An Awesome Blast from My Running Past

You never know where life may take you, it’s so true. I definitely never expected to live in NC. Still, it’s turned out to have its perks. Most recently, a job perk for me included my third conference trip for the spring to San Francisco! That carried with it more exciting perks – visits with two of my previous runnin’ pals!

First, Maria. Maria and I ran cross country together during my first year of college – I was a freshman, and she was a sophomore. We fell out of touch after she graduated and left good ol’ Trinidad State Junior College up until about three years ago - about 11 years after Maria graduated.

On some random week night, Maria called me. I don’t remember how she got my number, but I was so happy to hear from her! I really appreciated the fact that she made the effort to seek me out. We caught up on each other’s lives for about an hour, and we’ve kept in touch ever since.

We even flew to Japan together a few summers ago to visit yet another former member of the TSJC Lady Trojans Cross Country Team, Makiko:

Representin' the Lady Trojans after learning to conduct a tea ceremony in Kyoto

Representin’ the Lady Trojans after learning to conduct a tea ceremony in Kyoto

Maria ended up back home in California, and she was nice enough to meet me for dinner and a walk around Fisherman’s Wharf in San Fran on Saturday:

Miss this girl!

Miss this girl!

As if that weren’t awesome enough, I met up with Dave, a good friend from the Irish Snug Running Club, after this. I don’t think Dave had any plans to move across the country for a job; but, as was my case two years ago, life had other plans in store for him as well.

When he learned that I would be moving to Durham, NC, in May 2011, he wasted no time in recruiting me to pace him for the last 11 miles of the Outer Banks Marathon on the NC coast in November 2011. It was then that he earned his nickname, thanks to a few marathon spectators without filters who thought out loud before we were out of earshot on along the course.

We rounded a corner where two women were standing in a residential neighborhood. We may have only gotten a few feet past them when we heard one of the women say, “Look at that man running with his granddaughter!”

We looked at the other for a sec then laughed, and I’ve called him “Poppy” (what his grandchildren call him) ever since.

Poppy & I posing after Poppy set a new marathon PR - Which he has already beaten again, by the way

Posing after Poppy’s new marathon PR – which he has, of course, already beaten since!

And again, just when I thought the night couldn’t get any better, Poppy gave me this, a memento from the marathon:

DSC05934

Aww! Thanks, Poppy! You shouldn’t have!

Not only had I had a great time with Maria and with Dave, they both traveled at least an hour to meet me in San Francisco. If that’s not the sure sign of good friends, I don’t know what is! The best part? I know this wasn’t the last time our paths would cross.

I am a very lucky winged feet gal to have such amazing running peeps, only one of the many reasons I run, even if we can’t run together right now.

There’s nothing like an awesome blast from my running past to round out the end of my mini running sabbatical. San Fran was fun, but now it’s time to get to work – This week marks week one of marathon training. The Pikes Peak Marathon is 108 days and about 8 1/2 hours away. The countdown has officially begun. . .

Melissa Mincic, Ph.D., studies child development at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is a long-time road and trail runner. Follow Melissa on Twitter at @nerdinrunshoes.

Just CHILLAX

It’s Tuesday, and I haven’t run in 8 days now. At the end of last week and over the weekend, I was in Seattle for a conference. And, since I’ve been back, I’ve had to:

  • Readjust to the three-hour time difference between the west and east coasts, a.k.a. force myself into bed at night and out of bed in the morning
  • Diligently attend to EVERY little thing I consume in order to stay on track with my diet cleanse
  • Cook from the diet cleanse cookbook most every day - and clean up a messy kitchen afterward – so that I don’t starve after surviving most of the day on raw vegetables and a handful of pills alone:
Holy pill popper, Batman!

Holy pill popper, Batman!

  • Start checking off items on my latest ‘to do’ list, including some very time-sensitive items, which has by far surpassed the size of a Post-it note - my typical ‘to do’ list size preference:
And there's a grocery list - for my diet cleanse - on the back

Post-it note AND THEN some! Plus my diet cleanse grocery list on the back. . .

