Friday, December 30, 2016

2016: The Year Running Became an Unfinished Sentence

For the last few years, I manged to really wrap my running year up nicely. It was in a box, with neatly wrapped tissue paper inside around the piles of miles I ran in training. The box was wrapped in artsy paper, and finished with matching ribbon and a pretty big bow of PR's on top. My running year this year? It looks like a 3 year old tried to wrap a basketball with cardboard scraps and tin cans. You know what, it still looks pretty nifty under the tree all lit up at night though.

Coming off my biggest running year ever in 2015 (Sub-3, Sub-1:25, Sub-19, running a great friends first marathon with her as part of Saucony, and a million other running accomplishments along the way), it's a little nutty to look at running this year and think much of it. Some might say I was due for the downtime, which in many cases is true but not because I'm overtrained, injured, or burned out. Simply because I've been working hard, staying healthy and focusing so much on running for a few years- I was due for a shift. Frankly it's nice for it to be on my terms (for the most part), taking a break before it becomes forced.

To say it's been 100% easy to sit back and reflect on my running year though wouldn't be realistic. I'm a very numbers oriented person, and if I were to judge my 2016 running year by the numbers, it would be very tough to call it much of a success. I will not even hit 1500 miles which will by far be the lowest since 2012. I have no new marathon PR's, not even a half PR, nor a 5k. BUT, I also know that all those numbers don't tell the whole story.

The year started off pretty high. A few weeks in, I decided to hand the coaching reins over to James McKirdy. His business was just getting off the ground, but it felt like the right move for me. I quickly realized that I had found a coach I could rely on unlike my previous one that I had ditched back in the fall. We came up with a good plan for training/racing my way through the winter in preparation for Boston. I had kept a good base through the fall after Erie so I was setting myself up nicely come winter and spring.

Finish Line of Lake Effect Half Marathon a sub 1:27 which was run as a workout.
Home stretch en route to a huge 10k PR, race win and Freezeroo series win with a 38:37 on a windy winter Saturday.
A few stats from early in the year:
There was THIS half marathon where every goal went out the window and mental toughness was only thing I could focus on. Though the time was as much of a shit show as the weather was. Unknowingly 3 weeks pregnant as well. 
All of those numbers took place before April 13th(the day everything changed). So, the first 3-4 months of the year by running standards were pretty wildly successful- and something I'm proud of.

A few more numbers from the year...
So as I sit here right now, with a much different shape than I started the year in (quite literally)- I have no regrets about this year. I have no sadness or anger for my running, that simply wasn't. I didn't end the year with a bang, or even an airhorn. THAT'S OKAY! For years I wondered how I would handle this transition I am now in, for years I wondered if it would be harder on me- because running is so important to me. But, I've realized that it isn't.

NO that doesn't mean it's 100% easy to just flip the switch. It's not. Even if you want a kid (I did and do! {rubs belly and says hi to baby}), it doesn't mean all of your other goals and ambitions just disappear. I think it was a little harder for me this spring because I went from the best shape of my life to....not. But, to me this is something that is important to me more than running and something that will be a part of me much longer. So, on those days I wish I got another marathon in and see those people out there chasing PR's instead of families(or whatever)- I let myself feel a twinge of whatever emotion but then I think about all that I am gaining and move on with my day.

I am still a runner, even if I'm choosing not to make running a priority during my pregnancy.

I feel it's important for me to say that I do not look at pregnancy as an injury or a setback in running. In fact, I don't understand the thought process of people who feel that way especially if you're not a professional runner. Sure, the first time around this year derailed my goal marathon and then we had to deal with a loss so nothing to show for the race or the pregnancy. But I don't look at that loss as a setback in my running, I saw it as a setback in my life and what we want obviously- but I don't for one second wish it all never happened so I could have had my race even if I had known how things would have turned out. That doesn't mean running or the race didn't matter, but to me it wasn't even a competition for what mattered more.

When I started to get back into running it was tough, but it made me feel like I was doing something. I set goals, I dreamed of a fall marathon as my last hoorah and big PR attempt. I dreamed of a big training cycle, and long nights of foam rolling tired muscles. I got lost in a trance when certain songs would come on that I could visualize myself flying through a finish chute as if it were a cheesy motivational YouTube video. But those dreams were not the only thing occupying my mind.

Maybe we didn't get our storybook ending the first time around, but it did certainly tell me that I was ready for it and deep down I wanted that more than anything. I didn't pour myself into my training and return to running the way I normally would. I drank more beer than normal (I'm gonna file that under grief category), I didn't get OMG excited for workouts, I wasn't focusing on the little things I knew I needed to-and I didn't notice or seem to care. I wanted all the PR's and glory without doing what I knew it would take to get there- and that isn't me. That isn't how I do things.

