years ago!). Now they're offering a sprint duathlon in addition to the sprint tri, so it works out perfectly for us, especially since we're both supposed to do a sprint race on that day according to our training plans. Don't you love when things just work out like that?

The bike is a little shorter than what a traditional sprint should be (it's only 13 miles), so I'm really hoping to average closer to 20mph.  Stay tuned for that race recap!

Beer Making

So my little one gallon test batches didn't quite turn out like I was hoping. I think the biggest problem was that I didn't make a yeast starter for them, assuming they were small enough that I could just dump half a vial of yeast in and be okay.

Well they kinda turned out like my first batches of beer; they all had a bit of an off-flavor and just weren't very good.

Even so, by doing the small batches I was able to brew when I wouldn't have been able to otherwise, so all wasn't exactly lost.

I've really stepped up my brewing game in the last month, though, starting with making a cooler into a mash tun. (A mash tun is what you use to steep your grains in hot water to get the sugars out of them.)



My fancy stainless steel ball valve, used to drain the wort

Here's the manifold on the inside made out of CPVC

The slits in the pipes allow the wort to flow out without disturbing the grains. That's why they face down.
Earlier this month, I invited the guys over for a little man night/brewing party where we put the mash tun to use for the first time.

This was the grain bed after draining the wort. I didn't think to get a picture while it was actually mashing :-/

This is the wort (i.e. sugary water) as it came out of the mash tun.

I had some issues hitting the mashing temperature I was looking for, but I still landed in an acceptable range. I think I just need to brew a few more batches to really dial it in. ;)

That was the second time I've had the guys over to brew, and that's definitely the way to do it. We tried some new beers, chopped some wood, made beer, and then sat around a fire talking about guy things all night. It was perfect.


The other exciting part about this batch is I finally get to try out that keg I got at the beginning of the year!


Last week the beer was ready to keg, so I got the CO2 tank filled, figured out how to use everything (without having things explode), and set to work.

Hit the final gravity of 1.010 right on the money
Running some sanitizer through beer line

We ended up only losing about half a gallon during the boil instead of the full gallon that I was expecting to lose, so we ended up with closer to 6 gallons of beer instead of 5. Since the keg only holds 5 gallons, that meant I had a little bit left over that I went ahead and bottled. We ended up with about 3 pints on top of the full keg.

A keg full of beer :)
I hooked the keg up to the gas last weekend, so now I'm patiently waiting for it to carb up so I can try it! (It should only take about a week.)



That Whole Vegetarian Thing

You may recall last December when I announced that I was going full-on vegetarian. A big part of that was to see how it would affect my marathon training, but really that was just another reason on top of many to pursue it since it had been on my mind for quite a while.

And it's mostly because of those other reasons that I'm still vegetarian today.

I do feel that it helped my training, but I'm not sure exactly how much. I think the fact that I stuck with the plan helped more than anything.

But I like how I feel now that I'm no longer eating meat, and I feel better morally, too.

I'm just two months away from my vegi-versary, and I can't see myself going back anytime soon.

Grayson

I know he's the main reason you're even reading this, so I certainly can't leave him out.

But he has grown so much in these past few months that I just can't fit it all in here, so I'll leave you with some cute pictures for now until I can write up a full update post.







He's such a happy boy. We really got so lucky. :)

Until next time...

Thanks for reading!

Friday, April 25, 2014

One Last Ambassador Deal

So this ambassador program has turned out to be even cooler than I could have imagined.

I'll post more of my thoughts on the program, this training season, and the race soon, but for now I have one last ambassador-only deal to share with you guys!

Some of my favorite parts of the Kentucky Derby Festival activities are the concerts at the waterfront. I've seen SO MANY good shows there over the years (my favorite still has to be Justin Moore back in 2009, I think -- before he was as big as he is now). The weather is usually pretty nice, and it's pretty awesome to hear some good music with the river as a backdrop.

This year's lineup includes THE FRAY (with The Mowgli's) next Thursday, May 1st, and SCOTTY McCREERY (with Cassadee Pope and Steve Holy) next Friday, May 2nd!


Tickets for each show are $32.50, but as our special thanks for making the ambassador program such a big success, we're offering a BUY ONE GET ONE FREE deal!

To get the deal, just click here and use promo code RUNJAM14!

I think Jennifer and I will be heading down to see The Fray.
Side Note: their song "Little House" is a GREAT song to run to!
Thanks again for making this year's race such a big success! Now it's time to party!!

