Monday, September 27, 2010

A New 5K PR, Applefest Half Marathon and Ben's First "Race"

It's an exciting time for physical activity in the St. John household. First off, my running stats. I ran my first 5k of the fall racing season and garnered a new personal record (PR) of 25:23. I was hoping for just under 26 and was rewarded for my hard work. But before you give me the proverbial pat on the back I want to share the story of how I got to this new PR, and how my husband prepared and ran the same race.

I've never been a physically fit person. I'm from a family of couch potatoes...well okay, my brother did sports growing up and I remember my sister playing softball, but aside from a short stint running from '94-'95, and then again in the late 90's I never really did anything remotely physical. Sports and me just didn't mix. 

Flash forward to February 2009. I turned 39 the previous November and didn't like what I saw in the mirror or in photographs. I looked like my brother (no offense to my brother, of course!) and if I wasn't careful I could end up really overweight instead of mildly overweight. So for New Year's I came up with the resolution to be Fit by Forty. I joined a gym, got up at 5 AM to walk on a treadmill, and was determined to lose the baby weight/stressed out job weight I gained in the years before my son was born. The scale wasn't moving much so I knew I had to do something serious. I joined Weight Watchers right after St. Patrick's Day, started running shortly thereafter, and by the end of April, I ran my first 5k in 37:12. It wasn't pretty, but I did it. I stuck to my program, running six days a week. I ran my second 5k two weeks later in 35:29. Then I added weight training four days a week, and kept on running. I ran six more 5ks in 2009, each time I got better and by November, not only had I lost 40lbs, I ran my in town's Turkey Trot with a time of 27:13. A full 10 minutes faster than I had six months ago. I also ran a 5 mile road race, two 10ks and an 11k -- all in 2009.  This year I saw even more improvement in both distance and time. I ran two half marathons and am contemplating third. I've maintained my weight loss within two pounds +- and I am now a lifetime member of Weight Watchers. I achieved my goals and am committed to a healthy lifestyle for me and my family.

So that's my for my husband. He's naturally thin (his nickname was "Skinny" growing up) and enjoys playing hockey once a week during the school year. He coaches our son's soccer team and runs around with the kids. He's not quite a couch potato, but he's not a runner.

Sometime in August, he decides he's going to run this race with me. He runs once or twice a week on a treadmill, late at night after supper. I really think its his way to get out of the house and see the Red Sox play, as we turned off our cable this summer. He also didn't want to be "gasping for breath" on the ice when hockey season starts tomorrow night. Mind you, the only way we can run this race together is for one of us to push the kids in the jogging stroller. And it wasn't going to be me. Both kids and the jogger weigh close to, if not more than, 100lbs. Yikes! I thought I would smoke him for sure.

Race Day
Run for Ryan's Cup 5k by mappy17 at Garmin Connect - Details
The race starts and he's at the back of the pack with the stroller. I am off like a light, having an amazing first mile and with my friend and neighbor who runs faster than me in sight. First mile mark and I'm running 7:31 -- AMAZING!, the second mile is at a loop and as I turn the corner and start back to the last section before turning down the road towards the end, what do I hear...."Go Mommy, Go!" from my 5 1/2 year old. 'What?', I think, 'that can't be Ben', and low and behold, who do I see, but my "couch potato" husband pushing the kids only about 30 seconds behind me. 'What...WHAT, is HE doing here?', I think. 'He should be five minutes behind me,' I mumble under my breath. The last mile all I can think of is, 'don't pass me, don't pass me and pleeaaseee don't run with me....stay behind me!' He doesn't and I end up about 20 seconds ahead of him and about 20 seconds behind my friend. Perhaps he was just being nice, letting me finish before him, perhaps not. I would rather not know.  