So when we found out we were pregnant again, hindsight was clear as day and I realized that what I wanted was more than any training cycle or PR could give me (right now). So when I say that pregnancy is not an injury or some setback to your training- I mean that. No I haven't dealt with the post-pregnancy body things yet, and know that the return will be tough- but I'll have something wonderful to show for that.  There's nothing wrong with looking forward to running fast again and yogging without a bouncing belly but if you're so focused on what you're losing or NOT doing when you're pregnant you're not really seeing everything you're gaining (quite literally). Pregnancy, running pregnant, managing the shift in mindset (such as from chasing PR's to chasing gingerale and crackers), is tough I will not deny that; but I feel like if you're so negative about it during pregnancy how on earth are you going to handle it for the next 18 years or more after the kid is born?

{Steps off soap box}

Anyways, all that is meant to say is that I am still happy with my year of running. 2016 had a lot of negativity surrounding it in general in the world and I refuse to add to that if I can help it especially for something like my running. I'm also aware that my running in 2017 will most likely be pretty similar to 2016, with 22ish weeks of pregnancy to go followed by life with a newborn. So at the very least my running is taking a step-back for 2 years. In the grand scheme of things, it's not that much and running will be there well after.

Cheers to 2016, the year I finally broke my age old 10k PR and the year running gave me more perspective in the most unexpected of ways. A lot of things got left unfinished, but doesn't mean I cannot return to those down the road.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

1st Trimester

As I said in my last post, this blog isn't going to turn into 100% pregnancy writing- but it will be a common theme for a while. Seeing as, I'm cooking a kiddo for a few more months and it naturally will have a big effect on my daily life, not just my running.

Pregnancy has not been all sunshine and roses, even if you wanted/planned this it doesn't mean it still won't be hard. I think that is a common misconception I have seen before. A woman who gets pregnant and was trying and really wants a kid, gets shamed if she says anything other than she is just SO excited. Let me get this out there now that I don't agree with that at all. Moving on though, I wanted to wrap up my first trimester (we're 15 weeks today so already chugging along in the second). I tried to cover most bases, being open but also honest.


Symptoms

Nausea, fatigue- the common stuff. While many runners compare pregnancy to marathon training (there really are a lot of parallels) I have to say that the fatigue of pregnancy (for ME) is tougher because you cannot catch up on it. If I have a few bad nights of sleep during training + all the work, I know that if I get a few solid weekend nights I'm as good as new for the most part. These days, it doesn't matter if I get 5 or 10 hours of sleep a night, by the time bedtime (or couch time) rolls around the next day I'm toast. That isn't even including the multiple times I actually almost fell asleep in my lunch at work.

Besides that, some random symptoms have popped up; pregnancy induced bleeding gums (it's a thing, it's dumb and apparently nothing I can do about it), newly developed Gastric reflux (it's gross but manageable), nothing too crazy though. The vivid dreams have been CRAZY and most mornings I wake up wondering what was real and what wasn't. It's amazing to me what hormones do to your body.

Should probably add in baby brain/pregnancy brain/momnesia started to kick in early. Some days I feel straight up dumb and forgetful! This makes my nerdy compulsion for spreadsheets, to-do lists, and post-it notes even more important. We've laughed at it for the most part though!

Weight Gain

The first 8 weeks I didn't gain anything. Between 8-10 weeks I gained 4 pounds though, and held that through the end of the trimester. I outgrew a lot of my normal pants pretty quick, which I expected. When a lot of your clothes were bought during marathon training a small change in waistline will be felt quicker! I don't know why people put off wearing maternity clothes though, they're pretty dang comfortable.

But I also admit, the whole getting bigger and changing clothes thing hasn't affected me as much mentally as I thought it would. I'm sure that will change at some point, but for now I'm fascinated and excited about the expanding belly and am thoroughly comfortable in stretchy waist pants and ruched tops. I have an awesome sister who gave me a TON of maternity clothes so I feel like I have an entire new wardrobe which I won't complain about. I also bought a few more basics to get me started; Old Navy & Target have been awesome for those. So has this Belly Band combined with the rubber band trick.
I think this was 12 weeks. Most of that happened overnight!
As for running, since my gear is obviously mostly spandex things still fit for the most part. I have found the best running clothes right now are those with wider waistbands, it's simply more comfortable. (Pinnacle ShortsScoot Capri have been my go-to's). My go to sports bra has been the Rock-It Bra Top because it's not a set band/cup size (they size them S,M, L instead of 34B etc.) so there is a bit more wiggle room as I uhhhh grow.

