Thursday, June 16, 2016

Love, Mom.

My Little One,

I don't know if I can put this all into words, but I'll try my hardest. You deserve that, and I think it will help me too. I hope.

You appeared so quickly, far less than the expected 2 minutes we were instructed it would take. You were a surprise, but the best kind. Your dad and I were pretty quiet that first night as we both processed everything, but went to bed knowing that an amazing adventure awaited us. We both couldn't wait to be parents together, it was scary but we knew it would be so worth it.

Just a few short days later we headed off to Boston as a family of 2.5, though we were pretty much the only ones who knew. The race didn't matter to me anymore, at least not in the sense that it did a few weeks prior. You gave me a good explanation of why the last few weeks felt so off, and why my motivation was lacking. We enjoyed the weekend together, I loved showing you and your Dad around Boston.
Come Patriot's day, I was very conflicted. I wanted to run, but I wanted to do what was best for us. I started with a very loose plan, but come the halfway point I knew that the best thing for us would be to pull the plug. So I slowed down and we took it easy- something I will never regret. I crossed that finish line with my hand on my stomach, and said this was for you. The 2016 Boston Marathon was for you.

After returning home, you and I spent all of our time together. You got me to slow down, relax and take a much needed break from running. You wanted me to rest, and I did. We ate a lot of food, we grew together, and my body started growing with that. 

At 8 weeks, we heard your heartbeat. I think my heart skipped it's own beat in awe of how strong and amazing you sounded. You were growing perfectly, you looked like a little peanut and we had our first picture of you. We felt safe, and comforted knowing you were growing up fast. We went to bed early, we ate well (and often!), and we did everything we could for you.

We spent the weekend before you marked the eleventh week up at the cabin in The Thousand Islands. We shared that time with my parents, and we all talked about the things you would do as you grew up creating memories here- just like your Aunt Megan and I did. Your dad and I started making plans, talking about names, and sharing the news. Family and close friends knew about you, and soon everyone else would too. 

As we were about to end the first trimester, and since we had heard your heartbeat already, the risks had decreased drastically.We went to the doctor to check up on you and get some genetic testing, we could even know if you were a baby boy or girl soon from that! We were so excited for the next step, and went in with hope and love. 

It was a Tuesday morning, and everything changed in an instant.

We found out that your heart had stopped beating, and we instantly felt like ours had too.  I still looked, and felt pregnant, you were still there but at the same time you weren't. It was confusing and scary and incredibly sad. Your Dad and I cannot stop hearing those words and that is something that will take time to process but it's something we will go through together.

We're sad, and mad and we keep questioning every breath from the last few months. The cold fact is there was nothing we did wrong, though we will always wonder. Because we cared about you, and wanted to keep you safe. It's hard knowing your heart just wasn't strong enough, regardless of how much love we had for you. We know we're not alone and we know that many have suffered like us. We have hope for the future together with kids and we know that some will never have that- I promise not to take that for granted.

We were ready to share with the world, we had it planned and we couldn't have been more excited. At first I wondered if we got too excited, if we got too far ahead of ourselves but then I realized I wouldn't change a thing regardless of the outcome. I don't think it's possible to detach and not be hopeful just to try and preserve yourself in case something happens. Expecting the worst is not the way to live. Regardless of how we felt and who we told or what we did- it was still going to hurt. Putting a wall up doesn't make things easier, it just prevents people who love you from supporting you and being there. 

Your Dad and I spent a lot of time just sitting, talking and being together. We had each other and I cannot tell you how important that is. While I was the one carrying you, WE made you, and it was something WE both have to process. Together we also decided I would still join your Aunt Heather on our planned trip to Utah shortly after this all happened. We believed it would be good for me, even though being apart during this time would be tough for us. The days would be filled with adventure, and the nights we were only a phone call away from each other when things were harder (okay, the nights were really challenging).

The trip to Utah did indeed help, even if some wondered why or how I could go. I put on a happy face and allowed myself to experience things. Not because I wasn't sad, not because I wasn't hurting. But because sitting down and letting the silence take over would have consumed me. So instead, I focused my energy on taking care of myself, supporting one of my biggest supporters, and experiencing things that I could only have hoped to do with you one day. One of the mornings, it was just you and I listening to music as we drove up a dark winding canyon road in search of a good spot. We found that spot, and we sat while I cried watching the sunrise over a reservoir nestled in the mountains. While I knew I had a long way to go, I feel like that moment gave me a piece of hope and a sliver of acceptance.
I flew home late on a Monday night, I was beyond ready to be there with your Dad. It had been 6 days since we got the news and those words still felt like they were a broken record in my head that I couldn't turn off. On that 7th day we spent a few hours with people who helped us get the closure we needed.  My body hadn't yet realized what was going on, and simply waited until I was in a safe place with your Dad and some incredibly caring nurses and doctors. As hard as that last week with you was, I'm grateful I had that time to process and grieve at my own pace. While you're gone now, we know it will take time. Sad just takes time.