I hope to see you down there -- you've earned it!

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Hurry, this discount expires Tuesday, April 29th at 9:00am!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

2014 KDF Marathon - Race Recap

Although I had probably the best training season I could have had (especially considering the crazy winter weather we had), I was still pretty nervous going into yesterday's race.

I think a big part stemmed from the fact that I've done the mini so many times now, and I know the hardest part of the half for me is the stretch from Churchill Downs back into downtown (roughly miles 9 - 13). Those four miles really seem to drag on for whatever reason, and by that point you're ready to be done, but it's painfully obvious just how far you still have left to go (because you know how far from the river you still are).

So I knew I was going to have one of my toughest mental battles ahead of me, since the full marathon course turns right, AWAY from downtown and heads all the way down and loops Iroquois Park before making the trek back toward the river.

Leading up to the race, I tried various tactics to keep myself in a positive mindset about it all. I knew I had done the distance before, so that was something (although that time didn't go as well as I had hoped), and my long runs this year had gone pretty well (my training in general was MUCH better than last time). I figured I would break the distance up into smaller, more digestible sections, like four 5-mile sections followed by a 10K.

That helped a little.

So Friday night we got everything ready and went to bed as early as possible. I don't feel like I had trouble sleeping, but I remember waking up a few times throughout the night looking at the clock. Before I knew it, it was 5:30am and we were up and about.


This was probably the calmest we've been before a race. I woke up not nervous at all, and I was actually hungry, which was a very good thing. Normally I can't really eat before a race, and that throws everything off, but I was able to eat my normal breakfast plus a smoothie and I was feeling really good.

We left on time, and actually made it down there about 30 minutes before the race start, which is pretty rare for us!


It was a little chilly at the start -- upper 40s and windy -- but you couldn't have asked for better weather.

We made our way to the corrals, said our good-lucks and goodbyes, and got lined up to start.



Since I was a little nervous/intimidated by this race, I didn't really have any specific goals. I just didn't want that pressure. Ultimately, I just wanted to finish the race without hurting like I was during my last one. I was really hoping to finish under 4:30, but not if it caused me too much pain or took the joy out of it. Under 4:00 would have made my year, but I kinda knew that would only happen if everything in the universe conspired to help me.

I was really just looking forward to having a good race and having fun with it. I had been training since November -- it was crazy to think that I was just a few hours away from it all being over. I wanted to soak it in.


And so, I started off as easy as I could, hoping to hold between a 9:30 - 10:00/mile pace for at least the first half. There were a few times when I'd look down at my watch and realize I was probably going too fast, so I'd slow down, but for the most part I held that pace really well.

The corral system REALLY helped with that. I never felt like I was passing a lot of people or getting passed. I remember looking around seeing the same people all the way through Churchill Downs (which was the first 8.5 miles); I honestly don't remember that ever happening during a race before.

The first 9 miles of the marathon course (in orange)

My first 9 splits -- pretty much right on target!

I LOVED running into the front of Churchill Downs this year!

After the split where the half-marathoners turned left and the full-marathoners turned right coming out of Churchill, things got pretty lonely. Somewhat surprisingly, I was still keeping about the same pace, as were the people around me. I'm not sure what mile we were at, but somewhere along the stretch between Churchill and Iroquois we were passed by the leaders. They were FLYING! And of course they didn't even look like they were working hard at all.

As we entered Iroquois we immediately climbed a pretty big hill. I wanted to keep with my current pace since I was feeling really good, but I made one slight exception: if my heart rate (which had been holding in the 160s and sometimes the 170s) climbed into the 180s, I would slow down or walk. I was really trying to "keep it easy" and conserve as much energy as I could so that I would be able to finish strong.

That plan really seemed to work well, and that's definitely something I'm going to incorporate on all future long-distance runs.

We hit the halfway mark halfway through the park and I was still feeling great. This was around the point where I fell apart during my first marathon, so I think I was a little superstitious that something would happen again.

Leaving the park at mile 15 I was really feeling great, and still hitting my pace goal (even with taking some walk breaks)!


But I knew this would be one of the toughest parts of the course for me mentally -- that long trek back toward the river:


I tried to just settle in and keep doing what I had been doing. I kept the pace easy, and made sure I was fueling and hydrating. Since it was pretty hot and sunny out, I made sure to keep an eye on how much water/PowerAid I was taking in. There were a few times that I noticed I had stopped sweating, so I made sure to drink more so I didn't dehydrate.


