Thursday, January 29, 2015

Houston is so good to me

It's crazy to me to think of how many marathons I've completed since my first one in 2009. This past weekend I headed to Houston for the 4th time to tackle the Chevron Houston Marathon and complete my 11th marathon overall. It's been the site of two marathon distance PRs to me, and although this particular marathon wasn't about chasing PRs, I knew the race would be good to me anyway.

Leading up to the marathon, I have to admit that I was having a difficult time being excited about it. My training was going fine, but with all the other stress going on around me it was hard to focus. I just wasn't excited about racing a marathon at all, and actually contemplated dropping down to the half marathon. But I decided to stick with my plan and do my best, but not put too much pressure on myself. I suppose I could PR this race with good weather conditions, but I did not make that my goal.

I again opted to stay in the host hotel closest to the expo and finish area and only a few blocks from the start. I was able to check in very early on Saturday, which was a nice surprise. I enjoyed a day spent at the expo, eating some yummy food, napping, and getting prepared for race day. My running buddy was in the same boat as me mentally about this race. We had both PR'd the year before but neither of us wanted that kind of pressure this year. We wanted to enjoy ourselves with a decent but manageable race, not hit the wall, and still feel pretty good at the finish. If a great race time resulted that would be a big bonus, but it wasn't the "A" goal. I knew that if we maintained about a 10 min pace, not difficult for us, and be able to hold it in those later miles (anything can happen!), then I'd still end up with my 2nd best time and he'd have his third best. At the very least I wanted to beat my SLO Marathon time of 4:25. And I really didn't want to walk at all!

Race morning arrived and conditions were perfect. Temps in the 40s, to rise to the upper 50s by the time we finished, with hopefully minimal sun hiding behind the high clouds. It really was a PR day and a PR course for those gunning for that goal. I had high hopes that my sub-4:22 goal was truly possible.

We started at a very conservative 10:20 pace for that first mile, with the plan to drop to about 10:00 min pace for the remainder of that first 5K. The timing mats come at every 5K so I always break up this race in those small chunks. With the next few 5K splits I wanted to keep the pace just under 10:00 in case I needed to slow for the final few miles. If I could accomplish that, then the 4:22 would be mine.

To make a long story short, that is exactly what we did. After a 10:07 overall pace first 5K, we kept our 5K splits just hovering below 10:00 pace....9:49, 9:55, 9:58, etc. At the halfway point we were at 2:10:23, which is about a 9:57 pace. But it wasn't all that comfortable. I wasn't overtaxing my body and I wasn't breathing heavy, and my legs were working fine, but things definitely weren't easy. I had to use a lot of mental energy to keep myself moving. I focused on anything I could to keep my mind off what was still left on the course to run. I watched the spectators, I sang the songs on my iPod, I counted down the kilometers markers (so much easier than waiting for mile markers). I wasn't really having the kind of fun I usually have in Houston and it was disappointing. But I was determined to keep moving and to not slow down.

I had quite a few good miles in there in the 9:40-9:50 range, so my overall pace was creeping every-so-slightly downward as I approached the later miles. Tony, my running buddy, patiently ran the first 22 miles with me and was feeling very good, so he scooted ahead of me with just 4 miles to go. I kept him in my sights but I knew it wasn't wise to speed up with him. I just needed to focus on maintaining as best as I could. Mile 23 was around 10:20 and Mile 24 was 10:12 so I was slipping on my pace slightly, but not badly at all. With only 2.2 miles to go I tried to speed up again and I had a great final push, going back below 10:00 pace and even hitting 8 minute pace for the final 1/4 mile of the race. Once I was on Lamar Street for the last mile my mood lifted. I didn't hit the wall, I was moving well, albeit in a lot of pain, and I was going to finish the race well under my goal.

As I crossed the finish line and saw that I ran a 4:21:05 I was elated.

My 2nd fastest marathon. My slowest miles were 10:20, which is the best that I've ever done in any marathon including my PR race (which had a 10:30+ mile). My splits were ridiculously consistent. I ran the second half only 19 seconds slower than the first half, which is so negligible that it can be said I ran even half splits. I wanted a consistent effort and I delivered. I have to focus on these positives!!