In your few months you saw and did more than some do in a lifetime. You ran a blizzard half marathon with me being your unknowing Trojan horse to the finish. You welcomed your cousin Max into the world with us. You took part in the 120th Boston marathon in a blazing time of 3:16 (it took me 6 tries to get a time like that, you did it in one!). You flew on a plane, went hiking in a canyon, and so many other things I could have only hoped to do again with you. Perhaps the most important thing that you experienced though, was love. You were so incredibly loved, and I cannot express that in any words that will do it justice. You were loved,  you showed your Dad and I even more love in each other and those around us.

I debated sharing this letter with anyone but you. But you were a part of my life, something your Dad and I were happy to have even though it ended too soon. I don't want to pretend you weren't there, because you were and probably always will be in some ways.

Love, Mom 

Friday, April 29, 2016

Boston Marathon 2016

Almost two weeks ago I ran my third Boston Marathon. There was a time in my life I didn't know about Boston, I didn't know how far a marathon was, and a time after I knew those things- that I still never believed I'd get to achieve Boston. Maybe those facts make last Monday's race easier to just "let go" of. I ran a 3:16 marathon on a day I was trained for a 2:55. As much as people may not believe me- I really am okay with this. I was in control, and I made the choice that got me to that time.

My first Boston was undeniably the bright spot I needed at a hard time, and was incredibly proud of running to enjoy that experience. Last year, Boston was just as spectacularly epic but in a different way. I didn't need Boston this year, in that sense. I didn't need it to be a breakthrough that was long time coming, and I didn't need it to be some shining light in the dark. So when I got to the half and knew it wasn't the day to push, I was incredibly at ease with that decision. It didn't even feel like a decision.

My peak and taper were far from ideal this time around, after a great training cycle it was tough to see it crumble so late in the game. Three weeks out from the race I took two unplanned days off(personal stress & family loss), but rebounded with the best 24 mile run I've had in training. One week later I had a funeral and followed the next day with a planned half marathon workout turned nightmare. As much as the weather was to blame, my confidence never really came back from that. I focused on trying to get back on track mentally in taper, but a poorly timed bout of the stomach flu 7 days before the race about wiped any confidence I had left for Boston. My coach was awesome through all of this, helping me adjust and also not go insane. We took the repeated hits and just kept going as best we could.

Two days before we were set to leave, I simply found a way to file it under "it is what it is". I had such a strong training cycle with a new coach and I wasn't going to let this ruin all of that. It was still going to be a great weekend away with Brian, and another chance to run a race that so many would love to- I refused to take that for granted. I hadn't ruled out a PR race for myself, but I did not have my happiness tied to the outcome. It was a freeing feeling.

Brian and I spent the weekend bopping around Boston together, and it was so much fun. We did stuff associated with the race (Expo, finish line...the usual) but we also did a lot that wasn't- because life is so much more than running. Don't get me wrong, I love running and I love Boston but this weekend wasn't just about me running it was about US (and the best lobster roll I've ever had).

We stayed a bit outside the city but race morning was a breeze with an uber ride and then a few stops on the red line. I ran into Julia which was a great way to start the morning, as I got to share the morning with her last year too! Eventually I met up with Jessica, Michele and a few other new friends which just made the bus ride and time in Hopkinton that much better. No shortage of inspiration from these ladies, I hadn't seen Jess or Michele since Chicago but it felt like we never left.

Athletes village was the standard sitting on a towel in a field, with the best people watching you can imagine. I always get a huge kick out of everyone's throwaways. I had scrub pants this year and I was sad to leave them behind as they were super comfy.  While standing in bathroom line with Meg, I remember hearing them talking over the loud speaker reminding everyone to write emergency contact info on the back of their bib. I thought about it and was like- meh and went back to chatting. This will haunt me later.
About to board the bus to Hopkinton with these awesome women.
Eventually it was time to head to the start for those of us in the first wave. The good luck hugs went around the circle and then I made my way through the crowds. For the second year in a row, I got to walk with Norman as we made our way through start corrals. I ate another pack of Honey Stinger chews while we walked and chatted about running, life changes, and smiled our way to our respective starts.  I had no idea how I was feeling for the race, but spending the morning with awesome people and knowing I'd get to see Brian in a few hours was enough to tell me that it was going to be a good day (in general).

As I stood in my corral waiting to start, I heard my name and looked over to see Mike! I was so happy to see another friendly face! I've been friends with him and his wife Michelle for a few years now, so it was nice to catch up a little while we waited. It was Mike's first Boston and I was so excited for him- he worked his tail off to qualify and was now training for his first Ironman.

I noticed I was already warm, and made a mental note to double up on hydration throughout.

After the start, I had my watch set on overall time and overall average pace. I had originally made a 2:55 pace band, but left it in the hotel on purpose that morning. I kind of knew off the bat with the rising temps and recent issues that 2:55 wasn't going to happen, but possibly sub-3 if I played it smart. The miles ticked away, I smiled and settled into a groove. In the first 10k I remember hearing my name and whipped around a little too late to see who it was- but I waved to the nice woman (whoever you are, thank you!). I wasn't feeling awesome but I also wasn't feeling awful, so I made a deal with myself to make it to the half and readjust as need be. The sun was blazing and my sunglasses definitely helped but I wish I had brought my visor from the hotel too, live and learn.

