Thursday, December 14, 2017

Unlucky #13 but I still won - THE FINALE

Now that the race is over, my stats have been analyzed, my emotions all over the damn place, it's time to truly reflect on the past several months.

(Note: For the purpose of my analysis, I'm using my adjusted Mississippi Gulf Coast time of 3:50:54 rather than my official shortened-course time of 3:48:17.)

How did I got from a marathon PR of 4:17:53 all the way down to 3:50:54? This equates to a time difference of 26:59, or 1:02/mile. It's been nearly four years since I ran that 4:17 marathon, and since then I've run a 4:21, 4:25, and 4:35. Not exactly stellar times, especially when I'm a much stronger runner at shorter distances.

The last few years haven't been too kind to me on the running front, and it's been a two year long battle to come back to better shape and better mental strength. When the weather in Baton Rouge in January forced me to hold back, I had to abandon my PR and run smart and slow, which was a bummer. But even if I had "raced," I likely would not have run faster than a 4:10 or 4:15. When I ran in the Texas Independence Relay in March, I fell apart and was miserable. It pissed me off.

So then came April and I made the decision that this was not acceptable and I was going to completely change things up and get my sorry ass into shape and blow my marathon PR out of the water. I've written several blog posts since then about my journey to Sunday's race.

From my 4/20/17 blog: Are you ready for a marathon? And OMG I want to go to Boston
"I want to go to Boston. I want to qualify. My new age group qualification window opens up in September, and it gives me another 10 minute cushion for qualifying. But I still need to run a 3:55, and because of the demand of the race even that time will not be enough to gain entry. I will need to shoot for a 3:52. This is nearly a minute per mile faster than my fastest marathon. I have run a 1:51 half, when I was in fantastic shape, so I know the speed is there for me. I just need to tap into it and have a really great BQ race day.
I WANT TO GO TO BOSTON.
I'm laying the groundwork now for making this possible. I want this. I'm ready for this."
The journey had begun. 

Then I began writing about how my Training Plan took shape and started to progress from that early version to something even more intense.

From my 4/30/17 blog: Training Plan
"Writing all of this out is helping me to see the big picture. I'm still slightly terrified of the work ahead of me, but strangely excited. It will forever be so weird to me that this girl who never really did any sports growing up (well, I tried and I kind of sucked) is talking about running 800 miles in the second half of the year and tackling two more marathons by the time I hit my next birthday. Pretty damn cool."
From my 6/7/17 blog: Progress
"I know this means that all the work I'm putting in with regards to my nutrition and consistency and effort is paying off. My head is telling me I can do it and my body is responding. Huge boost for my mental game, that's for sure. Knowing my body is stronger and my lungs are working better than usual tells me that no matter what crazy workout Christine gives us, I can do it. This also means she's probably getting wise to me and will make me run faster."
From my 6/19/17 blog: Summer has arrived
"There's a time and place for race pace and faster runs. Long run weekend is not one of those, especially in this part of my training cycle and in the summer. I'm building up my base so my body is ready for more mileage. I added a fourth day to my running last week, and I have 4 weeks until the difficult training technically starts. As I get deep into training, some of my long runs will incorporate race pace miles, but usually no more than 30% of the run, and the rest of the miles will be at long run pace. Speed will happen during interval runs, tempo runs, races, track nights, and runs like those, but in order to properly prepare oneself for the rigors of the volume of marathon training, you have to allow yourself the luxury of recovery miles and long, slow miles. If I ran 8:58 pace day in and day out, at 40 or 50+ miles per week, I would be depleted on race day."
It was becoming more and more clear to me at this point that my strategy, while frustrating because it forced me to run over 10:00/mile pace, I had to stick to it and be patient.

From my 7/13/17 blog: Intentional Training
"I'm not stressing about my long run pace at all anymore, whereas I used to be so bummed if I didn't train at a certain pace all the time. By focusing more on my heartrate and cadence I'm able to steadily improve my aerobic fitness."
"Proper recovery from the tougher workouts is vital (yay recovery runs!) to be able to continue to perform well during those particularly hard weeks. I'm just continuing to chant that mantra of "easy pace, easy pace, easy pace" (no matter how much my teammates laugh at how anal I've become). My long slow runs are paying dividends during hard workouts and will (hopefully, oh pretty please) pay off on race day." 
 From my 8/13/17 blog: Trying to see the light
"I'm doing just fine with intervals, tempos, and hill repeat pacing. I can see all that improving, I can see my cardiovascular strength improving, and I know I'm making progress. But those 10+ minute long runs....ugh....I think realizing the benefit of long SLOW runs is a tough thing in general for marathoners to deal with. It's hard to see that when you run so much slower than goal pace, you're actually doing something good for yourself."
"I know that my biggest strength right now, besides my improvement in cardiovascular strength, is my attitude, and while I am struggling to push a few doubts away, I do really believe in myself. Most of the time, at least. But I'm also human and have anxiety and need to take a few deep breaths now and then to calm myself down. My attitude is a thousand times better than it's been in recent years and I'm trying so damn hard to hold onto that!"
From my 9/15/17 blog: It's the strangest thing
"I read an article titled 'Change your mindset to improve your race times.' It couldn't have come at a better time, right when I'm starting to incorporate race pace miles into my long run and I'm pushing myself harder during hard workouts now that the weather is better.
Be mindful of the deceptive paralysis that can take hold when you become intimidated by your increasingly faster paces.
Basically this means that we allow the fear of the faster paces we are running, and the daunting thought of actually running that in a race, hold us back on race day. We are physiologically capable of our goal, but our minds work against us and we fail to truly believe in our ability. We fear going 'balls to the wall' and then failing."
 It's fascinating to me to read all of this again and see my newfound strength taking shape as the training cycle progressed.

My my 10/6/17 blog: 9 more weeks
"The next few weeks will really see some serious commitment. 170 miles in October, 190 in November, and then tapering to December 10 race day. Tempos, long runs, track work, easy days, strength work, balance work....did I mention serious commitment?
This shit is so good for me. It's hard and I love it. I'm scared as hell of failing at my goals, but dammit I'm going to do everything I can to get myself to that starting line in the best shape of my life."
From my 11/10/17 blog: Hello Hell Week
"My training volume is more than I have ever done and I can't deny that I was really worried when I wrote the plan. I knew I needed higher volume to do what I want to do, but it frightened me to think of doing midweek long runs in addition to the REALLY long runs over the weekend, to sometimes run 6 days per week...and even 6 days in a row.

But I'm still alive and I'm right smack dab in the middle of hell. Last week I ran 54 miles, this week is 49 and next week is 54. Then I get to taper. November 19 can't come soon enough!"
From my 11/24/17 blog: Turkey Trot Badassery
"I'm so glad that I decided to race this. I was in a good position to run well, to shake my demons out one last time, and to finish out the rest of my marathon taper with really good thoughts in my head. Running 7:45 average for 5 miles was not nearly as hard as I expected it could be, so to add over a minute per mile to that pace and hold it for 26.2 seems very doable to me. So far the weather in Biloxi is looking great for the marathon. I will have rested legs and I'm at my best shape ever. My confidence is as good as it's going to get and I'm very happy."
From my 11/29/17 blog: The Home Stretch
"I need to keep remembering how all of this feels, that race pace is not a big deal to me, that I'm perfectly capable of dialing into that pace during my race and being okay. I really need to remember that I can run a marathon probably much faster than a 3:52 if I tried even harder. Because I can. Every single data point is telling me this.
And I need to STOP remembering that if I run my stretch goal, I will have taken an entire minute off my pace from my PR marathon. I need to STOP telling myself that people just don't do that. Because I'm perfectly capable to doing that. I made it my goal, I did the work, and the glory is right in front of me to take."
Wow....going through my posts since April was fun and crazy.

