May 28, 2013

Posted by Jo W. 5/28/2013
Dear Running,

I have a confession to make. I've been kinda-sorta cheating on you, but let me explain. I recently got myself involved with road cycling, and like any new relationship, it's new and exciting. I'm not gonna sugar-coat it; my new love is a carbon Cannondale road bike, and I've already gone out with it twice in the past weekend. We are planning another outing this upcoming weekend.

You, Running, are still near and dear to my heart. I found you almost exactly a year ago (happy anniversary!), and we've worked hard on our relationship. There has been ups and downs, but I am so very glad to have you in my life. We've reached milestones (13.1, baby!) and have big plans for the future (26.2 yikes!), and I am certain that you will always have a place in my heart.

Although I am flirting with Cycling, I hope you don't get too jealous. Who knows, you and Cycling might even get along. The hilly roads I ride could benefit you, as well, working those quads, and our overall endurance will improve. Maybe someday, we could even do a duathlon together (swimming and I are probably never going to get along, so no worries there).

So although I feel a bit guilty, I am not abandoning you, Running, for Cycling. I am still focusing on marathon training. Cycling will be more of a side thing, for cross training on the days where I (my knees) need a break. Running, I still love you, and that's never going to change.



Ps. My blog name's not going to change, as extra reassurance! It's always going to be RUN Fast Eat Lots.

May 27, 2013

Posted by Jo W. 5/27/2013
I went for a 10 mile long run this morning. I planned on going at an easy pace, and finished in 1:27, averaging about 8:45 min/mile pace. My run felt really great, even though my legs are a bit sore from my workouts this past week.

I'm pretty excited that I was able to maintain a below-9 min/mile pace at such an easy effort. When I finished my run this morning, I wasn't fatigued at all, and felt like I could keep going (except for the fact that my fuel tank was getting low!). My goal for my training is to first lengthen the time that I can keep an easy pace, and then work on increasing speed. I'm probably going to run progressively longer long runs at least once every two weeks.

I also have some exciting news to share! Stay tuned...

May 25, 2013

Posted by Jo W. 5/25/2013
Sunday- 6 mi
Monday- 6 mi
Tuesday- 5.5 mi
Wednesday- 4.7 mi
Thursday- Insanity Plyometric Cardio Circuit + 3 mi easy
Friday- 5.3 mi
Saturday- Insanity Power and Resistance + 3.75 mi easy

Week Total- 34.25 mi

I've been waking up at 5:15 am every day this week without an alarm. Now that I have moved back home and gotten all settled, I have the luxury of waking up early and running everyday :)

May 24, 2013

Posted by Jo W. 5/24/2013
This is the second part of my paper, The Road to Running, about how I became a runner. Here is Part 1.

The Road to Running (continued)

During the most inactive years of my life, my brother was becoming a runner when he started taking running classes at his university, which required him to participate in 5 and 10K races. After a few semesters, he started running half marathons,and even a marathon, a full 26.2 miles. I admired him for his diligence in his training and endurance, yet thought he was slightly crazy for running those ridiculously long distances. Again, I secretly wished that I were a runner because since childhood, my brother and I were competitive and I liked to consider myself the better athlete. I rationalized with myself that I had talents elsewhere; I was the better snowboarder and volleyball player.
The first time I tagged along with my brother to one of his half marathons was the first time I ever spectated a race. I was surprised by how exciting it was to watch hoards of sweaty people run by; some wore funny t-shirts, neon colored tutus, and even a banana costume. It was a spectacle, to say the least. I was also surprised by the diversity of runners; the speedy, gazelle-like runners were leading the pack, but the vast majority of runners weren’t pro-athletes.There were all different body types and fitness levels represented. Some people ran at a slower pace while others walked. The one thing everyone had in common was the desire and courage to take on the 13.1 mile challenge. After attending my brother’s races, the question would still linger in my head: Could I run that far? Am I physically capable of doing it? When I thought about it too much, the distance seemed too daunting and I thought I should try tackling a 5K first.
I started slowly. When I first started running, I felt that I couldn’t suck in enough oxygen to supply my fatigued muscles. My problem was that I was running too fast. I had to find a pace that I could sustain without losing my breath.At a more relaxed pace, I could just focus on breathing and the steady rhythm of my feet. I found that within the first 10 minutes of a run, I would fall into a pattern of breathing in synch with the cadence of my footfalls; it started to feel natural, and even easy. Next, I focused on how long I could run, to ignore the voice in my head that wants to quit. Just run for 15 minutes without stopping. Those 15 minutes became 20, then 30 minutes. The first time I ran five miles, in about 50 minutes, I was amazed at myself. Running was still both a physical and mental challenge; physical, when my muscles feel weak and fatigued, and mental, when I want to quit mid-run. But the exhilaration of reaching a personal record and seeing how much I had improved kept me going. I still wasn’t consistent, and my laziness got the best of me. I found excuses to not run: I was tired; it’s raining, or too hot, or too cold. The sporadic weeks when I did run gave me confidence that I could be a runner, if only I did it more often.
Posted by Jo W. 5/24/2013
This is the third and final part of my paper, The Road to Running, on how I became a runner. Click here for Part 1 and here for Part 2