Cravings/Aversions

I went through spurts with what I wanted to eat. For a few weeks it was anything processed, and by processed I mean...processed AF. Chef Boyardee, Easy Mac, anything quick and high in calories sounded amazing to me.

Then I went into the current stage which has been fruits(berries, oranges and grapefruit specifically), veggies/ranch, certain salads, and cereal. ALL THE CEREAL. I don't currently have any aversions, other than the smell of tuna. But if something doesn't sound good to me I don't want it. I normally love tacos and Mexican and had no appetite for that for a while now.

Running/Activity

In general, I didn't do much. On average once a week. Quite frankly I was fine with it. Part of it was nerves, part of it was the fatigue....and part of it was...I've been going so hard with training for 4+ years right now that the break feels so refreshing. I know activity is good, and that it will help labor- but I'm also not going to push myself. I wrote out my 1st Trimester training log over on Salty Running.

It is worth noting that I did run a half marathon about a week after we found out about the baby. We were in North Carolina visiting family (during Hurricane Matthew) and I decided to still run the Volition America Half Marathon. It was disgusting wind and rain but could have been worse. (I really won't complain about this much....people lost their homes and lives- can we stop bitching about race weather all the time? Bad weather affects far more important things than your race).

Weather + being pregnant took the pressure off and I just ran by feel and  raced for place and to have fun. I chatted with some other runners, met some new people and generally enjoyed most of the race- I did kind of just want to be done the last few miles though. Me and baby(6 weeks) walked away with the win and a 1:29 half marathon, It wasn't effortless by any means but I was happy with it and finished with soaking wet hugs from Brian and his Aunt/Uncle who stood out there cheering for us.

The Anxiety of Pregnancy After Loss

I can and will write an entire post on this all together. This is tough. It's scary. It takes away some of the excitement. It consumes you. BUT, its manageable.

I am incredibly lucky to have a doctor who understood that and agreed we would keep a very close eye for baby sake, and my peace of mind. I went for ultrasounds at 5, 7 ,9 and 12 weeks with regular OB checkups at 8 and 10 weeks. Overkill, maybe? But when you have a maxed out deductible and a very anxious pregnant woman- you just do it.

I also made a point to have some regular contact with my therapist. I have no issues talking about that, she is someone I have seen on and off for years and has helped me through some of the most trying times. Most of our sessions didn't even end up being the OMG emotional ones- if anything it was simply nice to have an unbiased person to talk to about everything in life and not just growing a baby.

Beside professionals- I made sure to be in touch with close friends and family that understand where I'm at. It's not something you really get unless you've been through it. Brian and I also had to find our own ways to cope in the first few weeks- not everyone processes things the same. But at the end of the day we had each other, want the same thing and have the same fears and worries. We have amazing friends and family, and everyone has been so supportive and I cannot begin to express how that makes me feel.

Things We Did For Baby During 1st Trimester

  • I went on my first Black Friday adventure ever, and came away with an amazing crib for $99. It's still in the box and hasn't been touched since we picked it up, but at least we have it.
  • Started registries (because of timing with Holiday it was just easier to do it sooner rather than later).
  • Spreadsheet making. I'm a nerd, this will shock no one. But this has helped me wrap my head around everything we need, and where we are getting it. We're really lucky to both have sisters who are passing a lot of things down to us from their kiddos!
  • We shared the news! This took a little longer this time around, as we really wanted to make sure. It's such fun and exciting news and we loved being able to be open and talk and be excited with others about it. This kid is already so loved!
  • We checked up on baby, I bought an at home Fetal Heart Monitor. Honestly this was a no-brainer investment and really helped keep me at ease during the first trimester. Not to mention, it has been fun to check in and listen to little one. I would recommend this for any pregnant woman!
  • I've been really good about taking my Prenatal Vitamins every day- I know it's a simple thing but so important. I tried a few different ones before settling on these as the ones that I feel work best for me. I take it every night before bed with a small snack, it seems to settle better that way.
  • I've never been good at hydrating even during marathon training. It's so important right now though, so I've been really trying! Nuun All Day has been an easy way to get me to drink more but also get some extra electrolytes to make up for what I may be missing. 
  • I rested, and relaxed A LOT. The Fire TV Stick made this way easier, and binge watched all seasons of Revenge and got through about 4 seasons of Parenthood as well. I wanted to read more but it didn't happen, I did re-read Me Before You while we traveled to Charlotte in October. I bought a bunch more kindle books to hold me over for the winter, which will definitely get me motivated to start reading more again.