Do you want to run a fantastic marathon? Do you want to improve beyond what you thought possible? Everyone has different strengths, and some plans that work for others might not work for you. But I can tell you what I did and why I think it worked, and perhaps you can take some of this into your own training.

1. I lost weight. I lost over 10% of my bodyweight since April. I am probably well below 20% bodyfat and am my leanest ever. I did this by cutting out sugar. I didn't eat desserts, I didn't eat candy, I avoided it like the plague. Any sugar I got was in the form of cocktails, because let's be serious...this is marathon training and I needed a damn drink sometimes. I cut out most refined carbs and processed crap. I cooked with whole grains and no white sugar. I snacked on fruit. It was exactly what worked for my body to drop all the excess. I'm sure a big side effect of this was also being able to consistently feel strong in my workouts.

2. I was consistent. If I had to run that day, I did. I didn't get lazy. I respected the training plan and the process.

3. I significantly, but intelligently, increased my volume. I had been working on my base from April to July, when the training plan kicked in. By the time the harder workouts really hit and the 30+ mile weeks started, I had a very strong running base. Adding on the volume and intensity week after week was completely doable. I decided that to be serious, I needed to consistently be running 40-55 mile weeks during the final 10 weeks of training.

August miles: 131
September miles: 163
October miles: 167
November miles: 186

I ran 5-6 timed per week, every week, and sometimes 6 days in a row. The volume was high and relentless.

4. I respected recovery. In order to run at a high volume, I never ran two intense training runs consecutively. A typical week would consist of Monday recovery run (4-6 miles), Tuesday interval or tempo run (7 miles), Wednesday easy longer distance run (8-10 miles), Thursday track work (6-9 miles), Friday rest, Saturday easy run (4-8 miles), Sunday long run (with 3 runs over 3 hours). Goal race pace, for my stretch A goal of a 3:52 marathon, was 8:51 pace. My long runs rarely were below 10:00 pace, my recovery runs were more like 10:15-10:30 pace, but because I took it so easy on those days, my Tuesday and Thursday quality workouts were intense and I ran better than expected. My Sunday long run, even in high humidity and high temps, were strong up to the end of the run. When I incorporated some race pace miles into my long runs, I didn't have much trouble hitting the right pace.

It's a difficult thing for us to throw out our ego and run slow and admit we ran slow. It's so much more glamorous to post that we ran our long run at 8:45 pace instead of 10:15 pace. But you won't hit your goals if you overtax your body. Your hard run days will suffer. Your body simply can't sustain that kind of intensity and you won't be rewarded on race day if you tear your body down. The goal is to build your aerobic endurance. If you do that, you'll be amazed at what you can do on race day.

5. I paid attention to my heart rate. I needed to stay in Zone 2 or less for 70% of my running miles. Because of the summer/fall temps and humidity I would get into low Zone 3 during long runs, but not Zone 4. As the training progressed, I was finding that my heart rate average was steadily declining during quality workouts, so I was able to see that I could start to push even harder during those. I could hold a Zone 3 and 4 heart rate for longer and longer during tempo runs. By analyzing this data, it gave me the confidence that my fitness was heading into the right direction and I was on my way to achieving a much faster pace for a marathon.

6. I took care of my body with non-running work. Strength training, balance work, physical therapy to work on my imbalances, foam rolling, stretching. All of this was vital to keep my body in tip top shape and injury free.

7. I believed in myself. Half the battle during a marathon is mental, not physical. During the last 10K, while your body is definitely fatiguing, most people give up their pace because they allow their minds to screw with them. They forget to trust their training and they give in to all the doubts. But with the right kind of training under your belt, you don't have to allow this to happen. It's not easy, but a slow down in the second half of a marathon is not inevitable. As a matter of fact, with the right training, you should be able to run a negative split race. You HAVE TO believe that. You HAVE TO trust your training. You HAVE TO believe that you are strong beyond measure.

8. I had nothing to lose. During the race on Sunday, which you can read about in yesterday's blog, I went out from Mile 1 with the intention of RACING. There was no real warm up in those early miles, no super slow miles to ease into the distance, like there has been in every other marathon of mine. It was great weather, it was a great course, and I had absolutely nothing to lose by racing fiercely and fearlessly.

I had put in the work, I knew I had tapered the previous three weeks properly, I had so much training volume under my belt, I knew what pace I was capable of, I knew I could probably run even faster, so that is exactly what I allowed my body to do. I felt good, I was running miles faster than my racing plan, but I didn't let that scare me. I kept at it and kept running faster and knew that even if I slowed a little at the end, that I had done everything I could do meet my goal. I ran a negative split race, just like I planned.

I HAD TO BE FEARLESS. 

I CRUSHED MY DAMN RACE. I ran a Boston Qualifying marathon by a long shot. I basically secured my starting place in Hopkington on April 15, 2019 (until the course was de-certified, unfortunately).

So today, four days post marathon, I am attacking my new plan with fervor. In 31 days I will once again get to a marathon start line with my plan to crush my Boston Qualifying time. As a matter of fact, I want to crush my shortened course time of 3:48:19, which would require me running an 8:43 average pace. I absolutely can do this. My legs feel great, I am ready to ease into running again, starting tonight, and my heart is ready to embrace this journey once again.


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Unlucky #13 but I still won - PART 2

Sunday, December 10 was a gorgeous morning. I woke up a little after 4am so I could get ready, eat some breakfast, and catch the shuttle to the start line, a ride that would take about 45 minutes. It was dark and only 28 degrees out, but I bundled myself up, all my gear in hand, ready to crush the race I had trained so hard for.

The start area was so quiet. We would start on Beach Blvd in Pass Christian, MS, surrounded by practically nothing. A very mellow and relaxing way to get up the courage to run my race plan and be successful in my first attempt to qualify for Boston.

We were allowed to stay on our shuttles in the warmth while we waited for the start of the race, which was a great thing because it was brutally cold outside. As the sun rose along the Gulf, I said about a thousand prayers that this race would go well. It was truly a beautiful morning.


The marathon course was going to be a great one. The first 24 miles are run on Beach Blvd., with the beach on our right and some pretty impressive homes on our left. Once in Biloxi and Mile Marker 24, we enter the on ramp to I-110 for just under 2 miles round trip, then weave around MGM Park to enter the stadium for the finish. Great scenery, and because it's a straight shot for most of the race, it's a big opportunity to get into a good pace groove.

This is the first marathon where I actually did a jog and drill warm up. My race execution plan called for me to start at a much faster-than-I'm-used-to pace for an endurance distance. Coupled with 28 degree temps, a warm up was necessary.

FIRST 10K

I started just behind the 4:00 pacer, and let the group get slightly ahead of me for the first two miles. My starting pace felt fantastic! I got through the first two miles in 18:21, about 30 seconds ahead of plan. I did not let this freak me out, however. I didn't want to get caught up in the numbers on my Garmin unless I was running too slow. I had to run by feel and if I was lucky, my feel good pace would be better than expected. So far so good.