The Road to Running (continued)

One summer, when I was talking to a friend, the topic of running marathons came up. My friend wanted to run a half marathon, but was unsure about actually signing up for a race. When I told her that I was thinking of tackling one, as well, we made the decision to run our first half marathon together in the fall. It was a spontaneous decision, but I seized the opportunity to run the intimidating distance with a friend. Once I paid the entrance fee, I had a solid goal to work towards. All I wanted was to finish the race, no matter how long it took. The race date, circled on my calendar, kept me motivated to train throughout the summer and fall.
A typical half marathon training plan involves running a few times a week, slowly building up mileage over the course of about twelve weeks. For beginners, three to four days of running is recommended with a weekly mileage of 15-25 miles. Following this training plan, there are different types of workouts designed to improve speed and endurance, such as tempo runs, speed work, and long runs. The weekly long runs get progressively longer, from 5 miles to peaking at about 11 miles. The long run is meant to build up endurance and is run at a slower pace.
            Although there were many training plans written by experts readily available in running books and websites, I approached my training as I approached playing the sports of my childhood: not seriously at all. In contrast to how my brother trains for his marathons, I didn’t follow a training plan, and I ran as much, or as little, as I wanted to. My brother, the running hobbyist, approaches the sport as a scholar approaches his studies. He reads books on training, technique and sports nutrition, keeps track of his pace and mileage with a high-tech GPS watch, and collects many pairs of running shoes and different hydration belts to carry water on longer runs. I, on the other hand, took running a lot less seriously. I didn’t want the numbers of pace and mileage to get in the way of the simple enjoyment of running. Since my only goal was to complete the race, I just focused on improving my overall fitness and endurance instead of my pace and times. Taking the pressure off to “perform” allowed me to enjoy the activity itself. I began to think, “I want to go for a run today”, instead of “I should be running 6 miles today.”
When running became physically easier as I became fitter, going on a long run became relaxing and therapeutic. The stresses of school would sometimes be hard to bear, but running helped me deal with the stress. As I ran, anything that was worrying me was pushed to the back of my mind as I focused on my breathing and cadence. Being outdoors, running my favorite route in Forest Park, and enjoying the scenery were a nice mental break from my perpetual amount of schoolwork. The physical activity also releases endorphins, chemicals in the brain that elicits feelings of happiness and euphoria, also known as the “runner’s high”. The stress relief, mental clarity, and happiness I got from running made me look forward to it instead of dreading the run.
On the day of the race, my friend and I ran together, and I can honestly say that the entire 13.1 miles was a very enjoyable experience. I didn’t focus on the clock, and I took in the scenery of the neighborhoods we ran through, smiled at the funny posters held by the cheering crowds, and felt energized by the novel experience of running in a race. Although the competitive side of me regretted that I didn’t push myself harder, I allowed myself to revel in the fact that I reached my goal of running the entire 13.1 miles. The exhilaration of achieving my goal got me hooked on racing, and I signed up for my next half marathon on the very same day.
I had come a long way since the previous spring, from literally running zero miles to a half marathon. I had come an even longer way from my middle school self, who could barely run one mile. Running was something that I either hated or loved. When I had to run as punishment or exercise, it was a chore. But when I started to do it to unwind after a long day, move my limbs, and spend time outdoors on a beautiful day, running became a pleasure. Working towards a goal of getting a personal record in a race also adds to my enjoyment of running, since I can see the tangible results of my training. Running, to me, is not about competing with other people, but competing with myself. It’s about self-improvement, facing new challenges, and exercising the mental willpower that is required in endurance sports. Since becoming a runner, I am sometimes amazed at my own tenacity. Although I sometimes hesitate to call myself a runner because I am not very competitive or serious about it, I am satisfied that I have finally found joy in running. 

