Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Reflections on my training cycle

It's getting HARD.

When I wrote my training plan for the Louisiana Marathon, I knew I was going to focus on more volume and longer interval and tempo runs to build up my endurance. I was going to replace my third 20 miler with a 22 miler, a distance I haven't built into a training plan in years (yes, even 2 miles makes a difference). I was going to engage in more 5-run weeks rather than just 4 runs per week. Strength and core training were going to be consistent and key to keeping my body in tip top shape. All of this meant that I was going to be doing some SERIOUS training.

So how's it all panning out?

Actually, pretty well, although I wasn't always so sure about it.

My biggest training months leading up to a marathon in the past were about 120-130 miles in volume. I'm seem to be happiest when I hover around 100 miles per month. But keeping the status quo wasn't going to do me any favors after a 2 year absence from the marathon distance. November is officially my highest volume month in the 9 years I've been running at 150 miles. Next month will be 176 miles of running. Looking at those numbers is staggering to me. But I'm hanging in there so far, and I think I am seeing the rewards of my hard work. Race day is 45 days away.

I'm definitely slower than I have been in the past. For months it really ate away at me to know that I've declined since my last marathon, and I was beating myself up pretty bad about it. But in the last week or so I've gained a sense of peace about where I'm at. The last two years have been incredibly challenging emotionally. The stress level that I've had could knock anyone on their ass, and I've had to realize that it's truly to blame for my decline. Stress absolutely wreaks havoc on your physical well being in addition to your emotional well being. While my stress level is not great right now, it's slowly improved this year. There's a lot more light in my life, although dark days still creep in. It's been a huge battle to try to reverse these detrimental effects on my body and I'm clawing my way back to my previous ability, day by day and run by run.

So while the runs themselves might not be quite as speedy as in the past, I think the volume is paying dividends, even if they are tiny dividends. Sunday was a 14 mile run with 4 miles of it at marathon goal pace. I ended up running the final 8 miles at that pace and while I was tired, it felt really great. Yesterday I had a 7 mile tempo run, with 1 mile at warm up pace, 4 miles at short tempo pace, and 2 miles cool down. My triathlon team leader told me my tempo pace for that run was to be 8:33. The previous week's workout was 5 miles of tempo (7 mile total run) at a 9:03 average, so this run was going to be quite a bit faster, and harder. After a bit of a shaky start, and an annoying uphill during mile two, I ended up nailing the run. The 4 miles of tempo came in at 34:12...exactly 8:33 average. It was NOT easy for me, but looking back on it, it didn't kill me. I felt absolutely fine after the run was finished. As I drove home I realized that by nailing this run it basically proved that my training is working.

When I first wrote up my training plan I had in my head that I really would try for a PR at the Louisiana Marathon. I'm basing my workout paces off of this goal. I'm not quite sure I have it in me to achieve this goal, but I'm keeping it in the back of my head regardless. December is going to be a crazy training month. I have to be diligent about staying healthy. But I think if I start seeing the hard work paying off even more then I will absolutely shoot for that PR.

Monday, October 24, 2016

A Tale of Two Races

It's done! My two half marathons this month, 7 days apart, are DONE.

They were SO DIFFERENT it's really quite laughable. Now, I knew I was only pushing myself for one of them, the City to the Sea on October 9, and I was going to hold back on the second run, Nutrabolt Oktoberfest on October 16, and finish it about 5 minutes slower. That was the plan, anyhow.

For City to the Sea, the weather was perfect! It had been unusually dry leading up to the race, with morning temps in the 50s. I was thrilled because I knew the only thing that would hold back my pace was my own legs and not my lungs. It all worked out perfectly, as I finished in 2:02:39. Not the ultimate stretch goal of under 2 hours, but I am very happy with how I strategized and executed and I'll take a 2:02!

For Oktoberfest, the weather could not have been more miserable. Practically 100% humidity, with an atrocious 75 dew point, and temps in the 70s. Your basic Texas summer morning....only it's the middle of October now. In the back of my head I knew even trying to run my marathon pace of 9:40-9:45 was NOT going to be "holding back" for me, but rather my new ultimate stretch goal for this race. At about mile 6 I knew there was no way I was going to see anything even remotely close to it, although I did manage to hit the pace for the first half of the race, but that was HARD. Anyway, long story short, I finished in my second slowest road half time of 2:16:30. Truly atrocious morning.