In the days following the race, I felt pretty crippled. I think this was the worst I'd felt after a marathon. My IT band and leg muscles ached horribly, and the nausea and exhaustion was a bit disconcerting. It does make me question why I do this stuff, that's for sure. I have 3 months until my next marathon, the SLO Marathon on April 26. I need a stronger core, stronger hips, and hill repeats will be added into my workouts soon. I want to feel decent following what will be my toughest marathon (so many hills!!).

Ah, are GOOD....but OUCH!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Oh, Silly Introversion

Hey, here's a newsflash - I'm an introvert! Well, DUH. If you know me at all, you know this to be very true. I didn't realize this for many years, but now I sort of embrace it. It's a royal pain in the butt sometimes, especially when others don't really understand it, but it can also be a very peaceful thing.

A friend of mine posted on Facebook one of the best articles describing introversion, 15 Things That Introverts Will Never Tell You. I loved it! It described me just about perfectly.

What are these 15 things? Here you go:

1. Small talk sucks.

2. Being alone is fine.

3. We aren't rude or uptight.

4. Sometimes, we swing both ways (not like that! Pervert)

5. We have friends. And they like us! Probably.

6. When with the right people, we feel safe.

7. We like to write things out.

8. We're super productive.

9. If we don't like you, you won't know it.

10. Networking events suck.

11. We don't like crowds.

12. Sorry, we probably weren't listening to your story.

13. Don't make a fuss out of our birthdays.

14. We don't want to make a fuss out of your birthday.

15. If we've chosen to be friends with you, appreciate it.

At first glance, some of these sounds downright snotty, but they aren't meant to be that way. Here's the deal:

We look at the big picture, at meaningful things, and think deeply...small talk is uncomfortable for us. That's often why we HATE THE PHONE. I rarely answer mine because unless it's for something quick and important, I dread it. I don't do small talk. My mind will wander (#12) and I'll get off the phone as quickly as possible. The same is true in person sometimes. I'm totally cool with silence while hanging out.

This is where #7 comes in. Email and texting are a Godsend to us. I can be the wordiest person ever through these channels. And also take this blog....I'm a total open book on here but ask me about some of these things in person and I might not be nearly as forthcoming.

I have a really hard time with crowds, part of the reason why I rarely see my husband play during his downtown Austin band gigs. The thought of being around a lot of drunk people in a busy bar is about the last thing I want to do, but I have gone to see him a couple times and enjoyed myself....luckily those times it wasn't too busy. I make exceptions for things like concerts, but I hightail it out of there as soon as the concert is over. If I have to weave my way through a crowd for a long period of time, I'm exhausted by the time I get to my car.

And birthdays....oh birthdays. A nice dinner and a cake and I'm good. I just don't think birthdays are a huge deal and I don't need to celebrate every single one.

I'm nice to just about everyone, even if I don't like that person. Confrontation makes me incredibly uncomfortable (#9), and it's just not worth the effort most of the time. So I often just stay silent. If I don't like you, I don't need to spend any kind of energy on you. That's exhausts me and then I need to be alone to recharge.

Speaking of being's sort of my favorite thing (#2). A quiet house, no TV on, me and the dogs, a project or a book in front of me. I'm totally thrilled and happy and relaxed and it's awesome. Seriously. I just don't need social stimulation every day. As a matter of fact, when my calendar is full I hate it.

Now, if you get me around the right people, I am lively. I am loud. And I have fun (#4-6). These are my best friends or those who I can easily identify with. You'd never know I'm an introvert in those situations. My closest circle of friends make me incredibly happy and I love them dearly.

This is me. It's frustrating sometimes, but I'm not about to change and there are lots of others out there just like me.

Does this resonate with you, too?

Monday, January 5, 2015

Out with the difficult, in with the better

Hello 2015. How nice of you to join us.

Goodbye 2014. Can't say I'll miss you much.

This past year has been difficult. Very, very difficult. I've waded through day by day, week by week, month by month, hoping for a light. I was happy to see a new year, not because I think a new year will magically take away the difficulties of the past year, but just because I do see it as a time of new possibilities and new attitudes.

I've written about my struggles a few times in previous blog posts:

Priorites - July 2014

This is my heart - August 2014

Random Updates from the Loony Bin - October 2014

Finally - November 2014

Many changes in our lives, many unexpected things that we weren't emotionally prepared for, many times we've had to accept that things just aren't what we anticipated they would be. But now it's a new year and we are determined to find contentment and peace in our life.