Around the 15k I was getting the feeling that I should probably hit a bathroom, but didn't know when I would see one and didn't want to weave too far out of my way to get to one. So I bided my time and just took in the sights and sounds (hello, Wellesley) along the way. My gel wasn't sitting well and I decided that I probably wasn't going to be able to stomach any more of them, but I had drank a bottle of UCAN in the morning so I wasn't too worried about fuel. I continued to double up on water at each stop, I knew it was getting warmer and combating dehydration would be key.

I reached the half (1:29:33), and then I put all my energy into finding a bathroom. I had to wait about 30 seconds for one to be vacant, then got in and out pretty quick (and then back in). I did a little self assessment about how I was feeling and knew right then it was time to pull the plug.

Some people say they didn't think the conditions were that bad and ran fine- and that's okay. Everyone is different and I don't take offense when people say that. Because, you know what....last year that was me. While the conditions were far from ideal last year at Boston, I ran a (small) PR and conquered the course. This was not going to be one of those days.

For me, this wasn't even a question- I knew it was the right call to back off at the half as everything inside of me was screaming to just take it easy. The last few weeks had been a roller coaster with a messy peak/taper, which doesn't exactly help heading into a goal race. I was not feeling 100%, the conditions weren't working for me, and I didn't think it was worth it to push. I could push and make myself super uncomfortable for a non-PR and probably finish worse for the wear and with a less than stellar attitude. Or I could back off, run with others, soak in BOSTON and finish with pride and gratefulness. I chose the later.
Pretty consistent first half
and also pretty consistent (yet slower/easier) second half

So, I downshifted mentally and physically and took off down the road. Not too long after I saw a guy on the side of the road, I quickly realize it was Ryan and I stopped to see if he was ok. We took off running easy together, he too wasn't have the best day. He knew he would see his wife Jess around 20, so we just set a goal of getting there and seeing what happened. We ran together for a few miles, walked occasionally and I started taking Gatorade for the electrolytes. My spi-belt wasn't helping my stomach and I couldn't get comfortable with it AT ALL, so I ended up ditching it as I knew it was replaceable.

I also was watching everyone who was flying past us, not feeling negative about it but actually looking for friends. I was thinking of all those I knew and hoping they were having better days, that was a happy thought that helped me keep going. Almost like a "let me take one for the team" kind a feeling.

Eventually Ryan and I got separated, I felt bad that I couldn't find him but I knew he would see Jess soon. I was looking for her as I got to 19-20 but didn't know where she would be. Turns out, she saw me but I never saw her.

I was worrying about Brian and my family worrying (worrying about worrying, is that a thing?). Eventually I pulled to the side to ask a couple if I could use their  phone to text him and let him know I was okay. Well 20+ miles plus 70+ degrees = Laura spacing on the order of the first 3 numbers of her boyfriends cell phone. FABULOUS. The girl asked me if it was on the back of my bib (you know, like it should be) and I hung my head and muttered some choice words to myself. Note: next time just don't be too damn proud to write a number on your bib.

I was frustrated with myself for being a space cadet about a number but hopped in a bathroom again quick and then got back to the race. The last few miles, like any marathon really were a blur. The smell of beer through Boston College was stronger than ever. The cheers and the signs were much needed, and helped pass the time. I walked occasionally, but not too much. I kept telling myself to get to Brian, as I knew I'd see him in the last mile.

Somewhere in the last few I heard my name called out and looked over to see Rachel, this was MUCH needed! I stuck my tongue out and threw my hands up, we had talked a lot the few days prior so she knew it just wasn't my day based on the week leading up to it. But seeing her smiling face and hearing the cheers was such a bright spot.

A little while later I was GLUED to the left side watching for Brian. I wanted to see him. I needed to see him. The good news is, since I was watching so intently I also saw some other friends! I stuck my tongue out, waved and then kept going on my way. Finally I heard Brian before I saw him. I blew him a big kiss (and the guys in front of him thought it was for them) and made the turn onto Hereford with a fire lit. It was just what I needed.

I took a peek at my watch, and took off and made the best left turn and didn't stop until I was officially done. Marathon number 14, I won't forget you that's for sure. It wasn't some epic finish, there were no tears, in fact it was probably the least emotions (good or bad) I've had about a marathon in a while. I was content and proud to have another Boston done. I finished tired, and feeling as if I ran 26 miles. My one sided sunburn and minimal chafe marks were the only "battle wounds" as quality running socks and shoes that kept my feet unblistered and unbeaten. I call that a win.

Not every race will be a PR, this is just kind of a fact of running. Look, I won't sit here and say I wouldn't have liked the race to go differently. I won't say a PR wouldn't have been awesome. I won't say that it's a little sad not to see a killer training cycle with a new coach not come to fruition on race day. But, there is a time and a reason for everything and I can sleep just fine knowing that Boston 2016 wasn't the epic marathon PR. I didn't let the outcome of the race dictate how I viewed the training cycle, or the amazing weekend, or even the day in general. That is leaps and bounds of how I would have acted a few years ago about it- so with that I say it's pretty cool to see personal growth.

The training cycle wasn't a waste by any means. I have a great coach who I trust. I hit workouts I didn't think I could. I set a HUGE 10k PR, and a small 5 mile PR (even though I ran a tempo run right before the race). I ran my second fastest half marathon as a WORKOUT. I ran through all kinds of weather, and also battled the mental aspects of treadmill workouts. I did the work, and come race day I did what was best for me. So yeah, I'm pretty happy about that.