So that is essentially how things went for the first trimester! I feel like it flew by most of the time, and can't believe we are already 1/3 of the way there! We cannot wait to meet our little one, but know we have a lot to do in the mean time. Thank goodness my second trimester started with some fresh energy to help!

Friday, December 2, 2016

A Few Steps Back and 14 Weeks Forward.

This has been a year of constantly changing plans, more so than I can remember in any other year. While I've definitely changed my mind, thrown wrenches into the mix, and been subject to the uncontrollable aspects of life many times before- this time was just, different.

For the first few months of the year things were pretty well laid out in running and life. Training for Boston, planning on home improvements, steady one job work schedule, nothing nutty. Before we knew it, we were preparing for a baby, throwing race plans out the window, picking up second job (kids are expensive), and planning the year around a happy December due date. A few months later and we were back at square one, completely defeated and unsure of what the next steps should be. A few steps forward, a million steps back is about how it felt.

As time went on, I started running again and more importantly we started coming out of the fog and looking towards the happy future ahead. The goals got shuffled around, a goal marathon got added to the list and we planned on next year being the year for lots of big life stuff so this fall would be the last hoorah before taking time to focus on other priorities.

Funny as it all works out, a few weeks later we decided (or someone else decided for us) that our plan should be different yet again. As soon as I took those pretty sweet looking marathon shoes off the shelf, I was gladly hanging them back up.

When I posted about deciding not to run Philly everything I said was 100% true. I've been going so hard with training for years on end and mentally and physically I honestly didn't realize how ready for a break I was. After everything that happened in the spring, my head never really got back into running space the way I'm used to it being. I assumed it was just still grief, and general running motivation struggle (it happens). Looking back though, it's pretty obvious where my head and heart were even if I couldn't see it then. We hadn't realized how much we wanted that step (at this time) until it was taken from us.

So when we were all of a sudden facing a positive pregnancy test again, everything made so much more sense. In some ways it put me at ease, in that it explained why I was feeling the way that I was. In other ways it rocked me to my core with fear and personal trust issues. For today though, we are going to focus on the positives.

Here we are into the second trimester, and the excitement grows by the day. Sure there are moments we struggle and the fear creeps in, but we get through it. We've found ways to feel like we can keep a better eye (or ear) on whats going on, and we aren't letting things hold us back from being hopeful.

My days are still the same working two jobs, the evenings are a little more relaxing with some extra time in the recliner with Netflix and Fire TV. Our spare time is getting the house ready to sell, thinking about baby things, and the usual preparations for the busy holiday season as well.

So maybe this year didn't turn out the way we expected by any means. I may not have a marathon PR, or a baby due date in a few weeks. But we have a whole lot of perspective, and a few more months to prepare for a wonderful bundle of joy (and sleepless nights) come late spring.

------

{Note for future posts- Everything will not be pregnancy related, but clearly it's going to be a big part of my life for a while. I have some planned posts about how things are going, some running related and will probably update a few times over the next 26 weeks as well. I do also plan on doing a few separate posts on pregnancy after loss and some other related things- I feel it's something that isn't talked about enough and have had some wonderful(but tough) conversations and people reach out since we shared our experience, and the current news as well}

Monday, October 24, 2016

I'm Running Another Marathon, Wait No I'm Not.

"Get your head in the game" 

It's so commonly said but what we fail to realize at times is that your head can be in the game all it wants but if your heart isn't there you might as well be running without one of your shoes.

When I finally started to run again this year after our loss, I was excited because frankly I NEEDED something to be excited about. I wanted to want to train hard. I wanted to want to race hard. I wanted to want that PR and breakthrough race. I wanted to want something so big and full of pride after a year that hasn't left me with much.

That's the thing though, I wanted to want it all. But deep down, I don't want it...not right now. My heart isn't there and sometimes it just takes time and some proverbial life slaps across the face to see it.

So as quickly as I write about going big and training for a marathon again. I'm here to write again about NOT training for a marathon again. It's been a few weeks since I came to this conclusion and with the exception of a few fleeting thoughts of "what if", I haven't really faltered in knowing that this was right.

Because truth is, I don't believe you should run or train for a marathon unless you really want to. It's a time and energy commitment and it's a distance that demands respect. I'm also not at the point where I want to run a marathon for the sake of running one.  It's by far my favorite distance but the next time I toe the line for a 26.2 it's going to be about challenging myself and pushing my personal limits- and going for a time that is faster than I have done before. Mentally and physically I am not in a place to do that right now, and I don't have the desire to put in the work to get there at this moment.