What are the biggest things that I can take out of 2014?

1. It might not be the life you planned, but you can love the life you're living.

I didn't sign up for two high needs children. I didn't sign up for ADHD, anxiety, therapy, and medication. I signed up to be the awesome mom I thought I'd be, to two smart and funny and amazing kids.

But you know what? That's still who I am. I'm an awesome mom to two smart and funny and amazing kids....who happen to struggle with disorders and need therapy and medication. I love my kids more than I can put into words. I don't always like them or the struggle we're in, but they're my kids and I just need to do my best.

2. Just say NO.

I'm emotionally and physically exhausted a lot of the time. I need a crap load of down time to recharge. I'm introverted to an extreme sometimes. I'm happiest in a peaceful quiet place. That often translates to me having to say "no" to a lot of invitations and experiences. I have anxiety and busy social scenes and packed calendars stress me out, so I will often choose a quiet time at home or with a close friend or two over things that are more chaotic. Even being in a loud, packed church for over an hour can lead to anxiety. It's a pretty sucky thing to deal with, but I'm learning to accept that it's who I am right now and to roll with it and do my best to lessen the environments that will exacerbate it.

3. Express appreciation and gratitude

In order to keep things in perspective, I need to find positives every day. It might be something as simple as liking how my hair looks (by the way, for the first time in FOREVER, I have a new haircut!) or enjoying a good glass of wine, or bigger things like appreciating the fact that although I might have mental struggles, I'm physically healthy. Or that I'm in a position of not needing to work outside my home. It can be the worst day ever, but there's always a positive. Did the sunset look especially beautiful? Did it rain?

4. Understanding that being a runner does not mean I am running away from my problems.

Don't've thought that about either me or someone else who loves endurance sports (guilty here). Are you sure that's really the case? I've actually wondered that about myself sometimes. Am I putting myself through two and three hour runs and countless marathons because I'm trying to escape? Well, maybe a little. But thinking like that is doing a disservice to the true, positive impact of having a hobby like this.

There are so many things in my life I have no control over. Things that are so difficult for me to handle day after day. But running and endurance sports are completely in my control. It's MINE and mine only. When I'm out there along the trail doing something good for my mind and body, nobody can mess that up. With every footfall I'm releasing stress and anxiety and replacing that negativity with a sense of calm and peace. Every time I train for a particular race, I have a purpose and a goal I'm striving for. I feel accomplished whether things go well or not so well.

My husband is an athlete but he's also a musician. When he's playing and performing he's able to let go of stress much like I can while I train. It's his outlet and he's in complete control of that. I know that without either of these hobbies, we'd be far less able to handle the daily stress of life. It's so important to have one thing in your life that you are in control of, that makes you genuinely happy.

What are the things I'd like to see happen in 2015?

1. For my heart to be content and my mind to be calm. Anything else will fall into place.

This is actually what I wrote on Facebook just after midnight on New Year's Day. I truly believe that if I continue to try to find contentment and calm that all the bigger problems won't seem quite so big, that over time I'll see a positive change in my life, even if my actual circumstances don't change.

2. My son to be in a better school environment.

I'm looking to change schools for my son and am sure I have found the right one. Unfortunately it's full for his grade level, so actually enrolling him into that school is proving to be a big tricky. I have a Plan B and might be pursuing that avenue instead. But the bottom line is that by the time 8th grade has begun he hopefully will be in a new school environment. I think it will do wonders for his attitude and focus, not to mention his happiness.

3. Change my endurance adventures.

Over the years I've done many of the same races, and while this year will still see a repeat of some events...Houston Marathon, Austin Half Marathon, Texas Independence Relay, and San Luis Obispo Marathon...I do plan to venture into different things. More triathlons, different half marathons, and definitely something outside my comfort zone. I have a new bike that I'm eager to compete with, and I might even try my hand at getting down to "race weight" (eek!). By the end of the year I want to be registered for an Ironman 70.3.

4. Read 25 books.

I love to read. Engrossing myself in a new novel is a favorite pasttime and I'd love to maintain a consistency in my reading. I have several books in my Kindle already and with the kids heading back to school tomorrow I anticipate some free time.

What did 2014 teach you and where will 2015 take you?