Thursday, December 8, 2011

Fundraising for the Texas Independence Relay

For the third year in a row, my team Blood, Sweat and Beers is racing in the Texas Independence Relay, a 203 mile journey along the Texas Independence Trail. We start in Bastrop and end east of Houston at the San Jacinto Monument. As many of you know, back in September 2011 Bastrop experienced incredible devastation when fires broke out, burned 34000 acres, and ultimately destroyed nearly 1700 homes.

The organizers of the relay have set up a fundraising option for registration into the relay. In order to earn our spot in the relay we must raise $2000 in the next 3 months. The funds raised will benefit both the restoration of Bastrop and also current and future Olympians with the Austin Track Club, promoting health and fitness to Texas children. Our team knew right away that this was how we wanted to earn our registration. The fact that the first leg of the relay goes right through the fire-ravaged Bastrop State Park makes it hit home even more that we need to help in any way we can.

It would mean so much if you could spare even a few dollars for our cause. You can donate at the following link:

http://www.texasindependencerelay.com/relay-for-a-reason/?kwoAdvocateId=4B9KC99


Thank you

Monday, November 28, 2011

Well, THAT was a good week...

First off, I just have to say it's been a REALLY LONG TIME since I had a great race. Like 2 1/2 years. Either I felt bad, the weather sucked, I was sick, my head wasn't in it, I was helping a friend, I had an asthma attack, I went out too fast....you name it, it happened to me. And it's been eating away at me for a very long time. I'll have phenomenal training runs and come race day, just completely fall apart. I NEEDED A GOOD RACE.

When Greg and I decided to take his parents up on their offer to fly us to Southern California for Thanksgiving, I immediately looked up the Thanksgiving Day race that we ran 3 years ago. I got a 5k PR at that race and to this day that time still stands as my fastest 5K - 24:40. I loved the quick, easy course and the fact that it was on Thanksgiving - what a perfect way to start off a day of gluttony. Surprisingly I discovered that the race had grown in the past three years, from about 300 people that inaugural year in 2008 to over 1500 participants. They also had added a 10K distance, which totally thrilled me and Greg. We both prefer the 10K distance leaps and bounds over the 5K distance and the more calories we burned Thanksgiving morning the better! I immediately signed us both up and let our parents know about it in case any of them wanted to sign up. Greg's dad did the 5K with us in 2008 and decided to do it again this year.

I've been having some pretty great training runs lately and was feeling confident. My last couple long runs have been challenging because of humidity and warmer temps but I managed to push through discomfort in both and finish well. I knew that I could wrap my head around any discomfort in a race and battle through it. Would it be enough for a PR? My fastest 10K time was 53:45, which I accomplished in 2009 at the Capitol 10K in Austin. Could I break an 8:39 pace? I thought it was certainly possible. The weather forecast was calling for high 40s, no wind, overcast skies. Race start was 7:30am. It's an out and back route, which I love for short races. There really was no reason why I couldn't try for that PR.




At the beginning of the race my goal was simply to break 55 minutes. Anything better than that would be a bonus and if I was feeling great and on pace at 4 miles I would push for a PR. But I wasn't going to force myself to try to accomplish something beyond that day's abilities. I knew I could do 55 minutes, though.

My goal was to run the first mile in 9:20 and then move to 9 minute pace for another 1.5 miles, then dropping to 8:40 for another 1.5 miles, and then just seeing what was in me for the remaining 2.2 miles. My first mile ended up being 9:07 but it honestly felt more like 9:30. This was GREAT. I tried not to increase my speed for the next mile but managed an 8:53. I didn't feel that fast at all. It was during this second mile that I noticed that this course was a bit different than the flat 5K course - at the turn off for the 5K racers there was a hill. It ended up being about 1.5 miles of slightly rolling hills. Not too bad, but it still required some strategy. I'm a pretty good hill runner, so I made sure I maintained my pace as best as possible without overexerting myself on the uphills, and took advantage a bit on the downhills. I noticed that at the point we would be turning off the road and onto the trail (at 4.5 miles) to the finish would be a pretty good downhill and I kept this information in the back of my mind. For the third mile I just maintained my pace without looking at my watch. I really wanted to run this race on feel and not know what pace I was actually running. Mile 3 was 8:42 and I was feeling really good despite a side stitch that was mild but annoying (and ended up sticking around for 2.5 miles). I hit the turnaround at 27:35. I quickly calculated that I would need a 26:09 to break my PR by a mere 1 second. That was quite a bit faster than my first half and I wasn't sure if I could do it. With only 3 miles left, however, I figured I had nothing to lose and would increase my speed just a bit.

The second half of the race was a combination of feeling great, pushing myself, hurting badly, and being so excited I could burst. My fourth mile was an awesome 8:29 and I knew at this point I didn't need to slow down and could maintain for the last 2.2 miles. If I at least maintained I would be well under 55 minutes. If I could push I had a shot at the PR. When we went down that hill and onto the trail at 4.5 miles I decided I had nothing to lose and would just go for it. Mile 5 was 8:30 but I actually didn't even look at my watch to see that split. I caught sight of my time with a mile left and saw I was under 46 minutes. With a good surge for that last mile I could do it.

I thought that last mile was never going to end. My legs were okay, but I was breathing hard. I knew I would likely puke when I was done. I ran as fast as I could without bonking, tried to go faster, but got into a decent rhythm. I saw my mom on the sidelines with about a tenth of a mile left but couldn't even summon a wave. I glanced quickly at my watch and knew I was going to break my PR. I was so excited but so ready to cross that finish line!

Look at my good form! Yay! I'm not slouching and my arms aren't crossing in front of me
A couple seconds after crossing I stopped my watch, moved over to the side, and just tried to calm down. I had stopped my watch at 53:35, a good 10 seconds better than my PR. I had run the last 1.22 miles in 9:52. I didn't end up puking but I couldn't really function either. I knew I had given everything out on the course and couldn't possibly have gone any faster. I was right about my training - it had enabled me to have the confidence to not give up and to believe in my ability. It probably took a good 10 minutes for my breathing to get under control. Greg, my mom, and his mom all were worried about how hard I was breathing!

(Side note: see those turkeys running behind me in the photo above? They passed me during the first mile and they were right in front of me for the entire race. During that last mile I decided there was no way a couple of turkeys were going to beat me. You can see I did pass them.)

I FINALLY HAD A GOOD RACE AGAIN.

My official time ended up being 53:33. The first thing I thought of was my buddy Jeff, whose 10K PR was 53:33 as well. We stuck around for the awards since I thought I remembered that the third place finisher in my age group last year had been in the 53 minute range. It was possible I had placed, so I knew it was worth it to see. Unfortunately they weren't posting the placings before the announcements so we had to wait about 15 minutes for them to get to my age group. I didn't end up placing, but I was still pretty happy.

We checked our times later and discovered that I was actually 8th out of 49 in my age group - that was a FAST group of women! I placed 50 out of 279 women and 152 out of 500 10K racers. I beat more men than beat me. Win! Greg placed 6th in his age group, as did Ed.

Speaking of Greg, he also got a PR. He forgot to charge his Garmin the night before and it died about a half mile into the race. He had to run blind, not knowing how fast he was going, having no idea what his time would be at the finish (there wasn't a finish clock). He ended up posting a 45:58, which beat his old PR by 1:09. I told him before the race when he saw his Garmin battery was low that he would be fine. He knew what the right pace felt like and he would be just fine. He needed to trust his body. I think he probably got a better time without the watch that if it hadn't died on him. Part of the reason why I'm trying to train without looking at pace this year is to allow my body to push itself without freaking me out. I was so proud of Greg for such a fantastic race. He ran it so fast he thought I had crashed since it seemingly took forever for me to cross the finish line. I guess 7.5 minutes can feel like forever when you're waiting for someone!


He looks awesome!
Ed also did very well, running a 27:37 in the 5K and breaking 9 minute pace, a similar time that he ran 3 years ago. I'm shocked he only placed 6th in his age group, however. There are a lot of fast 60-somethings out there!

You know what else was really great? My mom was there to cheer me on!



I was on a high the rest of the day, bugging everyone around me with "Guess what? I GOT A PR!" every five minutes.

The awesome running week didn't stop there. I had 8 miles on my schedule for Saturday, a nice step down from the usual double digit long runs and the last single digit one before the marathon in January. I still planned on running the 8 miles even though it was only 2 days after the race. My legs were a bit fatigued but not bad at all. An easy 8 miles, maybe at about 9:20-9:30 pace would be fine. Greg planned on running with me, too.