But let's go back to the awesomeness of the City to the Sea Half Marathon. Can I just say how much I absolutely love to race in my hometown of San Luis Obispo? I was (mostly) all smiles before the race, hanging out in downtown, totally excited (and nervous) about running through town, through the canyon, and then to the beach. It's a great little college town and a beautiful place to run.

My nerves were off and on. I REALLY wanted a good race. I knew breaking two hours would be tough, but I also knew that if I kept my head in the game I could possibly do it. I was also worried about the hills in the second half. The first half of the race is a gradual decline, with pretty much all the 500 feet of elevation gain coming in the second half. I was hoping to capitalize on the good downhills in the second half if the uphills slowed me down too much. I figured I had nothing to lose, however, and my strategy was to run as well as I could for as long as I could, and when and if I couldn't any longer, I'd suck it up as best as I could.

The start line on Higuera Street in downtown San Luis Obispo

I started off the race at my usual half marathon racing pace, and moved into the 9:00-9:10 pace within the first three miles. It wasn't particularly easy, but it actually wasn't very difficult either. I wore my heart rate monitor and checked my heart rate occasionally, which told me I was doing just fine. One of the great things about this race is that we ran on the same road for the first five miles. No turns, therefore no need to try to run tight tangents. I wasn't picking up any extra mileage like one normally would on a race course with lots of turns. The miles were clicking off nicely and I was through the first half in about an hour. If I could maintain that pace and pick it up in that last mile, I'd squeak in under one hour. At worst, I'd be a minute or two over. Can you say THRILLED?!?! My race was going great and I felt great.

BUT I knew about those hills coming up...and sure enough, as soon as we turned onto San Luis Bay Drive halfway through the race, the first hill taunted us. It was a doozy.

San Luis Bay Drive, mile 7

Surprisingly, however, I ran mile 7 in 9:17. Not bad, but off pace. I sped up on the downhills in the next mile, and Mile 8 came in at 9:14 and Mile 9 back down under 9:10. I was at 9:12 pace overall through 9 miles. The canyon miles were no joke, and now I needed to be faster to break 2 hours, as I had picked up about 15 second of extra distance in the last few miles, in addition to the extra time I picked up in those two slower miles. I knew I was getting tired at this point. I could run the pace, but the hills were taking their toll on my legs. Needing to run sub-9 from here on out was going to definitely start to hurt.

Good grief

And then there was Mile 10. The entire mile is uphill. I wouldn't say that I threw in the towel right here, but this is when I decided that trying to push myself harder just wasn't going to happen. It was also right about here that we could finally see the ocean. So that's when I said, 'okay, I've proved my point. I can run a good pace again, and I have more sub-2's in my future.' It was time to enjoy myself, so I backed way off going up this hill. It was so much slower, that I ran it in 9:55. I sped up in those last few rolling miles, running between 9:20 and 9:35. Seeing that ocean was totally worth giving up a couple minutes on my race time. You couldn't wipe that smile off my face if you tried.

I crossed the finish line in 2:02:39. I had kept pace for about 9 miles, and had it not been for the hills, I would have probably broken 2 hours. This is so huge for me right now. I felt like I had broken through a physical and mental barrier. My IT band was achy for most of the run, but I never felt real pain from it. Perhaps it would have been more painful had I pushed it on those hills, so I'm glad I held back. My average heart rate average for the race was only 153, lower than I expected, and that's a very good sign of things to come.

Why yes, I did grow up here

So...onto the following weekend. The Nutrabolt Oktoberfest Half Marathon in College Station, my "marathon race pace" half marathon. Except that the weather was probably the worst that I've raced in for an endurance event. Coupled with racing just seven days before and a travel week, and I knew in the back of my head, this wasn't going to go so well, but I could still give it a shot.

I decided to run as even paced of a race as I could. Of course my Garmin lost it's signal in the first mile and I actually have no idea how fast I ran that mile. But based off the mile markers on the course, I think within the first three miles I was at 9:35 pace overall. Too fast, but at that point I thought maybe I could hold it for most of the race. I intentionally backed off after mile 3 and then the wheels pretty much started to fall off.