I don't really remember what I was thinking as I made my way back up Southern Parkway, but it definitely didn't drag on like I expected it to. At one point I remember looking between the houses and seeing Churchill Downs, and being surprised that I was already there.

And before I knew it I was almost at the final turn-off that the marathoners had to take before finally meeting back up with the half folks for the finish. And my pace was still exactly where I was hoping it would be!


Everyone always talks about hitting "the wall" around mile 20, and I guess that's what happened to me. There's just no other word for it.

Jennifer was hoping to finish the half, meet up with her mom and the baby, and make her way to the 21 mile mark to see me pass by, so I had been texting her where I was. As I passed by the 20 mile mark, she realized she just wasn't going to make it, even though they were all running. I was really hoping to see them -- I definitely needed it -- but I knew it was out of their control.

While seeing them would have been amazing, it wouldn't have helped me. I was physically crashing; it wasn't a mental battle at that point.

I had been running the perfect race, but somewhere between miles 20 and 21 my quads started cramping up (almost like charlie-horses). I tried eating and stretching, and that definitely helped, but the cramping never fully went away. I pushed through it as much as I could, but there were times I could barely walk, let alone run.

I was pretty upset about it, but since I wasn't gunning for a certain time I tried not to get so hung up on it. I just pressed on, knowing that the sooner I finished, the sooner I'd be able to see Jennifer and Grayson, and sit down!

Give me that medal, mom!

The miles continued to pass by, albeit a little slower than before. Eventually I rounded the 2nd to last turn back onto Main street, where I saw my mother-in-law. She had been out running all over the city with the baby all morning, trying to catch us at a few different spots along the course. At that point I was walking and stretching, trying to loosen my legs up so I could run through the finish. She walked along with me, asking how I was doing, telling me where Jen was with the baby, and giving me lots of encouragement. It really was great to see her.

When I felt like I could, I started running again (if you can call it that!). I made the final turn toward the finish, scanning the crowd looking for Jen and the baby. Jennifer got a few pics of me as I went by:

 


Since I was really pushing the 4:30 mark, I didn't stop like I wanted to. Instead I just used my momentum to carry me across the finish line.


My final splits

So I missed my time goal by 32 seconds, but I met my most important goal: although my quads were tight, I felt really good and was able to walk around after the race. I didn't feel like I was completely dead like I did after my first marathon.

The best reward. Also, he's looking at that bagel like I'm looking at him. #truelove

I want to give a HUGE thanks to Jennifer's mom for bringing Grayson out and taking care of him (while running all over the city, no less)!

 

I think I learned way more from this marathon experience than I did my first one. I trained better and I raced better, and I came away from it all with things I'll do differently next time.

Because let's just be honest, I'm sure there will be a next time.

Until then, thanks for reading!


Did you race yesterday? What did you think??

My job as an ambassador isn't quite over. I'm still going to give my feedback on the race, and I'd like to include your story/comments as well! Just leave me a comment or send me an email and I'll pass it along!

I think my favorite part were the shirts and medals this year. Definitely the best out of the past 5 years in my opinion!



Friday, April 4, 2014

Final KDF Marathon/miniMarathon DISCOUNT CODE!

Edit: The coupon code is good through Sunday, April 6th, and online registration is open until Tuesday, April 8th!
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The time has almost come.

The Derby Festival Marathon and miniMarathon are now just two short weeks away.

If you're still on the fence about registering, or know someone who still needs to, make sure you use this code to save 10%:

Discount Code: AMBREF3
Good for 10% off
Valid Through 4/6/2014

Make sure you tell them Ambassador #11 sent you (that's me!).

If you've already registered, make sure you confirm your registration here.

Some Other Important Notes:

  • Today (April 4th) is the last day to transfer your registration to someone else
  • Online Registration closes Tuesday, April 8th at 11:59pm
  • April 14th - an email will be sent out with bib and corral assignments
  • Packet Pickup and Race Expo - KY International Convention Center, Hall 2D
    • Thursday, April 17th: 4:00pm - 8:00pm
    • Friday, April 18th: 11:00am - 9:00pm
  • Running Wild Pasta Dinner - Friday, April 18th: 5:30pm - 8:30pm
Also, don't forget to sign up for runner tracking (starting April 14th) for your friends and family!

I hope your training has gone well despite the weather!