My friend Karen texted me right before we started our run to say she had run a 1:13. I really wasn't planning on running faster than a 1:15, but of course now I had in my mind that I better not be any slower than 1:13. Damn Karen.

It was a very nice morning, around 50 degrees and clear, although the marine layer creates humidity. The run started very well, if a bit fast. Our first two miles were in about 18:37. I figured we'd just maintain that pace for most of the run. I was feeling pretty great, though. At five miles I thought of slowing for just a little bit, maybe running about 9:40 and then pushing it for the last 2 miles. But I got a second wind and didn't slow down. Mile 6 was in 9:00, mile 7 in 8:38, and then I had in my head that I could actually get a 1:12. I figured I could push for that last mile. Greg had the same idea and thought he was covertly speeding up to see if I could keep up. He didn't realize I was intentionally speeding up as well. The result was that our last mile was in 8:01 and I actually broke 1:12, posting a final time of 1:11:51. That was my fastest 8 mile run I'd ever done. I had never broken 9 minute pace, and I had run 8:58. ANOTHER PR!






Clearly, Orange, California is a great place for me to run fast. I ran 14.22 miles while there this week and averaged 8:49 per mile.

Needless to say, I ran really slow this morning.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Quick Training Update

I'm trying to be better about updating my blog, so here you go! I figure a quick training update would be good since we're now 8 weeks from the Houston Marathon.

Last weekend was our 25K training run (my program throws odd distances into the mix rather than even miles every few weeks...so we get 20k, 25k, 30k, 35k).  Because I'm training with a group on a plan for the Austin Marathon, which is 5 weeks after Houston, those of us also doing Houston have to alter that training to fit with Houston's timetable.  So my buddy Karen and I occasionally have to get in a few extra miles before the group starts. It's working well so far and we're enjoying a little break between our "extra" miles and when the group starts.  Makes finishing strong a bit easier.

So anyway, last weekend we had 25k scheduled but the group was only doing 10 miles, so we set out about an hour early to get an additional 5.5 miles in. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) I miscalculated the distance and we ended up at 6.2 miles before we met back up with the group. Not a big deal at all. Extra miles never hurt anyone and it made us feel a little more hardcore.

It was a pretty humid morning and a bit warmer than we had hoped for, but not really much to complain about. We took the 6.2 miles pretty conservative and finished in 1:01, so a nice easy pace for us. I was hoping for about a 1:35 on the additional 10 miles to finish at a decent pace.  The first several miles were pretty uneventful and I felt okay. I had to dial it back a couple times when I could feel myself speed up the pace too much, but otherwise we were running pretty well.  The turnaround point comes with about 3.5 or so miles left and I could definitely feel the fatigue setting in at that point. There was a water stop at about 13.5 miles and Karen and I took that opportunity to stop, refill our bottles, and take a 2 minute walk break. After that we pushed through the final 2.5 miles and finished very well.  I wasn't expecting any sub-9 minute final miles like what I typically have on shorter runs, but that was okay. I couldn't really chat at all in the last mile or so, and I was certainly ready to be done, but I'm very pleased with our final pace. We finished the 16.2 miles in 2 hours, 37 minutes for about a 9:42 average. The fact that about 75% of the run is on dirt trails that can sometimes be sluggish, I'd call that success.

Today we joined the group for their 20k run. We only technically had 10 miles on our modified scheduled, but I don't like to do fewer miles than the group so 20K it was going to be. Unfortunately, Friday's beautiful 40 degree morning was long gone and we were faced with 68 degrees and 90% humidity on this morning. Yuck. Add to it the fact that I started the week off with strep, and had run the last 3 days (the last 2 pretty hard), I was a bit fatigued to begin with. It was evident within the first 3 miles that this was going to be a bit of a tough run.

I decided that walking while taking Gu and after refilling my water bottle would be good strategy for keeping my body from getting too overexerted. It felt hot out there and I was sweating quite a bit. The strategy ended up working pretty well. I managed to maintain close to a 9:45 average for the run, even with about 5 minutes total of walking. When I was running I was actually running very well. There were several middle miles in the 9:15-9:20 range and yet it felt like I was running much slower than that, so I call that a big fat positive. To feel less than stellar and still be able to maintain comfort at a 9:15 pace is huge for me this year. I really thought I was running more like 9:45. I finished the 12.3 mile run (just short of 20k) a few seconds under 2 hours. I was thrilled I managed to get that run in at less than 10 minute pace considering everything else going against me.

So overall I feel pretty good with the last two runs. I was faced with less than favorable conditions, two pretty tough distances, and I pushed through to finish well. I really do think I could be on my way to a 4:15 marathon.

The next 7 weeks of long runs look like this:

11/26: 8 miles (a BREAK!)
12/3: 18.6 miles (30k)
12/10: 13 miles
12/17: 21.5 miles (~35k)
12/24: 10 miles
12/31: 13 miles
1/7: 6 miles

1/15: HOUSTON MARATHON!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

It's okay to say 'NO'

If we don't take care of ourselves, how can we take care of others?  You've heard that lots of times before, right? But do you actually apply it to your own life?

A few months ago I was under a great deal of stress. I could slowly feel myself getting into a state of depression. I am susceptible to depression, having experienced it clinically at least 3 times in my life. It's a terrible ordeal and so very lonely. But I could feel it grabbing onto me and I had to do something to change it.  So I made a few hard decisions and what a difference it has made. Check out a previous blog post here to see what I did back in July to help put my life back in focus.

One of the hardest things for us to do is to say "NO." Why is that? Are we afraid of disappointing others, are we scared we're missing out on something, do we have an unhealthy need to please and help others?

IT'S OKAY TO SAY "NO"!!!

The past couple of years have made me analyze what is most important to me in my life and what I can put on the backburner. My family is NUMBER ONE. My kids, my husband, my parents. I love my friends, but they do have to come after my family. It may sound harsh, but my kids and my husband (AND MYSELF) are my life. They are who I am living for, they are who I "serve" (along with God, of course). I have dedicated my life to them. I do not have a job outside my home because of my family, because I want nothing else to get in the way of being able to serve them properly. I plan my day around school hours so I can be here when my kids are here the vast majority of the time.

In our church service this past Sunday, our Pastor hit the nail on the head when he spoke about saying "no." Just like pretty much everyone else, he and his wife had gotten caught up in saying YES to just about anything that came their way, but it was beginning to be detrimental to their family life. He also brought up saying NO to the kids in order to be a better parent. We must nurture our spousal relationship in order to be a better parent to our children. It's okay to put your husband or wife first, in order to then properly nurture your child.

Greg and I have not made a lot of plans outside our regular activities lately, and this is great with us. We enjoy each other's company, we enjoy our kids, we are comfortable at home. When we overburden ourselves, we tend to get pretty cranky. I am right in the middle of my peak marathon training right now, which makes Saturday mornings busy. Greg then spends Saturday afternoons with the church band practicing for worship Sunday morning. That means we typically set aside Sundays for nothing but church and family time. It's pretty rare we'll do other things. We need our togetherness. With Greg traveling more and more lately, it's that much more important we keep each other close when we can.  We have not taken on extra volunteer duties, and although we do sometimes feel guilt about that, I know that right now I need to just say "no."

It all comes back to taking care of myself so I can then take care of my family. It's taken me awhile to learn that a calendar with very few commitments on it actually makes me happiest. I've learned to say "NO" when it isn't what would be best for me. If I'm not going to enjoy something to the fullest, I do not want to take those precious hours away from my family. Then the things I do say YES to are that much more exciting to me. I do have a busy winter ahead of me, but I'm okay with that. I've prioritized and I'm excited about what's ahead.

I'm taking care of ME.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

So Proud

Since I wrote and posted this blog last week, the response has been absolutely amazing. I'm sure I pissed off a few people who simply kept their mouth shut and I did have one friend who told me that perhaps I needed to walk in their shoes. But the overwhelming response has been so positive.

I was scared to post it. I knew that it would probably hurt a few, incite some massive guilt that could have a negative effect, and that I could come across as out of touch since I have not struggled with my weight. But I truly believe in what I said, and I'm glad I posted it. I want everyone to experience what I have in the last four years.