  • Do at least one load of laundry – which has crossed my mind at least three times so far this evening yet remains untouched
  • Prepare for my trip to San Francisco for my final conference of the spring this upcoming weekend
  • Finish a paper for work – a paper I wanted done over a month ago now – before I fly out on Friday afternoon.

If I haven’t already painted you a vivid picture, I’ll just say this – I’ve got a LOT to do!

Seriously, how do parents do it? And even married couples without children?! If I ever do get married, he’s gonna have to be one very self-sufficient fella. I fly by the seat of my pants on a daily, in a seemingly eternal disheveled hot mess of a rush, and barely manage to take care of myself!

Given that I was out of town last weekend, will be out of town this weekend, and officially start training for the Pikes Peak Marathon – marking my first ever marathon attempt – next week, I decided to grant myself a ‘bye week’ to get a handle on things. And, I’ve somewhat surprisingly been able to do it so far without an ounce of guilt.

I’m not old, but I’m old enough to have learned a few things in my day, one of which has proven invaluable: CHILLAX.

Sure, it’s not ideal to be away from running this much. Still, I know I can definitely handle my first few weeks of training no problem. In fact, I’ve been running more miles and higher milage long runs than they require for at least the past few weeks. Chillax, Mel. You’ve got this.

As I mentioned, several things on my latest ‘to do’ list are time sensitive. Many of them also require others’ carving time out of their schedules in order for me to check them off the list. I’d say that makes them a priority. Chillax, Mel. This is more important right now.

OK, maybe I didn’t pick the ideal time to start a labor- and often consequently time-intensive diet cleanse. For something like this, though, there really never is an “ideal” time. Chillax, Mel. You’ve done this before, remember? You know exactly what to do. And, more importantly, you know the time and effort will pay off.

When life gets hectic, don’t fret. Chillax. Or, as I recently cited as my mantra for the day via my Facebook page, “Keep calm and marathon on.” No matter how you say it, say it as you take in and momentarily hold a big breath with closed eyes before breathing out the stressors induced by your own ‘to do’ lists.

And, if working on that list means having to take a few days away from running, that’s OK. You, are indeed, after all, a RUNNER and will get back to it. Until then, rest easy knowing that your shoes, watch, and favorite route will be waiting. Just chillax.

Melissa Mincic, Ph.D., studies child development at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is a long-time road and trail runner. Follow Melissa on Twitter at @nerdinrunshoes.

A Little Pre-Diet Debauchery’s Demise

So we all know that being in the best possible shape requires work regarding both exercise and diet. Right? Right! For a long time, I had the exercise part down pat a few years ago but didn’t realize the importance of the diet piece of the puzzle.

Between running and hitting the gym, I would work out up to 8 times per week. Sounds like a lot, right? After all that, I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t thinner. I mean, I burned a TON of calories each week! I knew I could eat better, but I wasn’t that bad. . .or so I thought. It wasn’t until about this time last year that I realized just how awful my eating habits really were.

Lots and LOTS of great things have come out of my move to NC, one of which includes a complete transformation of my nutrition knowledge and eating habits. I had always wanted to do a diet cleanse, and I was planning on one shortly before I learned I would be moving to NC. I finally did it about a year later and am SO happy I did!

Several of my friends from my gym in NC introduced me to the Standard Process diet cleanse. They had all done it and said they got great results. So I thought, “Eh, what the heck?”

Twenty-one days; up to 30 supplement capsules per day – Holy pill popper, Batman! – for some of those days; and TONS of fresh, organic fruits, vegetables, chicken, and fish later, I had lost six pounds, increased my body water composition by several percentage points, and felt awesome.

That was all good, but it wasn’t even the best part. What was, you ask? I’ll tell you! I was running faster than I ever had in my life and loving it!

I’m about to start the same diet cleanse again, which means that I will have to give up many of the things I enjoy on a daily basis. Soooooo, I’ve given myself the ‘OK’ to have things I like but don’t often consume anyway in preparation for the strict dietary constrictions to come.

I think, though, I may have overdone it just a bit. Here are just a few of my indulgences in the past two weeks or so. Before you scroll down, I have one thing to say: Don’t judge me! Hmmm, well, maybe just not too harshly. . .

Victims #1 and #2

Victims #1 and #2

Coconut, almonds, and chocolate. Oh my!