Mile 6 felt harder than the previous miles, even though it barely came in at under 10 minute pace. At this point I looked at my heart rate and it registered a 165. That's WAY too high for an "easy" pace for me, especially considering how in control I was in the previous week's race. I was struggling to keep my lungs working and my heart rate down, and my legs were feeling like lead.

This wasn't worth it. I crossed the timing mat at the 10K in 1:00:15, a 9:40 pace, and at the halfway mark, I walked. My heart rate needed to come down or I'd throw myself into a massive asthma attack.

So for the next 6.5 miles, I ran 5-7 minutes (I couldn't get the running under 10 minute pace) and walked a minute or two. Did I mention they found every single hill in College Station for this route? They felt like mountains (they weren't really bad). The sun came out. Everyone was walking portions of the race. Nobody was really very happy. All the happy people were done at this point. The rest of us wanted to be put out of our misery.

This weather was REALLY REALLY bad. This race was REALLY REALLY ugly.

About 11 miles in, I was so frustrated that I thought of bailing on the whole thing. But then I remembered that we got to finish in Kyle Field and that I'd get a beer stein and a medal with a beer opener on it. Time to suck it up and finish, no matter how ugly.

After what felt like a day and a half, we could see Kyle Field in the distance and I sped up to a blazing 10:15 pace (for real, this was the fastest I think I could run at this point).

That stupid clock said 2:16:30 when I crossed the finish line. I hate that clock.

With Tony and Barb, my badass GTT teammates 

Officially this was my second slowest road half marathon out of 17. I ran one trail half that was slower, and one road half that was slower. And 15 that were faster. Damn.

However, considering how great it felt the week before, I'm not letting it get me down. Especially since on Monday I came down with a doozy of an illness. It's entirely possible I was actually sick during this race, which would mean that of course I felt as horrible as I did....I had pretty much everything going against me.

Did I mention my friend Tony ran this race 19 minutes faster and he's 14 years older than me? Butthead.

The bright spot....I realized 11 miles in that I hadn't felt my IT band AT ALL during this race. I had actually forgotten all together that I was even injured. That's a pretty big win right there. Rehab is the bomb.

Two half marathons in 7 days are done. I have 12 weeks until the Louisiana Marathon and despite, the mediocrity of the Oktoberfest Half, I'm feeling pretty great going into the hardest part of marathon training. I have a great training plan laid out, I have some pretty kickass training buddies (side note: my friend Jeff ran 10 miles with me this past Saturday, just 6 days after the half and coming off an icky sick week, and I ran 9:35 pace overall. Guess what? The weather was great...imagine that), and I'm being a good girl with my physical therapy.

Baton Rouge better be ready for me. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Race Week is Here

If you had asked a month ago what my ultimate goal was for the City to the Sea Half Marathon on October 9, I would have said "sub-2."

I've run a few sub-2 hour half marathons, but most have been in the 2:00-2:05 range. There was a time when a race under 2 hours was a given, and I never wanted to see another 2+ hour half.

Ha! Funny.

If you asked me yesterday what my goal was, it would be "please don't let me embarrass myself."

All summer I've been using the weather as my excuse for feeling so horribly slow. However, the last few weeks have really forced another issue to come to the forefront and that is my right leg. It's just not cooperating! My gluteus medius muscles are apparently weak, and my right psoas muscle is very tight. My right IT Band is pretty locked up, and the outside of my knee is where the pain has manifested. I am a pretty good girl about foam rolling and trigger point, but I have to admit I haven't been really great overall with my consistency.

I couldn't ignore this problem any longer and knew I just needed someone to work on it and guide me through some rehab without actually having to stop running. We all know I'm not going to stop running.

Enter Airrosti. I've known about them for a long time. Heck, they even came to my house in January for an Injury Rehab Clinic...oh, the irony there, I know. Since they accept my insurance I got on their schedule. I have appointments every 3 days until my race this weekend, and then I will see them again next week.