The comments that people made on the blog and on Facebook were beautiful, profound, touching, and just warmed my heart. So many people out there are taking their health seriously and are making honest efforts to improve their quality of life. They know they may have a long road but are committed. They can see that the benefits far outweigh the struggles in the journey.

I'm so proud of each and every one of you.

And if you need help, just ask. Help in out there. ANYONE can make these changes and make them stick.

Keep up the good work!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Limitations? Screw the limitations

We all have a responsibility to ourselves and to our loved ones to do whatever we can to take care of ourselves...our minds, our bodies, our souls, our overall well-being. So why are there so many limiting factors to accomplishing that? Why don't we make ourselves a priority more often than we do? Why is society slowly killing itself through unhealthy lifestyle choices?

WHY DO WE ACCEPT THIS AS BEING OKAY?


How do we change this?

When I became a runner, it started a slow transformation to putting general fitness first. I had always been conscious of my weight and health, but wasn't a totally consistent exerciser. When I signed up for my first race, a half marathon, it forced me to schedule my workouts and make training a priority.  It's been over 4 years since I did that. As I look back at these past few years I can see the transformation unfold and it makes me very happy.

I'm not perfect. I splurge on cheeseburgers. I like chocolate. I sometimes prefer my fish to be fried. I drank Coke at dinner last night. One thing that doesn't change? Exercise. I never take a real break from it. In over 4 years the longest I've ever gone without running is 15 days and that was only because I was very sick. I was more angry about not being able to work out than about being sick. It had become so ingrained in me that exercising was a necessity that my body physically craved it and was going through withdrawals without it. Just like our bodies need food, they NEED exercise.

The nutrition aspects of my fitter lifestyle have taken a bit more time. I've always tried to be balanced in my choices and I've never been an overeater, but there are a few things here and there that I've slowly improved over the years. I add in new things when I can, try out new recipes, eat fresh ingredients more often, have almost entirely cut out fast food (it actually completely grosses me out 99% of the time now), and turn to water 95% of the time for fluids. Surprisingly, it really hasn't been a particularly difficult thing to do. Since I'm an endurance athlete I have to pay attention to how I'm fueling. I'm forced to make better choices so I can perform as well as possible in training. This just naturally spills over into my general food choices throughout the week and not just when I'm fueling for a particular run.

The past few days I've been thinking a lot about how society in general views fitness. We all know how important it is - that is being rammed into our heads more and more - but unfortunately very few people put forth enough effort to actually BE FIT. We have cars for transportation, we have fast food restaurants with easy drive-thrus, we can pick up the phone and get greasy delivery, we work over 40 exhausting hours a week, we overschedule our children and therefore ourselves, and we do all this without thinking twice about how a good workout is going to fit into it. The result?

AMERICA IS FAT AND UNHEALTHY. Yeah, I said it. Look around. It's true. And it makes me so very, very sad because it doesn't have to be that way for ANYONE. Do you ever watch Jay Leno and hear him say "this is why America is fat" during his monologue? He hits the nail on the head every time.

I don't care if you're 65 years old, if you have arthritis, if you think you "can't run", if you don't know how to cook, if you work too much, or if you have 6 children. YOU STILL MUST MAKE TIME TO BE FIT. No excuse is acceptable to me. I don't expect you to be 120 pounds and rail thin, but YOU STILL MUST TAKE CARE OF YOUR HEALTH.

Yes, it's easier for me to make time than a lot of other people. I don't work outside the home, I "only" have 2 children, I have the resources available to me to make it a priority, and I have a supportive family. But I still have to DO THE WORK. I can still easily give in to exhaustion, laziness, or depression and decide not to do that 4 mile run.

BUT I DON'T.

One thing that frustrates me beyond measure and forces me to sometimes bite my tongue is when I hear friends (of all ages, but particularly middle aged or older, or those who have had children) laugh off their lack of fitness or their overweight reality as not a big deal...because they aren't young anymore it's expected that they would become out of shape or become overweight. When did becoming overweight as we age or have children become acceptable? I don't get that mentality at all. We should never accept a lack of fitness or an overweight body to become the expected reality for us just because we're AGING. Who cares if we're aging?

I'm nearly 38 years old and although I do miss my flatter stomach of 20 years ago I can still run laps around my 18 year old self BECAUSE I CHOOSE TO MAKE THAT MY NEW REALITY. Age is completely irrelevant to me. I do not expect to get slower as I age...I'm making myself get faster. I do not expect to run fewer marathons as I age. I'm signing up for MORE.

I hear friends talk about their medications and it makes me sad that they do not have any idea that if they just started a fitness routine and tweaked their diet the vast majority of their health problems would be gone. GONE. It took me only a few months to take 35 points off my cholesterol...because I bought a pair of running shoes and used them. My mom lost 50 pounds, reduced her meds signficantly and her fitness level is a complete 180 from where she was 2 years ago...because she joined a gym and did the work and continues to make that a priority. She's 65 years old and is in better shape than when she was 35. My 52 year-old brother-in-law has done something very similar and is a totally different man than 2 years ago, while passing on these important healthy habits to my 11 year old niece. And he does this as a single parent. My friend Tricia, who blogs at Endurance Isn't Only Physical, is another perfect example of someone who said NO MORE and changed her life, losing 128 pounds in a year....and she runs marathons! There is a 72 year old man in my running group who has run 60 marathons. He ran his first one when he was 58 YEARS OLD.

A friend of mine, Gene from the blog Accountability, posted this yesterday and told him I had to steal it. Forgive the F-bombs, but it gets my point across perfectly.



So don't tell me you can't. Don't tell me you don't have time. Don't tell me you're too old. Don't tell me you have too many health problems. Don't tell me you're too tired. I don't want to hear it.

As many of you know, I lost my 37 year old sister over 2 years ago. She was morbidly obese and was taking over a dozen different medications because of various ailments such as diabetes, high blood pressure, lupus, etc. The majority of her health problems would probably have ceased to exist had she adopted a healthier lifestyle. To say that I feel an incredible amount of guilt for failing in motivating her to change her habits is a huge understatement. I had so many opportunities to help her, but I didn't. I had opportunities to talk to her, to do research for her, to be a better supporter, but I didn't. Would it have saved her? I don't know...no one knows...but I'll never know for sure. Maybe it could have. Yes, I have a lot of guilt which fuels my anger and frustration at others for letting themselves become unhealthy.

I don't want to lose anyone else to preventable health problems. EVER.


So next time you catch yourself saying "I've just been so busy so I've put on 20 pounds," or "The last thing I want to do at night is exercise", or "My kids keep me so busy"....JUST STOP. Stop sabotaging yourself. 


Schedule your workouts.


Research healthy recipes.


Buy fresh ingredients.


Stop eating fast food.


PUSH YOUR LIMITS.

YOU ARE STRONGER THAN YOU THINK. AND YOU ARE WORTH THE EFFORT.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Change of Plans

Irony seems to be a really big part of my life lately. It's teaching me to just go with the flow and not sweat the small stuff. God has quite the sense of humor.

Saturday was supposed to be my 5th half marathon, the See Jane Run Austin Half Marathon. Notice I say "supposed to" be my 5th.

I had a great time checking out the race expo on Saturday. See Jane Run had some good vendors and very cute stuff to purchase. I was getting excited!




For the 10 days prior to the race the weather forecast called for rain, alternating between a 30% chance and a 60% chance. For Texas, that usually means it's definitely going to rain, but this year has been notorious regarding rain. We pretty much haven't had any in a year, certainly not any amount to get excited about. A little rain on race day would probably be welcome. But in reality, we knew the forecast would likely chance, just like every rain forecast in the past several months. Surprisingly, however, the chances were holding strong.

As I went to bed the night before the race, I checked one last time what the hourly forecast was going to be - about 70 degrees and 50% chance of thunderstorms. Could be interesting.

When I awoke race morning, this is what the forecast showed me:



Holy rainstorm, Batman. That did NOT look like fun. And it was heading right for us...pretty much any second. No rain for months, then BAM! Let's give it to Austin all at once ON RACE DAY. If we didn't need this damn rain so much I would have been angry.

My friend Heather headed down to the race site with me and it rained the entire time we were driving. Actually, "rain" doesn't really do justice to the experience we had heading the 20 miles or so to the venue. It was more like God dumped every drop of water from every single ocean directly onto my car so I couldn't see anything, much less the highway in front of me. Driving 40 miles an hour was too fast. It was absolutely insane and I'm pretty sure I've never driven in anything quite like that before. Add to it the massive lightning every few seconds and you've got yourself a mother of a storm. At this point it was past 5:30am, with a race start of 7am.  I figured we'd make it down to the race site, see what the plan was, and hope the storm passed. I knew the race officials would make the right decision and cancel if it was just too dangerous.