Coconut, almonds, and chocolate. Oh my!

I put the Reese's in the freezer for a short while but ate it before it could freeze much :/

I put the Reese’s in the freezer for a short while but ate it before it could freeze much :/

Fatty McPhatterson much? I didn’t stop there. . .

Truth be told, I'm a soft pretzel FEIND!!!

Truth be told, I’m a soft pretzel FEIND!!! I could be addicted to a lot worse, right?!

Rice Krispies Treat

You NEVER outgrow nostalgic bliss that only ‘The Original’ can deliver

Ginger Cookie

In my defense, I tried to give away half (buuuuuuuut ate it all – ‘yum yum’ is right!)

Add to this about four more diet sodas, ice cream times two, and two churros. Hmmmmm. . . yeaaaahhhhh. . . shoulda left this last list out. . .

After all of this, I am most definitely ready for my diet cleanse. Not only ready, I can’t wait! I can’t wait to eat uber healthy, to trim down after my horrible – yet yummy – eating as of late, to feel sooooo much better, and last but not anywhere near least – to run FAST!

Melissa Mincic, Ph.D., studies child development at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is a long-time road and trail runner. Follow Melissa on Twitter at @nerdinrunshoes.

We Will Run On

I love running, and I especially love racing. I love the anticipation leading up to and the excitement of the race expo – Technical tees donning advertisement for the race, running memorabilia in the form of everything from bumper stickers to occasional opportunities to meet a running elite.

I don’t love frantically scrubbing my apartment clean; but I do love making homemade marinara to accompany pasta, meat sauce, salad, and garlic bread for an evening of carb loading with my running buddies signed up for the same race.

I love the combination of anxious butterflies fluttering inside the walls of my stomach; thinking through racing strategy; and telling myself things like, “You’re good, you’ve GOT this!” minutes before the gun.

And, let’s not forget the race bib – especially when it includes your name on it – that will shortly thereafter include my racing stats on the back and join my wall of bibs for the year:

Racing Season 2012

2012′s racing bibs look lonely, don’t ya think? 2013 will join them soon!

Races are the only things that can get this nocturnal gal to bed early on a weekend night and up at way too early an hour on a weekend morning. No matter how much I might prefer at times to point and click the remote at the bright glow of late-night television or groan and hit the ‘snooze’ button, one eye open, the next day, I love every bit of it.

I love thinking about what I’m going to wear for that particular race, always hoping that my hair stays in my hair clips during the race, looking forward to my fellow racing peeps cheering me on at the finish after they cross the line before me. In all truth, I sometimes even imagine them waiting and cheering me along painful or boring stretches of runs to motivate me.

I have no doubt that thousands of my fellow runners felt the same rush – a feeling only the long awaited anticipation of a big race can bring – this morning as they physically and mentally prepared for the Boston Marathon, including my NC running BFF Melissa!

I, of course, wasn’t there myself, but I was most eagerly there in spirit while following along with the race from live online coverage as well as occasional text messages providing me updates on Melissa’s pace and progress.

I got the final text message telling me Melissa’s finishing time shortly after my only work meeting of the day. Not only did she PR like I ABSOLUTELY knew she would. She SMASHED her previous PR, set two years ago at the Boston Marathon, by about six minutes! Told you she is a forced with which to be reckoned! You can bet I will wear the new shirt she bought me with pride this summer as I train for my first marathon:

Boston Marathonite by association!

Boston Marathonite by association!

Unfortunately, many other Boston Marathon competitors never crossed the finish line today. Most unfortunately, many race attendants were severely wounded; and some have lost their lives, painting a day that I can only imagine is one of the most anticipated and exciting days in Boston all year with devastation and fear.

The news hit me pretty hard, and I couldn’t help but ask the same question as millions of others for the remainder of the day: Why? I was glued to as much media as I could soak up all afternoon until I met up with Jess for our Monday night jaunt around UNC’s campus.

We talked about the incident, and Jess patiently listened as I told her about how much it bothered me, how strongly it affected me both as another human being wanting answers for the senseless destruction and as a runner vicariously living the excitement of one of the biggest days of the running calendar year through Melissa and the thousands of others in Boston.

