the best holiday of the year

Friends, it’s that time again:

halloweenIt should be known that Halloween is my absolute favorite holiday of the year. That being said, it always causes me a ton of stupid, unnecessary stress in the weeks leading up to it. You see, in my mind, Halloween is a time when I can go all-out and be really creative with creating a costume – basically turning myself into a piece of artwork. The stress comes into play when I realize I only have one chance during the year to do this! Therefore, it must be perfect. Hello, self-pressure. Another challenge is making sure I have everything I need to buy before stores close for the day, which is sometimes difficult with my work schedule (I’m usually not done until 7 or 8 at night). Yet another challenge is…trying not to actually buy too much. Needless to say, I am ready for Halloween Season 2013 to begin! I say “season” because if you celebrate Halloween like I do, it’s not just October 31. So before I spoil the surprise for this year (it’s not totally finished yet…but needs to be by tomorrow, yikes), here’s a look back at some of my costumes since I started this DIY costume madness.

2010: Lady Gaga

I figured Gaga would go out of style, at least Halloween-costume-worthy style, if I waited another year to do this, so I went for it. I looked at photos of a bunch of her crazy outfits and created a Gaga-inspired one of my own. A good place to start for nearly any costume is a black dress. With a glue gun, spraypaint, and other random things, anything is possible from there.

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2011 Part 1: Hershey Kiss

I was a Hershey Kiss for Halloween when I was three. Why not recycle an old idea (that certainly was not even mine the first time around…)? So, eighteen years later I was a Hershey Kiss again. I thought the shape of the Gaga dress from the year before would work well, so I spray painted it silver and hot-glued aluminum foil pieces to the tiers of fabric. This was the hardest costume I ever made. It also didn’t last for more than one party.

2011 Part 2: Christmas Tree

I sort of want to forget Part 2 even happened, because a.) the Halloween excitement certainly got the best of me that night and b.) the costume was awful. The Hershey kiss had fallen apart and I’d run out of glue sticks with which to repair it. It was snowing outside, I didn’t feel like driving to a store, and I had two parties left to attend. What to do? I raided the closet of the house I was renting senior year of college and found lots of Christmas decorations. And put them on. It was ridiculous that it was snowing in October, so I might as well make fun of mother nature, right? Conclusion: Part 1 was better, and there are hardly any pictures worthy of posting.

I told you it was bad.

I told you it was bad.

2012: Peacock

This idea came to me randomly and I totally ran away with it. It was so much fun. And I could re-wear it at any time, because it didn’t fall apart at all.

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2013…TBA!

But here’s a hint:

By the way, this is my first EVER Instagram photo. So exciting! I’m either going to use it all the time or never again. To find out, follow me here.

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An update: Thanks for the comments on my last post! It really helped to know that other people didn’t think I came off as ridiculous for wanting my results to be accurate. The good news is…they now are! Cheers to published, accurate PRs!

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Runner’s World Festival 10k race report

If you follow a lot of running blogs, you probably heard about the second annual Runner’s World Half & Festival in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Runner’s World invited a group of bloggers to the event for the weekend, where they toured the RW offices in Emmaus, attended seminars, and were entered in the hat trick (5k + 10k + half marathon!). So, there was undoubtedly a lot of promotion going on via the blogosphere the last couple months! I was not one of those bloggers, but the event did intrigue me, particularly because: 1.) I’m a running nerd and thought it would be cool to meet the RW staff, 2.) I already did meet Megan and Hannah (RW reporters) at Hood to Coast (they were also on Nuun Team Watermelon!) and it would be great to see them again, and 3.) why not??? It was about time for a little running-related adventure outside of NJ anyway.

Oh, and I wanted a 10k PR.* 

Look, new phone! Blackberry Torch --> Samsung Galaxy after 2+ years.

Look, new phone! Blackberry Torch –> Samsung Galaxy after 2+ years.

So, I forked over the money for the experience…on Tuesday night, a bit last minute. This is my new thing, apparently. AND IT WORKS. I woke up early (by my new phone – so exciting!) and drove the ~75 miles to the ArtsQuest center in Bethlehem, right next to the famous steel stacks. I had done this drive before many times (let me see…seven times), to either watch a meet or race at Lehigh and Moravian in college. After some debate over what to do about my “long run,” I decided to do an extra long warmup and try to time it so that I wouldn’t have much downtime before the 10k started. I got my bib number and ran into Megan right away! Then I set off on a warmup/pre-race run that ended up totaling ~5.6 miles at just under eight minute pace. It was cold, so this helped a lot!

THE RACE

At the starting line, they played very intense pump-up music. I was feeling really chill and relaxed, so I tried not to let the music get me too excited. Negative splits were the name of the game. Bart Yasso and Summer Sanders started the race, and I was able to get a good view since not too many people lined up between the 6:00 and 7:00 pace signs.

View of the steel stacks from near the start.

View of the steel stacks from near the start.