Mile 3 came in at 8:49. Ok, so that was a bit fast, but this was also when I passed the huge group with the 4:00 pacer. I was a little overly excited about that. I settled into a groove for miles 4-6, averaging 9:00 pace, and this was the last time I saw any miles over 9:00 for the duration of the race. It helped tremendously that I started running with a gentleman named Tom, a local whose goal was to break 4 hours and who was more than happy to run my pace and have some company. Thank you, Tom!!

The timing mat for the 10K was placed at about 6.3 miles, so while my split came in right where my plan called for it to, I was actually running faster. First 6.3 miles came in at 56:49, 9:01 pace. And I was feeling great. I also tried not to think about the fact that I still had 20 miles to run.

I got to see Greg for the first time at this checkpoint. Always a big boost to see him!


Giving Greg the all clear that I was racing well


ONTO THE HALFWAY POINT

I had settled into a pretty sweet groove at this point, taking in the scenery, chatting with Tom about the gulf coast area, and making sure my miles were on target or under and feeling comfortable but not too comfortable. Every mile between 7 and 12 was in the 8:40s and 8:50s. My plan didn't even call for me to hit anything under 8:50 until after halfway, so this was time in the bank for me, yet I wasn't overdoing it. I do remember thinking during mile 9 that I was a third of the way done, and strangely this didn't freak me out. It's almost like I was actually performing like a good marathoner now or something. Even my heartrate was under control, staying comfortably in Zone 3.

Mile 13 I like to think of as my Golden Mile. The timing mat came at 12.5 miles instead of the expected 13.1 miles (which is what the tracking app indicated). So all the people who were following me were probably wondering how I ran sub-8 pace between 10K and 13.1. No worries, folks...I did no such thing. I was at 1:51:42 at 12.5 miles and not 13.1. My average pace at this point was now 8:57. Mile 13 was my first mile that came in under 8:40 pace and while I could feel the fatigue setting in, I was still doing exceptionally well. I ran Mile 13 in 8:38! Just wow! I ran the first half of this marathon in 1:56:45.

I had just run my third fastest half marathon. Well, how about that!?!

I also got to see Greg again! I let him know it was starting to get a little hard.


Look at my scenery!

13.1 to 20 MILES

This is the point to where reality starts setting in during most marathons. Lucky for me, I was just getting started. I started knocking out miles in the 8:30's at this point, mile after mile after mile. Now, don't get me wrong. This was not an easy pace for me. I was working hard. I focused on a high cadence, on keeping my shoulders back, and just getting to the next mile marker. I needed to chip away at the course five minutes at a time at this point. It was working, though, because while it was not easy to maintain my pace, it was still completely doable. I was still running with Tom during this stretch.

I HAD TO BELIEVE IN MY TRAINING. It was probably right around Mile 17 that my mental game kicked in. I was down to single digits in miles left to run, I was not slowing down, I still felt pretty decent considering I was PR'ing every single distance past halfway at this point. Fastest 14 miles, fastest 15....16....17....oh hey, look, it's my fastest 18....19....20 miles.

I saw Greg again, and passed a timing mat at 20 miles. OH MY GOSH, I WAS AT 20 MILES! And I still was under 3 hours. Completely unreal to me, and a huge motivation to me as well that I had just run 20 miles in well under 3 hours.

I hit the mat at 2:56:32. From halfway to 20 miles, my pace was 8:40 average. My overall pace through 20 miles was now 8:49. I was under my goal pace of 8:51 (this is what I needed to run in order to be 3 minutes under my BQ standard). All I had to do was maintain this average pace for less than an hour and I was golden.

I told Greg that I had it in the bag.
Pay no mind to how bad I look here.


FINAL 10K

I refuse to let the 20 mile wall myth bother me. Okay, so it's not a myth. People really do hit a wall physically sometimes, but more often than not for me it's been a mental wall and I don't do that crap anymore. I've done this enough times to know how to toughen up in the last hour of a marathon, and with my training this time around I was in better shape than I've ever been. All I needed to do was run 58:28 for the final 10K and I was a Boston Qualified runner. That's 9:25 pace. I hadn't even run a single mile that slow yet and I wasn't about to start now! Unfortunately, I had lost Tom, so this last stretch was solo.

The fatigue was setting in. I was counting down the half miles, sometimes the quarter miles, and putting one foot in front of the other, trying to keep a high cadence, trying not to slow down. Mile 21 was awesome at 8:41, but then I started hitting 8:50 miles. I needed to stop looking at my watch, so that's what I did. At this point I just needed to maintain 10:00 average to qualify, and that was a huge comfort to me.

At this point, I just RAN. I was passing people like nobody's business and having a grand time responding to their comments of "great job!" with "I'M GOING TO BE A BOSTON QUALIFIER!"

The 23 mile marker is always a good one for me. I have about a 5K left to run, less than 30 minutes. I can always run 3 more miles. The more sub-9 miles I was clicking off, the more time I was banking and the better my chances were getting to BQ.

At 24 miles we turn off of Beach Blvd and onto the on ramp to I-110. I saw Greg at this point and I looked at my watch again. It was kind of a blur, but I thought I saw 3:31. I had 2.2 miles to run and 24 minutes to get there. I wasn't really slowing down. We went up the ramp and this was the only point in the course with any kind of real incline, but it didn't bother me. Using different muscles was a good thing and I tried desperately to not slow down. It's a long steady incline, probably about a good half mile before it levels out. Once I hit the flatter part on the interstate I relaxed a bit. I had about 15 minutes left to run and I would be done.

The half marathoners had a turn around point closer to ours and I was thinking that there needed to be a course marshall there to be sure none of the marathoners cheated and turned early. Our turnaround was about a minute further down the road.

This is where the race went sideways, unbeknownst to all of us. 

They placed our turnaround cone short of the certified spot. We didn't know this while we were running. I was elated to finally get around that cone and to truly be on my way to a great marathon finish. I hit mile 25 in 8:50 and began to hopefully speed up for that last 10 minutes, particularly on this downhill off the interstate.

It didn't even seem like that long before we were back to Beach Blvd and turning left to make our way around MGM Park. I saw Greg again, and this time he was waving my Boston Marathon shirt at me. He was so excited because he knew I had blown away my goal.

Seeing the Mile 26 marker and entering the stadium for my finish was like nothing else I've felt in any of the races I have done.

As I rounded the curve to the finish, I saw the clock and it surprised me. I know I hadn't paid a whole lot of attention to my watch the last several miles, but I was not expecting to see a 3:48. I felt like I had really kicked it in the end to pull that off.

I crossed the line in 3:48:19.

Greg caught my finish on video. It was incredibly emotional. I was crying like I have never cried at a race finish.



I WAS A BOSTON QUALIFIER! And I had over 6 minutes to spare!

My overall pace in the results showed 8:43.
I was 5th in my age group of 36 women.
18th overall woman out of 209 (although I did catch a cheater in the results that needs to be removed and that will make me 17th of 208).
77th overall out of 441 finishers (or 76 of 440 after the cheater goes bye-bye).
I passed 22 women and 33 men in the second half.
Nobody passed me after the initial few minutes of settling into our paces. NOBODY PASSED ME.

Never before have I placed so high in a marathon and it was an exhilarating feeling.

I started to hyperventilate a little, and medical came over to me very quickly to be sure I was okay. Thankfully, my breathing got under control once I stopped crying.

I was so damn happy! 