As we navigated off the freeway to the start, I noticed the flooded streets...the streets we would be running on. Well, that's not so good.

I'm so glad Heather was with me because it was incredibly confusing to try to find where we were supposed to park....I come to find out that the street leading to the parking area was actually being blocked off my Austin PD on purpose because of the flooding I presume. We found a spot on the street to park and then discovered that they were in fact cancelling the race.

I'm totally not surprised. It simply was not safe for us to run. Between the lightning and the flooding of the venue, there was just no way to even postpone it. A bit of a disappointment, sure, but it is what it is. We REALLY needed the rain and I was just so thrilled that we were getting some. I honestly think it was way more important for us to get rain that for me to run a race.

Heather and I headed back home and the wheels were immediately spinning on how I was going to make up for missing the race. I could go to the gym. I could see if the rain passed enough at home to still get a good run in. I could push my run to Monday. Lots of options. There was no reason NOT to run at some point.

As a side note, I do have to bring up the cancellation and the fall out See Jane Run received from their decision. First and foremost, although I have never been a race director, I do understand the implications of tough decisions. My husband has directed a race before, and I understand the logistics involved are way more intense than those not involved could possibly fathom. It's common sense to realize that putting a race on is absolutely intense. That being said, having to cancel a race like this, with over 1500 runners, would be an agonizing decision. I never once believed that the See Jane Run organizers made a hasty, inaccurate, dumb decision. Never once. If they believed it needed to be cancelled, then I trusted them.

I went onto the See Jane Run Facebook page yesterday to follow up and see more details on the cancellation and the champagne/chocolate banquet they very quickly put together at the host hotel (since they couldn't provide that post race). I was immediately horrified at the nastiness they were enduring from runners pissed off about cancellation. These people were spewing such ridiculous things it made me cringe. First of all, races are NEVER refundable, as we are required to agree to accept when we sign up for a race (trust me, it's very clearly spelled out for all races). But people were assuming that they could get refunded and were completely pissed to find out that wasn't the case. They assumed See Jane Run had all this money leftover that they could just give it all back to us. Ridiculous thought since nearly all race money is spent long before the event. You can't refund money that doesn't exist, which is why a no-refund policy is the standard. SJR immediately offered a discount to all of us for any of their U.S. races next year, not just Austin - to me this was more than fair and a very nice gesture on their part. We still had our shirts (which were awesome, by the way) and those of us who chose to attend the brunch received champagne, a glass, and chocolate. (I did not attend, but that's okay). Additionally, so many people were questioning their judgement. SJR deferred to the expertise of the directors, the APD, EMS, and just basic common sense when they made the decision. They waited as long as possible, hoping they could just postpone, but the flooding made that impossible. The heavy downpour didn't happen until after 5am and even then it was far heavier than anticipated. SJR explained until they were blue in the face all of the rationale involved in their decision...it was crazy how many times they repeated themselves with a completely logical explanation, but people simply refused to get beyond their anger. Lastly, people demanded a reschedule, clearly not understanding that it's a huge process to even put a race on in the first place. To reschedule would require months of planning and more money. Again, I think the discount for next year is a very fair alternative.

It basically comes down to  runner safety above and beyond anything else. Why people can't understand that just blows my mind. How they can be so rude and disrespectful disgusts me. These race officials were busting their butts while 3 inches of rain poured on them, they had to be wary of lightning cracking over their heads, and had to try to answer questions from those who did show up for the race, all the while trying to keep social media and email updates going out. I can't imagine the incredible stress they were under. But clearly all this just isn't good enough for some people. It's revolting how nasty human nature can be. I just have to shake my head.

Needless to say, I've commented on a lot of posts on the SJR Facebook page...so much apparently that one user asked if I worked for them. No, buddy, I'm just not a jackass and can see common sense when it stares me in the face.

Okay, now that I've gotten that all out....

I decided that I would run my own solo half marathon through my neighborhood Monday morning. I mentioned this to the kids and Greg and they thought this was a good idea. My kids even made me medals out of cardstock that they would give me when I was done. Brady had the idea to even make some signs that said "1 more mile" to wave at me at my 12 mile mark. This wasn't looking so bad after all!  I named this attempt the Stephie Solo Half Marathon - 10/10/11.  Game on!

As I went to bed last night I realized that 10/10/11 would have been my sister's 13th wedding anniversary. 13 miles for 13 years? Sounds like a plan.

"Race" morning arrived and it was a decent 66 degrees outside...with 98% humidity. Wow, really? 98%...fun. I started off conservative and didn't pick up my pace too much, knowing the humidity would suck the life out of my lungs if I did. I didn't need to race this, but just wanted something decent. I thought about all the years of my sister's marriage...one year for every mile I was completing. It was a peaceful run. Unfortunately, I started to feel that stupid tendinitis again at about an hour into the run. But it wasn't just tightness, it was actual pain. For about the next mile I contemplated my options. I could stop and just bag it and save my ankle, I could push through and risk injury, I could walk and finish the distance. I decided that I would head home to retrieve my stashed hydration, take a walk break, and see how I felt. I hit my house at about 7.3 miles and continued on by walking. I knew that not finishing all 13.1 miles just wasn't a viable option. I wanted those medals!

I walked for about 2.2 miles and since my ankle was no longer hurting I decided to run again. To be conservative, I stopped again at 11 miles (letting Greg know where I was so they could meet me at 12), walked about a half mile more, then picked it up to the meeting spot. Seeing my kids and husband was just awesome.


A little more walking, a strong finish, and I was done with 13.1 miles. It wasn't exactly pretty, but I had no choice but to play it smart. I estimate my running pace averaged about a 9:40 pace, definitely slower than normal for me. Adding in the 2.9 miles of walking and I ended up at 2:23. I figure a full running half would have netted me a 2:08 time, respectable considering the 98% humidity and solo effort.


The absolute best part about the whole thing, however, was that I earned two very special medals. I'm pretty sure these will be my favorite medals of all time.


Stephie Solo Half Marathon Finisher - 10/10/11 - 2:23:37

Friday, October 7, 2011

Race Weekend

I've had so many mixed emotions and thoughts regarding the See Jane Run Austin Half Marathon coming up on Sunday, that I figured I should just get it out on the blog....you know, the blog I totally suck at updating regularly.

I know my training has gone pretty well considering it was all pretty much done during the absolute worst summer ever (and that's not exaggerating).  I did a lot of running inside, which is still warm and uncomfortable, but I also did several long runs outside. The only blip in my training that has me a little worried (besides the stupid tendinitis) is the fact that I was sick and unable to do a double digit run for over 2 weeks, first with a stomach virus, and then with a respiratory illness. I had nearly 3 weeks between long runs (although I did have a couple 6 milers in between that I suppose count for something).  My mileage was definitely lacking. The good news is that my recent long runs have felt pretty great.

We previewed the course last weekend and it's HILLY.  I'm not really all that scared of hills, but I also haven't really trained on any this summer. I know how to tackle them without them totally hurting me and I just need to remember that on race day. The course is also totally ghetto. Absolute bummer on that one. In a city as awesome as Austin, it disappoints me that the race directors could not secure a more scenic route, especially for a women's race. I need to remember while running the race that after 10 miles the scenery improves significantly....winding through a more well-kept neighborhood with a tree canopy, and then into a new neighborhood and park for the finish.

The weather is another bone of contention for me. It won't be particularly hot, certainly not hotter than what I'm used to training in, but I have to admit I was really looking forward to some cooler temps for this. We've had a few recent weekends that have been perfect weather-wise - upper 50s, low 60s, and just really nice. It will start out in the low 70s for this race, but not likely get any hotter, so that's good. Plus there will likely be rain, which is good and bad. Good because it will mean cloud cover and cooling off when the rain pelts us, but bad because it will be humid. We've had some dry conditions lately, so humidity is tough. Thank God for my inhaler.