This break isn't just about the marathon though. It's about training and schedules in general. I started running road races in 2009. I'd say it got a bit more serious in 2011 when I ran my first 3 marathons. 2012 was the first time I truly started "training" for races though, and since then I have had little to no downtime.

In the last 4 years I have ran 11 Marathons, 20 Half Marathons, 1 Half Ironman, and god knows how many shorter races. I have had some form of a training plan on my calendar for almost every week with a few exceptions. Even my recovery weeks I had a loose plan of what I wanted. Plans work for me, they help me and they calm me (as stupid as that sounds).

Right now though, a plan doesn't make sense or even sound good to me. I realized I was following a plan and doing what it said, because it said so and not because I wanted to. I have always been the athlete that wants to know WHY I am doing a workout and what I am supposed to get out of it. Somewhere in the last few months I realized I was no longer going into workouts to see what I can get out of it, but simply to check it off the list and have it be done. My head was always somewhere else, and that is when I say it's time to step away for a little bit. I'm lucky to have a coach that is 100% understanding and knows that this time away is important for me.

Reality is, I know that this is a really GOOD thing. I know that a break will make me better, and I know that running is not 100% my life nor do I ever want it to be. I wouldn't trade the last few years for anything. I was willing and able to make much of my time and energy about running and training. I was successful by my own standards because of that. I was simply able to make it more of a priority than I am willing to these days.

Zest, over at Salty Running wrote this piece that hit home- The Virtues of Casual Running. My mission over the next few months is to embrace casual running. Going out and running, for the sake of running and not because of some bigger goal. There was another piece by my good friend Cilantro about shifts in your running identity- I'd say that really describes the crossroads I'm at right now in a lot of ways. I'll say it again, this is a GOOD thing and I really plan on embracing all of this as much as I can. I have a lot of goals for the future and in running specifically. Big, scary, lofty, holy-shit running goals; but I have a bit of time right now to step back before I need to step up for those goals and I plan on fully taking advantage of that.

So where is my time going to go?

Time with Brian. Time with our crazy little ones. Time with family. Time with friends. Time with those who matter- because life's too short.

Working two jobs because I'm an overachiever who gets off on paying more than my minimum car payment and enjoys the ease of automatic deposits into my IRA.

Tackling projects around the house, getting ready to sell and move next year. Working on floor plans instead of personal training plans. Finally getting around to printing photos and changing out frames like we've been talking about forever. Actually finishing some little projects (I love DIY and crafts) that I have been meaning to but never got around to doing.

Oh yeah, I'm still going to do that running thing. Just without a goal race, or pressure, and probably lacking any form of routine. Exercising for health instead of a time goal- a good basic habit. I plan on going into more detail about this another day.

I'm still going to be around running. I plan on getting some volunteering in, and definitely getting my cheer on. Heather and I decided this would be a great year to get back down to NYC to spectate for an adventure. We went in 2013 and had a blast, I can only imagine it being just as fun this year- I mean, have you seen the pro field list? I also plan on getting a bit more involved in the running community in other ways, like mentoring and even the possibility of coaching. Just because I need a little space from a personal training plan doesn't mean I don't know how to put them together and wouldn't love helping others reach their goals.

I also plan on getting into writing a bit more. Both for personal use, as well as posts here and on Salty Running. Honestly it's such a good outlet and something I truly enjoy. With that, I'll also add I have about 50 books on my kindle list that I want to get working on-perfect timing as the weather starts to turn.

So, there's that. I was training for a marathon and now I'm not. Yes, I'm still a runner. But I think we all need a break from a training plan from time to time- no?

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Rotating the Goals on the Shelf

Sometimes I feel like I have this shelf full of goals and dreams. Like a physical shelf, full of things that represent my life and what I want. I also feel like I have spent the last few years furiously picking some up off the shelf and putting others back. Sometimes, we can work on multiple at a time and other things you need to accept that it just isn't the time. This year Brian and I were forced to do a lot of rearranging of our shelf. Sometimes we move things around not to work on feng shui, but because we have no choice to but to do so. Those are the moves that take time and processing to work through, and accept the changes. Sometimes those moves leave you paralyzed with fears and emotions, and can keep you from living your life fully.

It's scary but we're finally to a point where we feel more comfortable making plans (or accepting the fact that we cannot plan some things). Back in June, we had some talks and decisions to make. DO we try now? Do we wait? What do we want to see happen this fall now? What do we want to see next year?

A lot of things are happening next year, big life changing things (Selling our home, Buying/Moving into a new one...for starters). Among some other big things, it just makes it really hard to plan accordingly and very far in advance for things that are way down on the totem pole in comparison (such as, running).