Half Split was really a 12.5 mile split




Awhile later, I looked at my Garmin and it showed I had run 25.91 miles. My heart about stopped.



The course was short. I hoped I was wrong, but in all honesty I knew they had messed up that turnaround cone and misplaced it and shortened the course. By this time, I had posted to social media, I had gone through all the emotions of a fantastic race, and I had to hold out hope that everything was going to be okay. I didn't want to say anything until I knew for sure.

To make a long story short, it wasn't okay. Yesterday, the race director conceded, after vehemently denying the course was anything other than the certified distance, that a mistake had been made. In the rush of the morning, the measurements were taken off of the wrong spot, placing the cone short, and making the course 25.905 miles.

I was no longer a Boston Qualifier. It was being taken away from me, despite being so far under my qualifying standard and there being no doubt that I would have run 26.2 in under 3:51 had I been given the chance to complete that distance.

I wrote a blog post yesterday about the official ruling and my initial reactions. Today, my sadness is greater and my frustration is high. I ran an incredible race. I am a deserving Boston Marathon Qualifier, just without the title. I still have to go out and earn that again.

Rather than focus on that, however, I'm going to use this blog post to focus on the positives in my race execution. For the sake of the analysis, I'm going to adjust my finish time to reflect what it likely would have been at 26.2 miles. I was running 8:46 in mile 26 according to my Garmin (definitely wasn't speeding up like I thought!). Assuming I maintained that pace for the 0.295 miles that the course was short, my finish time would have been 3:50:54.

My first half was run in 1:56:45 at 8:54 average pace. My third fastest half marathon at the time. My second half would have been run in 1:54:09, 8:42 average, making it my second fastest half and pushing my first half to becoming my fourth fastest. I seriously think it's time to go bust out a 1:45 stand-alone half marathon, amiright?

My average heartrate was 152. This is the stat that truly blows my mind. Max heartrate was only 162. I never hit zone 5, and I stayed in zone 3 for over 2 hours. It makes me think I have a faster marathon in me RIGHT NOW.




Because I feel like I have to fix this unfortunate situation, I am still planning to run in Baton Rouge on January 14. It's a fantastic course, from the same race directors, and I ran it earlier this year. I have to go for another Boston attempt. The race directors are offering Boston Qualifiers free entry, but because I already registered I am asking for a refund of my entry fee. Either that, or I'll accept a free entry to run Mississippi Gulf Coast again. The fact that I loved that race, that course, the people, everything about it has not changed. I will absolutely run it again given the chance.

I want to run faster than my 25.91 mile time in Biloxi. It will give me the ability to say without a doubt that my marathon PR is in the 3:40's, without an asterisk. I am going to recover, get back into intelligent training, get to Baton Rouge, and run that crap out of that course. I have the confidence and mental strength I need to do this again, no matter how many times it takes me.

Stay tuned for Part 3, where I will talk about why I think the training worked for me to take over 27 minutes off my marathon PR.

5th age group is pretty close to Top Finisher!

My miles 1-20 running buddy, Tom! He finished in 3:52.

Greg had TWO beers.

Here's my medal

My favorite cheerleader and biggest supporter

Unlucky #13 but I still won - PART 1

So many feelings, thoughts, emotions, confusion, craziness....

December 10, 2017, is the day I became a good marathoner. It took me 13 tries, but I finally know how to race 26.2 miles. Nobody can take that away from me.

In the week leading up to the Mississippi Gulf Coast Marathon, I was a bundle of nerves. I had done the training, I had KILLED the training, I was in full taper mode, I was taking very good care of myself, and I was ready to see what I was made of. But to be honest, knowing it was my 13th marathon (of all numbers), I couldn't quite settle the stupid nerves.

The events of our travel day to the Gulf Coast on Friday were absolutely insane and I didn't quite share all of it on social media, but I'll share it here. As we were leaving to take the kids to school and then leave for the airport to catch our 11am flight, Greg informs me he can't find his wallet. He was frantically searching everywhere in his work stuff, in the cars, and in the house for it, to no avail. It had simply vanished. In the meantime, I'm trying not to totally lose it. My nerves were completely frayed and having this kind of hiccup about did me in. Greg felt terrible for the delay and the stress. Thankfully, he has a passport, so traveling would not be a problem. Hoping that someone hadn't stolen his wallet at work was the bigger worry.

The kids were late to school by a couple minutes and for that we apologized. There was one more thought at home on where the wallet could be so we headed back there. No luck. We had no choice but to head to the airport immediately or we'd be late for our flight. About five minutes into the commute to AUS, Greg got a call from work that a housekeeping staff member had found his wallet under a conference room table. Hallelujah! Except that the detour was going to add another 20 minutes to our drive and we were already pushing our luck on getting to the airport on time.

When we arrived at the airport, wallet now safely in hand, we had 45 minutes until our flight, with bags to check still, so Greg dropped me off at curbside check-in and went to go park the car in the parking garage because long term parking would take way too long. He actually ended up beating me through security as I of course got in the longest line. But we made it through and to our gate right as they were lining up to board.

But it gets a little better. Greg then informs me that in our haste at the curbside drop off, his phone fell out of the car. When he parked and realized what had happened he hightailed it to where the crime was committed and found it laying in the middle of the crosswalk, completely unharmed. What are the chances that no one would have run it over? I am so glad I had no clue this was all happening because my nerves were completely shot at this point.

But it STILL gets better. The first 65 minutes of our flight were totally uneventful. Smooth sailing to New Orleans, where we would pick up our car, eat some delicious gumbo and shrimp, and then head to Biloxi. Except of course that's not what happened. Now, mind you, the south was in the midst of a snow and ice debacle. Snow everywhere, ice everywhere, freezing temps everywhere. While we were in our descent, TWO MINUTES FROM LANDING, the pilot turns the plane around. I shit you not.

We had to head to Houston because there was no de-icing equipment at the New Orleans airport. We could land the plane but then it would be unlikely they could get it off the ground again and back in use. So they flew us back to Houston, where they could keep the plane in service.

Well, that sucked. Now we were stuck in Houston, over 6 hours away from our destination, and it was now after 1pm. The New Orleans and Gulfport airports were now shut down and all other flights to anywhere remotely close to Biloxi were booked. We had to drive. However, because there was a baggage fiasco at Houston Hobby, it took over an hour to get our checked luggage. Thankfully I sent Greg ahead to get our rental car before every other stranded person tried to steal it from us (there were several diverted and stranded passengers in Hobby). He ended up getting the last rental car at National. Another Hallelujah, but OH MY GOSH THIS NEEDED TO STOP.

We finally got out of Houston after 3pm and headed to Biloxi, hoping the roads were all clear and there would be no ice or closures. IT WAS FREEZING OUT. Snow on the ground everywhere, bridges near the gulf were closed, and it was not a certainty that we'd be in Biloxi anytime soon. Luckily, for the first time all day, there were no more delays.

Hello weird snow on the coast


I wanted to get there on Friday because both Greg and I were running the 5k on Saturday and we needed to get to the Expo for bib pickup that day. They closed at 7pm. The race graciously allowed packet pickup on race morning because no many people could not get there on Friday, so that problem was diverted.

I can't tell you how happy I was to lay on my hotel bed that night, after 11pm, and go to sleep. I needed the rest. That was an insane travel day.