Onto the next adventure, and it's gonna be good.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Johnny's Running of the Green 2016

Even though I raced my way through the winter, Johnny's is always considered the unofficial start of racing season in the area. This past weekend was extra special though, because it was going to be a morning full of family too. My sister and her husband planned on coming with my nephew, and Mom made last minute flight plans and was able to be there! Dad and I....we were the runners!

I always try and wear some green, as many runners do for the race. I wore my Green Saucony PE shorts with my Bergen singlet. I was eager to test out my new Tifosi sunglasses in a race, perfect sunny day for it! I left pretty early since I knew I needed more warm-up time, I ate some Honey Stinger chews and drank GenUCAN on the way. I knew it would be a long morning of running so wanted some extra fuel.

Due to training for Boston, and having raced recently it was decided it didn't make sense to all out race the 5 mile for me. The 10k PR recently, gave me good information on my current fitness level. So the plan was to run 2 x 5 mile that day. I got there and did a short warm-up, then did 5 miles around tempo pace (I wore my workout shoes for this part, the Fast Twitch) . The paces were a bit slow and it took me a while to feel "alright", but I chalked that up to my allergies and being low on sleep.

Family time with my Nephew and Dad!
I then ran a little easy back to the start area to find my family and change into my Type A6 racing flats and shed my run strong sport top. I gave dad his shirt and bib and he was ready to go. I gave him a few reminders, and told him to stay to the left so when we hit the out and back portion I could see him easier!

I found my Bergen Elite teammates and we chatted a bit before the start. Then it was pretty much time to go. My goal was to just run and see what happened, maintaining consistent effort.

Having run the tempo before the race was a good way of making sure I didn't blow out of the gates and start too fast. It's a slight uphill into headwind to start, and I tucked in with a group of guys that I knew I normally would be around.

I hit the first mile around 6:10 and made my goal to just hold the effort. I picked off some people, and kept telling myself not to do anything crazy and to just get to the turnaround point. The turnaround comes after a short uphill and then it's a hairpin turn around a folding chair (which is totally dumb, it was way better when the turnaround was 5 feet sooner...and went around the actual traffic circle...but I digress). After that, I peeked to my left to see who was coming up behind me and basically made the goal not to let anyone pass me. I think I did good in that department, and I just kept the same effort.

I spent the next few minutes staring at everyone coming at us on the left side. I didn't want to miss Dad coming back at me! I exchanged cheers and high fives with some people I knew, and then finally saw dad! We cheered for each other but totally failed and missed our side fives- but we tried! After that I used the Ford St. Bridge as another checkpoint to work my way to.
Mile 4
Once I got back on Exchange it was just, hold on and go for it. I passed a few more people and got excited when I saw my sister out in the road cheering.

Pushing in the last half mile
I crossed the finish in 31:03 which is technically an official 5 mile PR. Although, I did run a faster 5 mile time in the middle of that 10k PR recently. It's fun though, and nice to see that I can do so even on tired legs. Pretty sure I could run faster if I didn't tempo beforehand...duh. BUT, I succeeded in the goal for the day and I am looking forward to my main goal of Boston right now.

My sister came and found me after the finish and then we went back to my Mom, nephew and brother in law. I love how excited Alden gets, makes my heart melt!

I took the stroller and pushed Alden backwards on the course with Mom while looking for Dad. We just kept telling him to look for Boppa! Eventually we stopped and waited, and then got super excited when we saw him coming! Dad swung over for a high five, and then I took off running with him towards the finish. He was passing people and running really well- and certainly faster than his goal! I cannot tell you how happy him running made me!
Running in with Dad, I need to frame this!
Overall it was just a great morning all around. I got to run hard, see friends and spend quality time with family. We of course went to lunch after, and celebrated with a Guinness!

Now back to the marathon training grind, Boston is getting so close! I'm running Syracuse half two weeks prior but that will be a marathon paced workout due to how close it is.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Lake Effect Half Marathon 2016

This winter was exactly what I wanted and needed it to be for my training. I was signed up for a lot of events due to the Freezeroo series, on top of Lake Effect being tradition with the girls now. I knew that I shouldn't race all of them, and it made the most sense to pick and choose which ones would be more important. I really wanted a 10k PR(the weekend following this race), which meant this half marathon would be best suited to be a long workout. Ya know, just finally catching up on these posts here. Not that it matters- but will be fun to look back years from now and be able to read these (for me).

This race was February 21, 2016

I picked up my friend Dawn that morning on the way out to Syracuse and we had a really easy ride which was a good start to the day. We both had to extend warm-up and cool-downs for the race to hit mileage for the day, so we grabbed our bibs and then started getting going.

Having done the race twice before(2014, 2015), I pretty much knew what to expect. At least this year there wasn't any fresh snow, so we wouldn't be encountering a trashed back half of the course(last year). Warm-up felt decent, followed by some strides. It wasn't too cold out so I was comfortable enough in my Zensah Tech+ socks, Saucony Ignite shorts, with arm warmers and the ultimitt gloves. Since I wasn't racing all out, I didn't run in the Type A6. The fast twitch are my go to for workouts and I also raced Erie in them so it made sense to use those this time around.