My leg is HURTING. It's very sensitive to the touch because there is some bruising going on along my IT band and in my glutes because of the work the doctor is doing. I can still run, but my leg makes sure I know it's there. I have strengthening and stretching exercises to do daily so I can fix this damn imbalance problem.

See, this is why I'll never be the fastest chick out there! Scoliosis, a leg length discrepancy, and the resulting nagging muscular imbalance is a serious buzzkill.

But it's fixable (to a point) with diligence on my part. I've gone years at a time without issue so I know it can happen again.

Sitting around icing and complaining, however, has given me time to think. I'm frustrated, and I've thought more than once if it's worth it to keep trying this whole endurance thing. Maybe I'm not cut out for it, maybe I should just take a year off, maybe I need a different hobby. After all, this can't possibly be good for me.

But then another perspective has slowly crept into my mind. I'm a healthy and active middle aged woman, I'm at a good weight and have never been overweight, I don't have any obesity-related illnesses like diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol, I'm not in a high risk medical group, and it's because I AM ACTIVE and I take care of myself. Plus, I love my exercise and healthy cooking hobbies. I have a focus on long term health.

If some discomfort because of my endurance endeavours is occasionally the result, then I'll take it. It's far better than the person I would be if I was sitting on the couch night after night, taking the easy way out with my exercise and eating habits. It's far better than developing obesity-related diseases and shortening my life span. Perhaps this is my personal price to pay for the rewards that I will reap in the long term.

I'm going to keep thinking like this as I go through this round of rehab. I posted on Facebook yesterday that years from now I'll see this as merely a blip and I won't regret not giving up.

Nope, definitely not giving up. This is the only body I have and I'm going to continue keeping it healthy and strong....I just have to put a bit more focus into my poor glutes being strong!

Did I mention it's RACE WEEK!! On Sunday, I'll earn myself this sweet medal.

I get to run from my hometown of San Luis Obispo, through the canyon, down to the beach in Pismo. Seriously, you just can't beat that. What a way for me to experience where I grew up in a unique way. And that medal! 

4 more days!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Bigger isn't always better....and that's just fine

The thing about being a part of a running or triathlon community is that it's really easy to get caught up in the atmosphere of "it's time to do a marathon" or "you're ready for an Ironman!" It's easy to start registering for race after race, longer distance after longer distance until you're out $1500+ and insanely busy training for the next 8 months.

For some people, this is awesome. It's what they do and they love it.


Holy crap, the thought of all that just exhausts me.

I've had a few years where I raced a lot and I did love it. I did 3 marathons in one year and they were the three fastest I'd done at the time. Last year I did 6 triathlons, but none longer than an intermediate distance, and I had a really great time. So much fun that I signed up for an Ironman 70.3 (through life circumstances beyond my control I had to cancel that race, so it didn't actually happen).

This year has been extremely low key and while I do sometimes miss the constant thought of "when is my next race and how am I going to improve from last time," I have to admit that the low-key year has been really great overall. I have long term goals that I'm slowly chipping away at. I'm in no hurry to sign up for a last minute race "just because." Or to sign up for something bigger.

I'm hardly racing at all this year. As a matter of fact, I've only done 4 races this year, with only 2 more planned. What a relief! Seriously.


It's tough sometimes not giving into the pull of "SOMETHING BIGGER." It's tough listening to my friends and their crammed race schedules, or the friends who are signing up for another Ironman, or another century ride, or another ultramarathon, and thinking that I SHOULD WANT TO DO THAT TOO!! Is there something wrong with me that I have absolutely NO DESIRE to train like that? They are so dedicated and their training is so regimented and it's a really big freaking deal to them (as it should be). Meanwhile I'm over here like, yeah, my marathon is still over four months way. It's only a little marathon.

Damn, it really just kind of messes with your head. A marathon is a big deal, every single time I do it. And I'm making it sound like it's "just another race." Perspective has clearly been lost in the age of BIGGER AND BETTER.

I didn't get to do my 70.3 and I'm pretty disappointed about that. I really did want to do it, and I would still like to tackle that goal. I've thought about which one I might want to sign up for, but in all honesty the big desire I had last year has dissipated and I'm not yet pulling the trigger on a race that big. And I'm certainly not giving any thought whatsoever to an Ironman 140.6. I know my friends don't believe me when I say that I don't want to do one, but seriously, I DON'T WANT TO DO ONE.