May 22, 2013

Posted by Jo W. 5/22/2013
I would like to share a paper that I wrote this past semester about my running. The prompt was "write about something that you used to hate, and now love". The first thing I thought to write about was running: I used to hate it! Something changed over the past year, and now I genuinely love it! Writing this paper made me reflect on how my mentality towards running changed. It's a bit long, so I'll post it in three parts. Enjoy :)

The Road to Running
I was in 7th grade, in physical education class, and we were doing fitness tests all week. How long could I hold a chin-up, how fast could I sprint 50 meters, how far could I stretch towards my toes? I considered myself pretty athletic, not particularly fast, but I enjoyed sports and physical activity. The most dreaded test, however, was the timed one-mile run. One mile seemed so long, and the minutes always seemed to drag on when doing a physically painful activity such as running. Within a minute, my breathing would become labored, my feet felt heavy, and I still had three and a half laps around the soccer field to go. At the end, my lungs felt like they were burning inside, and I would be breathless. My PE teacher told me I had 10 minutes to run the mile. I ran and walked it in twelve, and I didn’t care. I just wasn’t a runner.
Although I probably seemed incredibly unfit when I was in middle school, I actually wasn’t. Throughout my childhood, I spent a lot of time outdoors doing the things I loved: mountain biking, rollerblading, skiing, and hiking. My dad taught me how to ride a two-wheeler by the time I was three years old, and I have a photograph of myself sitting on a bike, smiling with squinty eyes and dimples, with a bandage on my nose from a scrape that I probably got from falling off. I just got right back on and kept going. I loved playing outside, expending my endless energy riding my bike or rollerblading around the neighborhood, and exploring the woods with my friends. As a child, I never thought about exercising; playing was my exercise. It was sheer joy, and it came effortlessly.  
In high school, I tried out for the girls’ volleyball team, made junior varsity, and found a new sport to love. Before then, I had never played a team sport, or any competitive sport for that matter. I had a great coach who was very strict, and she would make us run as punishment. If one teammate was late to practice, the rest of us had to run around the gym until she showed up, and then run some more while the tardy teammate watched. For conditioning, and occasionally as punishment, we had to run up a large hill near our school. Everyone dreaded hills; our thighs would start to ache halfway up, and at the top, we had to do pushups, squats, or block jumps, then walk (or hobble) back down, and do it again and again. When our legs felt like lead as we gasped for breath near the top of the hill, I always plastered a smile on my face and gasped “Keep it up!” to my teammates. Although I dreaded the pain, I kept a good attitude to pump up my teammates and told everyone I loved running hills. They thought I was crazy for being so enthusiastic, but as the team captain, I was motivated to pour all my effort into the workouts, hoping to support my teammates with my energy. By the end of practice, my muscles would feel so fatigued that I could barely walk, but I always felt a great sense of accomplishment after a hard workout. Playing junior varsity and varsity volleyball in high school taught me to be disciplined, tolerate pain and find reward in pushing my physical limits.
I still hated running, though. When I went to college, I didn’t play any sports and barely exercised. Although I had a gym membership, I rarely went to the gym. I hated exercise for the sake of exercise. When I am playing a sport, it is fun because there is a goal other than exercising. Running on a treadmill or an elliptical seemed so monotonous. The few times I dragged myself to the gym, I stared at the clock the whole time, wondering why time was going so slowly. I felt good about myself afterwards, but that wasn’t enough motivation for me to go to the gym regularly. Living on a college campus and in close proximity to one of the largest urban parks in the nation, I regularly saw people running. I secretly wished that I could be a runner, that I could have the willpower to exercise and run on a regular basis, not just when a coach was yelling at me. I tried running around the neighborhood a few times, especially on the gorgeous spring days in St. Louis, but the habit just didn’t stick. I still had a mental block that kept me from putting on my shoes and pushing myself out the door.
Once, when I was studying abroad, living in Germany, I asked my roommate why she ran. A few times a week, my roommate would go out for a run in the evenings, while I just opted to go for a walk when I felt like it. My roommate’s answer surprised me for some reason: she actually hated to run, but made herself do it anyways to prevent gaining weight. I shouldn’t have been surprised since a lot of people run for this reason, but I couldn’t help thinking that if you hate something so much, why make yourself do it? Wouldn’t finding something that you find more enjoyable be more effective as a weight-loss tool? Some may call it laziness, but I wouldn’t force myself to do something that I hated if it were only a means to an end.  