The plan was to run the first 10 miles around goal marathon pace (6:40ish), and then pick it up for the last 3.1 miles after that. I knew it was going to be tough to hold back, but I also kept in mind the purpose of the workout which really helped. Shortly after the start I found myself tucked in with a group of guys, something made us chuckle (I think some random guy on the course) and we found ourselves chatting after that.We talked goals non-chalantly and kind of came to an agreement to help each other and try to run together. I told them my plan for the first 10, and we went on our way.

We ran almost the entire race together!
We clicked the miles off near perfectly with pace, and chatted about upcoming goals and races as we did so. The pace felt good and I remember feeling like this pace wasn't a complete pipe dream for Boston this year. I kind of figured out mid-race that it was going to be a PR for the guys I was running with, which only motivated me more to hang on and I encouraged them as we ran. I tried not to count women as we started seeing leaders come back at us(double out and back course), because I didn't want to get caught up in racing mentality. I saw Dawn which was a good boost, and then we hit the turnaround and my personal favorite part. Seeing everyone coming at you as you're running back. I love how encouraging everyone is and really lets the running community shine. The guys that I was running with know a LOT of people (they run with a Syracuse group), so we got lots of extra cheers. Then we saw Britt and she joked about me always being with groups of guys, we all chuckled.

I saw my friend Megan and was making funny faces and arm movements, I'm really glad the photographer caught it. Shows I really was having fun and enjoying the workout/race!
When we started the second out and back, the wind was far more significant than the first trip out. My quads got a bit cold and I did some random surges occasionally just to change things up. At this point we were talking less, but still running on pace and helping each other. I kept saying "just get to the turnaround and no more headwind". Finally we hit the turnaround and as it happens, we got the reprieve from the wind. I felt a little sluggish for about a mile after we turned, and worried I wouldn't be able to pick up the pace soon. But, I surged forward before 10 and one of the guys went with me. About a mile later I was solo, but running strong and I knew I was picking it up. I could see the next girl in the distance, and wanted to see how much I could reel her in.

The last few miles were good, and certainly reassuring being able to finish a solid workout. I closed the gap a lot on 3rd place female, but couldn't quite catch her in time before we reached the finish. It was a close one though. 

I finished in 1:26:41 which is 6:37 pace, and good enough for 4th place for a workout. I am really pleased with that, and technically it's my second fastest half behind my 1:24:51 at Philly in November. Definitely confidence boosting to run strong longer workout with still a good amount of training to be done before Boston. I used this as a good training day but also nutrition practice. I drank Gen UCAN prior to the race, which has worked really well for me the last few years. I actually didn't end up taking anything besides water during the race (stomach wasn't feeling a gel), but still good practice at water stops and holding pace.

Before cooling down I cheered for some other runners coming in, including the guys that I ran most of the race with! They both set huge new PR's and gave me big high fives, that made me really happy. I also got to see Britt soon after her finish which was a great training run for her as she prepares for Pittsburgh Half in May. We hung out and waited around for awards for a while (Dawn took second overall!), and I got a pair of gloves for age group win. (Funny story, 2 years ago Dawn and I took 2nd and 4th just like this year :) That was when we first met. Now she lives in Rochester and we can train together!)
Dawn, Britt and I after Blues Boozy Brunch!
Afterwards was the best part, as always. Boozey Blues Brunch at Empire Brewing Company. Good beer while we waited for a table, followed by sitting right behind the jazz band and demolishing huge plates of the best food while chatting. We missed our partner in crime Heather as she was stuck in Hawaii (I don't feel too bad for her on that one, but we did miss her). 

All in all it was a successful and fun day with friends, just what running should be!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

2016 Freezeroo Series Recaps

When I decided to do the Freezeroo series this year, I knew that it would be a good thing in many ways. Some would be workouts, some would be races, and more likely than not- some wouldn't happen. I skipped the race on New Years day (which I planned all along) to focus on other things. Out of 6 races, your best 4 count for points so that gave me some wiggle room. They weren't perfect, some were better than others, and Upstate NY winter weather only kept one from not happening all together.

Don Curran Memorial 5k (December)
Race recap was written---> here.

{I decided after the first one that I wouldn't recap them each individually because they weren't individual goals for me. My goal was to look at the series as a whole, and as a stepping stone in training for Boston.}

Pineway Ponds 5 Miler (January)
This weekend was less about the race and more about the fact that Heather and Britt were coming out to stay for the night. I had some quality time with Heather in the fall, but it had been a few weeks...and I hadn't seen Britt since CHICAGO! Of course, we had a fun night out Friday which involved beers and burgers.
Girls weekend: Burgers, beers, and a 5 mile race
Race morning was decent weather wise, considering it was January and a Freezeroo race. There was a good amount of wind but certainly could have been worse. I went into it knowing I could PR and potentially win, but wanted to focus on just running hard. I've gotten so much better about not being a slave to my watch, and simply just going out and running. I ended up with a 31:10 which was a little under a minute PR, and also the win which was my second for the series this season. After the race, we cooled down and then walked to a nearby diner for breakfast- I love that my friends share the same love of running and coffee as me.

