Running and barre classes

Hi friends!

I don’t know if you noticed this in my post yesterday, but I mentioned doing 12 barre and yoga classes as part of my marathon training.

I actually started working at a barre studio at the beginning of this past summer. After not getting any summer internship offers, I began piecing together other activities to keep me occupied. I ended up taking three summer classes, working part-time in a lab, and working part-time at the barre studio.

Originally I had the idea that I’d try to find a part-time job as a barista. I love coffee, frequenting coffee shops, and creating things, so I thought being a barista would be a fun thing to do before I graduated college as an engineer and (hopefully) wouldn’t have the chance to hold a job like that again.

In the process of looking at opportunities at different coffee shops, I got an email newsletter from a barre studio whose email list I had signed up for but had never actually been to. It mentioned hiring a part-time desk worker to do things like check people in for class and perform light cleaning duties. And it said that classes would be free! I decided to go ahead and apply because it fit the bill of a job related to my interests, in this case fitness.

Based on the description, at first I thought that the work would be done in exchange for free classes, something I’d done before for a CrossFit gym. After a brief phone interview though, I realized it was paid in addition to free classes! (Not much payment, but still ;) ) And just like that, I had a job!

Working at the studio has been really fun overall. I love getting to know the instructors and clients, and I love having a behind-the-scenes look at how a fitness studio operates. I like having a lot of responsibility and autonomy at the job, and I appreciate that I’m able to squeeze in a bit of homework or reading while classes are going on. And I’ve certainly been taking advantage of having free classes!

Initially I wasn’t sure that barre would be something I’d like doing because it seemed to be some girly, ineffective workout (2 pound weights?), but it’s turned out to be a great complement to my running. Lots of lower body exercise, hip strengthening, and core work. I’m noticeably stronger and wayy more flexible. I can squat all the way to the ground without falling over! It’s miraculous.

Barre has been a great addition, and this is the most consistent I’ve ever been with strength training (although having free classes absolutely helps!).

After the marathon is over, I hope to be able to go to even more classes – right now I’m going to at best one a week due to time constraints and mileage goals, but I’d love a break from running not caused by injury!

*Poof* Taper time!

Since I haven’t been writing about my marathon training, you may be surprised to learn that it’s taper time. I am so relieved and grateful to have made it through this training cycle.

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m running the Philadelphia Marathon for the third time on November 22. I did the race for the first time in 2012 (my first marathon) and for the second time in 2013 (a Boston-qualifying time). This year, I’m excited to run the race for fun.

This morning I was picking at a pumpkin maple pecan scone and drinking coffee in a cute bakery in Center City and overheard a woman congratulating a man on finishing the Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon yesterday. He said, “Thanks, it was fun!” And she replied, “Fun?!

I could only smile. I love those moments when non-runners are surprised by the things runners do.

I’ve never followed what I would call a training cycle for a marathon before. I’m not one to meticulously plan my training because my obligations as an officer in Running Club here at school ensure that I get in enough miles to keep me fit (and sane). In 2012, I signed up approximately five weeks before the race, never having run more than 16 miles. I did one 20-miler two weeks before the marathon and finished in 3:49:24. In 2013, I ran a lot of miles leading up to the race, including many two-a-days and a few longer runs, and finished in 3:34:38.

This year, I knew I would need to be more careful about planning my training because I didn’t already have a solid base to build on. When I did the Hoosier Half Marathon in April at a ~10 minute per mile pace, I felt like I’d been hit by a truck afterwards. I wanted the marathon to be a fun experience to look forward to, not something that would strike fear in me every time I thought of it. So back at the beginning of the summer, I marked when 18 weeks before the marathon would be – July 19.

I read the Hal Higdon Novice 1 Marathon Training plan and wrote the long run distances into my calendar. And that’s pretty much what I followed.