May 12, 2013

Posted by Jo W. 5/12/2013
I haven't been home to celebrate Mother's Day with my mom for the past four years. Usually, I just give her a call and send a card, and once, I sent her flowers. Growing up, I would get up really early to make my mom breakfast and set the table as nicely as I could with a vase of freshly picked flowers. I loved making her pancakes, scones, quiche, served with fresh fruit.

This year, I sent her a handmade card. I hope she gets it in time.

What are you doing for Mother's Day?

May 11, 2013

Posted by Jo W. 5/11/2013
Run- 7.75 mi
Time- 66 mins

I've been wanting to go to Tower Grove Farmer's Market for a very long time. It's a completely local farmer's market at Tower Grove Park that's only open on Saturdays. It's a bit far from where I live, and public transportation there isn't very convenient. By car, it's about a 15 minute drive.

This morning, I finally decided to go. I planned on running there and meeting up with my friends so I could get a car ride back. It was a 5.5 mile run there, and then I ran around the length of the park to look around. It's really pretty, especially now that it's spring time.

There were pretty fountains and cute pavilions. I wish I lived closer so I could run there more often. The farmer's market was located in the middle of the park. There were quite a few vendors selling fresh herbs, meats, eggs, bread and pastries, local honey, ice pops, grilled cheese, and craft vendors selling jewelry, bags, and other handmade items.

After my run, I was mainly thirsty, but I was also getting pretty hungry. Seeing all the food just made me want to eat it all, and I had a hard time deciding on what to get! There were also food trucks, one selling vegan fare such as sweet potato falafel, veggie burgers, and breakfast tacos. The other one had sweet and savory crepes. After much contemplation, I decided on a crepe filled with prosciutto, goat cheese, apples, and apple butter. It was really yummy!

I also picked up a rosemary-olive baguette and a dark rye bagel made by a local bakery co-op, and half a dozen farm fresh eggs. There was this really cute tea shop in a re-purposed trailer. I went inside to look around, and it really did smell nice in there :)

I'm sad that I didn't take advantage of this farmer's market sooner. This is my last Saturday in St. Louis, so my last chance to visit the market. I'm really glad I did.

May 10, 2013

Posted by Jo W. 5/10/2013
On Wednesday, my friends and I went downtown to go to The London Tea Room for afternoon tea. The London Tea Room is a cute tea shop with a huge variety of teas, pastries, and bites for lunch, such as sandwiches, salads, and soups. Take a look at their menu online. It's really funny! They offer a full afternoon tea, complete with finger sandwiches, scones with jam and Devonshire cream, and an assortment of pastries for dessert. Since going to the tea room was on my bucket list, my friends and I decided to go all out and spring for the full tea. It's a bit pricey, but oh so worth it!

For the full tea, we had to call a day ahead to make reservations. When we got there, the table was already set and waiting for us. We were handed a menu listing all their teas. It was so hard to choose, all of them looked so good! I finally decided on Vanilla Mint Pu-ehr.

The teacups were really cute :) The pu-ehr was a good choice. Slightly minty, smooth and sweet. It was perfect with a touch of cream and sprinkling of sugar. Each of us got a whole pot of tea! That was about 3-4 teacups. I finished my pot by the end, taking a sip or two in between bites, and it was the perfect amount.

After the tea was served, the food was brought out on a three tiered tower of delicious-ness. I want all my food served this way. From the bottom up: cucumber and cream cheese sandwich, ham and cheese, smoked salmon and cream cheese, current scones, lemon tarts, macarons, and chocolate pudding cups.

Let's take a closer look at those pastries...

So fancy! We started from the bottom, and savored the food slowly, sipping on our teas. This was definitely one of the best meals I've ever had.

We each got out own little jar of jam. So cute! I've always wanted to try Devonshire cream. It's like delicious, super soft and spreadable butter. I slathered my scone with a lot of it.

That scone. It was delicious and huge! The tea doesn't seem like a lot of food, since it's composed of small finger foods, but after that scone, I was getting pretty full. Everyone was excited to finally get to the desserts, and they did not disappoint. I got a pistachio macaron (the green one). The lemon tart was my favorite, though. The lemon curd was tart and sweet, and the crust was crumbly and buttery. So much yums.