Hollis Half Marathon -- Applefest
Hollis NH Applefest Half Marathon by mappy17 at Garmin Connect - Details
I ran Applefest on Saturday. It was my second half marathon. I ran my first half in May, after a just a year of running. I trained hard (well, as hard as a first time half marathoner can without a real training plan in place) from January-April. Feeling prepared, our family traveled down to Virginia for the Marine Corps Half Marathon. I finished in 2:10:07. Wow...what a feeling! It was such an exhilarating experience that within a week I signed up for this half. However, when July rolled around and it was hazy, hot, and humid, I was beginning to rethink my decision to pick a race that required long-distance training in the middle of summer. I hobbled together a training plan, but kept my distance around 8 miles and my total miles under 20. I felt ill-prepared. The last six weeks I tried to up everything as the weather improved, but still felt like I wasn't as ready as the first time. I decided to run the course twice, which in retrospect, was truly helpful. I was mentally prepared for all those hills from miles 9-12.5. They weren't any easier, but at least I knew what to expect.

I walked through every water station, like I did for the Marine Corps half, and drank water and (believe it or not) ate two piece of maple sugar candy...yes, I chose that as my energy snack. I committed a runner's faux pas, by not trying it out before the big race, but fortunately the sugar helped and two of the six water stations had Powerade, which I also drank.  The very last hill at 12.25 miles was the same on as mile 2 and indeed it was tough, I walked a tiny bit because I was so tired. I did pick a spot on the horizon and when I got to it, started running again and did not stop until the finish line at 2:14:13. Nothing felt better than hearing the announcer say my name as I approached the finish line. It was so worth it.

Ben's first fun run -- Littleton Road Race by mappy17 at Garmin Connect - Details
Sunday was a day of firsts, for our son, Ben. Chris and I ran a one-mile fun run in Littleton with him. He participated in a local running club's track and field camp and we had been talking about running a mile all summer and on Sunday he did it. In 11+ minutes. After we got back home, Ben rode his bicycle for the first time around Sandy Pond (and some "extra" for a total of 3+ miles). He even did the hills. I am so proud of him.

The best part of this weekend though, had nothing to do with running. The whole family went to Davis Farmland's Mega Maze. What fun we had. Ben led us around the "Survivor"-themed maze and we did obstacles and puzzles, mini-golf, basketball, a zip line and a tunnel slide, finally finding our way out (with a little help from some maze masters) right before it closed. We ended our "marathon day of fun" with some supper and ice cream at Kimball's Farm.

What post wouldn't be complete without mentioning some of the recipes I made in the last week. First off, I made some really yummy cupcakes for our first football open house last weekend and on Sunday I made some chocolate chip cookies that just might be considered healthy. What I liked most about this cookie is that it tastes like an oatmeal cookie, without the large oat pieces. It passed the Izzy test, and the Chris test too...but Ben, who doesn't really care for my desserts, wasn't quite as sold. He'll take a Concord Teacakes cupcake any day.

Whole Wheat/Oat Bran Chocolate Chunk Cookies (adapted from Ultimate Whole Wheat Cookies)
(makes 36 small cookies)

1 1/8 cup Whole Wheat Flour
1 cup Toasted Oat Bran (I used Trader Joe's)
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg (farm fresh!)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup I can't believe its not butter/baking spread
1/2 tsp double strength Penzey's Vanilla
2 Hersheys chocolate bars (leftover from our vacation S'mores this summer), chopped in very small pieces

Pre-heat oven to 350
Mix flour, oat bran, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a bowl; set aside
Using the paddle attachment on a stand-up mixer: cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy
Add egg and vanilla -- beat for a couple minutes until well incorporated
Add dry mixture on low and then mix on med-high until dough is formed
Remove from mixed and with a spoon, mix in chocolate
Form into teaspoon size  and bake for 12 minutes,
Cool on cookie sheet for 2 minutes and transfer to cooling racks. Store in ziploc baggie. Or just gobble them up!


  1. Great post. I particularly enjoyed the Run for Ryan's Cup recap. Good to see Chris is keeping you on your toes. :)

  2. Awesome job at Applefest!! The heat kicked my butt and I shuffled in at 2:43 and change! Ugh! :(

  3. What can I say, Canadians are good looking, smart , naturally athletic but most of all Canadians are humble...

    Anyone can fall out of bed and run a 5K when they are promised two free beer at the end of the race, it takes a REAL athlete to run 13+ miles.

    Nice job Mappy!