Here’s a table of what the suggested long run distances were versus what I ran, so you can see how closely I followed the plan. Most distances were moved around due to things like travel or not feeling ready to tackle a longer distance yet: 

Philly marathon 2015 long run schedule

It’s so weird to me that 15 weeks have passed since that July 19 start date. The weeks went by slowly, but looking back they seem to have all gone so fast. But it’s so rewarding to make a plan and go through with it, which is something I’ve been able to practice with running time and time again. Well, I still have those 12 and 8 milers left, but after doing an 18 mile run and a 20 mile run just six days apart, I’m not concerned.

Here’s more numbers, because I’m obsessed with data (I didn’t get to senior year in engineering by accident!):

Training summary

Believe that you’ll be hearing from me more regularly in the upcoming weeks as I finish my last three weeks of training. Because I’ve never formally tapered, I also haven’t experienced the “taper crazies” I’ve read so much about, so this should be fun ;) Until next time. 

That small moment when you realize how far you’ve come

This evening I was reading over the past few blog posts I’ve written. I was reading about the Hoosier Half Marathon back in April when I remembered something very particular about that race — the soreness.

Running 13.1 miles at a 10:02 min/mile pace destroyed my legs. I remember wincing as I stepped down from the curb of a sidewalk onto a road. I remember my hips protesting every step I took. I remember feeling incredulous listening to my teammate talk about how she felt like she could run another half marathon the next day.

In the midst of marathon training now, I have run 10, 12, 10, 12 as my long runs over the past four weeks. The first 12 miler was hard, but my average pace was around 9 min/mile (a full min/mile faster than the April half) and while I was sore the next day, that soreness in no way compared to the just-got-hit-by-a-truck feeling I experienced in April.

Speaking of marathon training, I guess I haven’t really talked about signing up for the Philly marathon again this year. Which I did on April 1st, the day registration opened. I like to sign up for a race as soon as I’m sure I don’t have any conflicts. Thankfully this year, club XC nationals will be the weekend before.

I’m so excited to do the marathon again. Something about pummeling my body for 26.2 miles sounds like a good idea. But really, I know it will be hard, but I know it will be totally different from the past two times I’ve run marathons. For both of those, I felt like I had something to prove (only to myself, but still). My first marathon, I needed to prove that I was physically capable of covering the distance. My second marathon, I needed to prove I could Boston Qualify. For months, I felt sick to my stomach imagining what it would feel like to run an 8:11 minute mile 26 times — I had a hard enough time doing it once or twice! But somehow, I did it.

This time though, I’m doing the marathon solely because I want to do the marathon. I want to run a very long distance throughout my beautiful city on a crisp fall day and spend the rest of the day on my coach reading random things on the internet, eating food, and basking in the post-race euphoria.

I have zero time goals. Some people have suggested that surely I’d be able to BQ again, since I’ve already done it once, but I know where I am fitness-wise and it is not there. Maybe next year will be my year, but this is the year of taking a step back and learning how running fits in with my life — because running is not all that I eat, sleep, and breathe anymore, which is a blessing.

So I guess tonight while reading my own writing, I realized that I’m in a good place right now. Steadily gaining fitness while keeping perspective on what’s important. Life is really, really good right now, and I have so much to be thankful for.

Broad Street 10 Miler 2015 Recap Part II

First off, thank you to my wonderful friend/roommate Courtney for making me a new banner! This one looks a thousand times better than the one I tried to put together.

When I originally started writing my recap of Broad Street, it turned into a 700-word examination of race logistics. So I added this part 2. Just some thoughts I had when reflecting on the race. (You can read about how I actually ran the race this year in Part I)


I can’t help comparing this race to the Peachtree Road Race:

  • Both are the largest race of their kind in the United States (Peachtree is largest 10k, Broad Street is largest 10 miler) — and actually the Peachtree is the largest race in the country based on 55,850 finishers in 2013, while Broad Street is the 8th largest with 32,075. (Running USA)
  • Both are community events that attract large numbers from the local Atlanta and Philadelphia areas, respectively
  • Both have a mix of super serious athletes (Peachtree was the site of the U.S. 10k Road Championships last year, and the fastest 10 mile time in the country was set at Broad Street) as well as people who have never done a race before
  • Both use lottery entry systems and sell out every year
  • Both run along a single road for most of the race which is also the namesake of the race (Peachtree goes along Peachtree Road for all but the last part of the race when there are a few turns to get to Piedmont Park, and Broad Street is literally just a straight shot down Broad Street to the Navy Yard)
  • Both have been around awhile, although Peachtree (1970) beats Broad Street (1980) by 10 years
  • Both encourage runners to use the local subway system (Marta in Atlanta, Septa in Philly) to get to the race start, since parking at the start is limited and the race isn’t out-and-back

That said, from my perspective the Peacthree is organized far better than Broad Street, primarily due to the way the start is set up. I also think the Peachtree as a more fun, festive atmosphere since it’s on July 4, but that’s not something that could be changed as easily as the start line logistics. Peachtree also boasts a larger elite field, but that doesn’t affect the experience of the “regular” runners as much, although could be part of why it’s more organized.

Peachtree has 60,000 entrants and uses a staggered wave start system. The waves go seeded, subseeded, then letters A through Y for a total of 27 waves, with earlier waves being populated by faster runners based on previous race results. Whether they do or not, they claim that they will verify your performance in the race you use as your seed time. If you don’t have a seed time, you are placed in wave Y.

Broad Street has 40,000 entrants and also has a wave system, but they do it by color, which makes it more difficult to figure out who is supposed to be in the faster waves. There are also only 9 waves (including wheelchair start). They ask for a predicted finish time to decide where you place you but do not require previous race results to verify what would be a realistic start wave for you.

Peachtree vs. Broad start corral organization

Notice Peachtree on the left with all the different start waves staggered to begin at different times and Broad Street on the right with fewer corrals and the note that “all runners must be in their corrals by 7:40 a.m.”

The biggest logistical difference, however, comes in the way the waves are staggered. At Peachtree, the first waves go off at 7:30, and the last wave starts at 9:05. Last year I started in wave “A,” and after I finished the race, ate some food, and walked around Piedmont Park a bit, I was in the car on the highway back to my sister’s house before the wave “Y” even started! At Broad Street, the waves basically go off one after another, so you have all ~40,000 people at the start line of the race at the same time. This makes getting to your corral and using the bathroom a nightmare. Peachtree vs. Broad start line spacing

These are the best pictures I could find to compare the start areas. Notice the hoard at Broad Street (bottom) versus how it seems like people at the Peachtree could still move around if they wanted (top)

Interesting, Broad Street has a gear check while the Peachtree does not. I typically don’t use gear check except if it’s cold at the start, in which case I use it to store extra layers. An early May morning in Philadelphia could still be a bit chilly, while no one would ever accuse the 4th of July in Atlanta of not being warm enough. That said, when you have tens of thousands of participants and a point-to-point course, some sacrifices undoubtedly have to be made. Broad Street currently uses a fleet of school buses for gear check, but I’d be in favor of eliminating it to make room for more start corrals. Maybe not a popular opinion because I know a lot of people like gear check, but most necessities (phone, keys, money, ID, gels) could easily be carried in a belt and/or armband, and getting rid of the 50+ school buses that line up at the start would alleviate participants being crammed together and not making it to their corrals.

Broad corral lineup compared with size of start area On the left is the start corral map and on the right is the start area map. The yellow buses are representative of gear check — each must represent more than one bus though, because there are over 50. With all the streets they have closed off, there’s no reason all the participants need to be crammed together.

I know there are probably some unforeseen reasons they don’t do the start like I think they should. For one, it would likely prolong the times roads would be closed, and I imagine that might be a bigger issue in Philly than in Atlanta. Atlanta is huge, and while inconvenient, the road closures don’t stop all transportation around the city. Center City Philadelphia is tiny, and Broad Street basically bisects it. I think there’s a way to use the highway to get from one side to the other, but still.