Conditions aside, I'm just nervous in general. I have not had a great race in a very long time. I have a total mental block on race day. It's just tough for me to believe it's going to be good. I just want to feel strong the entire race, finish time irrelevant. I want to have faith in my training and that I am perfectly capable of duplicating the success of my long runs. If I can finish at 10 minute pace but feel great then that is success. I'd prefer a sub 9:30 pace, but I don't want to totally hurt to get there. My absolute stretch goal? A sub-2 hour finish. But I realize that in warmer, humid, hilly conditions, it would take all I've got to get that goal.

My plan is to start off slow and force myself to keep a slow pace through 2 miles. After that I can let my body do what it wants to and it will naturally speed up. Once I get past about 6 miles the hills get a bit easier overall and I just need to get into a rhythm. Once I hit double digits I can totally push it to the finish. I need to remember this....if I can there's no reason to think I can't pull a 2:03 or a 2:04 comfortably.

The champagne and chocolate at the end are just icing on the cake.

Happy Running!!

Monday, September 12, 2011

4 weeks out...confidence increasing!

My first half marathon in over 2 years is coming up in 27 days and I'm nervous and excited. I want to run well, but there are always those little uncertainties that creep in and threaten my confidence. Will it be too warm for me to run well?  Will I give up at mile 5 before I've really gotten into a comfortable rhythm? Will I got out too fast and screw up the whole race? And the biggest one of all - will my Achilles tendon be okay?

I haven't run 12 miles since my last marathon in February. I ran 11 in March plus several 10 milers both on the treadmill and outside this summer. But 12 is kind of the "holy grail" for me when it comes to half marathon training. It's only 1.1 miles short of the half marathon, and I know I can always push through just one more mile, so if I can get in a decent 12 miler I have the confidence going into the race, knowing that my body will hold up.  I did my 12 miler yesterday morning, taking advantage of the lower morning temperatures and lower humidity. It was 11 days after my last long run of 10 miles, so I felt fairly rested and very much ready for the challenge.

When I woke up at 5am it was 71 degrees and only about 40% humidity. It was projected to drop a couple of degrees over the course of the next 2 hours so I was going to be in great shape weather-wise. My ankle felt "okay," a bit tight but not in pain. I was hydrated and fueled.

I forgot how incredibly peaceful it can be when you're running at 5:30am. It was absolutely beautiful out, with a nice full moon to help with visibility. I didn't see a lot of other runners out at all, which surprised me. Although they are more likely to be out on Saturdays, and this was a Sunday. I took it very easy the first couple of miles and was actually surprised that my quads felt slightly fatigued. I had run 4 miles with my training group (in a conservative 39 minutes) the day before, but I didn't figure that would make too much of a difference in how my legs felt. I'm definitely not used to running the day before a long run so perhaps that made a bit of a difference in how my legs felt. I shook it off and just focused on maintaining a nice pace.

After a few miles I definitely was getting into a groove. I felt like I could keep running a little bit faster with every mile. I could feel a bit of fatigue as I crept up on double digits in my mileage, but that was to be expected. The middle miles flew by fairly quickly. I missed this feeling! It's been awhile :) The only thing that was slightly unnerving to me was that my ankle felt kind of tight during the run. I wouldn't call it painful, but I was aware of the tendinitis.

I did a couple things differently in this run. Instead of hydrating with a sports drink like Pure Sport, I was using Nuun (very few calories) and getting my calories during the run strictly with gels. Usually I go lighter on the gels because I'm fueling with a calorie-filled sports drink. I prefer Nuun more than anything else now, so I wanted to test it out. Second, I never looked at my pace on my Garmin. I checked my mile splits to see if I was slowly increasing my pace, but I strictly did this run by feel.

I'd say these two things were a huge success. The Nuun and extra gel worked great. I never felt super fatigued or under-fueled. By focusing less on "expected" pace and more on feel, I was able to listen to my body better and it paid me back with almost perfect negative splits: 10:00, 9:56, 9:45, 9:42, 9:37, 9:27, 9:26, 9:20, 9:18, 9:12, 9:03, 9:05 for just under 1 hour, 54 minutes in 12 miles.  It didn't feel like I was running that much quicker at the end of the run versus the beginning, and that's always my goal....to make a quicker pace feel natural to me. In a race, if I kept this up and gave it my all during that last mile, I could potentially have a 2:03 half marathon time. I would be THRILLED with a 2:03.

So I think I was able to accomplish what I set out to do: comfortably finish a 12 mile run, do it with little Achilles pain, fuel and hydrate properly, have negative splits, and build confidence going into my half marathon.

Bring it on!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

An update, stream of consciousness, and what's coming up

I'm really trying to figure out this whole blogging thing.  I'm terrible about keeping it regular, I'm terrible about keeping up with my favorite blogs, I'm terrible about commenting on those blogs, I'm terrible about putting time aside to dedicate to all of the above.

But I still love this. Blogging is pretty great.

An update on me...

Last time I left you with crappy negative thoughts and a new injury.  I'm trying to ignore the crappy people that give me crappy thoughts, and I'm doing okay with that. I saw my buddy the podiatrist (Dr. Scott Pattison) and he was really nice to me even after I completely forgot about my first appointment. He didn't even give me a shot or anything as punishment. He didn't even tell me to really rest much! My Achilles tendinitis is minor at this point but does need some TLC. Icing and this nifty anti-inflammatory cream that I rub on my ankle 4 times per day. And stretching. And changing things up a bit...like cross training and not so much treadmill work.  I think I may actually survive this thing.

Stream of consciousness...

I've had all sorts of little ideas I've had for blog posts but since I suck at blogging, I'm just going to throw a bunch of random things at you instead of actually sitting down for an extended period of time and writing an entire blog post about said ideas.

1. I miss my sister. It totally sucks. This has been a terrible couple of weeks for me grief-wise. She's been gone for 2 years and 1 month and her birthday (#40) just passed. The tears are pretty regular and come at inopportune times.

2. I need to find more time to scrapbook. It used to be a passion. I need to rediscover that passion. I have so many amazing, awesome, fabulous pictures and stories to tell from the past few years.

3. I ran a 5K yesterday. I started off at PR pace (24:40 is my PR) and I think I could have at least been at 25:15 or faster. But I stopped at a little over a mile in to help a friend with asthma problems. I was worried about her and didn't feel right continuing on, so we ran it together. We finished in 28:40. I'm pretty damn impressed by her. Still a great workout for me.



4. I'm worried about these wildfires. My husband left town this morning. I don't like being here worried without him. I thought I moved to Texas. The air looks like Los Angeles and the wildfires are so California-esque. I guess I've got quite a bit of familiarity with wildfires.



5. My kids will not stop arguing with each other. They are totally making me crazy. I can't really be in the same room with both of them for more than about 30 minutes at a time.  They are just awful to each other. Please let this phase pass for at least 5 minutes. Please.

6. Did I mention I miss my sister? It sucks. I REALLY miss her. I want her back. Can't someone make that happen already?



7. I'm tired of people who think they are better than others. Everyone needs a dose of humble pie.

8. We finally have a break in our excruciating heat. I may be off by a day or two but I think Austin had 80 days of 100+ degree temperatures. I believe yesterday was the first time it didn't hit 90 since May. This morning it was 61 degrees out when I woke up.  I have seen a sub-70 degree temp in so long I forgot what it felt like. I wore a jacket this morning.

9. I've started cooking more and finding fun new recipes. I kinda like it. But I also still like take-out and being lazy. I'm not much of a cook, but at least I'm trying.


10. I had a pretty fun and bizarre (for me) workout this morning. 50 flights of stairs. Upper body workout. Core work. 1.5 miles of walking at a 2-4% incline. Then I thought it would be swell to throw in a random 1 mile run. Started it at 8 mph, pushed it up to 8.4.  Mile ended up being 7:24. Not bad a day after a race, and after all that other exercise first. I was fatigued and ran a 7:24 mile. Feels good. Well, except for the shin splints.

11. I've never run a sub-7 minute mile. Next week I am going to do that.

What's coming up for me...

Today I am going to register for another race. My awesome friend Diana lives in Washington D.C. and she's the one who got me into running back in 2007.  We're going to run the Rock n Roll USA Half Marathon on March 17 in D.C. To run in our nation's capital sounds pretty much perfect to me. I get to see things like this:


My next race is the See Jane Run Half Marathon in Austin on October 9. I'm excited and nervous. I think my ankle will hold up just fine and I think I can turn a respectable performance. We'll see if it's a PR (1:59:26) performance, but I'm not necessarily training for that. First and foremost I need to take care of my ankle. I know I've gotten faster this summer, but we'll have to see how that translates to a long distance. And the weather in October can be pretty unpredictable. I have a lot of friends running, too, so I know that no matter what it will be a great time.

