Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Five more weeks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

If I could call you

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

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

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

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

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

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

But we never got that chance, did we?

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

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

Imagine if I could just call you.

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

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

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

But for today, I mourn.