We woke up on Saturday morning feeling so much better. It was 31 degrees out, there was still snow on the ground (seriously, snow on top of sand just ain't right!), and we were ready to get out our frustrations in the 5K. My plan was to use it as a shake out run so I was as ready as can be for the marathon on Sunday. Greg planned to go balls-to-the-wall and race his heart out.




To make a long story a little shorter, this race was really great. I felt fantastic and headed out at marathon race pace with absolutely little effort. I built some speed to hit mile 3 at 7:56. Unfortunately, the turnaround cone was placed a little too far (OH MY GOSH THE IRONY), and the race was 3.33 miles. No big deal to us because we weren't going for a PR but rather just wanted to go out and have fun. I got the chance to feel what Sunday race day conditions would be like so I could head to the start Sunday totally prepared, I got to shake out my legs, and Greg got to feel what a sub-7 min/mile pace in a 5K felt like again.

Greg ran the 3.33 miles in 22:59 for a 6:55 pace, 4th in his age group of 35, and 13th overall of 566. I ran 27:55 for an 8:22 pace, 4th in my age group out of 51, and 66th overall. Successful morning!





Time to eat all the food, drink all the water, go to the expo, take a nap, and then eat all the food again.

Stay tuned for Part 2.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Disappointment and learning to move on

You know all those posts about chasing a Boston Qualifying time? And that I was running Mississippi Gulf Coast Marathon this past weekend to achieve my goal after months of hard work and sacrifice?

Well, I crushed my goal.

Sort of.

Long story short, the course, due to a marking mistake, was short by .29 miles. Therefore Boston will not be accepting any of our BQ times. I ran BQ -6:41, far under the standard. With a full 26.2 I would've been about BQ -4:15, still far under the standard. Like I said, I crushed my race.

But it doesn't count. I am not an official Boston Qualifier.

After the race, and after I took at look at my Garmin, I noticed that my watch said 25.91. The time that I ran was not an inconceivable time considering how well I was running that race, but it did seem a little crazy to me to see a 3:48 on the clock as I crossed when I thought I was on target for a 3:50. But I hoped it was a Garmin mistake and I didn't want to jump the gun or be dramatic and whine about what my watch said. I couldn't imagine that with only one little part of the course with the potential for a mistake, that a mistake could really have happened.

The race director maintained the course was accurate, so I continued to hold out hope and called myself a BQ marathoner.

But today, they conceded that it was short, they sent an email detailing exactly what happened, and they owned up to the mistake and acknowledged that they really screwed things up for Boston Qualifiers. When I got that official email, I finally allowed myself to feel some emotion about it. I hadn't yet cried about the possibility, but now that it was official, I couldn't really hold back.

It's a huge disappointment. It's like going for that big promotion and working really hard for months on a project, and then getting passed over for it after doing everything in your power to succeed. Or, as the course director said, getting engaged and then finding out your spouse-to-be is already married, while standing at the altar with him. Yeah, that's about right.

But anger doesn't get me anywhere. It just makes me bitter. Bitter doesn't get me another BQ. This is a lesson in grace. The course director is human and he screwed up. We've all been there. I'm mad at him, but I can forgive his mistake. I don't really have much of a choice if I'm going to regroup and go for another great marathon performance.

I do have a really good race report to write. I'm so proud of this race, even if the ending isn't quite what I thought it was. I think I had a great training plan and executed it well and I know it can help another marathoner out to read about it. So I want to write all about that weekend and I will.

The tears will subside, the muscle soreness will soon be gone, I'll be ready to run again in a couple days, and I'll get my body and mind ready to tackle the course in Baton Rouge on January 14. Something tells me the race director (same group that puts on Mississippi Gulf Coast) will have five extra people at each course turnaround point to make sure the cones are exactly where they need to be. They know we'll be watching. They have invited us to run Baton Rouge for free (I have already registered and will ask for a refund), or we can come back to Mississippi for free, so they are trying to do what they can to help us out and get us to succeed again.

The race report will be on the way this week and I'm excited to write it.

Well, it was almost correct

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Home Stretch

11 days from now, I'll be done with Marathon #13. I feel great. My comfortable pace has significantly improved during this training cycle. The weather forecast looks perfect.

And of course I'm totally freaking out. It's ONLY 11 days away. Wasn't it just yesterday that I still had like 3 months to train?

My training is pretty much done. I can't do much more to improve my readiness, but I can certainly screw it up. I tested out a quicker pace on my last long run, a 13 miler on Sunday, and it was comfortable even at the end with race pace miles. My average heartrate for the 9:22 overall pace run was only 137. Yesterday morning I ran a few more race pace miles within our team's 6 mile tempo run, and even though I actually ran them too fast (seriously??) my heart rate stayed in the low 140's during those miles. IT WAS NOT HARD TO RUN AT ALL.


Last 2+ hour run of the cycle

Race pace tempo run

I need to keep remembering how all of this feels, that race pace is not a big deal to me, that I'm perfectly capable of dialing into that pace during my race and being okay. I really need to remember that I can run a marathon probably much faster than a 3:52 if I tried even harder. Because I can. Every single data point is telling me this.

And I need to STOP remembering that if I run my stretch goal, I will have taken an entire minute off my pace from my PR marathon. I need to STOP telling myself that people just don't do that. Because I'm perfectly capable to doing that. I made it my goal, I did the work, and the glory is right in front of me to take.

But I'm still slightly terrified at the prospect. I don't want to fall short of my goal. I want to finally be able to call myself a good marathoner.

ELEVEN DAYS!!

Friday, November 24, 2017

Turkey Trot Badassery

I decided a few weeks ago that the local 5 mile Turkey Trot would be a great race to get out my taper jitters and truly find out just how much speed I've picked up in this training cycle. It fell 17 days before my marathon, so plenty of time to race and recover before the big day.

The only other time I have raced a 5 miler was four years ago (also the Turkey Trot) and that race was at an 8:20 overall pace. A few weeks ago during a Tuesday Tempo run I ran the 5 mile tempo portion at an 8:19 pace (1 mile warm up/drills and 1 mile cooldown for 7 miles total), so I knew I had a great shot at a big PR. I decided to make my goal a sub-8 pace. The last time I raced a sub-8 pace for a short race was a 5k in February, when I ran 7:56 average.

Coming into the race, I had not done any speedwork in a week (since my Yasso 800s...which were at an average time of 3:45...yay!), and five days prior had run my 22 miler. Monday and Tuesday easy runs were my other workouts of the week. Basically, I went into this race with rested legs for the first time in a long time. Plus, it was 32 degrees out at race start. Finally (after yet another 75 degree 22 miler) I got great race weather!!

My husband ran with me and I love it when he does because he's so good at maintaining my goal pace and will run ahead of me if he thinks I'm slipping in my pace. One of my running friends, Esther, was running this race as well and she and I are very evenly matched on pace (unless you get her on trails and then she's completely untouchable!), so it would be a good battle, plus we would push each other to hit our goals. Our turkey trot is a little unique with the timing. Rather than purchase official timing, our race director chooses to take that money and give it directly to the local charities he supports, so it's an untimed event. However, he color codes the bibs so he can still figure out who finishes top 3 for the age groups. No official timing, but still age group awards, based on gun time, and a bigger cut to charity is a pretty awesome thing to do. Anyway, the age groups were actually 20 year spreads and with 800 runners, not likely to get an award but Esther and I still wanted to start up front to give ourselves the best chance as possible because you just never know!