What does that mean? Well, right now I'm not really sure what it means. I know that I won't be registering for Boston for a multitude of reasons (some are emotional, others are more logistical). I also don't know if I'll be registering for anything far in advance at all. I know I'll run in some capacity, and probably jump in local races that I can do with far less planning. I'm VERY okay with this, and who knows- as we get a better idea of what the year will look like I may find a way to work in some bigger races/plans. I may not though.

Right now this leaves me feeling like I want a "last hoorah" though. That sounds so dramatic, like I'll never run again which is far from the truth. Hell, I know myself well enough to know that I'll get in SOME goal for running next year I just don't know what/when. But, after we waded through everything this summer- I realized that I wanted to take advantage of the time this fall to go out with a bang. It's scary and hard and I'm trying not to overthink it- but I've got two goals on the calendar and with some grit and a lot of help I think I can get there. Brian has been incredibly supportive as always, and we agree that this is the time to do these things.

After Oak Tree, I had a renewed sense of motivation and confidence. It was far from a PR for me (well, it was a course PR), but there were a lot of little things from that day which showed me....I'm not so far from where I was. So, we decided it was time to actually get some goals on the calendar.

The first is actually the later of the goals, but the bigger one. A marathon. I doubt this is shocking to anyone. But I admit I really wasn't sure if I was going to or not. I LOVE marathons, I do them for me because I enjoy the distance and I truly love the process. But I will also be the  first to admit that when I do them, it is with my heart- because it really is my favorite. This is why I wasn't sure if I COULD do one this year, because honestly my heart is not totally there.

Back in June, I knew that if I were to run a marathon it would need to be later in the fall. It would need to give me enough time to get in PR shape or at least close. I already ran one for "fun" this year, and if I was going to run another I wanted to at least feel ready to RACE. I wanted to feel ready to go for it, to push, and grit through the miles- for better or for worse.

I had three races in my head. Memphis. CIM. Philly. All of which I have done in some capacity before, and were late enough to give me the time I needed. At the end of the day, Philly made the most sense. As of last week, I am officially registered. Our hotels have actually been booked for a while(always be prepared), and pretty much knew this was going to be the case. I simply needed the confidence, and the emotional readiness to commit.

We are really excited, and planning a fun filled marathon weekend. As it stands I know for sure a few of my biggest supporters are going to be there- something that makes me smile just thinking about. Philly is a great city, and we really enjoyed spending some time there for the half last year (and also some non-running related things in the city). I'm giddy thinking about the race, and already visualizing different aspects of it and how I want to see things pan out. Those are the moments that make training even better, I love the process but the process becomes easier when you can clearly see the goals ahead.

That also left me feeling like I wanted a half in October for a tune-up race. I originally thought about going back to Empire Half to run (and maybe try to win again), but when I realized we were out of town that weekend I started to search a bit more. IF I was going to race when we got to Charlotte, it needed to be close and start early. We are going to visit Brian's family and I did not want my running to interfere with anything. Lucky for me, there is a half marathon...10 minutes from his Uncles house and it starts at 7AM. So, I will be running the Volition America Half Marathon. I had not really heard of this race series before, but it's for a great cause and some folks have assured me it's actually a flat course for Charlotte (where as many are not in that area!).

So just like that, I'm setting goals again. It's frustrating and scary and emotional- but that is pretty much an accurate description of life. I'm also excited, motivated and ready to get back to the grind. Oddly, few things make me feel more stable than the instability of the marathon training gauntlet.

Bring on the marathon training, and ALLLLL of the food that comes with it.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Oak Tree Half Marathon 2016

The Oak tree Half marathon is one of my favorite races and probably always will be. It's close to my hometown, MANY of my friends run it, it mainly runs on back roads like ones I grew up on....and it falls on Labor day weekend. My birthday is always right around labor day, but in general I just love that weekend because it's in my head the beginning of a "new season".

The first time I ran the race was in 2011, it happened to fall smack dab on my birthday. I won the race that year with a 1:36 (which was a PR at the time). In 2012 I went back and ran 1:35 for 3rd place. Even though I love this race, I hadn't been back to it since then. It became a new tradition to always be at our cabin in the 1000 Islands for the weekend, and wasn't going to commute back 3 hours for a race.

This year though, it worked out to run again as Brian and I had to be around home for the weekend for a wedding and some family events. The race, also fell on my birthday again this year so it was kind of a no brainer. For my birthday, I wanted to run the race and spend the morning with my friends. I even convinced Heather to come out and run it as well.

The course is not an easy one, but it isn't impossible by any means. There are 2 main climbs, and a good chunk of the course is on dirt/gravel back roads. The race field is usually small but occasionally gets some faster runners. The course records are 1:23 for women and 1:08 for men, though the winning times are rarely that fast(see my 1:36 in 2011).