Hearnish "10kish" Race (January)
This race is one I didn't go into with a lot of expectation. It's a recently changed course, with lots of hills and turns. To top it off, it's not even a set distance. For some reason I felt off all morning, including lead legs during warm-up. No idea what it was but I still gave the race a good effort. I ran the first mile or so with another female, we even chatted a little bit which was a good distraction from hills. Around mile 2 she started to pull away, and damn I just didn't have it in me to go with her(Go Amy!). I kept her in the distance and used it as motivation to keep me pushing, I also saw some friends on the out and back portions which helped pass the time and give me reason to smile/high five.
This about sums up how I felt the whole race. #glamourshots
I refused to look at my watch, because I figured ignorance is bliss. I didn't want to know what I was running because it could have only frustrated me, even though I didn't know I wasn't running THAT far off pace (it just felt like it). I finished with 6.35 miles in 40:42. The funny part was, that is technically a 10k PR even with the long distance and not feeling great. I finished in second about 30 seconds behind the female winner, which still left me in good series standing.

Valentines 8 Mile Race (Feburary)-- CANCELLED
The town encouraged the GRTC to cancel the race because of the predicted severe weather. It was 20 below zero with the wind, and those winds....were over 20mph with snow. Honestly, I wasn't mad that it was cancelled in fact I was relieved. I'm all about pushing limits and sometimes running in extreme weather for training (never know what race will be!) but some conditions are just stupid.

I ended up still running the "race" on the treadmill by myself at the gym. No, it doesn't officially count for anything but I'm proud that I was able to get it done. I ran it with a 3 mile warm-up and cool down, for a 14 mile day. The 8 mile portion was run in 50:52 which I was really happy with.

I spent the rest of the day geeking out on the Olympic Trials Marathon on TV. I could write a post on that whole thing alone, but I won't. Salty Running had some amazing coverage of the trials, pre and post race which really inspired me. Two of our writers were even out there for coverage on race day, read about the pre-race from their perspective, coverage for at home viewers, and some stories of those runners behind the lead pack. There was so many thought provoking moments from that weekend. Kara's post-race interview- I could easily sway both sides on that one(she ran an incredible race, and she's human). What really got me (as the numbers nerd) was the statistics behind the qualifiers, I wrote about that in detail over on SR: Does How a Runner Qualifies for the Trials Matter? Don't forget all the rage floating around the web about the poor treatment of the trials athletes, they deserved better if you ask me.

Edge of the World 10k/Series Finale (February)
For me, this was the most important race of the series. My 10k PR was technically still 41:20 from 2013, unless we count the unofficial 40:42 from the Hearnish. I have broken the PR so many times in workouts and such since, but not in a race setting. I REALLY wanted to nail a big PR and sub-40 for the first time.

Add in the extra motivation to run hard and win, which would secure the overall series title for myself. Yeah, I wanted it all that day and was willing to push hard to get it. I took off quick, and hoped that an early push of the pace would set the tone for the remaining miles. My first 3 miles were under 6:07. I hit the 5k mark in 18:55 which is only 10 seconds slower than my PR! At first a freaked, like oh shit you shouldn't PR a 5k in the middle of a 10k! But, I also remembered that I have done a lot of strong speedwork and really could do both. The wind on miles 4 and 5 slowed me down significantly. I didn't have anyone around me really, add in a slight incline and that headwind really won. I slowed to 6:20/6:28 for those two miles, which I was mentally prepared for because the wind in this race 2 years ago caused the same problem. I didn't look at my watch so I wouldn't get frustrated with the pace. I just kept pushing forward, not knowing where any other females were and hoping I could just hold anyone off. My final mile was back down to 6:04 with a strong finishing kick thereafter.

38:37 was the official time which is over a 2 minute PR anyway that you slice it, I also held off for the win which secured my overall series standings. I stood at the finish line cheering in runners for a few minutes before starting my long cool down for a 16 mile day. I had company from another runner on my cool down, which certainly made the extra miles pass quicker (almost too much though...we missed most of the awards ceremony without realizing!).

Overall I am really pleased with how the series went. Sure, some might say "well of course you are, you won". Honestly my level of happiness doesn't have much to do with that at all. I ran hard, I got out in different weather conditions, I spent time with other runners (I train solo 95% of the time) and made some new friends. I also set a 10k PR twice, as well as a 5 mile PR twice (my second 10k PR also included a PR for the 5 mile split). I mean, the personal victories combined with the social and training aspects I went in search of for the series are better than any prize.

Until next year Freezeroo....

Friday, January 8, 2016

Where I've been (2015) & Where I'm going (2016)

I had a million drafts sitting in a folder on here for end of year and beginning of year stuff. Lately finishing posts just hasn't happened- life has. Living it, breathing it and making it have all taken priority over writing about it. Not a bad thing, but I also do want to touch on some bits and pieces of those "would have been" posts.

2015 was a big year for me in many, many ways. I finally saw some hard earned breakthroughs in my running, I was also able to be there for others during their breakthrough's. My personal life, followed the cliche of "when you stop looking" adage and here I am happier than I have ever been. Life in general, still had the roller coaster high's and low's but nothing that I felt I couldn't handle with the great support I have around me.