Starting up front was definitely the right thing to do because we didn't find ourselves stuck behind anyone and weren't really being passed by too many people in that first mile. The streets were nice and wide and there was plenty of room to race. I wanted to hit that first mile in about 8:20 and then dial it back to just under 8:00 pace, and then kick it up in that last mile. I felt so good as soon as we started and was surprised to see I was actually running a 7:50 pace. Even 3/4 of the way into that first mile it wasn't a tough pace for me to hold so I decided to not really slow down. Mile 1 came in at 7:53. Greg admitted he was a little worried that I had started off too fast and would blow up, but I told him I was going to try to hold that pace for as long as possible and was confident because it felt just fine. Hard, but not so hard that I couldn't run that for another 4 miles.


I see me and Greg

There are a few little hills on the course, but nothing that would slow you down, with good downhills to make up for them. Miles 2-4 came in at 7:48, 7:47, 7:48. Very consistent pacing and I still felt pretty damn strong. I was beyond thrilled that I had been able to give myself so much banked time to hit my goal, but I still wanted to speed up in that last mile. My heartrate didn't get into the 160's until Mile 3, so I felt like I was controlling my body's response to the faster pace very well.

With about a half mile to go, and making the last two turns on the course, I pushed my pace as good as I could. The last couple minutes were painful, I can't lie. There was a lady that I was certain was in my age group staying right in front of me, so I decided to try and pass her and unfortunately for me, it was a bit too soon and I gave her enough time to pass me at the finish as her kick was stronger than mine. Didn't end up mattering because neither of us were quite fast enough for an age group award. I fully expected Esther to blow by me in that last mile, but she finished about 40 seconds behind me, a PR for her as well. Just like I expected, we pushed each other and in return we both had the races we wanted!



The course was about 200 meters short, and I finished in 37:57 at a 7:45 average. Mile 5 was at 7:31 pace! I can't call it an "official" 5 mile PR but it's definitely the longest I've maintained a sub-8:00 pace ever. Had it been a certified 5 miler I would have finished in about 38:45. I can't begin to say how thrilled this kind of time makes me feel.

I'm so glad that I decided to race this. I was in a good position to run well, to shake my demons out one last time, and to finish out the rest of my marathon taper with really good thoughts in my head. Running 7:45 average for 5 miles was not nearly as hard as I expected it could be, so to add over a minute per mile to that pace and hold it for 26.2 seems very doable to me. So far the weather in Biloxi is looking great for the marathon. I will have rested legs and I'm at my best shape ever. My confidence is as good as it's going to get and I'm very happy.

My team did so well at this race. We had close to 20 runners between the 5 miler and the 1 miler and many of us hit our best paces ever. We pushed each other to do well and had a great time together in the process. I couldn't be more proud of them all.




Friday, November 10, 2017

Hello Hell Week

I haven't fallen apart yet.

My training volume is more than I have ever done and I can't deny that I was really worried when I wrote the plan. I knew I needed higher volume to do what I want to do, but it frightened me to think of doing midweek long runs in addition to the REALLY long runs over the weekend, to sometimes run 6 days per week...and even 6 days in a row.

But I'm still alive and I'm right smack dab in the middle of hell. Last week I ran 54 miles, this week is 49 and next week is 54. Then I get to taper. November 19 can't come soon enough!

I'm definitely feeling some fatigue, but it is not negatively impacting my workouts. I'm hitting my goals and feeling pretty decent when I'm done with my runs. This past Sunday was a 21 mile run and the last 3 miles felt fantastic, albeit I had run the previous 5 at a slower than normal pace because my running buddy wasn't feeling so great (it was a really humid 72 degree morning, because of course it was since I had a 3+ hour long run scheduled and Mother Nature hates me). But those last 3 miles told me everything I need to know about where I'm at physically. I started out that run feeling the fatigue of the week's workouts and was a little worried about how painful it might get in those later miles. My quads were sore and I hate starting a long run with sore quads. My worries were for nothing, however, because the soreness never got worse and I was able to complete those last 3 miles at a faster than usual clip without my heartrate skyrocketing. Total success and it made me thrilled.

This week (so far) called for a 7 mile interval workout Tuesday (2x2 mile repeats), 10 mile easy run Wednesday, and an 8 mile track workout Thursday. Because I couldn't make the team's track workout Thursday evening and needed to run solo that morning, I decided to change up the workout to a hard tempo run: two mile warm up, following by a progressive tempo pace starting at marathon race pace and speeding up about 10 seconds per mile for five miles, ending with a one mile cooldown. Even with the warmer and more humid weather Tuesday morning and it being only two days after my 21 miler, I still hit my goal paces on my two mile repeats (averaging 8:23). I took it extra slow on Wednesday, which was hard to do because it was in the 40s and started to rain on me. But I knew I couldn't do my Thursday workout well if I ran anything other than painfully slow on Wednesday.

Was hoping to beat the rain on this run, but NOPE. 

When I started out my Thursday run I was definitely feeling the culmination of miles on my legs, but was determined to have a successful tempo run. I started off very easy to loosen up and did some drills. The second mile I eased into a quicker pace, and then when mile three started I locked into my race pace and it felt very good, like something I could run forever and be okay. Considering it's a month from my marathon, I'd say that's a very good sign. As the miles progressed I tried not to focus on how much I had left, but rather just controlled the mile I was in, checking my pace and making sure I was dialed in correctly, not going too fast but not being sluggish about it. I actually was running a few seconds per mile faster that prescribed on miles 3-5, but it still felt doable so I hung with it. When that five miles was up and I saw I had hit each one at a great pace (8:45, 8:42, 8:26, 8:10, 8:03), I was so thrilled. My eighth mile, a cooldown, actually ended up at 9:08 and didn't feel hard at all....another really good sign! Best part was that my heart rate was very controlled as well and I still stayed in Zone 3 for a majority of the run.

Then my watch told me this:



I never race 10k's and it's been about five years since my last one. My PR is 53:12 and that was actually not an all-out race. During my half marathon PR race, I actually ran just under 51 minutes for the last 10K of that race, so it's debatable what my actual PR is. I'd love to race another stand alone 10K just to see what I could do, but seeing this on my watch was a big boost. It's the fastest I've run a 10K block using this watch, and only two seconds over my "official" 10K PR. Plus, I kept my overall pace under 9 min/mile. When I say I do my hard workouts HARD, this is a great example of that. I ran super easy pace Wednesday so I could then turn around and bust out a workout like this with great success.

Silly watch

Today is a rest day. Thank God it's a rest day. I'll do some bodyweight exercises and corework, foam roll my legs and make sure the fatigue is easing and I'm ready for 24 more miles this weekend (8 easy tomorrow, then 16 with 6 of those at race pace on Sunday). Then I dive right into Hell Week next week. My peak weak will consist of six days of running and 54 miles, culminating in a 22 mile run next weekend. Then taper and a full three weeks of freaking out.

I'm fully aware that it may take several attempts to achieve my BQ goal, but I will say that I have certainly done everything I can to make this first attempt a real possibility. I put in the work, I've dialed in my nutrition, I've gotten down to a racing weight that makes me so happy, and I'm trying my hardest to get my mind right. Shalane Flanagan just won the New York City Marathon and during her press conference she mentioned that this was seven years in the making. She worked and worked and worked and knew that she needed to have patience and it would happen. And it did!