Miles 1 & 2: 6:59, 6:37

I settled into a decent pace feeling comfortable, and I was glad it wasn’t too fast, because the first mile included a pretty big uphill. I passed the mile in basically seven minutes, which concerned me at first, just because I knew that was not an average pace I wanted to run; it was too slow. I convinced myself I had a plan and was being smart though, and just went with it. The downhill came soon after, and I was instantly glad I’d conserved the energy. A quick glance at my watch told me that “just rolling” with the downhill had me close to six minute pace, so I knew then that everything would even out. We crossed over the river on a bridge and headed into the little downtown where I had warmed up earlier. There was loud music playing at the end of the bridge, and at first I was pissed it was Bruno Mars (cannot stand him, sorry), until it turned into a pretty sweet remix, not going to lie. Good sign. I could see Susan a couple runners ahead of me, and let her plus some guys in neon shirts (seriously, neon yellow was the color to wear in this race; I missed the memo) pull me along. I was still feeling really comfortable.

Miles 3 & 4: 6:49, 6:38

I think my effort level stayed steady or increased with each mile of the race; the pace variation is purely a result of the uphills and downhills on the course. The spectators were great; if they were standing at the crest of a hill, they always seemed to say, “top of the hill!” and it made me feel better. Before the fourth mile mark, I think, I found myself gaining ground on the runners ahead of me, then passing them. I wanted to practice making a decisive pass, not a let’s-run-together pass, because I wanted to run my own race and see how much I could negative-split (new game, it’s been fun, and painful). Luckily, after that was a significant downhill to the bridge again.

Miles 5 & 6 (and 0.31): 6:27, 6:21, 1:51 (for 0.31, 6:04 pace)

I was hauling it on the bridge because first, I love running over bridges, and second, I wanted to keep the momentum from the downhill going. There were a lot of race photographers and I made it a point to not look like I did at the end of last weekend’s raceSilly, I know, but sometimes looking calm and controlled = feeling calm and controlled. And besides, the race was not over. A guy on the bridge said to me as I passed, “I counted you as fourth female.” I’m going to go ahead and spoil this for you by saying: LIES. This was a false statement. I’m not disappointed that he said it though, because it fueled my fire for the rest of the race. After barely missing first in my age group and fifth overall in the Perfect 10 last week, and wondering if I just didn’t finish tough enough, I was determined to negate all that and make up for it this week. I wanted to give everything I had and see what happened. I could see the next girl ahead of me once over the bridge, but I wasn’t sure if she was close enough to catch. I kept rolling along at the same pace though, around 6:25, without letting the faster pace get to me mentally. I wasn’t going to slow down if I didn’t let myself slow down, simple as that. On a stretch of road heading to the Sands parking lot entrance where we turned left, I managed to catch her and pass her. Decisive pass decision number two was a lot harder; I was moving faster and there was only a half mile or so to go! We went under an overpass/walkway or something, and then I could see the finish chute lined with spectators and the finish line with the arc of fire. I ended up crossing the line at the exact same time as another guy, and someone announced my name in the same sentence as his (this will be important later…), and then they said my name and town again. 

According to my Garmin…6.31 miles in 41:46.5 (6:37 or 6:44 pace average – for 6.2 – depending on how you look at it)

After the race, I tried to get in an adequate cooldown but that didn’t work very well. Oh well. I ended up meeting Jocelyn and Susan and heading over to the awards with them. I was pretty sure I placed, thanks to the man on the bridge who can’t count. But my name wasn’t coming up in the searchable results. I found out I definitely wasn’t top three, which was okay (that would’ve been really cool but also would have been surprising!), but they also didn’t call me up for any F20-24 awards. Huh. Long story short: I was confused and really hoped my bib had registered when I crossed the line. They had said my name, that had to mean something?! It turns out it took longer for my results to show up, so I did place (second I believe), but someone else got to go on stage and get the award because the computers didn’t show my name. 😦 So that was sad. The results still show a time that is over 20 seconds slower than the time on my watch, and they don’t show me finishing within a second of another guy (which happened, photos will tell), so I’m actually not trusting anything for a few days; maybe they need to sort things out. They are a magazine, not a timing company, after all. I might write more general thoughts on why Brennan would have likely slapped me in the face during this mental freak-out of mine in another post….I ended up not needing to pretend I was a Lehigh athlete (wearing this shirt…yes I did pack it; I go to extreme measures for showers sometimes) or drive over a mountain to sneak into a shower facility thanks to my gracious new blogger friends (Nuun Hood to Coast Team ’11 and ’12, by the way!).

ReNUUNion! I admit I've been waiting to use this term since my flight out of Seattle.

ReNUUNion! I admit I’ve been waiting to use this term since my flight out of Seattle.