In running, it was a huge year of building. Consistency in training, finding the right support and removing what wasn't working allowed me to really come out on top (personal success). Another 2000+ mile year in the books, with a little less than 200 of those miles raced (22 bibs) and also a new state off the marathon list. I set a personal best in almost all distances with three personally meaningful breakthroughs. Years ago I would say you were crazy if you told me I'd accomplish a sub 3 hour marathon, a sub 85 minute half and a sub 19 5k(1,2,3,4 times) let alone all 3 in one year. I also spent some miles this year, helping others reach their goals. Pacing a half marathon, pacing a marathon, and also running with some friends in parts of their races. I think that those experiences motivated me even more than my own running did.

My three favorite finish lines from the year?

The Most Adrenaline Filled
I don't have words to add.
The Most Rewarding & Emotional
This Photo says it all. I'm emotional, excited and so PROUD of my cadet and friend. Brittany had an amazing first marathon and I was so lucky to experience it first hand with her. Being a part of it throughout the process made it even better, it was so rewarding in a million ways.
The Most Spontaneous and Inspiring
Running the last few miles of Wineglass with Michele wasn't necessarily planned. But it was incredible. She didn't NEED me, but I was glad to be there and it was inspiring to watch her pushing through the final miles. She's always been someone I admire, this only solidified that.
2015 was a year that I really got to experience so much in my life, but also in other peoples lives. I got to be there for some friends during their "big moments". Races, weddings, struggles, all things that I was lucky enough to be by their sides. For clarification, I don't LIKE seeing friends struggle but I certainly can be grateful that I had the chance to give back and help them like they have helped me. I found so much joy this year in being there for others during the good and the bad. Some situations, trying to be a good friend backfired in my face- but I have no regrets. You can't regret supporting others, even if things don't work out.

During the year I also had some great opportunities fall into my lap. I became an athlete for two companies that I have used for years. Zensah and Honey Stinger became more than just brands to me, and I'm so excited to be a part of that again. I have been a loyal Saucony runner for years. I stand by their products and the company itself, which made being a coach for their Saucony 26 Strong project that much more special. Throw in getting a chance to run a great friends first marathon with her, and experience a  race weekend with so many other inspiring women- nothing can compare. Late in the year, I also branched out with my writing and started being a contributor for Salty Running. Over there I'm known as Barley, aka the resident beer girl/runner. I have gotten to know some amazing women through that, and also learned even more about running, training, and the sport itself.

On a personal level, the year started in the black hole of self pity. 2014 was incredibly challenging and even though I worked through so much, the overflow of emotions carried into the new year. So, I tried my best to move forward. It involved attempting online dating (yes, I'm serious) which was an adventure to say the least. Beyond that it turned to focusing back on myself. I was working a lot, training hard, dealing with some family stuff, and also just trying to be comfortable on my own two feet in life. I answered to no one and it was incredibly freeing.
"So trust me when I say I'm not afraid to eat alone....or with my dog"
Then one night at work, things changed. I walked in circles over and over, bought this guy a beer, gave him my number and put myself out there. I couldn't tell you what made me do it, but I knew I wanted to. It started great, but then I got scared, overwhelmed with life(you know, like losing your grandmother two days after Boston Marathon and then also finding out your Mom would be moving out of state) and went back to only thinking about myself. Luckily a few months later, when I realized I'd made a mistake- we tried again and the timing was so much better. Timing is everything, and this time we got it right. This fall I packed my stuff up, and moved Moose's kennel to our new home. Moose has a step sister named Pepper, and Brian and I love our little Brady bunch fur family. Cue the awwwweeee's and the eye rolls.

My 2015 Takeaway? You can't force things. Relationships cannot be forced, timing is everything, and when you know. You cannot force others to be good people, you cannot expect them to change because most of the time they won't see their actions as wrong. You cannot force broken things to be fixed; some friendships, relationships, and life methods are just too far gone to keep pouring time and energy into. That isn't negative, it's realistic. You can't force your training, the PR's or the work that needs to be done to reach your goals. It takes time, effort, and choices to get there and sometimes you'll need help.

The best part about all of that though? The freedom of letting go, and seeing what happens. Because your stress level will go down when you stop trying so damn hard to make everything fit into what you think it should be. Life isn't perfect, it never will be- but if you try hard for yourself instead of trying hard to make it be something else....things WILL get better.

Where does that leave me while starting off 2016? 
Well, the first weekend of the year was pretty amazing. Brian and I had a weekend away together in Buffalo for an NHL game, a night on the town just the two of us, and then rounded it out with witnessing the Bills put a stop to the Jets post-season dreams. We talked, we laughed, we drank, we ate, and we shared a lot of memories together.

Then this week Boston training officially started. Although I've been sick (not that a cold snowy Bills game where I yelled for 4 hours had anything to do with it), it's still been a good week getting ready for a training cycle that will be challenging but rewarding. This weekend, I get to see Heather and Britt to share beers, miles and laughs. So yeah, I'd say 2016 is starting off pretty darn good.

I don't know where the rest of the year will go, but for once I'm not over planning, over stressing, or worrying about things that I can't control. With that said, 2016 I think you and I are gonna get along just fine.