Did I mention that next week I'm going to run my very first sub-7 minute mile? I'll have my sweet hubby by my side.

Friday, August 19, 2011

So what's up with me?

I haven't blogged in almost a month. I've had ideas on what to write about but something is always getting in the way of getting it out....our schedule, writer's block, the desire to nap frequently....I guess I just haven't been feeling very inspired.

Since I resigned from our HOA board, I'd like to say that my stress level has gone down and I suppose in a few ways it has. It's nice to have that time free for other things, but I don't seem to be any less busy. We have managed to keep our schedule pretty full, and while a lot of it has been fun and great (I love my friends!!!), some things just seem like such a time-sucker.  I'd love nothing more than 5 solid days of absolutely no distractions. Doesn't everyone!? 

I think I'm going through a phase of just being very disconcerted, very disillusioned, and I guess downright depressed about things I see around me, in the news, in the world in general. It seems stupid to let a lot of little things (and I suppose some big things) just get me in the dumps, but I suppose that's what has happened.  My faith in the human race is being tested. I'm appalled at the things I see not just in the news but even around me with people I know. It's disgusting to me that there is such a level of selfishness in people that they can think of no one else but themselves, that some have no regard for how they treat others or how their actions may effect others. It just seems like so many people's priorities are put into the wrong things....whether it's material, for pleasure, and even a sense of superiority over others. I'm seeing it all and I'm disturbed.

I admit that I'm not perfect....FAR FROM IT. I have moments of wanting to be purely selfish. But it always comes back down to my priority - MY FAMILY. They come first with me. That's part of the reason that I resigned from the board. I felt like they were getting shafted with my time and I needed to put a stop to that. Plus they needed a less stressed mom and more quality time. If I need time to myself, I take it, and it makes me a better mom when I circle back to them. It's not at their detriment.

Poor Greg keeps getting an earful from me about how things and people are just pissing me off, and luckily he totally understands and often feels the same way. I need to shake this resentment, however, and get back to focusing on happy things. Getting it out on the blog seems to be a good start. Maybe writing about my feelings will be a good start to moving onto more positive feelings.

So what else is up with me?

I think I'm injured.

For a few weeks now I've felt some discomfort in my right Achilles tendon after a run.  A little bit of pain, some stiffness, a little inflexibility. I find it stiffens up when I've been immobile for a bit as well.  Sure sounds like tendonitis to me, so I'm going with that. Of course, rest is one of the things that is recommended to "cure" it, but we all know that's not really going to happen. About the only thing that would force me to rest is a fracture. I'm stubborn like that. But I do know that I need to baby the tendon if the problem is going to go away. So for right now, I'm doing yoga for increased flexibility, doing extra stretching after runs, icing about 3 times per day, taking anti-inflammatories after my runs, and praying for healing. I'm going to look into accupressure as well.

My half marathon is in 7 weeks and I want to have a good time. I want to walk away from it uninjured and ready for my next marathon in January. I need this injury to be resolved.

I've resently felt a bit discouraged about my running. I had a very tough 10 miler two weeks ago that prompted a week-long rest from running. I had a hard time keeping up my usual pace, felt overheated, ended up taking walking breaks, and was stiff and sore afterwards. I focused on stretching, core, and flexibility for that rest week and it seemed to help me both physically and mentally. I've had good runs this week, including a really great speedwork session on Monday. Tomorrow I'm running a 10 miler outside - my first outside long run in quite awhile because of the heat. But I think my Achilles needs to feel something different than a treadmill, so outside I'm running. I know it will be slower and hotter than I'm used to, but I'll be just fine. I plan to run before sunrise, will do two 5 mile loops so I can switch out my hydration at my house and have an icy towel handy to cool off with. I think it will be good to change things up.

School starts on Tuesday and my training group - Round Rock Fit - officially starts up on the 27th. I'm a coach again this year and I'm thrilled to be getting back to what I love....training with some of the coolest people out there. And with training officially starting that means cooler temps are around the corner. After 65 triple digit days and dozens more above 90 degrees since April it seems hard to believe. But I have to grasp that hope or this heat really will make me absolutely insane. It's been AWFUL. It's really no fun to keep breaking heat records and now we've endured the hottest summer ever around here....EVER.  Freezing temp runs will never feel better and I can't wait!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tough Decisions

Our lives are constantly filled with decisions that we need to make, some big, some small, some far reaching, some private. Some are easy ones to make...others require hours, days, even weeks of analyzing, deliberating, praying, and soul searching.

I've recently had to make such a decision. For over 2 years I served on our neighborhood's Board of Directors, an exciting position in the beginning, one I enjoyed as it offered me an outlet for some creativity (I started the website) and the ability to help out friends and neighbors by making our neighborhood even better. I knew there would be some uncomfortable tasks, and there were. But unfortunately there were also many things that we simply couldn't anticipate, particularly because it's a relatively new neighborhood, and these things consumed huge amounts of time, caused a lot of stress, and had implications beyond what we expected. It just wasn't too much fun. However, I made a commitment to serve until November of 2011.

There have been many, many times I've wanted to resign. To say being on an HOA Board is a thankless job is an understatement. People feel they can cut you down, insult you, and spew incorrect information without any thought to how it makes one feel. I've put up with a lot of crap the last 2+ years, but because I wanted to keep my integrity I refused to quit. Some people in particular felt like it was their life's calling to disagree with pretty much anything the Board said or wanted to do. Do you have any idea how hard it is to try to be fair, calm, and professional when all you want to do is tell someone to go to Hell and not come back?

Although the insults seem to have waned in the last several months, the job hasn't gotten easier. It's taken up a lot of my time and just wasn't filled with fun tasks. There were so many things we wanted to be able to do, but due to several different circumstances we just haven't been able to. Instead our time seemed to be filled with fixing problems, and not moving forward.

The last week has been particularly difficult. I was finding myself having to make some tough decisions but completely paralyzed from doing so. I felt I was put into some difficult circumstances and no matter what my decision was it wasn't going to be the "right" decision. It was heartbreaking to me that my emotions were getting the better of me, that the stress was overtaking my life and subsequently sucking the joy out of each day.

My family is the most important thing to me...but Mama wasn't happy. And when Mama isn't happy, it's hard to give the right amount of focus to the family and to truly give my husband and my kids what they deserved.

So I had a decision to make. Stick it out for 4 more months and commit to something that would take up hours upon hours of my time each week and certainly not be easy....OR I could resign, to hang my hat up for good and move on. It may on the surface seem like a very easy decision to make but it wasn't. I had two other board members to think about, people I had developed a friendship with, and I had my integrity to consider. Was I "giving up" or did I truly give it my best shot? Was I reneging on a commitment or doing what was best for everyone?

In the course of all this angst, we got some potentially bad news on Wednesday that Greg's job was in jeopardy because of company-wide layoffs. This is the first time he'd ever felt like he might be laid off in his 12 years with his company. Something his boss said just gave him a sinking feeling. He's a valuable employee and a true asset to his company, but if your position is eliminated there's really not much you can do but move on. To say this was even more stress-inducing is an understatement. I knew we'd be okay, that it could be a blessing in disguise, but the unknown was just overwhelming to me.

I did a lot of praying and entirely too much thinking over the course of a few days. To be frank, I was just plain miserable. I cried. I was exhausted. But then on Sunday, I had a moment of clarity. I realized I just couldn't do it anymore. I had other things that needed my focus, namely my family. Ultimately they are what I live for. A volunteer position is just that - a VOLUNTEER position. I had volunteered my time, I had served, but I had no true obligation to continue if it wasn't what I really wanted to focus my energy on.

What I DID want to do was to be with my family, to have a clear mind and clear heart, to spend my time doing things that brought me joy, to be SELFISH with my time for once. The only way I could do that was to give up my position, no matter what that could mean for others. I had to start thinking of myself and to stop being a martyr because I thought I was doing what was "right." Taking time away from my family was not what was right at all, however.

Once I hit the "send" button on my resignation email, I immediately felt so much better. A huge weight was suddenly off my shoulders. I felt free to give back to my family and to my husband. It was the right decision.