I think that brief break from the media to do something I love and have turned to time and time again to feel better was just what I needed. That was one of the fastest paces, if not the fastest pace, we’ve ever run together.

And, as if being an irreplaceable workout buddy and friend wasn’t enough, Jess said something to me afterward that reminded me just how proud I am to be a member of such an amazing group of individuals – the running community. “I wanted to run anyway; but I also felt like we should, for Boston.”

Unforseen danger can lurk around any corner, no matter how much we might plan ahead and take care to avert or combat it. This doesn’t mean, though, that we shouldn’t continue to live our lives for fear of finding ourselves in a losing battle of risk.

I look forward to future attempts to qualify for the Boston Marathon and maybe even one day finding myself choosing a running outfit, tying back my hair, hearing my running BFFs shout my name above a cheering crowd as I near the Boston Marathon finish line. And I sincerely hope that everyone reading right now will approach any of their life-long goals just the same, runner or not. We will run on.

Melissa Mincic, Ph.D., studies child development at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is a long-time road and trail runner. Follow Melissa on Twitter at @nerdinrunshoes.

Race. Breathe a sigh of relief. Repeat.

Two of my good friends-slash-blog-readers described my last entry as “one cliff hanger of a blog post” and “dramatic.” Since then, my stress-inducing crisis of the moment has passed. So I guess it’s about time I clear the air!

As I mentioned, that blog post wasn’t referring to a race. What it was referring to was a most excellent dilemma – Which of two exciting job offers to accept! Having felt years of professional frustration, I mulled over the decision with furrowed brow for at least 48 hours. Each offered a unique opportunity that would largely determine my career trajectory; so I took both into some serious consideration.

I didn’t mention the best part yet. Both are in. . .DENVER!!! Early Thursday evening, I made my decision and accepted an offer. This displaced Colorado girl’s going home to Colorado! Having been away from home for the better part of nearly two years now, you can imagine my bliss. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t jump up and down and shriek in the kitchen once I hung up the phone after accepting the offer.

I’ll start my new position in June. I’ll be able to see my family – including my niece and two nephews – MUCH more frequently. I’ll be in a great new position putting me in the mix of the early childhood field in Denver and throughout the state of Colorado.

I’ll be eating Dakin and JD’s dust on trail runs as we prepare for the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon:

Herman's Gulch - Have a feeling we'll be here a lot this summer!

Herman’s Gulch – Have a feeling we’ll be here a lot this summer!

I’ll be able to run in Cheeseman Park whenever I want:

Insert dreamy sigh here. . .

Insert dreamy sigh here. . .

I’ll be back at the Irish Snug every Thursday night for a few miles and a pint. . .or a car bomb:

Did someone say 'Cheers'?!

Did someone say ‘Cheers’?!

I’ll be home.

I am so happy that this race is over; and I’m even looking forward to my next race, whatever it may be.

I’ve come what feels like a long way. And still, I’ve got a long way to run.

Melissa Mincic, Ph.D., studies child development at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is a long-time road and trail runner. Follow Melissa on Twitter at @nerdinrunshoes.

Some Races Aren’t Run

Races, like so many things in life, can include a lot of preparation to get right. And, after all of the timed intervals and tempo runs, all of the miles – short and extra long runs, after all of the sweat and salt tablets to replenish nutrients lost from sweating, and sometimes after tears and even blood that go into that preparation over weeks and even months, you’d surely want to get to the finish line in time to meet your goal.

So how disappointed would you be if you put in all of the work – and experienced all of the success of overcoming obstacles as well as some moments of perceived defeat along the way – but choked on race day?

What if you don’t drink enough water or take your Gu at the wrong time? What if you tie your left shoe just a tad too tight or forget your running watch? What if a rock gets stuck in your shoe along the course, and you don’t have time to dislodge it? What if someone cuts you off and steers you into a slow crowd, costing you a strong and elegant stride and invaluable seconds?

What if?

Question_mark

Would these things trip you up? Or could you overcome them? How could you be sure to reach the finish line in your goal time despite these and so many other things that might be beyond your control?

I’m talking about running here. But in case you’re wondering, I’m really not talking about running, not at all. Still, it applies to my current circumstance and so many others apart from running. And, sometimes thinking about something so familiar yet completely unrelated – like running in this case - might help.