Make sure you stop by and say "hi" at the packet pickup. I'll be handing out the race shirts from 2:15pm until 6:00pm on Friday.

And of course, I'll be out bright and early on Saturday, April 19th! Can't wait to see you there!!

TAPERING!

I seriously can't believe that race day is only two weeks away!

It's been a long, hard winter, but somehow the time has still managed to fly by.

I did a few things differently this season, and I'm really happy with what I've been able to accomplish, so I wanted to take a minute and reflect back.

I started my training way back in November of last year, following the No Meat Athlete Marathon Road Map. Since I hadn't run in a while (aside from a handful of 2-4 mile runs leading up to the Biggest Loser 5K on November 2nd), I wanted to do the optional 8-week foundation-building part of the training plan to help ease my body back into running.

I think I was just really excited to be training again, because I actually stuck with my training plan this time. I think I've only missed a handful of runs total, which is incredible for me.

And early on I was even WAKING UP EARLY to go for a run. Yeah, never in my life did I think I'd wake up at 6:00am to willingly go for a run before I went into work. Especially not on those cold mornings.

But I did.

Comparing the numbers from this season to my Air Force Marathon training, some noticeable differences pop out.

  • I'm running more often for shorter distances, but hitting about the same total mileage, and
  • I'm getting almost ALL of my runs in, as opposed to just one or two per week.



Back in 2012, I was averaging just 7.5 runs per month! (That's less than 2 runs per week on average.)

This time around I've almost doubled that, averaging 14.2 runs per month, or just over 3 runs per week!

Even though my number of runs has increased significantly, my total mileage was pretty close (up until this past month, that is):


The 42 miles in Month 6 for the AF Marathon INCLUDE the 26 from the race

Of course, I REALLY slacked off on my training in the final 6 weeks last time, and I'm sure that's a big reason why I was hurting on race day. I thought the most important thing was to get my long runs in, so that was my primary focus. Aside from that, I really couldn't find the motivation to get out and run.

I've definitely learned my lesson, so I'm going to do whatever I have to to get all my runs in over the next couple of weeks.

Also, some of my really important long runs were done on the treadmill last time.


Overall, I've done more runs on the treadmill this time around. That's partially because the crazy winter we had, but also because it was just easier to do that with the baby sometimes.

But over the last two months I've only run twice on the treadmill (out of 27 runs), which is wayyy better than the 6/16 from 2 years ago. (And I didn't even have the baby excuse back then!)

Lastly, I'm doing more hills.

This new plan incorporates hill work, which I've never done before. But even though I haven't been getting in as many of those workouts as I should, I'm still logging a lot of climbing thanks to a couple of big hills at the park right by our house.


I just wrapped up my peak week this past weekend, and I've been "noticing" my left knee here and there. It doesn't hurt, but it feels as if it's on the verge -- like if I land the wrong way it'll start hurting like it has in the past. Luckily it doesn't happen often, and when it does it's brief, so I'm hoping that logging my runs and keeping up with my strength training will continue to keep the injuries at bay.

Peak week for me ended on Sunday with a pretty good 20 mile run at the park.

For my past few long runs, I've really had a hard time getting going. The thought of running 16, 18, or 20 miles seems so daunting that I don't even want to start.

Fortunately that feeling goes away after a few miles, but pretty much every weekend I question why I ever wanted to do this again. And while I'm happy to be tapering, I'm pretty nervous about the big day. Somehow, I just don't feel ready.

But I know I've trained, and I know deep down I'm ready for that redemption I've been craving.

I honestly have no idea how close I'll be to hitting my 4 hour goal. That would be a 9:15/mile average pace, and I know that long runs are supposed to be around 30 seconds slower per mile, but mine have been averaging even slower than that:

Date Miles Average Pace
2/16 14.00 10:30
3/1 16.02 10:11
3/15 18.01 9:51
3/30 20.18 10:06


Ultimately for me, the most important thing is finishing this one strong.

For funsies, I'll leave you with a map from my last long run. It's safe to say I know the Beckley Creek Park very well! (I can't wait for them to open some of the other sections!)

This is what 20 miles looks like. Make sure you click it so you can see it zoomed in a bit. :)


If you're ever worried about not being able to finish a run, remember that the most important part is starting. In my book, it's okay to stop early if you have to -- you can always make it up on another day. But usually once you start you find reasons to keep going.

And it really is amazing what our bodies are capable of.

As always, thanks for reading!