Heather came out the night before the race and spent the evening with Brian, myself, and Brian's family(they were in town from the wedding). It was low key back yard BBQ and good times relaxing.

In the morning, things went smoothly getting on the road and getting to the race about 45 minutes before the start while finishing my pre race drink in the car. It starts/finishes at the high school which makes for ample bathrooms- always a plus.  Heather and I did about a mile warm-up due to time and then headed to the start after saying bye to Brian. I opted not to wear my flats because I knew it would hurt with the gravel, and went with my Fastwitch instead (what I used for workouts, and marathon). I also, for the first time wore a crop top. I love sports bra running but have been looking for a crop for a while to see if I would like it. Found this one on Amazon and am really happy with it.

It was admittedly a beautiful morning. We were chilly when we got up (perfect!) and it was in the 50-60's for the race, with nice sunshine and blue sky. It was warming up quick but early start time definitely helps along with the breeze.

At the start I saw a bunch of good friends, including Dawn who I knew was about to wipe the floor with me on this course. There was another local runner who I knew was going to be in front of me, so in my head I knew that vying for podium meant third. I had a challenging few weeks physically and emotionally leading up to this so I wasn't 100% sure how it would go but was planning around 1:30-31, coach had agreed with that. I know I'm not in PR shape yet, and still returning to my pre-Boston form.

Miles 1-3 (6:37, 6:37, 6:40)

These are pavement miles, where you run into town and around the fountain and then back outside of town. I love this section because you get to see all of the other runners due to out and back nature of it and then also run through the scream tunnel of the 5k participants waiting to start. I wound up in 5th during these miles and was just focusing on running comfortably hard. The miles ticked off and I was surprised how good they felt.

Miles 4-7 (6:40, 6:43, 7:05, 7:00)

When you turn left onto Nations road is where the race really begins. At this point it's a long downhill on dirt/gravel, it's hard not to fly down but I maintained pretty good control and used it to sling shot around the corner at the bottom. I was running near a few people, we bobbed back and forth and I could see 4th/3rd places far in front of me. The race starts spreading out more and more each mile around this point.

Right after mile 5, you turn right to head up Roots Tavern. A long gradual which accounted for the slower 6th and 7th miles (which I knew would be the case). I focused on short strides and even effort, my heart rate jumped a ton for this section until I realized I needed to breathe and let it calm down. We were right in the sun, so I was glad I had my shades on and tried to tuck in any tree shadows when I could.

Part of 7 and 8 you pop back up on main road for a short period which was nice reprieve from the gravel and allowed me to pick things up a little bit and mentally shift gears.

Miles 8-10 (6:38, 6:36, 6:46)

8 is a nice downhill stretch (but back on gravel) and it allowed me to see 3rd and 4th place women ahead of in the distance again. About halfway down the hill I caught fourth place, just one more to go. A few guys and I picked up the pace going back and forth, I mentioned I was trying to catch the girl in 3rd (who, lucky for me was wearing BRIGHT yellow shirt which gave me something to focus on). Before 10 you start the slight uphill getting ready to curve back around to Nations road (the long downhill after mile 3). It was a strange feeling but I really had shifted gears into race mode and was like...I want to catch that girl. Much of the race leading up to that was, just run comfortably hard and save enough for Nations hill at the end.

Miles 11-12 (6:58, 7:35)

Helllooooo Nations hill. I love/hate this hill. It's gorgeous scenery but will mentally break you if you aren't ready to fight back against it. I didn't look at my watch, just trucked up (slowly) and bided my time until I could get to the top where we go back on main roads (and a gentle downhill to the finish). I could still see yellow shirt, but knew trying to push and catch her on the hill wouldn't be smart. I got a few cheers and "Happy Birthday's" from people I knew out on the course which made me smile- and also made a few runners around me say HBD too.

Mile 13, Finish (6:15, 5:33 for last bit)

As soon as I got on the road I just stared at yellow shirt back and ran hard until I could get close. Oddly this was the fastest of the day at that point but my heart rate was the lowest during this point. It took me nearly the entire mile to catch her, and finally did right as we got back towards the school. I snuck inside on her right and then turned into the school and onto the track for the finish. A few friends were out cheering, and the announcer knows me so I could hear him yelling for me. I also heard him mention the girl behind me so I had no idea if she was close or not. I hauled ass around the track and finished in 3rd with about 20 seconds to spare.