Then I start thinking, but maybe I really secretly do want to do one and they're all RIGHT. Maybe this Ironman thing is really really cool and I should want to be in the "club" because Lord knows just about everyone I train with now is part of it. But no...I'm going to stay on the outside.

I've been thinking a bit about how I want 2017 to shape up. It's going to start out with my Birthday Marathon in January and I'm seriously excited about that race. Then I have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING ELSE PLANNED. So far. Nothing.

There is not one thing...YET...that has interested me enough to commit to it (although...and I'll get to that in a eyes are on a super special prize I might compete for later in the year). But it's been weird to feel like I "should" want to cram my race schedule with bigger races and yet have little desire to do so. It's making me feel like something is wrong with me. And then I started thinking about how this attitude is just so pervasive in society in general, about so many different things.

Where is the heck did contentment go? Why isn't small and simple okay anymore? Or rather, why are we telling ourselves that simple is not okay?

IT'S FREAKING OKAY! At least for me, it is. For those who relish in the big races, go after it. I just am not ready for that.

So, if I were to go after something bigger, it would be Boston. It's funny because for so long I didn't really give much thought to qualifying for Boston but it's been in the back of my mind for a couple of years now. Mind you, I'm not nearly fast enough. I have some work to do, and I have to be careful about the race or races that I choose. My qualification window for my next age group opens in a year, and I keep leaning towards going after it as soon as I can. I have a couple races picked out that I'm pretty excited about, but I've got plenty of time to commit. So, with this goal looming, it's hard to focus on many other goals. I'm not really one who can think of achieving a whole lot of greatness in a short amount of time (that's typically when I get injured, and there's no more time for that crap). So the 70.3 might be on the backburner for a year.

It leaves room for sprint triathlons, however. It might be fun to do a few of those during the spring and summer before the crazy BQ training begins. It all keeps circling back to small and simple, and this makes me happy. I don't feel stressed. I need to shut the voice up inside my head that keeps trying to tell me I should want something more.

Instead I'll cheer on those of you who do want that.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Five more weeks

Five more weeks. That's how long until my first of back-to-back half marathons.

When I counted how much time I had left I admit I was a bit surprised it's ONLY five more weeks (well, technically it's 39 days). Plenty of time, really, but it seems like it's creeping up on me so fast!

I've been hemming and hawing about how I want to approach these two races. One, the City to the Sea Half, is a net downhill course with very few turns, although there is still quite a bit of elevation gain, probably over 500 feet. Not horribly bad, but not easy. My hardest half marathon was over 900 feet of gain and I ran fairly well after a rough final few weeks of training. The second race, Nutrabolt Oktoberfest, is much flatter with a million turns.

In all honesty, I think that I do better on hillier courses. City to the Sea has miles-long straightaways, plus the first few miles and the last mile are downhill. I'll be able to recruit lots of different muscles throughout this course versus the monotony of the flat Oktoberfest course. City to the Sea is the first race, with Oktoberfest following 7 days later. I don't want to "race" both, but I definitely want to race one of them. I'm not sure I have a sub-2 in me, but I do think I can suck it up for 13.1 miles and put in a good effort. I'm leaning towards the hilly course as my "race" course.

If I approach it this way, I can run the Oktoberfest at marathon race pace, which will be 9:40-9:45 pace. That puts me at about a 2:07 and I know I can accomplish that without too much wear and tear on my body. It's not the slowness of long run pace, which would bore me in a race, and by being marathon pace the race will hold purpose in marathon training. It sets me up for running a similar type long run closer to marathon race day and comparing my progress.

It's probably way too much thinking for two little races. But I want a successful marathon season and I'm going to overanalyze a little. Or a lot! I'm not in the best shape I've ever been in (sad!) and I actually have very lofty goals in a few short years, so I'm trying to approach my return to marathon as intelligently as possible. It sets me up for a successful 2017 season, leading to the REALLY BIG THING I want to accomplish in 2018 (it's initials are BQ). So yes, I will overanalyze.