Whatever the reason… Broad Street is a fun race, but I know some people don’t enjoy it anymore because of how crowded and hectic it is. Last year, after crossing the finish line, I had to come to a dead stop because no one in front of me was moving. There was a huge bottleneck and it took 45 minutes to get from the finish line to the medals/food area. Broad Street definitely has some logistical issues, and I hope that they can get some of them worked out, because there are so many ways they could improve things. If they do, they could even increase the entrant field and allow more people to experience the race.

Broad Street 10 Miler 2015 Recap Part I

First of all, I am so sorry if this got published too early, or if I published it multiple times, or something. I was trying to “schedule” it and messed up. Here it is, in its final form!


This was my third time running Broad Street, just like I’ve run the 5k for Clean Air three times. Both are great races, and I want to take advantage of the Philly race scene as much as I can before leaving, whenever that may be. Although I’m finishing undergrad next year (!), I applied and got into a master’s degree program in engineering here at Penn, so that’s now also an option.

I should mention that I almost didn’t get to run this race because I actually didn’t get in through the lottery system this year! That was a huge disappointment. But then one of my running club friends decided he didn’t want to run it because he didn’t feel like he was in good enough shape (he had an ELITE bib! seriously incredible) so we went through the official bib transfer process to get the bib in my name and everything. Unfortunately, my bib was not elite ;) Definitely for the better.

The day before the race, I went to the expo with two of my friends from running club and met up with someone I follow on Instagram. She wasn’t from Philly, but I had started following her because she was a runner — and then one day saw that she would be doing Broad Street! It’s always exciting to mix the online world and the real world. I think I surprised my running club friends, who weren’t used to online meet-ups, haha. But she was great and I’m glad we got to meet for real!

The race started at 8:00 on Sunday morning as opposed to 8:30 in recent years. The earlier start didn’t change my preparation besides having to wake up a bit earlier. I met up with a group of friends from running club and we took the subway over to the start area, which was hectic, as always. Two of my friends and I were all planning to run a pretty chill race, so we stuck together in the corral. It was quite warm for early May, but not too bad.

Bri, Erin, Liz 2

We all stayed together for the first 3 miles or so, including for a bathroom stop at mile 0.9, haha. The start line is always horribly crowded, and we didn’t have time to go before the race. Since none of us were racing for time, it wasn’t a big deal. After about mile 3, one friend and I went ahead. The cheering really started picking up as we approached the midpoint of the race, City Hall. That’s also where one of our friends was waiting to cheer for us, so we got to see her, which was exciting.

My friend had to go to the bathroom around mile 7 and told me to kept going, which I did. I had been taking the race pretty easy but decided to speed up for the last part, as I still felt good. Well, mostly — I had run through some water spraying from a fire hydrant around mile 4 to cool down, and my spandex shorts got wet and caused some serious chafing (I have never, ever had that happen before, and it was not fun). A little bit before the last mile, a girl blew past me and I decided to try to keep up with her. I did, but it turned the last mile into a 7:39, which given my current fitness level, the fact I’d already run 9 miles, and the heat, was extremely difficult. It was fun to push myself though. I miss racing for PRs. As I mentioned before though, my only goal for 2015 with regard to running is to be injury-free. So far so good. I don’t care to push my luck.

I ended up finishing in 1:30:55. Time for another comparison chart (the time for this year didn’t include our bathroom stop) — click to make bigger:

Screen Shot 2015-05-17 at 10.35.28 AM

Again, I’d like to be getting faster, not slower, but I respect where I am fitness-wise right now. Notably, I’m significantly healthier now than I was in 2013, so that’s a definite upside I wouldn’t trade any number of minutes for.

After the race, I was incredibly tired and sweaty. Friends and I met up and made our way back to campus together. And then, since I had four finals approaching, I buckled down and studied from then until May 12th. Now I’m free and currently writing from the Philadelphia airport on my way back to Georgia for a week! I’m excited to go home, sleep 10 hours a night, and watch TV with my mom. It’s a much needed break.


Stay turned for Part II, which features some thoughts about how Broad Street is organized.

5k Run for Clean Air Recap

Hello hello!