1:29:05 is my official time which is a 6ish minute PR for the course. Knowing what I know about this race, the course, and where I am at with my fitness given everything this year- I am really happy with how it all went. It's a LITTLE bit of sting because that is the exact pace I ran for my marathon last fall, and I know I couldn't hold that pace that long (right now). But at the same time, it's still progress from where I was a few months ago.

I caught up with Brian and Dawn(she ended up second!), while we waited for Heather to come through. She was running this as a hard workout but knew she was going to have a good day. When I saw her, I called up to my friend who was announcing and had him cheer her in for me on the loudspeaker (ha she probably looooved that).

After the race we did a slow 2 mile cool down chatting, and then got back to hang out for awards and birthday celebration with some of my friends. It was so nice to just relax a bit and chat with people I don't see nearly often enough.

Later that day Brian and I headed up to the cabin in the islands to spend time with my parents. We decided a few weeks beforehand that we would take Tuesday off work so we could spend a few days up there for some R&R. Much needed after working every day the month of August, and also not getting extended time with my parents (mom especially since she lives out of state right now) since early July!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Bergen Road Race 2016

Almost two weeks ago now I ran my first "real race" since returning to running. Granted I did the 20k the weekend before, but I ran that as a workout and emotional band-aid-ripping.

Last year for this race I was in the middle of peak training for Erie Marathon, this year definitely a far cry from that at this point- BUTTTT before I get all negative nancy, I'm feeling pretty good with where I'm at all things considered.

Pre-Race

I had a little bit of a stink attitude before the race, talking about how I didn't even think I could break 21 minutes in this weather and because I'm so out of shape yadda yadda. In reality, that was my insecurity coming out full force. God, sometimes I really need to be slapped and told not to take myself so seriously. Thank goodness Heather was there to cheer, and also bring me back down to earth a bit.

It was already really warm at 7:30 in the morning when I got into Bergen, add in the 80+% humidity and I knew it wasn't going to be pretty. I finished my Gen UCAN and then did about a 20 minute warm-up in my Zealot's and was soaked with sweat by the time I got back to my car. I wanted to be as comfortable as possible for the race, so I opted for sports bra, Bullet Shorts and Type A6 racing flats even though I was going to blind people with my stomach. It was worth it to feel maybe 5 degrees cooler.

The Race

This race is hard to NOT go out fast with the caliber of athletes that show up. It's even harder to not go out fast when you have only done one race/workout in months and don't have a good grasp on pacing or where your fitness level is at. With that said, I ran a 6:09 first mile and knew that wasn't going to last. Spoiler alert, but that's okay.
Mid race naps are always welcome.

I didn't look at my watch at all after that, because it didn't matter. I just focused on running hard and getting from turn to turn and passing people when I could. I encouraged a girl in the second mile and tried to pull her along with me.

While the course changed last year, the last mile has always been the same as long as I have been running the race. So I know it well, which is good and bad. On this day it was good because I knew where to hold back a little or push and also....when to just freaking go because being done sounded amazing. I passed quite a few people including 4-5 women in the last tenth of a mile- sometimes you just need to feel that competitive fire again to be reminded what you can do.
In finish chute: Photo courtesy of Heather!
I finished in 19:55. It's far from a personal best, but I was happy to be under 20 and also not run a personal worst for this race (though it was close). Strava told me I ran roughly 5:08 pace for the last bit of the race which made me feel good knowing I had a kick....and probably should have ran faster sooner. My heart rate was probably also a sign I should have ran harder- I'm going to say I simply don't have the mental will to push right now. But that's a topic for another day.

All in all it really was a good morning. I was so grateful that Heather came out to cheer and support me. We also ran into my good friend Dawn who I did a lot of Boston training with earlier this year.
Dawn, me, Heather
 Being part of the Bergen Elite running team was even better this year as we had even more runners than in the past. Our men's team won the open division and our women's team took second. I was a bit frustrated that I couldn't pull my weight more but man we have so awesome fast ladies representing and leading the team!

After the race, Heather and I had breakfast and long talk- some of my favorite things! Always good to catch up and also unwind for a while with a good friend. I then raced home, to hop on a skype chat with Lindsey, Erica, and Michele. Basically my entire morning was spent around incredible women in person and afar. I was so excited to chat with the girls for Lindsey's I'll Have Another podcast. I was first on her podcast back in February (but released in April) and loved getting a chance to do it again for her 25th episode! If you haven't listened to her yet I urge you to give it a shot- she's so much fun and interviews some incredible people like one of my favorite Olympians Emily Infeld! As for our "roundtable" episode that we had this time, I was so lucky to have that time with the ladies. We talked Olympics, Doping, running safety, and also some incredibly personal stuff- go take a listen!

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