If you are ever in St. Louis, I would definitely recommend visiting the London Tea Room. The other food on their menu looks really good, and it's a really nice place to have a cup of tea.

May 9, 2013

Posted by Jo W. 5/09/2013
Run- 5.8 mi

Yesterday, I went in to take my last final exam at 8am. At 10am, I was officially done with my four-year undergraduate education. I came out of the exam room with a huge smile on my face and so many feelings. I had a tough week, studying hard for my three final exams, eating like crap, not running (sad), and general anxiety and stress since I really needed to do well on all my finals. After finally finishing the last exam, I felt so relieved, happy, and excited to be graduating, but also nostalgic and a bit sad to be leaving my school and all the friends I've grown close to over the four years.

My commencement is next Friday, so from now until then is Senior Week, a week with a bunch of fun events such as a float trip, a formal, and a Cardinals Game. I'm really looking forward to having a blast with my friends, party it up, and celebrate our graduation!

After graduation, I am moving back to home on the East Coast, in the MD/DC suburbs. For the first month of my summer, I'll be studying for the Dental Admissions Test, and then applying to dental schools. Since I am applying this summer, I have a gap year. I don't really have any plans yet for this year, which is a bit daunting, but I'm going to make the most of it! I'll have a lot of time to figure life out and time for my hobbies, such as running, drawing, reading books (I never read for fun during school ): ).

This summer, I'll also be training for my first marathon, the Marine Corps Marathon. Hope it's not a brutally hot summer! (wishful thinking, I know)

I'm definitely going to miss St. Louis and Washington University. I had a great time here, and I have grown to love this city, but I am also ready to transition to the next chapter of my life. I'll take this year to enjoy living with my family again, before going off to dental school, wherever that may be.

May 5, 2013

Posted by Jo W. 5/05/2013
Yesterday, I went down to Cherokee St., the Mexican neighborhood of St. Louis, for a Cinco de Mayo festival. Yes, it was only Quatro de Mayo yesterday, but it made sense to have the festival on a Saturday, I guess.

The festival was held on a few blocks of Cherokee St. It was packed with food vendors, drink vendors (margaritas in fishbowls!), and stages with performers. There was also a parade earlier in the afternoon, but I missed it because I was busy drinking beer at Microfest.

May 4, 2013

Posted by Jo W. 5/04/2013
Run- 5 mi
Time- 42 mins
Pace- 8:24 min/mi

I was planning on waking up early this morning to study. I woke up at 7am, make some coffee and whole wheat blueberry pancakes, and studied a bit. Around 9:30, I was feeling restless, and decided to take a break by going outside for a walk. I needed vegetables, so I walked to a nearby farmer's market and lugged back a bag of fruits and veggies. After my walk, I still didn't feel like studying, so I decided to go for a nice, easy run. My run ended up being 5 miles, and it was very enjoyable.

I got a deal/online coupon thing to the St. Louis Microfest Beer Festival, which was held Friday and today. I went today at noon with a couple friends. This was the first beer tasting event I've been to; there were so many beers to try, it was pretty overwhelming. We just dove right in and got a few pours. I was hungry by noon, and they were selling BBQ that I could smell while waiting in line to get in, so I got a pulled pork sandwich. It really hit the spot, and prepped me to drink more beers ;)

There were four of these huge tents, with two long rows of tables handing out a few different beers from each brewing company. There were about 100 breweries attending, so with an average of 4 brews each, that's around 400 different beers to try!

May 3, 2013

Posted by Jo W. 5/03/2013
Run- 4.5 mi
Time- 39 mins
Pace- 8:40 min/mi

Run- 4 mi
Time- 34 mins
Pace- 8:30 min/mi

Run- 6.8 mi
Time- 59 mins
Pace- 8:40 min/mi

Lately I've been busy busy busy studying for my finals. Monday through Wednesday was reading week, and exams started yesterday, but I don't have mine until next Monday. I have two on Monday and one on Wednesday. And then freedom! I keep telling myself that it's only a few more days...

Despite having to study all day, I've been squeezing in time to go on runs in the mornings or afternoons. Running makes me happy, clears my head, and energizes me, so I definitely don't want to miss out on it even during the most stressful times of final exams. In fact, I can't afford to skip my runs; they are integral in helping me deal with the stress.

I've been wanting to make one of these at


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