If there is something in your life that isn't what you want it to be, then see if you can change it. If it's something that you can let go, then maybe that's what you should do. There is no joy in life when we wake up everyday dreading what we need to do. There is no joy when we don't feel good about the tasks ahead of us. We must put ourselves and our loved ones first and foremost on our priority list. I want to be a good wife, a good mom, and a positive influence to others. I can't do that when I'm crying and tearing my hair out.

Yep, I feel better now.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The DREADMILL

Ever since I started running I have hated the idea of treadmills.  Why run on a treadmill in a gym if you can enjoy the beautiful outdoors that God gave us?  The trails around my house and neighborhood are peaceful, wonderful, relatively flat, and span several miles. The streets in the neighborhood offer countless different routes and a guarantee you'll see someone you know while on your run. There's really nothing NOT to love.



HOWEVER.....

If you have ever been in Texas in the summer, you know it's pretty much like Hell on Earth. Even at 5am the humidity will hover at over 85% and the temp rarely dips below 75 degrees. It doesn't sound bad temperature-wise until you get about a mile into your run and realize you can't breathe and that's sweat dripping off your elbow.  It's enough to make even a hardcore runner take pause and realize it doesn't feel good at all. Sure, a runner can slog through it and get those miles in, but is it enjoyable?

Two years ago I signed Greg and I up for the Napa-to-Sonoma Half Marathon, which would take place in mid-July.  Temperatures at the race would probably be in the 50s and 60s, humidity hit or miss. Scenery: spectacular. Wine at the finish. A race meant for me and Greg to run together. Something I didn't really think too much about was TRAINING for said race. Training up until July in Texas. Doing a 12 mile run in 80 degrees, plus countless runs over 8 miles leading up to that. To put it bluntly, it was miserable. The race itself was pretty great, but I vowed that would be the last summertime half marathon I would ever train for in the hot Texas summer.

Last year I had a bout of exhaustion that derailed any quality summertime running. I struggled every time I was out there. I pretty much maxed out at 4 miles and it simply was not enjoyable for me at all.  I was typically running at a 9:45 pace or slower, whereas my usual training pace is 9:15-9:30.  I was dejected that I was getting slower and struggling so much.  My marathon training season pace really wasn't much better, although I was able to enjoy some cooler and more comfortable, albeit slower than usual, runs during the fall and winter.

I knew I needed to make a change this season if I wanted to maintain my running shape.  I had no choice but to embrace the dreaded TREADMILL, or as my running friends like to call it, THE DREADMILL.  *cue foreboding music here*

Up until my first day in my gym my longest treadmill run was 4 miles, plus I had done a 5 mile run with a walking break at 3.  I jumped right into my new routine, however, and was consistently posting 4 and 5 mile runs, and even a 10K, within the first month at the gym.  I do strength training and core work before my treadmill runs so I'm already slightly fatigued before I even start.  If someone, especially a dude, hops on the treadmill next to me, I usually crank up the speed and push myself more than usual.  After I missed a 10k race because of traffic, I immediately headed to the gym and got my frustrations out on the treadmill. I posted a 44-minute 5 mile run, which is almost my 10k race pace. I do speed interval workouts consistently so I can continue to push my pace. I'm running harder, faster, more efficiently, and I'm not dreading every single run.  I get to watch young buff dudes people during their workouts, or read the headlines on the TVs set up in front of the cardio equipment. I can sleep in later and not worry about how hot and sunny it's getting outside. If I want to run at 11am I can, when it's 95 degrees outside.

Today I posted my very first 10 mile non-stop treadmill run.  Well, almost non-stop.  You see, the treadmills at our gym max out at 60 minutes, so when that session was up (at 6.3 miles), I paused, took my shirt off (it gets warm in our gym! I still sweat a lot), reset the 'mill for another 3.7 miles and continued on my quest for double-digits.  I ran it in 1:34, which is 9:25 pace.  Last week I did 5 miles, then strength training, then another 5 miles for a total running time of 1:33, a 9:18 pace.  It's a huge difference from how I felt running long runs last year.

Last week Greg and I did a couple of short runs outside during late morning. I'm running a 5K on September 5 and a half marathon on October 9 so I do need to stay slightly acclimated to outdoor running.  It was already very hot when we started, but I just ran with what felt comfortable.  I rarely looked at my Garmin to check my pace, but when I did I was consistently seeing sub-9 minute pace, and it felt easy.  During the last mile of one of the runs, when I was definitely feeling the heat, I ended up running FASTER.  I absolutely attribute it to my treadmill runs.

Color me shocked....I AM LOVING THE TREADMILL.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

I won! I won!!

One cool thing about getting into tweeting and blogging is finding those totally awesome friends who host giveaways on their blogs (although the best part is just finding great people who are supportive, inspirational, and completely fabulous). For example, my friend Tricia is always giving away awesome running stuff on her blog, Endurance Isn't Only Physical, and I've entered a couple of them...along with a billion other folks because Tricia is one popular chickie. She recently hosted a giveway for a medal display.  Greg and I have been talking about how we really need to get some kind of medal holder because we now have 13 total between the two of us.  It's getting kind of obnoxious how we're displaying them.


When Tricia announced her Allied Medal Display giveaway I got super excited...not only because I could get a great solution for FREE, but because the displays are exactly what I'm looking for.  I'll be adding at least 4 more medals to my collection in the next 8 months so I needed a display that was going to hold what I already had with room to add more. 

And you know what???  I WON!!!!  Here's the display I plan to order:


Pretty awesome, don't you think?  Thanks Tricia and thanks Allied Medal Displays!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Which is worse? Watching The Bachelorette or getting shot in the head?

I will admit that I'm kind of a Bachelor junkie.  I've watched most seasons of both The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, but do tend to skip the seasons of the people who just completely annoy the crap out of me. Take, for example, Bachelorette #6, Ali Fedotowsky.  She's a pretty girl, but let's face it. She's ANNOYING. That little whine of hers? Holy cow, it makes me want to scream. When she whined and carried on when she had to leave during Jake's Bachelor season, I literally threw things at the TV. ABC then did the unthinkable - they cast her as the next Bachelorette. That was going to be one season I avoided. Weeks and weeks of non-stop Ali whining was not my cup of tea.

* side note - Greg made the mistake of turning it on during week 3 or 4 and we subsequently got totally sucked into it...of course. That may have had a lot to do with the beefcake on her season. Just saying.

ABC did it again. They cast the most annoying girl of Brad Womack's Bachelor season, Ashley Hebert, as the next Bachelorette. Now granted, most of the ladies on Brad's season were pretty awful, but Ashley? Miss Indecisive, Miss "I Can't Communicate"? Would there really be 25 men actually interested enough in her to want to be on the show? She may be perfectly fine in real life (who knows??), but as a TV reality star? Are you flipping kidding me? It stills boggles the mind that Mr. Womack even kept her around as long as he did.

I immediately told Greg that NO! We weren't watching the next season. He didn't listen. He invites people to our house to watch it. I'm forced into it.

So what's my solution? BLOGGING!!  It's most definitely time for me to blog about my irritation. This will not be pretty, I'm sure.

One of the things that bugged the crap out of me about Ashley during Brad's season was that she was so wishy-washy about her feelings for him. When he confronted her about their "future", she didn't exactly get all giddy at the idea that in order to become his wife she'd have to move to Austin. Well, DUH. He owns bars in Austin. It's his life. You can't exactly move that somewhere else, now can you? But to be a dentist? Last I checked there are dentists in every city in America. And her insecurity was off the charts. Did you think you wouldn't be competing with other women on THE FREAKING BACHELOR? Well, there's another big DUH for you.  So instead of getting all freaked out, insecure, bitchy, and annoying, just chill out, enjoy your dates, and take the opportunities as they come for time alone. You got the first one-on-one date, lady....CHILL OUT. She just got worse and worse as the season continued. What a mess.

It was painfully clear that this is one woman who is completely not ready for marriage, sacrifice, compromise, and anything that involves being selfless. To cast her as The Bachelorette certainly makes for dramatic (you knew I'd use that word) reality TV...but not GOOD reality TV, that's for sure.

I don't read up on spoilers, so I have no idea how the season will play out. I'm convinced she ends up with no one. If I'm wrong, don't ruin it for me. While I keep saying I'm not going to finish out this season, Greg has other ideas.  But I still say she ends up with no one.

