Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Apera Bag Review and Winter Training

This review is a long time coming, but I wanted a chance to get to really use the bag before I wrote my review. Sometime before the holidays, I was asked to review an Apera Bag. I love bags. I remember when I was a child, I saved for MONTHS so I could buy this awesome pink backpack that I HAD to have with tons of different zippers, compartments, and pockets. And it was as awesome as I thought it would be. So, when I was offered an Apera Bag in return for a review, I jumped at the chance!

The bag I requested was the Active Pack, aka backpack. Anthony and I are always looking for backpacks when we're traveling so I was thinking ahead to our honeymoon (wherever we end up going!) and thought this would be perfect for hiking/trips to the ocean, etc. However, I also thought it would be great to traveling to races. The bag can hold a lot of stuff and has many different compartments, including a removable bag (not pictured) that would be great for sweaty clothes or wet bathing suits.

As you can see, it has gotten a lot of use! Also I should have picked another color...

This could easily expand much more to hold many more items

This bag boasts that it has antimicrobial properties. I'm not exactly sure what this means, but it sounds clean & healthy so it must be a good thing! :)

My only issue with the bag is that the straps often don't stay in place. The material of the part where you adjust it (technical terms!) must be too slippery for the grip to catch. Maybe a knot would help keep it in place? 

The bottom is great because it's water resistant so keeps your belongings dry.

All in all, a solid bag! It has already come in handy for the gym and other day to day activities and will be making an appearance on our honeymoon as well!

Thanks to Apera for this great bag! If you want to win one of your own Apera bags, enter the February giveaway for a chance to win the Yoga Tote. (This one looks awesome- especially in pink!) To enter the giveaway, all you need to do is sign up for their newsletter. There's a spot to easily enter your email address at the bottom of their website

Good luck! Now, on to running!

Since I've been blogging so sporadically recently, I decided I should keep going while I'm already here!
I'm now in week 6 of Ottawa Marathon training. Yes, this will be a super long cycle, but if I'm not mistaken, I think I (accidentally) trained for the Philly Marathon for 21 weeks too! Derek has been making me awesome plans that leave me excited for the next run, not feeling burnt out. In February, I won't go above 14 miles, but will hopefully gain some speed, strength and even more determination! March will bring the NYC Half (and hopefully a PR!) and longer runs, I'm sure. 

Week 3 (January 12-18) included some mile repeats for the first time in a while, and an awesome long run along Kelly Drive in Philadelphia. It was so fun to run in Philly again! It was a cold and windy day but is so runner friendly and pretty. 30 miles for the week.

Week 4 (January 19-25) had speedwork that I was excited and scared about at the same time. My basic summary of that run is "nailed it!" and it felt freaking awesome. I think that was the morning of snow storm #98901823 that we've had this winter. Don't even get me started. 32 miles for the week.

Week 5 (January 27-February 1) included a treadmill run where basically the only thing I wrote about it was "BORING" The treadmill and I have (sort of) become friends, because the only other alternative this winter seems to be skipping ALL your runs. And really, that's not an option while marathon training! 34 miles for the week.

I did some mile repeats on the treadmill yesterday and didn't want to poke my eyes out, so I'll take that as a good sign! I also ran on it on Monday. And will probably have to use it again tomorrow. And maybe Friday and Saturday. Really, I'm very grateful that NYSC has a 30 day for $30 deal but WHERE IS SPRING?!?!?!?!?! I'M OVER THIS CRAP. But, I haven't missed a run yet! (knock on wood)

Happy training and here's to outdoor running!

How's your training going? What are you training for? What's the longest marathon training cycle you've ever done?

Monday, January 13, 2014

Ottawa Marathon Training Weeks 1 & 2 and Race Recap!

Woah, I'm already done with two weeks of Ottawa Marathon training!