My confidence has been a little shaky, as it always is in the summer. I get very impatient for cooler weather because I know I'm going to feel so much stronger. The past few weeks, however, have actually been pretty decent regarding our weather. August is typically the hottest month of the year, but save for the first week of August, which was brutally hot, this year we've been spared. The temps have been really great and we've gotten quite a bit of rain. I think I'm seeing improvement because of this.

This past Friday morning I ran hill repeats on a moderately steep hill. I did 10 repeats with descending time intervals (2 x 90 seconds, 2 x 75 seconds, 3 x 60 seconds, 3 x 30 seconds), making sure I was not resting too long between intervals. I had an extra long warm up (1.7 miles). I figured as I was running my first 90 second interval (which feels like forever when you're running fast up a hill) that it was about 8:30 pace as it didn't seem like I was working too hard, just hard enough to want it to be over by the time I hit 75 seconds in. Imagine my surprise when my pace was 7:50. I did not think I had even come close to dipping under 8-min pace. My second interval came in the same.

Overall my interval times averaged 7:28, which is not something I've done in a very long time. Plus I was in the sun with 80+ degree temps the entire workout. 5 miles of work and I felt absolutely fantastic when I was done. It was truly an awesome workout.

Two days later, I ran for 2 hours. I haven't run that long in months. It wasn't particularly fast during the first hour, but we made it back after the turnaround in 55 minutes versus another whole hour (yes, I ran an extra five minutes to get a full 2 hours in). It was totally fine except for the last 20 minutes when the heat was getting to me. By then the sun was out in full force with little cloud coverage. But I didn't quit.

Yesterday morning was a 5k time trial. I ran most of it alone, in 95% humidity, after a one mile warm up, wishing the whole time I was running that I was on a track instead of in the creepy dark. But I did it in 8:15 pace. Nothing like my glory days but I'm pretty happy. I was in zone 5 heart rate for the last 20 minutes so I know I was pushing myself adequately.

These last three runs make me feel a whole lot better. I'm looking for all the motivation I can get right now!

I just finished reading David Boudia's book. He's an Olympic Gold Medal diver who just took home a silver and bronze in Rio. He talked a lot about how he was able to put a disastrous Beijing Olympics and destructive lifestyle behind him to have glory in London (while giving glory to God rather than focusing on his own personal glory). One thing that he said God revealed to him during his redemption journey that he needed to do when he struggled struck me as being extremely relevant in endurance training.

"Be process oriented, not results oriented. Remember the Olympic creed? The important thing is not the triumph but the fight. So many times in our lives, results are out of our hands and we are dependent on things we can't control for the outcomes we desire. Learning instead to focus on the process, the journey itself, allows us to focus our energies more on the things we can control. That, in turn, leads to greater fulfillment and more enjoyment as we go through life leaving our ultimate path in the Lord's hands (Psalm 37:5)."

Although I do have goals and I like to keep some focus on them as I train, he's totally right that in order to achieve our goal we have to focus on the process. The process in marathon training is months long. Each week serves a purpose, each workout serves a purpose. When the big picture and a focus on everything you still need to do in the months ahead, when you have a million doubts because you're having a tough training spell, you have to step back and focus on the process....what is the purpose and goal of THIS workout, why is it important, what does it mean if it's successful, what does it mean if it's not, what have I learned that I can take into the next workout, the next week, the next month, or even race day? We have complete control of that attitude.

In the next 39 days I'm going to do my best to focus on the journey, the process, and take baby steps as I make my way towards October 9.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

If I could call you

I loved talking to you on the phone. I loved your voice. Your giggle. Your sarcastic tone.

I loved all the stupid and silly names you used to call me. I think my favorite was "freak." You never spoke it with malice. I could picture your head shake to go with it. And "seester." That was a great one, especially when you'd sign my birthday cards with it.

My memories are growing fainter over time. It's a bit harder to conjure up that voice. That laugh. The laugh that used to make you turn purple.

During the dark times over the last few years, and there have been so very many, I have so badly wanted to call you. I have wanted to ask your opinion, seek your advice. You always listened. You never judged. I was never afraid to tell you all my feelings.