April 18th was my third time doing the 5k Run for Clean Air. My friends and I have done it together each year as a team since we were freshmen (we grew up so fast!).

Even though I’ve run it before, I didn’t realize that this race has been around since 1978! Given that running wasn’t really mainstream in the ’70s and that this is an Earth day 5k, I like to imagine a bunch of hippies in colorful workout gear and waffle iron shoes jogging for environmental awareness. Not everything changes.

This race is an out-and-back, mostly flat and fast. It starts in front of the Art Museum and goes out along Kelly Drive. That’s a pretty typical route for 5ks in Philly, but I think it’s definitely one of the better ones for getting a fast time.

Not that we need super fast times to win the mixed gender team division every year. Okay, we got 2nd behind Bryn Mawr last year — but their guys and gals also ran in the Olympic Development races at the Penn Relays a few weekends ago, so we don’t feel too bad about that.

Also, since I’ve done this race three times with a Garmin, it’s time for a neat comparison chart:

5k for clean air comparison chart

Obviously I’d like to be getting faster every year, not slower. In 2013, I set a 5 second PR here. Last year I was about a month and a half back into running after getting my first stress fracture. I remember trying to have a low pressure race, but still pushing myself pretty hard and feeling really crappy the last mile. This year, much like in the Hoosier Half the weekend before this race, I just wanted to have a fun day of running with my friends. Besides, my friends all super fast and only the top four times on a team count, so I knew we’d still probably win (Bryn Mawr was racing the newly added 10k instead of the 5k). I wish you could win all races by way of having fast friends ;)

My race itself was pretty unremarkable. I ran harder than I usually would but nowhere close to a race effort. After about a half mile, I settled in behind a middle-aged man, where I stayed until the very last part when I upped the speed to the finish line. The course is an out-and-back, so I was able to cheer on my fast friends, who were, as usual, very fast.

Funny side note: after the race, we ran into one of the guys from Bryn Mawr who had run the 10k. The Clean Air Foundation who puts on this race makes a big effort to make the race super environmentally friendly, which includes using compostable bibs with seeds inside so that you can plant your bib after the race! While super cool, this also means that the bibs are more fragile than most. It’s never mattered for the 5k, but this was the first year of the 10k, and according to the Bryn Mawr guy, his bib started disintegrating around mile 4! I guess more exposure to sweat did it in? Anyway, he said he and some of the other guys were carrying their bibs to the finish.

After the race, we took some pictures in front of the Art Museum and stayed around for awards. As usual, we (and by we I mean my friends) were obscenely faster than the other teams. Our (their) average time was 18:48! For perspective, the second place team’s average was 23:10.

Now that I am a newly minted 21-year-old (well, at this point I’m nearly 21 and a half, but considering I can still count the number of times I’ve had alcohol I still consider myself pretty new at this), one of my fellow 21-year-old friends and I took advantage of the free beer after the race. Which was also my first beer ever. And it was good! I totally understand the appeal of beer after races now.

We finished the day out with a picnic. It was also the weekend of Spring Fling at Penn, which is infamous as a weekend most of a week in April where undergraduates basically party around the clock. My friends and I don’t exactly fit that mold, but we were up pretty late the night before for the Tyga/Kesha concert! So kudos to us for waking up for a 9am 5k during fling weekend.

Hoosier Half Marathon 2015 Recap

Long time no see!

The past few months, running has been on the back burner for me. I was trying to run 3 times per week, but any inkling of foot pain and I would take a few days off, so my training has been only semi-consistent.

The only thing I was really looking forward to was the Hoosier Half Marathon in Bloomington, Indiana, which functions as the half marathon championships for NIRCA (National Intercollegiate Running Club Association). Obviously I’m not in any shape (even when I am in shape!) to win or anything, but you don’t have to qualify for NIRCA nationals, so I just did it for fun (as I do all my races).

The challenging part would be that I hadn’t run double digit miles since summer 2014. I decided that if I could do 9 miles, I would try the half marathon. Three weeks before the race, I did 8 miles, and two weeks before, I did 9 miles. Those long runs went well, so I thought I was good to go.