I hope to soon say that I have tripped, suffered through a mean side ache, run with a huge rock stuck in my shoe with the end goal in mind, didn’t let any of these things slow me down but instead took them each in stride and took the race step by step while keeping the big picture in mind.

And, I hope to say that I made it to the finish line, cleaned my scraped up knee, massaged out the side ache, and got the rock out of my shoe while feeling all the more proud of my race time because they didn’t slow me down.

I hope to then look forward to my next race, wondering what new obstacles might be in store and how I will handle them as well.

It’s been an incredible – and stressful – past six days. Stay tuned. . .

Snug Love

So it’s been a little while since I’ve sung my beloved Colorado’s praises – at least a few posts, give me a little credit! – and it’s Thursday. Thursdays back home mean only one thing: the Snug run!

The Irish Snug Running Club (ISRC) is Denver’s longest-running and largest running club with good reason - food and drink specials for runners; good company; and, of course, good beer.

I’ll never forget my first-ever Snug run. I was meeting my good friend Tarino – the first of us to become an official ISRCer. After several years away, this night marked the beginning of my return to running. We were going to run together so that I could learn the course. We chatted and enjoyed the beautiful Denver day. I was pretty out of shape and had to fight to keep up with him at times.

When we got back to the Irish Snug, he said, “Now you know the course. Next week, we’ll run.” I’m sure my eyes grew 10 times their size when he said this. My response? “That was running for me, T!”

A short two and one half months later, I got my own official ISRC technical tee after my tenth runs:

An official Snugger since October of '09!

An official Snugger since October of ’09!

Most anybody can get their 10 runs shirt. That’s not too hard, and the ISRC knows this. That’s why they reward their ‘die hards’ with. . .wait for it. . .a 100 runs shirt! The second I heard about this, I knew I had to earn mine. And I had LOTS of fun doing just that.

So many times over those many, many months turned years, I would start out a new work week feeling frustrated with my job and just think, I only have to survive until Thursday. Then, it’ll be Snug night. So many times this has carried me through. There wasn’t a single Friday that was a bad Friday following the Snug run on Thursdays. And sometimes, that made all the difference.

All was going great, and I was well on my way and even had the most runs of the Snug crew. My Snug boys are all faster than me, but this was one thing I had over them! I was going to be the first of us to get my shirt. . .or so I thought. Then, life happened. . .

Just like that – BAM! The running gods furrowed their brows and shouted down to me angrily, “No 100 runs shirt for you! You are moving to Durham, NC!” Cue the violin, insert GINORMOUS SAD FACE and quivering lip here.

During my first year in Durham, all three of my regular guy Snug runnin’ buddies got their 100 run shirts. I don’t care at all that they ended up beating me to the punch. What bothered me most was that I couldn’t be there to celebrate with them.

I still had a couple of months to go to earn my shirt, and I took advantage of the time I had at home last summer to do just that. From the end of May to mid September, just before starting my job at UNC, I ran faithfully every week, counting the miles I had left until I could call a 100 run shirt my own. A couple of times I thought about counting how many weeks I’d cross off by the time I had to be back in NC, but I never actuallyl did it.

When I finally did, my fear was confirmed – I was going to fall short. Any guess as to how many runs I needed? Hmm?

Three.

I got two more in while I would be back home for the holidays, which, for all of you math majors out there, meant that I had how many runs left?

One.

I had one more trip back home coming up at the end of January, and I was determined to fly back in time to make it to the Snug for my 100 runs shirt. So I looked at the calendar, booked my trip, and texted the entire Snug crew – regulars and ‘sometimers’ – at least three times to be sure that they could be there and, of course, to instruct them to wear their 100 run shirts too!

On Thursday, January 17, 2013, I started, then separated from, Tarino during the run. We ended up on Franklin Street together again once we left Cheeseman Park and were headed back to the Snug. Again, I struggled a bit to keep up. And, on the final block stretch, without so much as glancing each other’s direction, we both put forth one last big kick to the finish. Fitting, I thought, that my 1st and 100th runs would be with Tarino.

I had made it! I was FINALLY one of the cool kids:

Snug technical tee ceremony!