Let's back up a bit. After the Wineglass Half in October, I had a hip flexor and adductor issue- it wasn't really painful but everything was really, really tight. After thinking it would go away on its own with rest and some anti-inflammatories (and it not getting completely better), I finally started going to PT and noticed immediate improvement. I was able to still run, fortunately, but my mileage was really low for a few weeks. Finally in November, I was able to get my mileage back up to 15-20 miles a week and 20-25 in December. After getting a solid few weeks of base mileage in, Derek sent me my training plan for January and off I went!

For now, I'm just building up my base a bit more and getting back to tempo runs and speed.  Week 1 (28 miles) occurred while on vacation from work so I got to ease back into it. Week 2 (30 miles) was a bit of a challenge with the ridiculously cold temperatures in NYC, but thanks to Jen, I was able to get my Tuesday easy run in on the treadmill in her building. Lifesaver!!

In addition to running, I've been trying to be better about doing core work and little maintenance things- even if it just means doing 5 minutes of exercises while watching TV at night. I've also come to terms with the fact that I'm not good about going to strength or cross training classes, so I need to take advantage of things that I WILL do, like some shorter strength workouts I can do a once or twice a week at home.

I have another person on my "team" this year- Kim is helping me make sure that I'm eating well and enough to support my training. Even just having someone to report back to makes me eat better. I don't think I focused nearly enough on nutrition during Philly Marathon training so that's a much bigger focus this time around and I'm glad to have Kim to help me!

On Saturday, I ran my first race of 2014! I ran the Joe Kleinerman 10k with some friends before going out to celebrate Steph's birthday with a boozy brunch! Happy birthday, Steph!!

I really wasn't expecting much from this race. 7:45 felt hard during my tempo run earlier in the week, so I figured that I could probably average around there for a hilly 10k. I was pleasantly surprised that the race went much better than that! Derek thought I should hold back for the first 3 miles then pick it up. I knew I wasn't going to PR this race, so my goal was to run sub 48:00 (7:44 pace).

The first mile had a big downhill and a big uphill and it was slippery in places. Fortunately, only one of my feet slipped once, but I saw a lot of people in front of me that were sliding around.

Mile 1: 7:47

During mile 2, I found that I was trying to hold myself back a lot and finally just let myself go after that.

Mile 2: 7:47
Mile 3: 7:23
Mile 4: 7:23

I was totally shocked every time I looked down and saw 7:2x. I hadn't run these paces in so long but yet they still felt comfortable. At least while runinng a race with 5000 of  my closest friends. I'm sure if I had been out there doing this as a workout on my own, it would have been awful!

Mile 5: 7:17
Mile 6: 6:49

Now, mile 6....where did you come from?! I don't think I've ever seen a 6:xx during any race longer than a 5k before. Maybe I just really wanted to be finished?! I also realized that I was going to run sub 47:00 so I think that motivated me as well. It felt fast, but not like I was going to blow up at any second, which was good for my confidence!

Mile-I-overran-the-course-AGAIN-0.28: 6:26 pace

Official time for the race: 46:18, 7:29 pace

Post race with Steph and Beth, after Steph paced Beth to a sub-60 10k PR! CONGRATS!!!

This leaves me really excited for training this Spring. Fingers crossed that everything goes well and that I get to the starting line healthy (hmm, guess I should also officially register for the race!) and feeling good! I have a few other races on the schedule before the Ottawa Marathon so I should be able to get a good sense of my fitness level. I have a bunch of numbers floating around in my head for "A" goal time, but obviously it's way too early to guess what I'll be able to run at the end of May. But here's to hoping for a PR & a BQ!

Happy training to everyone!!!

What's your Spring goal race?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Gifts for someone that has everything?!

I've had the chance to test and review two great products recently and I wanted to share my thoughts with you.  Maybe a holiday present for someone that has everything?!