So I'd like to put in a request to Mother Nature to make it 45-50 degrees outside that day. Pretty please.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Words Matter

The older I get, the more important it becomes to surround myself with good people who believe in me and encourage me. I know my goals may be a bit unique, and not everyone personally understands my "why," but are supportive regardless because they respect me. I thank God everyday for the people He has put in my life who make me a better, more confident person, because trust me, I need all the kind and positive words I can get right now.

Thirty nine days until my "A" race, and while I feel things are coming along well, I still am having a lot of moments of anxiety and questioning myself. I've never been much of a data person with regards to my training, but in the last few months it's been incredibly valuable to be able to analyze the data from my training. All of it points to me being a Boston-qualifying-capable athlete. There's nothing to suggest, beyond my lame doubts, that it can't be done. But it will be the hardest marathon I've ever done, and I'll be in the suffer-zone for a good part of it. Nothing about a pace under 8:58 per mile for nearly four hours will be easy for me. 

While I was doing my tempo run yesterday, I was running with a friend who regularly runs 6-7 minute miles in training and has run a 3:20 marathon. He said something so simple to me during the run..."you're getting really fast." I know, it's not a big deal for someone to say something like that. But I don't think he realized that those few words boosted my confidence in that moment. I was only on mile 2 of 5 miles, trying to hit a pace I'd only held for 5 miles straight maybe two or three times in my entire running life. He doesn't know it but he helped me get even faster during that run and it was quite possibly my strongest run of this entire training cycle. Our team coach told me afterwards that my goal was entirely doable. Those people are exactly what I need!

Just a few kind words from a friends who are wildly talented and who I look up to.



Then this morning after my easy pace run, my Garmin told me I achieved a higher VO2 max, and it surprised me because I didn't expect it to go any higher. When I texted Greg about it, he responded, "You are amazing."

Be still my heart.

WORDS ARE POWERFUL. They have the ability to cut you down and make you feel insignificant. Or they can save you. The right ones can be exactly what you need to tackle the obstacles in your path. 

So, to the people who make it a point to be kind and encouraging, THANK YOU. And if you could look like Ryan Gosling while you're doing it, EVEN BETTER.




Thursday, October 19, 2017

Niceness is Rare

Today has been so hard for me. It's not often that I have days this terrible. Did anything in particular happen that was so horrible I couldn't handle it? Not really.

Nevertheless, I had a panic attack. I simply could not handle everything that had irritated me over the last few days (irritable children, messy house, too many doctor appointments, stupid drivers, school demands, negativity everywhere you look, you name it), everything I still needed to do, and what everyone needed from me, and it completely derailed my sanity momentarily. I even broke out in hives, the stress level was so high.

That sense of being completely overwhelmed doesn't happen often, but when it does, it's debilitating. I absolutely loathe having an anxiety disorder. It makes me feel weak and worthless. I canceled the plans I had tonight, for no other reason than I just couldn't fake being okay around people. I feel terrible because it was going to be a fun evening. But I simply had to tap out for the night and be home where I feel safe (at least when the kids aren't being complete ogres). I did go for a run in the hopes of exhausting myself so much I stopped worrying about everything.

When I got home, I grabbed the Reader's Digest (don't laugh, I love that magazine), sat down on the couch, and became immersed. The Editor's note in the beginning was written for me, I swear. Mr. Kelley verbalized exactly how I've been feeling for the past few weeks regarding one of my bigger stressors, and that's the rampant negativity and meanness in the world right now. I seriously think it's been having more of a negative impact on my mental health than ever before. Here's what he said:

Reader's Digest has long been neutral about politics, but one thing we will never be neutral about is niceness. In a democracy where free expression is the rule--and where the internet, talk radio, and cable news provide enormous megaphones--niceness has never been more important. If we want to live in harmony along with our competing ideas, we need civility, empathy, and a sense that we have each other's backs. Niceness is the glue that will hold us together.
Yet it's not-niceness that's on the rise. The bitter call-and-response of our political exchanges has long pummeled the promise of "E pluribus unum." In a recent poll, 75% of Americans called incivility a "national crisis." It's no accident that Americans' faith in their institutions is scraping bottom. 

Yep.

It's a tough balance of wanting to be informed of what's going on globally, and yet being completely sick and tired of the rampant negativity, name calling, and ignorance. It's really screwed up my head in the past few weeks. I need positivity and feel good stories, but it seems those are few and far between, shunned in favor of shock value antagonistic stories. So sad. I'm enjoying the Reader's Digest piece regarding the Nicest Place in America contest, where citizens actually go out of their way to be generous and kind, not expecting anything in return. That type of attitude fosters a sense of belonging and contentment.

If only people (and the media!) could take two seconds to think, REALLY THINK, about what they are saying and how it can be received, not to necessarily censor themselves, but to understand whether or not their viewpoints in that moment are helpful or cause further division and incivility. Maybe they ought to go pet a puppy and then come back to their keyboard and see if they still feel like saying it.

Maybe if there was more of this, people like me with anxiety disorders might just be okay way more often than we are. Turn down the noise a little for us. Please.





Tuesday, October 17, 2017

All the Colors

You know what? I am so tired of summer weather.

It's October, so you'd think I'd be in the clear, but nope. Texas hates me!

We got some great temps during the week last week, and the last two mornings have been spectacularly perfect running weather. But Sunday morning? 70s and 100% humidity with the threat of thunderstorms. Also? Race Day!

For crying out loud.

Of course, I conveniently forgot that on the same exact weekend last year, I ran a half marathon in Central Texas, in the same exact weather conditions. And it was my second worst road half marathon finish ever. Fun times.

But, being the badass that I believe myself to be this year, that wasn't going to stop me from running that damn race. Was I going for a PR? OH HELL NO. The race course was 900 feet of elevation gain over 20 different hills and inclines, so a PR was a long shot anyway, plus I had decided running that far under my marathon pace for nearly two hours probably wasn't a wise choice. The weather made that decision much much easier to take.

The plan, after careful consideration and lots of feedback from friends, became pretty comical actually.

NO WATCH.

WEAR A COSTUME.

FIND A CHALLENGING PACE, BUT NOT TOO CHALLENGING.

MAKE IT A TRAINING RUN.

SCREW THE WEATHER.

HAVE FUN.

That, my friends, is exactly what I did! I showed up to that miserable race in all the damn colors. Rainbow zebra sports bra, rainbow tutu, rainbow compression sleeves, rainbow kinesiology tape, bright shoes, bright hat, no worries.





I was a big fat rainbow about to run my very first tutu race. Luckily I had friendly faces all around me, as several friends were out there to run as well. Nobody was "racing" it, which made my decision even easier to take.

I was quite happy to see I wasn't the most ridiculous looking person there. Close, but not quite. After all, there were dudes dressed as unicorns. Winning!



Despite the fact that I knew I wasn't running super hard, I was nervous anyway. I wasn't wearing a watch, so my new fear became running slower than it felt and totally embarrassing myself with a slow time that would be online forever. To hopefully prevent this from happening, I positioned myself at the start with the 2:00 and 2:10 pacers (thank you, baby Jesus, for there being pacers to sort of help me keep track of my mediocrity). I wanted to be sure I didn't start out as fast as the 2:00 pacer, but never allowed the 2:10 pacer to pass me. A 2:05-ish time seemed reasonable to me. Faster than a usual long run, but not so hard that I couldn't recover quickly. Embarrassingly far off my PR pace, but it is what it is. Is "embarrassingly" even a word?