Being parents of girls was something we shared. But we never really got a chance to support each other in all the challenging times that come with pre-teen and teenage parenting. You were gone too soon for that. It makes me feel cheated, because you would have been the perfect voice of reason when I felt so down on myself, when I just didn't know what else to do to help my daughter. You would have talked me down from the ledge. You would have been my sanity.

I'd like to think I would have been the same to you.

But we never got that chance, did we?

There were so many times when we were there for each other, however, when we told each other things that we just couldn't say to anyone else. I hold those memories close and dear. The words that were spoken will stay with me, our "secrets" safe. A sisterly bond that will never break.

Every year, during this week, I go through all the emotions of the grief cycle over and over again. Except denial. It was the first emotion I experienced when I heard the news and it was a tough one to shake. But I understand reality now. There's no denying the past seven years. But the anger, the bitterness, and depression...those come and go. I wish I could say that it has gotten easier. I suppose in some ways it has. But there are the days when it is all encompassing, when it's all I can think about. There are days when I can't go thirty minutes without fresh tears sliding down my cheeks. I try to hold them back, but it's impossible. Today is one of those days.

Imagine if I could just call you.

I see the bickering around me in the world, in my community, and among my friends and I want to shake them. I want them to stop and to appreciate what is around them. I want them to appreciate who is in their lives. "What if they are gone tomorrow?" I want to say. They always think there is a tomorrow. But we know better, don't we?

I can think of little else than how much I miss you. There is absolutely no one who can take your place, who can truly comfort me. My heart is absolutely broken. Parts of it have been stitched back together, but it's a tenuous repair. The stitches are strained, some have burst and need to be repaired. I always hope each repair will hold up a bit better than the previous.

Today the stitches burst. I will try to repair them tomorrow.

But for today, I mourn.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

In the Heat of Summer

It's hot out there.

It's DAMN hot out there.

5:30 am, 80 degrees, 90% humidity, off-the-charts oppressive. Not a surprise (this is my 10th summer here after all) but it still sucks every single time.

I am trying to push through the discomfort as best as I can. I have started to complete much longer weekend runs with my triathlon group, and although I slow it way down and take a couple walking breaks, I'm getting through them. I continue my mid-week evening hill workout, typically in 95+ degree temps, but those, too, are getting to be quite difficult. I'm wearing my heartrate monitor and have not overtaxed myself yet, but it sometimes feels like death.

My hydration is a struggle this summer. I'm not sure what is different, but I am having trouble feeling sufficiently hydrated. I need to change some things because this concerns me. For an endurance athlete in a Texas summer, hydration is everything.

With it being summer, I really had no idea if my fitness (read: SPEED) was even close to being up to par going into marathon training. I think my intervals runs have been pretty decent considering the weather conditions, but the short relay I had this past weekend was a good judge of where I'm at. It's not great, but it's actually not as bad as I thought. It was a 5K 2-person relay, so only 1.55 miles each. But it started at 10:00am, in 86 degree heat, and by 1.55 miles they really meant 1.68 miles. So sweet of them.

What I really thought I could run was 8:15 pace. What I hoped I could run was 8:00 pace. What I actually ran was 7:44 pace. The only time I looked at my pace was 6 minutes into the run and then I just tried to hold it for as long as possible. My second mile was 15 seconds per mile faster than Mile 1, even though I totally thought I was falling apart (seriously, that last 10th of a mile lasted 30 minutes I swear). My partner, Drew (freaking youngster) ran 6:08 pace so we managed to run 3.35 miles in 23:17 for first place in our division. It was Drew's first medal since high school, although he's come so close in a couple of his triathlons this year. It was a medal I was hoping we'd get, but was cautiously optimistic about. What a great surprise to pull it off!

My two half marathons are coming up in October and I am technically training for them, upping my weekly miles, trying to add another weekly run. I would like to have two good races, but I really need these temperatures to give me some mercy. Not likely to happen anytime soon. July in Texas after all.

On the bright side, it feels really good to only be focusing on one discipline this summer. I think when late winter/early spring rolls around I'm going to be ready to (literally) get my feet wet again and compete in triathlons. My mind has so much trouble focusing right now that it's a blessing I made the tough decision I did to sit the triathlon season out.

I might even admit that when I'm watching my team compete and I see them racking up podium spots, I actually do miss it. Triathlons are definitely something special.