The first product is the Runner's World Cookbook. I've been pretty bad about cooking recently, but I have made a few recipes from this cookbook and they've all been great! My FAVORITE is the Minestrone Soup! I've actually made this several times already, passed the recipe on to a friend and keep meaning to send it to my mom. It's simple, tastes great and is healthy!

The cookbook is very easy to use, with all recipes all having "tabs" at the top that tell you at quick glance if they're gluten free, vegetarian, good for recovery, etc. If you're looking for a certain type of recipe, or something that will be great to eat after long runs, this book makes it really easy to find the perfect recipe.

The Table of Contents breaks down the various types of meals and even includes breakfast & smoothies! Things have been insane recently, but I'm looking forward to using this book more and trying out more recipes in the next few months as I start marathon training!

The second product that I've had a chance to try out is the Sony Walkman MP3 player. I don't swim, but if I did, this would be even cooler because it's WATERPROOF! Remember that, triathletes!!

I have always used my iPod Shuffle for running so was skeptical about wanting to try another item. Until I looked it up online. Look how simple it is!

Excuse my hair....

Once I figured out what I was doing, it was really easy to load music onto this device.

My favorite things about it are:
1. No cords to deal with on the run
2. Easy to use
3. You can bend it so it fits your head ears well
4. It comes with several different size ear pieces so you can choose the one that fits you best
5. Perfect for solo speedwork, tempo runs or just an easy day

Things to think about before purchasing this:
1. When I run races (or if I run on the streets at night), I usually just use one headphone, but that's not possible with this item
2. It doesn't fit comfortably under headbands or hats during the colder months

While I won't be able to use this MP3 player for races, running with friends or in the winter months, I do look forward to being able to use it in the Spring for solo marathon training days!

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! What's your favorite Thanksgiving dish?!

Disclaimer: I was given the Runner's World Cookbook and Sony Walkman MP3 player to test and review. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Vote for me to run the BOSTON MARATHON!!!

I have a favor to ask! From now until November 10, you can vote for me to run the Boston Marathon through PowerBar's Strong Together Campaign. I qualified for the Boston Marathon back at the Philadelphia Marathon in November 2012 (can't believe it was a year ago already!) but as we all know, the bombings at the 2013 Boston Marathon changed everything. Everyone wants to be there to run in 2014, including me. In Philly I ran 3:33:29. Unfortunately, the 2014 Boston Marathon filled up with a qualifying time (in my age group) of 3:33:22. I missed running by 7 seconds. My goal at Philly was to qualify AND run Boston. Not qualify and not be able to run it, so this is where I need your help!

You can vote for me once a day (until November 10) to send me to Boston. The top 10 people with the most votes will be considered finalists. From those 10, judges will select 4 people to be the grand prize winners and gain entry into the Boston Marathon. Help me become one of the 10 finalists!!

Unfortunately, PowerBar hasn't made voting very user friendly, so here are some tips to make it easier:

My name (Abby F) should appear. You have to "like" the PowerBar page before you can vote. If you're directed right to my profile, "like" the page (top right), a voting button will come up and you're all set. THANK YOU! (You may also have to confirm that you're releasing some information to PowerBar, which I know is weird and unnecessary but I think should be fine in this case) Edited to reflect new information: It sounds as if (for the first time you vote) you have to login, agree to give PowerBar some info, reload the original page, press login again and then vote. Sorry it is such a hassle! Really wish they would have made this process easier for EVERYONE! 

2)IF MY NAME DOES NOT APPEAR when you click the link above, you should see a screen like the one below. Click "View Gallery", then you can search for "Abby" (you don't need to enter city or state). Note: you must have a Facebook account and be logged in

After you search for "Abby" my picture and the word "DETERMINATION" should appear (like below)

Once you have "liked" the PowerBar page (top right corner), the "VOTE" button will appear (as shown below)

Click it, and you're all done! At least until tomorrow :) (You may also have to confirm that you're releasing some information to PowerBar, which I know is weird and unnecessary but I think should be fine in this case)

I honestly hate asking people to do stuff like this but would absolutely LOVE to run Boston in April. I promise to shut up after November 10! And thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking a minute (or 2, since the system is funky!) to vote for me!!!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

I'm the worst "blogger" ever!