Then, a few days after running 9 miles, I started having pain in both my feet at night as I tried to fall asleep. It was a throbbing pain right where my stress fractures had been (left and right second metatarsals). Naturally, I freaked out and scoured the internet for signs of what the pain meant. At least two sites mentioned that throbbing pain at night could be symptomatic of a stress fracture, and my plans to run the half marathon seemed to crumble down around me.

I took eight days off from running, going for a few jaunts on an indoor bike instead – including a 1 hour 40 minute session to simulate a long run. I did a one 2.5 mile “test run” two days before the half marathon to see how my foot felt and had no pain. I happened to have a doctor’s appointment, so I also asked my doctor for her opinion, and she gave me the okay to try it. With that, I decided to at least start the half marathon and drop out if anything felt off.

I think I could write a novel about all that happened over the weekend at NIRCA Nationals. I love traveling and racing with my friends. We left campus at 5:45am on Friday, April 10th for the Philadelphia airport. We had a layover in Minneapolis and arrived in Indianapolis around 2pm. We grabbed our rental cars and made our way to Bloomington to stay in a member of the luxurious Motel 6 chain.

Once we settled in, most of the club went out for an easy run, but I don’t like running the day before a race. Not to mention I didn’t want to push my luck with my foot. A few friends who stayed behind and I went on a short walk instead.

It’s funny how much I love escaping the city now. When I lived in Georgia for the first 18 years of my life, I couldn’t wait to move somewhere more exciting. Somewhere with more interesting places to go than clothing stores and chain restaurants. Somewhere you didn’t have to have a car to get around. And Philadelphia is certainly exciting — to the point of being overwhelming. Now I get excited when I see wide open green spaces, big box stores, and free parking lots. Go figure.

We had dinner at an Italian restaurant and then went to Kroger to buy breakfast and snacks for the next day. That’s another thing about getting out of the city — grocery stores are so big, have so much variety, and are so CHEAP!

The other girls and I sharing a hotel room were in bed by 9:45pm for a 6am wake up call. I dressed in the clothes I had laid out the night before, ate a banana ($0.59/lb at Kroger!) and peanut butter scooped out of the jar ($1.39/jar!) and Motel 6 coffee in a styrofoam cup (free!).

We headed to the Indiana University alumni center just in front of the Hoosier Half Marathon start line to pick up our bibs. Made the obligatory pre-race porta-potty trip. Sat in the warm car and and did not warm up by running. Moseyed on over to the start like about 7:55 for the 8am start. And began!

My goal was to run as slow as possible — hopefully a personal worst. Not the typical goal to have, but restraining myself from trying my best isn’t my strong suit (ordinarily quite a good trait) and I was really trying to take it easy. I was hyper-aware of my foot, waiting for the stabbing pain that would surely end my race.

But it never came. I met my goal of trying to go as leisurely as possible. I walked up every single hill. I walked through water stops. I drank gatorade and water. I ate oranges handed to me by small children. I said thank you to volunteers and smiled at the photographers.

I admit, even running as easy as I could, the final miles were hard. My legs were tired, I was getting too warm, and I really just wanted some carbs and a hot shower.

My splits, according to the official results

  • First 5k: 29:05 (9:23 min/mile)
  • Mile 10: 1:42:30 (10:15 min/mile)
  • Last 5k: 28:55 (9:19 min/mile)
  • Final .1, according to my watch: 7:18 min/mile (gotta go for it when you see the finish)

Overall: 2:11:25 (10:02 min/mile)

Erin Hoosier Half 2015

Somewhere in the middle — I love this photo!

post half

At the end, taken by one of my friends

My slowest half marathon time by almost 20 minutes (my first ever half time, the Helvetia Half Marathon, was 1:53:15) but I finished. And I have never been so proud of finishing a half marathon.

Also got my carbs, hot shower, and quality time to lay back and enjoy my runner’s high.

 I’ve got at least one more race recap coming to you soon, so stay tuned :)