EVERYTHING BESIDES THE RACE 

I didn’t mention that half of the reason I went to this event was to do some networking. I’m at a point where I feel like I should take every and any opportunity to meet new people, make connections, and try new things as far as my future career and also just my interests and well-being are concerned. One thing I have learned in 2013 (of countless things…) is that I love writing. Especially the past month or so, I’m finding myself sitting down to write and having three hours fly by without having moved more than my fingers, taken a sip of water, or looked around the room. I can’t say that about many other tasks. There are nights when I come home from work and get excited when I decide I’m going to write something. I’ll write more about this later I’m sure, but for now I’ll just say: there is a unique feeling that comes when you do what you are truly passionate about, and I think it’s important to recognize the feeling and what you are doing when it overcomes you. It could be a key to the puzzle of a happy life. Where was I? Oh, I went back to the ArtsQuest building after showering and eating, and continued settling in right where I belonged: the expo! A post-race expo, for me; that was a first. It was certainly a small expo; vendors included: Superfeet, Sweatybands (my bangs’ heroes), iFitRun, Larabar, BelVita, Aardvark, and Nestle Water…that’s all I can remember (not sure why I listed them, but hey why not). I ended up knowing all three of the reps working at the Superfeet booth (our store’s sales rep and tech rep, plus the NYC tech rep who I met NYCM weekend last year), so I chatted with them for awhile. I have yet to meet anyone from Superfeet who is not really cool. Go meet them at the next expo you attend! I met up with Jane (from PI!), who was running the half the next day. We took photos on the “cover” of RW, but I can’t say they ended up looking amazing:

Poor Jane…this is why there’s only one runner on the cover at a time!

At 4:30 I went to a “dinner with the editors.” It was a lot smaller than I expected (I think I was thinking of the Boston Runner’s World party when I signed up for this), but the food was really good! I sat with Megan and some other bloggers, plus two other RW staff members (one was a photographer I believe). At 5:30 they all went to Dave McGillivray’s talk. I could have joined but I wasn’t sure if there were spots left and I hadn’t registered. I also used cash at Panera (oops), so I couldn’t pay at the door. I did have enough cash for…an expo beer! That’s right, there was a bar at the expo venue, and the beer was cheaper than at Princeton bars. ‘Twas a win. I was happy to enjoy a Shock Top while sitting with Jane on the deck overlooking the steel stacks as the sun set. It was good to relax and reflect on my race with her (and get her excited for her own!). Summary: the steel stacks were beautiful with the purple lights shining on them at night, and expos are more fun when they are attended after a great race and they have a bar.

We snuck in a pic with Bart before leaving! Even with a new phone it's unfortunately blurry.

We snuck in a pic with Bart Yasso before leaving! Even with a new phone it’s unfortunately blurry.

Steel stacks at night. See the first photo in this post for the sunset snapshot: so pretty. Oh, and that's a steel arch of fire, by the way.

Steel stacks at night. See the first photo in this post for the sunset snapshot: so pretty. Oh, and that’s a steel arch of fire, by the way.

Final reflections:

There were so many people who did the hat trick this weekend (all three race distances over two days) that it was really easy to belittle the fact that I only did the 10k. Honestly, I was even thinking, back when I heard about the event a couple months ago, that I would come and just go to the seminars and network with people. Then I realized I wasn’t so scared of getting hurt anymore, but I was through with 5ks for now, and the half would have been a bit much if I really went for it in the 10 miler the week before. Because we all know I can’t run something for fun wearing a bib number. So, the 10k was my choice. Then there was the timing glitch, which I’m still kind of confused about. I was pretty distracted immediately after the race for the rest of the day, meeting new people and hanging out at the expo and being a runnerd, admiring the steel stacks and the RW dinner – all of that. So, it’s easy to dismiss the race with, “I’m happy with it, I ran a PR, I had a great day, I can write a blog post about it (ha, really though), I’m one step closer to the Philly Half.” I don’t have a problem giving the race the credit it deserves though, so I will. Regardless of the context and the controversy, that 10k was the best race I’ve ever ran. I said that last week. This was better than last week. The girl I passed in the last mile this week was the same distance away from me as Allison was last week at some point. Instead of doubting my ability to push harder and not be nervous by the pace given the distance ahead, I went for it and boldly passed her. I used each runner ahead of me to push myself and not get complacent. Every race teaches you something about your limits, but this one especially was a breakthrough for me. I learned last week, and in recent workouts, that I can finish faster and not get “tired” (unless a 20 mph wind slaps you in the face but that’s a different story). The question I asked myself subconsciously this week was, how much faster? I plan on asking that question now each time I race…but I suppose that is what racing is, isn’t it?

The stats. I did a little math and the last 5k was 19:59…what?!

*Note: My previous 10k PR was ~42:30 at the 2012 Princeton Healthcare 10k. We were directed the wrong way so I ran 41:14 for what was re-mapped as 6 miles, 6.02 on someone’s Garmin. So, I extrapolated, since I definitely could’ve kept going for 0.2. Actually, last week’s 10k split was basically my PR (the first or the last). After that fiasco I certainly hope RW gets my time right after results are official (the 42:16 I see now is wrong)! If not maybe I should stay away from 10ks.