So, here's to 2016. 
More Running
More Laughter
More Love
More Family time
More Friend time
More Writing
More Helping Others
More Goal Chasing
More Nephews to Love....

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

(4)0 Degree not so W, Trail Festival

A week and a half ago, I did something that I hadn't done in a while. I raced on trails! Running on trails is very infrequent for me, racing even more so. It's not that I don't like them, it just isn't my first choice right now. But, I had agreed to do this race and was even excited about it. It is the last Trails ROC race of the year, very low key, low priced ($1 for every mile you run- 5, 10, and 15 mile options), and all around a fun afternoon. I spectated last year, which was quite a bit different scenery. The race is called 0 Degree WTF, as in...Winter Trail Festival. This unseasonably warm weather we are having didn't bode well for the "winter" part of the race. The race director scolded the runners for our lack of properly functioning snow dances- sorry Eric, I didn't do one at all.
Spectating and making snowmen last year....
I felt a little out of place pre-race, but eventually decided to go out and run a short warm-up and shake off the cobwebs. I only did a little over a mile on the roads around the lodge, but was enough to get my legs ready and my mind prepared to handle 10 miles of trails. I finished my bottle of UCAN and ate a pack of honey stinger chews for good measure.

Something I love about trail races is the feeling of ease at a start line. It's so much less formal, everyone is just joking around, laughing and saying well wishes. It's not that they aren't serious, don't care, and aren't about to kick ass- it's just generally more laid back. I like that.
I don't know why I look so serious here, I serious could I be with my foxy $1 target gloves and "Beer me" singlet on!
The course is a 5 mile loop with roughly 1300 feet of elevation gain throughout. The 5 milers run the loop once, 10 mile race twice(2600ish ft/gain), and 15 miler rounds out 3 loops(3900 ft/gain). When I signed up for the race, I decided on the 10 as an active challenge but not over reaching with the 15 miler (after not running trails, not running a ton of hills, and also coming back from taking a week off of running). That elevation or distance might not be a lot for some people- but I knew it was going to be character building for myself.

The first loop, was great until it wasn't. I found my heart rate absolutely skyrocketing with each climb, even when walking. I hiked hills when I needed, and focused on preserving myself- I didn't want to walk the entire second loop. "Ski hill" was a bitch, and admittedly defeated me the first time through. I passed off my gloves at the top, and walked for a bit after trying to re-focus. A while later came "hell on roots", though there was a rope to help climb it unlike when I ascended it on a preview run. I did my best, and reached the top trying to smile. I definitely muttered something like "I'd rather do a marathon". That was the fear and insecurity talking. I'm comfortable on roads, I'm comfortable pushing pace and breathing heavy on asphalt, and I'm comfortable with 26 miles. 10 miles of trails isn't comfortable when you don't do them often, it isn't naturally easy for me and I let some negative thoughts get the best of me.

Then I remembered why I was doing this race in the first place. To be uncomfortable, to do something different in the "offseason", and also to appease Eric of Trails ROC who had been asking me to try trail race for a while now. I was there to run, have fun, experience some scenery change and to challenge myself--I spent a minute reminding myself of that and then embraced the rest of the first loop and got excited to go at it again.

Between loops, I stopped at the aid table and drank some of my Nuun that I had left there. It wasn't a long stop but it was good to hydrate, and catch my breath for a minute before heading back out. I had caught up to two men also in the 10 mile race, and figured it would be good to push myself and chase for a while. We bantered back and forth, and our pack of 3 went down to two. I had found a new set of wheels and was having a blast. The guy I was running behind at one point asked "you're not going to make this easy on me are you?"....I replied with a simple "nope". Friendly competition at it's finest.

I hiked up "Ski hill" again, but with a much better attitude. I went up "hell on roots" still huffing a bit but again....a better attitude made all the difference. Shortly after that I knew I could run the rest and at a decent enough pace. I could still have a strong finish. I tackled the rest and ran the last bit of the course (around a grass field to the finish) as if I were on the roads- that felt good. I got my big high five at the finish, crossing first female and third overall for the 10 mile distance.

Due to the favorable conditions- all of the course records fell, and fell hard. The male winner of the 15 miler (who totally lapped me even though we started at different times), broke the record by 16 minutes and the leading female broke the record by about 9 minutes. In the 10 mile race the male broke the record by about 18 minutes, and I broke the female record by about 12 minutes. The 5 mile records were both broken by 1-2 minutes. So when I say it was a solid running day, in comparison to previous years conditions- I wasn't kidding. No way in hell could I have run that time if there was a foot of snow! But, I'll take it. It was a successful day all around.

Post-race was, in my head- how it should be. Cheer for other runners, congratulate others on their race, share beers with friends and strangers, and take joy in the fact that we have a commonality in running. Being the "new girl" in the situation was a little odd at first, but the cries of "she doesn't even go here!" never came. Most everyone was welcoming, inviting (for more trail running, of course), and friendly. We chatted running (trails and roads), beer and life- I left the race with a big smile on my face and it had little to do with a time or a placement but for an experience.

If you want to see some AWESOME photos from the race, check out The Ascend Collective- WTF Gallery--> here.

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