Before I continue my Ashley-bashing, I will point out a few good things about her. Because, let's face it, I'm not completely insensitive and mean. She is a decently pretty girl and of course she's in shape. Two completely pointless things in the long run. Anyone who bases everything on looks is just asking for disappointment in life. Actually, being in shape is kinda important. It's vital to be healthy and not a couch potato. But I digress. She's cute enough.  She is apparently educated, as she's in the middle of dental school. She will be Dr. Ashley Hebert soon, supposedly, and it's good that she plans to have a rewarding career that will provide future stability for her family. Lastly, she obviously wants to be in a relationship, but I'm not sure if this is good or bad. Desperation breeds disappointment. I'm running out of good things to say. Oh...she has nice teeth.

Now let's start the long list of why Ashley sucks as The Bachelorette and why she is subsequently sucking the joy of watching the show out of every ounce of my being.

1. Worst Judge of Character EVER.

Okay, seriously, Ash, you were WARNED about Bentley. Now, mind you, it was from Michelle Money, the biggest freakshow on Brad's season. But still, YOU WERE WARNED. Had I been in her shoes, I just would've flat out confronted Bentley on Day 1 about what was said about him. If there's one thing I've learned after so many years of watching friends go through bad relationship crap, it's that if there's a warning about someone, IT'S USUALLY TRUE. At least in some capacity. And even if she hadn't been warned about him, Bentley has sleeze written all over him. Compared to some of the other guys on the season, he's a total slimebucket. The guy can't even carry on a meaninful conversation. And he spends entirely too much time on his hair. A guy who spends more time that I do in front of the mirror has got to go. Plus, this is the guy WHO WALKED AWAY! Yes, he told her it was for his daughter (which we all know was BS anyway) but still, HE WALKED AWAY! And left her hanging! If that didn't give her red flags to realize this guy was not worth it, then nothing was going to knock sense into her and her judgement (or lack thereof).



2. Her Inability to Communicate

Watching Ashley and Bentley try to have a conversation is worse than having my fingernails pulled out one by one. Although that's never actually happened to me, I'm pretty sure it would suck worse than anything else ever. That's what it's like trying to sit through two communication-duds trying to get their feelings out. I tried to get Greg to fast forward through their last scene together but he's the remote Nazi and he wouldn't budge. I think he likes me to suffer.

And then there's the scene where she tells all the guys that she saw Bentley in Hong Kong. Really, could she have handled it any worse? "Hi guys, I totally fell for Bentley, and I had unresolved feelings, and I got to see him here in Hong Kong, but he's gone now, and everything is okay, and all you guys are better than him anyway." That's not really how she said it all, but that's the general idea. How easy would it have been to tell them she hadn't been able to shake him, although she was developing strong feelings for them as well, and she felt she needed more closure from him to truly move on and give the guys the attention they deserved. Did she have to mention she completely fell for him? And then to blow it all off like it was no big deal and not even give them an opportunity to say much to her about it. What does she then do? Walks away. Uh....okay. Yeah, that's a good problem solver right there.

Kudos to Mickey for taking off. He finally figured it out.

3. Her ridiculously annoying INSECURITY

Can this woman just get over it already? Insecurity breeds more insecurity. Look in the mirror, find some self-love, stop freaking out over every little thing. Yes, when William roasted her, that sucked, but he was a tool. I would have been pissed off, too, but MOVE ON ALREADY.  Be secure in yourself, realize that you have things to offer, and get to know these guys on your own personal merits. Insecurity is incredibly unattractive. No man wants to spend his life trying to bolster up your sagging ego and reassuring you that you're swell. Talk about exhausting. And a relationship-killer. I've been insecure before and it's stupid. I like myself a lot now. I've been with Greg for 16 years. Yay! I got over it and found success.

4. Her choice of clothing....or lack thereof

Ashley, I'm going to let you in on a little secret: It's not necessary to constantly wear itty bitty little miniskirts and to show your abs in 90% of the scenes. As a matter of fact, it kinda makes you look easy. No, not just kinda. It REALLY makes you look easy. Of course you have a nice body, but why not leave just a little to the imagination?  If you're always having to cross your legs when you sit so the guys aren't looking up your super short skirt, then maybe it's time to put some jeans on instead.  And is it necessary for every dress to be skintight? And every shirt SEE THROUGH? I laughed out loud during the boxing group date when she was parading around in her sports bra. A tank wasn't good enough? seriously?  We know you have good abs, my dear. But if you find it necessary to use your body to attract the guys' attention, then what does that truly say about what you have to offer them?



5. Her lip biting

Okay, so we all have stupid little physical quirks that might be deemed unattractive and annoying to others. But Ashley's lip biting drives me batty. Sometimes it's her lip, sometimes the inside of her cheek, but she constantly does it. Especially when she's on the hot seat by one of the guys. It's like her nervous little tick. And you know what it says to me? That she resorts to it because the girl CAN'T COMMUNICATE!  She has no idea how to get her feelings out in a constructive, meaningful way, so she bites her own face. Add to it her constant use of "uh huh" and you have yourself one irritating chick.

So now that I've shown my mean side in spades by trashing Ashley, what do I think about the guys?  I really have no idea, because I've spend so much time focusing on my annoyance with the Bachelorette that I almost forget that there are worthy guys still on the show. Good looking worthy guys. I will say that I thought I liked Ryan, but if the other guys are that completely annoyed with him, it's likely I'd get fed up pretty quickly, too.  Never mind that he's hot. I do like J.P. and Ben the winemaker. Well, duh, of course I'm going to like the winemaker. Maybe that's what I need to focus on in the next episode. Staring at the guys. Yeah.....

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Houston Marathon #2!

My 2011 marathon season wasn't exactly what I was hoping for.  You can read about both my marathons here and here. The plan was to run Houston on January 30 and Austin on February 20.  My training season was okay, but definitely my toughest. Race day weather was mediocre. It just didn't turn out like I had hoped.

I told my husband afterwards that I just wasn't sure what 2012 would bring me. I didn't know if I'd want to run another marathon or just stick to half marathons and wait until 2013 for my next full.  I was pretty sure I was going to skip Houston or any other out of town race.  If anything, I'd only do the Austin Marathon. But that decision would be made after our training season began in August (I'm an assistant coach with Round Rock Fit). 

The off season has surprised me.  I ran the Texas Indepedence Relay in March and was surprised at how good I felt, and then I joined a gym in order to use the treadmill rather than always having to run in the Texas summer heat.  Whereas last summer I was suffering through every single run and really not enjoying it at all, I'm feeling very different this summer.  I feel strong and fast. I'm not having trouble getting through runs at all.  When I do run outside it's not always very pretty, but my treadmill runs are surprising me and giving me a huge boost in confidence.  I started thinking that maybe Marathon Season 2012 was not out of the question.

Three things about the Houston Marathon in 2012 that are very appealing to me: first, I have other friends who planned to run it. Second, it coincides with the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials, being held in Houston. And third, it's on my birthday. I knew if I decided to run Houston after all that I probably wouldn't have my family trek there to watch me this time, but rather just come to watch me in Austin.  So having friends there would be a huge thing for me. I couldn't imagine starting and finishing a full marathon with zero support.  And the idea of getting to see the elite athletes tough it out for a coveted Olympic marathon spot? How could I forgo that opportunity?  Lastly, about my birthday....that's a more bittersweet reason....

I lost my older sister in 2009 at the age of 37.  I was never one for celebrating my birthday much prior to her death, but since she passed it's been the absolute last thing I've wanted to do.  I was 35 at the time of her death and the two birthdays I've had since have been extremely difficult to take. She was clearly too young to die, and as I crept up on her age it made the pain and guilt of being the "survivor" very unbearable. Birthday number 38 is on January 15, 2012, the day of the Houston Marathon, and my toughest birthday yet. My sister didn't live to see 38.  I really will need the distraction of something big and grand to keep my emotions in check.  To hit 38 years old with a bang seemed just the way to do it. I feel like it gives me a bigger purpose to my running, and makes the approaching date feel exciting rather than just dreaded.

Will it take away all the pain? Of course not. Grief doesn't disappear, but any self-therapy I can come up I'm going to take.

I was lucky enough to get selected in the Houston Marathon lottery, so it's definitely going to happen. I have several friends who got in as well, and at least a couple who plan to be in Houston for the Trials, too.  It will be the perfect way for me to officially be the "older" sister that I never was growing up. Bittersweet, yes, but maybe a little sweeter than I thought it could be.

As a bonus.....the Austin Marathon will be on February 19, which just happens to be my daughter's 7th birthday. I couldn't have planned it better myself.