Snug technical tee ceremony!

And, like the good guys that they are, my Snug boys wore their shirts that night too:

As Dave would say, my 'gaggle of guys'

As Dave would say, my ‘gaggle of guys.’ Oh yeah, I’m OK with that.

That night was definitely one for the books. My shirt, although the smallest of the sizes offered, was still a bit too big. I likely won’t wear it to run – I am very particular about how my running shirts fit – but might wear it here and there following a sticky run.

Or, I might hardly ever wear it at all. It might sit in my closet indefinitely with the other running shirts from races past that are not the right fit. One thing, though, is absolutely certain. I will smile to myself everytime I see it while putting clean laundry away. I will smile and remember how fortunate I felt that night - and feel every day - knowing that so many people I care about were there to celebrate with me.

I will smile and think of all of the good times with those people that are yet to come.

To me, that too-big technical tee is more than just a shirt that proves I’ve run at least 300 miles and consumed at least 100 beers (yeeeaaahhh, that number’s much higher than that) – at the Snug. It’s so much of why I love and miss my life in Denver. It makes me take a big breath in and sigh out, knowing that I am, without a doubt, one very lucky girl to have everything and eveyone I have in my life, no matter where I end up.

And that’s well worth the wait.

Melissa Mincic, Ph.D., studies child development at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is a long-time road and trail runner. Follow Melissa on Twitter at @nerdinrunshoes.

Wreckin’ the ‘Deck’

Today is Tuesday, which meant that Jess and I rocked O2 Fitness with a deck. I’ve mentioned it before. Figured it’s about time I introduce y’all to one of my favorite workouts.

My Denver personal trainer turned gym buff BFF Ryan Taves first introduced – scratch that, kicked my behind with – the ‘deck wreck’ in late 2008. My workout buddy at the time, Jasolyn, renamed me ‘Meme’ and dubbed me a ‘beast’ after a few of them. Aaaahhh, those were the days!

OK, so this isn't Ryan; but it may as well be. He'll always be 'Superman' to me!

OK, so this isn’t Ryan; but it may as well be. He’ll always be ‘Superman’ to me!

All you really need is a full deck of playing cards; but you can add whatever equipment you like – free weights, weight machines, a bosu ball, exercise bands – for more of a challenge. Here were our toys for this evening’s deck:

These are a few of my fa-vo-rite things

These are a few of my fa-vo-rite things

OK, kids, here’s how you play. It is work, don’t get me wrong. But it can still feel like play.

  1. Shuffle the deck of cards.
  2. Assign an exercise for each suit.
  3. Place the deck face down and draw one card at a time.
  4. The suit will determine what exercise you do, and the number on the card will determine your assigned number of repetitions for that exercise.

Note:

  • Jack = 11 repetitions
  • Queen = 12 repetitions
  • King = 13 repetitions
  • Ace = 15 repetitions
  • Joker = 5 repetitions of all four exercises.

When describing it to my good friend and blogging extraordinaire, Jordan (check out her blog – Food, Sweat, and Beers!) she asked, “What? A ‘death deck’?” She may have been on to something.

Jess and I typically make a deck a whole-body workout, including one suit for arms – typically pushups – one for legs – typically some variation of a jump or squat – one for abs – some sort of crazy sit up – and one adding some cardio – typically burpees – to get the ol’ heart rate up.

Over the dozens of decks we’ve endured together, though, we’ve gotten creative and mixed things up a bit. For instance, we’ve added a fifth torture method to the deck that we do only when an ace is drawn – holding plank or doing mountain climbers for a minute have been past drugs of choice.

We even did a deck at the UNC track once – put half of the deck at either short end of the field in the center of the track, then ran to either side for the next card. Aces meant sprinting up and jogging down stadium steps. Go ahead, get your creative juices flowing – That’s where the ‘play’ comes in. I highly recommend it!

Being a solid runner – or whatever the descriptor for your sport choice – means being an all-around athlete. Think about giving the ‘deck wreck’ a try. Who knows? It may inspire you to tap into your own ‘beast.’

Melissa Mincic, Ph.D., studies child development at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is a long-time road and trail runner. Follow Melissa on Twitter at @nerdinrunshoes.