Can I even call myself a blogger anymore? Probably not, but that's okay. I've been busy designing hundreds of wedding invitations that will never get used, spending COUNTLESS hours on Pinterest and playing Candy Crush. Just ignore that last bit of info.

Here I am three weeks post-Wineglass Half and I haven't written a recap. But I have booked a wedding venue, a date and florist! That counts, right?! Wineglass Half recap is likely NEVER to come so here's the quick version:

- awesome girls trip!
- minus the 7 hour car ride to Corning, NY
- I hit my initial goal for this race (sub 1:40- I ran 1:39:25)
- I was upset I didn't run faster. If it hadn't been as humid I think I could have run 1:37-1:38.
- I felt great during the race, despite not being able to take a deep breath because the air was SATURATED
- my dad followed along on his bike for most of the way and it was super cute.
- I ran my first half without a shirt on, and I'm super glad I did because did I mention, HOLY HUMIDITY???
- sitting in the car for 4 hours after a race without stretching much is a bad idea. And I'm still recovering from that bad idea.
- Corning, NY is a super cute town. I was born near there and I know that town was NOT cute back in the 80s so it was fun to see.
- I would not call this race downhill. It was flat, at best. There were actually more little hills than I was expecting.
- I want to run this race again. Soon. Maybe next year

Picture recap since my recap above pretty much sucked.

So now that we have that out of the way (kind of)....     
Ever since I found out that I didn't get into Boston, I've been trying to find a Spring marathon that excites me and is at least somewhat convenient. I went through REALLY ridiculous thoughts (yesterday) like: 
-go to DC Friday
-run marathon Saturday
-catch train back to NYC 1.5 hours after I (hopefully) finish
-go to a wedding at 4:30pm 
-dance all night. 

Um. I didn't even bother mentioning that one to Anthony. I also thought:
-fly from Baltimore (where I'll be) to Phoenix Friday
-run marathon Saturday
-fly back to Baltimore by Sunday afternoon to hear Anthony perform. 

That sounds awful too. All of the fun sounding Spring marathons are at times that don't work for me. Or at a time that would only add stress to an already tough 26.2. I want to be able to enjoy the marathon AND post marathon!

Last summer, Anthony, my mom, her boyfriend and I went to Ottawa.  It's only 1.5 hours from my mom's house (in the middle of nowhere), and in June, it was really chilly. After falling in love with the city, I immediately looked up Ottawa races. I mentioned the marathon/half to Anthony back in June, put it on my list of things to-do and EVEN put "Ottawa Marathon if no Boston??" But when it came to searching for a Spring marathon that I WANTED to run, I disregarded Ottawa because says to add a ton of time for weather. It's certainly possible that the weather will suck in late May. But if it's like last year, it's also certainly possible that the weather will be perfect. And yes, I'll probably be converting kilometers to miles the whole time, but I like math.

The Ottawa Marathon has me excited again. My mom, her boyfriend and Anthony are all available to come cheer (or run, Anthony?!) and we can make a weekend out of it. I won't be rushed trying to get to/from the race.  Part of my goal in finding a race was also something that wouldn't cost a ton, since we're also planning our wedding! We can drive to Ottawa so we don't have to pay for flights and it's Memorial Day weekend so I don't have to take off of work. And, another bonus- it's flat! 

If I'm going to spend 3-4 months training for something, it BETTER be something I'm excited about. And since it's not Boston in 2014 for me, it's OTTAWA, May 25, 2014!

OTTAWA MARATHON, HERE I COME!........right after I renew my passport!

Who else wants in on the Ottawa Marathon?! JOIN ME!!! Have you run the Ottawa Marathon? Thoughts?