So it started off without much fanfare. I found a decent pace that wasn't hard, got into a bit of a groove for that first mile. A group of girls near me were talking about the course, and I made the mistake of mentioning hills. They actually asked, "there are lots of hills?" Oh, dear, were they in for a surprise.

By the time I saw Greg at the two mile mark I'd already run up three of the damn hills, but I still felt really good. Of course I did....I was only two miles into a 13.1 mile run. If you don't feel good then, you're really screwed. But in all seriousness, I felt just fine. This was pace I could keep doing, whatever pace it was....but I actually had no clue because I wasn't wearing a watch. A girl running with me for a few miles almost blurted out how long we'd been running, but I told her NOOOOOOO. I didn't want to freak myself out if I was running too fast or too slow. I had found my groove and I wanted to hold onto it for dear life.



Years ago Greg ran a half marathon on this course, actually the only one he ran at race pace because all his other half marathons have been with me, a much slower runner. He still to this day is traumatized by the course, but I always rolled my eyes at him because I've run some pretty hard half marathons with just as much elevation gain. No way could this course be harder.

It's harder.

The damn hills WOULD NOT QUIT. See, I should know this because two of my triathlons were out here, and the bike portion was this exact course. I know the hills suck and they don't quit. But I always figured it would be easier to run on it than ride on it.

That's debatable.

It was right about the half way mark when I realized that this was getting a little difficult. My heart rate appeared to be under control, I wasn't breathing particularly heavy, my legs weren't fatigued, but I think my head was getting in the way of my badassery. When you start seeing practically every person walking up the hills, it starts to bug you (NO, I DID NOT WALK UP A SINGLE DAMN HILL). I think I was ready to be done. But I still had like six miles and eleventy billion hills to go. It was around this point that a tutu unicorn dude was leapfrogging with me, alternating running and walking. As I passed him during his walk break, I mentioned that it kinda sucked out there. His response was, "but at least we look good!" You know what? We did look good!

Greg always talked about the hill along the toll road as being particularly atrocious. I remember having an asthma attack on that hill during one of the triathlons, so the thought of this beast loomed over me as I approached it. But, I actually caught a break here. When I made the turn onto that road, I felt a breeze. It felt a little cooler out, and it made me so happy I got a second wind going up that hill. It really wasn't bad at all! I was badass again!

Until the next hill. Dammit.

I was being deliberately slow at the aid stations, taking a little bit of extra time to refill my water bottle. I didn't want to take too long and rack up too many extra seconds onto my finish time, but I also didn't want to run anymore, so it was a little bit of a mental battle.

Once I saw the 11 mile marker, I felt a little better (not physically, because give me a break, but mentally definitely better). My legs were now fatiguing and all the damn hills were catching up to me. That's actually probably really great that it took so long for my legs to start to feel the effects of the hills and it gave me a bit of a mental boost that technically I was holding up okay for it being the worst weather ever. I only had two miles to go and I thought I might even be able to speed up a little bit. Not that I would know, since I wasn't wearing a watch.

On one of the last turns, we got a headwind that was actually kind of strong. I had to hold onto my hat to keep it from flying off, and although the wind made it feel cooler and less humid, I wasn't particularly appreciative of it being in my face. I mean, seriously, can this race just be over now?

You have no idea how great it was to see the 12 mile marker and know that I actually really was ALMOST DONE. I was passing people! I was running faster! I wasn't having an asthma attack! And I was pretty sure I wasn't going to embarrass myself since the 2:10 pacer never caught me. I lost sight of the 2:00 pacer by mile 4 so I knew I was several minutes over that mark.

As I approached the finish line I caught sight of the clock and it said 2:05. THANK GOD. I was totally okay with a 2:05 on the books, especially since I actually, if I totally admitted it to myself, felt just fine. Ready to be done, but still very much in control of my run.



Still felt awfully refreshing to cross the finish line AND FINALLY BE DONE RUNNING. Then I drank all the water I could find and wanted to lay down in the grass and take a nap.

The morning, however, wasn't quite over. I discovered that I actually got 2nd place in my age group. Are you kidding me? I run a 2:05 half marathon and GET ON THE PODIUM? Were there like 3 people in my age group? (actually, there were 12 so I legit did well for my age in that particular race....go figure). Mediocre time or not, I was damn proud of that second place medal! First time ever that I have placed in a half marathon, and I was going to take it!

My two teammates who ran also got 2nd in their age groups, so it was a good day for Georgetown Triathletes and our "training runs."





The next morning it was 50 degrees out and 60% humidity. This morning? 46 degrees out. I ran a progressive tempo run this morning and totally killed it.

This coming weekend is my first of three 20-milers. The forecast? THUNDERSTORMS. Shoot me now.


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Running is simple

People love to make things complicated.

You have to eat like this!

You have to take these supplements!

You have to lift weights like this!

You need to go to this gym!

You must get this treatment done!

You have to buy this for your bike!

You must sign up for this! And that! And this, too!

You have to believe this way is right!

Good grief. No I don't.

I long for the days of simplicity sometimes.

When there weren't countless tech gadgets out there. When there weren't eleventy billion fad diets out there. When everybody wasn't selling something that will "change your life." When we weren't so vain that we needed an expert to shape every aspect of our lives, and our appearances. When we could have an opinion that differed with someone else's....and it was okay and that someone else moved on instead of debated every detail. When you could read the news without having to see every single person's angry opinion about it. But I'm starting to digress...

People REALLY make things too complicated.

I am in agreement with Bill Rodgers that running is a simple sport. Put your shoes on, go outside, and run. But every single one of us runners likes to make it way too complicated sometimes.

Matt Fitzgerald summed up running in 14 words:



When we are in the midst of big goals and wanting improvement and wanting to be totally awesome, we forget about those last four words: Learn. Keep it fun.

Sunday is my half marathon. I've gone back and forth about how I want to approach this race. I've been frustrated and upset and confused and conflicted and all the emotions in between because the damn weather is going to be hot and humid. The race doesn't start until 8am, it's a very hilly course, and the sun will be out. It won't be PR conditions at all, even in the great running shape that I'm in right now. 


I guess I could've stayed mad, and scrapped running it at all like I had been thinking yesterday. Instead I asked for advice from my triathlon teammates. Have I mentioned lately that I love them? 


Leave your watch at home.


Run it as a training run.


Start off easy and then see if you can ease into marathon pace.


Wear a costume (it is a Halloween theme after all).


Forget about being upset about a slow half marathon being on the internet forever.


Have fun.


Their advice completely turned my attitude around. I'm not sure if I can keep myself from hating a permanent slow race result AGAIN, but I can do all of the other things.


I came up with a costume.


I'm not going to wear my watch.


I'm going to start easy and then see how my legs and lungs feel.


It will be a training run and I will get benefit from it. 


And then, 7 days later, I'll be ready for the first of three 20-mile training runs on my schedule.


Y'all, I'm going to wear a costume for the first time in a race ever.


Back to what Matt Fitzgerald said about running:


Build step by step. Push yourself, but not too hard. Learn. Keep it fun.

Isn't that perfect? You set a goal, you build methodically up to it, pushing yourself when you need to, holding back when you need to, learning what works and what doesn't and how you can keep improving, and when you do this you're able to keep the whole process fun and enjoyable. If that's not how you approach running, then it's time to embrace these fourteen words. 

Did I mention I'm running in a tutu? Oh, my....