Monday, September 30, 2013

Body Mechanics Massage Review!

OHMYGOSH! How is tomorrow already October?! So many great things have happened in my family in the last 10 days. Here's how it all went down:

September 20- my sister's birthday
September 23- my twin nieces were born!
September 24- went to Philly to meet nieces and celebrated my sister and brother-in-law's wedding anniversary
September 26- my nieces were named- Josephine and Vivian!
September 27- I got engaged (on a run!)! Oh, and it was my 30th birthday!

First picture as engaged couple!

Celebrating my birthday and our engagement!

So, all that to say that I'm a BIT behind on things! Oh, and I'm racing Wineglass Half on Sunday, so have to get ready for that. It's been crazy busy, but amazing!

I started this post over a week ago and feel badly that I'm just getting around to finishing it. I hope it finally makes it up on my blog today!

I recently had the chance to go check out the newly opened Body Mechanics Orthopedic Massage.

From their website:

What is Body Mechanics?

Do you want more out of your treatment than a 'spa' massage can offer in a beautiful space? Body Mechanics Orthopedic Massage New York is a luxury boutique  massage clinic  in Midtown, New York specializing in:

  • Relaxation 
  • Sports massage
  • Prenatal Massage
  • TMJ  

Body Mechanics Massage New York is a client-centered experience,   We tailor our treatments to you, rather than fit you into our treatment style. We combine a spa atmosphere with advanced manual therapy for physical problem solving.

Honestly, I didn't look into them too much once I was contacted about a complimentary treatment, I just said yes! So going in, I didn't really know what to expect. I didn't spend enough time on the website to see how awesome the space looks but here are a few pictures that I took. There are also more/better pictures on their website!

The lobby and check-in/waiting area

This is one of the rooms where massages are given. 
This is where I had my massage!

There are three massage rooms (only two are pictured above) and they are all super clean and decorated really nicely. Basically, I'd like my apartment to look like this! 

Not only does the space look great, but Beret, the owner, so was nice and interested in learning about me and my running before starting the massage. She asked me some questions, we talked about previous injuries, what my training is like now and if I was currently having any issues. You could tell that she knew what she was talking about and that I'd be in good hands! 

Everyone loves massages, but you know how sometimes you get someone that doesn't really know their stuff, or is too weak, or just doesn't quite do what you're looking for? This was the BEST MASSAGE I'VE EVER HAD! Beret gave me my massage and it was incredible! It definitely wasn't as painful as a sports massage, but I didn't have to ask her to use more pressure either. It was a perfect balance between relaxing and effective. 

So if you have a big race coming up, want to relax, or need something worked out of your body, I 100% recommend Body Mechanics! It's conveniently located near Grand Central and your body will thank you!

Follow Body Mechanics on twitter at @BodyMechanicsNY

Visit the Body Mechanics website

Disclaimer: I was offered a complimentary one-hour treatment. I was not required to write a few and all opinions are my own.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Philly Rock 'n' Roll Half Race Recap!

Last Sunday, I ran the Philadelphia Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon. This was my second year running this race, and I loved it just as much this year as last year, if not more! The mid-September date has provided awesome weather the past two years and the course is great -  a few miles downtown and then the rest is along the river.

This was my first half marathon since I ran this race last year! The past year went like this for me:

September - Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon and a bunch of other races
October- trained for Philadelphia Marathon
November- ran Philadelphia Marathon!
December- sort of injured- IT band issues
January- started training for Spring halves
February- training/got injured
March- injured- 2 miles logged
April- injured- 1.5 miles logged
May- yay! I can finally run again! SLOWLY got back into it and tried not to freak out about leg
June- first race back! Leg feels great! Went to Hawaii, hardly ran this month!
July- started training for Fall halves
August- raced a 5k
September- Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon and a bunch of other races

When I started training again in July, after allowing myself 2 months of easy running after injury, my coaches had their work cut out for them. At that time, a 9 minute mile felt really hard for me and I hadn't run more than a 10k since February. I had almost zero base built up. About the only thing that I had going for me was that I was excited and ready to work. But I (and they) also knew that I had to do that really careful to avoid another injury. July consisted of a few faster miles, but was mostly just easy running while building mileage. It really wasn't until August that I started doing any tempo runs or speedwork. After weeks of having crap runs, I finally started to feel like myself again and got in a few 10+ mile runs before this race.

My boyfriend, Anthony, and I were both running this race. He had to work until 5pm on Saturday, so I went down to Philly before him to get our bibs at the expo. I also met up with these Oiselle teammates!

Jill, me, Amanda and Ashley!

After the expo, I went back to the hotel to relax and took a quick nap before going to my sister's for dinner. She's about to have twin girls(!!!) so we ordered in a bunch of Italian and cheesecake. Anthony met us there for dinner then drove me back to the hotel, and we were in bed by 10pm. My kind of night! I set the alarm for 6:45am and went to sleep, so you can imagine our surprise when the hotel alarm clock went off very loudly at 5am!! Thanks to whomever stayed in that room before us and didn't turn it off. After that, I tossed and turned until our real alarm went off at 6:45am.

Anthony and I have started a few other half marathons together, but have never run the entire race with each other. I wasn't sure what we were going to do for this race either- we were prepared to run it together or separate mid-race if one person wanted to push. By Saturday, I had solidified my race plan, with the help of my coaches. I was planning to start off around PR pace (7:55) and then pick it up if I was feeling good. To be honest, and I think he'd say the same thing, I wasn't sure that Anthony had trained enough to run a PR with me. Going into this race, Anthony's half PR was 1:43:06 and mine was 1:43:23. I was torn- I wanted to run a strong race and PR, but I also wanted to run the race with Anthony, since I was the one that made him signed him up for it.

We got to the start around 7:45am and it was 50 degrees- perfect running weather! We tried to stay warm until 8am when the race started. In typical Philadelphia fashion, I messed up my Garmin before we even crossed the starting line. I did the same thing at the marathon- what is wrong with me?! So, I was trying to keep us on pace to run a PR, but my watch was off. I don't think I took that 15 seconds into account enough while we were running.

Our first 5k was 8:05 pace, which was slower than I planned on. But after that, we started to push it a bit more. We talked on and off the whole time, checked in with each other, ate some Honey Stingers, drank some water, and before we knew it, we only had a few miles left! I almost never run with anyone else and I gotta say, it did make the miles go by really quickly!

I don't know how Anthony does it, but on little training, he stuck with me the whole race! He even told me afterwards that he felt like he had some left in the tank. Maybe we should have run faster!

I will say that this was the longest half marathon I've run, in distance. For the record, I am NOT saying the course was long (I hate it when people pretend that's the reason that their time wasn't as fast). I'm saying, I (we) SUCK at running tangents! Anthony's Garmin said 13.27 at the end. Um, well that's annoying, because if we had run the tangents, our time would have been significantly faster. Oh well, hopefully I can do this better at Wineglass!

I guess the long and short of it is, we PR'd in overrunning the course, but still PR'd the half! I'm almost positive this is the first half I've negative split and it definitely felt like the easiest half I've run. I remember during the Brooklyn Half in 2012 (where my PR before this race was from) that I wanted to DIE starting around mile 9, so I'm glad I never felt horrible during this race! And I never even got sore, which was a nice surprise, since I usually can't walk down stairs the day after a half....  Thanks to Derek and Allison for making this possible!!

All in all, an awesome morning! I hope I (we?) can do this race again next year!

Next up, the 5th Ave Mile tomorrow morning and Wineglass Half two weeks from tomorrow!

Tell me: HOW DO YOU RUN TANGENTS SUCCESSFULLY?!?!?!  What's your favorite half marathon?